X88 expeditions - Documenting and sharing overland travels, adventures, and expeditions

July 27, 2008

Lighting - Mounting The Switches

In a previous post I had some pictures of the safety toggle switches from Purple Cranium. Unfortunately their depth prevented me from mounting them horizontally on the plastic panel under the steering wheel, the metal shield gets in the way. Here are some pictures of the plastic panel removed. Nice how GM left the knee support piece underneath raw steel so it can rust.
I ended up mounting them vertically on the left side of the panel so that they sit to the left of the metal support piece. You can see the thin space on the left of the picture. In the last picture you can see how I bent all the connectors down in order to be able to mount the plastic panel back, otherwise they are too deep.

The switches will be from top to bottom:
- PIAA driving lights (on rack)
- KC 130 Watt driving lights
- PIAA fog lights (on rack)

As usual, I will wire them in so that the driving lights only come on if the safety switches are on AND the high-beams are on. The fog lights will only come on if the safety switch is on AND the factory fog light switch is on.

Lots more wiring and mounting to come ...

Lighting - Starting Up The Build

Its been a while since I started this topic. The work I wanted to do over the winter never got done. But I am going full steam ahead now because I want to have my lights mounted for the Carlisle All-Truck Nationals.

The first stage was mounting the 6 PIAA lights to my Surco Safari roof rack.

I swapped all the light mount adapter hardware to stainless steel. I may also do that with the actual mounting bolts and nuts for the lights. One thing I decided a while back and was to upgrade the power connection hardware. The connectors that come with the PIAAs are pretty good, but over the years I have had them corrode and even seize up on me completely where pulling the connectors apart resulted in yanking the metal contact right out of the plastic connector.

So I have decided to go completely with Deutsch connectors. Here is a description:

Extreme Duty Electrical Connectors
When your electrical system needs protection in environments of the harshest type and requires protection from dirt, dust, mud, water, vibration and rough terrain whether you are on the road, off the road or on the water, Deutsch IPD products deliver.

I am going with 6 pin connectors for the lights on the rack (3 lights per connector) as they have 18 gauge wires. For the KC Hilites in front of the grill, there will be a 2 pin connector per light as they have 14 gauge wires.

These are sold by MSD Igniitions. I also bought the crimping tool and special crimping dies for the special pins that come with the Deutsch connectors. I put in an additional order to Batts Racing who carry the connectors and also the mounting tabs.

Here are a couple of shots of the KCHilite with the male Deutsch connector installed.

These are excellent products and look like they will really hold up to the weather.

July 26, 2008

K&N Cold Air Intake

I'm not really writing up a how-to as K&N make their instructions available online so if interested, you can get the full scoop here. I have bought several intake kits over the years with lots of people asking me "are they worth the money"? My opinion is that they are if you are buying them for the following reasons:
  • easier access to filter - saves time
  • filter can be cleaned and used for a very long time - saves money
  • makes engine bay look "cleaner" overall

So for these reasons, I keep buying them. Here's what the kit looked like when I first got the Trailblazer

Why did I get the 77-series (part# 77-3062KP), that is, the chrome one? To tell you the truth, I wanted the plastic one (part# 63-3062) for two reasons, less absorption of heat, and easier to clean (don't need to polish). But Summit had this one shipping immediately at the time while the plastic one was on a 1 month backorder. So I decided not to wait. Now remember, this is the version for 2006 TrailVoys and up since we have the mass air sensor. Prior years have different part numbers. One small tip ... you can probably notice a piece of rubber above the chrome tube right where it goes under the black metal shield. That is a little extra piece of the "gasket" I cut that sits on top of the black metal shield. The problem is that the chrome tube moves up and down and starts to hit the metal shield. If left alone too long it would scratch and ultimately start to rust. So I attached the cut piece to the underside of the curve in the metal shield which protects the chrome. Because I cannot leave anything well enough alone, I used K&N's search by filter size function to see if there would be any slightly bigger filter that could fit above the windshield washer reservoir. I happened to find this interesting part:
Its part# RX-4750: - has the same inside flange diameter - 3" - has the same height - 6" - has a larger base - 8" x 6" - and is their "XStream" product which puts the filter element on the cap as well. So I bought one to test out and I am glad to say it fits really well instead of the filter that comes with the kit. It has to be positioned vertically, that is, the 8" base height is vertical, and everything else falls into place.
So thats the slight update ...

July 19, 2008

Surco Safari Roof Rack - Lighting

And finally a small teaser to a future post.

I mentioned that I bought the LT100 Safari Light Bar Adapters. What I didn't mention is that I bought three of them which therefore gives me mounting for 6 lights.

