(Formally "Plan V: A Van Dwelling Blog", when I lived in a 1978 Dodge Xplorer 228 Class B motorhome van)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Refurbishing Mopar (Dodge/Plymouth) 36 gallon fuel sending unit

Due to the extreme rarity of the late 70's fuel sending units for the 36 gallon (or 35 gallon?) plastic tanks equipped on the Dodge and Plymouth vans, I had to cut a new gasket and buy a new fuel sock and float which were missing from the existing unit.

Assuming you can even FIND a new sending unit, they cost anywhere from $100-200! It cost a mere $33.80 in parts to refurbish my old one!

The gasket with a NOS sender is well over 30 years old... and may not be much good anymore. The gasket by itself is impossible to find at all.. so you HAVE to make a new one by hand.

Here is a list of the parts I bought:

5/16" (steel line size) fuel sock - $10 (ebay)
Brass float (a bit over 1" wide) - $13 (ebay)
1/8" thick rubberized gasket material - $10 (ebay)
6 new screws - $0.80 (Take the old ones and match them up at the new ones. They are fine thread machine screws found in the specialty screw compartment drawers.)

I have attached lots of photos to show how before and after of my sender.

I also replaced two sections of 5/16" fuel hose at the sender and at the fuel pump as well as the clamps ($4.95 w/ tax from Napa for 2.5ft of hose & 4 clamps). They were replaced after I took the pics below of the sender reinstalled.. so the hose on the right you see is the old, badly rotten and cracked piece. The one on the left goes to the generator.

The next and hopefully final thing to do fuel system wise is replace the fuel filter and any rotten hose between the pump and carburetor.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lower fridge vent

I built a replacement lower slide-in vent compartment door and used the generator compartment's old lock due to it's length. I put a new, shorter lock on the generator's door with a cam that made it work perfectly. The longer one wouldn't have worked for this fridge compartment door.

Not too shabby looking if I do say so myself! The vent piece is very light weight aluminum and has a screen behind it to help keep bugs out.

I also removed the frame and replaced the butyl tape and screws for it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Storage Compartment Painting

The rust in the left side storage compartment was REALLY bad. But it's still nice and sturdy. I grabbed a can of Rustoleum primer I already had (and should have used on the propane compartment but it wasn't nearly as bad) that says you can use it on rusted surfaces and gave it a good coating after I cleaned out all the loose bits of rusted metal.

I also had to make a new compartment door for it but it was easier. I used the existing frame parts from two old original compartment doors and built it last night in a hurry. I will likely go back and paint the wood with primer and white paint like I did on the other side except I didn't use primer on the other door first, and it took many paint coats as a result and took days to paint.

I also primed the underside of the compartment as it was pretty rusty too. I'll give it a coat of paint as well.

I got new compartment locks in the past few days and have them installed as well.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Water pump

I partly filled the water tank to check for leaks with the expensive PEX crap I bought.. and it was leaking bad at one of the connections. I pulled it all out and tipped it up to stop the leaking. Grabbed my small shop vac and sucked up as much water as I could from the carpet.

So much for that crap. Wasted about $30 on it. I may try to clean up some of it and return it if I can get away with it.

I went down the street and bought some cheap vinyl tubing and put that in. No leaks. But, it's too weak. I will have to get some reinforced hose so it doesn't collapse in under suction pressure from the pump.

I was able to get a water pump working. The one in the van was turning on but it wasn't pumping any water. A friend had given me an old one from his camper trailer that was almost identical to mine. It was identical enough i was able to interchange some of the parts from it with my pump. Now it's pumping water (not very well but it might be the collapsing hose that's causing it). But also, when the taps are closed, it doesn't stop running.

Normally when taps are closed, the pressure pushes on a diaphragm in the pump which triggers a switch that shuts off the pump. When the tap is opened again, the pressure is  relived, letting off of the switch and turning the pump on again. I fought with it for hours and just couldn't get it to shut off when the taps closed. I almost thought I did but then it totally screwed up again.

I'm not sure if it's a problem with the pump or if it's supposed to have a check valve between the tank and the pump. If so, it's back flowing into the tank making it lose pressure (therefore keeping the pump on). I will ask about that tomorrow when I go to an RV shop for some cam locks.

Seeing as how I will most likely be in RV parks/campgrounds most of the time, I think I can get by without a "properly" working pump for a while if the pump is the problem. I can always go back and put a new one in later if I feel the need. Two wires and two pipe connections.. not very hard to do.

When not in an RV park, I will mainly be using the kitchen sink which is right near the pump on/off switch so I can simply turn on the pump and then turn on the faucet. When I'm done, turn off the pump again. It''s loud enough and so close by, it's not hard to remember to shut off.

When hooked up to water at campgrounds, I won't even need to worry about the pump since it bypasses it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dinette almost complete

The dinette bench seats are almost completed. I reused the sofa's plywood for the two seats.. I also made a small hatch to access the drain's check valve in case it needs to be replaced. I just need to get some hinges for the bench seats so the compartments can open for easy access and they'll be done.

For cushions, I will get a local furniture upholstery shop  to make me some.

