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 Living on the Road :: Wothahellizat Mk2: Construction Diary : #18

Mon 24 Mar 2008

Many months ago I made a compartment to store gas bottles and a fire extinguisher but I never got around to making a door for it, so today I decide it's time.

I make a simple frame from RHS then fold some sheet to skin the frame. I fold the sheet with a 1-inch return that goes past the frame and over the enclosure, this won't allow me to hinge the cover but I can cut out the parts that hit when I apply the hinge.

However it's such a good fit that I decide to have it push on rather than hinge. This will allow me to keep the 1-inch fold and help make the thing more weather proof.


The newly made compartment door.


Here's a wider shot showing the compartment, the left hand fuel tank, and the new wood storage rack.



Most motorhomers need to carry some blocks of wood to level the vehicle for camping on uneven ground, at least those who can't afford a hydraulic leveling system.

I have to admit that a mechanised leveling system would be great, and I almost incorporated one in Wothahellizat 1. However I was glad that I saved the expense and complexity as after a while I got very good at leveling with wooden blocks. Also they never broke down and, apart from that one I left in Port Hedland, never caused me any grief.

So we have all these blocks and nowhere to store them. As some are longer than others it's difficult to come up with a neat idea, so I cut the long ones so all blocks are the same length. This makes it easier to build a storage compartment, and I've chosen to do so in the hitherto unused area between the body and the right hand fuel tank.


The wood block storage rack. If the blocks don't look very wooden that's because they have steel handles.

One thing I disliked about the blocks in the past was that they were difficult to manhandle, so I've added handles to each one.


A close up of one of the block handles.

This will make them easier to work with and, as they are often used to support a jack under the truck, easier to remove from a position that's hard to reach.

Tue 25 Mar

Another job I started several months ago was the installation of the diesel heater and it's probably time I finished that off.

It takes all day to install the air intake and exhaust pipes and then the fuel line.


The exhaust pipe (silver), and intake (black). The thin white line is for fuel and the black one a wire that controls the fuel pump.


The exhaust muffler.

I initially run the heater's fuel line to the truck's fuel line and T it into that. It's one of the ways recommended in the installation manual and it seems the simplest. However we have no end of trouble with the line sucking air and the heater shutting down from lack of fuel.

I also also have trouble with the heater itself, it starts running then stops after a minute of so.

I'll sleep on it I think.

Wed 26 May

When all else fails read the manual. Chris read the installation manual last night and apparently one reason the heater shuts down is the voltage dropping below 10 volts.

I've just run a small temporary wire to the heater from my 12-volt source and I did check the voltage before making the connection, but not while the heater was running.

I measure the voltage at the heater while it's running, sure enough it's hovering around the 10 volt mark. I beef up the wire and add a spare battery to the heater's connector to provide a local voltage source.

The heater works, but still has trouble with fuel so I've decided to install the spear provided with the installation kit. To do this I have to remove an inspection plate from one of the fuel tanks, drill a 19mm hole for the spear and replace the plate.


The fuel spear in place.

I also relocate the heater's fuel pump.


The relocated fuel pump. The top loop in the line is required because the pump is mounted on the chassis and the heater in the body, and the two move in relation to each other. The bottom loop goes to the spear, it provides some strain relief and means I don't have to use any connectors (ie elbows) to get around the corner.

The system is now quite simple with only a few feet of fuel line.

I power up the heater but again it doesn't work, there's still plenty of air in the line though so I try again. No go. I'm sure the fuel line just needs priming, and the heater will keep trying by itself, so I get on with other things.

Sure enough, several minutes later I hear the heater fire up.

We have lift off.

Fri 28 Mar

It's now time to install the aerials. There are five in all, an AM CB, two UHF CBs, a mobile phone, and a radio aerial. Why two UHF CBs? No particular reason except that I have the one from the Cruiser and want to put it to good use, it will become my main radio with the old one being a spare.

The first to be done are the aerials for the original AM and UHF CBs, these aerials used to be mounted separately but I've combined the mounts this time.

The mount is a simple plate attached to the roof via a pivot point, this allows the aerials to fold down if hit by a tree or something.


Detail of the mount for the first two aerials.


They simply fold down if hit by anything.

