Sunday, June 26, 2011

widiculously wonderful weekend weather

From my last post, you'd think I was nearly done with the accessory electrical stuff.  Well, just like everything else when you're working on old cars, there's always more to it than it looks on the surface.  I'll roll through my weekend in today's post, and you'll see what I mean.

Thank God It's Friday
I am fortunate to work at a company that has a "summer hours" concept.  "What is this 'sumer hours' of which you speak," you ask with curiosity.  Simply put, if you're done with your work for the week at noon on Friday (between Memorial Day and Labor Day), you can (and are encouraged to) leave.  "Zoiks!" Is what I said when I first learned of this perk.  I took the afternoon this weekend, but I didn't have much to show for it.  Or, maybe I did.  My internet was out when I got home, so I spent an hour or so banging my head against that (and the cable company operator).  I ran laundry while I was on hold, though, so the time wasn't completely wasted.  I got a service appointment for the following morning, and set to running errands.  I hit CostCo for the next month's food-stuffs, and O'Reilly's for more wiring bits.  Since I'd be waiting for the cable guy anyway, I figured I better have all my supplies ready.  When I got home, my internet was working (of course), so I cancelled the appointment.
Beautiful Day
June in Northwestern Oregon is usually rain-filled.  Portland has a big festival in the middle of the month that is usally peppered with rain.  In fact, a native Oregonian once told me "its not Rose Festival until the Rose Queen is crying in the rain".  Funny, yet twisted.  Still, he's right.  June is usually 20 days of rain and 10 days of threatening to rain, if not worse.  Summer may officially start on June 21st, but it doesn't start here until July 5th, at least weather-wise.  So, with that contextual backdrop, enter Saturday, June 25 2011.  72 degrees and sunny with a light breeze.  Abso-frickin-perfect weather.  With an open double-garage door, the commuter Jetta pulled back into the drive, tunes rolling, I set to knockin' that bus out.... until it was time to get my younger son (C) for the rest of the weekend.

Electric Feel
First, I figured I'd quick hammer-out the rest of the electrical stuff.  I ran another 12V accessory outlet next to the sliding door.  Reusing the original fire-extinguisher bolt, it is hidden from view, but easily accessible by either the rear seat (passenger side) passenger or from outside by just reaching in.  This will be handy when I tailgate with someone with a 12V blender.  Margarita's anyone? :)  The rest of the rough electrical was relatively quick-work too.  I left the ceiling wiring wrapped up out of sight for now, but tying those wires in will be easy work once I'm ready to install the cabinets.  The fusebox is wood-screwed into the top of the wood box / surround over the transformer.  The feed-side wires (14G each) are tied into their proper fuses, and at a reasonable length, keeping things a little clearer looking than the rat-nest of wires around the engine computer.  That harness cleanup is a project by itself.  I'll deal with that between camping and snow seasons.  I still need to mount the 12V plug by the passenger's visor, but I did tie-in the water pump and 12V accessory from the stove.

Living in Stereo
One of the components I've been wanting to install is my old Pioneer 10-disk CD changer.  I know, in this day of iTunes and MP3 players, why would I want to wire in some old-skool technology.  Simple, actually.  I'm a self-admitted Dead-Head.  I have many bootlegs on CD.  Ripping those CD's into MP3 or iTunes format is labor intensive, and usually requires re-tagging every track.  Yuk.  Also, bootlegs don't lend themselves to library-wide shuffles like my studio music does.  I don't have time to create special playlists either.  Honestly, I don't know who does, but that's a conversation for another day.  So, I'll be putting complete shows in the CD changer for when I need some Jerry-therapy, and the shuffle on my iPhone when I need random.
I spent more time than I expected trying to figure out where to put that thing.  Its kinda big (10.5" wide, 8" deep, 4" high).  First, I thought I could hide it under the dry-goods storage.  That would have been uber-clever.  I was thinking I could remove that little grille, and have the CD magazine reachable through that.  To make it work, though, I would have had to cut a hole in the floor of the cabinet, and it looked like the magazine would not have cleared the bottom of the grille-hole.  Sadness. So clever, but not reasonable.  Instead, it will fit perfectly in the false-floor I'm putting in the closet.  Not as clever, but clever enough.  Determining this was important so I could run the wires.  The power wires run from the rat-nest under the cabinets to the fuse box under the bed.  The signal wires run along the backside of the cabinets, through a hole in the steel behind the driver seat, and will run along the floor of the cab.  I don't know where the stereo-head will go, but I ran power wires from the fuse box towards the front as a part of the bundle from the CD changer.  I still need to run speaker wires through that hole and behind the cabinets, but once that's done, I should be ready for closing the walls.

