Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Wife Under the Van

This weekend I decided to tackle another van job I have been putting off for quite a while.  Charging.  

There are three ways to charge the house batteries.  Currently, the only way I have been using in my van is to plug it in to a regular 110v household outlet and let the Tripp Lite charger/inverter fill it up.   The second way, I have plan for solar panels but I am still in the process of trying to come up with the money to buy them.  The third way to charge is to run a wire from the back of the van where the house batteries sit, up to the alternator on the engine.  Once in place I will be charging any time the engine is running.  Going down the road I will be charging my batteries.   To get that all setup though requires a good long hunk of wire and the willingness to crawl around on the ground.   The wire I bought three weeks ago, but until this week it has been raining here almost every day.   Dirty is one thing, but muddy is another, so I have put it off.

This weekend it was dry, despite the forecast of 80% chance of rain.  Thinking about what had to be done, I decided this was really a four handed job.   Initially I thought it would be easiest to feed the wire down from the engine side and I would be under the car.  So it was to be that feeder when I initially asked The Wife if she would be willing to assist me. 

“Is there room to fit under there?” she she gave me a bit of a dubious look as she looked at the van where I had it parked.  We live in a house with a tuck under garage.  Not one of the handiest things in the world.  The family room is on ground level, we have to drive down a steep driveway to get into the garage below it.  In the winter it totally sucks because you have to keep every snowflake off it.  An endeavor made more difficult because the garage door’s opening is due north. Get the slightest amount of snow pack or ice storm and there is zero chance of getting a vehicle up the driveway.   We fought that war for a number of years.   Now we just park up top in the driveway.  Let the kids sled and snowboard down the steep part.   Everyone is happier.  But here is the one advantage this driveway has.  If you park at the bottom of it, you get the effect of having the parabellum of the curve to your advantage.   The wheels are high both front and back and the driveway curves down under the middle of the van.  There is lots of space under there.

There were a couple of spots where we could
attach to existing wire runs.
“I’ve never been under a car before”, she said to me.  I’m like… “What?!  Seriously?”   It is amazing that after twenty-five years of being with this woman I can still stumble across a country-boy/townie divide.  I have been climbing under, over and in-between heavy machinery since I was about eight.   It was a total surprise to me that someone could reach the <undisclosed> age of my wife having never been underneath a car.

I put down a layer of cardboard and we slid under.  …And really, we had a pretty good time.   A fun marital experience.    I am no mechanic but I know the main stuff.   Plus I am fairly good at not falling prey to the machismo of explaining how to build a clock to a person who simply asks the time.

I pointed out the gas tank, the drive shaft, transmission and the muffler-tailpipe system.   I explained what the differential did.  She was tense for a bit initially, but after a little claustrophobia induced rapid breathing passed she was an interested audience.  She ended up fairly fascinated by seeing all of these things that she had before only heard about (and, when they broke, paid for.) 

Loose zip-tie loops hold the wire in place as
we were pulling it forward.   
Then once things were all calmed down the real job started.  So like I said, I had initially thought I would have her feed the wire down from the engine side.  I will admit part of that was due to my doubting I would get her under the van.  But I could see a major problem now with this idea.   It was environmental.  With the van parked where it was, it would put her standing in the tall grass under the tree canopy.   She would be mosquito fodder.   

Anyway, with The Wife's more active involvement an easier method presented itself.  I  laid the wire out in a straight line out behind the vehicle.  Then laying on the ground we worked our way forward pulling it with us.  Stringing the wire through very loose zip-tie loops.   It was work, but it wasn't that bad. Just a matter of finding spots to zip-tie the wire to the frame where it wouldn't be pinched or subject to undue abrasion.   Then, when it was all in place from back to front, I went through, tightened all the zip-ties and clipped off the ends.

The wire poking up from below.
I should point out, this is just a single 2/0 stranded copper welding cable.   We only have to hook the two battery positive terminals together.  We don’t have to worry about the negative battery cable because that just attaches to the  body of the van both front and back.  So the negative terminals are already attached together, just in a more round about way!

The battery isolator.   I attached the wires to
it before attaching it to the firewall with
a couple of self-tapping sheet metal screws.
In the front, under the hood, I hooked the wire up to something called a battery isolator.   That makes it so if I am using a lot of electricity in the back I can’t accidentally drain the engine starting battery.  This prevents me from being stranded somewhere.   Then from the isolator to a 50 amp fuse holder.  (Don’t put the fuse in yet) The fuse has to be less than eighteen inches from the battery, which is the final connection in the front for this wire.  

At the back of the van I ran the wire into another (empty) fuse holder which is again located less than eighteen inches from the battery.  I don’t know the reason for this eighteen inch specification.   I just read it on the internet, it must be true.   —Particularly after I state it as fact here.   So less than eighteen inches from the fuse holder it attaches to the positive terminal of the batteries in the back, the same place where the charger/inverter hooks up.

(A note to long time readers.   Remember those fuses I bought back in January and promptly lost?   I had to buy some additional ones because I looked everywhere and couldn’t find them.   Well, about three weeks ago I found the one place I hadn’t looked.   In a box labelled ceiling lights.  <eye roll>) 

I purchased a battery side post extender
that allowed me to hook the extra wire
onto the battery.
Once this is all hooked up and tightened down, install the fuses.   No sparks, no blown fuses.   You did a good job.

The Wife and I had a pretty good time.  Maybe it wasn't the most exciting date location she had ever been to, but still she managed to enjoy herself.   I suppose maybe about 30 minutes spent on the tour and describing/planning what we were going to be doing.   Maybe about an hour actually doing it.  Getting the wire strung.  Maybe two more hours of my time getting the fuse holders installed, the ends crimped onto all the wires.  …A trip to the autoparts store because I ran one short of wire ends.   Another couple hours tonight getting this all written up.   But those last hours are bar hours, I don’t really mind them.

So a monkey walks into a bar…. I love sitting in bars.  You over time, see the most amazing shit.  Anyway, I am sitting here writing after a very long day at work.  I am trying to learn some software for a new job my friend The Rider told me about. That means in addition to the menial tasks my employer subjects me to, I am trying to absorb a 700 page book in preparation for appearing to be an expert-in-waiting at something I have never technically used.  

The fuse holder with a 50amp ANL fuse in place.
But sitting here in this bar a guy walks in with a monkey.  Private ownership of monkeys is illegal these days but this guy has had the monkey since it was a....  (whatever you call baby monkeys) ...nineteen years ago.  Back before the law existed.  He is grandfathered in, if you will.  After he and his monkey left the bartender told me the guy owns the towing company across the street.  The guy's favorite thing to do is drive around with the monkey on his lap. He runs the seat way back and pushes his head back in the cab so it looks like the monkey is driving. 

That, my friend, is why I like coming to bars.