Archive for the 'In Progress' Category

 

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.

 

Operation ENDURING BROWN: Second Battle of Bunkbed Hill; The Open Windows Policy of VANTRUCK

Aug 06, 2017 in vantruck

So I mentioned at the end of the first bed drop operation that I was definitely going to do a second one now that I had seen what went into it. As it turns out, drilling holes in a truck frame is not hard, and I had to do it once already, so why not again? I dunno what I thought they were made of – maybe all of those “Over 9000% more rigid” truck ads had subliminally convinced me that all trucks are made of AR500.

Part of the issue with the first set of bed mounts was the off-center mounting holes between the bed and frame being drilled into the same bracket. This meant that no matter what, there was flexing between the bed (made of stamped sheet metal) and the plates forming the brackets, amplified by the width of the brackets and the flexibility of the rubber bushings. The bed was on the whole very wobbly, and not something I would load with more than a few compact hundred pounds.

The new plan was to make brackets with in-line holes so there was no center distance induced flex, and take the opportunity to move the bed forward the inch or so I needed.

From the first install, I knew what heights the new brackets needed to be. This is the new rear bracket, a slat of 0.5″ thick x 3″ steel bar with a hole counterbored big enough to take a 1/2″ hex-head bolt and washer.  I bought the barstock already cut to 42″ and finished the holes on the newly commissioned Bridgett.

The front bracket was a little more involved since it had to be an inch taller. I chose to use some 3/16″ wall 3″ x 1.5″ rectangular steel tubing. One side has a large hole bored to take the washer and bolt head, and the other just has a 3/4″ clearance hole. To mount the bed, I planned on welding 1/2″ coupling nuts to the inside.

I drilled one side to 3/4″ diameter and the other to 5/8″ diameter, then machined down the coupling nut into a flanged shape so it dropped in, and welded around the edges.

…which, to my chagrin, didn’t quite work out due to the width of the bushings.

 

So I machined those nuts flat and flush-welded over the seam instead!

Here’s the front bracket after…. painting. Yep, let’s take a part which nobody will ever see again after it’s installed, and paint it Miku Blue! I mean, to be fair, the real reason was for rust prevention, and I was going to leave it black after primer, but…

We bust out #OSHACrane once more! Removing the bed is almost too easy now.

Ah, we meet again after a few weeks. You can think of this operation as moving the current set of frame mounting holes to where the bed mounting holes are, but forward about 1 more inch.

This was the bushing that was completely roasted in the Great Carburetor Meltdown of 2017. It was basically turned back into the bituminous goop it was made from – anything that touched it took a chunk of it off. Luckily, I have spares from the old bed.

Commencing with new hole drilling! The white line marks the centerline of the frame member, which is not where the holes need to be – they’re about 3/8″ further out on both sides.

 

New brackets installed in place. Notice now the rear set has a 5-degree (or so) tilt to it? That’s because the correct location was technically over where the suspension hump begins. There was no avoiding this one, so I had to perform an act of mechanical terrorism instead and take advantage of the immense amount of compliance SLOP afforded by the rubber bushings.

This is a 5 degree angled biscuit piece that I whipped up and 3D printed from Onyx. I unbolt the bracket slightly, shove this under its mating interface with the bushing, and tighten it back down. The rear lip forces it to be straight with respect to the bracket. There, instant -5 degree compensation… Actually it was slightly less due to the compression of the rubber, but it was straight enough that I could get the bolt started in the threaded hole easily, and it was straight once tightened.

The height of the biscuit was an estimate of what was needed to make the bed flat with respect to the side running boards. I discovered that the front bracket might have lined up the front edge, but the bed as a whole was then tilting very very gently to the back, almost indiscernable except to obsessives like me.

This is now how the front edge of the bed lines up. I’m much happier with it, and the rigidity of the whole thing has been greatly increased. Beyond the 4 mounting holes, though, at the very back of the bed, it’s still a bit flexible. However, now that it’s in final position, I can also make the rearmost bracket, most likely from one of the existing used slats machined down.

There’s a slight optical illusion which makes the bed still look like it tilts backwards, and that’s because the endcap of the van cab tilts slightly forward – its longer at the bottom than at the top. Whatever, at least I don’t have panel gaps like this guy any more.

Broken Windows? Open Windows? y not both

Observant readers might notice that every picture of this thing since  when I got it back has had the driver’s side window rolled halfway down. That’s because the day after correcting the carburetor mishap, the power window motor died.

I have heard of vehicular whack-a-mole before, but this is the first time I have gotten to experience it.

So since then, it’s mostly been hanging out with a trash bag covering the open portion of the window. And you know what? No matter what level of trashy it is a symbol of, I refuse to have an actual trash bag window. After the bed replacement and EFI swap, it had been running without mishap, and so I decided it was time to start making problems for myself fixing up the little leftover things beyond basic drivability. You know, the same old story.

I started by removing all the interior fixtures, but couldn’t find any fasteners for the door panel. That’s because in classic 80s American car company fashion, it’s all held in by plastic snap rivets. I had to very traumatically pry at the panel little by little to free the plastic caterpillar things, one of which died from old age while in my care. Just one, whew.

….and after my emotional trauma from all that, the facepalming begins.

I often telll friends that 1980s middle-aged successful chain-smoking family-man Charles would not have bought one of these new, with the knowledge that I have of it now. The build quality all around, to be honest, is atrocious. This panel is made of regular 1/4″ plywood with the leather/fuzzy upholstery stapled to it around the edges. The pocket on the inside is also a staple job. Maybe this looked okay when it was new? I dunno. The bottom edge had significant water damage and the wood was coming apart, so I knew I had to put that back together before reinstallation.

I almost want to find some junkyard doors from a regular unadorned 3rd-generation Econoline, with its square miles of plain plastic, than deal with this. Or, perhaps, just laser-cut or CNC-rout an ABS plastic flat panel in the correct shape.

Granted, I probably wouldn’t have torn down a brand new vehicle at the time to assess build quality, but I like to think that at least some of the shenanigans such as the aftermarket wiring installs and the abomination that was the 5th-wheel hitch plate could have been seen with a lookover.

And then behind that, we have…. fucking wax paper? This is called the “vapor barrier” in the official Ford strategy guide. I call it “not ok :(”

It’s clearly been reused a few times, since its own rubber adhesive outline was long gone. Someone’s been in here with duct tape – judging by the condition of the adhesive behind the tape once I peeled it off, it’s “not less than 5 but not greater than 10″ years old.

