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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Back to van projects

Overall, we've really enjoyed our ambulance, converted to mini camper, converted to run on waste veggie oil. Sometimes we run into issues, mostly do to the fact that it's a Wheeled Coach ambulance package grafted onto a Ford one ton van. The fact that I've grafted on a custom experimental fuel system doesn't help much either. Sometimes the pieces just do not work all that well together.

Take, for example, the second starting battery. This is my current pet peeve. Since it's a giant 7.3 liter turbo diesel shoe horned into a van, there's not a lot of room in there. They barely squeezed in one of the starting batteries under the hood. The second battery is located in the Wheeled Coach part.

The schematics show the battery on the passenger side of the vehicle. Nope. It's not there. It's on the driver's side, squeezed into a tight corner. I did not even know it was there when I installed the veggie tank, filter assembly, and 6 way valve. The new veggie parts cut off access to the second battery.

Even if the tank wasn't there it would have been tough to get to. A trained monkey with extra long arms and the ability to work blind might have had a good shot at it. Normal humans on the other hand . . .

So I've been giving it the old college try. I've ignored the problem and hoped not to have to deal with it. (what, where you do go to college?) Okay, to give it a real college try I'd also have had to order a pizza and drink a few cheap beers. Unfortunately, that's not a long term solution.

The second battery is getting pretty weak. I've made up for it by getting a really good Interstate starting battery, the largest and most powerful that would fit. It's reached the point where the bad battery is draining the good battery. To prevent that I've wired up a solar panel so that it can be switched from the auxiliary (3rd) battery that I use camping to the charging batteries. That's fine when I'm not camping, but not really a fix.

I've been dreading pulling the veggie tank. My fear is that after removing the tank and all the hoses, battery access would still be too tight for my huge ham hands. Today I figured out what to do. That battery really needs is its own access panel. I'm going to cut open the side of the van and put my own compartment door. There's a nice piece of heavy aluminum plate in my scrap pile that should do the job nicely.

Sometimes you just have to break out the power tools have at it.



  1. That exterior hatch was what I was going to suggest but you already thought of it. Sounds like the only reasonable way to get it done.

    1. It's probably something that the original builder should have done.

  2. Makes you wonder why they didn't do that in the first place.

    OK, when you get done?
    Say really loudly, THERE! FIXED IT!

  3. It's a great vehicle and has served you well so far even with the bugs in the waste oil system and fuel pumps which should be behind you now. Fix what needs to be fixed or altered and you have a good vehicle to tow your O-Day and the next bigger boat for years to come! :-)

    1. The big diesel still runs like a Swiss Watch. Outside of a few quirks, it's in pretty good shape now.