Archive for the 'mikuvan' Category

 

Operation Bad Timing II: The Soundtrack; or Zen and the Art of Van Maintenance

Jul 17, 2018 in mikuvan

It all started with a timing belt inspection.

With almost 230,000 miles on the clock now starting from its 151,000 mile humble beginnings, Mikuvan is essentially a cultural institution in my sphere of influence. It’s just assumed to always be around, and it really has been a relatively (emphasis on relatively) pain-free experience. Originally a hare-brained experiment in what if I built myself an electric car, which I swear to all of the gods who made themselves known these past 2 weeks will still happen, it means I’m physically coming up on service internals I never imagined I’d have to deal with again, because… .and I quote myself out of context from 5 years ago, “It’ll probably last like 10,000 miles if that”.

I can’t find the damn figure on this website, but I know I said something like it.

Well, almost 80,000 miles later, here I am. Since the “Great Accidental Partial Engine Rebuild of 2015“, I’ve actually barely gone inside except to feed its increasingly untenable thirst for motor oil. That, believe it or not, was itself over 50,000 miles ago too (I have the service papers from that still – 178K!). The past abonormally-cold winter finally pushed a number of wear components over the edge, it seems, and I wound up after the cold season with an almost two-stroke-esque oil consumption level of < 400 miles per quart and a complementary vape cloud per start.  So you know something like this was coming anyway, just a matter of when and how.

(Oh yeah – I made a number of other deferred-maintenance level repairs when it got warmer, but those will need to be handled separately now!)

We begin on the night of June 28th.

I was to leave for a weeklong southern-fried van adventure covering most of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, and diving back to Atlanta through the Smoky Mountains forest roads, part of which I ran after Dragon Con 2016. Essentially wandering down in a casual manner for no good reason besides to be not in Boston, because every opportunity I have, fuck this place. The startup’s hardware status was finally to the point where I felt comfortable leaving it to the other members of the company (a story still building up which I owe everyone… put it on my I swear to God list); I’d already punted, up to this point, several of my usual trips because you don’t leave your hardware before it launches, like the opposite of a ship’s captain but with equal amounts of dodging icebergs.

So naturally, having experienced basically no van trouble in 2.5 Dragon Cons (my benchmark for “It Has Been ____ Days Since an Injury” of vans), it was almost a given that I’d make trouble for myself! Gee, I haven’t looked at the timing belt in a whole bunch of miles – let’s see how it’s doing.

Yup, that there’s a timing belt. Hmm, it looks physically in good shape, but the tension is a little out since it’s worn down. So, how do I tension this thing again? Let’s not go back home to bring out the manual, or go upstairs to read my own damn blog post, and instead just take my best memory-stab at it.

You may be wondering How I ended up in this position why I chose to perform what to normal people and sensible mechanics is highly invasive, expensive, and complex engine surgery the day I was to leave for a multi-thousand mile road trip. Don’t question me – and if you did, I wouldn’t have a good answer. All I can say is since we did it the first time, I was confident I could get in and out in around an hour.

That was only a little wrong – there were a few stuck bolts in the way, which caused the procedure to take until after nightfall. Uh oh.

Alright, let’s see, how do you retension this thing? A quick gander at the online Ukranian-hosted rebuild manual gives me…

Cool, I’ll just loosen the tensioner and breaker-bar the crank pulley to move the timing belt 2 tee…. oh, shit, there’s no spring, that’s right. Mikuvan didn’t come with a tensioner spring – we always set the tension manually, and this was relayed to my van salon when they did the Great Accidental Partial Engine Rebuild. So they didn’t unbend some Smart Car’s front suspension to wind me a new spring either.

I immediately skipped several teeth on the belt.  It was then that I realized I was probably not going on my trip.

A sensible person would probably just Uberlyft home and try again during daylight, but I was already invested deeply into this rapidly sinking venture. Nope, I was gonna drive home tonight. I know this damn thing inside and out. I built it. I summoned it back into existence. So I stuffed the belt back on!

 

 

….and, in the dark, proceeded to misalign the timing belt by 2 teeth. Great! Non-interference engine, let me just pop it back over, right? An afternoon’s work to dig back in, right? Looks like I just aligned the mark we made a long time ago instead of the (impossible to see in the dark) factory-stamped timing dimple, right?

Sadly, the damage was done. The timing was artificially advanced by the belt misalignment, causing massive and horrible pinging (pre-ignition) as soon as I gave it any load; which only happened when I goosed it to get onto the main road.  It idled and crawled slowly out of the side roads fine, which gave me a false sense of security. I tried to limp it back as gently as possible, sounding like a diesel school bus the entire way. It’s interesting to think that if I had gotten it a tooth off the other direction, the timing would have been artificially retarded, yielding just horrible gas mileage and less power…..which I might have just wrote off as “eh, it always does that I guess”.

That’s it; I cooked my own goose. Until a lot of money was spent or time was used up, Mikuvan was down, possibly for good. With compression lost between two cylinders, it was clear that at least the head gasket was gone in that area, with possible piston and cylinder wall damage which often follows bad pre-ignition under load.

Let’s summarize the failure chain:

  1. I insisted on pressing forward with a complex and involved repair in the dark
  2. I checked neither my own documentation on the repair, nor the factory service manual for the entire service procedure, relying on memory of something I did over 5 years ago.
  3. I then proceeded to mis-remember the hardware configuration and performed a service procedure incompatible with the state I had left the engine in.
  4. Not stopping there, I tried to remedy it also in the dark, mis-recognizing an alignment feature.
  5. I also didn’t use a timing light or tool to verify that the timing was still correct – doing so would have immediately shown me that the timing was too far out of line.

The God-King had betrayed a fatal flaw, hubris; easy to taunt, easy to trick.

And so, on the morning of June 30th, when I was supposed to be carving up the Shenandoah Valley, Operation BAD TIMING II: THE SOUNDTRACK began. This was going to be deep.

It took me a while to decide to take on the task myself – I had an entire spreadsheet of options, from trying to source a junkyard engine, to buying an entire parts van (I had been stalking this Craigslist post for a non-running but good body condition Mitsubishi cargo van – the seller had sent me photos of it previously but I declined due to the price at the time), to just asking my van salon for an estimate “Make it Happen™”.

It was a hard decision, but performing this operation was to be a soul-searching mission for myself.

  • If I was so bad at paying attention to detail and glossing over important information to get myself into this position, what does that say about my leadership role at a company I co-founded to the people working for it?
  • Could I reasonably scope my work each day, seeing as how I can no longer just rail on a project until it’s done because of the need to ensure the continued operation of the company and development of our hardware? This might be the newest thing for me, honestly, having to adhere to a regular schedule not just for myself, but for other people. I wanted to limit myself to only thinking and working on it during weekends and after the business day – vaguely defined for us, but still a block of time when everyone’s around – was over.
  • Will I be thorough in all the operations I needed to do to bring the engine back from an unknown damaged state, not skip steps unnecessarily and take shortcuts which will bite me in the ass? Will our hardware be subject to similar requirements!? How would I even know what thorough engineering and design is if I never do it myself?

Okay, enough mangsty philosophy. Time to mark all the connectors of the ECU harness and little hoses and start stripping things down. My goal was to get to the head gasket itself by the end of the weekend.

By the way, if you ever need to rebuild a Mitsubishi 4G64 SOHC 8-valve engine in a truck/van application, here it is in all its gory, bloody detail. There’s quite a lot of English-language information for the JDM/international Delicas, but actually not much information for those who own the USDM vans since they are substantially different. Since I’ve been saved by my own blog posts a few times, consider this also an entry into the annals of “how to unfuck your van” for the owner community.

I marked literally everything. I had watched some of the action when the guys at Smooth Automotive were taking the head apart, and they said to me that really if you look at it, everything goes together in one way only. Yeah, sure, all the connectors are unique and they have logical wire lengths which can put them only in a few spots. But there’s a lot of them. That’s scary. I never touched Mikuvan’s engine harness for this reason, because at the root of things I’m still not a car guy by historical experience. Honestly, it took a year of wrenching on vantruck to get me to this point where I just sighed and said yeah, it’s just like the FiTech rig but spread out over a few cables.

Really, it wasn’t so bad after that.

It was in doing a lot of this that I finally recognized where a lot of the EFI-related parts on Mikuvan were, which I learned on Vantruck performing the EFI conversion. I had only otherwise inklings that yeah there’s a throttle position sensor and idle air control servo and breather tube and manifold absolute pressure sensor and eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. As it turns out, too, it does actually have a EGR valve – I had assumed the California emissions versions did but Federal did not, because the EGR valve was always shown in the manual in isolation, and when I felt around the area of the head I thought it was in, it wasn’t there, so I wrote it off as nonexistent. You’ll love where it actually was.

It actually only took an hour to get to this point. after pushing the connectors aside, disconnecting the throttle and transmission cables, and removing the multi-purpose brackety thing on top of the valve cover. A real mechanic would laugh, but remember, I erred on the side of cautiously labelling and marking (and taking photos!) for reconstruction ease later.

I also went ahead and removed the exhaust manifold, which was 1. cracked severely, and 2. took another half-hour of gently massaging and milking stuck nuts and bolts. Any antiseize lube I put on those threads has long evaporated.

The valve cover comes off after its two bolts are loosened. Most of the gear up here looks relatively new (since Great Accidental Partial Engine Rebuild, or GAPER….what an unfortunate acronym…  involved a head rebuild) despite the operating condition of the engine since I pretty diligently perform oil changes and whatnot.

How do you change oil on an engine which eats a quart of it every few hundred miles? Well, you keep it topped off and after 5000 or so miles, you do it anyway. Just adding more oil all the time doesn’t make existing grunge go away .

 

Ten giant socket cap screws later, and the head is ready to come off! This is the only place I’ve found on the whole powertrain which uses socket hardware. I wonder why? They’re M12 fine-thread screws with a 10mm socket drive.

 

Actually, wait up. There is a Bracket of Irritation directly under the intake manifold, seemingly there to give it more support, which is NOT DOCUMENTED in the USDM factory manual, as far as I can tell!

It took 10 minutes of gently prying at the head before I finally figured out that something was causing it to spring back each time. This 14mm-drive, M10 bolt is accessed from underneath and behind the suspension/engine mounting member. Just stick your arm behind the driver’s side wheel and poke it upwards past the fuel filter.

(Remember: I have no lift or hoist system, or even a garage. I’m on the ground in a gravelly, disintegrating parking lot with jackstands only as a means to lift the whole thing. This is literally “How to un-fuck your van in the most painful, laborious fashion possible”)

Alright, now the Bracket of Irritation is free. It’s time to yank the head assembly off and…

Yup, that’s a head-gasket alright. As I suspected, it blew out between cylinders 3 and 4, most likely as a consequence of severe pre-iginiton under load.

I’m not just out to stuff a new one on and call it a day. I’m told that once an engine fails due to pre-ignition, everything inside is suspect, from pistons to rings to bearings. It was on the docket while I was deep, brah to go ahead and pull the #3 and #4 pistons associated with the failure plus #2 which showed low compression and inspect them thoroughly. The worst thing would be to bodge it back together then have pistons implode later.

#1 still showed factory-spec compression, so I decided from the get-go to leave it alone. This actually means I can use my leftover 3 pistons from the GAPER (…what an unfortunate acronym again).  I ordered a new set of both crankshaft and connecting rod bearings just in case.

It seems that cylinders 2-4 have also been burning oil for a while, with #2 being the worst. I suspect it began in earnest late last fall into winter (which was a fairly unprecendented cold one) when I really started noticing smoking on cold starts. Yet this damned thing took me to Atlanta and back in January, and regularly got hooned around town thereafter and I didn’t even notice any power loss.

Call me silly for going back on my EV conversion word this many times and digging this deep in to ewwww, internal combustion, but something this hard for me to kill kind of deserves my best shot at getting it working again, eh?

So on the docket for this guy was cleaning the valves and seats (no regrinding or re-lapping, which I declared out of neckbearding scope unless I found serious damage) and new valve stem seals, which were clearly not very seal-y any more. I don’t know what a typical “old car rebuild” service interval is, but for the wear parts to let go after 50K is a little disappointing. However, I also don’t know what the gold standard of the time period was – maybe 50K per comprehensive service was actually phenomenal in the 1980s?

Nevertheless, it was time to clean everything up, scrape the old chunks of gasket off, and put the patient on the operating table.

Around this time, I found a resource which, if true, could be a boon to USDM van-mongers.

A complete Chinesium head assembly for the 4G64 8-valve SOHC? Sure, why not! These engines’ bloodlines made it all the way up to like, last year in a few Chinese car models, and still live on otherwise as industrial engines for forklifts and generators.

