Monday, November 20, 2017

On Board Air, Part 1

So we spend a lot of our time in the van out in the desert.  A lot of those trails have pretty badly washboarded roads, and I know that the best way to smooth those over is to air-down my tires.  Yet sometimes, I don't.  I just grit my teeth and listen to everything rattle.  Why?  Because I dread the hassle of airing back up.  It's not that it takes that long, but the whole process of fetching the portable compressor out of the back box, popping the hood to connect the battery clamps, airing up, and then reversing the process just to try to deal with a too-hot-to-touch compressor does make me think twice before grabbing the deflators.  And that's dumb.

Ergo, time to simplify that as much as possible.  Hard-mounting the compressor and an air tank under the van won't shorten the actual time to re-inflate by very much (though having a bit of reserve in the tank should help a bit).  The biggest motivator here is just to have everything "ready to use" as much as possible.  Connect the coiled hose to an outlet on either side, and start the air. When complete, disconnect and stow the hose, and off I go.

To that end, I did my usual "slow burn" on this project.  I spent a few months gathering datasheets and crawling around the van with a measuring tape.  A few months back, I picked up a hard-mount version of my Viair 400-series compressor from a friend at a swap-meet.  Next I scored a nice air tank off eBay for about half of normal price.  Today's project is to get ready to mount the tank.

After a lot of lying under the van, I chose this spot - this is the recess under the body behind (inboard) of the entry step.  It's long and skinny, and just about tailor-made for the Viair 2.5gallon tank.  Towards the top-end of the photo you can see two captured nuts in the body "frame rail".  Not sure if these serve a purpose on older or 2WD vans, but on mine they're un-used, so I took them over for my purposes.  I happened to have the right metric thread bolts in my collection of things I've removed from the van over time.  Towards the bottom of the photo (forward end of the frame rail) you can see that I added a pair of riv-nuts for a second bracket.

I used some 2" angle iron for the body-side, and 1.5" angle on the tank-feet, with 1" square tube connecting them.  You can see from how the mount sits on the tank that just about half of the tank will fit up inside that space.  If I could have found a 5" diameter tank, I think the entire thing would have fit into that recess.

Here's a low-angle shot of the brackets test-fit.

And here's a shot level with the bottom of the van body.  Can you see it?  Nope, it all tucks up into that space really nicely, so very little risk of damage there.

Can I also just say: What a delight working under a lifted van!  So easy to just slide under there for test-fittings and installation.  No jacks, no ramps, just a single jack-stand to help hold the tank while I do up the bolts.

Brackets finished welded and primed.  I'll finish the paint this week, and I hope to be able to get the tank and compressor mounted sometime after Thanksgiving (though I hope to head out to do some hiking on Black Friday).  It's looking like the compressor will get mounted in the rear near the spare-tire mount, there's an out-of-the-way spot up there.

Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Retro Post: Solar System Installation

Some questions on solar systems have been coming up on the GTRV owner's forum lately, and while I've been popping in with options and opinions, I haven't had a firm write-up I could point people to.  Time to remedy that by detailing some of the important bits of the Astrolander's solar installation.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A little more Rock-n-Roll

Well, just in time for the American Adventurist SoCal Mountain Rendezvous, the Rock-N-Roll bed is "done".  Or at least, "done enough to sleep on".

It took a bit of a push, especially given the near record-setting heat and humidity we suffered through for the Labor Day weekend, but we're at a point where we can sleep on the new bed system.  Between that and a few other odd jobs, we're good to go for camping next weekend!

More after the jump...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Rock-N-Roll, Baby!

Who's ready to Rock-n-Roll?

I'm nearing completion on my project to replace my cheap Craigslist conversion van bench/bed with a Westfalia-style Rock-n-Roll bed.

More after the jump...

Friday, July 28, 2017

Retro Post: Interior build v3.0

In my quest to get the blog caught up with my various forum Build Threads, it's time for another Retro Post.  This time, making a big leap forward with a new approach to the interior systems.

So I'd been talking about doing this for quite a while: Fixing the interior layout to better fit my needs. We love the van, but there's a bit of a "10lbs of crap in a 5lb bag" problem, and some of the decisions I made early on have caused problems down the line.

Most specifically, I really hated that I was never able to find a perfect arrangement for the fridge. I knew I wanted it somewhere behind the driver's seat or under the bed, but lack of overhead height meant the latter was a no-go, and getting any chest fridge to fit behind the seat either wasted a lot of space or forced me to relocate a BUNCH of stuff every time we stopped to camp. Not good. The whole point of this is for things to be easy.

 I spent a lot of time (like literally 2 years) moving things around, building different fridge mounting boxes, and trying to make things 5% more efficient. During this time I was also hanging out at the Samba and daydreaming about how much interior space the Westy VW guys have. There, I got exposed to "the new hot thing" for their kitchens - a Danfoss swing-compressor replacement for the finicky old Dometic Absorption fridges that Westfalia originally installed.  Mechanically, they're the same hardware as all the good "chest" fridges the Overland folks are using, but in upright "front loader" footprints.  The VW guys are loving them because they can slot right into place in the original westy cabinets, but actually hold more food, since the swing compressor takes up less space than the old heat-engine system. Better yet, they run efficiently on 12v batteries and don't carry all the problems of a propane-driven 3-way.


Retro Post: Fresh Water System

As I'm in the midst of rebuilding a few parts of the Astrolander interior, including the fresh-water system, I realized I never properly documented "Version 1".  Time for a Retro Post.

Retro Post: AWD to 4WD Conversion with NP233 Transfer Case

Another Retro Post.  This time I'm documenting converting the Astro from All Wheel Drive (AWD) to proper Four Wheel Drive (4WD) with a 2-speed NP233 Transfer Case sourced from a 2000 S-10 Blazer LS 2-door.  (Thanks again, General, for making parts-interchange work so well!)

This was almost installed as a "kit", as I purchased 95% of the bits from another Astro/Safari owner.  His original thread is here, and includes a lot of other good detail.  Check it out, if you're headed down this path.  The completeness of the work Dean did means there's very little new "art" here (which is why I initially didn't do much write-up), but once again, this could be useful for someone outside the Astro/Safari community.

Retro Post: Astro Van Lift-Kit Installation

I've been guilty, multiple times during the life of the Astrolander project, of letting my detailed blog posts get out of sync with the current state of affairs.  My build threads on ExpeditionPortal and the forums have been maintained somewhat more diligently, but I realize not everyone follows there.  To help remedy that, I'm undertaking some "Retro" posts to re-document some of the work that I've done but not covered here.

Here's the first installment:  Installing the Overland Vans 4" Lift Kit.