Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Joe Omundson

BB006: Battery work and short term goals

I have two main goals for the next 2 weeks: 

1) replace the floor
2) insulate the walls

Once I replace the floor I can put things inside and sleep in there. Insulating will be a smart move long-term; I can make thermal curtains for the massive windows and have a fairly well insulated setup.

Since I want to build a home that can last for many years, I need to pay close attention in these foundational steps to prevent problems later on. Since my funds are limited and I don't want to skimp on quality materials, I'll need to make progress slowly, one thing at a time. With the floors and insulation done I can at least throw my things in and get on the road, drive back to Moab and start earning money to repay the loan and continue my build.

I made plans to replace the floor of the bus this Friday-Saturday, with David, the other vandweller who offered to let me use his shop with him. He'll be replacing the floor of his van at the same time.

To replace the floors I need to:
-pull up the rubber flooring to expose where the plywood is screwed into the metal frame;
-remove anything that is currently attached to the floor; this includes the rear heater, entry rail, and AC condenser unit attached underneath the bus midway on the driver's side, among other things;
-unscrew the plywood from the frame;
-cut new plywood to fit
-waterproof the plywood and screw it into the frame

...and probably about 20 intermediate steps that I'm not thinking of or will only realize exist once I've begun tearing the floor out. It wouldn't be a proper day of working on a vehicle if some unexpected pain in the ass problems didn't materialize. I might get the floors off and decide now is the right time to remove all the rust from the chassis, for example.

I disconnected the heater from the coolant supply/return hoses. Not much liquid came out.

Under the bus, I removed the brackets holding the hoses to the floor and found that they were attached to these ball valves w/ levers for easy shutting off; they were already shut off. This explains the relative lack of fluid in the lines. I should probably still terminate the hoses in a more secure way, but this is good enough for now.

Apparently when I am lying on my back under the bus I like to rest my dirty hands on my forehead (put all that surface area to good use?). My other favorite thing is when I knock bits of grime loose and they fall in my eyes, which only happens once every 30 seconds or so.

I'll get these floors prepped by Friday, but I've been working on my battery situation because if I let the bus sit for more than a couple days it doesn't want to start, and I want to be able to trust that it will start. I found out that the E350 actually has two starting batteries by default. The 1st one is in the normal position under the hood. Near it is a sticker describing the location of the 2nd battery.

The 2nd battery was 6 years old and dead. It lives under the bus on the passenger side, bolted to the chassis in a little box. It was not really easy to get it out of there. I wonder why they didn't just make the front panel hinged so you can open it and pull the battery straight out? I unbolted 3 of the 4 bolts and the ground wire in the picture below so I could pivot the box down and take the battery out the top.

I brought the old battery to the battery exchange place (along with some old dead batteries from my dad's garage, for a discount) and got a new battery for $104 (originally $130). They had options starting at $79 but I paid a bit more to have a higher quality battery with a 7 year warranty, an extra $25 well spent. Wrangled it back into place and got it hooked up, started the engine, and probed the battery just to make sure it was charging... and I'm glad I checked, because with the engine on it was still sitting there at 12.5 V rather than the 14.4 V I'd see if the alternator was charging it! I know the alternator works, because the other battery is at 14.4 V... so it's not connected properly. I followed the cable until I found where the ground line was bolted to the chassis, removed that, found some corrosion, cleaned, re-bolted (after breaking the bolt and finding another bolt that fit a nearby hole). Fixed the connection problem!!

I've been fortunate so far, whenever I've thought there might be a mechanical problem it's turned out to be a simple fix like corroded connections. After taking it for some more test drives, it really seems like the engine and transmission are working well. It seems as though this bus was well maintained. I've been parking it in the same location for over a week and it hasn't leaked a single drop of oil or other fluid. I'd still like to have it looked over by a mechanic before I leave town. There's a vibration which I suspect is due to old tires, I should replace those as well; it'll pretty much wipe out the rest of my funds for now though.

Progress is being made :) in the next week or two it'll really start to look different.

I returned 2 of the 3 quarts of transmission fluid I'd bought, for $15.66.
New total: $3,095.33

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