I was now determined to do my usual exploration of resources for the greater good of the community. It also offered me a backup solution (if true) in case my head repair failed or I discovered some kind of terminal damage that is beyond my skill and resource to fix correctly.

I hit the button on this order on Sunday afternoon, and soon, the thing was due in on Friday after July 4th. What’s actually going to be in the box!? Hell if I know – if I received a Chinese junkyard head that got run through a dishwasher, I was gonna be happy.

Coming up next: Diving even deeper into the valves and pistons themselves.

 

 

 

All-Vans Quality of Life Patches for Fall and Winter; Going to the Jalopnik Car Show, and Infectious Vantruck Disease

Dec 12, 2017 in mikuvan, vantruck

Winter is literally coming. As time goes on, my ability to work on vans decreases greatly both for lack of daylight and lack of inside matters. In preparation for overwintering now two  vanbabies, I decided to make some repairs and mods that were becoming more necessary (or more necessary, if you get what I mean…). I like keeping my machinery in good functioning state, and Mikuvan was beginning to feel a little like a daily junker more and more. Meanwhile, Vantruck had some lingering bugs I wanted to address before my hands freeze off holding a wrench.

mikuvan

The most important thing was making sure Mikuvan could still pass its incipient Massachusetts state inspection. You see, since the day I got it running in 2013, the exhaust has been slowly shortening itself piece by piece. Recall that one of the earliest bits of mechanical work I did was to rebuild the catalytic converter flange. A year and some later, a part of the exhaust pipe broke apart, which I had a mechanic repair while it was on a lift already for a brake fluid change and rear drums inspection.

That was 2015. About a year to the day, before Dragon Con 2016, it breaks upstream of that repair. I threw together this patch in my classic weeaboo-redneck-engineer fashion

No beer cans here, only top quality RAMUNE BOTTLES. Three layers of them.

Several months later, that broke off, so I trashed the whole section from the bottle-hack back and replaced it with a 90-degree downwards bend with an exhaust tip on it, hanging on to the remaining muffler stub.

Well guess that, that broke the fuck off earlier this year, likely during the Detroit Maker Faire trip. I didn’t notice. I didn’t even care. It can rest in eternal pain and suffering somewhere on the side of the 401 in Ontario.

I just ran with the stumpy pipe out of the muffler which terminated well under the cabin, sounding vaguely like a ricer fart cannon but offering me nothing except exhaust slowly seeping into the cabin when I was at a stop or accelerated hard.

With the inspection date coming up, I had to do something.

Ah, good old New England Organic Loctite. It occurs naturally, regenerating from any exposed worthwhile metal in its vicinity. In the winter, it feeds off the gazillion tons of salt poured on the road and blossoms each spring.

I’d watched the catalytic converter slowly get smaller and smaller over time – even the new gasket I put on it quickly became one with the material. I actually dumped PB Blaster on this flange connection while it was still hot – that was quite exciting. It then took several seconds of impact wrench before I was able to free the converter bolts. Frankly, I was amazed they were removable at all.

Since Mikuvan is emissions-exempt in Massachusetts, I elected to not buy a new catalytic converter and just latch right onto the downpipe stub.

 

Time to measure up the exhaust path. I needed to clear the rear axle and end up at roughly the correct length to still put a muffler on. I decided to rear-mount the replacement muffler (which was also already rotted out at the bottom, so it wasn’t doing much muffling for a year or two at least) instead of mounting forward of the rear axle like it was before.

 

And two trips to Pep Boys later, I have all the ingredients! Several lengths of pipe, a flexible coupler, several rubber-mounting hanging straps, and a bunch of tubing adapters. All that is needed to get the right dimensions is an angle grinder!

What, you thought I was going to weld this shit together? Mandrel bends? Mitered joints? Nah. Clamps and impact wrench all the way.

It’s nighttime in this photo because I ran into issues with the downpipe stub – it was some odd metric size of course, and there was no adapter which fit cleanly either inside or outside. I ended up using a 1-7/8″ OD adapter slit and shoved into the downpipe stub, which had a matching slit to let it expand a little. It was then a dance to get the other end of that adapter (2″) adapted to 2.25″ for the remaining pipe. All of the new pipe is 2.25″.

Yeah, the slit is a built-in exhaust leak. Whatever, it’s past the oxygen sensor. Maybe if I feel enterprising I’ll TIG weld it shut (and ONLY it) later.

This section has a flexible coupling in it since the catalytic converter’s output also did, and I wanted to keep the same constraint architecture. The length of solid pipe from here back is hung at both ends while the flexible coupling goes from the adapter salad to it. Should I be required to reinstall a converter in the future, like moving to an emissions-strict area where they don’t just go by OBD-II diagnostics, I should be able to stuff one back in here.

Compared to the… exhausting… dance up front, doing the up-and-over was quite easy and enjoyable.

I decided to be cheeky and go for a SPORT MUFFLER instead of an OEM style one. What, you wanted to sound like a sports car all these year, Mikuvan. Here’s your chance.

This is a Cherry Bomb “Turbo” multi-chambered muffler, distinct from Cherry Bomb’s usual fiberglass packed ones. I don’t have a turbo. I don’t care. It was $28.99 on sale at Pep Boys, and a little of on-the-spot research told me that glass-packs would definitely bring out the ricer fart cannon sound, but would foul up quickly due to the engine consuming oil. Given that,  I was better off with a chambered type.

Anyways, this first attempt made it hang a little too low, so I had to cut the strap and bolt it in closer to the trailer hitch.

The final position. It’s not actually tilted much in real life, by the way – the perspective of this photo is a little strange, since Mikuvan’s rear lower quarter panels curve upwards and the trailer hitch is actually a little tilted upwards also.

So, how do I like the end result?

i regret everything in my life

Okay, the ricer sound was funny for about 24 hours. Between 1000-1500 rpm and 2500-3000 rpm, it seems to resonate the cabin, resulting in a constant mooing sound, a persistent droning. Guess which RPM bands get used the most during gentle city and highway cruising!?

Mikuvan sounds like it has 75 more horsepower than it actually does, which is a 75% improvement. It DOES have more low-end jumpiness, like the second after mashing it from a stoplight. Additionally, the power available past 3500 RPM improved noticeably – previously, trying to throttle past 4,000 didn’t do me much good, and it felt like the engine just hits a wall, but my gas mileage the week after took a complete dive as I was redlining everywhere all the time.

I think this is less due to a sport muffler than just installing the new system as 2.25″ pipe instead of the stock 1-7/8″ (50mm?) pipe for its majority length. I didn’t bother to check if the 0-60 changed. That’s not the point. The answer is still yes.

Realistically, I might toss an OEM style muffler on there after winter passes.  One Dragon Con and Franklin Institute with the Persistent Moo was fairly sufficient, thank you.

Anyways, let’s move onto the more important part of van maintenance: blinkenlights.  I replaced almost all of the small marker and dashboard lights with LEDs back in 2014. A few of them had begun dying, including somewhat important things like the previously chastised oil pressure warning light. That’s maybe a little important.

inexpensive chinese van lighting 3: the reckoning

I decided that enough time had passed to do a scan of the market again, so I hopped on good ol’ Amazon Prime. The market structure™ is very different now – in 2013 and 2014, a lot more of the LED widget vendors were China based. Nowadays, they (or their underlings) all have Prime fulfillment or US-based shipping.

 

 

What I noticed is a rise in these purely PCB-based LED units in small (T10, T5, 194, etc.) sizes. I originally bought several styles which were plastic former incandescent lamp shells containing discrete LEDs with formed leads. Those actually didn’t work very well in the end. The LEDs had no heat sinking and tended to burn out or dim quickly, and the formed leads pretending to be T-series shaped were flimsy.

Also, a lot of the LED clusters were unnecessarily bright, containing 5-10 devices. It’s a marker light, bruh, not a camera flash. The ones I found contained 3 or 4 little LED chips only and seemed to have a lot more PCB copper area relative to their size. An example captured from Amazon is bove.

I was curious about one more thing: Most of these products now claim to have “CANBUS error-free” features. After doing a little sleuthing, I discovered that it’s a New Car Problem (a.k.a I don’t care) of the LED bulbs drawing so little current that the ECU/Body control module will throw an error saying you have a bulb broken.

….so here is how the enterprising Chinese widget makers solve it. They drop a big power resistor across the input. To make it draw more current.

This is utter bullshit. Do not EVER buy a “CANBUS Error Free” LED bulb. If your car is new enough to complain, it’s new enough that you shouldn’t be putting questionable aftermarket glowy things on it anyway.  Get an old shitcan like these were meant for. Preferably a van. I like vans.

Here is what the typically 100-to-200 ohm power resistor does: It heats up.

It heats enough to some times desolder itself.

It’s also right next to the LEDs, so they heat up even more and even faster than if they were over-rated and over-driven. I burned one out on 14.0v after like 3 minutes of it just sitting on my desk. It was drawing 0.2 amps until the end – that’s 3 W of power heating up an object which weighs nothing. I think I know why so many of these products have bad Amazon reviews: sadly, people don’t know better.

I desoldered each and every “CANBUS resistor” on each and every one of the 50 white, miku blue, red, and amber LEDs I got. This did not take long, since I had a reflow cannon, but I was peeved to discover that my worst fears regarding inexpensive Chinese van accessories had come true again.

The white T10 units drew 0.05 amps after I was done. That’s more than enough.

The end result is real pretty though.

I changed the master illumination to the “ice blue” LEDs which is really clever marketing speak for my favorite color, Miku Blue.  I also restored all of the small indicators to pure white units so their original colors were back.

That’s enough for silly lighting. It’s still the case that if you want actually reliable LED units, you should still stick with a retail brand name like Sylvania or Philips. They’re going to be pricier, but unless you also have a reflow heat gun and a night to burn and are at least a little obessive like me, just get them.

More recently, I tackled a more reasonable silly old van problem of a broken sensor wire. While doing the fall-to-winter oil change, I noticed a loose wire.

This used to go to the oil pressure sensor (what is with the oil pressure sensor and light as a recurring theme here…) which is located on the bottom of the engine. Heat and oil had stiffened the old PVC-insulated wire until it just broke off inside the connector.

This wasn’t too epic of a fix. I replaced the original wire with a length of silicone-insulated noodly robot wire, up to where it enters the harness and was still quite flexible. This shows the joint and repaired connector before I sleeved it over with heat-shrink tubing and tucked it back into the wiring loom.

Back in place we go!  Excuse the grunge. That is Mikuvan leaking the correct amount of oil my self-applying undercoating system.

I additionally performed some mercy maintenance on the left side. My original body repair on the left rocker panel corners fell off earlier this year. I was kind of expecting this, since I was never able to get the holes in the front (behind the front wheel) fixed and so that repair only trapped water, causing it to fail eventually.

I decided it was better to just leave the lower panel holes open but seal-coat them inside and out. This strategy had been working (and continues to work) for the two holes forward of each wheel, which I coated in Eastwood Goo back in 2014 thoroughly.

So out comes the wirebrushes, in wheel and tooth form. I wire-brushed off all outstanding surface rust first, and reached into the panel holes to manually wire brush off the loose rust inside. Additionally, while I had it up on ramps, I used my slide hammer to try and pull down the damaged lower rocker panel and pinch weld. If you buy a derpy Japanese van, chances are someone’s tried to jack it up by the pinch welds and completely fucked over the metal in the area, I guarantee it.  I only take Mikuvan to mechanics I have talked to and trust for this reason: I don’t trust anyone to know it can only be jacked by the frame. This area came rusty and bent upwards, and had only been deteriorating more. I couldn’t get it completely flat again, but it at least looks better than it was.

Prior to the application of Eastwood Goo, I touched up the paintwork right next to the fuel filler door and immediately in front of the rear wheel. The former had been slowly dissolving due to gasoline fumes and accidental overflows, and was turning the whole area dark and ratty looking as well as causing some of my original bodywork to start chipping off. If I had to point to one thing which crossed my “daily junker” threshold, it was this. I haven’t found a rattlecan product which can completely resist gasoline, so this area will only become ratty again until Mikuvan gets a real paint job.

After the color and clear coat were vaguely dry – as dry as they could get in 40-something degrees, I drew a big fat line with the Eastwood Goo both on the outside here as well as the opposite side, using the extendo-straw to go well into the interstitial space of the panels on both sides.

Essentially I’m just preserving this area from further deterioration. Should I decide that dropping several thousand dollars on a full restoration and repaint is worth it in the future, I will source this body panel either domestically from the southwest/California, or internationally since this generation of Mitsubishi van is still (somehow) in production in various developing countries. Otherwise, an experienced body shop would just strip it all to bare metal anyway. Should I embark on an electrification project, I’ll likely start anew with a donor van in better condition from the same areas (since I assume that if I’m going ahead with cutting up Teslas and Nissan Leafs, that I’m well off enough to have my own garage and lift!)

