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Old 12-29-2009, 04:49 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Location: Currently Denver, CO
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Year: 1972
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Engine: 8.2L Detroit Diesel
Trusted Compass Bus

After using this site as a reference guide for so long I thought it only proper that I post here. That and I am getting to the point where I will need to ask some specific questions and maybe even get some good advice.

I have a 1972 GMC Carpenter with a rear engine 8.2L Detroit Diesel and 5 speed Manual Transmission with Air Brakes. It came with an Onan 6.5 generator and two air conditioning units installed. It is a great bus that was previously owned by a church in Tennessee. The motor was added back in 1988 according to paperwork, as was generator and air conditioners. The biggest negative about this bus was how inactive it was. Tires have cracks from 'dry rot'. Clutch crumbled early on, probably from same thing. I am concerned about brakes. I am pretty sure I found this bus because someone posted a craigslist listing on this site of this very bus. It is 30 ft long. Perfect midsize bus for my purpose.
I purchased my bus back in April 2009. I moved all my stuff into it with plans to fix it up at a friend's house and then live in it fulltime. Well, I immediately started living in it fulltime when things went wrong. I have been slowly fixing it up ever since.
I started a blog back in July to document the process. http://<font color="#FF0000">http://...pot.com</font>I didn't choose this forum because my intention was to document my life fulltiming instead of just focusing on building the bus. It has been a challenge fixing it up while living in it. Not ideal but I think it is turning out pretty good. I am at a stage where I will be hitting the road soon and I want to get plumbing installed. I don't even have all my lined up yet. I just wanted to hop online and make my introductions. You guys have really helped me without even realizing you were. I appreciate it.
I'll be back later with some specific questions and thoughts.
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Old 12-29-2009, 06:55 PM   #2
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

There's nothing like jumping in and learning to swim while you are swimming! But when it's sink or swim, you can be suprised how quickly you can learn to swim after all! Will look forward to see more pictures and progress on your project!
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Old 12-29-2009, 08:06 PM   #3
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

Love the blog and details.

I've one request Make your posts smaller. Break them up into separate ones. Details are great. Info is nice. Stories and sharing experience rocks. Reading super long posts... not so much.

That fog issue you have on the windows when driving. I get the same in an old mercury of mine which requires I keep a decent air flow coming in, at least 1/2 an inch crack from one of the windows near the windshield. Not sure how much would be needed for a bus, given size.
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Old 12-30-2009, 06:05 PM   #4
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seeria
Love the blog and details.

I've one request Make your posts smaller. Break them up into separate ones. Details are great. Info is nice. Stories and sharing experience rocks. Reading super long posts... not so much.

That fog issue you have on the windows when driving. I get the same in an old mercury of mine which requires I keep a decent air flow coming in, at least 1/2 an inch crack from one of the windows near the windshield. Not sure how much would be needed for a bus, given size.
Too funny! I do tend to get a little wordy sometimes. Especially my last post where I got a little preachy sounding. Good tip, I will break up the posts by subject matter. I'm new to the blogging world, and the only thing I know is people like pictures, so feedback is useful to me.

The condensation is manageable when I open the side window, squeegee the glass, wipe the glass off with a paper towel, apply rubbing alcohol with another paper towel (to aid in evaporation), dry again, and get under way before condensation returns leaving the window cracked. As long as I am driving and keeping the airflow coming in the window it seems to work. I freeze, but I can see. Passenger side Windshield takes longer to equalize with the outside temperature. This works but I will continue to research a better, more efficient way.
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Old 12-30-2009, 06:08 PM   #5
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by dburt
There's nothing like jumping in and learning to swim while you are swimming! But when it's sink or swim, you can be suprised how quickly you can learn to swim after all! Will look forward to see more pictures and progress on your project!
It seems like that should be a personal mantra of mine. I have definitely taken the plunge.
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Old 01-01-2010, 09:57 PM   #6
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty
You need to be extremely cautious with that kero heater, sounnds like you've already had a couple encounters with it. That (kero heater) is part of your condensation problem, due to the fact it's unvented. You should look into a vented LP heater, would eliminate some problems/dangers. A small fan blowing on the windshield would help, though I can't recall what you mentioned was the problem with the bus defrost system, but I would fix that as well.

