Pre-Mogfest/Burning-Man Trip Upgrades

A short list of attempted repairs/upgrades. We’ll see how far through the list we actualy get.

  • Replace Engine Water Pump – This started leaking out the shaft seal at Alvord but hasn’t leaked since. A replacement has already been acquired.
  • Adjust slack adjusters on brakes
  • Convert new-to-us front air-conditioner to function with residential thermostat
  • Finish cleaning and painting CockPit Area
  • Re-mount HAM & CB Radio
  • Re-mount driver electric fan
  • Re-mount backup camera screen
  • Add rubber air-dam under radiator to prevent mixing at low speed
  • Insulate around front Fantastic Fan
  • Connect front Fantastic Fan to power source
  • Mount bedroom 12V LED reading light
  • Fix sliding bedroom door
  • Vibration isolate potable water pump
  • Add additional LED light strip in kitchen
  • Build curtain rod and mount for Miles sleeping zone
  • Cig socket in bedroom
  • Fix Satellite Radio power Cord (or replace)

I’m sure more projects will present themselves…whee!

Solar Panels Installed

Hello again!

In the mad-rush to get things finished for a trip out the Alvord Desert this week, I was able to get the front rack of The Ghost finished and some new solar panels mounted. I scored a sweet deal on craigslist for some 60-cell (28-32V nominal)  These are 250W 5’5″ x 3’3″, aluminium frame panels constructed for home power installation. I built under-supporting frames to help bear vibration load since the frames are not designed for mobile applications.

I started by extending the existing rack I built last year farther forward to support the panels. I constructed it out of materials and in such a way that it is actually rated to support humans. The wind load of the panels could be quite substantial in high winds or at high speeds.

Beginning to build the support rack

Beginning to build the support rack

Rooftop View

Rooftop View Tack Welded

Once the rack was finished, I welded some extra support pieces onto the spreaders to support the panels in their odd locations. I had to choose this odd layout to allow the roof vent to open (power vent lid) and also not hang over the side of the coach too far or cover the horn/antennas/etc. This configuration allows me to see the edge of the panel in my drivers side mirror and is still inboard of the two air-conditioning units.

Solar panels in their proper locations preparing to mount.

Solar panels in their proper locations preparing to mount.

 

The panels are mounted at four points each using 8 self-tapping screws into the main frame members. The other side of these brackets are welded to the rack-frame of the coach. This seems to be providing a very stout level of connection and hopefully will give the panels the longest life.

The two panels are connected in parallel and directly feed a 20A 12/24V charge controller. This power is then fed into the temporary 24V sealed lead acid battery bank which is either used directly (for 24V appliances and later the large inverter) or indirectly though a 24V to 12V 360W converter. With this amount of solar combined with our desired eventual inverter/battery bank, we could actually run a small amount of solar powered air-conditioning for the morning hours while we wanted to sleep at events like BurningMan, etc. Realistically in Oregon the amount of power generated is not significant in comparison to the cost of power from a utility, however in the desert or off-grid this starts to be a large win. My intention is to eventually augment the DC power system with a 24V 150A+ alternator/propane generator combination. I have a ~30gal propane tank slated to be installed into the coach as well which will supply fuel to the stove/oven as well as the generator.

Check back soon for more updates!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Service Brake System Upgrades

Hello again! Recently the service brake valve (a D1) that I rebuilt many moons ago started leaking again. Due to the age of the valve, the age of the rebuild kit, and the general lack of available parts for such an item on the open road, I decided it was time for some changes. While plugging around under the bus, I found that there was some equipment (from the city transit days) that was also leaking. This valve (all torn apart on the bench) was the culprit:

Valve torn Apart

Unknown Valve Torn Apart

 

Failed Rubber Bits

Failed Rubber Bits

More Failed Rubber Bits

More Failed Rubber Bits

It took some heavy researching to figure out what this valve did. It was installed between the main air-brake service tank and the foot valve in the main pressure line. It also received signals from ‘somewhere’ that I could not find the other end of. The other side of this same “unknown” line went off into a dual input check valve in the rear brake circuit. As much as I boggled my mind (and hit the books) I could not figure out why you would want to interrupt the brake signal. Finally I did some poking around in my New Look book (which I ended up with for $10 off ebay) and found that it was an emergency brake valve (before spring brakes existed). The purpose of this valve was that if there was a massive leak at the foot valve, a small hand-valve at the operators left could be thrown into “emergency mode” which applied air to this valve, closing off air supply to the foot valve. Then, this same signal was sent to the 2-way check valve for the rear brakes, applying the brakes fully and (hopefully) stopping the coach. Crude and rude, but I’m sure it did work (yet was probably never used). It still required air in the main tanks, something that spring brakes do not require (absence of air applies the brakes in an emergency). So, out came the valve, but I was left with a bunch of air-lines to cap/patch/re-connect.