I peel back the wax paper a little and yes, indeed, someone’s been here before. I also am not sure how you were supposed to get to this power window motor without dismantling the whole door, but I see someone’s executed a community-supported hack.

Undo the three 8mm head head bolts and the window motor falls out like it came out of a vending machine!

 

So here we have it. 1985 date code and all! I suspect if it was precisely extracted in the past 10 years, it was a junkyard unit that itself is original to the date of manufacture (not a reman unit) as it did not have any sign of a rebuilders’ label or something indicating it has been opened.

Well then, I shall be the first! Yep, that’s a really well used motor. The first thing that fell out at me was a remaining chunk of brush, so I take it to mean that it just finally ran out of brushes worth using. Self-generating brushless motors are truly the future! It looks like it would just need some cleaning and new brushes.

Yeah, umm, back up. I noticed an interesting pattern on the commutator, and when I gently clean it off I found that it had been worn into a polygon. What? Okay, I’m not going to ask….

The challenging part was finding motor brushes I could swap in. My life has become so brushless that I had a hard time finding motors with replaceable brushes to scrap them out of, and trips to 2 local hardware stores revealed that they no longer had the little bin of motor brushes (because nobody rebuilds tools any more :’(((((((( ) I knew from years before when I didn’t need them!

Finally, I took apart the air horn compressor motor that I pulled out of the engine bay and… well, they’re wrongly sized in one dimension, but that’s what a belt sander is for!

 

I decided that as funny as a 11-sided commutator was, it was going to be bad for the new brushes, so I turned down the copper bars using Taki-chan and cleaned between the valleys with a knife blade afterwards. A quick gentle polish with some Scotch-brite and the motor was ready for service again.

The new motor back end after cleaning and re-arming the trimmed brushes. I put everything back together and ran the motor for 5 minutes on 6 volts to get all the new brushes and commutator comfortable with each other.

I then poured epoxy all into the door panel’s rotten bottom edge and clamped it together for a few hours. Sorry, no fancy interior customization here. I just want it to stay together until it gets replaced with some LED-backed smoked acrylic or something.

Back in we go! I carefully reapplied the lunch bag and taped more constently around the edges. The plastic caterpiller rivets were in general reused – I would have had to take off the fuzzy interior to replace them which is patently absurd so this door panel will be a little wiggly from here on.

 

And a pleasant test mission to Lake Chuggawuggadingdong, making 9.2 miles per gallon all the way there and back.

(๑◕︵◕๑)

Well, the mission wasn’t to see the attention-getting placename of a town that seems desperate for tourism dollars all around, but to visit a nearby salvage yard to pick up some interesting EV components with MITERS. It’s another hybrid battery, this time out of a Hyundai Sonata – a relatively tiny 1.5kWh, 72S lithium polymer unit from a car literally nobody cares about, so it was super cheap at $260. It could split up into several Power Racing Series batteries, much like what I did with the Ford Fusion battery for Chibi-Mikuvan.

I’m not doing anything with it, but pay attention to MITERS members’ websites and you might see something neat later I suppose.

Operation ENDURING BROWN: Modification of the FiTech Fuel Command Center

Jul 19, 2017 in vantruck

Hello kids, and welcome to another edition of Big Chuck’s Automotive Blog! By some amount of popular request and my documentation obession, this is another minipost on a single subject: modifying your nuclear reactor to not go Full Three-Mile Island, so you can get your Full Three-Mile Gallons instead. Basically, this is just presenting the information you’d get from a user community but in long-form with photos and having it be search-engine friendly.

To recap, the FiTech Fuel Chernobyl Command Center has a nasty habit of overheating due to its design: A high-pressure fuel pump located in a returnless sump that constantly circulates the same few quarts of gasoline supplied to it by (ideally) your car’s original low pressure mechanical or electric tank pump. It’s supposed to be an intermediary in the fuel-injection conversion and should in theory allow you to keep a completely unmodified fuel system from the carbureted engine.

So essentially, unless you’re running wide open throttle on a racetrack, it will sit there slowly heating up its little puddle of gasoline to OVER 200 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT often vapor-locking itself or damaging the pump from overheating. Let me bring that back: There is a half gallon or so of boiling, pressurized gasoline with a small electric motor angrily buzzing away inside it, next to your engine. Good thing they call that a firewall in front of you, huh? For me and my love of silly vans with the engine as a permanent front-seat passenger, that means the thing is basically next to my balls. This is patently unacceptable.

The community has come up with a solution which involves modifying the FCC housing to accept a conventional fuel-return line that runs back to the fuel tank, so the LP lift pump will just keep cycling fuel through the housing continuously. Here’s how to do it!

Alright! So here is your reactor core vessel. The whole unit is made of four threaded components, like pipe plugs – the top endcap with the wobbly needles and ports, the upper threaded portion (which I’ll call the bowl), the lower threaded portion (which I’ll call the cup), and the cup’s own lower threaded end cap.

The top cap is the one that needs to be removed. Both the top and bottom caps have spanner wrench slots. However, I couldn’t conjure up a spanner wrench that fit around the thing, so I resorted to bashing it into rotating with a brass dowel and mallet.

It took a lot of effort – this thing has an O-ring seal which is tighter than the FiTech tech pages let on, and I deformed some of the spanner wrench slots. After about 2 rotations with hitting the slots, it was loose enough to turn by hand.

Note that the cup and bowl WILL start unthreading from each other if you only grip it like I did above, by the cup. Ideally you’d use a strap wrench or something to grip the bowl.

Alright! The top cap has been removed and oh god it’s literally a bucket of gasoline help me

 

Here is a closeup of the structure inside the top cap. About now is when I realized that this thing was very overengineered. Notice how I didn’t say it was a good design – just that it’s overengineered. Trust me, I have a MIT degree in overengineering.

The aim in the common community mod is to remove the black float and the carburetor-style needle valve it actuates. So basically this float dictates the fuel level inside the container, just like a giant carburetor bowl – fuel too high, needle valve closes and does not admit fuel being fed in. This procedure can be done by removing the two Phillips-head screws holding the float on.

Some people then leave the needle valve in since it technically can supply the needed fuel flow anyway, but some choose to unscrew the needle valve and seal the hole with a plug. You have to remove one of the gauges to get at this needle valve, though, so I elected to not do so.

 

That’s because I found that you could bypass the two parts completely by taking out this screw to the side.