That was easy, now there's the other three aerials. As two of them are 1200mm (about 4 feet) long and the truck is already 3.5m (11.5 feet) high there will be times when they make us way too high for service station awnings, low bridges, trees etc. So they must fold down as well.

Originally I wanted to use an actuator so I could raise and lower the aerials from the cab. We already have an actuator on the TV aerial so it make sense to use one the same. I spend most of the day building an aerial mechanism with the TV actuator. It works but has too much play and I'm just not happy with the setup. Also there's the fact that we would have to buy another actuator at a cost of about $200.

I need a plan B.

Sat 29 Mar

I'm going for a manual fold down mechanism for the aerials. I'm still not sure if we'll be driving with the aerials up or down, if it's up then it may be necessary to lower them if we encounter an obstacle. Naturally an actuator controlled from the cab would make this a lot easier, but that is not to be so I guess we may have to get upstairs if that happens.

As I will never use the phone or radio while driving I don't need those aerials to be up, I would like the large UHF aerial but can live without it. We'll see how it works out.

So I have to design a mechanism that allows the raising and lowering of the aerials and doesn't pierce the roof panels in any way.

The roof sheets on the bedroom overhang the main roof by a small amount, this allows me to make a bracket that fits underneath the overhang and bolts through to a top plate and a hinge.

So far so good, no holes in the roof, but the other end also needs to be tied down somehow without making any holes. I make a large plate with a welded bolt and glue it to the roof, then bolt a length of flat bar to this plate and over the bracket to form a clamp that holds the bracket down. A pin on the bracket and matching hole in the clamp stop the bracket from moving sideways.


A close up of the clamp.

A stay is next, it pivots at one end of the bracket and has a slot along which a bolt on the mount slides. This bolt can be tightened at any point although I guess vertical is the only logical option. Some small handles in the form of short bent pieces of 6mm round bar are welded to the sliding and pivot-point bolts and I'm done.


The finished product. Note that the mount has slots cut into it rather than holes for the aerials, this makes it easier to remove/replace an aerial because the wire doesn't have to be threaded through a hole.

Mon 31 Mar

We're slowly decommissioning the Landcruiser and pirating objects from it to install in the truck. The other day it was the UHF radio, today it's the "house" batteries.

The Cruiser had two 120Ah 12v batteries to run the fridge, small inverter etc and I've been thinking about adding them to the battery banks in Wothahellizat.

Currently we have two banks of 4 x 6v 200Ah batteries, giving us a total of 400Ah at 24 volts.


The basic system, two banks each consisting of four 6-volt batteries in series giving 24 volts. Then the banks are connected in parallel to double the available current.

If I add the two 120Ah 12v batteries from the Cruiser that will bump our capacity to 520Ah. They are different batteries to the existing ones and you shouldn't normally add unequal sizes in parallel but as they are all AGMs that should require the same charging voltages I'm not worried.

While I'm at it I want to add some Anderson plugs at the rear of the truck so I can access the battery banks directly, mainly to use my 24-volt MIG welder.

And while I'm on a roll I'll add another Anderson plug for 12 volts, just in case I ever need it. To do this I'll tap across two of the 6-volt batteries. Once again it's not normally the recommended thing to do but I'll probably never use it, and if I do it will only be small currents for short periods.


With the extra batteries added we now have 520Ah.


Here's the right hand bank (the four blue batteries) with the two Cruiser batteries (the black ones) on the right. The big white thing is one of the water tanks. Note the area outlined in red, this is the motor bike trapdoor at the rear of the lounge room, a large hole opening directly to the concrete below that plays an important part in things in a couple of days.


The Anderson plugs.

As mentioned I can attach my MIG welder to one of the Anderson plugs, however the leads are only about three metres long so if I need to weld something further away than that, say on the bumper bar at the front of the truck, I can remove the two 12-volt batteries and move them closer to the job.

Remember some time ago I added fuses directly to the battery terminals?, well that decision paid off big time today. While finishing off the work on the batteries I'm tightening one of the bolts on the positive terminal of the left hand bank when it touches a part of the steel body, which of course is earthed.

There's a flash and the spanner fuses to the steel. With the spanner locked onto the terminal bolt and welded to the steel frame we're in a world of hurt if something doesn't step in to help.

I grab the nearest object and bash the spanner to break the circuit. The spanner goes flying but then I realise that the situation was already in hand, the fuse had blown and stopped the current.