Lots of Air-lines!

Lots of Air-lines!

The next step was to re-connect the service brake pressure line. Of course this was originally heavy gauge copper tubing (at some expense!) but the popular choice is plastic air-brake rated tubing and compression fittings. Removing the old copper line was a real chore (almost too stiff to bend, and grommets installed where it passed through the frame members. I disturbed a LOT of dirt. I out-fitted both ends (valve and tank) with the proper ends and installed a piece of blue 1/2 line.

New fitting on the tank end.

New fitting on the tank end.

Removing the Copper above the front axle

Removing the Copper above the front axle

Removing the copper at the tank end

Removing the copper at the tank end

More copper removal

More copper removal

I needed to reconnect the air brake signal line to the rear brakes once the 2-way check valve was removed. I did some fancy footwork with some fittings and gently bent the copper line to make the connection. You cannot kink this material or it will leak and a leak at this junction would be VERY dangerous.

Reconnected signal to rear brakes (removed the 2-way check valve)

Reconnected signal to rear brakes (removed the 2-way check valve)

Next on the slab was replacing the service brake foot valve up front with the new E3 I purchased of e-bay. Newer valves than this have multiple inputs however The Ghost only has a single supply air-tank system (even though it is two tanks, they are tied together, one wet, one dry). The E3 is a close replacement to the D1 and is available at most heavy truck parts places so it was an easy choice. Earlier valves in the D series have the potential for being set up for city bus service, and thus do not give the operator the option of 100% air brake power (injury to passengers a large possibility without seatbelts). Modern day with modern tires/non-commercial driving means I want the aggressive brakes if I need them.

I purchased a new E3 valve as well as a new treadle + plate assembly off of e-bay (the E series bolt pattern/size is FAR different from the D series). This required welding up the old hole in the floor so that it could be drilled for the new bolt pattern/etc.
plate_welded

Once this plate was installed, the center hole and mounting holes could be drilled. The E3 valve was set up with the proper fittings in the proper directions to allow for existing brake line connections. I also added a supply line to go directly to my spring-brake emergency valve as well as an application pressure port to go directly to the dual-needle gauge in my dash.

ghost_e3

 

I then mounted the plate (after removing the treadle) directly through the coach body down into the E3 valve. Holes are misaligned here because I left ‘wiggle-room’ in all mounting holes to assist in fine alignment.

 

e3_installed

 

Lastly I reattached the pedal assembly and installed some 5/16 bolts in the outside perimeter to assist in keeping things tight.

e3_finished

 

We will see how the new brake valve feels on the road…however so far it is looking fairly promising. The high angle of this pedal assembly can be adjusted with some lathe work on the back-roller however I may keep it like this. Getting full 100% application before was a bit tricky (usually required me to toe-into the pedal). Considering the light amount of driving that The Ghost gets these days, I suspect this pedal assembly will outlast the rest of the coach.

Battery Upgrade

Hello again!

I recently addressed the long outstanding issue of The Ghost’s corroded battery tray and dying group 8D battery. The original battery holder was rusted and since it interfered with my black water tank outlet, I had hacked on it heavily to make things work. Two burning-mans later, I decided it was time to properly build a tray to hold some new batteries!

The trickiest bit is that not only must the tray hold the batteries, they must also be removable AND allow for the plumbing to route around them (grey water from fore, black water from aft). Having the hose connection behind this door saves having to cut another door or having plumbing hanging down dangerously low on the chassis to snag on stuff. Originally The Ghost had two group 8D batteries to support the stop/go driving…numerous incandescent lights…and electrics for the door controls/starter/etc. Now that the load is lightened and space is premium, I decided to install two new group 4D batteries that I acquired cheaply (they were blemished and repaired). I normally would prefer one larger battery over paralleled dual batteries but the space only allows for maximally two 4D.

With the old battery carrier removed (held in by bailing wire), I drafted up an idea in my head, purchased a 20ft stick of 1/4″ 2″ steel angle iron and set out to building the tray.

Angle Iron on the chop saw (in the rain)

 

Scheming the pieces (in the rain). Welding too!