I am a bit of a light nut, so I present to you 1/2 of my auxiliary lighting solution. I decided to go with these particular PIAA lights because of their smaller 4" size which does not stick up very much from the roof rack.

The 2 outside ones are yellow inclement weather lights while the 4 inside ones are long range driving lights. Here's a couple of views and with white covers installed to make the whole set up street legal.

Much more on these in an auxilliary lighting post.

Surco Safari Roof Rack - Mounting

Now you may have noticed that I had 3 Crossbars on my rack. I ordered an extra 48" pair from Surco (one bar went to The Roadie) because of what I was going to be putting on the rack.

However, I quickly realized that this was not going to work the way I anticipated. The Trailblazer roof rails follow the contour of the roof and are significantly bowed from front to back. What this means is that you cannot attach all 3 crossbars to the rails.

What I ended up doing was using the extra one at the rear so that the AT Can Holders are firmly attached to both crossbars. The front and middle (sort of) crossbars are attached to the roof rails. The rear one is not attached to anything. But, with some experimentation, I ended up putting 1 of the factory sliding crossbars back into the rails, sliding it all the way to the back, and using it as a support for the rear Surco crossbar. It rests quite nicely on the factory crossbar which would be extra helpful when the cans are full of gas.

Which brings me to:
Hint #3 - Buy but don't use the Surco Channel Adapters - Part# CH100

These add unwanted height to the whole assembly and also another point of potential breakage, although I am sure they are strong enough for the weight rating of the Safari Rack. The parts circled A will be used but everything else under normal circumstances will not. You would normally buy 2 CH100 part numbers which would result in 4 mounting points, but I only bought 1 in order to use the parts.

Surco may sell or provide just those parts but last year I did not have time to talk to their customer service and request them. Ultimately, I was glad that I didn't because I ended up using the parts circled B to mount the AT gas can holders to the crossbars.

Again, The Roadie steered me to this great solution which is made possible purely by some kind of strange coincidence.

It just happens that with the 45" wide Surco racks, the inside crossbar attachment bolts fall directly at the location of our roof rails. Here's a closeup:

So what you do is not mount the left side of the tab in the normal fashion but you drill a hole straight through the crossbar at the exact location of the hole in the mounting tab.

Second, you get 2" bolts (4) that will be used with the parts circled A. I don't know the thread particulars but you can take the tab with you (which is threaded) and use it to get the correct bolt. I would not recommend using stainless as they may not be strong enough. In fact, I am going to try to get some grade 5 or possible 8 bolts to replace the ones I have now.

And finally you slide the tabs right into the roof rails and bolt the entire thing down. Just be prepared to spend some time fiddling with the tabs in order to bolt everything down. They are a tad too narrow to make things easy (what else is new).

When bolting down you need to make sure that they end up sitting flat inside the rails and NOT on a vertical angle which would make the entire mounting problematic. The tabs need to be rotated horizontally so that they catch the underside of the roof rails absolutely flat across their surface.

Once the tabs are mounted perfectly, the whole set up is rock-solid. I was apprehensive at first with all the weight I was going to be putting up there but I did not run into any problems whatsoever on the trip. One thing that helps is that the tabs are aluminium and the underside of the roof rails are ribbed. These small ribs actually dig into the tabs slightly for added gripping.

Surco Safari Roof Rack - Accessories

The accessories I got with the rack were:
  • Spare Tire Adapter - Part# ST100
  • Hi-Lift Jack Adapter - Part #1108
  • Axe and Shovel Adapter - Part #AX100
  • Safari Light Adapters - Part# LT100
Here is what the spare tire and Hi-Lift adapters look like up close.
The tire adapter is made from steel and not aluminium. It uses a cross-brace that is made to fit under the center long floor piece and one of the crossbars, either front or rear. I chose to mount it towards the front.

The Hi-Lift jack adapters are also steel and use Grade 5 mounting bolts to hold the jack to the side rails. The bolts actually go through the holes in the jack with 2 at the heavier bottom end.

I have not put the axe and shovel mounts on yet, and more on the lights shortly.

The other adapter I needed was something to lock down 2 gas containers. Surco does not carry anything for that and the ones I saw locally would only work with the cans standing upright. This would make the entire rack too high for my tastes so I turned to the great can holders made by Adventure Trailers. These are made of 1/8" thick steel, are inherently strong, and can be mounted horizontally like this:

Here is what mine look like without the gas cans:
As for the actual gas cans, I ran out of time and ended leaving on the expedition without them. I bought a couple of metal ones in Durango, CO and never ended up needing to use them. But I got sick of them rattling so I recently sold them at a garage sale.