Condensation that isn't prevented will lead to lots of holes if left unchecked. You need to prevent the warm air from the glass (since it's single-pane windshield). You might even insulate the outside of the glass as well when you're parked. Get a couple pieces of styrofoam the size of the glass & stop the wipers in the up position to hold them in place.

Nice lookin' bus!

Smitty
Thanks for the Input. I do understand the dangers of using this heater. I take as many precautions as I can given my circumstances (smoke/carbon monoxide detector, not using the heater while sleeping or driving) but the simple fact is that it is my only heat source and with the lows hanging out in the 20's the next few days I have to use it. I would love to have vented LP heater or even some electric heater I could run off my genny, but I make do with what I have to work with. Just living by my wits.
The problem with my defroster is that I have a rear engine bus and I removed all hoses and heaters leading from the engine to the front of the bus when I was gutting the interior. Not an easy fix since I threw away basically a vintage heater/defroster unit even if I could find affordable replacement hoses. I did this over the summer when I wasn't fully focused on winter time repercussions. But then again my plan was to be camping out in the deserts of Arizona by winter time. I've got superman hindsight vision.
I will look into insulating the exterior as well, as soon as I get a chance. Right now, urban camping (walmarts, etc) makes that prohibitive.

I've read many of your posts over the past year. They've been helpful. I may have to re-visit some. Right now internet is a rare luxury so I don't get as much leisurely surfing time as I would like.

Something that isn't a priority but I want to do is fabricate something to make my solar panels hinged and swivel so I can maximize effectiveness. Any ideas or thread links would be most appreciated.
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Old 01-02-2010, 02:07 AM   #7
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

I have thoughts on this Solar Mount...

The bottom is square but has rollers that face upwards. The upper is round with a pivot point in the middle and has a square crossbraceing inside it for the pivot and the Solar Platform to mount to. The solar platform on top is what lifts the panels to the desired angle (30 degrees?). There is a permanent hinge on the bottom and a set of bars on the side with slits up the sides that the locking bolt slides through, twist the handle tight to lock it in place. The circular framing should have holes in it every couple of inches or feet and a locking pin that can be dropped into place to prevent it from spinning. The wiring should probably go down through the middle of the center pivot so it doesn't bind up, and a limiter should be used to prevent the top from being spun around and damaging the cords.

Just think of those 70's style spinning beds, with a frame on top that lifts up at an angle for the best lighting of the panels.

I should warn though, I figure to mount three panels wide and one panel going across the top to form a square about the width of the bus at the front, middle, or back of the bus...why waist space? I figure front is better, that way you can climb up in back and just walk up front to it if your putting a roof deck...but my idea was to make the bottom part attached to the deck frame. ^.^
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Old 01-02-2010, 12:38 PM   #8
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty
Instead of "rotating" the panels, it may be easier to make 4-way mounts (L-brackets with pin-release) to allow them to tilt in any direction. Mount your panels onto one "frame", and tilt them all as one unit, which will also eliminate shading from the other panels.

You might look into an automotive heater core. You'd have to build a box/ducting for it to reconnect to your defroster outlets, but could do it from wood, and maybe some larger (3") shop vac hose. Of course you'd have to add a 12v blower motor, but could salvage it from the same vehicle the heater core came from...then you'd need to run engine coolant to the heater core. I'm not sure about any type of 12v electric heater that could run from the vehicles battery, and serve the same purpose, to supply heat into the defroster ducts.

Smitty
Mounting the solar panels with 4-way mounts may be the easiest. My original engineering plan was to mount all three panels to a thick (low gauge) piece of stainless steel, hinge that to another equal size square of stainless steel. On the bottom of the bottom square I was going to bolt a Lazy Susan swivel that connected to the bus. In theory, I would be able to tilt and swivel panels to desired location when parked. Two problems with this design, curvature of the roof prevents nice flush mounting of Lazy Susan and I would still have to bracket the 4 corners to prevent the wind from ripping the solar panels off the roof while driving. I am all for mounting the three panels as one. You mentioned the L brackets held by a pin...I want something that is sturdy, quick release, and prevents rattle or movement. Closest I have seen so far is bolt and wing nut. http://...ZQQGM0U


I like the automotive heater core defroster idea. Although beyond my current technical expertise I could quickly become a student/expert as needed. Running radiator hoses to the front of the bus could be troublesome since I have built cabinets along the walls and would have to bore holes through all of them. But I will play around with that idea.