She don't Lie, She don't Lie, She don't Lie..... Propane
Okay, that heading stretched the song-title metaphor a bit.  shrug.  Anyway, when I got the '79 interior a few years back, I got the gray bomb shaped propane tank with it.  I never connected it, nor installed it.  Instead, the stove was just a space-taker.  I pulled the old tank and lines out of the box, and looks into what it would take to install it.  My old '72 has those blasted belly pans under the sides of the mid-section, so I'd have to cut most of the passenger-side pan out to fit it.  Hmm...  Even if I cut out the pan, I can't tell if the cross-members are in the right places to bolt it on.  While I thought about it, I straightened the stove/sink unit so it was upright.  Then, I pulled the stiffer (inside bus) flexi-hose out of the box, connected it to the stove, threading it out the bottom hole where the waste water goes.  All of that fit well, and I now have a way of conecting low-pressure (post regulator) propane to the stove.

This is about where I ran out of time this weekend, so I put everything away, re-parked the Jetta, cleaned up and dashed off to get C.  We had a me-cooked dinner and watched "the Return of the King" together.  Perfect end to a pretty perfect day.

So, I still haven't test-fired the engine with the new harness.  Ideally, I'd have some way of pulling the exhaust out of the garage before I start the engine and perform all kinds of tests.  I'll think on that, but I need to at least verify that the original harness is good so I can return the borrowed one to Justin.  I should be able to get the computer into "run" position and verify the harness and the additional OBDII without actually starting the engine.  I'll try that this week.  As always, thanks for following along.

top: power inlet. I didn't mention it, but I finished assembling this and installed it too.  It's wrapped in plastic film so my greasy mitts don't foul the paint.
middle: accessory fuse box test-positioning.  this is where it now lives.
bottom: looking down at the top of the 12V accessory plug near the sliding door (the bed is "open").

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I can't believe its been 10 days since I updated. There have been many nice days, and a few productive ones. I have been keeping a checklist of action so I can post. Before I get into it, I want to apologize to the folks who have commented on this blog who I have not responded to. I'm not all that great about posting, so just because I've now figured out how to deal with the comments, it doesn't mean that I'll be better about responding. I will try, though.

Fuse Box
After looking at different after-market and RV fuse boxes, I decided to go old-skool. I bought a VW bus fuse box off of TheSamba ( I figured, it has 12 fuse locations, so, why not? After pulling out the extra relays (which I'll re-sell) and some of the wires, it's ready for re-purposing. For reference, I'm going to document my fuse assignments below.
There are a couple of interesting things to note about these boxes that I only figured out by digging into them this way. Some of the "supply-side" fuse locations are electrically connected. Obviously, this was by design, but if you're going to re-purpose a fusebox, you need to be aware of that. Also, some of the relay holes are sub-sized. this is again by design so a relay can only fit one way, but it makes "input" side decisions a little more limited.

in - out - purpose
32 - 1 - cab, kitchen overhead lights
32 - 2 - OPEN
18 - 3 - stereo
06 - 4 - stove 12V plug
06 - 5 - overhead NAV 12V plug
14 - 6 - CD changer
30 - 7 - pop-top light
30 - 8 - OPEN
07 - 9 - OPEN
07 - 10 - slider 12V plug
02 - 11 - OPEN
02 - 12 - OPEN

I followed a simple rule of pairing circuits which wouldn't be used at the same time.

