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Old 04-02-2021, 09:38 AM   #201
Almost There
 
Join Date: Dec 2019
Location: Upstate NY
Posts: 85
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Girardian Handicapped Commercial
Chassis: E-450
Engine: Ford 7.3L
Rated Cap: 9,000
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheArgobus View Post
Whelp, I got pulled over for having multiple lights out. Apparently, there's quite a few regulations I was busting.



What Lights Does a Skoolie Need?

Check out this page. For vehicles wider than 2032mm or 80 inches or 6' 8", you must have a suite of identifying lights (for vehicles longer than 30 feet, there's additional lights, but I won't go into that here since I have a shortie). Long story short, a vehicle wider than 80 inches needs:

On the front end, in amber:
  • Three lights at the highest point, centered and six inches apart
  • A light at each side of the roof
  • Reflector tape near the bumper on both sides
On the aft end, in red:
  • Three lights at the highest point, centered and six inches apart
  • A light at each side of the roof
  • Reflector tape near the bumper on both sides
  • Tail lights
  • Turn Signals
  • Brake lights (including the 3rd brake light, centered and at a higher level)
We're going to focus on the marker or running lights (called "clearance" and "identification" lamps on that page) first.


How to Replace Skoolie Running Lights

First, we need to remove the old shitty lights. Inside the bus, clip the wires going to all these lights so that they can be removed on the outside. Some of them may only have one wire leading to them, as the ground can be through the chassis.

Remove the screws and pull the lights off. Some of the screws were too corroded or stripped to work, so I simply ripped them out or used a grinder to remove them. This will leave holes and tears in the body, which is fine as we'll patch them next.



How to Patch Holes in the Skoolie Body

See my previous post for a more detailed write up. Mix up your epoxy, and apply the fiberglass as necessary. It's okay if it looks rough--we're going to sand it down and all the blemishes will look better once the bus is painted. Let it cure for at least a few hours before proceeding.
How to Install New LED Lights

The button LED lights I linked to are great, because you only need to drill a 3/4" hole to fit them. They're water-proof, and the included rubber seal certainly will resist water, but I decided to line the grommet with silicone sealant as well just to make sure.

Once you drill the hole, insert the light carefully. This may take a few tries, as it is a snug fit, but that's what we want. Oh, and it may be a good idea to strip a little extra off the end of the pigtail wires just to make it easier for the next step.

For these lights, the white wire is the ground, and the black wire is the positive end. That's kind of annoying. To complete the install, simply crimp the black wire to whatever wire you clipped earlier, and then connect the white wire to the ground (sometimes it's a wire, but usually it's just to the chassis). Turn your headlights on to see if you've done it correctly. If they work, hooray--if not, get out your voltmeter and double check your attached the correct wires where they need to go. LEDs have polarity, so it has to be correct.



How to Install New LED Brake Tail Reverse Turn Lights

Now we're getting more complicated. This is going to be different for every bus--for mine, the tail lights came on along with the brake lights, so I had to determine which wire going to the tail light was associated with turning the headlights on, and associated with pressing the brake light. I tried using a voltmeter, but found it was a lot easier to just loosely attach an extra LED button light from above to see which one came on. Once I identified the tail light wire, I labeled it and clipped it.

I then labeled all the other wires (turn signals, reverse light, brake light) before clipping them as well. Trust me, labeling before cutting is the most important step.

With the wires cut, I then unscrewed and removed the lights on the outside. I didn't care about being neat for this step, since I patched the ensuing holes with metal plates as outlined in my previous post (using fiberglass as well).

So now that the entire aft end of the bus was free and clear of lights, and patched over with fiberglass, I could install the new LED light fixtures. I went with the same vertical position, but spaced a little further out (also to fit my license plate lateral to one of the lights). The lights I linked to have a handy little guide for the wiring which makes it easy to wire them up.


I mounted them by drilling three holes for the bolts, and one for the wiring pigtails. I used some silicone sealant around the screws to make sure they were waterproof. Then I wrenched the lights into place on the inside, tightening the including nuts on the bolts.


There was a lot of extra wiring that I removed. One needs to be careful here to make sure they remember which wires are which (please label them). The brake light is straight forward. So is the tail light, and the reverse light. Once you attach the ground, it should be up and running. Test it by turning the headlights on, shifting to reverse, and braking--but ensure that you haven't left any bare wires hanging around, because if they contact the chassis, they could spark.

It's worth mentioning here that you must add a wire from the brake light wire to the third brake light bar. I installed mine above the door, and the one I linked to also includes a low light mode for the headlights, which I then wired to the running lights on top of the bus.

About the turn signal lights. One cannot have both the turn signal and the brake lights wired to the same fixture, as if you brake with the turn light on, the brakes will keep the light on, thus removing your turn signal. Not cool. So we have to install a separate light for the turn signal.

