My Girl: Gettin' After It!!

My Girl: Gettin' After It!!
My truck on her maiden voyage in Moab 2012

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do I need pictures with each post?

It is Thursday. I almost forgot.

An update on the planned beach wheeling trip. We are definitely going on April 20th. It coincides with the start of OBX Bike Week. Bruce L. is coming; I haven't really seen this dude since college. and then Mike M., a former coworker actually relocated down to the area. So there will be a pretty built up Xterra and built up Jeep and then my junior monstrosity all down at Corolla, NC.

I posted up on Club Frontier, MDXC forums and the VAXC facebook page to put a few feelers out there. There were a few responses of general interest but no firm commitments. Sadly, Steve S. and his 4Runner are out; they've got a prior commitment.

I'm pretty excited because the Mrs. looks to be able to come, which is always nice.

The only visual thing that has changed with the truck is that I ordered a bunch of stickers from some of the schools I visited on the three trips where the book store was closed preventing me from obtaining while en route. Other than that, nothing really to take a picture of. Maybe I'll get some pictures of the truck around town in between trips. I dunno.

That's all I got.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Almost missed it.

So another 3500+ miles logged and done in the truck. I will to squeeze in getting the tires rotated tomorrow after work and before band practice.

Planning some upcoming trips to put the tires in new terrain/conditions.

In April I'm planning on heading to Outer Banks to get some beach driving in. Been putting out feelers on both MDXC and the VAXC facebook page. A couple responses but nothing really committal. Former teammate of mine from college is stationed down in VA Beach; he's going to look into coming.

I'll work on my update and post that to the Nitto review page.

Short post for this week. I've been fighting a cold which has hampered my garage time...both for workouts and tooling around. The scanner is still awaiting finalization. I did manage to get the solar panel wired in and the additional fuse block. At first I didn't want it to be switchable, but on second thought, for safety, I'd like to be able to switch the loads on and off when adding devices. I suppose I could just pull the fuses of the branches I'm working on. Either way, I'm not 100% done yet.

Other than that, only change is some stickers from Café Press and a few I ordered for schools that I visited on the past two trips where the bookstore was closed and I couldn't get decals. They will adorn the windows soon.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

And we venture towards solar...

In the photo above, I've mounted a 15W Sunforce PV solar panel onto the top lid of my toolbox. I didn't want to screw into the top of the cab or construct some gaudy platform and have it cantilevered from the headache rack. I was worried about wind forces, flexure and fatigue. Although a somewhat vulnerable position and a bit of a compromise in terms of maximizing orientation, this was probably the best of the viable options.


As I was recounting to a friend over alternating wall posts on Facebook, it was not even anything on the horizon for me when I first bought the truck.

He asked where the power was going to (as it was clear that this one panel was not going to be powering this full vehicle for propulsion least not without some serious engineering and some additional equipment).

"It goes into a second battery. Both batteries are linked with a dual charging relay that disconnects the batteries when their individual loads cause them to discharge. The relay links them whenever it senses a charging current (either from the alternator, or now, from the panel) so that both can be topped off whenever there is a generation/conversion of energy capable of recharging the batteries. The second battery is primarily as a backup to the first, (self jump start), but I also have individual accessories and an inverter capable of producing 120V household current for running conventional A/C appliances. I'm a nerd...

...Begs the question, "Why?" It all started when I added a winch. The stock battery was not rated to handle it. So I got a new battery. But even though that new battery could handle the winch, I could, theoretically deplete the charge to a point where there is not enough remaining capacity to start the engine. So you just got yourself out of a ditch; too bad you can't drive home now 'cause your battery is toast. And then began the brainstorming and research into what could be done with a second battery."
 So that was the thought pattern. My rationale for all of this is to make the truck capable as a 'go it alone' vehicle. For recreational purposes, I would never venture off-road alone. Even a minor calamity can devolve into a real emergency if not sufficiently prepared. I want to be able to extricate my vehicle or another vehicle from an impasse or 'stuck' position. Sometimes there isn't a tow truck within service range. I'd like to be able to jumpstart myself or have a remedy to the inadvertent draining of a battery due to an accessory left on. Or if a life supporting situation, the use of light or heat if we've run out of fuel. I have the extra fuel stowage options I've been experimenting with to aid in that regard. And when all sources of fuel have been exhausted, I'd like to still be able to power communications devices long after the batteries would be expected to have fully discharged. And that is what the solar panel affords, is the ability to keep the batteries topped off even after I can no longer rely on the alternator to recharge them.

There are many things you can't safeguard against. A vehicle fire and all of that is a wash. (Although I do carry a 20lb ABC fire extinguisher. I have a bad rollover and the panel shot, the batteries may or may not survive (AGM is a bit more robust than lead-acid, but they're not bulletproof) and all of my fuel and fluids could very well leak or cross-contaminate.

But under reasonable circumstances, I can very well fend for myself and come to the aid of friends and loved ones.

I'll probably do a build page although I didn't take many pictures. Concurrent with this installation, I added an additional tap off of the second battery and ran a feed in from the rear of the cab through the vent and into a new Blue Sea Systems fuse box. From there, I plan on adding additional taps for more 12V accessories.

The Frontier has two types of Lighter Plug auxiliary power feeds. One is full-time and the other is linked through the Accessory position of the starter. I may not be using the correct terms, but the gyst is for the one, if you leave something in, it will continue to draw power from the starter battery whether or not the car is running. The other will only draw when the car is running or the ignition is turned to the Accessory position. I presently have my CB plugged into the Accessory position full-time. It thus only leaves the Full-Time Plug available for things like the GPS and the smaller, 200W inverter I keep in the cab for charging phones and laptops while on the road. I don't like that setup. Fortunately, those devices don't draw a lot of current, but I have inadvertently left these devices in the plug at the risk of, overtime, draining down the main starter battery. Although it is a deep cycle battery, I'd rather not 'waste cycles' on being a bit absent-minded and not have them when it counts for winching and other intensive energy uses.

I also added a Scanner Radio which is mounted but not permanently wired in for power. That would create an additional spaghetti-like tangle of devices jockeying for position and power.

The idea here is that I'll be able to run the Scanner and the CB (and anything else for that matter) with the engine off and the main starter battery untapped with these loads being met by the combination of the second battery and the solar panel. The starter does enough heavy lifting every time I start the engine. The second battery occasionally powers the 'camp lights' if I'm working on the truck late out in the driveway...or in the rare instances when I actually camp.

So what of this venture?

Well, I'm finishing up coursework now in a program for a master's certificate in Energy Engineering and Management; we delve into various realms of sustainability related to buildings, alternative fuels, and energy conversion and distribution. I've read about a few 'proof of concept', DIY experiments where folks have converted ordinary vehicles into either full-electric or hybrid electric. It is a full-scale undertaking. Even with my ability to forego food and sleep for extended periods in the garage scarcely acknowledging either need, the work would still exceed a long weekend. I also need some funding/sponsorships to do it.

We'll see. I have some ideas in the works. Need to position myself and my work appropriately to really capitalize on it.