One thing to call out here is I'm re-using the old fridge electricals. Meaning, the city/battery switch, charging timer, fridge on/off switch all come into play. All of the circuits above will pull directly from the battery, except for the 2 dedicated to lights: 1/2 and 7/8. Those 2 inputs (32 and 30 respectively) will be fed by the wire that used to feed the fridge. So, the lights will have a main switch (fridge on/off switch), and will be capable of being fed directly from the shore power line. I don't know if it will really matter that much, but I think its important to remember. Since the battery charging mechanism feeds the accessory battery(s), everything will benefit from the shore power in some way.

Stringing Wire
The rest of my time these past few days has been pushing wire around. I mentioned a "NAV" 12V plug, for example. I'm putting a 12V accessory plug over the passenger-side sun visor so I can plug in my Garmin, string it across the top of my windscreen, and post it next to my rear-view mirror. This will keep the wires out of my line-of-sight while placing the NAV screen where my eyes will already be looking regularly. While switching the source to the accessory battery (reducing the risk to draining the primary if I left the NAV on by accident), this also leaves the original 12V cigarette lighter socket open. I had to run the wire for that from under the rear seat (where the fuse box is headed), into the driver-side cabinets, towards the rear and then into the headliner, all the way to the front passenger corner. The lighting wiring is in, and I started the CD changer and stereo wiring. I'll finish that up, with some speaker wiring following that, and then I should be getting ready to start re-assembling the interior.

That's it for today. I need to get back to the engine electrical stuff. I've been delaying that, waiting for a full workday window to work in. I think this Saturday will be my opportunity. Wish me luck starting it for the first time since mid-April with the now-repaired engine harness, additional OBDII plug and re-wired radiator fan circuit.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

looking up

Too many of my posts start with something about time. This one is one of those, unfortunately. With my nephew's first birthday party at cocktail hour and housework/laundry book-ending my day, I had a couple of hours in the middle. I made use of that time though.

All VW's mark their spot
I heard this saying from another bus driver a few years ago: all VW's mark their spot. Like a dog, it'll piddle a little bit to show where it's been. When I parked the bus, he marked a little bit and smiled and nodded. Yep, he knew it was home. Lately, I noticed that he's marked more. Since I needed to slide under to adjust the clutch, I figured I should stop the piddling before it got too deep.

Coolant Leak
One of the downsides of putting a radiator into an air-cooled vehicle is all of the coolant lines, etc are custom. There's no guarantee that anything I did will actually work. Once I got looking at the coolant lines, I realized that I only did "just enough" and never really finished. I mean, I didn't fast-mount the lines to the body, I didn't verify all of the connections, etc. This just underscores the importance of a good clean shop and a well organized project. Neither of which I had... or have. Instead, I fret, and do things over again. So, one of the hose clamps was too far away from the joint, causing the end of the coolant line to flex, creating a small gap for coolant to seep out of. Easy fix.

Wiring Re-wound
Some of the wiring for the radiator fans needed some attention too. The wire bundles were un-bundling, so I wrapped that up. Also, the main power routing to the fan relay had separated from the main B+ on the starter. Another simple fix. Messy though, cuz there was coolant leaked around there. Yuck.

Clutch Adjust
Last, I spent my remaining 30 minutes on adjusting the clutch. The wiring and the coolant line took nearly 90 minutes. Jeez. Anyway, I bought a new bowden tube yesterday, so the hardest part of this job was getting to the cable in the first place. I parked the bus about 6" from the wall along the driver side, so getting to anything under that side means some contorting is necessary. One thing I was reminded of was when the cable is disconnected from the clutch lever, the pedal drops to the floor... with an "oh crap" thunk. To get the cable to the clutch lever, you need to prop the pedal up. I used bailing wire because I couldn't find a bungee cord. Anyway, the new bowden tube fit right, and I used a thick and a thin washer at the clutch end. The clutch feels good now, but I'll only know for sure after I fire the engine and try it.

