Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer update #11, Curtains Tables, and Last Minute Maintenance

Jen has been slaving away sewing curtains (Inside, In the air conditioning). These are made using a multilayer insulating material that supposedly has very good R value. All of them have been treated with silicone water repellent. A variety of curtain tracks are being used, as well as some magnetic snaps and fiberglass rods.

The harmonic balancer on my van looked alright, but when I pulled on the outer ring, it moved visibly. So I ordered a replacement. Autohaus AZ had the best price on the Corteco replacement (supposedly OEM to Mercedes). Upon removal the original unit showed delamination on the back side. I estimate over 50% of the rubber was disbonded. The new part is rock solid.

One last upgrade to the van, that we could not resist, was Fox shocks. The guys over at Van Compass have put together a kit with replacement rears, and add-on fronts.

The rear shocks are an easy job, and no modifications are necessary. The fronts require drilling 3 holes per side, and attaching a bracket for the upper mount. The lower mount clamps to the sway bar. Some care needs to be taken when drilling the bolt holes as there is some equipment in the engine compartment which could be damaged.

After a few short trips, I can say the shocks have really firmed up the ride. Control is better, and body sway/rocking is much reduced. It basically drives like it did empty, despite all the conversion weight. Another bonus is that these shocks have external rebound adjustment, so additional damping can be added on road if needed.

Jen finished up work on the folding table. It came out quite nice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer update #10, Wait it gets hotter?

Still slaving away, but getting close to mission ready. Progress is slow when we need to take breaks in the shade due to 110F heat index temps.

Fuel tank is plumbed in. The plumbing is as follows.

A vent/return line was added using a blind bulkhead fitting on the right hand aft corner of the tank. This line connects near the top of the aux tank.

The fill/drain line is connected to the bottom of the aux tank. From there it runs to the aft end of the main tank where it connects to the pump and valve. The connection to the main tank is made on the main fuel return line after the fuel cooler coils and thermostat.

Here is the switch for the fuel transfer pump.  I installed a blanking plate on the center console and used a DPDT switch. Power comes from the 12V dash outlet circuit.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Summer Update #10, Its Too Hot!

Never has a bank of freshly fallen snow sounded more appealing. The sweat running into my eyes, grit sticking to my face. Dirty, nasty, sweating smudges on every surface... Must keep working, I am only prolonging my own suffering.   Back under the van I climb.

The Aux tank is now installed and the plumbing mostly done. I put some high temp reflective insulation on the exhaust side and some foam on the top for chafe resistance.

Since the fuel outlet is not flush with the bottom, I needed a pickup tube to allow complete utilization of the tank. I heated a piece of PEX tubing and pressed it into the outlet fitting. I bonded it with fuel resistant epoxy.

A bit more heat and it was ready to install.

Here is some photos of the tank bolted up.

I also installed the bumper brackets. These were plasma cut from 0.25” steel. They will be bolted to the recovery points (where the skid plate attaches). I also discovered why the holes on the skid plate didn’t line up on the passenger side. The recovery point is pulled ½” to the driver’s side! Apparently the recovery hook is not designed for lateral loading!

I welded the brackets to the bumper in situ as there was enough clearance. I am waiting to finish the install as the harmonic balancer was separated enough that I could move it slightly by hand. I have ordered the parts/tools and will replace it next week probably. It’s a good timing as I was going to replace the idler pulleys and tensioner as preventative maintenance.

As desired, the brackets completely remove the pitching movement from the bumper. No amount of abuse from me will move the bumper more than a mm or two.

I noticed some staining near the edge of the flair. I thought at first that the monstaliner had failed. But it was the crappy OE paint again. It had failed around the sealant, allowing water penetration. I removed about 3 inches of sealant and paint, and resealed with sikaflex 252. Thankfully there was no penetration into the cabin.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Update #9

It will be 101F and over 110F with the heat index today shortly. I am done with this state. To freaking hot.  Must escape... Must…complete…van… The madness is setting in, I need to get back on the road, it’s been too long.  It's winter in Australia right now. Just an FYI.  

The fix for the AC system overheating was to install a larger pump. The one I used is a Bosch Mustang intercooler pump. The difference in size is hopefully a good indicator of its performance.

I ended up mounting it above the axle.

I got tired of trying to bleed the water loop of air. I made up a quick tank using some barbed fittings and 2” PVC end caps.