Doing this made me realize the top cap was a single piece machined manifold-like piece, and the fuel galleries were made by cross-drilling holes until they hit each other. I mentally counted over 2 dozen machining operations and at least 3 setups that had to be done on this piece (less if they instead have a really big and pricy 4-axis CNC lathe with live tooling…) plus the raw material cost of starting with a 8″ billet, plus I swear the bowl piece is machined from solid because of the internal flanges, O-ring grooves, and seeming lack of signs of a spinning operation.

What I’m saying is, some intern had a lot of fun muscle-flexing Manufacturing 101 with this thing. Nobody, however, saw 200+F PRESSURIZED GASOLINE BUCKET coming.

I removed the float anyway to reduce the number of parts inside, but elected to not remove the needle valve since I did not have a plug of the same thread size handy. It’s now bypassed completely.

The next step is to remove the outlet filter on the ‘VENT’ port. This is a very restrictive filter since it’s supposed to not let fuel through, only v a p o r s .

In older FCC designs, this was a little ball check valve. Either way, it has to go!

Okay, I couldn’t find a good way to remove that roll pin since it’s blocked from the side I would need to drive it outwards. So I did what any sensible engineer would do – drill it to hell. Some stirring with a 1/8″ drill bit and the sintered bronze particles all fell out!

All closed up! I greased the o-ring on the way back in so it rotated a lot more smoothly. The final tighten was by hand, and that’s all you really need.

What this turns the FCC into is just a tiny auxiliary fuel tank with a high pressure pump in it. The ‘VENT’ nozzle now becomes a fuel return line. Low pressure fuel enters as normal and what isn’t used will leave back to the fuel tank via ‘VENT’.

I took the opportunity to reroute some of the messier hose positions and made them exit all in one direction. Since I already had VENT hooked up to the former return line anyway, I didn’t have to do anything else.

Notice the vacuum line now attached to the formerly plugged fuel pressure regulator module in the center. This is a more recent service advisory by FiTech to stabilize fuel pressure – I read about it before the conversion, but ran out of vacuum hose so didn’t perform it right away. Connecting this FPR to the manifold vacuum caused the fuel output pressure to stabilize at about 45 PSI – previously, it rapidly vibrated between 40 and 50 PSI. The in-tank pumps now happily push a constant stable 3-4 psi around at the low pressure gauge.

Vantruck has been around nearly 300 miles since this modification was made and I haven’t poked anything under the hood a single time. I don’t have a IR thermometer reading of the reactor temperature on a hot day, but I’ll say that it’s actually cooler than the rest of the engine bay now. If you’re in Cambridge or Everett, you might hear it brodozing its way around from 2 blocks away because STRAIGHT PIPES.

I actually need to remedy that – I’ve already been compliment-warned by one police officer… Hey, nice truck! I know you don’t have a muffler on that thing, so don’t drive too fast around here or we might hear it….

Next challenge: Get more than 10 smiles per gallon. <:(

Operation ENDURING BROWN: To Kill a Unicorn; The FITech EFI Installation Horror Picture Show

Jun 29, 2017 in vantruck

And we’re back! This is a special edition of Big Chuck’s Auto Body Center, and it’s one which is super special to me because it represents the largest systemic rework and installation I’ve ever done on a vehicle: Vantruck is now no longer carbureted; instead, it has a FITech EFI system. No more massaging unicorns to try and get the thing to run right!

Being a car-thing, the process was rife with what I call “tribal knowledge” – the “go on this forum and ask these people / read this thread” kind of Do You Know a Muffin Man documentation which I absolutely dread. As someone who isn’t a car guy by history, I once again found myself in the position of potentially saving hours of testing and debugging which would have been more intuitive to someone who’s worked on automotive systems extensively, or if the manual & official documentation had been more complete.

So that’s why I’m going to write this down in excruiciating detail, because I know I’ll forget half the reasons why I did something in a few months, and plus now so can you. I really hope to clear up some of the mysticism around the product by putting it in long form with my own analytics. To skip the opening movie and go directly to the installation and tuning, click here. And my summary of the install here.

The story begins with this:

Hey, if you ever wondered how a muffler works, there it is! They’re deceptively simple inside. While I’ve seen the diagrams and videos explaining how they work, that still isn’t the same as seeing…. your own…. up close.

That is the result of an epic afterfire. What led up to it was about 10 minutes or so of completely normal operation as I headed to help a friend move apartments (“Yes! Finally a reason to justify the ownership of a 21ft long dually truck in Boston!”). There after, it suddenly started running extremely rich, very quickly. I’d put a link to explain those terms here, but the top hundred Google results or so are all “How do I tell if my engine is running lean or rich?” followed by dozens of car bro comments on debugging carburetors.

The bottom line is loss of power, black smoke out of the exhaust and all, followed by the onset of puffs and pings as pockets of unburnt fuel ignited in the exhaust system. And then it exploded.

Did I mention I was in rush-hour traffic? So besides farting black smoke on people, I just grenaded the muffler surrounded on all 4 sides by probably grimacing tech/biomed workers wondering which flyover state I drove in from. And then it caught on fire.

You see, the muffler is positioned sort of directly inside of the frame rails, and when it opened up, it did so towards the frame rails. Fresh hot exhaust gases and probably gasoline droplets began cooking the frame. Right next to the opening, as it turns out, was the forward bed mount rail with its rubber bushings. Which proceeded to catch on fire and billow more smoke.

So now I’m in the middle of rush hour and smoke is emanating from under the truck. I pull the most illegal possible U-turn over the median (because who is going to stop me?) and rolled into a shopping center. At this point I didn’t know where the smoke was coming from, but I was paranoid about the forward fuel tank being involved, so I ran into a restaurant and demanded a fire extinguisher because there was now a burning vehicle in their parking lot. They happily obliged, and I puffed the bushing out.

I had Vantruck towed back (by the same dude as before, no less) later that night after deciding it was not going to make it back to base with the muffler still pointing at the same spot.

And then I straight piped it. Hey, inspections aren’t for another few months! You can see the crystalline residue from the compressed water extinguisher’s output, which smelled like vinegar and had the appearance of green coolant, and a little bit of charred wiring that leads to the running board lights. Behind the wire and barely visible are the cooked rubber mounts.

Luckily, my extra thicc steel slats that mount the bed appear to have kept the fire underneath for the most part, and there was no significant damage to the bed that I could see. The event all went down after the muffler bomb in about a minute, so I’m fairly sure the frame isn’t heat-damaged, just the rubber mount and my pride.

I resolved that day to never deal with carburetors again. I didn’t even bother looking at it or taking anything apart, because the next time I opened the hood, it was getting removed completely. I don’t care how whisperable they are, I’ll take an inferior performing system for consistency over something which requires constant jiggling and knob turning. What if that randomly decides to happen in the middle of Detroit?

