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Old 12-17-2019, 10:34 AM   #101
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Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
They sell in the $35-$40 range each, I'll let you have both for that plus shipping.
They won't at all work with the child seats. The ones you have look they are for front-passenger bucket seats. But I like the color. You should sell yours on eBay. Thanks, though
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Old 12-17-2019, 12:53 PM   #102
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How to Install Seats in a Skoolie



Where Should Seats go in a Skoolie?

There are two types of seats you should be thinking about: where passengers will sit while driving, and where guests will sit while seating. The passenger seats require installation where you can install seat belts (see my previous post about that), while the guest seats can really go anywhere. The passenger seats should also be secured in such a way that they won't fly around in the event of a crash (see my previous post about installing the floor for more about that).

Now here's something I didn't consider when I installed the seats, and only realized after our first trip. The back of the bus is the least stable, meaning it bounces a hell of a lot over every single bump in the road. Unfortunately it's too late for us to flip the layout design so that the passenger seats are in the front, but if I had to go back and do it again, I'd probably put the passenger seats right behind the driver's seat for passenger comfort, as opposed to all the way in the back. Oh well, maybe my next conversion will be oriented properly.

How to Properly Size Seats in a Skoolie

If they're too high, it'll be uncomfortable because your legs will be dangling over the edge without touching the floor. If they're too deep, the edge will dig into your calves. This isn't anything new, and there's a ton of information and guidelines out there, so let's compile it all for our purposes here.

Here's a summary of what Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group has to say about it:
  • Seat Height: about 17" (with a minimum of 15")
  • Seat Depth: 16.5"
  • Seat Width: 20-22" (this isn't really a factor for bench type seating)
  • Seat Angle: 5-10 degrees, meaning the forward edge of the seat (located under your knees) is higher than the back edge, giving an angle between 5 to 10 degrees. As an example, if we use the ideal seat depth of 16.5", the forward edge under your knees would be 1.43-2.85" higher than the back edge.
  • Cushion Height: 1.5-2"
    • Overall, the cushion should be more firm instead of soft
    • Ideally, the top layer should be softer, and the bottom layer should be firmer
    • The soft layer compresses to 25% it's normal height, and the firm layer compresses to 65% it's normal height (remember this for later
    • The ideal ration of soft cushion to firm cushion is 2.6--meaning 2.6 inches of soft cushion for every 1 inch of firm cushion, which if we used those exact numbers means we'd have a cushion 3.6" thick total. If we went with a 4 inch thick cushion, the top softer cushion would be 2.88 inches thick, and the bottom firmer cushion would be 1.11 inches thick
  • Armrests should be 8-10" above the seat surface
  • Backrests have three levels of support
    • The lower, lumbar support should be 5-9" high, with a concave curve depth of .6-2" into your back to support your lumbar region
    • If using a middle sized backrest, the height should be 26"
    • If going for the full neck and head support, the height should be 36"
    • The angle backwards should be between 100-110 degrees from pure horizontal, meaning if the seat was flat with the earth, go backward 100-110 degrees (not including the Seat Angle mentioned above). In other words, 10-20 degrees backward from the vertical axis.
The above really is for office seating, not skoolie seats. We want something more robust and more comfortable than that, and we might also be using these seats for a bed that we want flat for sleeping. I used the following reference because my plan calls for a table that lowers into a bed, courtesy of Shop4Seats.
  • 4 inch cushions (the following measurements do not include the cushion depths)
  • 15" seat height
  • 20" seat depth
  • 31" back rest height
This is totally flat, however, and I wanted something a bit more. Also one has to account for how much the cushions compress when sitting on them. So even though the plywood is 15 inches high, you're sitting higher than that due to the 4" cushions, but you're not sitting 19" high, because the cushions compress... see what I mean? This can get finicky real fast.

So here's what I did for my seats. It's not the right way, it's just one way, and I still didn't even get it right. I decided to match up with the Shop4Seats dimensions, since that's tailored for RVs instead of office furniture, but I still combined the two to maximize comfort.

