New Tires / Fixed Wipers

May 8, 2015 Categories Camper Van

I took the day off from doing any construction on the van yesterday and today. Instead I focused on some important maintenance items that I’ve been putting off while I build out the interior. Yesterday I got an oil change and scheduled a transmission filter / fluid change and a radiator coolant flush. I also took the van in to get new tires, as the ones that were on there were pretty dry rotted. They weren’t able to change the spare, but the other four tires are all new.

On the way home from the tire shop, I stopped at Home Depot to restock my lumber supply and it started raining just before I left. Now, other than the rain being a bad thing because the driver door leaks, I should mention that the She-Beast’s windshield wipers also don’t work. Needless to say, it was not a fun drive home.

It irritated me so much driving home last night, that I decided it was time to fix the wipers. I took out the entire wiper assembly this morning and found out that the wiper transmission and the driver side wiper arm were completely stripped. The nearby auto parts store said a new wiper transmission would be $125, which I wasn’t gonna pay, and didn’t even include the cost of a new wiper arm. Instead, I went to a local salvage yard and looked around.

Out of everything they had, there were only two Chevy Express vans for me to loot from (which I had to find on my own by just walking around forever). The wiper transmission and driver side wiper arm on both vans were stripped, just like mine. However, I was able to find a few other parts I’ve been looking for: a driver side sun visor, driver side headlight retaining ring, driver side rear door panel, and the wiper fluid hose. I was stoked to find these parts, especially the visor, because I’ve been looking on eBay for awhile with no luck. I only paid $30 for it all and just the visor on eBay is about $50, though they all seem to be passenger side.

The driver side rear door was the only door missing the plastic panel. The panels are covering the insulation I added, so it looked odd without it. Here are pics without the panel and with the panel I found today.

The driver sun visor was broken when I got the van, so it was nice to finally find one that also happened to be grey to match the rest of the cab interior. Now I can drive during sunrise/sunset and not go blind.

I found another salvage yard about 20 minutes from where I live and luckily they were able to help me out with the wiper transmission and the wiper arm. They only had a couple vans to choose from, but were able to get me one that wasn’t stripped and I got both parts for $45. It came out of a GMC Savana, which is the exact same van as a Chevy Express.

I got home and immediately installed it and added some new wiper blades. I finally have working wipers and don’t have to worry about the rain as much now. My washer fluid isn’t shooting on the windshield like it should, so that’s my next task. Even with the new hose I found today, something else seems to be the problem.

I still need to change out the brake fluid, power steering fluid, and differential fluid, as I have no idea how long any of it has been in the van.

New Bumper / Re-caulked Roof

April 11, 2015 Categories Camper Van

Today was a pretty nice day out and I wanted to take advantage of the sunshine since it has been raining for the past few days, making it impossible to fix the She-Beast’s leaking roof or do much else. Some more of the packages for the conversion came in over the last couple days, mostly small stuff, and I’m hoping the bulk of the rest gets here in the next week or two.

First task of the day was installing a new front bumper, as the old one had a pretty gnarly dent in it and it’s a really easy thing to fix. There’s only eight 1/2″ bolts holding the bumper to the chassis and then another six bolts that hold some giant mounting bracket inside the bumper itself. There’s also around 10 metal clips that hold the bolts in place that I had to remove and insert onto the new bumper, followed by the giant mounting bracket, and then reinstalling the entire thing back onto the vehicle. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, it was, but it still took me two hours to do it and allowed me to discover another thing I want to fix or get looked at. There seems to be a leak or something near the steering box. Anywho, I think the new bumper looks great and it no longer looks like I drove through a crowd of people.

My second task today was putting on new fender extension pieces, because both the driver and passenger side ones were broken. They’re relatively small, fiberglass pieces held on with two bolts, which happen to be annoying to remove because the door is in the way and I don’t have a ratcheting wrench. So, I removed the 2″ long bolts slowly but surely, a quarter turn at a time. At no point were they loose enough to turn by hand. The driver side piece is not fully on correctly right now, because the clip that holds the bottom tight won’t sit correctly in the sheet metal behind it. It’s something I’ll worry about a different day. Oh, and there’s a slight variation between the new pieces and the existing van color, but I don’t give a crap.