Yeah, yeah, I’m a Mechanical Engineer and all, shush. I’m pretty convinced that emissions laws ruined carburetors, turning them from simple mechanical devices to complex vacuum-this valve-that nonsense…. and Vantruck’s carburetor belongs squarely in the latter category. When the magic gas-dispensing unicorns get that bad, they’re going to get euthanized.

Which brings us to….

the install

YEEEEAAAHHH. One of the first things I did when I got back to the shop was start scouring eBay and Craigslist for nearby EFI rigs. I had been investigating this as a stopgap option between caburetion and my electric install (The dream is still alive). The Holley Sniper, Fitech GoEFI, and MSD Atomic TBI were all on my list, and appeared to share similar functions.

I found a single listing in New Hampshire for the Fitech full kit, including the miniature nuclear reactor on the left, a high-pressure fuel pump and sump, all for 1K, making the Fuel Command Center basically free. Sure, why not!

I was on the fence before, but this event pushed me over the edge. Right now I can’t have a half-taken-apart project vehicle, so when that day comes, I’ll sell the whole powertrain to make that cost back if need be. The explosion went down on Friday, and I was on the road Monday to pick up the unit. Because fuck everything, especially careburetors.

Here we go! I picked out the following Saturday to get as much of it installed as I could. First order of business was mounting the nuclear reactor. Seriously, what else does it look like!? From doing research after I bought it, this device seems to have overheating issues, so mounting it was a tradeoff. I didn’t want to stick it under the body, since I’d then have to run new high-pressure rated fuel hosing up to the engine bay (almost all of the existing connections and hoses were designed originally for low pressure pumps). And under the hood was convenient for those reasons, but next to the engine seemed to be a no-no.

I found a spot on the drivers’ side just behind the headlight. There is a round cutout with direct grille access for moving air. I’d just have to relocate one of the horns, which I did by mounting it to the same stud as its brother.

 

The reactor mounting bracket is secured by a single overtightened 5/16″ bolt sandwich with lockwashers and regular washers of incrementing sizes.  What, did you expect me to engineer a decent mount when I had access to unbridled mechanical terrorism instead?

 

The FCC installed and initially plumbed. This reactor thing is supposd to be a ‘returnless’ system, so it should only have one low-pressure input fuel line. It has a vent hose connection which is supposed to go back to the fuel tank. I just connected it to the Return port of the magic fuel tank switching valve anyway, since obviously it would need to vent to the same tank it’s drawing from.

Don’t talk to me or my son ever again.

This removal was fairly simple. I undid the throttle cable (which was a ball joint… I’d never seen this before, since Mikuvan’s throttle cable ends in a pinch lock like a bike), unfastened the fuel line, vapor collector lines, and random vacuum lines, and then loosened the 4 nuts retaining the whole carb.

The problem was that I now had a mess of vacuum lines. A lot of research let me to find that the majority of these control emissions-related functions – some are heat-triggered, some are manifold vacuum triggered, and so on. Well, good thing Vantruck is emissions exempt in Massachusetts, because I’m never going to hook these back up. I capped every vacuum line I could find that wasn’t the distributor; other vacuum functions like the transmission modulator and brake booster had their own direct-to-manifold fittings.

The next job was to transfer over the throttle lever. I did this figuring that nobody made the ball joint that was on the thing, and since it was riveted in, I’d have to salvage the entire linkage (which is ALSO riveted/stamped in). Come on, people.  I used an angle grinder to carefully shave the stamped connection and pulled the lever off.

Later that day, I found the ball joint on the shelf at Pep Boys. Ah well…

Here is the lever installed and both of the throttle flaps connected. The secondary linkage connection point (to the right of the big nut) is at a bad spot to be effective. This arrangement would really only let the secondary open about 45 degrees. I may play with it later, but I’d rather run on 1 barrel and a pony keg forever than keep trying to get all four barrels in on the action.

And back on we go. The little ball chain is the connection point for the cruise control vacuum actuator (Crap, I should go check if that still works…)

Continuing the “plug the vacuum line” game after hooking up the new fuel hose, which I synthesized from the fittings provided in the kit and some sections of 5/16″ EFI-rated fuel hose from Pep Boys. The High pressure side was now plumbed.

Next, I dove under to route the oxygen sensor. The kit has a wideband O2 sensor with a provided clamp-on bung, so installation was simple with a step drill. That exhaust pipe looks rusty, but it’s all surface and still has reasonable wall thickness all-around. I installed this as close to the Y-point of the exhaust manifold downpipes as I could stuff the drill, since the transmission was still behind me.

I’m told that the clamp mount is less secure and more prone to leaking than welding it. I’ll check on this thing periodically, but I’m not busting out a welder. Remember, if I play my cards right, it will be Tesla powered in a year or two and all of this internal combustion hogwash is leaving. Keep the dream alive.

The vacuum line plugging game continues at the back. Most of these are now vapor collection lines. Since all of that has been rendered obsolete by fuel injection, I also went ahead and removed all of the control valves which formerly led to the carburetor too. The only connections to the vapor system I’m aware of now is the fuel tank. Maybe if this affects operation, I’ll find which line went to the purge control system and hook them back up. Until then, rot in hell, stupid vacuum bullshit.

The thick cable coming out of the TBI unit is the O2 sensor cable, which was just long enough to reach the spot I ended up drilling at, with something like less than an inch of slack. Yay!

Another vacuum-powered accessory to go was an air intake diverter plate. It opens and closes based on temperature – when the engine is cold, it pulls from near the exhaust manifold which heats up quickly, helping warm the intake air. When the engine warms up, it intakes from the front of the grille. Well guess who’s forever intaking from the front of the grill now!?

Vacuum powered this, vacuum powered that. Seems like the better these trucks ran, the more they sucked.

This yellow thing was connected to a coolant bung next to the water pump – it seems to be the thermal switch which lets the temperature-dependent emissions ratchets and clanks access the manifold vacuum. It went away so I could locate the TBI unit’s water temperature sensor there instead, and all of its connected lines were plugged. I’m sure I’ve plugged the same circuit multiple times now. I don’t care.

 

Performing final hose routing… I labeled literally everything, even if it’s supposed to be dead obvious. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from working on silly vans, it’s that nothing is obvious the way I’d like it to be, and That Doesn’t Mean It Works.

 

I wired in the fuel pump with the provided Big Red Wire and my own section of ground wire, which was tied to the frame nearby.