So that’s Mikuvan’s history for the past 2-3 months. Interspersed with all of this was of course the comparative 800-lb gorilla and relatively white elephant of….

vantruck

Oh god why do I still own this device. It’s been a year, yet it still feels new and interesting.

As I had sampled a pile of LEDs again, one of the things I did immediately was to retrofit Vantruck too. The incandescent bulbs it came with have long darkened and were sort of miserable looking. The dashboard was so dim it was almost impossible to see even at night.

 

Well that’s no way to live! Luckily, it uses type 194 bulbs EVERYWHERE. Even the idiot lights. I had to buy another pack of T10/194 type LEDs to satisfy it. (Vantruck is the undisputed king of the phrase “I had to ____ another ____ to satisfy it”)

Naturally, all of the dash illumination went Miku Blue. This was also taken before its 77777th mile party, celebrated by Dane on the road to a Power Racing Series race. Without him realizing it. Hurray, Dane!

By the way, my friends have put more miles on this thing than I have. Since the fuel injection retrofit, it has somehow registered no less than three trips to the New York / New Jersey area and one to southwestern Massachusetts, plus the odd DUDE BRO CAN I BORROW YOUR TRUCK BRO moving trip around town.

I don’t feel bad at all. Buying gas is punishment enough for them.

Along with the interior lights, I also redid the running board lights and forward exterior marker lamps. They were….. you guessed it. 194 type bulbs. I changed the “I am a van” lights by the door handles to Miku Blue since I’m Mr. Vain. It turns out that the bed marker lights are a sealed non-replaceable type, but I can get new ones which are all LED. I haven’t done that yet. I didn’t do the roof lights either – they are fastened from underneath, meaning I’d have to take off the roof liner to access them, which I was not inclined to do.

Notice something else cool? Vantruck now also has LED headlights. They are the same type of unit I got for Mikuvan, except in the H6054 size. They are available in all manners of Chinesium – here’s one example. Just search H6054 LED and don’t buy the 15,000-LED cluster bombss or the fake projector types.

After the LED switchover, I noticed a particularly Vantrucky bug becoming much worse – the lights were flickering hard. LEDs have no thermal mass unlike incandescent filaments. Something was causing all of my lights to flicker, including the dashboard. When this kind of thing happens, there is generally one culprit: a bad ground connection. I dunno whose amazing idea it was to chassis-ground automotive electrical systems, but it’s horrible.

In conducting a test to verify the problem, I connected one end of a voltmeter to the negative battery terminal, and through an alligator clip of sufficient length, to various “grounds” of the electrical system, such as the negative pole of a headlight, the body metal right next to the dashboard where a bunch of grounds for switches and knobs come together, and right next to the battery on the alternator. With the engine running, I captured an incredible 1.2 to 1.5v between battery ground and most things. The worst was, as expected, to the dashboard and interfacing with the body lighting harness in that area. (The correct expectation range I found is usually no more than 50-100 millivolts, and the lower the better just from my electrical engineering intuitions)

Holy crap. Well that explains why the FiTech ECU screen always tended to read my battery voltage as 12.something or 13.something. I verified that from the alternator output to itself I was getting a pretty consistent 14 volts.

The culprit was right behind the alternator – that’s the engine block to battery negative ring lug. I don’t have before photos, but let’s call it “rather pitted and sad looking” and its attachment bolt entirely coated in rust.

My solution was just to epicly wire brush the bolt and the attachment face until they were shiny, and crimp a new terminal onto the 4-gauge cable which was still otherwise in reasonable shape. After retightening, I smeared dielectric grease around the entire setup.

I decided at this point to also give the thing new battery terminals which I had purchased a while back but not installed. I furthermore gave the body a dedicated 10-gauge wire running from the attachment point where (as far as I can tell) the headlight and turn signal harness is grounded.

So I’m not sure if this is an Old Van Problem or is still present in newer vehicles, but it seems strange to me to ground everything to the body and frame yet only give the battery a cable to the engine block. Is the return current supposed to find its way back through to the engine block, jumping through things like bolts and bearings and chains and driveshafts? That just seems extra bad.

I mean, it’s clear there is enough metal contact for it to work for most everyone. Even Mikuvan only has 1 epic ground wire going to the battery from an anchor point on the engine block and nothing else that I can see. Unless I’m missing something, it seems like a dedicated ground wire for the body is really beneficial. It could be that in both cases, there is an actual connection somewhere else on the block to the body, but it’s buried so far in there I have not been able to find it.

Anyways, the moral of this story is wow, I didn’t know all of these lights could be so bright. The ECU display now reads very steady and the correct voltage – 14.4v right after starting and 13.6-13.8v idling when warm. The dashboard is almost comically bright and I had to turn it down with the dimmer for once. Cranking is much faster and less arduous. I should probably go inspect the status of the ground lug on Mikuvan at some point.

By the way, after resolving this issue, I completely reset the FiTech ECU and had it ‘relearn’ the fuel maps by driving around a bunch in mixed regimes. The stable and higher voltage power supply probably helps with a lot of things, so I gave it a chance to re-adapt. Regardless of any other changes behind the scenes, it definitely idles more stably now, so I experimented with leaning out all of the air-fuel ratio targets so it wouldn’t chug gasoline as hard – maybe a few percent less.

Well, over a long distance, that sure matters, because I’m going to a CAR SHOW!!!

the Jalopnik Car Show for Great Justice or Whatever

Delayed once due to being rained out and with the full force of Internet irony behind it, the Jalopnik car show was held the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This would be the first road trip that I myself will get to take in my own vantruck. It would also be the first car show that I actually signed up for. I’ve been to others, including smaller local ones. Everyone has to remember that I am not actually a “car guy”, just a “this one particular silly van” guy.

It was going to be 4 hours on a Sunday in Newark (uhh), which alone is too short of a stay for me to want to drive 55mph the whole way there and back. So I turned the weekend into a general New York City excursion.

With this thing.

If there is some poetry in having a big-block V8-having 9-miles-a-gallon-getting emissions-exempted 21-foot long 65-tons of American Pride occupying a Tesla supercharger spot, I missed it for the funny photo opportunity.

The two Tesla drivers who came in and out while I was hanging around uploading this photo for peoples’ amusement didn’t say anything. Not to me, not out loud. They didn’t dare defy the embodiment of all that is America.

And here I am poking out of a parking spot in Flushing! I’m backed all the way up to the green wall. Actually, it’s pushing the green wall back a good 3 or 4 inches. I felt the contact, and kept shoving a little. Sorry, wall. Sorry, whatever was behind the wall.

So before getting here, I actually drove it straight into lower Manhattan and the Financial District/Battery Park area to try to find…. a location where I could take a photo of it with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

‘murica

Sadly, that part of Manhattan is too busy and blocked off for any of that to happen. Through friends, I was told that I’d have better luck in Jersey City or parts of Brooklyn. I decided that was out of scope for the day and retreated to Flushing to gorge myself on noodle products by performing a rolling Denial of Service attack on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Bright and early the next day! They said to show up early. I assumed people were going to start lining up an hour before it starts, so I hustled out of Queens and got into Newark around 10:30. It turns out the organizers had barely even gotten there, so whew.

Well, at least now I have one clean and recent photo of Vantruck before everyone else showed up.

 

Hey! I brought Chibi-Mikuvan along for the ride, and it was extremely popular. I did some promotion of Power Racing Series, but only when asked.

Originally, I wanted to trailer Mikuvan down, but decided it was simply too much of a production for a 1 day event, and dealing with a now 40-foot long assemblage of vehicles in New York City was a little excessive. If Jalopnik chooses to do a weekend festival of shitboxes or something, I’d happily organize a carrier battle group rollout.

The closer we got to noon, the more interesting things became.

 

It’s 12:30 now, and we’re starting to have serious traffic problems. Got it – so that’s what “show up early” means!

 

A Mitsubishi Pajero appears! This thing with a Mikuvan bolted to it is the international 4×4 Delica Star Wagon. They share a powertrain and running gear, whereas the 2WD Delicas (Mikuvan included) share more parts with the 2WD pickup truck.

 

This Pajero was indeed the turbo-diesel version, and a recent Japanese import. jdm

 

itp: hipsters

By 1PM, they had to commandeer the neighboring parking lot for all the Chad-come-latelys.

i have money watch me spend it

Okay, okay… that’s harsh. I am sure the owner of this McLaren 720S is a swell fellow. I think what I found endearing about the Jalopnik Car Show overall is that the variety was so not car show, by design.

I’ve been to ones which were Camaro-Mustang-Corvette-Lambo-Stance-Stance-Revolution where every entry was meticulously detailed and shiny and hardly looks like they’re driven. I don’t believe in trailer queens personally – despite keeping my machinery in good running order and generally sound cosmetic shape, they’re not perfect because I use them daily.

In the same vein, I’ll repair and upgrade but never restore Bridgett or Taki-chan, because you create a machine too clean and shiny to be used. Someone else can do that. I don’t want to be hit with regret every time I drop a piece of stock, much like I prefer to be fearless with Mikuvan and occasionally push dumpsters a few feet when the hauling company can’t be buggered to place it back such that it doesn’t block the loading dock.

tl;dr don’t hand me a nice thing

Hey, another truck-like thing! This Ford Bronco is of the first body generation, prior to Vantruck’s year range.  It was one out of only 4 or 5 SUVs/jeep-shaped objects, counting the Mitsubishi Pajero.

And another pickup truck, what a relief to see.

Overall, Vantruck was the only van/conversion van of any type (not counting CMV, of course) and one of only three trucks present, and literally only van-truck of course. Counting CMV, I also had the only van, only cab-over van, and only electric van.

Hell, it was the ONLY electric ANYTHING. If I had one thing to be disappointed about this show, it was the lack of electricity. Surely someone thought about coming with a Model S or a Chevy Bolt or something? Nope.

AAAAAANGRY HEADLIGHTS

My other takeaway from this show besides my aforementioned desire to never own a nice thing is that even show cars aren’t all perfect. Again, my only experience with car shows prior to this is ones where everything has an aura of perfection and polishedness along with a nose-in-the-air presentation vibe. So I had a skewed perception of “car people gatherings” as a bunch of perfectionist snobs. I had never wanted to bring Mikuvan to a show since it’s full of my mechanical cockups and bodges.

I think overall going to a show like this was a good confidence booster. Hell, even the Monkees replica car (1st photo, behind Vantruck) had clearly patched and painted over spots where the bodywork had cracked or deteriorated, and a lot of the more nicely finished modified/tuner cars had stuff just hanging off them and random dents and paint chips. However, again, that to me is more honest than a perfect display piece and ‘matching numbers’.

malignant vantruck syndrome

About two weeks ago, I was making my usual patrol rounds using my pre-generated Craigslist searches…

Yes, I have a couple of those in places I often go. Vantrucks show up not that uncommonly – I’d say once or twice a month. But generally they’re either extremely beat up & have sat outside for 20 years, or pretty severely overprived for the condition they are in (e.g. literally over $9000).

This one popped up, though, and it was in a near perfect combo of condition according to the seller whom I talked to on the phone, initial price, and closeness.

So naturally, I had to go and check it out. Portsmouth is but 50 minutes away, or an hour and 15 minutes in Vantruck speeds.

 

 

DOUBLE VANTRUCKS! The cause of global warming is right in front of you, ladies and gentlemen.

This one is indeed in very respectable condition. The owner is a retired engineer who has had four of these things throughout recent history. How do I know this? He had a dedicated photo album, each photo laminated and in a pocket, of all of the repairs and modifications he’s done to all of them. I want to say “wow, this guy is like me but with real life pictures” but the magnitude of things is so different I can’t begin to use myself as the reference point. It was, though, very inspirational to see how excited he was about all the ones he’s owned and the customization work he’s done.

Anyways, the best crusty old vehicles are usually owned by dedicated retired owners. This one had a slew of mechanical work and replaced components in the past 25,000 miles that I won’t bother listing here. I did some sleuthing underneath to determine the state of the frame and other bodywork. The interior is immaculate and all of the coachwork is original.

So you might think that I went ahead and expanded my aircraft carrier fleet. Well, kind of….

The trip was actually a scouting mission for a robot buddy, Alex of Wedge Industries, a long time northeastern robot competitor. In fact, me versus him was the Franklin Institute finals in the 30lb class. So now this thing is in the robot family… and Motorama 2018 is going to be certified dank.

I was going to Double Vantruck to go meet him for pickup, but the heavy snowfall on that day caused me to rethink that plan and I instead headed out with someone else who had 4×4 and a not 70/30 weight distribution. Here, Alex stops over in the shop after getting a trailer to tow his own car back with. Have fun with your 9 miles a gallon all the back to Pennsylvania :p

I now leave you with this.

