Lots of Little Things

There hasn’t been a whole lot going on to write about. It’s mostly been raining, though the last day or two was a nice break. I took a motorcycle ride today, but I forgot my phone (and wallet — whoops), so I didn’t get any pictures. It was a fun, short, twisty, mixed surface loop that I’ll have to do again before I leave.

However, I have been productive. Over the past year on the road, a lot of little things have either stopped working or needed adjustment. I’ve been taking care of a lot of them, while my trip is on pause, and before starting another big loop of the country(ies). Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Interior

Many of my tweaks and repairs were inside the van. It makes sense that many of my minor failures have been here, because this is my living space that I use all the time.

Cover Battery Terminals

These terminals have rubber covers that are supposed to go on top of them, but they always seem to pop off. Underneath the bed used to be so packed full of stuff that I could keep the terminals covered up with a friction fit. That’s not the case anymore, and they’ve started popping off. I don’t want any chance of a spark and a house fire (again), so I wrapped the heck out of anything that could possibly short out and cause a spark. I have several layers of fuses that should also prevent this, but it’s best to stop a short before it happens.

Attach Hotspot Holders To the Wall

For almost a year, my suction cup soap holders have done a great job holding my cellular hotspots up high, above the metal part of the body, and out of the way. Suddenly, about a month ago, they absolutely refused to stick anymore. I washed all of the surfaces involved but nothing worked.

It turns out the threads on the suction cup that the adjustment knob tightens are an identical size and shape to the bolts we assembled the entire angle iron interior structure of the van. So I removed the suction cups, drilled two holes, and bolted the holders to the wall. They’re not going anywhere now.

Repair Reading Light Bad Ground

The brass reading lights above the bed started sometimes just glowing dimly or not turning on at all. This is exactly the same behavior as the dome light and router that I previously fixed by running a new ground wire. These lights also relied on the same ground wire as the ones I fixed before, so I gave them, too, a new connection to ground. They work perfectly once again.

Upgrade Reading Light Screws

Of course, after removing the screws that hold everything to the wall so I could repair the ground, they didn’t want to go back in again. The threads wouldn’t grab the fiberglass and the light bracket fell off the wall. I found some thicker diameter screws and used those to reattach everything. All is well now.

Create Coffee Space

I already mentioned this, but rearranging my cabinets to create a space to keep everything related to coffee in one spot has worked out extremely well. It’s just big enough for everything I need on a daily basis, plus an extra bag of coffee in case I run out.

Replace Dead Outlet Assembly

There are a number of outlet assemblies around the van, each containing an on/off switch, a 12-volt outlet, and a pair of USB outlets that also includes a voltmeter. One of these, which I used to plug my laptop into regularly, stopped working last fall. Since I had other outlets to use I never bothered to fix it, but since I was doing so many other little repairs, it was time.

Come to find out I’d left the original in-line fuse in the power wire, buried deep behind the cabinet walls, and this fuse had blown. I’d forgotten that I’d done this and replaced the entire assembly with a new one. Since all of my circuits go through a central fuse panel anyway, I rewired the power lead to take out this in-line fuse. There’s no need to have two fuses on such a low power circuit. As a bonus, I confirmed that the old outlet assembly still works fine after all, so now I have a spare that I can use to replace one that really does fail, or add one someplace else.

Replace Thermometer Battery

This was a no brainer. It took me longer to find a spare AAA battery than to replace it. But now my inside/outside thermometer works again.

Van Repairs

It’s still running great, but as with any older vehicle, a few nitpicky items weren’t quite right.

Fix Brake Warning Light

Ever since my extended stay in Los Angeles, the BRAKE warning light on the dashboard has randomly flickered from time to time. It has nothing to do with the parking brake, and the reservoir is full of good clean brake fluid, so it’s a false reading. It’s probably because of something the shop did when they replaced the brake booster. I unplugged the wiring harness, then plugged it back in good and tight. It seems to be working fine now.

Relocate HVAC Vacuum Accumulator

Being an older design, the climate control vents operate on engine vacuum rather than electric motors. Under sustained acceleration, which is common now that I’m towing a trailer, the system would run out of vacuum and close the vents until I back off the throttle for a few seconds. The problem is a cheap check valve, but it’s buried so far under the dashboard it costs well over $1,000 to have it fixed properly. After becoming a YouTube Certified Mechanic, I fixed it improperly. I installed a new check valve and vacuum reservoir just in front of the passenger seat behind a dashboard trim panel and ran the existing vacuum lines to it. I haven’t yet had a chance to put this to the test, since I’m pretty much driving around town these days, under minimal load, without the trailer.

Adjust Gear Indicator Needle

Not too long ago, the dashboard display that tells me what gear I’m in got knocked out of alignment. The needle didn’t line up with what gear I was actually in. Once again, YouTube to the rescue to show me this is an easy fix. Ford uses a simple plastic bracket and adjustment knob to get this physical cable-operated needle lined up correctly. My bracket had broken, causing the misalignment. Everything is still securely attached, so I used a zip tie to hold the broken part of the bracket in position. I readjusted the needle to the correct position, and everything’s good now. Hopefully, this will also eliminate the P0705 Transmission Range Sensor Out Of Position code I’ve been getting when dropping the shifter down into 1, moving the needle past its normal range of movement.

Diagnose Misfire

Last week I got a check engine light. Thanks to my FIXD sensor (full disclosure: they’re my employer) I read codes P0308 Cylinder 8 Misfire and P0316 Misfire Detected On Startup. It had been raining for a week straight, and excessive moisture can cause ignition coils to short out, resulting in misfires. I cleared the codes when things dried out a bit, and they haven’t come back since. I’m not going to worry about it unless it happens again.

Extra Credit

I found the power plugs for my LED light strips in the most unexpected bag while looking for something completely different. So I soldered up a power cable that would plug into my Jackery 240, and boom, the trailer has interior lights that work even when a tow vehicle isn’t hooked up. Since I keep my big bulky motorcycle riding gear in the trailer, I’ve found myself using it as a changing room, particularly because unlike the van I can stand up inside. It’s pretty dark when the door is shut so I don’t scare the neighbors, so now I can see what I’m doing. I may start leaving my Jackery inside the trailer rather than in the van, so it can provide power for lights and other things. Eventually, I want to add more wiring and outlets to the trailer, but I can’t build the flippy table I want until the old trailer hitch motorcycle carrier is gone. No bites on that yet.


It feels good to get all these little projects done. None of them are particularly significant (except maybe the trailer interior lights), but they all add up to put things in much better shape than they were before. One by one, the pieces are falling into place for me to get back on the road again.

3 comments

  1. You said you “wrapped” the heck out of everything, wiring wise. Have you considered using heat shrink? I try to use it on all my connections when I can. I just feel so much better after a wiring project if I’ve used it. And you don’t *have* to have a heat gun. My flame-y cigar lighter works really well, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I never seem to have heat shrink around when I need it. These connections are big, bulky, and awkwardly shaped, so I don’t think it would’ve worked well there. Even on ordinary wire, I *always* forget to put the heat shrink on until after I’ve soldered or crimped the connection. So yes, I’ve considered it. It’s good stuff. It just never seems to work out for me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yah, I forget, too, sometimes. It’s always a *decision* to make: Do I cut the crimp and do it again? Or do I just use electrical tape! 😀

        Liked by 2 people

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