Thursday, 8 August 2019

The End of the Road.

We've been keeping this blog running for quite a while and hope it's been informative and useful to those who've dropped in. Now, though, the amount of interest it generates doesn't justify the effort required to maintain it. 
Over the last six months or so, since the last entry anyway, we've continued to travel in (relatively) demanding environments and, as a result, "Elisfor" continues to be modified and fine-tuned to reflect the experience gained as a result of these adventures.
It may be that we resurrect this source of information in some other guise in the future, but for now...
Masalama and Bon Voyage!

Saturday, 2 February 2019

New Year Fireworks

As usual, when I get involved with electricity, there are plenty of them. Fireworks, that is, both from me and the things I touch! I don't like electrical stuff, and it certainly doesn't like me.

Four weeks of fun and games have resulted from my "successful" attempt to install a rear wash 'n wipe system. I say "successful" because the outcome of the work was As Intended in one sense, that is we can now see out of the back window without resorting to a sponge and bucket. In another way, I just caused myself a lot more problems.

You see, as I'd had to take the centre "MUD Stuff" console off to fit the W/Wipe switch, I thought I might as well sort out the already-installed-but-non-functioning switches so that they actually controlled something, tidy up the wiring so that the radio would actually fit into the space designed for it and add some more gauges. As I said in the previous post the latter "upgrade" is to provide a bit more information on what's going on in the engine department - coolant and oil temperatures and pressures - and an EGT gauge.

I need one of these before I can try out the boost pin I bought quite a while ago but haven't dared to fit until I could monitor the temperature of the gases going into the turbo. The extra power would be good, but not at the expense of a wrecked engine.

I also needed to fix the headlamp flasher switch, which would require dismantling some dashboard trim anyway.

That was the plan. While assembling all the necessary parts and waiting for the postman to arrive, I set about the headlamp flasher. Given the state of the switches and stalks on the steering column I planned to replace both the horn/flasher/indicator stalk and the wiper stalk on the other side since I'd had trouble with both systems recently. 

Having got the necessary bits I got the plastic trim off and set about removing the steering wheel. Or not, as it happened. Despite a lot of pulling and thumping with both fists and a mallet, the bloody thing wouldn't budge. Some types of Defender have a steering wheel that can be removed using a puller, but not me....after several hours over 3 days, lots of penetrating fluid and very little movement, I gave up before frustration led me to break something. Another reason to give up was that I worked out how the flasher switch worked and fixed it....perhaps I should've done that in the first place.

The focus isn't great, but the two bits of brass that make the connection had been stressed to a point that they didn't touch when the stalk was pulled. It took 2 seconds to sort it. It doesn't address the fact that both stalks and the switches on them are going to fail soon and that wheel is going to have to come off eventually.

With that job out of the way I set about butchering parts of our previous designs for dashboard upgrades. I dug out the DIN facia that'd originally come from the sale bin at Halfords and has already been through two iterations of interior redesign, the last as the mount for the CB radio prior to the Alu-Cab roof fit.
The old CB carrier with the bottom cut off. The gauge mount clips in, and offsets the dials towards the driver.

This will be the carrier for the new gauges and will sit over the hole otherwise used by the ashtray.

The wiring can be fed into the ashtray hole via the plastic grill underneath.

The shape was built up using card to make sure it would fit and to plan how the bends need to be made.
A bit of cutting and forming of some scrap aluminium sheet produced a pretty neat 3-gauge pod ....

....with a flat front face for the coolant warning light and test button and a nice flat top for use later on, perhaps. It might be a better place for the tripmeter, for instance.

 Bending ally can result in the metal cracking if it's too brittle. Annealing it can be a bit hit-and-miss but if you rub the bend point with soap and then heat it, when the soap turns brown, it's cooked...and nice and soft to bend.

Turning to the wiring, I wish now that I'd left well alone! The intention was to simplify the spaghetti and get things to work a little better. One example of this is the power to the reversing camera. Quite often the screen reverts to a "blue screen of nothing" when I deselect reverse gear. This stays on until the next time I reverse, when it might work normally, or stay an annoying bright blue postcard-sized distraction. I've been resolving this by disconnecting the jack plug power feed, but I thought that using one of the otherwise redundant dash panel switches would be better. I also needed to wire in the front work light, coolant alarm and lighting power for the new gauges.