 

A Return to Inexpensive Chinese Van Lighting: LED Sealed Beams Update

Apr 27, 2017 in mikuvan

Boy, I’m all up on that chinesium recently, what with Chinese machine spindle drivers, the inaugural Chinese ~120lb Middleweights tournament which I helped transcribe results for, my Chinese production run of RageBridge 2sChina China China China. I love China. China is where all kinds of interesting things spawn from, some of which make you wonder who approved the push to production.

A while back, I broadly sampled cheap automotive LED products in an effort to convert all of Mikuvan’s auxiliary lighting to LED. That writeup is here. I’ve been pretty successful on this front, only having to replace one of the dashboard lights and another running light since then…. so they definitely don’t not work, but I’ll probably do another round of upgrades to the next price tier soon and see how the Market Structure has changed.

What I want to go back to is LED headlights. When I made that post, LED headlights were still quite a novelty, and very expensive. What generic products existed then were limited to these kinds of things:

I discounted them pretty heavily because they looked simply too Harbor Freight flashlighty for me – there’s no way you can aim those things properly. Just like a cheap LED flashlight, they wouldn’t have any meaningful beam pattern, and instead just be a soft wad of light. I wasn’t in much of a hurry to get real GE Nighthawks obviously, so I let the matter fall aside.

Until a few weeks ago.

While campaigning for Vantruck parts on RockAuto, my automotive opioid dealer, I noticed these under the headlights section:

Hmm, well that’s interesting. They look exactly like the GE Nighthawk units. I’d not researched the 5×7 H6054 sealed beam size before since I never had to; the 4×6 H4656 type didn’t have any LED listings on RockAuto, probably because everything sucks.

Well, now I’m beginning to think there’s a pattern. I looked in some other palces for H6054-sized LED lights, and….

 

That one is from TruckLite, which carries them along with other annoying Brodozer lighting products. For the record, this is a GE Nighthawk 5×7:

The problem? They’re all expensive as hell. I’m really not in the mood to pay $180+ for a single headlight unit, especially if I don’t know if they’ll work well.

Well, now I see the pattern. One axiom of Chinesium product finding is a corollary to the Law of Chinese Product Packaging Inertia, which states that if the products look alike, they most likely function alike in all but the most trivial ways. This has been my guiding principle for finding Chinese motor controllers and mechanical products for years.

If you turn that around a little, it becomes if multiple U.S. vendors offer the same looking product, there is likely a generic Chinesium origin. It’s something like that old quote that goes Behind every great man is a woman, except made of phthalic acid plasticizers and artificially manipulated currencies.

So I went AliExpress hunting. That didn’t take very long:

 

Score! I had what appeared to be the same kind of units as the first hit. Even better, the top 3 hits were three different approaches.

This is what always pleases me about the wild world of Chinesium: Nobody knows what they’re actually selling, so unlike Western product development culture where everyone focuses on one or two strategic approaches, the Chinese philosophy (if there even is an organized one… I don’t think so) might be spam the SHIP IT button . Recall my post about finding a new coolant pump for Chibi-Mikuvan, and how I found 3 different styles of water pump on Amazon in a few minutes.

So we have the Nighthawk clone on the left, what appears to be some kind of optometry examination device in the middle, and the “compound fly-eye” LED grenade on the right. Pretty much all of these listings, by the way, have random images of American pickup trucks or heavy duty trucks in their descriptions. They know. Since I know the Nighthawk style exists in the US as a baseline, I decided to spring for a set to try out.

While on Aliexpress, though, I got curious about the state of the 4×6 market. The styles are much the same, with most products being the LED-spam approach and some of a hybrid projector design like the aforementioned middle 5×7 product. Which, by the way, seem to be rather trashy for aimability also based on Dane’s analyses, as his Jeep XJ also uses the 5×7 size.

There was a style which was different , a combination of the LED-spam and the Nighthawk style divided high-and-low beam reflectors. These things used significantly fewer LEDs, so there might be some hope of the beam pattern being reasonable. I found a set from the same seller as who I was planning on getting the 5×7 size from:

 

By the way, don’t be deceived by the suggested transit time for the shipment. Often, you can pull down a little menu under Shipping which might reveal a very cheap DHL or Fedex/UPS option. For $14 I had all 4 headlight units in one week. I can barely coerce a shipment across the US in that time!

Fast forward a few hazy days where I think I remember some Brushless Rage work, and….

Nondescript Chinese gift boxes! Hurray!

The boxes are completely blank – presumably, resellers will have their logo and other information printed on them.

Here’s the 4×6 unit. The front cover is an unknown clear plastic; while it was advertised as a UV-resistant anti-scratch-coated polycarbonate, who the hell knows. I didn’t feel like taking a torch to these to sniff them just yet.

The casing is a very solid feeling cast aluminum with heat dissipation fins. Cooling, for the longest time, was the biggest issue plagueing LEDs and preventing their use in high-powered lighting. There aren’t any provisions for forced air or active thermal management (some modern car LED headlights are maintained by a Peltier solid state device), and I think they’re just counting on sealed-beam sockets on older vehicles being pretty open air. It’ll be interesting to see how these fare in a hot environment.

Let’s power it up! This is Low beams mode:

You know, I was honestly surprised at the beam definition. I pointed it across the dark warehouse and it wasn’t bad at all.  While looser than a modern xenon setup, it was still defined.

High beam lights up the top row of 5 LEDs, and boy is it bright. The bottom 4 still stay lit, however, so the difference between the centers of the beams is not as defined as for my current set of high-brightness halogen lights.  You’ll see this pattern change in the installation photos later.

 

The funny part was powering on what I called the “goat lights“. There’s a cute little LED strip in the middle behind a angular diffusing lens which is separately powered. They’re present as running lights. The extra wire emanating from the connector is so you can tap them into an existing DRL circuit.

So, overall I’m so far impressed. They don’t seem to be shitty. Let’s move onto the 5×7:

So this thing is interesting. Low beams shoot out the top half of the assembly, while high beam turns on the lower half while keeping the upper half lit.

It took me a minute to accept that yeah, this is also legitimate. The reflector on the top half is tilted slightly downwards, and the lower reflector is more straight-on. Actually desirable behavior for headlights. It seems like this one had some more R&D or engineering put into it. The beam pattern was even more concentrated than the 4×6 model since there is only 1 giant emitter per side, and there was more discernable shift between the high and low beam levels. I like it a lot actually! Unlike the 4×6, this type does not have a running light or accent. However, that style is also available in 5×7.

Alright, it’s install time. Since Vantruck is still mechanically indeterminate, I pitched the 5×7 units at Dane, so you might see them on his website soon. For now, I was going to install the 4×6 onto Mikuvan to see what the difference is like.

I set up the test in a parking garage, center-aligned with a spot marker line pointing at a wall about 25 feet away. I set up my camera on a tripod in the middle, immediately in front of the bumper aligned with the marker. I then tried to not move the camera for the entire test, including installation and aiming. The shutter and aperture speed were changed to a setting I liked and then they were not touched for the testing.

First, my regular old low beams. These are Wagner Britelite increased-brightness H4656 bulb modules. I’m not sure I can recommend them – as much as I like the light spam, I get maybe a little over a year to about 18 months out of them consistently. They’re advertised as having less lifetime, though, so I’m not even mad, just a little Disappointed Asian Dad.

Two defined spots, slightly biased low and to the right. The left light was recently replaced and I couldn’t be arsed to aim it properly, so it’s sitting a little higher and not quite as right any more.

Stock high beam halogens, unified spot high and a little to the right. Mikuvan’s 4-headlight setup means in high beam operation, they’re ALL on – it has two dual-filament H4656 type bulbs for standard low beam operation (which the LED units will replace) and two H4651 dedicate high beams.

Install was simple. I modified the marker light wiring harness on each side to plug in the “goat lights”, and here they are. Very goaty.

The main power connector, though, is actually an H4 type, not a H4656. This is some stupid automotive U.S. vs. The World standard I don’t understand, but it just involves a fast pin change on the connector to be compatible. Seriously, people, this is stupid.

After a few attempts at aiming, here’s what I came up with.

Damn. This was, again, taken with the camera in the same spot using the same shutter speed and aperture. I’d describe this as a curtain of light. The beam is so broad that I could barely aim it enough rightwards – I just about bottomed out the adjustment screw on the left headlight. However, it has a fairly sharp vertical cutoff, so that’s good for not glaring people.

Now with all 4 lights working in hi-beams mode, you can see how far rightwards the left headlight has been moved. This was all in an attempt to get it vaguely centered on the halogen lamp’s spot. I had to compromise here, as the difference in level between high and low wasn’t as drastic. I erred on the side of keeping the low beams lower to the ground, rather than broadcasting my lane change clearance to Mars.

I went on a run around the block to test everything out, and I must say it’s an immense improvment. My only concern was if it was significantly glare-inducing to someone oncoming because of the sheer width of the beams. I just vaguely tested this by squatting in the street at roughly the driver’s head height of the Honda Civic next to me. Result: Not any worse than what I get daily from people with modern HID setups, or even worse, from those HID retrofit kits that never aim correctly.

Here’s a test video I took shortly thereafter on a deserted road in Mexico showing the beam appearance. The scatter means it lights up distant road signs ridiculously well, much better than the halogen units.

So what to do after I have 2 of them? Now my headlight colors are mismatched, so I gotta…

Upgrade! See, now that the Chinesium base product has been hunted down and interrogated, I grabbed this set from a US seller instead. The box was exactly the same, just printed with some fancy letters and numbers and whatnot. The product? Also exactly the same!

DOUBLE GOAT MODE ACTIVATE. This photo is retro-futuristic as hell. EXPERIENCE THE AESTHETIC

You know how I can tell these were the same product by different manufacturers? My headlights are still slightly different colors. The color temperature of the two purchases is barely not the same.

Alright, so what have I learned here? The current low-cost aftermarket for LED headlights seems to have some viable products now. I did not crack open any of the units to inspect the components inside – maybe I’ll do that down the line if one dies, or I pick up another one. The units, both 4×6 and 5×7 type, seemed to be built well. My only concern is really longevity and ambient temperature tolerance. That’s something only operating these for a while will reveal.

Here’s a caveat though. With all 4 units running in high beams mode, it’s a ridiculous amount of light. I light up highway signs from like a quarter mile away easily because of the beam spread. I actually am concerned about it being unsafely bright when I use high beams to signal someone, like acknowledging a turn. It’s like a camera flash, but even worse. I’ve worked into the habit of briefly blinking the running lights on and off instead of flicking high beams to counteract this. A little bit of a damper on something otherwise very great so far.

If you go for a set, the general trend based on my own tests and reading reviews and discussions is aim them lower than you think you should. The light spread counteracts the lower spot with standard halogen lights, so aiming lower covers more of the road in front, and also makes sure you don’t glare people.

 

 

The Chronicles of Vantruck 2: Not-Yet-Electric Boogaloo

Jan 12, 2017 in mikuvan, vantruck

sigh

It’s a new year, and somehow I’m outside, in the middle of winter in Massachusetts, at night, fixing a van.

Again.

As I’ve said before, imagine if I ever exert this much effort doing something socially beneficial or self-improving.

I’ve been sparse lately, though, due to a similar kind of exertion that is called “working for yourself”. When you’re me and you take contracting work, you begin to adopt everyone else’s malformed, premature project embryos as your own, and raise them until they can walk on their own, often into a wall. The upside is that I can pick my battles and choose my projects, but the caveat is that I was never good at time management anyway, so it’s sort of easy for me to get lost in work. Overhaul has been living under a table and Clocker 4 hasn’t been repaired from Franklin Institute yet. Please make #season3 happen ):

I am, however, signed up for Motorama again, and you know what this means:


WE MEET AGAIN

 

This time, I will be unstoppable. I will be a worthy opponent!

But first, to get to that point, Vantruck has to be legal to operate in the state of Massachusetts, among other things. So time to get to work!

I have a habit of buying something and then doing research on what it is I just bought. This is why targeted internet advertising never works on me, because it’s too late to show me Ford truck ads now, guys.

To this end, I went ahead and picked up a copy of both the Chilton’s and Haynes service manuals, as well as copy of the Official Ford E/F-150-350 + Bronco Player’s Guide on CD, since I like information. Also, I’ve otherwise never owned a vehicle that had been worth writing an aftermarket service manual over. When one book can cover almost 30 years of one model, or SEVEN MODELS AT ONCE, that’s when you know that 1. it’s good, and 2. it’s why we need globalized diverified economies.