The unit works correctly now. After 3 hours no errors or safety shutdowns occurred. The cooling loops stays pretty steady at about 15F above ambient on the cold side and 20F above ambient on the hot side. Ideally I would install a larger radiator, but I just don’t have the space for it.

Here is a shot of the condensate drain. It takes about 30-45 minutes or so before the humidity bottoms out and the unit starts to cool in earnest.

The D5 exhaust interfered with the radiator mounting, so I shortened and rerouted the exhaust straight downward.

While I had the fridge out I also added a 120V outlet to the aft face of the galley. Jen wanted it for using a waffle maker or other kitchen appliance.

The auxiliary fuel tank is leak free. I pressure tested at about 1.5PSI and no bubbles. My welding has improved enough, that I could do the tank a second time and have a handful of leaks. In the meanwhile I have been accumulating hardware and fittings for the tank install.

I decided on the Carter P4070 for a transfer pump. It is rated at 72GPH and ~5psi. After some testing I can confirm that it is reversible. I am not sure if it will affect its longevity. However, given the limited usage it will see, I doubt it is a concern.

Because this type of pump will readily pass fuel when turned off, I needed a valve to prevent siphoning. I choose a 1/2NPT solenoid valve with Viton diaphragm. I will be using the vent fittings already on the tank for the return/vent. For the feed I am considering a stainless blind fitting. This one is designed for use with Webasto heaters and has a 1/4NPT port. Unlike the Espar pickup, this unit has a non-threaded section of the body and an O-ring which compresses to seal the area around the threads. I will be using sealant regardless though. I am still waiting on insulation for the tank, and a few fittings before starting the installation.

Jen has been working on installing a small TV for use in the sleeping area. It will be connected to a micro media PC which can also double as a windows workstation.

The pivot arm is poor quality, and the slop in the joints made the TV tilt. After some aggressive shimming and the application of some UHMW tape it sits fairly level.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

An Interlude

Hey readers. While I prepare the next series of updates, here is a an opportunity to participate in our adventure.  In the process of equipping our van, we have started to run across items that we would like to have, but that we cannot justify (or afford) purchasing. We will be adding those to our wish list page for those who would like to contribute.  Not wanting to accept such gifts without reciprocity we are willing to work out an exchange of sorts.  In return we will visit a location of your choosing in Australia and catalog the experience for your enjoyment.  For those who know us personally, you can submit an application to come along for the ride if you like (see the Contact Us field on this page).

You can take a look at our wish list here.   

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Summer Update #8

Getting in and out from under the van is gets old fast. I must have done it over 300 times in the last week.

The fuel tank has been sealed. The POR15 tank sealant is tough stuff, and covers very well. I will pressure test the tank soon, but I don’t expect any leaks. I lined the interior of the tank, and used the remainder to brush the outside of the seams, and all of the bottom.

The AC is 90% installed, and working well. I ended up adding a second fan. The single fan just wasn't cutting it.   The fans are loud though . A bit louder than the Sprinters Aux electric fan. They are not audible inside thankfully, but are noticeable outside. The bottom of my van is jam packed with gear, tanks etc. I was highly limited on the size and placement of a radiator (not in part due to my self-set clearance requirements). Ideally larger radiator(s) would be used.  This would allow much lower speed fans, and less noise. Most excitingly, I can now air condition the inside of the van while working on it!

Here is the radiator mounted. It is on the driver’s side of the battery bank. It is a tight fit, and getting it installed without giving up ground clearance was a pain.

Here is the forward side of the radiator. You can see the pump mounted to the underside of the floor. I still need to relocated the Espar D5 exhaust as it interfered with the radiator.

The electrical is mostly finished. The pump and fans are controlled using a 110V relay driven by the AC units pump output. I might add a thermoswitch for the second fan. This way it will only run when needed.

I used some 4” PVC drain fittings for the short duct run. This was I can install a 60 degree fitting for directing the air flow. I also have a collapsible duct which I will use to route the air flow into the sleeping area.

Up next is probably the Aux fuel tank. I have a ½” blind tank fitting on order. The same goes for a fuel rated 12V solenoid valve. I also have a Carter vane pump on my workbench currently. It looks reversible, I will test it out at some point.

I have at least 10 side projects going concurrently right now. The result? My garage is a disaster zone. I actually had to do a mid-day cleanup because I couldn't see the floor. Sometimes I wonder how my wife puts up with me.