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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Replaced light fixture

My van originally had a 12v dual fluorescent bar light over the sofa (which of course has been removed and a dinette put in it's place). It was no longer working, a replacement is expensive and they use more juice than LEDs, so I bought a new double light fixture on ebay and 6 more warm white 68 LED bulbs on ebay for all the interior light fixtures. I originally bought just one to test it.. and I loved it! I put two of them in the new fixture and it looks great.. puts out lots of light with very little power usage..The fixture can have one or both bulbs on depending on which mode you select on the switch.

Regular blueish LEDs hurt my eyes due to the color temperature. Warm white doesn't seem to strain my eyes the way the blue tint ones do. I had first bought a regular LED one with less on it and I don't like it. I'll keep it as an emergency spare or something.

Wiring & other repairs update

I was able to wire up the backup lights via the factory wire harness at the neutal safety switch and they work fine now. I also installed a new 97db backup alarm while I was at it. So now the van is nice and safe for lights.

I got the alignment done yesterday and had the mechanic look at the brakes. He said that they "scared" him how bad they were. You know your brakes are bad when they scare a mechanic when he test drives it. He bled off the brakes a bunch and they got better but they still aren't 100% right Perhaps 60% at best. I think i am going to have them replace the combination/proportioning valve and the master cylinder. Besides the brake booster, those are the only things LEFT that I haven't replaced on the brake system. Something has to fix it eventually!

Since the master cyl is cheap and they would have to bleed the brakes again anyway for the proportioning valve, I may as well just have them do it too just in case this master cylinder is bad. If those 2 things dont fix it.. I might get another booster and try it to see if it fixes it. By then, every single part of the brake system will have been replaced except for most of the steel lines and the front brake rotors.

I pulled the steering wheel today (thank god for no airbag to deal with) and sure enough, the turn signal cam for right turns is worn out. It's too weak to stay clicked. Simple $12 part with 2 wires to splice in so I will get that done in the next day or two once I go get the part.

Original turn signal cam removed:

Current proportioning valve:

Make Waves Miles-Per-Gallon Vacuum Gauge

I bought a Make Waves Miles Per-Gallon Vacuum gauge from JC Whiney for under $40 shipped. Pretty nice looking gauge. Simple installation... one vacuum hose, a hot wire and a ground wire for the backlight.

It's not a TRUE mpg gauge but rather it gives you an MPG estimate based on how much vacuum is used while driving.To calibrate the mpg, you have to fill the fuel tank, drive it on the highway for a good ways (at least 25-30 miles for my van since it'll get about 10-12 mpg), fill it up again... and divide the miles driven by how many gallons it takes to fill it back up. You then take that MPG number you calculated and set the MPG number on the gauge to roughly where it stays when driving at highway speeds.

So if the gauge sits around 15 for vacuum at 60mph and gets 11mpg, I would set the MPG part of the gauge at "11" to line up with the "15" of the vacuum portion of the gauge. The colored "low, good, bad, excellent" refers to how much vacuum there is, not what kind of MPG you are getting. The outer white ring of the gauge is the MPG portion.

A vacuum gauge is a nice diagnostic tool to have anyway since it can tell you what engine problem you may have based on how the needle behaves. So it's a nice little gadget to have.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rewiring running lights, part 2 - More problems.. elsewhere!

Man... just when I thought I was done with major electrical work.

I went and got 5 gallons of gas today and put it in the van and got it cranked up. (Which reminds me, I need to check my new hose connections for leaks now that fuel is in the lines.)

Low and behold... I stick it in reverse to make sure the backup lights are working.. and they weren't. And what's this?! The blinkers stopped working! ..Flashers work, but not blinkers. I look at the fuse panel and find #2 fuse is blown. (#6 was blowing for the running lights).

So after hours and hours of screwing around trying to get it to stop blowing fuses with no luck.. I figured out that it seems to only blow the fuse if left in reverse for more than a few seconds. In park, neutral, drive... it can be left in them and the fuse doesn't blow. If you hurry past reverse (in either direction), the fuse doesn't blow. But as soon as you leave it there... it blows the fuse.

An oddity about the van is that the horn only works when the engine is running which is NOT normal. The little bit of paper work I got with the van shows it failed a TX state inspection for a non-working horn. It's not really a big deal that the horn doesn't work when the engine is off.. but I may venture into fixing that as well since it's just a matter of routing the wire to a constant connection instead of a switched connection.

This may be a clue to why the fuse blows only in reverse since the horn is on the same circuit as the turn signals and presumably the backup lights as well.

I'm looking into if the backup lights are supposed to be wired directly to the neutral safety switch, which is what it appears to show in the Haynes manual schematic. If they are, it's a matter of running one new wire from the harness to the backup lights... like how I did to restore the running lights to working condition on the factory headlight switch.

In the meantime.. I bought some auto-reset circuit breakers that can used in place of glass fuses/ I ordered 3 sizes/2 kinds: Bussmann 10A & 15A & Dorman 20A. The Bussmann ones may not fit into the Dodge fuse panel.. but I may have a use for them in the motorhome's "house" fuse panel. The Dorman one will fit for sure but i wanted to try a smaller amperage rating one if possible so it and the wires don't heat up as much before the breaker trips. The factory fuse for #2 is 20A so the Dorman should be safe to use if the Bussmann ones don't fit.

This will allow me to go into reverse as needed and let the circuit breaker trip as needed instead of blowing a fuse. If I have to replace a fuse every time the van is put into reverse... that can get costly fast!. Never mind the fact that I'd also have to remember to stop and change thee fuse before I even drive forward any since the blinkers and horn would no longer work with due to the blown fuse. At least with an auto reset circuit breaker... it will resume working after it cools down again. It's by no means a proper fix.. but it will get me by without burning up the wiring or replacing endless fuses.

If using the factory wire harness with a new piece of wire to the backup lights doesn't work, I guess I will wire a special switch for turning on backup lights and the backup alarm. The alarm will at least remind me to turn it back off again but that's also annoying and borderline unsafe.

Sorry, no pictures today. Nothing worth seeing anyway.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rewiring running lights, part 1

When I bought the van, fuse #6 was blown and had randomly blown a couple other times. I had no idea why... but I found out the other day.

The running lights (tail lights, front and side markers) were not working. The cluster's back lights had also gone out. I replaced the fuse, turned on the headlight switch and the fuse blew again. I traced it to the two runs of brown factory wire dedicated to the running light "hot" function. It took me over 2 days to figure out how to go about fixing the problem without screwing up the headlights, brake lights and turn signals since they were all working. Last night, I was able to do so.

Today I went to O'Reilly and bought 40ft of 14 gauge wire (two 20ft rolls) and some connectors.. which I won't be using. I tried to use one crimp connector and it didn't hold so that package I'll have to keep. The other package I will probably just return. I may need more wire in fact... but I may get by with some scrap wire I have laying around of the same gauge but of another color.

I also bought a new 97db backup alarm which I will be installing after I wire up the tail/side lights. There was a cheap 1156 bulb type backup alarm that was broken on the bulb holder so I tossed it in the trash. It was barely audible anyway when it worked part of the time and sounded very weak.

When I got home I had just enough time to wire up the front and get it working. I will also be replacing and wiring up the lights on the running boards so I am providing a power lead to them, wired into the factory headlight switch.

I ran out of daylight to finish the wiring at the headlight switch harness but that won't take very long to do tomorrow.

Part 2 will be about wiring up the rear lights. I may also do a part 3 for the running board lights.