Okay, I’ll take number 1 back. These manuals suck. They’re definitely very “old school car guy” centric, but perhaps it’s just the ones written for old vehicles. The section on how to rebuild your carburetor or adjust the bands in the automatic transmission? Awesome! Checking all engine bearing, cam, and valve clearances? HUGE!

Electrical?

YES, THERE ARE WIRES (1978 F-150 W/ 6-302 ENGINE SHOWN; OTHER MODELS SIMILAR)

I’ll be up front, the only thing I know about carburetors is that a unicorn lives in each barrel and it decides how much fuel to mix with the incoming air. Vantruck’s Ford 460 engine has a 4-barrel carburetor, meaning it has 4 unicorn-power. At least 1 of those unicorns is slacking off when it gets below about 30 degrees, since it will only hold idle with a little bit of throttle application for a minute or so until it warms up. I am told the unicorn has to be choked to whip it back into shape, and the mechanism that does this might be sticky.

Whatever. I don’t care about carburetors. Maybe one day in the future I’ll write the Haynes manual on how to rebalance your future solar-powered bubblecopter’s main lift motors in excruiciating detail and some young hotshot will tell me that nobody uses electric motors any more and that all new bubblecopters manipulate the electroweak force to spontaneously decompose atoms in front of where you want the propellers to be.

So let’s see what I’m dealing with here…. Remember, the goal is to get turn signals and reversing lights working again!

Alright, so the circuit I’m interested in is protected by Fuse 10. I confirmed that yes, no matter how big a fuse I put in, it immediately blows on any turn of the key, so it’s a hard short to ground somewhere. Referring to the wiring diagrams in the manuals (which all say the same thing in slightly different line widths and wiring label mnemonics), I see that there is a combination switch on the transmission that directly controls the reversing lights.

Given that the hazard flasher still works, and the turn signals do flash with them, I suspected a hard short somewhere along the body harness for the reversing lights. The turn signals are on a different path and therefore not affected by the short, but it will blow the fuse and cause power loss to both.

Interesting fact: No matter how large the nose on a full-size American van, there is still an access port for the engine on the inside, and it’s the same for Chevy/GMC and Dodge too. This thing really has less lateral legroom than Mikuvan does, and it’s because the engine is slightly ahead of you, not slightly behind. You’re still basically sitting on top of it.

Why can’t you be a 1960s Econoline instead? They even made pre-truckified versions!

Here I am popping the doghouse off to inspect the wiring harness going to the transmission switch.

 

And I find the culprit immediately: A very fried and rotted wiring connector and harness that was touching the engine block. It seems to have been routed in the valley of the engine next to one of the cylinder heads – so I can only surmise that it’s gotten very hot, accelerating the decay of the legendary 80s US-made plastics. This connector shell basically turned to dust when I tried to open it, and the wiring insulation flaked off in large pieces.

 

Yeah, I picked the scab for a few minutes and separated the wires where they were exposed in order to make sure nothing was shorting,  I cut the harness wrap another few inches in both directions to look for additional shorted locations, but this was the only one.

And here we go – turn signals are back!

However, there were still no reversing lights. I metered the circuits and discovered the transmission switch’s reverse position had failed open – perhaps due to the shorted harness. So that’s a few bucks on eBay for another transmission switch!

Meanwhile, I moved onto excavating other wiring artifacts, playing such games as “Where the hell does this bare-ass connector go?”

I couldn’t find any mating end for this bare terminal; it’s on the same circuit as the power supplied to the transmission switch and is allegedly part of the ignition interlock (for no starting in-gear), but I can find no mention of it anywhere in the manuals – probably an aftermarket mod that was later removed. I taped it off for the time being.

Then we have this rare example of an American Wiring Kudzu:

Someone please tell me this is not OEM. Compared to Mikuvan’s “all in one extravaganza” wiring experience, this is borderline unreal.

I couldn’t identify what the leftmost and uppermost components (with rusty terminals) were, but one of the right hand side relays seemed to be a headlight relay and the other one a horn relay. If you know what those other things are, please let ME know. I just wire-brushed and dielectric-greased the terminals and called it a day.

Following the horn relay caused me to discover a very long-dead airhorn compressor buried near the front radiator supports. Since the plumbing seems to be in place, maybe I’ll try hooking up a new airhorn compressor at some point…

Flash forward a week and the new transmission switch has arrived. This is a photo of removing the old one – it was a very straightforward procedure, and I actually did it “by the book” as recommended.

Interesting fact: The orange tube seen in the first ‘doghouse’ photo is actually a linkage that connects the throttle body to a small lever on the transmission selector valve. Its termination is shown here. Not only is it actually a linkage, but it’s actually the connecting link in a 3-dimenional 4-bar linkage and moves in a circular arc centered somewhere inside the engine. It’s the transmission kickdown linkage, and when you hit the gas pedal hard enough, it moves outwards at the throttle body, translating through that circular motion into a downward motion at the switch here.

It doesn’t stop there; EVERYTHING IS LINKAGES. The throttle itself is a linkage, and the main gear shift selection lever also toggles the leftmost brown bar as a linkage. The parking brake linkage seems to move on the same set of pins this whole clusterfuck moves on, connected to the frame.  AND EVERY ONE OF THESE LINKAGES IS SLOPPY.

I legitimately don’t know if I should be horrified that someone thought this was a good idea, or amazed at the ingenuity that went into packaging everything.

Whatever. You’re all leaving for a sack of electrons in the next few years. I cleaned up the area and regreased all the pins and clevises for now. I should just pack everything with JB-weld so it fills the slop!

As the first wiring repair a few days later, I started with the most critical issue, the transmission harness. Here it is repaired with a few more inches to spare ; this extra length will let me route it up and over the hot part of the engine, over the air cleaner lid, and back down towards the transmission.

Alright, with my turn signals back on and the reversing light circuit showing continuity, I still had no reversing lights. Well, time to go see what other wires could be broken. The wire emerging from the transmission switch which allegedly goes straight backwards to the reversing lamps did not show continuity to ground, meaning it was broken somewhere along the way. First, I checked the light modules themselves, which meant starting at the back…

Bad mistake.

Judging by the aging of the various nylon splice connectors AND A WIRE NUT. WHO THE HELL USES WIRE NUTS HERE I think at least 2 jackasses have been here before me, making me the third ass. Several aftermarket trailer devices have probably lived and died here, and there were not only stubs of wires (some of which I might need) but splices like this rare Shadtree Wiring Octopus living in the back bumper area.

Speaking of trailer accessories, here’s a quick side story.

Since the beginning, Vantruck has had a magic switch installed on the underside of the dashboard. Neither the seller nor I nor my truck-buddy Dan who I blame for this whole thing could tell what it did, or where it led.  This magic switch had a yellow and a brown wire coming off it, with the yellow going directly to 12 volts at the fuse box. The brown wire, though, disappeared into the abyss.

As long as I had the dash and other panels off hunting for the transmission switch wiring, I decided to follow the brown wire.

From the switch, it runs downwards and follows the rest of the body harness out to the front driver’s side of the engine compartment. It’s definitely aftermarket, since it’s just stuffed into the bushing there, not part of any wrapped bundles.

Inside the engine compartment by the front left wheelwell, it makes a U-turn and dives under the frame. It runs allllllll the way back to just ahead of the rear axle, upon which it terminates in….

 

NOTHING

That was….. anticlimactic.

Oh well. I ripped this wire all the way out, along with the entire magic switch, and some of the wiring stock ended up making it back in the form of taillights.

At this point, I looked up and discovered this creative arrangement of fuel lines and seemingly a vestigial fuel-system switching valve. The seller had made it clear that the dual tank system doesn’t work. There is another switching valve to the right, a few feet closer to the front driver’s side, which is about equally disconnected.

Since it’s silly to have such a huge truck with less range than a Tesla Model S, this fuel system will be the focus of my next adventures. I’m just going to replumb everything from scratch – I don’t even care to detangle this right now. More importantly though, the fuel gauge sensor is faulty in the rear tank (left) and of unknown vintage on the front tank (right), so they are a higher priority than being able to cause 2 forms of global warming at the flick of a switch.

 

By the way, the yellow end of the magic switch ended in a wire nut by the fuse panel, which has a connection via a 30 amp fuse to….

…a wrapped bundle somewhere in the body harness again.

You know what, fuck it, I quit. I just removed all of the splices, trimmed the unknown broken wires, and put it back together.  Currently, power windows only work if I alligator clip the door harness to 12V, so I’m pretty sure one of these things actually went to them, in defiance of the manual telling me what color wires are supposed to do what. I’ll address this later…

Since I had to get access to the rear wiring anyway for the lights, and it hadn’t gotten that cold out yet, I decided to rust-treat the rear bumper’s inside cavities while it was off.

This thing was unexpectedly heavy. It’s made of mostly 1/8″ and 3/16″ steel with stamped brackets holding it to the frame with 5/8″ bolts.  I keep forgetting that I am working in a realm where everything was designed by and for much larger and manlier men than myself.  This is good – it keeps me on my toes, and makes it even weirder to everyone else around when I pop out of it at Motorama.

The treatment consisted of a wire brushing and air-blasting the rust powder off, then treating the remnant surface rust with converter, and a few layers of clearcoat over it once it dried. Probably overkill for surface rust on the stern of the Titanic, but hey, it’s iceberg season and I had work to do while the substances dried.

Getting it back on again was an even more hilarious adventure. dem gainz

Long story short, I basically rebuilt the rear harness using the shop books as a guide. I removed several ill-conceived marker lights, seen as shadows above the wiring loop. Clown #1 or #2 had just drilled a tiny hole through the sheet metal and shoved the wire through, un-bushed and liable to being torn on any one of those holes. I’ll do my own marker lights later if I feel like adding to the already gargantuan collection of LOOK AT ME I’M A TRUCK lights present.

Finally, after shaving most of the yaks living in this region, I pulled out the taillight modules and began playing hunt the wire. Here is another Shadetree Wiring Octopus habitat. The sheer number of splices on this length alone are mind-boggling, and make me suspect the taillights are not original.  I played a game of alligator clips trying to find out what was supposed to go to where – at this point, none of the colors lined up with the shop book, so I only had intuition to help along.

And an hour or so later, the corrected harness with rebuilt areas and 99% less splices emerges.

Luckily, the other side was actually in good shape, but this was the master side where the brake light, turn signal, and reversing light body harness came in, so it was the side which mattered. Everything was e-taped together, bundled, and shoved back in.

And there we go!

Those are some bright taillights… In fact, they’re the same ones I use on Mikuvan, the so-called 10W LED “buttheadlights”.

I discovered that beyond just hacking up the wiring, Clowns #1 or #2 had in fact installed the entire wrong bulb into the right side reversing light. They somehow stuffed a type 1157 dual-filament bulb into the socket for an 1156. Nothing made contact, and so that light didn’t work initially.

Not having direct replacements for the type 1156, I suddenly remembered I bought like 3 packs of those LED things and decided to just switch over right now to LEDs. I did not have 1157s for the taillights in LED, though, so that will come another day.

These are the “buttheadlights” in question, and I can vouch for their niceness.

Buttoned back up!

The story doesn’t end there, however. As long as there was a gaping hole in the fender, I couldn’t get an inspection sticker to be fully road-legal. At this point, I had plotted and schemed for 3 weeks on how to fix the hole, but the weather no longer permitted any outdoor work that involved curing or drying anything – and I did not have any place left to pull it indoors.  I finally decided to throw it in and took Vantruck to Richie’s Automotive in Waltham, a shop highly recommended by Dan which dealt a lot with trucks. This timed well with a spontaneous New Years trip to Atlanta, so I was able to leave it there and ask for the Have At It treatment.

And here we go! After I returned from driving vans for 3,000 miles, I was totally done with vans, so Dan got the privilege of piloting the battleship back to port. The fender patch is backed with sheet metal and all the damaged brackets were also repaired; I also had them go ahead and replace the exhaust system from the Y-pipe back since it had substantial rust holes in the muffler and other spots.

So that’s why it was so loud. I thought large American V8s just sounded like that all the time.

Finally, they threw in repairing all of the marker and trim lights, including all the little ones in the running boards which were out and I didn’t care enough to do with the other wiring, as well as the ones eviscerated from the fender. It’s great to have a shop well-connected to the industry, since I am definitely not knowledgeable on Giant American Truck things.

The current outlook is to replace the malfunctioning fuel gauge in the rear tank, which reads half when full and empty when about 5 gallons down out of 22, so it’s not helpful at all. I’m perfectly content having only about 250 miles of range on one tank, since that places it on the same refueling interval as Mikuvan. I’m therefore not inclined to actually repair the fuel tank switching valve system, but maybe just join the two tanks at the bottom with a hose or a transfer pump so I have use of both tanks, just not alternately.

