We got some snow the other night so I snapped a couple shots of The Ghost w/ a blanket on.
Taken with my Panasonic Lumix GF-1 (micro 4/3) taken just after midnight.
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Mid January Emily, Mike O., and myself milled some poplar pieces I got from Home Despot on the router table to make counter edge material. I wanted something fairly hard, would wear, and that complimented the black surface (cheap was important too). I also needed to source a relatively cheap miter box to cut the angles accurately for nice finish. I ended up purchasing one from Lowes (similar available on Amazon, etc.)
The poplar was notched (as seen below), adhesive applied, and air-nailed to the edge of the countertop material (MDF + laminate top). Normal home countertops do not have this feature because they often are not mobile with items sliding around on the top. This is a common feature in boats where ‘level’ might be a relative term. I installed something very similar to this in my VW Camper “Zesty” (Oak) and it has performed quite well.
Fairly easy, and after some basic treatment to prevent moisture damage, it should look really nice (ash trails in the grain).
All in all, ended up looking pretty good. A little sanding on the corners to knock off the dangerously sharp 90 degree edges and it should be good. As a warning, always point your nail gun down, and aim for the bottom half of the MDF when shooting nails into the counter edge. This bit me on the VW, and even here one lifted the surface and produced a crack. Easy repair but annoying as any amount of water that enters over the years will swell the MDF and cause problems.
Took some vroom-vroom videos of The Ghost with gauges attached at various ports around the transmission. I am attempting to repair the overdrive with as little as effort as possible (the worst being having to take the transmission back out of the coach).
For background, The Ghost has a ‘3-speed’ automatic transmission. This transmission, an Allison VS2-8, was originally fitted to a 8V71 (the ‘8’ in the model name). I chose this transmission because unlike it’s predecessor (the Allison VH), it has an additional gear: overdrive.
The transmission starts off in ‘hydraulic’ mode (sitting at the light idling, reversing, etc.). This mode takes engine output and passes it through a VERY large torque converter (fluid coupling that multiplies torque to help get things going). Once the coach reaches a certain speed (determined by the pressure output by the governor) the transmission shifts into ‘direct drive’ by closing a clutch around the torque converter (thus taking it out of the picture). The next step, if speed and power allow, is to drop into ‘3rd gear’, where a planetary gearset drives the input of the 1:1 direct drive system over engine speed, overdrive. This allows the engine to run at a good RPM for fuel economy and torque as well as allowing the coach to travel at speeds it had never seen previously (65MPH+)
Some might ask, why all the hassle of a automatic transmission when most all automotive gurus prefer manual? The answer is simple…torque. As an example, imagine the first time you start off on a hill with a manual transmission powered car. Sometimes some clutch slipping, fair bit of engine RPM (especially if under-powered or overweight). Now multiply those issues by x10 as The Ghost is not only under-powered, it is quite heavy. There are a very limited number of manual gearboxes available for coaches of this type (V-drive, reverse rotation) and that means custom gearing can be a hassle. The torque converter action allows the bus to ‘get rolling’ by making a VERY large amount of torque without risk of stalling the engine. The downside is this generates a lot of heat, can be bad in the hills, and doesn’t give the driver a LOT of control over the shift points for climbing or descending hills. Trade offs that were considered.
The Ghost originally came with a VH transmission (hydraulic and direct drive only) which was fine for 55MPH cruising, but didn’t offer much in regards to fuel economy, comfort, or longevity. The VS2-8 was fitted in the summer of 2011 before NWMF and Burning-Man and worked like a champion. After some hassles, and finally a loud bang, overdrive disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. Since all these bits are internal to the transmission, a possible removal for diagnosis is looming.
What we see below is me testing pressures to determine if the valves, pressures, and external operation of the transmission is performing as expected. It would be pretty un-enjoyable to tear into the transmission (no small feat) only to find that the issue was something that could have been externally dealt with.
For notes, The Ghost is sitting on cribbing under both sides of the rear axle as well as resting on the chassis stands that were fitted by a previous owner. This made the coach very stable and safe to operate at 55MPH+ with the wheels a mere 1-2″ off the ground.
Main Pressure Test – Youtube (pressure from which all others are derived)
Converter Pressure Test – Youtube (pressure on torque converter system)
Governor Pressure Test – Youtube (pressure that varies w/ vehicle speed to shift transmission)
Fuel Pressure Test – Youtube (fuel pressure into the fuel rail)
The summary is that Main Pressure is indicating two attempted shifts (Hydraulic to Direct, and Direct to O/D), which is good. The Converter Pressure test was mainly to give myself peace of mind that the converter pressure circuit is operating properly. The governor pressure test shows that pressure increases from 0PSI to main pressure (about 80-82psi at high speed) across it’s speed range (0-60MPH+). The Fuel Pressure test shows fuel pressure remaining stable even at high speed (although load low, so injectors not calling for a lot of fuel). I’ve had some fuel restriction issues in the past so just worth checking in. Nothing bad to write home about (both good and bad). I need to confirm one last test (a gauge connected to a service port on the O/D Valve) and if that passes, then off comes the transmission after collecting some gaskets, fluid, and spare parts.
The current thought is that either the planetary gearset for O/D just committed suicide and is locked into some strange mode of direct drive only. Another thought I have recently had is that something has happened to the spring/piston setup that activates the clutches.
Update on The Ghost fuel system!
I’ve been fighting an issue on the fuel system (which is freshly tuned up before the big trips last year). The symptoms were hard starting and loping cold idle after sitting for >1 week. If removing the return line from the head, you could hear fuel siphoning back to the tank via the supply like. Since there is a check valve installed in this line, I knew it was suspect. Below is what I found:
A pine needle had placed itself right across the flapper of the check valve, thus holding it open and causing fuel to flow backwards to the tank, draining the head and some fuel out of the filters.
I have since replaced this check valve with the newer check valve (spring/tapered potion) off of a 90 series Detroit I scored off ebay for $25 w/ some other spare parts. I also included (temporarily) a full flow chatter pump w/ internal check valve & bypass. This will help w/ priming the fuel system if the filters are changed or if sitting for an extended period of time. It is powered from 12V and would be on a timer or switch as it would normally not be needed (the engine has a gear driven fuel pump that uses engine rotation).
The goal here is to aide in cold starts and also diagnose any fuel starvation issues if they present themselves. I am also working on including senders on the primary filter housing to display vacuum across the filter. The main filter is pressure so a restriction there usually shows as a low main fuel pressure at high RPM.
So earlier I mentioned that I pulled the stock Delco Remy 12V horn off the coach and prepared it for repair. Turns out that the only issue (other than looking rough) was that the internal point-gap was dirty.
Cleaned this with a piece of paper and all is well and working again. No adjustment needed.
The goal is to sand-blast it (plugging the outlet) and either clear coating or painting to protect. Should help improve the sound too.
Until next time,
Worked on the bedroom sliding door cutout. This space is required to allow the door to clear the side of the body (height of the door maximized so in the open setting it just clears the curve of the exterior + insulation).
The cutout unfortunately was at an odd angle, but a metal blade made quick work of the aluminium.
Next step is to insulate and apply skin to the door and install the sliding hardware. I am working on a lock design since the rear bedroom/desk/bathroom space is for private use, and the front more for event volunteers when we are running events.
The frame is aluminium 1″ medium wall box tube TIG welded rectangle.
More to come soon!