That's it for today. Stanley Cup Finals tomorrow, I have the boys on Tuesday, so I won't be doing anything until Wednesday night at the earliest.

old bowden tube on the left, new one on the right. You can see the old one was broken in 2 places. That probably shortened the life of my old cable, and part of the adjustment challenges.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

scattered and dashing

I've been kinda zig-zagging on this project lately, but at least I've been tacking in the right general direction. Its another weekend day without the boys, so I've been trying to get a bunch of different things done all at once. None of them are necessarily finished, but I'm making some headway. I'll hit the highlights.

After some additional poking around the 'net, and remembering the condition of my bowden tube from when I replaced my clutch cable (that's a story I don't think I shared, actually), I think my clutch troubles are a bad bowden tube. So, I got one at Discount Import Parts here in Beaverton. I didn't feel like sliding under the bus today, so I focused on other stuff. I know, I know. I can't put it off forever, but the interior stuff is more fun.

I rough-measured everywhere I figured I was planning to put carpeting. With these numbers, I should be able to tell how many square feet I need. Like everything on these old cars, every project gets bigger than originally planned. I did resolve to a color scheme, though, that will mirror my plan for the outside. These old bus's have a 2-tone tradition with the upper 1/3 white and the lower 2/3 under the belt-line being something else. I'm going with a nice dark blue. To mirror this, I'm putting a door-outdoor carpeting on the interior up to the belt-line. At the belt line and above, I'm going with a beach-sand colored carpet. White wouldn't look white for very long, and the sand color should visually soften things a little bit. It should soften noise a lot.

Insulation rip-out continues
I focused on getting the passenger side to the same place as the driver side within the main cabin. This meant removing the interior walls next to the bench seat and removing the interior wall on the slider. This was messy. I didn't take the bed (bench seat) out, but it was not installed when the walls were first put in. Nothing broke, but the cleanup of the loose insulation was a pain. Nothing the shop-vac couldn't solve tho. Just like the driver-side, after I got the last scraps of insulation out, I shot the cavity with rubberized undercoating. It was still drying this evening, so I'll lay the reflecty-flashy insulation in tomorrow.

15A Inlet revert
Last, I attacked the power inlet. I never really liked the solution I had before. When I removed the original 1972 power inlet a few years ago, the socket broke. Rather than try to repair it, I tried to make the 1979 power inlet work. It didn't quite fit in the same hole, but it worked well enough. Now that I have everything open again, I've decided to fix the old inlet, and sell off the 1979 inlet. This meant separating the broken plastic socket from the steel. After hitting the rivets with a 1/8" drill, I was able to rough-fit the new socket. The old inlet was tired and rusty looking. I mean, it looked bad. I hit it with Naval Jelly, and some 240 grit sandpaper, and it cleaned up pretty nicely. Knowing that I plan to paint the top 1/3 white (as well as the pop top and bumpers), I figured painting the inlet white would tie it in nicely. It certainly looks better. It will need another cuff-down with 240 grit and a light mist-coat of white to be done, but it sure looks close. Unfortunately, when I removed this inlet 5 years ago, I misplaced the body panel that fits around the inlet to help make a better body seal. I put out feelers for a replacement, but I haven't landed one yet. Since this effectively stops me from re-installing the kitchen, I guess I'll have to go back to the clutch and engine wiring stuff now.

That's it for today. I'll be putting in a few hours tomorrow before my nephew's birthday party, and then its another fun-filled work week..... and a Stanley Cup game on Monday. I probably won't get much done before Wednesday, if even then. Gotta maximize these weekend opportunities.

top: inlet after brushing it off, removing old (all scratched up) warning sticker
middle: inlet after cleaning and Naval Jelly
bottom: inlet (and inlet door bits) drying in their new white coats

Monday, June 6, 2011

More sound killing

Sorry I didn't get back to the final bit about Memorial Day weekend. I covered most of it in the last 2 posts. Today, I'll focus on additional sound dampening, but this time without the batting. There are 2 different kinds of noise we need to deal with, and I'm looking at reducing both of them but without killing my budget in the process.