After all, if I make it too good, I might be inclined to keep everything running…

In other exciting van news, however, this latest trip to Atlanta did result in Mikuvan rolling the grand ol’ 200K, in the most unromantic possible location: A few hundred feet from the entrance of the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut.

Hopefully I’ll captain this Space Battlevan-ship for many more parsecs to come. I’m eager for the weather to improve again so I can continue preparing it for the inevitable decals.

Baking the Roll Cake, and How I Failed to Save Private Überclocker This Time: The Dragon Con 2016 Adventures

Sep 11, 2016 in Bots, Events, mikuvan, Roll Cake, Überclocker 4

Oh hello everybody! It’s a few days after Dragon Con and I’ve finally woken back up. Where the hell am I?! What is this metallic coating all over my face? Why have I gained 20 delicious pounds?

Here it is, the Post Dragon Con 2016 recap. I didn’t get a change to put out another update before leaving for Atlanta, and then it was a mad pre-convention dash. So this update will cover all of the construction of Roll Cake, as well as get started on the Bot that Charles Forgot – Überclocker 4.0, a.k.a “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Overhaul!”.

Amazingly enough, there were no van shenanigans on the way down. I’m staying in Atlanta a few days later again, so the return trip is still clouded in the ether, but at this time (Boston to Atlanta and now a few hundred miles locally) there are no issues to report.

Alright, I lied a little – at some point a few weeks (months???) ago, the rearmost portion of the exhaust pipe decided to fall off. It had a hanger at the very back of the frame, so did not fall completely off, but just rattled haplessly.

I think it was due to the bend passing over the rear axle being repeatedly struck by said axle when Mikuvan is loaded heavy – such as the trip to Detroit Maker Faire. So anyway, all it manifested in was things being a little louder, but at times due to the exhaust being trapped under the body and in my 3-mile-long wake vorticies, exhaust smell would creep into the cabin. This is not something I wanted to deal with for the long trip down, so I repaired in the best WEEABOO REDNECK way possible:

None of this BEER CAN bullshit… only the best Ramune bottles will be used for MY hoodrat repairs!

This held all the way until South Carolina. When I rolled into town, one of my pre-convention stops was the local Advance Auto Parts to pick up a patch pipe. The whole system is definitely in need of replacement, though. Who wants to hook me up with D U A L   F L O W M A S T E R S?

Anyways, without further ado, here are the sections of this roman noir de robots:

  1. Finishing and testing Roll Cake
  2. Designing and building Überclocker 4
  3. Robot Battles and Dragon Con recap

 

Icing on the Roll Cake

So this is where we build up to that ‘preview picture’ I posted last time.  One of the first things I did as soon as I put the frame pieces printing on the Mark Two was go and do basically the only machining thing, which was make the drum.

For this, I brought back an old friend. One of my first major tool purchases was this little indexing head, which made its first appearance here in a LOLioKart build report. It became my most prized possession for some time thereafter, but I left it in the shop when I mostly scuttled off to main campus and upstairs into the IDC for graduate school nonsense. With my departure, it began becoming decrepit under usage by random newbies. One of the dividing plates was lost, and one of the tilting locks was also lost after someone cranked the locking bolt too tight and sheared it off.

Every once in a while, someone does find it again and use it, so I knew it was still operational. I gave it a once-over cleanup and adjustment before starting here.

The drum blank was carved out on New MITERlathe before being transferred to the indexing head for feature drilling. I originally specified 6 bolt holes. But as it turns out, 8 holes is easier to use the indexer for, since it didn’t involve going in partial circles using the dividing plates. Just 5 cranks of the handle… So, 8 holes it is.

Next up, putting the big 1/2″-13 threads in for the cap screw “teeth”.

One tricky operation was broaching the 8mm bore for a 2mm keyway. Since Roll Cake is being built from Banebots P80 parts, so it must be compatible with an 8mm keyed shaft. I could not get a 8mm bushing & 2mm broach in time – nor did i want to spent dozens of dollars for the honor. So I did what, I guess, I would do, and carefully hacked at it with a 1/16″ endmill until I got a 2mm slot with a bit of radius at the end.

Precision! Craftsmanship! Finesse! We strive to be the opposite of this at Big Chuck’s Robot Warehouse. Zero sigmas, guaranteed, or I’m keeping your damn money anyway.

 

The frame parts have finished printing from the new Onyx material!

Well, hold up a little… These are extremely hollow prints that were solely to test for dimensional correctness. Things like “Does the motor fit in this hole?” and similar.

Here is a mock fit with some of the parts. I used a paint marker to pinpoint locations which needed rework – generally increasing slop or tolerances in the CAD model to get a better fit in real life.

Another arrangement of “DO NOT USE THESE FOR REAL” parts, which all had X marked on them so I was not tempted.

The two main frame halves are actually made from regular nylon for the most part, with carbon fiber loops in the center of the bot to strengthen the area. Otherwise, the regular nylon is tough and a bit flexible, which will hopefully help against some impacts.

A little pile of wheels with grommet-tires installed…

I next synthesized these planet gears from spare P80 4:1 and 3:1 planet gears. The 4:1 gears were bored out and cut to half a normal pinion length. Then the 3:1 gears were machined down for half their length, and then promptly shoved into the 4:1 hollow half-gears. The shoving first involved lining one tooth with one valley between teeth on each gear. As mentioned in the design post, these compound gears require the correct phasing of teeth to be assembled succesfully. I was probably off by some fractions of a degree on each gear.

THAT’S WHY WE HAVE A PLASTIC RING GEAR

The ring gear itself has also been reprinted in carbon fiber back Onyx (a material we came to call RMCC – Reinforced MarkForged Carbon-Carbon). I made the number of engagement dogs lower to guarantee the servo being able to reach between them.

Assembly for realsies begins with the bolting together of the sides. On each side, three #4-40 cap screws with washers and nuts retain the sides to the center U, and at the very rear, a #4-40 threaded rod with 4 nuts provides last-ditch backup if those front fasteners fail.

The ‘flaps’ are waterjet-cut 6061 aluminum 1/16″ thick sheet, which are bent up at the edges like so:

Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. I really need to watch some tutorials on how to use a box-and-pan metal brake correctly, because I clearly can’t do so, ever – and it probably doesn’t help that I make sheet metal parts infrequently enough that the shared machinery is never in the same condition twice (or some times working at all), so I have no clue how it’s supposed to behave. Anyways, no two bends on this thing are alike in location and alignment. One side is workable, the other side is very twisted… Oh well, we’ll fix it in post.

Time to solve the never-quite-solved wiring problem. I made access tunnel paths for the hypothetical wiring through the back end of the U-bracket that makes the center of the bot, but physically doing it was another whole issue. “Haphazard” and “ad-hoc” are two words that each don’t quite describe Roll Cake’s wiring on their own.

I basically had to make three long cables, fish them through the two wire tunnels, and then wire everything in-place at the ends and cut them to length. These cables were the main battery, left side drive motor, and firing servo cables. The right side drive motor also passed through the right tunnel, so really it was 4 cables.

For this purpose, I used the thinnest wire I could find for the drive motors, which was some 30 gauge blue wirewrapping wire.

Everything in the bot could run directly off 11.1v – the drive ESCs (VEX controllers), even the Hobbyking TR6Av2 receiver believe it or not – you can run basically every new receiver from battery voltages since they have onboard regulators for the microcontrollers. However, the firing servo still needs 5 volts to not go crazy and burn out.

Therefore, I made a super small in-line 5V regulator from two Chinese’d  LM1117 parts.

Don’t give me no “that’s racist” bullshit – you and I know this happens on a regular basis.

This 5V line then feeds the receiver, and the servo cable is a 3-pin custom cable which comes from that. Essentially as if I were to plug it in without hacking anything.

After the electronics are installed, I made the orange roundbelts and started closing everything up. The round belts are measured using the hypothetical pitch line in the belt circle drawing in the CAD model, then shortened about 10% to accommodate stretching.

The final act is to install the linkages. This is done using long M3 bolts cut down such that their unthreaded shoulder acted as the joint pin, but I could still put a locknut on the end.

Here is the finished bot from the flappy end.

And a photo from the ‘business end’.

So how does this thing work? Well, it doesn’t really.  The serpentine roundbelt drive has too much friction for the Fingertech motors to overcome. While Stance Stance Revolution used two 22:1 Fingertech motors, they were direct driving small wheels. Each pulley adds some friction, since the belts need to be tight to transmit torque and the pulleys do not have rolling bearings, just nylon on shoulder screws. Roll Cake therefore could not move at all. I’ve built some pretty damn immobile bots, but this is literally the most immobile thing I’ve ever made!

You can hear the motors strain to move, slipping on the belt, and occasionally it scoots forward a fraction of an inch. That’s about it. In doing this, I actually burned out one of my 22:1 motors.

I began making arrangements to get some 33:1 motors from fellow competitors down in Atlanta, which should help the torque problem, and also began the search for small timing belts. MXL and 2mm timing belts come in 1/8″ wide / 3mm wide, so I could redesign the pulleys to that tooth profile. Then, the matter becomes if the Mark Two can hold the kind of tolerances needed for the tooth geometry to work out. I decided to leave that to Atlanta.

While the driving test was a bust, I did get a few flipper tests in with the drum going full speed. I’m glad to say that this part seems to work great. The servo engagement is clean and predictable. Here’s a test against a roughly 3.5 pound empty toolbox. Note that I don’t have anything springy or elastic that’s preferentially loading the linkage closed, so it depends on good firing servo timing to bring it back down.

That was actually the second test. The first test was against a heavier (4.5 pound) aluminum rail – coincidentally, the unmachined blank frame rail for Uberclocker 4. On this test, the deceleration of the drum was severe enough that the bot rotated forward against the linkage… causing the drum to strike the ground and hilarity to ensue.

Well, truth be told, that was the part of the bot I cared about. I packed all of the parts up for Roll Cake anticipating needing to do some re-engineering once I was on site. Just prior to leaving, I ordered two sizes of timing belts from SDP-SI based on the existing pitch length and what was closest to it – two 155 tooth 1/8″ wide MXL belts, and two 160 tooth ones. At least one of these will be close enough after I redesign the pulleys to be timing belt profiles with roughly the same pitch circle.

 

Überclocker 4.0

No fake-outs with wheels this time! This is the real deal now.

I’d been MEANING to retire Clocker version 3 (Überclocker Advance) since after Motorama 2015. Then came Dragon Con 2015…and then Franklin Institute 2015. After it won handily at FI, I decided to force myself to retire it, leaving the broken actuator unrepaired. Clocker 4.0, which has no witty Engrish name, was meant to be designed much earlier in the summer, post #season2.

Well that clearly didn’t happen… I actually started working on the design on and off in mid-July, but some contract work was keeping me entertained at the time – so designing didn’t start in earnest until August. That’s one side of being “funemployed” is that the work you do pick up is often stuff you like to do, meaning you adopt it as your own, meaning certain death if you have zero time management ability like me.

The first thing I designed up was actually the custom cast wheels that I talked about last time. I decided to use Clocker 4 as a smaller-scale experiment to try out the technique and different materials without wasting a bunch of money. The wheels were made with a 3/4 hex hub, which Clocker 3 uses and which I intend to carry over to the new bot. They were made in two sizes – 3 inch and 2 inch – to reflect the needs of the new bot.

So let’s go through the design of the bot now! Keep in mind through all of this that the principal design constraint was “Is this dimension about 50% of what it would be on Overhaul 2?” and is definitely a departure from my usual tactic of letting the part placement drive the robot. In fact, you could argue that both Roll Cake and Clocker 4 represent me trying to “design to look like something first” – Roll Cake being an old robot vision from years ago, and Clocker 4 being a scale model of Overhaul.

Just like with Overhaul 2, I began with a sanity check sketch to make sure the dimensions aren’t impossible. In this picture, the only things fixed are the wheel sizes and chassis height. Much like OH2′s design phase, I was going to let the length of the frame be malleable in order to fit components. But it should end up somewhere around 30″ in the ideal case.

I focused a little more on the pontoons first. The rectangles shown are a size of wubbie that is the closest to 50% scaled down from the type used in OH2.   While their final shape and dimensions is not settled by this sketch, I just wanted to factor them in to get an idea of the size boundaries.

Bringing in more geometry into the mix now by playing with lifting fork lengths and the height of the arm towers.

Probably the terminal stage of The One Sketch has the 2.5″ square DeWut motor profiles imported, the length of the frame adjusted, and the first pass at the upper clamp arm also drawn. Most dimensions line up with OH2 within 10% or so, which is fine. Nothing truly scales directly in robotworld, and I figure so long as the visual is complete, nobody else but me will notice!