To cut a long story short, I've gone through about 4 variations on the theme of "some things work but others now don't". I fix one problem and another appears. I would assume that this was as a result of what I'd just done so go back and reverse the action, only for it to have no result. Lots of head scratching, cursing and coffee later and I'd notice, for example, that a tag had become detached from a connector as I'd moved things around. The clock stopped working for this reason and had me mystified when the fuse was OK when I thought I'd heard a "crack" from Down There. It later turned out that I'd operated the wiper stalk while removing the dash binnacle (as well as disturbing the earth tag on the clock). Coincidentally the wipers were frozen to the screen and the almost inevitable movement of the stalk caused the fuse to blow but I made the wrong assumption... Further discussion and analysis isn't going to amuse anyone, certainly not me, so suffice to say that I've called a halt to any more fiddling with wiring before I set something alight. Some things now work better, others not at all, but the latter I can live with for the moment....

The revised dashboard now looks like this:

Once it arrives from China the EGT gauge will replace the altimeter, and that will move up one level. It's a very useful instrument for mountain navigation as well as giving us a weather forecast, so I want to keep it.

While I had the main dashboard binnacle out, I noticed the tracks in the dust where water had been getting in. A bit more dismantling of trim panels revealed a worrying sight....

After a bit of probing around I think there are three possible sources of the problem. One is the seal around the ventilation flap and the others are either the rubber seal under the windscreen and/or the new windscreen seal itself, which would be a bit annoying. The seal under the windscreen I reinforced with mastic sealant a while ago so other than putting a little more of this under the more difficult-to-reach spots, I think that's all I can do. The windscreen seal is certainly suspect but it's been so cold while I've been working it's difficult to know whether the moisture on the inside of the seal is coming from outside or is condensation from the inside. It needs to get a bit warmer to be sure, so while we're waiting for Spring, I had a look at the vent flap.
I got the new seals for these some time ago and had added yet another job to the "to do" list for warmer weather. To get this off and repair the seal requires the removal of 2 hinge pins and 2 screws from the operating mechanism on the back of the flap.

The first is easy, the second is a right b*stard of a job, particularly if you have to do it while kneeling on the bonnet in 2 inches of slushy ice and only remotely possible if you can get the flap to open completely.....

Now, you might think that the mechanism for doing this would be engineered in the usual Landrover fashion - solid and a bit overdone - so I was surprised to find that the reason I haven't been able to get the flap to open fully was down to the operating arm being made of tinfoil. Or something equally flimsy. Once the swivel pin on the mounting bracket had begun to corrode it made it more difficult to get this little arm to do its job and eventually it bent. With even less movement now available, things corroded even more, producing even less movement, then yet more corrosion on parts that weren't moving...yawn...I guess you get the picture. If not, here's one I took earlier:
The state of the seal is pretty clear, as is the siezed pivot point on the hinge. I've already straightened the actuator arm but it still has a bit of a kink in it.

Once I'd got it off, cleaning off the old and sodden seal wasn't difficult with a bit of elbow grease and thinners, and the new one is self-adhesive so went on equally easily. More difficult was straightening the bits of bent tin that make up the operating thing, but a good soak in penetrant helped. Unfortunately by straightening them up, the two parts of the arm's hinge now didn't line up with the screw holes in the back of the flap. An hour's fiddling frustration followed as I bent everything out of proper shape to get the screws in, then bent it back again to get it to work. Now, though, when I "open" the flap, something akin to ventilation might actually occur. It got a fresh coat of paint and some grease on the hinge pins too.

Then I had a poke around, literally, to see what damage this water leak has done. The metal behind the top of the bulkhead was weeping brown droplets through pinholes in a couple of places, and a probe opened up several larger holes. This is Bad News. Defender bulkheads are notorious for rotting at this point and the only real fix if not caught in time is a new one - the whole bulkhead, that is, not the cosmetic cover-up panel that many go for. I used a boroscope to look inside and it wasn't promising, so took a 20mm hole cutter and opened it up a bit....