Vibration Noise
I think the stuff I bought all those years ago was called Dynamat. I blew about $200 on vibration deadener, betwen this stuff and the McMaster-Carr rubber sheets. The "Dynamat" is basically a sticky asphalty black tar with a shiny foil side. The sticky side comes protected with a wax paper which peels off as you stick it. The general concept of Dynamat (or Brown Bread or any of these contact noise dampeners) is to convert the vibration into heat, reducing the noise. For it to be effective, it needs to seal with the metal as completely as possible, so really work it in when you lay it down. On the websites that I visited at the time, the manufacturers and the sound installer experts all said you only really needed to cover about 50% of the exposed steel to notice a meaningful reduction. More often than not, no sooner was this said than the poster/manufacturer shows their install, and they used 2 layers of the stuff on every square inch of metal. What gives?

I guess it all comes down to what you're trying to do. Personally, I want to be able to drive down the freeway without feeling like I'm sitting inside a jet engine. Or a diesel engine. Or any engine.
Others (like those posters I mentioned) are trying to get to an acoustic nirvana where all you can hear is the slight whistle of the road.... until your 2000watt stereo kicks in. Okay, I'll admit, I want to hear some music when I drive. One of the reasons I'm doing the TDI conversion is because driving with one ear listening for an engine failure is tiring. And its boring for your passengers who plainly don't understand the tonal changes of an air cooled engine. Pooh on them, but I guess I'm one of them now. I kinda want to hear some Jerry when I'm driving around sometimes. Anyway, on to what I did with the Dynamat I found.

First, I double-checked the exposed wall where I removed the old insulation. This was before I shot it with the rubberized under-coating. This "check" was basically light rapping on the metal with my knuckles to hear for a rattley clang. I had put Dynamat over about 2/3 of the exposed sheet metal before I'd insulated before. The knocking produced an acceptable thunk-thunk, so I left it and moved on to the rear end.

When I drove this beast to and from the muffler shop (and to/from the tow-trailer), it was loud. I mean real loud. Like "I think there's an airplane landing behind me" loud. I looked at the rear engine hatch. Dynamatted. Rear cargo access? Dynamatted (but only on the large sections of sheet metal). Top-side engine hatch? Nada. Ah ha! I covered it almost completely with Dynamat. Each time I test-closed the hatch the "chunk" became more certain and the "clatter" disappeared. Now, I can drop the lid from about 6" up and it slams shut. Then, I attacked the last 4" of rear deck from inside the engine compartment. And then the short stretch between the spare wheel well and the left side of the top-hatch opening, test knocking along the way. This should meaningfully reduce vibration noise.

Ambient Noise
So, with a well adjusted clutch, a new engine mount and a warmed up engine, how much vibration noise is getting produced compared to the racket of a 100+ HP diesel engine? My guess? Not much. So, how do we reduce the ambient noise? Well, think about your house. In the rooms with the hardwood floors or tile, everything's loud. In your carpeted rooms, its a lot quieter. This simple case explains how we can address ambient noise in a bus: carpet the bugger. We can reduce noise with a vehicular version of a carpet pad first - closed cell insulation. You can buy 1/4" reflective insulation at Home Depot or Lowes that works great for this. I can't remember how much I paid for a roll, but I don't think it was more than $20. It covers a large area. I put some of this same roll under the floor of my bus years ago (between the 2 layers of thin plywood), and it definitely helped noise-wise. I still have a bunch left. I put some in the wall where the old batting insulation was. I'll be putting more behind every spot where I put carpet: walls, ceiling, doors.

This simple step should reduce more noise than the dynamat does. Why? The dynamat enthusiasts mostly are driving cars which have little ambient noise. They have nice foam headliners and plastic interior parts which absorb sound. The 1972 VW Bus has a wood ceiling and steel walls. No wonder it sounds like I'm launching a Mars probe when I'm driving! Once the dynamat is in, followed by closed cell insulation, topped with carpet, it could be a conversational volume in there. We'll see...