One random thing I found was the underhood light being directly connected to the battery positive, through a fusible link. Now hold on…. there is no way this wasn’t someone’s random hack. Why would you connect a light bulb directly, unswitched, to the battery!? I figure this must be why the underhood light socket was empty – because otherwise, you’d have a light bulb draining your battery constantly!

I tied this circuit away as I cleaned up the battery-side wiring for powering the ECU. It may…. return some day?

The next wire to be installed is the ignition sensing wire. I’m setting up the system in “easy mode” since I am not inclined to take apart the distributor to lock out the centrifugal and vacuum advance system (good explanations starting about 60% down the page). Since the engine ran great (when it wasn’t shitting itself), I figured all the timing components were adjusted correctly already.

I wanted electronic timing control, of course, but it seems like this was one aspect which wasn’t self-learning, and I would actually need a dynamometer to really take advantage of it to get the maximum performance possible. Hey, you know what else makes this thing haul ass? Two Tesla motors!

So at this point I had ECU power, oxygen sensor, coil sense, and fuel pump. The last thing to do now is the ignition key swich. There wasn’t a good exposed point to do this cleanly at, so I spliced it in line with the associated ignition module wire. That yellow push-on connector, also fitted to my other wire splices, won’t be there forever. Just for the first run, since it’s not very vibration proof.

And it’s ALIVE! Well, partially. This is really where the fun began, and the whole activity began to remind me of tuning a custom 3D printer: You have to perform a multi-variate gradient descent kind of optimization of several variables at once, from a baseline configuration.Everything is changeable, so you can actually arrive at the same result from different directions with different end settings. And there is not a single correct answer. Kind of like building silly go-karts!

This process really took me longer than the install itself (which the advertised 3-5 hours, by the way, is utter bullshit but I’ll get to that!) and occurred over a few days of road testing and annoying the neighbors in the parking lot.

the problems

First, I had trouble getting it started at all. It would crank for 15-20 seconds at a time, and then very begrudgingly begin to idle. I couldn’t tell if it wasn’t getting enough fuel (too lean) or too much (too rich, engine being flooded). Being that my initial few pulls were at night, I couldn’t see if the exhaust was emitting dark smoke (too much fuel). Some times, when it did start and run, it would then idle well.

Other times, the screen would go blank and the ECU would reset, cutting the ignition and shutting the engine off.

When it did successfully start, run, and warm up (about 1/3rd of the time), I noticed that the Idle Air Control position, which is recommended to be between 3 and 10 by the manual, would never really rise above 0-2 no matter where I had the idle position screws adjusted to. I even accidentally backed them all the way out, causing the throttle butterflies to stick in the barrels (needing a hard shove on the throttle pedal to free them).

I deduced that the hard starting and the random cutting out was two separate problems. With the day pretty much done and any more bald eagle emitting from the now straight-pipe exhaust going to really piss off the households across the street, I decided to return the next day.

One of the things I noticed in the daylight was that the exhaust did indeed shoot out black smoke while it was desperately trying to climb up to idle speed (which itself took a few seconds). As I found out from asking around, this is a pretty classic sign of too much fuel at start causing the engine to flood out, and the gradual acceleration is the clearing of the unburnt fuel out of the cylinder. There were settings to adjust how much fuel the injectors add at start under the Prime Fuel Multiplier and Crank Fuel [temperature] labels. I decreased Prime Fuel to 0 and Crank Fuel down about 10 units each at a time, but I couldn’t really make the starting more reliable or less sooty.

However, I also found that while the engine was running was how low the battery voltage was showing compared to what it should be while the engine is running. I found that it varied significantly between about 11.5 volts to as low as 10 volts, with a variation of 0.3 or more. And it was constantly changing. The battery, meanwhile, was sitting at an expected 13.5 volts.

Uh oh. That to me was a sign of a bad ground or bad power wire. I know all the positive connections were secure (the little orange things have never let me down despite not being a long-term solution), but couldn’t figure out where the unit derived its ground. A call to FiTech support (and a 30 minute hold wait) confirmed that the unit grounds through its machined casting bottom and a bare spot above one of the mounting stud holes.

Oh, the bottom that’s touching a thick rubber gasket and the machined spot which is attached to a very rusty stud and equally rusty nut? That one? Great! I cleaned the stud with a wire brush and used a new zinc-plated nut – and the ground problem went away! I had stable 13.0v on the ECU readout and could now try to replicate my other problems.

I didn’t get a chance to fully differentially diagnose the starting issue, though, because while on the phone I discoverd that my unit’s firmware was well out of date. The new firmware included a setting to modulate the fuel pump PWM% to prevent overheating – great, I’ll upgrade immediately. Updating the firmware was basically dragging and dropping an entire operating system and folder structure onto the handheld programmer’s SD card. I see that they employ real software developers!

Obviously, it started on the first pull thereafter and settled to idle very quickly. So I’m not entirely sure if it was solved by the grounding remedy or the new firmware has more correctly set initial conditions – the Crank Fuel settings were all zeroed out compared to my original firmware. I’m also not sure if the previous owner changed them or not from the older firmware’s stock settings; the guy’s story was he ran the engine it was installed in for a very short time before deciding to move in a different direction with his entire project.

I personally lean towards “grounding issue” because another symptom I wasn’t sure was quite correct was that when I first keyed on, the injectors would fire wildly. I was told in the manual to expect a click, but what I got were several dozen if not hundreds of clicks. Some more poking in the FiTech Owners Facebook group showed me that the wild clicking is the result of noise on the coil sense line. I could buy that a bad ground would cause enough apparent voltage swing on the coil to falsely trip the logic.

Either way, with the grounding issue resolved and Vantruck starting consistently without smoking up the whole neighborhood, I returned to fiddling with the Idle Air Control setting, which still had problems moving from zero.

I was informed by the group that if the vehicle has secondary air injection (smog pumps), that this would cause issues with running because the exhaust would have fresh air injected into it, causing it to read artificially lean. Well, Vantruck has not one, but two of them!

I could buy this as a reason why the IAC motor was shutting the valve off completely. Say the air pumps make the exhaust gases read too-lean. That says to it more air than fuel is being inducted than necessary. Because the idle fuel and RPM target is something you set, it can’t just increase fuel, because it will also increase the idle RPM. It has only one variable of control: the IAC valve.

To test this theory, I just removed the air pump belts.

Aha, and the IAC instantly leaps up to the mid 20s. This actually seemed to run fine, but I decided to re-adjust the throttle linkage and the idle control screws to put it in the recommended range of 3  to 10.