Finally, with the sun shining high, it was time to start tackling the leaky roof. Before I started on that, I wanted to determine the location(s) where water was entering. To do this, I removed the headliner to get a better look at everything. The headliner is falling apart and I plan to recover it, so this was something I had to do eventually anyway. With the headliner removed, I sat inside and had Mark spray the corner areas of the roof with a water hose until I saw water entering. This was not a necessary step, but I did it because I wanted to know for sure where it was that water was coming in. This way, after it was all re-caulked, I could ensure those spots were water tight.

Looking at the seam where the fiberglass top and original van roof meet, it was obvious to see that water would get in. Pretty much the entire seam had cracked caulking or gaps that had formed. Before laying in new caulking, I scrubbed the entire seam area to ensure the new caulk would have a good hold and not just be stuck to dirt. I also cleaned the rest of the fiberglass top to remove all the grime that had built up. Who knows when it was last washed. Here’s a picture to show how dirty it was.

Once everything was clean, I took the air compressor and sprayed down the entire seam to blast any water out and ensure the caulk would have a good hold. It took me a little while to work my way around the vehicle with the caulk gun. There are two joints around the top that had to be sealed. Once that was done, I let it sit for awhile and worked on some other projects. When I felt it was safe to get wet, I sprayed down the entire top with water, focusing on the areas I knew were letting in water before.

I’m happy to say that I no longer have water leaking down into the cab area. However, when spraying the rear doors, some water appears to have gotten through. I’m gonna try to pinpoint where tomorrow. I have a feeling it’s the weather stripping around the doors, but we’ll see.

I don’t want to start on the floor until I can stop any water from entering which is not supposed to. Especially since all the electrical components for my solar setup will most likely be sitting directly on the floor, under the bed frame. Last I checked, electricity and water don’t go well together and I’d prefer not to get electrocuted.

As a side task, I cleaned out the tons of leaves and dirt from the seam around the hood. I was amazed at how much crap was actually packed in there.

In the words of Porky Pig, Th-th-th-tha-tha-tha-that’s all, folks!

Eight Punches (and a New Grill)

April 7, 2015 Categories Camper Van

I decided to start today by heading to Home Depot to find some possible flooring material that fits the look I want to achieve on the interior of the She-Beast (van). It rained last night, so the day was already off to a less than desirable start. I headed out to the van, opened the door, and before doing anything else, I noticed a puddle on the floor right in front of the driver’s seat that was big enough you could probably throw a goldfish into (not a live one, but definitely the cracker kind). I looked up and noticed that the corner of the roof was dripping (which explains some of the headliner damage). The seal around the high top and the roof appears to be a little worn and is letting water in (that’s what I hope it is, at least). So it looks like I’ll be re-sealing the entire top, just to ensure it is water tight.

So with the morning just beginning and already haven been given two punches to the gut (the rain and the leak), I decided to fix it later and head off to Home Depot because I really wanted to get started on the flooring. I turned the wipers on to clear the rain off the windshield and noticed the blades aren’t really wiping much rain away. They’re old, worn out, and pretty much useless. Punch number three. But it’s ok! I could see well enough to make it to Home Depot and the rain was only a sprinkle at that moment, despite the sky screaming “Get out of my house!” Then, punch four! The driver side wiper blade stops moving, then starts again, then gets jammed under the passenger side blade and somehow folds itself in half. So much for driving in the rain.

I ditched the idea of taking the van and decided to take my car instead. I thought to myself “maybe if it clears up later, I’ll go back to Home Depot with the van to get the plywood I need,” as that was the only reason I was gonna take the van in the first place. I got to Home Depot and headed to the flooring section. Linoleum was my first choice because it’s cheap and I like the idea of having one, giant waterproof sheet covering the entire floor. However, I have a particular look and feel I want to achieve on the interior and the linoleum just wasn’t gonna cut it. The design patterns just didn’t appeal to me. On to the laminate wood section! For the most part, I thought the selection was crap and it all looked too “manufactured” (can you sense the irony here?).

Then I noticed the bamboo flooring. BINGO! We have a winner. It’s called “Strand Woven Distressed Dark Honey.” The boards are not too dark, but not light either, and the edges are blackened making the borders really vibrant and when connected together makes each board really stand out. These are the pictures from their website. Honestly, the pictures don’t do it justice. It looks significantly more appealing in person.