I have just put in an order for the plastic Scepter cans made here in Canada which are used by the US Military. One thing about these, they are not CARB compliant so they are hard to buy in the US (by civilians). They will be impossible to get starting in 2009. However, they can still be sold in Canada (for now). National 4WD is a current dealer, they are priced at $50 Canadian.

Surco Safari Roof Rack - Intro

Last year when I embarked on my Colorado Expedition, I knew I would need external space to carry some additional gear and items that should not be inside. A roof rack/basket was the obvious choice, but which one?

I liked the Yakima LoadWarrior and its line of accessories, however, after doing some research, I found that it did not have a very good weight rating. It does have a spare tire mount but I was also looking to put two 20 L gas cans up there along with a large water container.

The Roadie steered me towards the Surco Safari Rack. It has a 300 lb weight rating, is made out of aluminium (won't rust, lighter), and was cheaper than the Yakima (and others).

Unfortunately I ran out of time last year and could not finish it like I wanted. Here is what it looked like on the trip:

The rack is pretty easy to put together, the kit recommended for a SWB (short wheelbase) TrailVoy is the 45" x 60" version - part# S4560.
Tip #1 - Replace as much as you can of the provided hardware with stainless steel. If you are in southern areas this may not be necessary but for me, its required, even though I am not using the rack in winter. It helps tremendously when storing it.

Tip #2 - Reinforce the 4 interlocking pieces over and above the screws provided to lock the pieces together. The Roadie indicated that his started to rattle something fierce so he pop-riveted the pieces together. What I did after assembly is to drill holes through both pieces where one slides into the other one. I then used longer stainless bolts and lock nuts to tighten everything up (8 in total).

July 10, 2008

Bruce & Grey Counties - Bruce Peninsula 4

Bruce Peninsula - Lake Huron Side Continued

I wanted to check out Sauble Falls because in the book Waterfalls Of Ontario it describes how when the water is low enough, you can walk across the entire length of these "step" type falls.

The falls are part of Sauble Falls Provincial Park where I parked and walked the short trail to the river. There were many people on the falls trying to walk across, jumping into deeper pools, and generally having a good time. I ended up walking down to the lower part of the falls and walking out about a third of the way with my still and video cameras to take some close-up shots.

The skies started to turn gray so I cut the visit short and headed back home. The route I decided to take was through Shelburne, mainly because that town has my favorite pizza chain - Pizza Delight. Unfortunately all the locations are gone down in the big city, but whenever I can, I stop at one of the shops in the smaller towns in central Ontario.

What I did not expect is that I would be driving straight through a quite significant wind farm. Its the Melancthon Wind Plant, has 45 turbines and generates an estimated 195,000 MWh per year. I arrived in the area as the sun was setting so I drove around to get a few good shots. A pretty impressive sight.

And that was it for this short exploration. I will follow up with some links to Google maps I am working on. And if I have some time, I hope to post some videos I took from an HDV camcorder mounted through the sunroof.

July 9, 2008

Bruce & Grey Counties - Bruce Peninsula 3

Bruce Peninsula - Lake Huron Side

Tuesday the 1st of July ended up being the best day of all. Not a cloud in the sky and very comfortable 19 degrees Celsius. I headed south from Tobermory and turned towards the Lake Huron side just south of Bruce Peninsula National Park.

The various farm roads took me close to the water from time to time. The West coast is much different than the eastern Georgian Bay side with lots of sandy beaches and very shallow water. My ultimate destination on this day was Sauble Falls.

On the way I wanted to explore some beach trails that are clearly visible on the hi-def satellite pictures from Google. When I actually arrived at the first location, I saw what I was looking at on Google and learned why. The recent dramatic water level drop on the Great Lakes have caused huge beach expansion in these areas. Where once water used to be, there are large areas of hard-packed sand and beach vegetation. So the only way to get to the water is to drive a kilometer or so into what used to be water. That is when I happened to come across this.

The first picture is of the male Piping Plover only, the second one you can make out the newly-born chick in the middle. This is what they look like up close, with the pictures actually being taken this year at Sauble beach, just south of where I was.
Photographs from Wiki article.

Because the Piping Plover is endangered in the Great Lakes habitat, the Ministry of Natural Resources had a section of the beach closed and the local volunteers were on patrol watching for predators. This was the first nesting and hatching on this particular beach in 35 years. The first in the entire region was last year on Sauble beach.

I continued south to my next intended beach exploration looking to set up my chair for a nice lunch. There were many more people at this location with lots of parasailing / parasurfing going on.

After about 2 hours in the sun, I headed down to Sauble Falls.