One of my mistakes in fidding with the throttle linkage was trying to tune the idle control screws with both of them connected together. I really wasn’t sure what was moving what, and it took a while of either not being able to change the IAC steps, or backing one of the screws out so far it wasn’t touching the butterfly stops any more.

This was my “A Car Guy would know better” moment. I found out that you should disconnect the primary and secondary, adjust the idle control screws separately, then connect them together with the linkage set to the right length.

I started with both idle control screws cranked rather far in to ensure they were touching the stops. This caused Vantruck to want to idle at 1800 RPM, which was quite exciting. I then adjusted the secondary throttle stop out until it was just barely not sticking (closing too far) and Loctite’d the screw in place.

Then I did the same to the primary throttle using the IAC step value as a guide. I turned the screw outwards slowly until the IAC settled above zero, then out some more as it increased in value (throttle too closed, I’m gonna open more).

I finally got it to settle between 5-8. At the behest of some group members, I changed the Loop Up and Loop Down settings upwards to make the IAC respond faster (settling to idle from revving high quicker) as it was taking a few seconds to find the idle again after throttling.

After the engine could start and run reliably, I began turning down the Crank Fuel and Prime Fuel settings again to see if I could get it to use less fuel on startup. I ended up settling on -20 and -30 for the 65 degree and 170 degree (basically, summer-cold and warm restart) Crank Fuel settings, with Prime Fuel remaining at zero. Obviously, I have no way to test the 20 degrees Crank Fuel setting at the moment, but in the coming months….


After travelling to Pep Boys on its own power to pick up some air filter studs (the stock one no longer fit), I made one final linkage adjustment to connect the secondary throttle less sloppily, and closed up the system.

The story doesn’t quite end there. On a 60-mile test loop around the Route 128/I-95 corridor, I had a moment where I lost fuel feed in the middle of some afternoon traffic, and had to scramble to the rightmost lane. It seems like the FCC is still overheating, taking a few minutes to cool back down before some sort of thermal fuse/breaker resets. Either way, that was an embarrassing few minutes taking up space on I-95 during somewhat rush hour.

After it cooled off, I decided to high-tail it back to base, whereupon getting off the highway, being in regular street traffic, it died again.

Another few minutes of sitting around in a parking lot with the hood open again, and I was able to make it back to the shop (and subsequently after it cooled completely, on a local Home Depot and Taco Bell run) with zero problems. The day afterwards, I was able to run on another ~30 minute local mission without issues, but the FCC was too hot to comfortably touch afterwards. So it seems like the system’s heating time constant is between 30 and 45 minutes to failure.

There are several modifications that people make to the FCC to ensure it can cool off, which I will attend to later in the week. The FCC is a “returnless” system, which simplies installation, but seems to imply the fuel pump basking in a small puddle of rapidly heating gasoline. It also means it’s heating a sealed container of gasoline to 200-fucking-something degrees. What. The modifications involve repurposing the “vent” hose as a real fuel return line – luckily for me, I already have a return system set up, so the modifications will just need to be made and then the pump can cycle through fuel quickly.

And there we have it. Vantruck is now no longer powered by unicorns. What mythical animal should the FITech rig be? Some friends suggested a griffin, but I think I’ll stick with some sort of Pokemon.

So how satisfied am I so far?

3/5 stars, might not recommend

It’s not the functionality of the system (past the quirkiness of the FCC, which looks impressive but didn’t seem to be that well thought out). In fact, I want to love everything about it, and it seems like many people do. Maybe my love for it is just caused by my abject hatred of caburetors. But the process to get there is extremely arduous and it seems like I am far from the only one who has faced some seemingly common issues.

Here’s what I see as problems:

  • The documentation provided does not explain what the variables and settings mean in detail, only that there are some that you should change to certain ranges for most applications. It exists to a limited degree in the “Basic User Manual”, but what would be helpful is company-provided presets for certain engine ranges, or known working configs for a specific engine year range. This exists as people sharing calibration files, but it really needs to be an official thing.
  • The documentation is scattered as blog-like posts on FITech’s website and .doc files provided with the firmware drop, and a lot of additional documentation simply exists as answers to FAQ posts by users. And they apply to different firmware and hardware revisions without any indication – there’s no version control for the documentation.
  • There is practically no debugging or troubleshooting guide. I feel like the unsteady injector clicking (caused either by the ground problem or the noise on the coil sensing line) should be at the top of one. The only source of troubleshooting I used in this install was my mechanical/electronic engineer’s intuition and asking people.
  • As a result, the setup and install really relies on the “guru” or “tribal knowledge” system, or as I call it, “Do You Know a Muffin Man?” where you find someone who’s done it before and ask them about it. I tend to have a dim view of these systems if it’s a product which should have a company’s dedication behind it. If it’s some open-source hackable, I find it more tolerable, since the idea there IS that the community builds up something that’s greater than all of its members’ individual contributions.
  • Even the Basic Setup guide still assumes a lot about “car guy” knowledge. I don’t know how much you can really stray from this, since installing an entire new fuel system is kind of not a generalist task. Maybe this is just compounded by the frequency of needing to refer to a user community for guidance, and it’s on me to learn some of these hobby- or trade-specific things.

 

lul and then wut

 

The FCC’s problems are seemingly still being worked through and they may have an ‘official solution’ soon, but I think even a general informational document, like a service bulletin, that has the overheating issue spelled out would have been less frustrating. Hey, I’ll loop the damn thing into the air conditioning circuit if I have to, just tell me that I have to! I’ve had to piece together from the user groups the steps needed to modify the FCC to use a true return line.

In the mean time, I’ve at least gotten everything back to the state where it works 100% of the time, 60% of the time! Consider me a happy customer. There will probably be more setting jiggling posts coming, since you never truly finish tuning a homebuilt 3D printer.  In summary, the problems I faced and the remedies I used:

  • Poor ground. Symptom: Unstable RPM readings, unstable and too-low battery voltage readings, sporadic injector firing (many clicks) on key-on. Remedy: Be better grounded. I polished the attachment hardware, some people run a dedicated line to the battery.
  • Hard starting. Symptop:  long cranking, gradual buildup to idle while sounding like it’s running on 3 or 4 cylinders, and smoky exhaust indicating too-rich condition. Remedy: Adjusting down the Prime Fuel and Crank Fuel values. Problem might have been solved by proper grounding.
  • IAC value too low. Symptom: The IAC floored itself to 0 and stayed there. Remedy: Proper adjustment of throttle linkage to use idle stop screws, removal of SAI/smog pump drive belt.
  • IAC value too high. Symptom: The IAC ended up around 24-30. Remedy: Proper fine adjustment of the throttle linkage. Though some in the community now say that having it around 20 seems to be better anyway. The books still recommend 3-10.
  • FCC overheating. Symptom: It gets too hot to touch and will fail to push any pressure. Remedy: Updated firmware to latest version to enable PWM control, but it may still be facing sporadic overheating problems. Future remedy as of now will be modifying the canister to use the VENT line as a Return line, and also connecting the onboard fuel pressure regulator to the vacuum system.