I planned on having 4 inch thick cushions (which is no longer valid--my cushions will be closer to 6 inches now that I've ridden around and see how much more I need), so the following measurements are only for the plywood dimensions, excluding any cushion dimensions.

The flat seat height is 14" high, but I installed 2 x 4 inserts to give it the Seat Angle as mentioned above in the Cornell summary, so when sitting with these inserts, the seat height is actually about 15.5" high. With 4 inch cushions, assuming they compress to 50% their height, the actual height of my knees is 17.5" high--right within the ideal range. However, my new plan with the cushions is to get 6 inch thick cushions, using the ideal ratio above, so we can rework the numbers here. If the total depth is 6 inches, the soft top foam should be about 4 inches thick, and the bottom firmer foam should be 2 inches thick. Using the compressibility numbers, these would compress to a total of 2.3" high, meaning the new sitting height would be between 17.5-18" high. This is still acceptable!

The depth is a little odd here. I opted to make the seats exactly 1/3 the width of the bus, meaning they are about 26" deep from the front edge to the wall. However, my partner really did not want to install backrests as they would obstruct most of the bottom panel of the windows, and she determined we could use the following as a backrest.

We originally planned on 4 inch this cushions (now 6 inches thick) for our dinette seating, meaning that when we lowered the table, we'd put the back rest cushions on the table to make a continuous mattress. Putting a sheet on there is kinda awkward, so we are also planning on getting a 1" thick memory foam mattress topper (it just so happens our dinette bed and seating dimensions are appoximately a queen size) to sleep on top of, but when we're not sleeping, this will be rolled up and velcroed tight in a roll against one of the walls. Then we will put the back rest cushions between us and this roll, and, in addition to extra pillows, will form a backrest out of the cushions, pillows, and mattress topper. For the other side, it will just be our head pillows instead of the mattress topper, plus extra pillows and cushions. I personally don't think this will be sufficient, particularly when the bus is moving, but I'm not the one sitting back there... and there's the old adage about a happy wife... so I just let this one slide for now, but I'm fully expecting that we'll still have to install some sort of back rest once she realizes that this is probably the source of her discomfort when riding along back there.

For now, though, that's what we have: 14" high seats, that go to 17.5" high with the 2 x 4 inserts, and an undetermined depth pending properly sized cushions.

How to Frame Seats in a Skoolie

The most common way to frame seats (and everything else) is to use standard common 2 x 4 planks. However, there are better ways to frame than that. Square metal tubing might be the best, but you need to have a welder and know what you're doing with it for this to work. Metal tubing weighs less than a 2 x 4 and is stronger. Another way is to simply use at least 3/4" plywood sheathing for both the wall and the frame, and use the Kreg Jig Pocket Hole system to mount the plywood vertically without the need for a frame. I kind of wish I went with this method, as it would've saved a TON of space on the inside of the seats.

However, since I placed aesthetic value over functionality, I went with 2 x4 framing and the same shiplap that I used on the walls/ceiling. There's not much to write about for this portion, other than to measure carefully. My total seat height is 14" off the floor, so I had to subtract the thickness of the 3/4" plywood seat, the 1.5" thickness of the bottom-most 2x4, and also the same for the top most 2x4, meaning the vertical 2x4s were 14-.75-1.5-1.5 = 10.25" long. However, you probably realize that 3/4" plywood isn't actually .75" thick, it's .71" thick. These types of measurement errors will probably drive you crazy, because they did for me, and it required multiple cuts and recuts to make sure everything fit appropriately. Then the shiplap had to be cut to size, and I wish I had a table saw for this but I didn't and it took a lot longer.


How does one attached a vertical 2x4 to a horizontal one? Well, that's where the Kreg Jig comes in. If you look at the pictures, you'll see the vertical posts are installed on top of the bottom 2x4, and I used the pocket hole kit to drill the screws in at an angle, without any wood splintering or anything like that. I also used this kit to attach the cross beams just under the seat lid. This pocket hole kit really comes in handy and I used it everywhere.


Anyway, the pictures probably do a better job describing this than my writing.







