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Old 03-17-2014, 11:04 AM   #1
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SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

Hi everyone!

I'm new here. This is my first post. I've been reading this forum a lot trying to learn as much as I can but the thing is I'm still very new to all this.
It seems like every here is very knowledgeable about everything involved in this process, which is awesome. (Mechanics, electricity, etc.) The thing is, I'm not. I don't know much about cars and have no idea how to rig up some wiring. My only real applicable experience is limited woodworking/general building.
So my question is this:

Is this project a feasible one for someone with very little experience who would teach themselves as they go? Or would it take years and years before I could hit the road?

Let me explain more about the project I wish to do.
The plan is to buy a short school bus. I'm looking to get a Ford with a 7.3 because from what I've read they're one of the most reliable engines, especially for converting to WVO. I am actually planning on paying a professional to do the conversion itself because it is the one thing I am very hesitant to try to teach myself. A lot at risk and it seems too complicated for someone who knows little about engines beyond the basics. I was thinking about getting a Golden Fuel System installed for me. Perhaps at http://www.fullcirclefuels.com/

The tricky part is once I get on the road I don't want to get off. So I would rig up an on-board filtration system so I could filter WVO as I go using a Centrifuge, heat and filters. I'd try to mimic something like this:
http://www.burnveg.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4
So I guess my first question is, is this feasible? Are the fumes or smell going to be overpowering if I have it in the back of a short bus? I've read on this forum ideas of putting the 55 gal drum on a trailer and towing it but I'd really like more compact discreet system. Something I could park in cities if I had to. Is there an alternative place for it to go? I've read putting it on the roof would be a very bad idea and I'm not sure how something like this would work under the body of the bus.
Maybe I could make some sort of system that I could pack up into the bus, then unload, set up, filter the WVO, fill up the WVO tank, then pack up the system again and be on my way.

The second part is wiring. I'm not planning on using a fridge, microwave, TV or anything like that. I would just need to wire up my lights and sockets for hot plate, charging devices, etc. I've been thinking about putting solar panels on the roof and adding a second battery. Do you think it's feasible that I could teach myself how to do this and not kill myself? I've been trying to teach myself the basics but feel I have a long way to go.

Everything else, insulation and general interior construction, I'm fairly certain I could teach myself. But I'd be happy to hear why I'm wrong about that too! Haha

I know this is most likely an annoying question and I apologize. This has been a dream of mine for a while. I've saved up a good chunk of money for it. I love the idea of having a small home on wheels with minimal fuel cost and less of an impact on the environment. I want to travel for a long time. But if its more trouble and time than it's worth than maybe I should pack up my backpack and start hitchhiking instead!

Many many thanks to anyone who had the patience to read let alone respond!
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Old 03-17-2014, 02:22 PM   #2
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Re: SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

In my experience, someone who wants to learn something will pick it up in time. Curiosity is a great motivator.

When I started our conversion I had a good handle on AC wiring but DC was completely new to me. It took a while to wrap my head around it but it all makes sense to me now. Lots of knowledge here and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Running WVO while traveling means processing it onboard which can take up a lot of space. In a shortie, space disappears in a hurry when you start adding the creature comforts. You'll also need a separate tank and undercarriage space is tight on these rigs. WVO is doable, but you'll probably have to make some compromises though. Got no personal experience with it myself but others here will chime in.
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Old 03-17-2014, 07:06 PM   #3
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Re: SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

Thank you for the response!!
I've been trying to pick up as much as I can about wiring online. I'm getting more of a grasp on it but I'm still pretty lost. I guess there is no standard answer in how long it will take me before I can wire a bus. Probably just depends on much I put into learning it. I'd love to be able to have a wired, floored bus by Summer but who knows.
I guess my main concern is the on-board WVO filtration. I want a shorty mainly because I'll be visiting a lot of cities and want to be able to park and sleep in it easily and discreetly.
Does anyone know if it is safe to have an on board filtration system going on inside the vehicle? Will it reek? Perhaps I should have posted separately in the WVO section. My apologies if so!
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Old 03-17-2014, 07:46 PM   #4
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Re: SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

On the plus side-the 7.3 loves veggie-the fact tht the fuel runs thru the cylinder heads ensures that it's warm by the time it hits the injector.
On the bad side: you're 10 years too late. All the oil is taken. Its a money making commodity now. Bio D is now profitable with diesel so expensive-and veg is needed. The producers are paying for used oil-and have agressively staked it out. The days of "oh-we'll just drive around + find someone that wants to give us oil" are long gone. If you are going from A to B to C, and you know you have oil at each stop to make it to the next, you could do it. If you are out wandering-good luck.
Processing + collecting oil is messy. Theres no fumes-but there is some smell. And you do know you have to get the oil hot to centerfuge it? Wanna have a hose come off + spill 150* veg oil spray around? Cleaning up oil sucks-its always sticky. I'd never do it in a bus. (BTW -i have a shortie running on veg.)
And if you build all this around a barrel for dirty storage-a barrel for clean oil to settle-the room for the centerfuge-hoses etc, you've used up 1/4 of all you space.
Since you are buying all the filtering stuff done--and buying a kit + have it installed, you will have zero spares-or idea how to fix something that goes wrong.
Costs-most people that do veg--or build buses-are good scroungers. Start with soemthing for free-and turn it into a countertop-saving $300. If any of us bought everything new , we'd all have 800% more $ into them. Learning a new skill is one thing, not having the raw materials and tools at hand is another.
And if you buy the filtration stuff ($1500?) and buy a good kit + have it installed ($3500)-and find out you can't find oil? $5k will buy you over 1000 gallons of diesel. At 10 mpg, that would be 10k miles before it starts 'saving you money.'
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Old 03-17-2014, 09:01 PM   #5
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Re: SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

Thanks a bunch for the info, sdwarf36! All very valuable. I appreciate you taking the time to help out a newb like me.