Operation ENDURING BROWN: The First Battle of Bunk Bed Hill

Jun 05, 2017 in vantruck

Alright! Welcome to another exciting episode of “Wait, when did this become a car blog? I thought it was about brushless motors!” Well, just like how I commit horrible abominations to the industry of mechanical engineering daily, here is an abomination for gearheads: If you ever wanted to mate a truck bed to a van frame, this is your moment. Because I’m about to do just that, and put it on record.

As soon as I got VANTRUCK running (even if a little off-tune), I called a convention of my somewhat automotive-minded friends. We’re like the Justice Friends of working on silly vans. Together, we will take on the challenges of…

 

Oh boy. This mess needs to be unstacked first, then we deal with everything else. This assemblage was referred to as “bunk beds”, lending the name to this glorious undertaking. In one work afternoon we planned to remove the old bed and at least inspect/plan for new bed install. It was known to not be a drop-on installation, at least not with our knowledge of the light truck universe. That is, someone who has worked with Ford products for years could probably have identified a shortcut or workaround by reading on… well too late, we already did it the stupidest possible way! Actual installation was to be another day, with a week in between (where people had real jobs to attend to) where I would pregame making the needed brackets and assembling hoisting tools.

Removing the F350 bed from the stack was a 4-person job that involved sliding it backwards off the old bed and standing it upright on a large sheet of cardboard. It was then slid out of the way on the cardboard. I’d estimate it weight around 300-350 pounds – we could all handle it, but not with much finesse and certainly not for long.

So here we go! The first task in removal was identifying and removing all of the bolts holding the old bed on. The rusted-in-place carriage bolts with nuts underneath hidden by fuel tanks, crossmembers, and suspension components.

Half of the 12 carriage bolts were simply cut off at the heads because well, am I gonna reuse this? No. and the other half came off with differing amounts of effort.

This adventure took up a full half of the afternoon alone, and made me swear off the use of any independent nuts in the new mounting scheme. I’d much rather tighten bolts into threads that are machined into or welded onto (via weld nuts or tapped spacers/plates) the new bed mounting cross-members, than ever deal with a rusty Ny-lock nut again.

 

Lacking any sort of crane or hoist, we improvised with shoulder-slung steel tubes. This worked okay and clearly let all of us see who was the manliest man to ever man. Hint: wasn’t me.

This custom bed probably weighs north of 400 pounds (and is enormous) and while we were able to remove it, it was not with any precision. We basically dragged it off over the wheels.

This cannot be the case for the new bed, because it would mean a lot of damage to the underside. It’s built with more heavy steel than the F350 bed; we all thought it would weigh less, but in my opinion it was actually substantially more. Probably because it was designed from the start as a 5th-wheel mounting point.

And here it is, I now have a Vant. We just removed the -ruck part. There’s a lot of interesting and absolutely terrific things going on under that bed. First thing to note is it’s all mounted to 10 rubber body-mount bushings, not directly attached to the frame in any way. I don’t know if that’s normal for truck beds in general.

 

These are what I call “Precision Van Spacers”. They were under every crossmember, in varying amounts. I don’t know if these were “factory” or if someone installed them “aftermarket”. A good laugh was had by all.

 

What made me wonder even more was this large 5th-wheel hitch mounting plate. While it had Precision Van Spacer mounts in the end crossmembers, it was also welded to the frame through the angle brackets, here seen cut through with a grinder. So was the bed floating or not!? Anyways, this contraption had to be totally removed. It looks like it was supposed to be bolted through drilled frame holes, but someone made some interesting van decisions. I’l likely grind the remaining tabs more flush later.

I took the bushings off and….. I should not have taken the bushings off.

I didn’t need to see this. 1980s mulleted chain-smoker Charles would not have bought one of these now that he has had a good look at the build quality and, umm, craftsmanship.

So that’s the conclusion to Day 1 / Week 1. I now had to measure out and plot how to make new crossmembers to take advantage of the existing ragged Glory Holes torch-cut into the frame. <:(

I knew what I wanted was all topside service (no one guy above the bed, another underside, with some combo of breaker bars and push-me-pull-you dances) and no nuts. The new crossmembers would be fewer in number, as the F350 bed only has 3 rows of mounting holes, and likely just a flat slab of thick steel so I can thread into it directly.

Hey, look what’s easy to reach now! I replaced the rear fuel pump assembly and gauged the condition of the tank. Verdict? The rear tank is in much better shape than the front. This means the front tank had been out of service potentially for a year or two, if not more, gauging from its interior condition and the state of the remnant gasoline I pulled out. The rear would have been in use and cycling fuel through, preventing a lot of corrosion. The rear fuel pump wasn’t bad either, but the fuel gauge resistor strip had worn through (that’s why it didn’t read properly).

In the intervening week, I decided to just buy a Harbor Freight engine crane. I’ve had reasons to want one before, but never pressing ones such as “The landlords are asking why I have truck parts strewn about all over the parking lot”. As I mentioned above, we were not going to be able to wrestle the new bed on with any degree of precision, at least not with the GAINZ we’d be able to pick up in only a week, so a hoisting device was needed to take the weight while we did maneuvering only.

I also researched how people manipulate truck beds. This video (mute the soundtrack -_- ) ended up being my example, since he used the Harbor Freight engine crane. I’ve also seen two-crane dances and gantry cranes; while I would love to have a portable gantry crane, it’s basically a rigging job to buy one on its own and I decided it was beyond scope for the time being.

There was only one problem. The 2-ton Harbor Freight crane wouldn’t have reached far enough into the bed to balance it, since the truck in that video has a short bed (6 foot) and I have a long bed (8 foot). We thought about a few ways to counterbalance it, but ultimately I decided on doing it My Way.

This is #OSHAcrane:

Look away, Harbor Freight lawyers.

That’s an extra-long piece of 2″ square, 1/4″-wall steel tubing I drilled and machined to accept the same mounting hardware in order to make an extended reach crane boom.  Not shown is a steel biscuit that fits under it to take up the height difference between the outer tube and new boom. Otherwise it would have tilted down significantly and stressed the outer tube a lot more.

