Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Scotch Extreme Exterior Mounting Tape

I wanted to do a follow-up on the tape that's holding the solar panels to the fiberglass roof of my van.

But first, I want to say that I am no expert, nor anyone special. I'm simply sharing my experience and you must make your own decision based on your specific circumstances.

It's called 'Extreme Exterior Mounting Tape' by Scotch and you can find it at Lowes. Here's a link to it's brother, Scotch Exterior Mounting Tape. They're both right next to each other at Lowes, but I can't ever seem to find it on the web site without putting in the actual part number, which I don't remember.

I've had my solar panels installed on my van for almost 4 months now. As far as I know, based on the Amazon page, they weigh between 25-30lbs each. I have two. On one of them I have 10  galvanized 'L' brackets and the other I only have 8. I have one strip of tape (probably about an inch and a half) on each bracket. The brackets themselves are actually screwed to the sides of the panels.

So far so good, everything is still holding up there. Mainly I wanted to point out that so far they have held up to temperatures as low as -8F and windchills around -20F. And a 50 mile roundtrip drive to work 5 days a week. And a handful of inches of snow sitting around and on top of them.

Cold weather has seemed to have little, if any, effect on the tape's ability to hold the solar panels to the fiberglass. I don't expect many people interested in putting solar panels on a vehicle to be sticking around in the cold and snow as long as I have been. But if they did, this has been my experience thus far. So there's that.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A little lighter

First a quick note that I changed out that belt tensioner again and so far so good. No noises. Give it a week before I'm too excited about it being fixed though.

Yesterday I finally sold one of my projects that have been taking up way too much physical space in my parents' yard and an equal amount of space in my mind. I bought it back in 2006, put a lot of time and money into making it run and stop and then gradually slowed down and it's just been sitting there ever since. It's followed me around for years. Back when I lived in an apartment I had a storage garage for it, then I moved it to my own yard when I bought a house, and then a year or two ago when I lost my house it was moved here to my parents' yard. Now it's gone! And none too soon. I have had it on craigslist for months now. Nothing ever panned out and trying to sell things tires me greatly. I had finally reached the point on it where if the guy didn't buy it yesterday I was going to stop trying to sell it and start working on it again. But he bought it. Which is awesome because do I really have the time and money to work on it? Probably, but at the expense of other opportunities.

Big items like this that take up a lot of time and space and mental real estate are one of the reasons I've always come back to Michigan shortly after I finally break away and go somewhere else for a while. I have a few more big things to sell. It's very difficult for me to part with things though.

Oh hey, I almost forgot. I did what I consider to be one of my first real stints of vandwelling last night. Not very exciting but I hung out in a Walmart parking lot for an hour in the back of my van. I just needed to get away from the house and had no where to go. I feel like I don't get any alone time anymore and I desperately need it. It's amazing how even just an hour of sitting in the back of a van in a parking lot makes you realize what needs to be done next or needs to be high on the priority list.

Friday, January 25, 2013

I was wrong

That squeaking under the hood came back the very next day after my repairs. And now it's a bit of a rattle too. In fact now a week later, it's mostly a rattle and less squeaking. A much less annoying sound, in my opinion. So tomorrow I'm going to get in there again and replace the belt tensioner that I replaced two weeks ago, as my thought is that my original one didn't have enough play, and the new one had too much play. And hopefully the new new one will be just right. If it's not that, the only thing I can think of is the alternator because the noise is definitely coming from that area.

I might be taking the new fan clutch back off too. It's staying fully engaged way too much and adding a lot of resistance. Really zaps the horse power and makes the van sound like a jet until it disengages.

It'll all be done someday, right? Then maybe things can start moving forward again.

To be honest I've been shakey on the plan lately. The daily grind is at least easy, if nothing else. I wouldn't have to worry about anything except to keep doing what I'm doing day in and day out.