How to Build Seats in a Skoolie

Once the frame was installed, I put the shiplap on the front to make it pretty, and measured/cut appropriately sized plywood for the seat tops. This again was kind of a pain, because these needed to hinge open to access the compartment, so I had to account of the hinges too. Also we need handles, right? So using a jigsaw I cut handles in the tops, and used a router to smooth out the edges. Actually, I used a route to smooth out every edge I could.

Again, maybe the pictures will work better than my writing.

Lastly, we cut a piece of plywood to form the bed, but it's kind of a temporary solution until we get the laminate floor installed, and then finally the table piston that lowers and heightens the table, but I'm waiting on that until I'm done with most of the buildout. That will be for a later post.









Common Gotchas
  • Not accounting for the height of the cushions when determining the seat dimensions
  • Not accounting for the thickness of plywood and 2 x 4s and everything else when determining what kind of cuts to make
  • Make sure you route all edges that could be exposed, as having smooth, round edges makes it look so much more professional, and also is safe too (and less splinters)
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Old 12-31-2019, 01:21 PM   #103
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Now that we've had some rain and foggy mornings, I've discovered all the leaks. The cool sunroof hatch I put in was dripping where it cracked from a previous trip, so I replaced the plexiglass and properly prepped/sealed it this time. I also covered the joint/seam where it joins the bus roof with a solid coat of epoxy thickened with colloidal silica. It is now bone dry.


The air conditioner in the front, which was a dumb idea, doesn't leak while stationary--but when I was driving through the dense fog, the water condensed out and it started dripping pretty heavily on the inside. It's obviously finding a way in, no doubt helped by the 70mph wind. I have to remove it anyway to work on the fan issue, so once it's back in, I think I'll just use expanding foam to fill the gaps.
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Old 12-31-2019, 01:31 PM   #104
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Now, the battery bank is giving me some problems, so I'm hoping someone here has an idea of how to proceed. I have a 24v LiFePo4 bank with 120 amps capacity. The positive terminal is wired to a 100 amp inline fuse, which then goes to the master battery switch on the electrical panel, but it also goes directly to the positive terminal on my AIMS 2kw inverter/charger. The negative terminal of the batteries is attached to the BMS from electrical car parts company, which is then hooked up to a Victron Energy BMV-700 shunt for battery bank monitoring. That shunt, like the inline fuse, is attached to both the negative bus bar at the electrical panel, and also the negative terminal on the inverter/charger.


Everything was working great--the inverter/charger had charged the batteries to max capacity, and when I unplugged the shore power, found that the batteries could power my shop vac no problem through the inverter. Great. Well, after I topped up the batteries overnight, I unplugged the shore power and turned the inverter off. The battery voltage then rapidly dropped from 26 to 24 to 22 and then the BMV-700 display went blank.


I tested the voltage of the batteries themselves, and they were good (like 26-28v, I don't remember). Then I tested the voltage between the shunt and the fuse, and it was like 4v. I disconnected everything, and reconnected it again, and it went back to normal. Okay.


A few days later, the same thing happened. I suspected the inverter was the culprit (because it happened only after I turned it off), so I disconnected the inverter--but it didn't work. I disconnected everything again, and reconnected, and it went back to normal. But this time, I left the inverter disconnected. A few hours later, I noticed it had happened again. So obviously it's not the inverter, it's either the shunt or the BMS.


I can't trouble shoot for a while, but has anyone heard of this happening? Anyone have any ideas? Is the shunt confused and blocking the battery power? Or is this normal?
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Old 01-03-2020, 03:51 PM   #105
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I took the liberty of re-posting your electrical problem to another forum I am a member of that has more expertise in that area, I hope that is alright.


The first reply I got asks:
Quote:
Did by any chance did the display 'Wake' when the inverter was turned back on?
Sounds like a 'Sleep' mode to me since the batteries aren't being drained.
and continues:
Quote:
The Shunt only senses energy MOVING through it, when energy stops moving, it will often 'Blank' out when internal capacitors discharge, and they often have a 'Sleep' mode.