I did check the wiring I mentioned yesterday and near as I can figure, it's hooked up to the breaker wrong and the wire in question appeared to be going to the water pump. So I will have to switch the connections around some to get them hooked up properly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Battery box

I built the wooden battery box today. It needs some minor fixes here and there but overall it's done. I used a piece of 1-1/2" PVC pipe screwed in and caulked around for the vent. The floor vent is going to end up half way covered up so I will see about adding some hose vents down through the floor where the bathroom shower & sink drain goes through. It will house two group 27 batteries with plenty of elbow room so getting them in and out will be easy. There is a lid (not pictured) that will be screwed down to seal it up.

I also changed two wires to a heavier gauge from the batteries to the 30A breaker and from the breaker to the fuse panel. The short red wire is actually smaller now for the larger black wire on the same terminal of the breaker so I will go back and change it. It's meant to feed everything 12V from the batteries, so it needs to be heavier gauge than 12. I think the larger black wire on the same terminal is 10g. It's some old wire I had laying around from when I had an extra battery hookup in the Ford conversion van I once had.

The 30A breaker may also be wired up backwards.. I gotta try to figure out what that wire is coming from the other side of the breaker is, It's pretty small gauge and seems to be spliced in or has something spliced to it. I haven't examined it closely enough to see yet.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Propane compartment & door

The compartment door was totally gone due to an accident someone had with it at some point that tore it to hell. Not enough was left to remake it as it was.

A friend has an old junky travel trailer he let me get an access door from that was the perfect width but too tall. However, it had a traditional hinge that was screwed to the door and pop riveted to the frame. I was able to cut it down to fit my van but had to cut it further around the opening to allow for the tanks to fit into the opening. It may allow water to enter the compartment but it's solid metal inside and has a way to drain out somewhat.

Also, I went ahead and gave it a couple of coats of oil based Rustoleum paint I already had laying around and put a couple of flexible plastic signs in the bottom under the tanks to keep the paint nice.

I also put on new modern hoses that requires no tools to connect and disconnect from the tanks. The tank on the right is too old to use/refill as it is. It has the older style valve and connector so I will be swapping it out for another tank.

All in all, I think it came out pretty decent. Not exactly professional but for the cost of about $50 for the wood and aluminum trim for the door, I'd say it came out well. The sheet metal on the outside of the door is from the original compartment door so it looks fairly original.

I haven't put in all the screws for holding the frame to the van yet but that's not too much work. I am having to drill new holes since the frame's holes don't line up with the originals but it's just a little time consuming, not difficult.

The reason the door has funky cut-outs down lower is so the door will be lighter which means it's easier on the hinge. The upper cut is obvious.. for the vent in the sheet metal. If I feel like it, I may go back and put some sheet metal in the inside of the door to make it look a little better.

I will be ordering a new of new matching locks for the various compartments and access panels.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Interior remodeling

The one feature I instantly disliked about this van was that it had a sofa instead of a dinette. This provides no good desk-like place to sit. After much debate over the idea, I decided to put a dinette in place of the sofa.

But I am only going to put one seat which will house the batteries, fuse panel, and converter. I quickly realized that there would be ample space for 2 batteries in the compartment so I pulled the original metal battery box which was badly eaten out from acid in one bottom corner. Thankfully it didn't eat through the carpet or floor.

I am going to build a wooden battery box that is sealed off from the interior by a screwed down lid with weatherstripping and a host using the orginal battery vent on the side of the van. The lower vent is a hole in the floor which I will allow for in the wooden box for cross ventilation.

The space where normally another dinette seat would go is going to be cabinets for a microwave and other storage over the hot water heater.

It's going to take many weeks to build it since I am building it on the fly without much of any plans other than in my head. I took me two days to do what you see below due to taking out the old stuff, reworking it here and there, measuring a lot, cutting a lot (by hand with a mitre box and hand saw).

For the table I will likely be using a pedestal table post and mount and getting a local place that makes cabinet doors to make a custom size table top with rounded edges.

I had to relocate the fuse panel and a 12V 30A auto circuit breaker that was located where the feet area will be. I have to fix a couple wires going to the circuit breaker that are a bit messed up at the ring terminal and one is now too short so I will be replacing it.

Plumbing fixes

I have really started getting the van ready in the past few days.

I pulled the fresh water tank a month or more ago and hosed it out due to it having nasty old water in it. It still needs to be properly sanitized but it's a start. I also replaced the filler hose, air hose, water filler and the line between the pump and tank. It had a clamped on hose which I didn't like.. it looked like a place prone to leaking.

I had to shell out a little bit of money for 2 compatible PEX fittings for the pump and tank, 2 sizes of PEX pipe plus a reducer fitting. I bought the quick-connect style due to the expensive price for a PEX crimp tool. I'm not real fond of how flexed it looks but hopefully it won't leak. If it does, I guess I'll go back to a hose since I kept the old fittings that were on there. I have yet to test them to see if they leak but intend to very soon.

I did hook up a hose to the city water connection and there seemed to be no apparent leaks for the 10 minutes or so I had pressure on the system. What I though was a leak at the water heater turned out to the drain valve wasn't fully closed. After closing it fully, the dripping stopped. So it seems the old water lines are still fine to use.

I also put a new tethered cap for the city water connection and fresh butyl tape behind it.

Update 10/11/12: The PEX crap didn't work. Read more: http://cubey7800.blogspot.com/2012/10/water-pump.html