More next time,

top: top-side engine hatch with dynamat applied.
middle: behind the stove/sink unit closed-cell reflector insulation installed
bottom: behind refer/storage unit closed-cell reflector insulation installed

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

From Fridge to Storage

the saga continues.... so, last post, I talked about Saturday, and the interior tear-out. It was fun. Sunday, I laid low and Monday I got back to it. I'll get into some of it, but I'll probably split into 2 posts anyway.

Using that Fridge?
In the 5+ years I've had the '79 interior in my bus, I've used the fridge exactly 0 times. It's heavy, takes up a bunch of useful space, and can't really fit much. At least that's my opinion. So, I decided I'd yank the fridge unit out of the cabinet, and do something else with it.

Pull the Dometic
First, a quick review. Looking at the cabinet with the icebox looking part to the right, there are 2 top-load covers; the left (rear) one is vented, the right (front) one has a thermal thing on the inside. The hinges on the back are attached to the metal trim, which is attached to the cabinet with Phillips head screws. Some of these screws double as a means of attaching the cabinet to the neighboring cabinets.

The ice-boxy thing is also held in with another screw from the side. Within the left-side cabinet, is the compressor, under a weird wood shelf thing. That shelf thing is attached with a metal bracket that also is attached to the metal trim with Phillips head screws. Underneath, the compressor is only held in with 2 more small Phillips head screws. Then, the whole unit slides out through the large opening behind the ice-boxy thing. There are a couple of electrical plugs in the circuit, but only the 3-prong should need to be unplugged to separate the fridge completely from the bus.

More Storage
It occurred to me while camping one time that the big cabinet holding the fridge is wasted space. The fridge unit was so small with the cooling bit in the middle of it that you couldn't even put cereal boxes in there. Once I pulled the ice-boxy thing and compressor out, there was all kinds of space. However, without the ice-boxy thing, there was nothing separating the two seemingly separate sections. So, I bought a single glue-board shelf (11.8" x 36") at Home Depot for $7. Cutting a 16" section off, I created 2 spaces by screwing the section into the wood base for the ice-boxy thing and then a single screw from the top.

And Even More Storage
The left-side (where the compressor used to be) was a little more tricky. First, that's the part of the cabinet that contours to the rear driver-side wheel well. Additionally, I decided to move the battery control panel from the wall into that cabinet. I thought it would look better anyway, and I have other ideas for how the wall will be redone. I'll get to that later. Anyway, the control panel mounting took a little time to get right, but I made the wall-side mount with some leftover flashing. I pop-riveted it to the side (with some more flashing on the opposite side for strength, and screwed the panel to the flashing.

For the other side, I sacrificed some of the wood bits from that weird wood shelf thing. I took some of the remaining shelf and cut another section about 12" long for a shelf for the "rear" section. This was screwed in with 2 Phillips head screws from the "front" cabinet and one from the side (near the back). Underneath the rear shelf, I stapled some closed cell insulation in hopes of stopping some radiant noise.

The end result is a nice solid storage spot for travel items reachable by the passenger riding in the seat behind the driver. I expect stuffed animals this Summer, but I'm sure it'll evolve into iPods and other electronica. The rear of the storage area is still open, but I need to be able to access wires and stuff, so it'll stay that way. I suspect a day will come when I hear my son exclaim that his something-or-other fell into "the hole".

That's it for today. After I finished the assembly, I deep-cleaned the whole thing. Its nice a purdy now. Next time I'll go into the rest of my weekend working on the bus. See, I told ya I totally tore it up this Memorial Day weekend.

top: yes, that's my boot and yes I do need a newer pair. In front of that is the battery control panel as I'm working thru attachment ideas.
middle: sizing the separation panel between the 2 new storage cabinets
bottom: finished cabinet.