After using a magnet and air gun to clean out the cavity, things aren't quite as bad as I'd thought. Small areas of the internal skin are weak but the external skin - the bit that really matters - is solid, if a bit flaky. I used the air gun to blow-dry everything, squirted a liberal dose of Kurust converter in and left it to dry again. The next step was to spray as much as I could get at with cold galvaniser and I followed this with a liberal dose of Waxoyl. I'll leave the hole open for ventilation , closed by a rubber blanking plug with a few holes in it. Can't think of anything more I can do now except to try to stop the water getting in and provide some ventilation in case it does. This might mean trying to add some sealant to the bottom of the windscreen, either under the rubber or over it, but I'd prefer it all to be dry before I do that, but the sub-zero temperature and lying snow isn't helping me achieve that happy situation....

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Brickbatts and Bouquets - the Best and Worst of 2018.

The Best and Worst....? That's the title of this post, but having given it some thought it probably isn't the best way to begin the New Year - moaning about poor service from mail order suppliers, I mean. 


However, it is worth lavishing some praise on those who've done what I'd expect them to do, though:

Yes, the suppliers of the troublesome Wallas hob. I'm not giving anything away by mentioning their name at last since there's only one place in the UK that supply the kit. Brett, the chap I dealt with, was on the case straight away, arranged a Return-to-Base repair and had the hob back to me within a week. All this at the company's expense. Well "so it should be", you might say, but in the world of commerce this no-nonsense Let's-Get-On-With-It response isn't exactly common and very reassuring when it happens. While it was a pity that it was U/SOOTB (UnServiceable Out Of The Box), mechanical things do break so it was good to find that the people who sell them stand by their promises and sort any problems out.

FloatYourBoat, the new eBay name for JayWolfe marine chandlers.

A satisfyingly quick response to my report of a damaged-in-transit product. Not their fault that it takes a week to get anything from Anywhere South of the ISO-Carriage Charge Line...

DK Salvage- the dealer who replaced the U/SOOTB Landrover jack that I bought on-line. No quibbles, they just sent another one, tested and working.

Then there's the star of the show (or year)....

Larry presents the Fruits of his Labours before going home for breakfast.

Larry Butterworth of LVB OffRoad in Doncaster. Fitted the AluCab can read the previous posts on this, but enough to say that he and his team did a sterling job, when he said they would, at the price he agreed and delivered on time despite working all night. Top service!

I had high hopes for the pocket-sized jump start pack - see the previous post. Disappointed, it went back to them and I was expecting a lengthy period of debate over what was wrong with it. See below. Not so; I had a refund probably within minutes of the unit arriving back with them.

                   A Happy Customer, will use them all again.

That's the bouquets handed out. I think I'll forget about the brickbatts...and the people who deserve them. Anyone who's interested can find out who I'm talking about by reading the previous rants. Waste of time commenting further; nothing's going to change.

And now, onto more interesting things. Top of the list was the fix for the heater blower. As predicted, the bodge repair of a few weeks ago didn't last more than a few days, so I pulled it all apart again. Although I have some spare connectors they are a right pain to assemble, even on the bench, and I had no intention of taking the loom out to do that. Trying to do it outside in the rain and wind on the wing top wasn't going to work either, so I just cut them off and remade the connections with standard M/F spades and some heat shrink. Since I shouldn't (Hah! I bet I'll regret that) need to remove it again, the fix was easy, it works again and should stay that way.

The new side locker is in. This goes in the space freed up by the removal of the wing water tank, which we've now sold to a chap in Belgium. There are 2 commercial options on the market that are specifically for the Defender , but neither would fit into the space we have available now that the Wallas pipework is under the wing as well as the waste water tank. They're also bloody pricey for a metal box.

A bit of careful measuring is needed to make sure the wrong bits of skin aren't cut, but other than that it's a simple job and makes useful extra storage space. We used a "slot cutter" from Lidl to do the job, and it worked like a dream.