Now the only problem – there were no boxes on the shelf. That’s ok, maybe they had some hidden somewhere or I could just special order it. I kid you not, it took me 20 minutes to get someone to come over to the flooring department. Apparently there were only two people there who could help in flooring and they were both off doing non-flooring related things. After finally getting someone to help, I quickly learned that the earliest I could even get the flooring would be June 1st. That’s two whole months away! Punch number five.

I decided to look around at some other stores and maybe, hopefully, I can find something that looks like that bamboo flooring or at least find some other design that appeals to me. Next stop, Menards! I head to their flooring section and it doesn’t take very long for me to find a design I like, available in both light and dark variations. And it’s in stock!¬†Sweet sugar snake bite! It’s called “Rustic Allure” and looks like something you’d see on an old, beaten up barn floor. Here are the pictures of both styles.

The only problem was that I was still so hooked on the appearance of that bamboo flooring. I loved how the borders stood out so much. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I decided to keep looking around and maybe the Home Depots in other towns would have it in stock. I wanted to go to Best Buy to find a stereo anyway, so I headed off to East Towne Mall in Madison where there’s a Home Depot across the street.

I get to Best Buy and started playing with a couple different stereos that had a video display screen, as I want to hook a backup camera into it so I can see what’s behind me when reversing in the She-Beast. I really liked one model in particular, because the menu design was more appealing to me, it had two USB ports instead of one, and it only cost $10 more than the other one. I was set. I wanted it. Dear Mr. Best Buy person, I need some assistance, please. What’s that? You don’t have it in stock? Punch numero six! On the plus side, he told me that the West Towne Mall had it, all I had to do was drive across the city to get it. I stared at the other stereo for a good couple minutes, deciding if I should just get it instead. I convinced myself that I had already driven part way across the state, what’s another 25 minutes gonna hurt? West Towne Mall, here I come… but not before stopping across the street at Home Depot.

I was pretty much in and out. Went to flooring, found the one I wanted, nothing on the shelf. Punch seven. Though, it was a light punch… like fighting a baby with a learning disability.

I get to Best Buy on the other side of the city only to find that the model I was told was in stock there wasn’t even on display. Great. El punch-o ocho (my Spanish-o is muy excellent-o). And I had no way of referencing the item number because I didn’t take a picture of the one at the other store, I just assumed it would be on display at both stores. Screw it. I wanted a win and decided to get the slightly less cool stereo. It had all the main features I wanted, the menu wasn’t that bad, and I could deal with only having one USB port. I bought it, as well as the dash install kit, and a USB extension cable so that I’ll be able to access the rear USB port without having to remove the entire stereo from the dash (I listen to music almost exclusively from a 32GB micro USB stick).

Since I had already driven to West Towne, I decided to make a pit stop at REI to get a new 3L water bladder, as I gave mine away while on the Appalachian Trail. I had just over $34 from my yearly REI dividend to use up and REI was also having a 20% off one item for members, so I got a new water bladder for under $30 and then they paid me the remaining $4 and some change that I had left. WIN! Free stuff and money? This is why REI is awesome.

As I headed back home, I came to the conclusion that it was unlikely I’d find something similar to that bamboo wood design and there was no way I was gonna wait two entire months to start working on the van, so I stopped back at Menards and got three boxes (90 sq ft) of the dark Rustic Allure as well as some Reflectix foil insulation, a moisture/vapor barrier, and a roll of underlayment. As wide as the laminate boards are, I don’t think I need to install a subfloor. Each board is gonna have three or four of the sheet metal “ridges” underneath it for support, as well as the Reflectix and underlayment. I also plan on filling the gaps between the ridges with additional Reflectix, so I think it should be a solid enough base to build upon, which is great because I won’t have to spend money on sheets of plywood now.

By the time I got home, it was too late to do much. I didn’t get to start on the flooring today like I wanted to, but I did manage to finish the installation of the new grill. The old one was bent, cracked, and pretty worn down. There’s not much to the installation; four screws and some clips hold it in place, plus removing the turn signals and parking lights. I ordered new clips for everything, but since those parts haven’t arrived yet I popped the old ones out and reused them. They’ll do for now (granted, most of them are missing). I think it looks a lot better and once the new front bumper comes in, it won’t look like I ran someone over anymore. Here is a photograph for your viewing pleasure.

Tomorrow I’m gonna for real, almost certainly, probably, hopefully, maybe gonna start installing the flooring. Really.

Ok, Maybe.