After much cutting/tacking/getting wet and shocking myself, I finally had something tacked together ready for final welding (and it fit like a glove between the frame rails and cleared the sewage tank fitting nicely). Bottom views:

Finshed Product 1Finished Product 2

Once everything was welded up and checked for fitment, I blew on some rustoleum brown primer paint and drilled the various holes for mounting. I used fine thread 1/2 stainless bolts/nuts/washers/lockwashers to make sure things didn’t move. In once place I had to use a small spacer to make up the gap difference but in the end it was a perfect fit. On the last hole I killed my Milwaukie 1/2 drill bit (sheared it off laterally) in the frame of The Ghost. THICK STUFF!

Finished Installed Clearing Tank Valves Finished Tray Installed and Primered

Now it was time to upgrade the battery cables, install some rubber mat, and test fit the batteries/etc.

New Cable Ends New Cable Ends 2 Cleaning and Protecting the Ground

Once all the cables were clean/coated with copper shield/tightened I was ready for the batteries.

Batteries Installed

I obviously need to finish the final securing method to keep the batteries in their tray but the 2×4 is doing the job nicely for now. The temporary red/black duplex wire on the left is the connection to the float charger/house electricals to keep things fresh for solid starting. In the above photo you can see that the batteries are high enough to allow for the 1.5″ grey water plumbing to run under them and across to the front of the coach where the grey water tank will be. The angle piece of the front is simply for structural support and gives me a nice place to mount my battery restraint.

Check back soon for more updates! Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

Interior Documenting August 2012

Some quick photos of the inside and current build state before Burning Man 2012.

 

I am right in the middle of finishing out the bathroom enough to have a decent shower space so that plus the kitchen sink area is a bit under construction…

View looking forward from entry door landing:

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View of the kitchen from the entry landing:

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Seating area (stock bus seats from the 50’s), lightly elevated for breaking up single plane interior:

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Drivers position (dash not yet fixed in place with screws):

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Drivers control panel/seat/steering wheel/pedals:

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View from the front facing back towards the bedroom/bathroom w/ sliding door open (dining room chairs lightly tilted to help keep people ‘in the seat’.

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Kitchen view from the front. Sink/stove/fridge visible, not yet framed for storage or drawers/power equipment:

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Bathroom current status (removed upper advertisement panels), ready for insulation and plastic wall material behind toilet.

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Thanks for checking in!

Window Tinting!

After last year’s desert excursion (Burning Man 2011) and with our recent visit to 4th of Juplaya (2012), we decided that window tinting was now upgraded to a MUST HAVE to be able to survive in a metal tube (with glass windows) in the desert.

I picked up some ‘somewhat’ reasonably reviewed Gilla window tinting from Lowes (similar price to Amazon) and while it isn’t rated for automotive applications, should work nicely on the RV application. It is an actual adhesive (not static cling) and installs just like it would on a car (soapy solution + plastic knife). The results have been quite decent for single pane glass. I first did a rear bedroom window (directly facing into the sun) and it made a 10-12 degree F difference in surface temperature (on the white mattress). The glass had a slightly higher temperature but when viewing from the outside, it is obvious that the tint/thermal management film is doing it’s job (good rejection).

This, combined with the white painting that is happening, should DRASTICALLY improve interior temperatures of the coach in the summer heat in the desert. We don’t often open the windows at Burning Man (bad dust) so having them closed with this film should help the situation. I’m hoping it will be decent enough for us to not need to run our solar reflectors (silver bubble wrap) inside the windows as well but we shall see. The overall ‘tint’ of the windows isn’t that substantial however the reflective rejection properties are pretty decent.

For your consideration, tinted on the left, non-tinted on the right. Noticeable difference. I haven’t tinted the upper smaller windows yet.

I should have the rest finished off in the next couple nights!

image

 

Thanks for checkin’ in!

Gray Ghost No More!

 

Quick update as I begin the roof-to-beltline painting of marine epoxy high gloss white on The Ghost. This will MASSIVELY help with interior thermal management and also with cleaning/etc.

For perspective, the gray roof gets so hot in full sun that I cannot hold my hand to it (120F+). The white roof on the Volkswagen Riveria nearby (same paint) is ambient (80-85F) temperature when touched in the same sun. The paint I’m using is Petit brand Easypoxy High Gloss White. It’s not cheap, but with a Port Supply account and some wheeling and dealing, I can get it about 1/2 price (gallon can retails over $120). It is deigned for boat top-side paint. It has to be applied in 2-3 thin coats over a few days for the finish to fully cure and be rock hard. This stuff is highly recommended if you have metal/wood/fiberglass that you want to seal/cover. Preparation for paint involves a pneumatic disk sander (for auto body work) and some medium grit disks. I’m also wire brushing all loose flakes/spots off before a good blast with pressure air to clean. I’m simply foam/bristle brushing it on and will low nap roller it on once I hit the large open areas.