Check to make sure the Shunt wiring is connected correctly, the display shows 'XX.xx' Amps, watts, volts or whatever, and NOT '-XX.xx' (-) meaning the connections are backwards or the shunt itself is installed backwards.

Where is the display power coming from?
Again, if it's not connected to full time power that stays on when the inverter/battery switch is shut down, it will show charge left in capacitors until that's exhausted and shut down.
And another commenter says it would be a lot easier to provide help with a diagram of your system, you don't happen to have one handy do you?


Someone else suggests:
Quote:
I'd check how he has the BMV wired up. That it sees a drop off in voltage while voltage on the battery is measured as correct might be a clue. If he is turning the inverter off with an external isolation switch it could be that the BMV is monitoring the voltage on the inverter side of the switch and is seeing the voltage on the inverter's capacitors instead of the battery.

Edit: also Victron usually has pretty good documentation, its probably worth reading through the manual for the BMV to double check whether its all wired up right.
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Old 01-03-2020, 04:18 PM   #106
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I appreciate the extra help, thanks. Iíve actually isolated the problem. Itís not the inverter or the shunt... itís the BMS. Either the BMS is malfunctioning and turning off the current, or its working properly and turning off the current because my batteries are damaged. The BMS allows power to flow through again once Iíve completely removed any load, but then once I put a load back onóthe shiny battery monitor, or even the battery panel indicator lightsóitíll turn everything off in a minute or two.

I suspect my batteries are bad, even though their voltage is ~26 volts throughout this whole thing, because they sat for 18 months in my closet in its original packaging. But then again, the voltage says itís fully chargedómaybe the BMS is malfunctioning. I have to hit up Carl from the Car Parts company to troubleshoot. Unfortunately for me Iím about to deploy for two months so this will have to wait. Thanks again for the extra help.
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Old 01-03-2020, 04:36 PM   #107
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheArgobus View Post
I appreciate the extra help, thanks. I’ve actually isolated the problem. It’s not the inverter or the shunt... it’s the BMS. Either the BMS is malfunctioning and turning off the current, or its working properly and turning off the current because my batteries are damaged. The BMS allows power to flow through again once I’ve completely removed any load, but then once I put a load back on—the shiny battery monitor, or even the battery panel indicator lights—it’ll turn everything off in a minute or two.

I suspect my batteries are bad, even though their voltage is ~26 volts throughout this whole thing, because they sat for 18 months in my closet in its original packaging. But then again, the voltage says it’s fully charged—maybe the BMS is malfunctioning. I have to hit up Carl from the Car Parts company to troubleshoot. Unfortunately for me I’m about to deploy for two months so this will have to wait. Thanks again for the extra help.

No problem, I hope you get it all figured out. From what I know about lifepo4 (which is not a lot), sitting for 18 months shouldn't have damaged them substantially unless they were stored at an inappropriately high or low voltage or saw extreme temperatures for extended periods of time. Hopefully ECPC can help you figure it out (I've heard good things about them), and hopefully your batteries are fine and its just a malfunctioning or mis-installed BMS. A member of the other forum also thinks it could be the BMS and suggests:


Quote:
His next step should be to check the voltages on the individual cells. If they all look good, then I would suspect the BMS (or how it is hooked up). If a cell is bad...then that is the problem.

Is this diagram an accurate representation of your system:
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Old 01-03-2020, 06:28 PM   #108
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Iíll be posting a write up on how I built the battery bank with pics and schematics soon, but yes that diagram is accurate. I dread having to unwire the individual cells because it was a huge pain to wire them up... all 32 of them... so Iím just going to wait until I get back to troubleshoot that much further. Fortunately it charges just fine when plugged in to shore power so Iím comfortable leaving the whole thing as is for the next two months.
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Old 01-03-2020, 06:39 PM   #109
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Best of luck during your deployment......and
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Old 01-03-2020, 10:04 PM   #110
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Originally Posted by TheArgobus View Post
Iíll be posting a write up on how I built the battery bank with pics and schematics soon, but yes that diagram is accurate. I dread having to unwire the individual cells because it was a huge pain to wire them up... all 32 of them... so Iím just going to wait until I get back to troubleshoot that much further. Fortunately it charges just fine when plugged in to shore power so Iím comfortable leaving the whole thing as is for the next two months.