Just to be clear, the gist I'm getting is that if I don't know how this stuff works and won't be able to fix things as they go wrong, I probably shouldn't go ahead with it, right? I'm fine with scrounging together materials for converting the living space and filtration system, but when it comes to fixing mechanical issues... well I can't do much beyond change the oil or a flat. Though I do hope to learn more as I go. Will I be digging a huge money pit because of this? I frankly don't know how complicated these systems are or how long it would take to get familiar with them to the point where I could fix problems myself as they arouse. I'm okay with an initial investment but I don't want to be doughing out money regularly to keep fixing mechanical issues. I had hoped getting a reliable engine would reduce issues that come from WVO use.

My other concern now from what you've told me, is finding WVO. I had heard it was hard but I didn't know it was that hard. I suppose I could always call ahead for a WVO source before I leave for the next destination. I would be okay with traveling place to place in that manner, though I suppose I would have no idea about the quality of the WVO until I got to the location. Maybe I should look into BioD instead.
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Old 03-17-2014, 09:09 PM   #6
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Re: SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

You would have to tow a dedicated trailer to just for possessing the WVO to keep the stink from overwhelming you.

Bio diesel is just processed WVO. More costly, takes more time, and is better for your engine than anything else.

WVO over time kills your engine.

Transmission fluid is really good, but will be harder to find than WVO.

IMO if you can't design the system, and build it, you don't have any home of making this work.

You need a few years of research first.

9 years ago I was actively making biodiesel and WVO. I researched for over a year before beginning. I will likely start making it again when I start driving a Cummins as a daily driver again.
I currently run my little honda as a daily drive,r making almost 50 miles to the gallon on gas. With that kind of economy, it's not worth the time to make it.

Nat
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Old 03-17-2014, 11:51 PM   #7
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Re: SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

I have 170k of veggie experience on a 92 VW--and 35k on my 7.3. Almost any problem could be fixed with a screw driver. (Loose clamp-leaky hose etc.) But it came with a learning curve--close to home.
Do some math-where are you going? going to drive the bus when you get there? Where you going next? Say you have a 50 gal tank-theres 500 miles. Ok-now you're empty-wheres your next tank coming from? You may get lucky with Joes Pizza shop-but he only has 10 gallons. Come back in 2 weeks-I may have another 10. Finding 50 gal at a time is unheard of. Anyone that has a container big enough to hold that much is under contract. The resturant doesn't own the dumpster-the collection company does. And if it goes in, its theirs. No one cared when the res. had to PAY to get it taken away-now its worth money.
You can answer your own question--call around now--before you spend any money.
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Old 03-17-2014, 11:53 PM   #8
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Re: SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

Thank you all for your help!
I think I'll follow everyone's advice and look for other means of travel. Think it might be time to do some hitchhiking and train hoping instead!
I appreciate y'alls kindness. Be good.
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Old 03-17-2014, 11:59 PM   #9
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Re: SKOOLIE: Newbie Question

The 7.3L powerstroke is well regarded engine with the later ones (2003 was the last year they were produced) being the best of them. I've got one in my bus and am generally impressed. One advantage with the Ford platform is that parts and service are easily available from Ford dealers and the local parts shops. For us it's nice to know that we don't have to track down a truck repair shop if we have problems on the road.

Your electrical system sounds fairly basic. You probably won't be able to run the hot plate off a small battery bank but the rest will fine. A propane cook top or camp stove may be a better fit.

The main thing is to decide how you'll be using your bus. Sounds like you plan on doing a fair amount of urban boondocking (parking with no hookups or bathroom facilities available) which means you'll want to have as few AC appliances as possible and keep your battery draws as low as possible.

Other stuff to consider:

Toilet facilities - porta potti, RV toilet, composting toilet
Cooking area - sink, stove, cooler, refrigerator, microwave
Sleeping area - permanent, fold up, futon
Sitting area - sofa, dinette, futon
Plumbing - clean water tank, gray tank, black tank, water heater, water pump, sink, shower, how to run drains to holding tanks or to a bucket
Heating & cooling - propane furnace, propane catalytic heater, electric resistance heater, wood stove, AC unit, roof mounted ventilator fan
Electrical system - AC plug-in, battery bank size (don't use your starting batteries), fuse/breaker panel, battery charger, AC to DC converter/charger, DC to AC inverter, solar panels, charge controller, LED or incandescent lights
Insulation - if you'll be traveling in hot or cold areas
Storage - closet, under bed, floor and ceiling mounted cabinets, belly bins
Alarms - smoke, monoxide, propane

Lots to think about, but planning is half the fun!
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