The beginnings of the 3D design went much the same way as with most of my bots,  Overhaul included, with the generation of frame rails. You have to start somewhere, so I usually start with the back or left side, and everything sort of grows off that.

I imported the One Sketch and aligned it with the bot as a reference.

Moving on ahead a little bit, here is a more complete drive side. The front wheel is inset significantly into the plane of the front endcaps which hold the rubber shock mounts. I wanted to do this to maximize the wheelbase. Previous Clockers have had the “reactive outriggers” up front to maintain front traction when an opponent gets picked up. This version is relying solely on the rubber shock mounts deflecting, and it will be riding on the front edge of the pontoons thereafter. To maximize the chances of retaining traction in that scenario, I wanted to push the front wheels as far forward as I could.

This does open up a gap in the otherwise fully constrained tab of the frame rail, so here’s hoping that spamming the region with cap screws will make up for it.

Frame rail service for Clocker will also be a little harder harder than Overhaul. In this design, to pull the left frame rail, the pontoons and three of the six shock mounts have to be removed, and there is now more than 1 bit driver size needed. However, you could argue that OH2 also needed two bit sizes – 7/32 for the pontoon screws and 5/16 for the frame bolts.

Cloning stuff to the other side…

A very difficult step came afterwards. I now had to fit the DeWuts from Clocker 3 into this frame (I SOLEMNLY PROMISE DEWUTS WILL BE BACK IN STOCK SOON) . This presented a very serious problem, which is well summarized by NO.

You see, the average Featherweight, full-contact 30lber is generally much smaller than the Sportsman class bots, since they’re built denser with thicker materials to take KE weapon impacts. Clocker 3 is very large for a 30lb bot to begin with, at 20″ wide and 27″ long end to end, it’s almost the footprint of some of the denser 250lbers like Poison Arrow.

In order to make weight, as well as stay roughly true to Overhaul’s dimensions, Clocker 4 needs to be around 16″ wide. However, this utterly precludes the use of the DeWuts. I would need to make the bot at least 18″ wide to use them. That means proportionally more weight to cover the additional width of the bot, as well as a lot of inside space that’s kind of wasted lengthwise since more components would be able to fit next to the motors. This isn’t a bad thing by itself, but two DeWuts back to back kind of forces a different shape robot than what I was pursuing.

So I began working on the inevitable: going brushless with the drivetrain to save volume. I studied a few options which all revolved around a handful of AXi motors I picked up a few months ago (get yours today!). I borrowed a BaneBots P60 model since Jamison had already played with mounting P60s to the AXi motors. I also investigated stuffing the AXi motors into my spare P80s from Overhaul.

In the name of expediency – namely, that I had the spare P80 drive motors on hand, the AXi + P80 combination won. The 4:1 Overhaul P80s combined with the AXi motors at 7S (26v) ought to give a top speed of about 17mph, which is plenty.

The downside is extra weight. While the P80 and AXi combo weighs less than the DeWut, it weighs more than the P60 equivalent which would handle the motor power just fine. For Robot Battles where I won’t need extensive armor, I figured that letting the drive motors have 2 more pounds is fine.

However, I might actually swap these out before FI 2016 for modified P60s, since having the armor weight back would be nice.

Now importing more components – the space inside the bot is filling up fast!

I devised this quickly-3D-printable-from-Onyx mounting bracket for the AXi motor. A new pinion with a 6mm bore will be crafted out of spare 4:1 planet gears, which have 4mm bores I can hollow out.

So the AXi drive will solve the issue of width in the bot. I’m now toying with placement of the internal components. To start with, I’ll be using two of the spare DLUX 160A controllers I took out of Overhaul before the Season 2 tournament began, with a possible upgrade to Brushless Rage later using a 6-FET board (think Brushless HalfRage)

I settled for the two DLUX controllers up front mounted to a (not yet modeled) non-structural interior bulkhead, and the RageBridge in the rear corner to handle lift and clamp, also with a yet-unmodeled bracket.

Let’s begin on the fork tines now. I traced out the basic shape of Overhaul’s fork, but unlike Overhaul which uses a dead (fixed) lift shaft, I’m keeping the live life shaft of Clocker 3 since it’s fairly easy to attach to. The force transmission will be using clamp shaft collars made into hubs. There won’t be a central tube structure in the fork – both will just be held together with standoffs. The forks should, like in Overhaul, never be taking direct impacts unless I messed up horribly.

After I imported the quick fork model, which is still missing specific details like standoff mounting, I also began playing with the clamp actuator. I imported a few older Clocker actuators to check size and placement.

For this edition, I really wanted to move back to a full 550 motor actuator. This should actually give the bot a clamping force of several hundred pounds, which I wanted to have since most Featherweight class bots have negligible top armor.

The issue wasn’t so much weight (it would weigh around 1 cheap drill motor) as space. It had to fit in between the side plates of the clamp arm, first of all, and then anchor itself in a useful location that won’t impede the fork travel much. Overhaul has some issues with this which I would like to remedy for #season3 – so in a way, this is once again using the small bot to pilot something for the big one.

More details have been modeled into the fork plates now. The cross holes will have standoffs like good ol’ Clocker, not just to hold the fork sides together, but keep them level between arms. Overhaul has no such crossing feature near the tip of the arms, only the base. This was the cause of the forks becoming cockeyed during the Beta match when it got a good boop in on one of them, and I’d definitely like to solve this problem.

I decided to pursue the full 550 motor actuator at all costs, so I made one similar in construction to Clocker 3′s final actuator. The motor and gearbox? Just a 12 O’Clocker spare motor! The gears will be purchased from Vex, then modified – one to a 12mm bore, the other bored out to shove an Acme nut into.

Not shown in the above image is an “anti-buckle” MarkTwo printed piece that bridges the two thin plates and cradles the leadscrew for more of its travel. The actuator sides are in tension when clamping, but will be subject to sudden compression shock if the bot lands upside-down or I try reversing out of a grab, so I didn’t want to count on JUST 1/8″ aluminum plates.

Here it is loaded in place and showing placement. The upper anchor point was open to negotiation because the clamp arm sides hadn’t been designed yet. The lower anchor point for the leadscrew will just be a pin that is shoved through the first hole in the fork side plates, closest to the pivot point. The neat thing is this is somewhat adjustable for leverage ratios if I choose to use another hole instead.

I generated the fork side plates based on the dimensions of the One Sketch. It, too, will be held together by a bunch of standoffs – no welding here. This drawing shows some possible standoff positions. I was going to alternate inside and outside circles as I moved from left to right, like so:

The standoffs used are just some big McMaster-Carr 5/8″ hex aluminum standoffs, which for some reason are almost half the price of the neighboring sizes.

Actuator placement was a compromise between “How far does the motor stick out the top?” vs. “How far does the motor stick into the grabbing region?” since I could make the leadscrew as long or short as I pleased.

About this time, I threw Clocker 3 into the CAD model. The size different is almost comical, and at this point I wondered if Clocker 4 could pick up anything at all without falling on its face. Definitely will have trouble with the average 30SC sized bot, but again, 30lb Featherweights are smaller in general.

Anyways, moving on.

One of the next mods I want to make to Overhaul is what I call the “Anti-Cobalt System” – in other words, putting something between the frame rails so this doesn’t happen again. For Overhaul, I’ve been mentally designing it as a top and bottom plate fastened together in the middle, to close off the box and transfer sideway forces more rearward in the bot.

Since Clocker will now be competing in a high-energy class, I decided to implement the ACS for the most part on the bottom of the bot. This also acts to keep the drive chains above the plate, so they’ll be less vulnerable. I could still see this having a failure mode where in a very energetic sideways hit, the frame rails will deform in a parallelogram between the ACS plate on the bottom and the angled endcap on the top.

I’m now in the stage of generating top and bottom plates as well as random spacers. MarkForged spacers for everybody!

The single tooth will be made from some left over 1/2″ AR500 steel – good enough for the task.

I began the process of making the armor pontoons using the same method as on Overhaul. I made a master 2D sketch that represents the front face, and then a series of 3D Sketches thereafter, then defined surfaces using the sketch lines as their bounds.

The geometry for Clocker 4 is a lot simpler. There are no vertical forward-facing or side-facing wubbies, just the six widely spaced ones on the angled face. In a future revision I may consider adding forward-facing ones like Overhaul, if this decision comes back to bite me.

One major difference with these? They ride a lot closer to the ground than Overhaul’s. In fact, I will most definitely have to finish-grind the bottom edge to get enough clearance to not get hung up on them.

This is a good thing, because it resolves the other weakness of Overhaul that was clear during the beta match – the pontoons were simply up too high to be helpful, being designed to take a whomping instead of be good foot-in-the-door implements.

An overhead view of the bot basically done – you can see the standoffs between each pair of fork plates, the tie bar between the forks, and the tube which acts as the anchor for the leadscrew.

I added tabs and slots the same way as on Overhaul to prepare the pontoons for cutting and welding.

Here’s the finished bot minus cat ears!

The ears don’t seem to be necessary on Clocker 4, but it just doesn’t look right, man. I will probably design a pair up to be printed in RMCC which will bolt to the topmost hole in the clamp arm.

I left design of the internal brackets as an exercise to be done in Atlanta, since by this point I was running up on the last week available for fabrication. Hot off the CAD presses and into real life we go!

Man, it’s been a LONG TIME since I’ve done a one-shot epic waterjetting session to pop out a robot. Pictured above is the “Clocker kit”… or some 10 gauge mild steel, 1/4″ 1/2″ and 3/4″ aluminum, and some 1/16″ FR-4 laminate.

Sadly, in my cruftiness, waterjetting is no longer free – this is probably around $400 of machine time.

To prevent the FR-4 from delaminating, I brought back one of my tricks of cutting the outer profile only, and using another material as a template. So here’s how this part went – I routed the parts manually to ensure it does all the interior holes first, then the outer profile.

I laid a piece of plywood in the machine first and had it cut only the holes. Then I clamped the FR-4 on top of the plywood and continued the toolpath to cut only the profile. The 1/2″ plywood pieces then become drilling templates for conventional drilling of the holes later, which otherwise might (WILL) delaminate since they’re piercing close to the edges.

While the design was slow-cooking to completion, I continued casting wheels, making 4 of each total. I’ve basically gotten this process down, so the next step is to try out different materials.

Here, I’m readying the frame rails for countersinking and counterboring. It’s built in the same style as Overhaul, and also many 30lbers and 12lbers. The frame rails will need machining to key into each other slightly too.

One of the last operations I was able to pull off before having to depart for Atlanta was the coring of the large lift gear. This was done using MITERlathe and like 5 different tools. MITERS didn’t have a spoon-type boring bar to make a plunging face cut easy, so I had to make do using a few different types of insert cutters, switching left-hand and right-hand tools to clean out the blind pocket.

Sadly, Monday the 28th of August was upon me. I actually spent more time in the week preceding finishing Roll Cake, since I cared a lot more about perfecting that mechanism, so Clocker 4 fell by the wayside. Clocker traveled to Atlanta in kit form, shown above. I needed to do some (lol) work on it in Atlanta, such as milling the frame slots, before it could be assembled.

And that’s the bot half of the story. Next, what about the convention!? I came this far for something, I think. Whatever is causing all that noise next to the robot events, dammit!

Robot Battles & Dragon Con 2016

So before we get to the convention proper, let me interject with a proud announcement that…

…I finally got pulled over for speeding.

You didn’t think it was physically possible, right?

I’d like to thank my parents, uhh… Boston area highways…. and, of course and Smooth Automotive for the Accidental Engine Rebuild of 2015 which has restored Mikuvan’s former power so much that I legitimately now can speed. I mean, it takes a little while to get there, and no hills please, but otherwise, I can cruise at 75mph all day – just enough to get in trouble in Virginia when the speed limit drops to 60mph for an upcoming work zone and I ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY MUST PASS THIS ONE LAST MOTHERFUCKER ON THE RIGHT HERE and… Dammit.

He got me fair and square. In fact, he didn’t even mention how I Boston’d someone immediately before the orange construction barrel forest began. So thank you in that way, Virginia State Trooper. I’m not even going to look at this ticket until I’m back in town now, because Virginia sucks.

Alright, enough of that. As I mentioned at the beginning, there were no van shenanigans to be had. I got into town around 4:30PM Wednesday, and immediately began plotting robot finishing tactics. The first order of business was getting Roll Cake its timing belt setup, which I designed quickly once I settled in and put on print. What?

Yes, I dragged the Mark Two provided by my lovely sponsor MarkForged along. Hey guys, how’s about some hot and humid weather testing?!