 The hole was marked out using a template, which allowed for accurate positioning to avoid the ribs and flanges inside the wing. With the little "nicks" filed around the edge to accommodate the rivets in the box, it fits perfectly. There's enough space to carry a gas bottle, recovery kit or anything else that should be kept handy and accessible from outside. The box is waterproof and sturdy enough to resist all but an attack with an axe. There's also some useful space behind it, between the box and the chassis rail, which we'll make use of somehow. I considered making the box a little deeper to take up this space but it would've compromised the waterproof qualities. The sides of the box aren't completely true and flat and potentially hard to seal effectively.

The latches are lockable. We mounted this the opposite way up from its larger brother on the other side as things have a tendency to come loose and jam the locks if they're at the bottom. I'll probably re-arrange the other locker eventually.

Another bit of useful storage hangs off the back door.

This is our cheap version of the popular and expensive "Trasharoo". It cost nothing as it was a bag from a discarded shopping trolley. Now past its best we replaced it with another from a charity shop for a tenner. 

This one came with the frame and wheels which we intended to remove, but it fits the spare wheel perfectly, provides a stable mounting and, removed, gives us the ability to go shopping without having to carry heavy stuff like 5 litre water bottles all over town.

OK, so it's not a particularly "gnarly" colour, it isn't made of heavy-duty ripstop nylon and canvas, and it isn't some kind of camouflage colour, but at the price it isn't a bad alternative.

It also does away with the present method of attachment - the spare wheel cover - which just gets in the way of a wheel change, particularly when it's windy. The last time we did one in Morocco the cover, plus bag full of rubbish, took off across the desert like a frisbee....

A quick blast of black paint and bungee straps and we have something less garish and quickly removeable for those moments of retail therapy or gash ditching, as the Navy say...

The "new" jack was replaced with one that works, as I said, which left me with the broken one to dispose of. Never inclined to just dump anything in the bin, I put some heat on the end of the plunger and got the cradle off. This was then welded to a length of steel tube....

...not the prettiest welding in the world, but it works and I tested it with a hammer to be sure it wouldn't fall apart. With the tube cut to a decent length... fitted over the ram of my old jack. 

Since this actually has about 5cm more "reach" than the Landrover item and is rated to 5 tonnes, guess which one I'll be carrying? Does anyone want to buy a genuine Landy jack, now surplus to requirements?

  The re-shaping of the "office" has begun since the headlamp flasher stopped working a week or so back. I reckoned that as I was now forced to start working on electrics again, I might as well do several jobs at once given that they'd probably all need me to take the dashboard apart. What joy!

We made a decision to provide some means of checking the engine oil pressure and temperature, and the coolant level. I didn't know it, but the oil pressure light on the dash doesn't come on until the pressure is almost zero, which is a Bad Thing, in my opinion. we need some advance warning of this kind of problem. As for the coolant, this is achieved by this little kit:

 Basically it's a float switch, buzzer, LED light and a Press-to-Test switch to give you the nice Warm an' Fuzzy feeling that it's actually working. It was dead simple to install, even for an electrical idiot like me, and removes the worry of loosing coolant and wrecking the cylinder head.
The shiny copper tube in the background is for the new oil pressure gauge

Having recently dismantled the thermostat housing it was clear that if all the coolant drained away, the temperature gauge in the dashboard would still read, but air temperature, not water. Not good, since the only indication I might have of a hole in the radiator or plumbing would be rising temperatures on that gauge. The light and PTT will go into the new instrument binnacle on the dash.