I will be doing the whole length of the bus in this to the beltline to start the paint match to the original delivered color scheme (white, navy blue stripe, gray below). It should make things much cooler in the desert when done. Thanks for checkin’ in!

Dash Removal

Well the day is finally coming to upgrade the dash in The Ghost to allow for more gauges, newer priorities, and less incandescent bulbs. I Removed all the gauges from the dash (the only decently working ones being the air pressure, engine charge indicator, and water temp) and all the indicator lights (many for city bus service…long disabled). My hope is to continue using the charge indicator (shunt DC current meter) however eventually switching over to a voltage meter would likely suffice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a fairly emotional moment…tearing one of the few completely stock pieces of The Ghost out…like gutting the heart out of an animal. I take ease in the fact that it will be replaced with a nice milled piece of aluminium with 9 gauges sitting front and center. I am now in the process of tidying up the wiring all the way back to the junction panels to allow for a much tidier behind-dash condition. The long broken speedometer system will be abandoned in favor of a newer VDO pulse sender. All other gauges (other than air) will be routed electrically through a new 15 conductor cable to the rear of the coach to new senders placed all over the engine/transmission/etc. I also will be using this cable to run a few signals for engine/transmission devices (Jake Brakes, Neutral Solenoid, Direct-Drive Lock).

I am also moving over the maxi-air-brake valve (parking/emergency brakes) a little closer to the driver position to allow for less air-lines running behind the dash and to aid in dash removal for service. I also removed the very old AM/FM 8-track radio even though it still works. I am tired of looking at that ugly thing hanging out of the dash.

For perspective of the magnitude of this project, have a look at these photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While it would be easy to just gut everything and start over…this system is actually fairly decent (including self resetting circuit breakers, large gauge conductors, shrink wrap, and labels). I will slowly transition over to the new wiring but will be keeping many of the old devices that seem reasonable to continue using (horn relay, circuit breakers, bus bars). Doing an all-out replacement is possible however with the expense of copper wiring, it seems silly to gut the old wiring simply to replace it immediately with new. Transition is the name of the game here…just means more complications.

Needless to say, the body manual has been invaluable in this process with full size schematics, labels, and circuit descriptions. Not recommended for the faint of heart.

Oddly enough, even in it’s current state, it will still start and run.

More soon!

Ghost Lighting Upgrade – LED

 

Well, it’s been a long time coming however finally The Ghost is getting a much needed jump into a more recent decade. Previous owners had hacked together turn signals, brake lights, and marker lights to get the rig down the road. Since I am a firm believer in proper lighting, I used http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/standards/conspicuity/TBMpstr.html as a guide for a full system redesign. Since The Ghost is >30ft long, certain rules applied for lighting that it currently doesn’t have.

On the list of things up replace/upgrade:

  • Convert x4 Brake/Tail red lights over to Red 4″ Grommet Mounted LED Lights
  • Convert x2 Rear Amber Turn Signals over to Amber 4″ Grommet Mounted LED Lights
  • Convert x2 Front Amber/Red Turn Signals over to Amber Rectangular Grommet Mounted LED Lights
  • Install Front Lower Side Amber Turn/Marker Lights
  • Install Mid Lower Side Amber Turn/Marker Lights
  • Install Rear Lower Side Red Turn/Marker Lights
  • Install Retroreflectors as required by guide above
  • Replace Bulbs in Clearance Lights with LED or Replace whole fixtures with LED

The previous owners had removed the factory front turn signals and since the originals are  impossible to find, I decided to install LED rectangular signals (closest match I could find that was reasonably priced). This required sawing a hole in the old turn signal ‘cover’ metal that someone had installed. Once that was finished, the lights simply popped into these holes and connection is made behind the dash and in the passenger side jockey box. It should be noted that using these locations requires some modification of the drivers side windscreen wiper bracket to allow the rather deep lights to fit far enough into the body to properly seat in the rubber grommets. Thinner fixtures would solve this problem as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rear lighting simply required moving the old incandescent fixtures, adjusting hole sizes, and mounting the 4″ round fixtures and their associated grommets. Since these are all LED lights, power consumption is so low that smaller new wiring is being run to feed the lights/relays for trailer connection. A LED compatible turn signal flasher is also required (cheaply available on Amazon/etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stock rear lighting configuration (two small fixtures down low on the body) looks cool but functionally I’d expect people to smash into the back of The Ghost regularly if that is all the lighting I had. The previous owners installation of x4 brake/tail and x2 turn signals looks tacky but is very effective at catching people’s attention (even over motorcycles/etc. mounted on the rear). With the LED conversions installed, things are VERY bright back there when on the stop pedal.