More pressing issues that I am hoping for a simple fix are the leaks around my clutch slave cylinder and my power steering fluid. I fill my master cylinder with brake fluid every other day and I fill power steering reservoir every few days with type F transmission fluid. I believe clutch problem is due to a too tight spring but I can not find appropriate size/strength spring at normal outlets (Lowes, home depot, ace hardware, auto stores). Any tips where to find one. Most I have found in the past are too weak and get stretched out. I am at a total loss on where and when power steering fluid is seeping out. My bus mechanic skills are a weak spot. I am good to be able to 'air out my air brakes' to remove water buildup. I also suspect a leak in air system because it takes a good 3 minutes for it to air up to 120psi. Is this normal?
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Old 01-02-2010, 12:54 PM   #9
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sojakai
I have thoughts on this Solar Mount...

The solar platform on top is what lifts the panels to the desired angle (30 degrees?).
The rule of thumb for panel elevation is your latitude adjusted by +/- 15 year-round. As the SF Bay area is about 38 north, that would be 23 in June, 38 in March and September, and 52 in December. For a fixed site in the frozen north, if you are not going to move panels several times a year, set the panels to the December setting and leave them. The December days of shorter hours of insolation and longer hours of lighting are critical. Plus, the taller angle will shed snow better. The longer hours of sunlight will make up for most of the efficiency losses the rest of the year.

When planning tiltable panels for a bus, it is easier if you plan to always face the bus in one direction, so the racks only have to tilt up one way. I am leaning toward designing my bus to park facing west. (That also presents a smaller profile to prevailing winds.) In some campgrounds, you may not have a choice. In the desert or on a beach, it may not be an issue.

There are pole-mount "tracking" racks that follow the sun from east to west every day. People in the industry I've talked to say "keep it simple, stupid" and just aim all the panels due south. They say add an extra panel with the money saved not buying the tracker frame if you really want those few extra watts.

I made a spreadsheet for Eastern New York creating insolation averages based on (Naval Observatory?) records. It showed a panel on a properly tilted tracker would get a maximum of 10% more insolation in December compared to a stationary one facing due south. In July, the tracker advantage peaks at 30%, but there is already 120% more power received each day than in December. I personally would expect designing a tracker for a bus roof would not be worth the trouble. If you made one, the power consumption or labor to keep it pointed correctly plus the extra maintenance would not be worth the trouble.
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Old 01-02-2010, 02:20 PM   #10
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Re: Trusted Compass Bus

Sojakai, I like the detailed reasoned thinking behind this. Some other issues with this come to mind. 1) I will not always be at liberty to park facing the most desirable direction...keeping the bus level when boondocking takes precedence. 2) My current harbor freight panels are only 45 watts, total. I am trying to tweak out what I can from them until I can upgrade, hopefully soon. 3) All is null in my current not so stealthy urban camping in parking lots. Even the hinges would not be able to be utilized. But this is only temporary. 4) As the sun arcs across the sky in the summer, are you saying just having them tilted will be beneficial instead of tracking the sun's progression? I understand that it would be labor intensive moving the panels to track the sun and I want them to have a nice efficiency/labor balance. My plans are to boondock in an area for 2 weeks at a time, where raised solar panels are not intrusive.

This brings me to another important issue for me. Rooftop access. Unlike many newer buses that have a nifty roof escape, mine does not. Last night I entertained the thought of cutting one into the roof at the rear of the bus over the engine. I could access the roof, maintain solar panels and air conditioning units. Plus I could dream about installing a small deck up there...down the road. Like alot of people, I don't like the idea of cutting a hole in my bus but if I could do so it would also be able to provide the bus with a much needed vent. Useful to keeping bus cool in the Summer time.
Considerations for this...Where do I find the framing hardware to do this? Is it something I could fabricate? It would have to be weather proof, of course. This means I want it to be insulated but ideally also a skylight. It would have to be big enough for me to climb through. I want to keep it as simple as possible to prevent any problems and preferably with materials easily obtained. Ideas welcome. I had purchased an RV ladder but due to my barn doors engine access and flip up rear window I have all but abandoned that idea for roof access. I want to keep the exterior aesthetics pure, that is why I chose not to skin over exterior windows.
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