Wed 2 Apr

While finishing off some aerial wiring I ask Chris to get an extension coax cable from the lounge room in the truck. The motorbike trapdoor at the back of the lounge is open so there's a large hole in the floor, it's often like this and we don't pay it much attention.

She gets the cable, holds it up and asks if it's the right one, then disappears without a sound. Immediately I realise what has happened, she's stepped backwards and fallen through the hole.

I rush to the rear of the truck to find her lying on the concrete, she's shaking and groaning and there's a pool of blood growing from under her head. If something similar has not happened to you let me assure you that it's very distressing to see your loved one in such a state.

Instantly my mind goes through all the options, is the head wound serious?, what about her neck, did she actually land on that? Who's going to cook dinner?

By this time Peter and Marie have realised something is amiss and come around from the other side of the shed. Marie used to be a nurse so she takes over while I get blankets and fashion a pillow from a towel. Meanwhile Peter rings for an ambulance then drives to the nearest main road to guide them in.

It quickly becomes apparent that Chris has suffered no obvious damage and we relax a bit, concentrating on keeping her comfortable and still until the medics get here.

They arrive, check her neck and ask all the normal questions to see if the patient is lucid, what's your name?, who's the Prime Minister? etc. We don't take much notice of the days around here so when asked what day it is she says that even before she fell she wouldn't have known that.

Anyway, to cut a long story short she was very lucky, she fell backwards about 1.2 metres onto concrete and suffered only temporary memory loss, looks like she's done ten rounds with a prize fighter (a very short one as all the bruises are on her legs), and has a very sore toe.

I guess I'll install the cable some other time, I'll be too busy cooking tonight.

Fri 4 Apr

There's still a few things to do before we start the cladding, and one of the main items is the steps.

These will store flat under the body, be pulled out, flipped over, dropped down, and opened up. They will also be a landing outside the door. All that shouldn't take long too make.


The steps fold up and slide under the body, also a landing slides across from being stored on top of the steps.

I've also decided to bite the bullet and redo some of the plumbing. I thought I'd finished the plumbing some time ago but it's been a bit unreliable.

The current system should work fine and in fact it's basically the same system we had in Wothahellizat 1, and that worked for six years.

But we're finding that, when left for a long period like over night, the water seems to drain back into the tanks and we have to muck around for ages re-priming the system.

Whether there's a leak in one of the joins or the check valve is not working I don't know. Also the control valves are very difficult to operate and I have a second pump that I'd like to use, I'll talk more about this when I get it finished.

Sun 6 Apr

Another little job that needs doing is the replacement of the bolts in an inspection plate on one of the fuel tanks. There's ten 5mm bolts that hold the panel on, they're very tight and only have Phillips heads so it's impossible to apply a lot of torque to undo them.

Also, when I screwed them in I wasn't paying enough attention and the tip of the cordless drill bit snapped off in the bolt's screw gate and refused to be removed. I remember thinking at the time that it will be really hard to get out and hoping that I never have to.

Well I don't have to, but it makes sense to fix the problem while I'm here in a nice workshop, rather than on the side of the road somewhere.

Using my trusty impact driver I manage to remove five of the bolts, but the other five refuse to budge and eventually I just strip the screw gates. I need a plan B.

Plan B is to weld some 8mm nuts to the top of the bolts and then apply the appropriate amount of torque with a spanner. The welding also has a beneficial side affect in that it will shrink the bolt, and of course the heat can often break the bond holding a recalcitrant bolt.

This works a treat and before long all the bolts are out.

I replace them with stainless steel equivalents that have heads with Alan sockets, these allow the application of a lot more torque than a Phillips head and should be easily removable in future should the need arise.

Tue 15 Apr

That's it, I can put off the cladding no longer, tomorrow we'll make a start.

Before that though I want some photos of the truck in its unclad form. After much ado in which I first can't get the truck into gear, and then can't get it to move even when it is in gear (putting the transfer case out of neutral helps), I back the truck out of the workshop.

Below are some elevations, click on the links or photos to view larger versions in a new browser window.

Click for large version (305k)
Large version (305k)

Click for large version (359k)
Large version (359k)

As you may notice we've got just about everything we own packed in, partly to get stuff of the floor, and partly to make sure it all fits.

So far it does all fit, and we even have a spare cupboard.

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