This step is basically identical to the main LED light fixture, with one big difference--the hot wire for the turn signal also needs to be attached to the chassis ground through a 50W 6ohm resistor. This is because the relay for the turn signal is expecting a bulky incadescent bulb, and if you simply replace it with an LED one, it'll "hyper flash" or flash rapidly, and possibly burn out the relay. Thus we need to simulate an incandescent bulb using this resistor.

The turn signal wire must go to the new LED turn signal, as well as the resistor, which then connects to the chassis. Just an FYI, this resistor gets HOT, so make sure it's installed away from other wires or potentially flammable material. Then the LED turn signal has a ground wire that you must also attach to the chassis.

Once everything is installed, it is essential to test everything in each configuration (for instance, brakes with both headlights on and off, in reverse, etc...). It's also important to make sure you have the necessary reflector tapes installed where they need to be (reference the linked page in paragraph one).

The last step is to install the license plate lights if necessary. This one should be pretty easy by now, as you simply splice the tail light wire and lead it to the license plate light, and then ground it on the chassis too.

Common Gotchas
  • Label everything before you cut. I cannot emphasize this enough
  • Make sure the power is off when you work; I forgot this once and was promptly reminded when I cut through two wires
  • Test everything before you go out on the road in each configuration--this will probably be a two person job
Couple questions. Third brake like I heard it is not needed? Bus is 2001 e450 shuttle

Edit. I reread and confirmed yes separate blinker lol. I just didn’t see yours. Just ordered the resistors!

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Old 04-02-2021, 10:18 AM   #202
Almost There
 
Join Date: Dec 2019
Location: Upstate NY
Posts: 85
Year: 2001
Coachwork: Girardian Handicapped Commercial
Chassis: E-450
Engine: Ford 7.3L
Rated Cap: 9,000
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheArgobus View Post
(continued from previous post)

Anyway, back to the outside. Now I installed the top panel, which follows the same procedure as the previous ones, but this was on the outside now of the slotted angle, secured using the self tapping screws.



All that was left was to replace the marker lights that I had removed. This was quite simple, as I just used a 1/2" drill bit to "widen" some of the slots on the top-forward-most angle, inserted the lights and secured them with a just a small spot of gorilla glue.

The wiring was a little more difficult, only because I really wanted to make it waterproof. So I drilled a small hole in one of the sideboards, slid some 12v wire through, then stripped and crimped the ends appropriately. Then I heat shrunk the crimps with a piece of rubber long enough to give them plenty of protection from dripping water. Back inside, I simply crimped the other end of the wire to their appropriate connections.

Lastly, I turned the air conditioner on, and felt the glorious, freezing cold air flow.


Common Gotchas
  • Power supply is key. Make sure you thoroughly budget your electricity appropriately so that you can actually run this. As I have yet to do the electrics, I may end up having to add more power supply options than just solar (generator or alternator)
  • Air flow and tilt. These things will overheat if they don't have enough air flow, and if they're not tilted backward, the water will drain inside
  • Safety. Don't just screw this to a piece of wood. Make sure it is secured in all axis such that if you roll the bus, you don't have a 30 pound projectile flying around.

Amazing. Iím going to do this. But in the back. How come you made the hole big and put those vertical side wood in there?
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Old 04-06-2021, 09:01 PM   #203
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: NorCal
Posts: 400
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Girardin
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Damn, I haven't logged in in a while. That's what having a baby will do I suppose.


The only update that I haven't posted is that we installed a 5 gallon orange bucket underneath a luxurious soft-closing black toilet seat. We were going to go with a composting toilet, but then we decided just to use cat litter with an auto-fan that triggers whenever the lid opens. It works AMAZING, there's absolutely no smell, but I did a very good job of ensuring the only space for airflow is outward. I'll post it soon once I find some time.
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Old 04-06-2021, 09:07 PM   #204
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: NorCal
Posts: 400
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Girardin
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Quote:
Originally Posted by mc11237 View Post
Amazing. I’m going to do this. But in the back. How come you made the hole big and put those vertical side wood in there?



Let me tell you this and how I fucked it up. I put it in the front instead of the back because I wanted it to be nice and clean above the bed/seats, but in hindsight I wish I would've left the stock school bus AC in there, and just left the ceiling and walls.


I did not, big mistake, and so I put it in the front (ignoring the fact that the fan and wind would be going opposite, hence the wind blocking plate). I made the "hole" larger in every direction just to ensure sufficient air flow for cooling the coils.



Once I get some time, I will actually be moving the AC to the back centerline, and will be trying to get an alternator/charger so if there are some clouds blocking max solar it can still run.
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Old 04-06-2021, 09:10 PM   #205
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: NorCal
Posts: 400
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Girardin
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Oh I also added some crown molding with LED light strips on the backside, and added a strip underneath the rain guard above the windows on the outside, so my lighting situation is AMAZING!
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