I leave you with scenes from my daily commute. It's been like this every day this week. In fact each picture is from a different day.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It was successful

Yesterday was the big day. I am no longer intimidated by the fact that the van has a tiny hood and a big doghouse. I now have an intimate knowledge of what's going on with the front of the engine under that tiny hood.

I put in a new radiator, upper and lower radiator hoses, fan clutch, water pump, bypass hose, thermostat, and idler pulley.

Sadly the only part I think was actually bad and probably the source of my squeaking was the idler pulley and it was the only part I hadn't bought in advance so I had to run out and buy it in the middle of the project. I guess I feel that the fan clutch was worn out too. The radiator didn't seem too bad but I don't think it would have been long before it had problems.

The upper hose, bypass hose, and thermostat required me to take off the alternator, ac compressor, and the huge bracket that both of those attach to.

The whole project with the trip to town and a break for lunch took me 8 or 9 hours.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Looking Up?

I feel better than I did the other day. The van is still squealing and unless I'm just getting paranoid I'm pretty sure it's getting louder. Hoping nothing major happens until this weekend. I went ahead and got a new water pump that I hope to be installing on Saturday while it's a balmy 36 degrees before the cold weather sets in on Sunday. From what I've read online I'll have to take the radiator and a bunch of stuff out just so I have room to get to the water pump. So I bought a new radiator too, and a new fan clutch, upper and lower hoses, and thermostat. The upper hose and the thermostat might require the most effort to replace so they might simply NOT get replaced, I'll see how it goes. (It sounds like I have to take off the A/C Compressor to get to them)

The transmission is still slipping but hasn't been nearly as noticeable. I've just been working to remember that I drive a 1 ton van and that I should take off from stop lights slowly. I'm casually looking for another transmission but I figure if I continue to baby it then it should be okay for quite a while. Maybe. All the transmissions I've found are the 4x4 version. Blech.

I'm typing this from my laptop again, which means my new laptop screen arrived and I successfully swapped out the old bad one. This one is bright.

I wish I had a plan for you, but I don't anymore. I'm stuck in that 'waiting for things to line up' mode that I've been in for the last year since returning back to the home state. In the mean time, plans are forming and falling apart. I had a job I wanted for the summer so I was going to quit my current job around the end of April and take a month long leisurely trip out to the new job but that fell through. That job required living in a dorm situation, which would have been a stretch for me but I figured I would have the van to fall back on when I got antisocial.

I guess the plan at this point is to keep making repairs on the van, keep working where I'm working, and eventually if I can save up money I'll take off. If none of that works I'll have to start doing weekend trips in the van. I guess within several months I'd like to be at the point where I could move into the van no matter what else is going on at the time. That really isn't that far off, I'm just not in any rush to finalize the interior at this point.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


I can get a little dramatic when things don't go as planned.

I had just talked myself into sticking with the van and spending the money to fix things. Then today I replaced the belt tensioner and it wasn't my problem.  Suddenly I'm looking at more costs to replace other things and I freak out. I've just spent the last year fixing thing after thing on my other car before I finally realized it was never getting better. Each time I fixed one problem another would surface. So that possibility with the van freaks me out.

The transmission started slipping this last week. And there's a squeaking that was supposed to be the tensioner but now I'm figuring water pump. I made the discovery that my sloppy steering looks to be due to the steering gear and not the 'easier' front end components that also need to be replaced.

So I'm still wishy washing it on my game plan at this point.

I only know that this year I will hit the road again. One way or the other. Plans are changing and coming and going but in the end it will be. I'm being crushed with my current stagnant life situation.

My laptop screen died a few weeks ago. That's another reason why I haven't updated. I have a new screen coming next week. Part of me likes not having a computer readily available though, other than my phone of course.

Oh yeah and with the new tensioner now when I put the van in reverse or neutral there's a weird growling. The belt seems to be on correctly and it seems to be coming from the transmission maybe. If that's the case I might be without any car to get to work very soon.