The SDP-SI timing belt order arrived on Thursday afternoon, so I could test the fit immediately. More importantly, though, on Thursday…

I busted into Dale‘s shop like the good ol’ days and basically took over his entire workbench. On deck were finishing some milling and turning parts for Clocker 4. I machined the axles, finished off the wheel hubs, and made the motor pinions, among other unfinished business.

The big rear chamfer for the frame rails was also cut by tilting the head of his CNC mill 30 degrees.

Friday bot work was mostly done at the GT Invention Studio. I primarily worked on Roll Cake, doing the final installation and tuning of the timing belt drive:

The pulleys were sized by how close they were to the pitch line defined in my belt loop sketch. The difference was then made up by changing the motor pulley tooth count until the tension was reasonable (just going from 21 tooth to 18 tooth in one try was enough).

This worked….. a little. Roll Cake’s movement was still extremely strained. There was no binding of the drivetrain anywhere I could see, just that there’s too many moving things for the 22:1 Fingertech motors. It moved slowly and quite arduously, and still could not turn.

Well, there wasn’t much else I could do to alleviate this problem except swap to the 33:1 gearmotors which I was able to pick up day-of MicroBattles from Mike Jeffries. Before the event started, I went ahead and did the motor transplant.

Operating sheets and all! This was so I didn’t get any abrasive/metallic grunge into the bot while cutting down the motor shafts.

The end result? I got Roll Cake to move somewhat reliably on the floor, so I went ahead and decided to put it in its first match anyway…. against Kurtis’ Black Adder.

Dammit, Kurtis.

Unfortunately, in the arena, it moved all of 18 inches or so before farting out again. It at least managed to flip Black Adder over with a chance collision. At this point, I stopped caring, since watching the mechanism test fire was more important to me than the rest of the bot, so I just kept flapping until the end.

Poor Roll Cake. It had such a bright future.

 

Okay, not really.

So the flipper mechanism kept working up until the end, even though I technically never got a direct shot at Black Adder.

That’s okay – I’m already out to rebuild this thing correctly such that it’s mobile. Roll Cake 2 will just have two brushless gimbal motors for drive, as hub motors, with the same Afro30 SimonK-enabled controllers driving them. It will have 2 larger wheels up front like a classic drumbot, not this 6WD business. Since Stance Stance Revolution could basically drive upside-down on its two discs, I’m much more confident in this setup working.

So that’s it for Roll Cake. Now back to your regularly scheduled Überclocker:

In the same work session as finishing out Roll Cake, I assembled all of the modules within Überclocker – the actuator, both drive motors, wheels, and the DeWut for the liftgear.

On Sunday afternoon, I returned to Dale’s shop to make a mess one more time. This time, to carve out the giant pocket that is in the back frame rail, formerly solid 6061 aluminum. Final weight estimates showed that I did need around 1.2 pounds out of the frame rail, so I calculated the pocket size needed, gave it some more oversize for weight tolerances, and went to town.

The next operation in Dale’s shop was putting some pilot holes into the end-tapped frame rails. I figured I could run with 1 bolt in each frame rail for now, and then drill them later once I had access again to a large drill press back at Artisan’s Asylum or MIT.  This let me put most of the frame together on Sunday evening.

After I went back home, I did what I could using the remains of my high school workbench, which contained a small 10″ drill press, hand drill, and jigsaw, plus the hand tools and cordless tools I brought down, and a few kibbles of tooling that I didn’t take up to Boston with me originally.

The above was…. basically all that I could do. Mount the shaft collar to the big lift gear using a counterbore I brought. I didn’t even have any clamps left, and by the time I got back home, all of the hardware stores and home improvement stores were closed for Sunday night. I tried drilling and tapping a few of the frame screws by hand, which was an arduous procedure. I basically called it quits around 6AM Monday after trying to work on putting it together all night, and not getting much further than 10 or so drilled holes.

Basically the most important part of having tools is having consistent tools. Maybe these tools were enough for me during high school, but I also built bots in completely different ways to accommodate them (e.g. making things from UHMW plastic). Designing for tools that are not consistently available, or totally unavailable, will just end in disappointment. I realized no matter what, I could only hack Clocker so far in the remnants of my parents’ garage if it depended on a full service shop to be put together.

So here is the assembled husk of Clocker 4 next Overhaul at Robot Battles on Monday, showing what could have been if I didn’t kick my own ass… or as Will Bales puts it, Will Balesing.

By the way, shoutouts to Matt and Dan of Chaos Corps for taking the pieces of the pontoons from me on Friday and returning them completely welded on Saturday. Not just welded, but all ground and wire brushed. I owe you guys a small water balloon filled with argon!

But wait! The story doesn’t end there!

I also brought 12 O’Clocker along, figuring that I’d be able to run something in the Monday event at least. 12 O’Clocker was working fine after Momocon, so I basically packed it right back up with some spare motors. The clamp motor on it was a little baked, so I reached out to the group for spare Kitbots/1000rpm-style motors.

It actually got a few matches in and entertained the audience immensely.

In the rumble, the lift sprocket got bent hard enough to pop the lift chain off. Otherwise, 12 O’Clocker takes no damage once again! Gosh, maybe I should just scale this thing UP instead of Overhaul DOWN, right?

So no prizes this year, and not a very good Dragon Con for robots. I’m going to continue finishing Clocker 4 in the interest of Franklin Institute Robot Conflict 2016, where I hopefully will get to play with some of the big energy bots. I never had a strategy for Overhaul against vertical weapons like drums and discs (e.g. Hypershock, Witch Doctor) – besides Don’t Get Owned, I mean. I hope the Featherweight class, which is full of vertical spinners, will let me fine tune how to approach bots like that better for #season3.

By the way, there was a trip to the new Atlanta McMaster-Carr warehouse to pick up last-minute hardware. This place is

…kinda big.

Okay, REALLY REALLY BIG. Douglasville and the surrounding west Atlanta area is kind of a new target for development, and besides industrial plazas and The McMastergon, there were plenty of housing developments. What could be better than stumbling out of bed and over to Will-Call to pick up your last night’s blurrily-assembled orders? Or hell, just wheel the robot over and work on it in the Will Call parking lot. It’s like working on your shitty car in an Advance Auto Parts parking lot! Who the hell’s ever done that… not me! Nope, never.

So wait… wasn’t there an ENTIRE CONVENTION going on besides just me working on robots? Absolutely… so let’s see how that went.

As usual, I’m too lazy to put together a worthwhile costume, so I went lazily all days as “me”. Just the Overhaul team shirt, and also wearing the Axent Wear headphones around.

I got stopped way more times than I expected.

Shown above is the crew of Jamison, Cynthia, Hannalin, and Lucy, formerly all of JACD last season. This year’s group is Overwatch. Overwatch is a video game. I haven’t played a video game with any degree of seriousness since Descent II Vertigo. I assume this is all legit. Wait until you see the construction Cynthia put into the giant bow…

There was a massive Overwatch photo gathering which took us an hour or more to get out of. Pictured above in the group are Pizoobie and Bonnie.

I generally haunt costumes which have had a lot of work put into them, especially very large and unwieldy ones. I swear at some point I will make an overly complex and elaborate costume. You could argue that Overhaul is in fact such a prop.

This was cool, too. These guys were cruisingly slowly around the convention. P I P E S

Okay, I don’t even know what’s going on any more. Overwatch players, I assume this is something you’d understand.

Alright, I usually don’t give a spare minute for Kantai Collection because it’s utterly destroyed my favorite genre. But I will make exceptions for well done ones. Behold, the U.S.S. Iowa.  I watched her being “assembled” on the spot, and before that, I followed the ant trail of battleship parts being carried high overhead down the packed street by her pit crew. Her drydock workers?

Good ol’ Kancolle, ruining “girls & machinery” since 2013.

If you know who this U.S.S Iowa is, let me know and I will gladly add links and creedits.

Now here’s how to properly do it. Besides Overwatch, Cynthia, Lucy and Hanna also teamed up for something else. Shamelessly stolen from the BattleBots Instagram, it’s….

BattleBots cosplay at @dragoncon with Lucy, Hanna and Cynthia. Zachary Ernst

A photo posted by BattleBots (@battlebots) on

I’m telling you all, #season3 will be one big weeb convention. Everything is falling into place, exactly according to keikaku. Cynthia is the designer of Haru-Chan, so it was only natural that she also sketched up plans for Sawblaze and Road Rash.

Now for the event recap!

MicroBattles this year was bigger than ever. With the insect classes (1s and 3s) being the easiest and cheapest to start in, the newbie and first timer proportion this year was immense. We ended up getting over 40 robots!

Sadly I actually missed a lot of the action getting Roll Cake prepared, but here are some of my favorites.

Here we have the wild Killer Colsonbot, which is believed to have evolved from escaped Domestic Colsonbots.

That’s Pvt. Slicer, or what happens when Mike gets ahold of the Colsonbot CAD. The cage is made of layers of waterjet-cut 4130 steel carefully welded together. It had friction drive reliability issues, but it somehow won 2 matches as round pushybot. When the cage met a vertical spinner, it died.

Representing the “meh” department of Dale’s Homemade Robots, this is Noodles, a 4wd pushybot. Besides all brushless drive, steering gyro, and a crafty urethane-sheet-mounted steel plow, it has pool noodle wheels which caused a bit of controversy because in the final a piece of them came off and jammed Black Adder’s drum.

Now, unintentional entanglement is allowed in the rules for the precise reason of a part inadvertantly coming off and getting stuck in something (as opposed to intentionally throwing things into a weapon to jam it), but there was still a fair bit of “Who do you think won this match?” talk.  I actually think repeatedly hitting the ceiling against Black Adder and coming back each time is a mark against the effectiveness of Black Adder’s weapon in this match.

It’s big bot time! After being forced to run 12 O’Clocker only, I had more time to go around and appreciate the 12s and 30s. The newbie count was great at this event also – I think probably 25% first or second events.

Pictured above, The Magical Lipo-Fire or…. something or other. The build looked great! Sadly only one match however, and fortunately did not live up to its name.

First time 30lb entry “STICK A FORK IN IT!” which was having some DeWut clutch issues this event. Hey, people, read the manual! Tighten down your DeWut clutches before using!

Team JACD Season 1  principal cheerleader Andrew brings Pusheen-Bot, a pushy-bot. It’s laser-cut out of wood, so naturally it faced a chainsaw first match.  This thing actually has two 50mm outrunners in it. It’s basically BurnoutChibi in a 30lb bot, so-illustrated by Andrew riding the bot around the room before (and during…) the event.

Another new 30lber with some heavy inspiration from Clocker and megaRon (under whichever moniker Jamison decides to run it at Robot Battles…)

There were obviously a lot of bots that I skipped, and you kind of get the idea. With the return of BattleBots to a mass audience, so the hobby grows! Robot Battles, fortunately, is one of the lowest barriers-to-entry competitions there is.

12 O’Clocker all set up and with spare clamp motor installed, ready for its first match. I had immense fun in its match with Dingleframus – it was the hardest physical driving match I’ve had in a little while, and in the end, a missed charge basically caused it to hover off the stage.

Here’s “Metric Brushless Hipster 12 O’Clocker” LiftLord, a Xo creation but shown with optional interchangeable Aaron module.

12 O’Clocker ready for its first match against Abrasive Personality, a design I really want to see more of – it has a belt sander running the length of the bot, with a backstop and all. I think this kind of design needs exploring. Putting more horsepower behind it and using a super gritty belt might actually result in some serious unconventional damage.

So what the hell are those blue things on the stage that have been appearing in every video so far?

They’re my secret weapon: 3D printed model set screws. I printed about a dozen, then another dozen or so followed me to Atlanta courtesy of RocketProps. Some local folks contributed a few more…. and suddenly, a stage full of giant set screws. Robot Battles: serious business since 1967 or whatever.

Not sure what I was doing here – probably double checking the chain drive after the rumble where it was derailed due to the main sprocket being physically bent. 12 o’clocker went 1/1 plus hanging around during the rumble, which was hugely entertaining.

Well look who’s on display!  I’m told that Witch Doctor & Hypershock were also going to be present. Lies! I didn’t see any of y’all this whole weekend, so Overhaul had to have all the fans to itself. Such a sad day.

That’s a wrap for Dragon Con 2016. Once again, I’m staying a few days extra in Atlanta, and will diffuse back up north some time this week. On deck for robot work is finishing Clocker and a quick revamp of Roll Cake before FI in about 1 month. Otherwise, I’ll be hopefully creating more problems for myself with van work soon, since I want to re-winterize a few spots before things get cold (e.g. in 2 months or so). Some of my earliest rust repair is starting to come apart finally, and I have better weaponry against it now. Further down the line is word about # s e a s o n 3 and starting Overhaul….overhaul…. work in earnest. This will ideally occur over the coming winter.

 aaayyyy