Steel armored side marker/turn signals were mounted low down on the side of the body (amber mid, amber front, and red rear) to provide the requirements for NTSB. These also aid greatly (properly connected) to indicate when executing a lane change if someone is sitting along-side the coach. To make this work, the side LED lights simply are connected one wire to tail light power, one wire to turn signal power. Resistors may be required depending upon the internal makeup of the lights, but this works nicely to help get cars out of the way when on the freeway. Lights were sourced off Ebay (Optronics model MCL86RB)

Overhead clearance lighting is functioning currently and since I recently sealed all the fixtures to the roof, I am inclined to continue using them but swap out the bulbs with LED conversions. I would only be tempted to replace these if I was able to source the original large clearance lights found on the bus in the 50’s (unobtainium). No rush on these.

Retro-reflectors are being mounted in all positions where the associated marker/turn/tail light doesn’t already have them built in. There are a few other locations that require a retro-reflector so I will add as necessary. These are very effective at lighting the coach in the event of a on-road power failure or when parked to prevent getting smashed into.

 

Overall fairly pleased with the conversion. It will be nice to leave marker lighting on when doing deep desert camping to prevent collisions without worry of draining down the battery.

 

 

 

Exhaust Upgrade

Something long overdue for work, mostly back-burnered because it wasn’t outright dragging on the ground, was the existing exhaust system. The stock dual 3 into 1 manifolds with matching  <3″ piped canisters + flexible rusty crushed pipe just wasn’t cutting it. The Ghost’s exhaust was quiet enough, but cruising down the highway I had a feeling the back-pressure was high and the restriction too much to let the engine stretch out. I sourced some 5″ exhaust components, installed an industrial 6 into 1 (4″) manifold, and built up a custom system.

 

The industrial manifold (which you usually see mounted upright) points down off the back of the cylinder head with the outlet pipe parallel to the engine block. I installed an immediate 4″ to 5″ adapter at the output flange. From there it travels downwards about 10″ and then bends (about 85 degrees from straight) towards the front of the bus. Usually there is a bulkhead here (aluminium) however I cut out a 8-9″ round hole to allow the pipe to pass through without touching or rubbing. It them immediately makes a turn to the drivers side of the coach, where it connects with the 5″ resonator and drops out close to the ground through a 5″ turn-down. I lightly sectioned a undercarriage panel (non structural) so that the turn-down fit nicely up into the body without hanging out the breeze (making the coach wider) or being even closer to the ground. The end result turned out excellent and shy of installing a few rubberized exhaust hangers, the setup is done. A slip-joint coupling was used at the pass-through of the bulkhead; everything else being welded solid. The flange obviously unbolts from the manifold as well.

The end result is a very aggressive high flow exhaust. There is room for improvement in the overall noise level department, but the note is acceptable and we’ll see how it sounds on a long run. A longer muffler can could be installed in place of the shorter one if needed. It definitely lets you know it is a 426cu in 2-stroke…rat rod style.

 

A size photo comparison of the purchased 5″ muffler.

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As you can see, it is a direct pass-through design with two resonant perforated sections at the inlet/outlet and a open area in the middle.

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Here is a photo of the piece that connects (at the bulkhead) to the rest of the exhaust up to the engine.

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While I was doing this task, I took the opportunity to do an acid was on the cooling system. I had seen scale buildup evidence in my coolant buckets/samples so, figuring it hadn’t be done in quite some time, gave it a strong shock of Oxalic acid for a few runs up and down the road. I then drained, flushed multiple times, and re-filled with my coolant.

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The handy trick for filling a horizontal radiator cap which is eye level from a 5-gal bucket. Funnel + flexible hose + bungee cord + forklift.

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All in all a very productive Saturday. I took a break from the work for Mothers Day and will resume re-assembling the sheet metal back onto the rear of The Ghost so it can make it’s trip over to the new house Emily and I are closing on this week.

 

Until next time…