Its possible you don't have to take the bank apart at all



Quote:
Originally Posted by FilterGuy
Interesting, if he has 24 volts and 32 cells, he either has 8S4P or 4P8S. If it is 8S4P he can measure each cell without taking it apart. If he has 4P8S, measuring the voltage on each 4P grouping if one of them is way low, that pack has one or more bad cells.
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Old 02-03-2020, 12:23 PM   #111
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Argo,
Great thread! I just bought a 2003 Girarin M5 at auction in Santa Rosa, CA. I got a good deal and the plan was to drive it home and resell to help fund the build I'm half way through. After the drive home though, I fell in love with the quiet, highway-speed ride and am now going to keep it and let go of my Thomas. I plan to build cabinets and beds for use this spring/summer, then pull the components and strip the interior to re insulate, etc.. What did you find for original insulation in the walls/ceiling? The panels seem well backed, wondering if it is just fiberglass or something better? also, I assume wiring for lighting runs above the window? I have large angled panels there that look like they might hide the wiring.
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Old 02-09-2020, 07:47 AM   #112
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Argo,
Great thread! I just bought a 2003 Girarin M5 at auction in Santa Rosa, CA. I got a good deal and the plan was to drive it home and resell to help fund the build I'm half way through. After the drive home though, I fell in love with the quiet, highway-speed ride and am now going to keep it and let go of my Thomas. I plan to build cabinets and beds for use this spring/summer, then pull the components and strip the interior to re insulate, etc.. What did you find for original insulation in the walls/ceiling? The panels seem well backed, wondering if it is just fiberglass or something better? also, I assume wiring for lighting runs above the window? I have large angled panels there that look like they might hide the wiring.

You made me realize I never made a post about removing the walls/ceiling/insulation. Whoops. We had cotton candy pink fiberglass insulation behind everything. Portions of the skirt were "sealed" so I just left the shitty insulation there, but pulled it out everywhere else. When it was an empty shell, I found a few strands sticking out behind a panel in the front which drove me crazy because I hate the stuff. I replaced it all with pink foam panels, which I'm happy with, but my next bus conversion will definitely use spray insulation.


The wiring runs in a groove/channel above the windows on the driver side.


If you look at this picture, you can see, above the window directly behind the driver's seat, the black wire bundle (it has a few stripes of white paint on it) running into this channel, and then how I attached a single shiplap to cover that channel. I also used this channel to run a wire for exterior lights that sit right above the windows.


My goal was to make wire access as simple as possible should I need to access them, which I do. My left rear blinker doesn't get any electricity. The front one does, but the wire is completely dead, telling me I might've accidentally drilled through the wire somewhere. These wires run above the windows to the aft left lights, then also along the top to the after right lights, and a small bundle runs along the top on the passenger side as well. I also have another wire bundle that runs underneath the bus.



Unfortunately for me, the ceiling lights constantly flicker, probably due to a bad wire connection (I'm an amateur, after all). So I'm probably going to remove the ceiling lights (as shown in the pic) and put a thicker shiplap panel or somesuch on top of the wiring channel and put smaller LED strip lights there.
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Old 03-13-2020, 02:36 AM   #113
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After consulting with Electric Car Parts Company, I've found out that the behavior I've observed is indicative of a defective BMS. So that's one less thing I need to figure out.


Unfortunately for me, I was supposed to return home next week, but since I'm in a "Tier 3" country according to the CDC, I am not allowed to travel for 60 days. At all. Even if I'm returning from a deployment. While our Commander in Chief restricted travel for 30 days, with an exception for American citizens, the SecDef went ahead and doubled down with an order restricting all DoD members from travel for 60 days if they're in a Tier 3 country. Which I find myself in.


So, here's a toast to another 60 days in Germany, making $117/day and enjoying the schnitzel and beer. Cheers!
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Old 03-13-2020, 03:10 AM   #114
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheArgobus View Post
So, here's a toast to another 60 days in Germany, making $117/day and enjoying the schnitzel and beer. Cheers!
Proast!