In terms of dimensions, the Harbor Freight crane is made with metric (C H I NA ) steel tube as far as I can tell. The inner adjustable boom measured 2 3/8″, or right around 60mm. I couldn’t get 2.25″ tube locally in time, so opted for thick-wall 2″ tube. If I wanted to make this again more correctly (…) I’d try to order metric steel tube online.

#OSHAcrane has about 18″ more reach than the stock crane. Shown under it is the two steel slats I’ll be making the new crossmembers from! They’re 8″ wide, 42″ long, and 1/2″ thick.

They are not light. But neither is VANTRUCK an aircraft or drone* and it really does need more weight over the rear axle anyhow.

*yet.

I arrived upon this dimension of steel plate by measuring and laying out the known mounting dimensions of the van frame and truck bed. I then picked two sets of body bushings which were the closest, and basically wrapped a rectangle around them.

The rear set of bushings would need to be moved up a few inches to accommodate, but I found that 8″ wide steel bar was sufficient. Otherwise, if I chose to not move the rear set, I’d need a 12″ wide slab.

Good thing I just got a milling machine running, huh? Bridget proved to be indespensible. I’d hate to have done this with a drill press, also inb4 get a plasma cutter. how about no

 

This is a finished replacement crossmember. The big hole is 3/4″ to clear a 1/2″ bolt with Van Precision – these get installed and tightened into the body bushings first. Then the bed is dropped on top and bolted from the top into the 1/2″-13 threaded holes.

Here they are installed! I had to machine out a portion of the forward crossmember to fit over the fuel pump.

Now it’s Saturday again, and we are once again gathered to shift heavy steel things a few inches at a time until Charles is satisfied. The rigging begins in the same fashion that the Ford Lightning bed removal video showed, using 4 ratchet straps, one to each corner of the bed. You can see that #OSHAcrane reaches exactly to the middle of the bed as designed!

” DESIGNED “. I make myself sound so serious.

This worked extremely well. The bed was raised just enough to move around…

…and up and over it goes! Flawless. We did exactly what we set out to do – provide guidance force only, and hold hoses and wires out of the way.

A snag – the shock absorber towers in the rear line up with one of the stock F350 bed crossmembers exactly. Well give me a carbon fiber enema…… why don’t I just mount the bed to those?

A half-hour of awkward step-drilling was needed to buy it some clearance. I drilled a sufficiently large hole such that the shock studs fall into them on each side.

Next snag! Ford, you assholes.

The rear set of mounting holes? 34″ apart, not 35″.  It was high enough up that I had a hard time getting a good visual alignment of the tape measure, and ended up making Certain Assumptions that “oh maybe they did a logical thing and made them the same so it’s easy”

Back to the mill I go….

After that fight was settled, the bolts were tightened down, and IT’S DONE! HOLY CRAP IT’S IN ONE PIECE AND IT RUNS AGAIN!

Here it is from the side. And you know what? i hate it.

Okay, not really, but now I am really thinking about a revision.

As we were drilling the two new holes for the rear crossmember, the thought suddenly occured to me that…. you know what, what if I just drilled new holes where they’re supposed to be, aligned with the truck bed crossmembers, so I didn’t have to use such wide steel slats?  I didn’t know how hard it would be to drill new holes (surprise: truck frames aren’t made of AR500 or anything, a step drill works too) so opted for the safe and quick solution of wrapping a rectangle around it. I was out to quickly get it back in one piece to not piss off the neighbors, over anything else, optimal solution be damned.

Second of all, I didn’t have a good way of determining the alignment vertically – the van frame curves up and down and was hard for me to get a datum off, especially in a beat up and unlevel parking lot. So this first pass at mounting it let me see what needs to move where.

I’d like the front edge of the bed to come upwards about 1″, and the whole thing should move forward about 1/2″ to close the epic cab-to-bed gap. I designed in the gap as a safety measure – would rather have too far than interfering – and now I’ve had a chance to see how it actually goes together, I can move them inwards for a more factory look…. not that the body lines meet or anything.

So there will be a Second Battle of Bunk Bed Hill. Especially that I know it’s super easy to lift the bed off with #OSHAcrane! I wouldn’t even need to lift everything, just one side at a time. I’m plotting the new crossmembers as 1.5″ x 3″ or 4″, 0.188 wall rectangular tube, and the new rear as 1/2″ thick x 3″ or 4″ wide steel strip. The tube would have machined 1/2″-13 coupling nuts welded through it to act as a tube boss (so the bolt isn’t just pulling on one wall of the tube) and the rear strip would be similar in construction to the current one.

With a significant source of stress lifted (heh) off my life by #OSHAcrane, I could now sleep easier and start picking at some of the smaller tasks. For instance, hooking up the new bed’s taillights. This first required some van spaghetti untangling:

Here’s all the factory, aftermarket, and after-aftermarket wiring extracted from the old bed. The F350 bed has all the lights terminating in a single connector, which is nice.

What’s not nice is not being about to find or source the matching connector. So I decided to improv and pulled out a 7-pin military surplus Amphenol connector from MITERS. Now I have even more America on this thing! Military-grade hardware!

Decoding the Ford connector was easy with a multimeter (and battery + suicide cable to see the lights turn on and off). All it then took was cutting off all of the van spaghetti and reaching back into the frame to grab the OEM wire harness and pulling it out. Here’s the terminated non-spaghetti lighting harness mated to the new bed.

The little green wire is a detail for later. That is supposed to be connected to the brake pedal switch directly, apparently so it can power a CHMSL. Vantruck does not have one, and I currently have no plans to install one (though if it will help keep texting idiots off my new bed…..) so I wrapped up this pin in the bundle for now.

All of the extraneous spaghetti removed, along with what sockets and bulbs I could salvage.

 

Something something about being lit, fam (shoot. me. now.)

The last major mechanical task is mounting the new step bumper, which has to be mounted on a long extension bracket to clear the bed. The Ford E-series step bumpers I bought do not have a cutout on the corners to fit around the bed like the F-series bumpers do, so I have to mount well behind the bed. I’m talking like a 8″+ extension bracket. This will be performed after I make adjustments to the bed position.

I will probably take a short break from Vantruck work, since it fundamentally is back in one piece, runs well, and is street legal lighting and fenders-wise.  At the least it can get out of its own way. Look for more work on Brushless Rage coming soon, because I want to push that damn thing to beta and to release this summer.