Now, a product review:
The Tacklife portable jump start pack. It may be that I got yet another U/SOOTB thing, but it didn't perform as advertised. This unit is supposed to provide enough power to start a 6.5 litre diesel engine with a flat battery. It doesn't. In fact, with the 300Tdi engine rated at less than 3 litres, the lack of ability to get it going was "disappointing". It might be that the boost selection wasn't working as it should, but I don't care. I need this thing to work under conditions where 1. the main battery needs some help (cold camping) and 2. when I don't have the spare juice in the aux battery bank to give me that extra "oomph" which, normally, I get by linking the main and aux batteries together. This might be the case if we were to camp in one place for several days in Arctic conditions- cold, not much daylight, negligible solar input, lots of need for lighting etc. In other words, the Scottish Highlands for 9 months of the bloody year. 
Oh, and the natty carrying case isn't big enough for everything that's supplied with it. The zip failed the first time we used it....A pity, 'cos it had such promise...👎

The construction of the new dashboard will have to wait until next time as I'm still waiting for some of the components to arrive, so to finish...I've had a Facebook Experience.😠

Never a fan of this Devil's Spawn, I decided that if we wanted to stay in touch with modern comms, Social Media couldn't be ignored any longer. A few months ago I began linking this blog to Facebook and at the same time decided to break a promise to myself to keep my head well below the SM parapet...
So I joined some Groups, posted some stuff that I thought might be useful and tried to support others that had the same philosophy. One group in particular got my attention and interest. If you visit the site you'll see why. To get the full story here, you'll have to join it. You can have my place.

So, one night after reading about someone's attempts to do what I'd already worked on (the flap-down table/track carrier), I tried to share my idea via a link. The response was, you could say, rather "precious". Or bloody rude, abusive and foul-mouthed, and that from a so-called "moderator" of the group. I could've just let it go, but that's not my style.

There were half-a-dozen or so Snowflakes who couldn't cope with the effort to get some value from my suggestion so I responded:

  "Thanks for the comments...
...the blog that the link might’ve taken you to has been ongoing for years and includes all our DIY modifications made to two overland expedition vehicles....
My reason for doing this was not to “get hits and referrals to (my) blog.” I don’t make any money out of it and it isn’t an ego trip. It’s there to save people like me – us – making the same mistakes as we’ve made and maybe be a bit of use to someone. It appeals to our “make-do-and-mend” outlook and promotes self-reliance and initiative, not to mention an element of recycling and re-purposing which is apparently becoming popular nowadays.

.... publicising our failures as well as our successes seemed like a Good Thing for other people like us. Save them time, frustration…and expense – theirs, at ours.

Some folk have located our blog from the corrupted link that appeared. I’ve PM’d others who expressed an interest. Good for you, guys. A pity that those who moaned about it and used such abusive language didn’t make the same effort....
Admin has “removed the post as it led to a pointless log in”, not because of the unpleasant and plainly arrogant comments that arose from it (
from Mr Woodier). Message received. I’ll continue with the blog, but not the links." 

I've edited my original riposte to make it a little clearer. So, that Group has lost my support because I don't need the grief the Moderators and their mates gave me. A pity, it had such promise...and my suspicions about some people who use social media have unfortunately been confirmed.

I normally don't give free advice, but I'll break that rule too:

Mr Woodier, don't post when you're pissed. Up or Off.
                                         Happy New Year.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Now that we've finished the turkey...

It's time to start some more little projects, or finish some old ones properly.

 I'd repaired the snorkel hose - the flexible bit that joins the two pipes together - a while ago and the repair worked well enough. Unfortunately it wasn't able to stand up to that piece of corrugated iron that whacked into it a few weeks ago and it split the repair wide open. I'd anticipated this and looked around for a replacement hose, but these only seemed to be available in a full snorkel kit, not as a replacement part. Since there's nothing wrong with the rest of it, I didn't feel like forking out a lot of Diesel Vouchers for a foot long rubber tube.
After the usual internet search over several days last year I'd found this:

It comes in other colours, too. All just as Bling.

A bit garish, I know, but the "trumpets" on the end are exactly the right diameter to accept the ends of the original hose and would seal well. A bit of surgery, some trimming of the new part and a smear of sealant adhesive and now we have a sealed unit again.

The new intake hose, with the mangled old one

The new part is mostly plastic, not rubber. It won't last as long but at just over £10 I thought it was worth a try. I made the final seal with self-almalgamating tape so it's very solid. In fact the expanded length is long enough to replace the upper steel pipe completely if necessary, although it'd be very vulnerable to damage from branches - or more flying iron, perhaps. I guess I could source something that'll slide over the new hose to beef it up a bit, but the important thing was to get a wade-proof connection back.