(Of all the places to be stuck!)
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Old 03-27-2020, 11:18 AM   #115
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A couple of informal updates.


The BMS is faulty, and Electric Car Parts Company is sending me a new one.


The rear left blinker still doesn't work. I checked the bulb, replaced the relay and fuse, and following the wire all the way back and couldn't find any breaks. So I just popped out the front left blinker, spliced the "major" wire with a new cable, ran this cable under the carriage all the way to the back, and spliced it into the trailer light harness (that I added when I replaced the lights). Now the rear left blinker works!


One thing followed by another, though. Now the speedometer doesn't work and just shows zero. It's throwing my transmission for a loop, which makes me concerned about highway speeds. I'm going to check the VSS on the rear axle to see if it's maybe just covered up or something.


I installed a diesel heater (thread to come soon), got the fridge in place, and realized the sink we ordered is MASSIVE. We have a baby on the way, so we wanted a sink big enough to double as a bath tub for the little one, and now we also realize this sink will also double as the baby's bed!


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Old 03-27-2020, 11:31 AM   #116
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheArgobus View Post
A couple of informal updates.


The BMS is faulty, and Electric Car Parts Company is sending me a new one.


The rear left blinker still doesn't work. I checked the bulb, replaced the relay and fuse, and following the wire all the way back and couldn't find any breaks. So I just popped out the front left blinker, spliced the "major" wire with a new cable, ran this cable under the carriage all the way to the back, and spliced it into the trailer light harness (that I added when I replaced the lights). Now the rear left blinker works!


One thing followed by another, though. Now the speedometer doesn't work and just shows zero. It's throwing my transmission for a loop, which makes me concerned about highway speeds. I'm going to check the VSS on the rear axle to see if it's maybe just covered up or something.


I installed a diesel heater (thread to come soon), got the fridge in place, and realized the sink we ordered is MASSIVE. We have a baby on the way, so we wanted a sink big enough to double as a bath tub for the little one, and now we also realize this sink will also double as the baby's bed!


Quote:
Originally Posted by TheArgobus View Post
.




I installed a diesel heater (thread to come soon), got the fridge in place, and realized the sink we ordered is MASSIVE. We have a baby on the way, so we wanted a sink big enough to double as a bath tub for the little one, and now we also realize this sink will also double as the baby's bed!
I've seen a lot of people store dishes and plants in their sink when they're driving but never their baby! Way to be innovative!
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Old 03-28-2020, 12:44 PM   #117
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Are there any mechanical hazards to driving with a broken speedometer? I have a gps unit so I know my speed, and weíre planning a trip this next week before I can bring it in to the shop. The transmission seems to run better without speed information, although I get the blinking overdrive off light. And I donít think Iíll be able to go above 60. Is there any potential damage to the vehicle?
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Old 04-06-2020, 12:02 PM   #118
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I got my electrical in working order (not perfect or done, but it works). Out of curiosity, I fully charged the bank, unplugged from shore power, and ran a few things to see what their draw was.


- LED Interior lights: 25W
- Amber exterior lights: 12W
- Water pump (when running): 125W
- Fridge (when running, with bonus vent fans): 60W
- Diesel Heater (not running the fuel pump): 5W


I then plugged in the air conditioner and set it to max cold, and saw that it was only pulling about 60W. Granted, it was about 50F out, but that was still surprisingly low.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:35 PM   #119
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Posts: 3,347
Year: 2002
Coachwork: Thomas Built Bus
Chassis: Freightliner FS65
Engine: Caterpillar 3126E Diesel
Rated Cap: 71 Passenger- 30,000 lbs.
The 60W number for theair conditioner sounds like the FAN only.
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Old 04-15-2020, 09:48 PM   #120
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: NorCal
Posts: 368
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Girardin
Chassis: E-350
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Well I decided to redo the battery bank. These lithium packs sure are great but they are such a headache to setup properly. If I had to do it again, I’d just get the full battery package from renogy with the BMS built in.
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