As the weather has been ridiculously warm I decided to have a go at top-coating the wheels. I'd normally have waited for the conditions to get drier but we struggle to get temperatures into double figures even in May, so to have 11 degrees on Boxing Day was too good to ignore. 
Before Christmas I'd tried to get some silver cellulose locally, but all the likely places had nothing other than expensive rattle cans. Having made the decision, though, I decided to invest in some Halfords "special" wheel paint and lacquer. An extravagant purchase but hey - it's a one off.

This is the result...

Not bad. Nice and shiny. I'll leave them for a week or two to really harden before getting the tyres on and balanced.

If you can tear yourself away from that fascinating picture of a wheel, maybe you'll find this bit of DIY more interesting:

You might recall "Project Flap-Down Table and Sand Track Store" from the previous entry. Having seen some other commercial variations on the theme I've put that on hold while I consider my options, as they say in Government. To fill the time - and the space on the other side of the truck - I had a go at making a storage box that'll hang off the cargo rails next to the jerry can carrier.

A trial run to check dimensions
The box is just an old, cheap camera case that was lying about, collecting dust. Like most of my DIY projects, I could probably have found something more suitable to use if I'd got the wallet out, but that's not the point. Well, not totally.
Anyway, this does the job well enough for us to test its usefulness, and we can upgrade the concept later without wasting anything more than a bit of time and effort.
The supporting hardware was made from a length of shelf support...

It would've been ideal to make them 150mm longer so I could use the extra length above the box to mount something else, but each bit is 1000mm long and I only had one in the junk pile. A quick spray with some silver paint - wonder where that came from? - and they looked quite professional. The mounting bolts were made the same way as I described before as I had none of the fancy ones I used last month for the can carrier .

The locks on the box wouldn't defeat a penknife, let alone a jemmy, so some better security was needed.

This is a combination of scrap ally plate, a suitably bent 14-inch Tee hinge and a hasp-and-staple door lock from Screwfix. A few pop rivets and a bit more silver paint later and we have....

The vulnerable outer face of the case has been reinforced with more scrap aluminium in front and behind, and a wire running from behind protects the lower edge from being forced open. Since the box is basically just hardboard covered in plastic I painted all the black bits with Plasti-Dip which should give a degree of water protection. The extra bit of cargo rail fixed above it gives me another lashing point and all the accessible nuts have been replaced with anti-tamper fixings.

OK, it's not bombproof but nothing is, really, if someone's determined enough. What will it be used for? Well, anything that we might need in a hurry or gets too manky to put away inside. Recovery straps, muddy boots, dirty overalls, that kind of thing and stuff it wouldn't be a tragedy to lose.
The space above is ideal to carry the rear awning kit or something similar. Actually, we probably wouldn't use the box for much unless we're away on a trip, where we tend not to be out of sight of the truck for more than a minute or two and then only in towns, where security wouldn't be so much of a problem. Except in Manchester, I wonder if one of these on the outside might work?

That's about it, except for the ongoing saga of the heater fan. It's stopped working again which probably means the lash-up "repair" I made before Christmas has given up and I need to do the job properly. I think that instead of trying to replace the Econoseal plug with another, I'll just use ordinary connectors, suitably waterproofed. It'll save me turning the air blue and upsetting passing dog walkers when I drop the little connector pins into the gravel.

I had intended to write a short review of one of these things, too...

A portable jump-starter unit
Given the difficulty of getting Elly started when the weather is really cold, I thought it'd be worth having one of these as a back-up if the aux battery linking option wasn't available - a possibility after a few days in one place. Since the day it arrived it's been almost Spring-like here so I haven't needed it. Someone did suggest that I left the lights on overnight to give it a fair trial, and I responded too quickly to the suggestion. It took until the following morning for the "Lightbulb Moment" to come and for me to realise he was joking. 

I think I need to get out more.