Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Truck Air Springs (Air Bags) Install - Air Lift Ride Control

I searched a little across the web and ended up going with the decision to purchase Air Lift Ride Control Air Springs, Air Lift 59501 Ride Control Air Bags specifically, to install on my truck to aid in better handling with the camper on the truck.  I have a friend of mine that has a set on his vehicle and had nothing but good things to say about the bags.  He had never had a rupture or any issues with them after hauling cargo and weight continuously throughout the years  So this extra push, overcame that inertia and I bit the bullet and spent the little sum of money.

I was a bit concerned with having sufficient wheel clearance between the back sides of my tires and the air bags when inflated after reading some of the reviews about the bags that are posted online. I believe most of those individuals have larger than factory type, off road tires.  Although, I have a hybrdized off road tire on my truck they are not as wide as some of the one's specifically geared towards offroading are. I was able to install the bags on my truck and even after inflating them still have ample space between the two. 

I spent the better part of 6-8 hours one evening to take both rear truck tires off and to install the springs. Ended up calling a good friend so that I could utilize his concrete driveway to do so.  Was not about to execute this feat on grass lawn.  The proper mounting of the brackets come with a handy dandy little device in the kit, that allow you to properly align the two bracket halves alongside the chassis where they are to be mounted, so you can obtain location specific marks for drilling. 

Then I had to drill some holes in the chassis...newly purchased, sharp HSS bit made this go smoothly.

Overall, the install was not difficult.  Routed a little bit plastic air hose to the rear of vehicle (supplied in kit) where I mounted my valve stems in the bumper near the registration plate mounting area and I was in business. It only takes a small bicycle tire handpump to maintain these bags.  I am able to keep them taut with only minimal air pressure.  I am impressed with the ease of operation in inflating these...they really work well. 

I have not had any issues with loss of air from the bags and they have been on over a year now.  

installation location of my air bag valve stems
 This was one of the better decisions that I made, to go with this purchase and install. Not sure what it would have driven like without these air springs but the truck drives and handles superbly with these installed. I must say I'm Impressed!


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Giving Truck Grille A Paint Overhaul

My truck's grill was overdue a much needed painting, which I managed to accomplish prior to the beginning of the camper build.  The last thing I wanted was to have the camper completed and on the truck, ready to go and the grill looking downcast.  Well it wasn't as bad as I am implying I suppose, but it did need to be touched up some.

I used the Petit EasyPoxy Marine Grade Topside Paint from Jamestown Distributors, cut a little with thinner and sprayed through a cheap high volume-low pressure, gravity fed sprayer.  The paint job turned out, well almost terrific.  The quality of the paint had everything to do with it, I'm certain.  Self leveled and cured flat, smooth and glossy.

 You can see after sanding just how bad the grill was, those grayish areas is the underlying color composition of the plastic where the paint had depleted.

Some sanding and clean up with acetone, took me about 35-45 minutes approx.  No, the blog isn't upside, neither are you...(laughing)


 Here you can see just how nicely that Petit EasyPoxy goes on, covers and cures.. i'm super pleased.

Camper Tie Down Attachment Point UPDATE

The camper has been on the truck for some time now and seen quite a bit of road miles across a varied topography and been in positions that have undoubtedly placed stress and strain on the attachment points.  I am glad to say that the design behind the structural compound filled pockets lapped over and beneath with 1708 biaxial cloth have created a structurally sound connect.  You can see the initial design and construction here  and the reinforcement of the system with 1708 biaxial cloth overlay here.

The eyebolts purchased from McMaster are serving me well, of course I ended up purchasing overkill in regards to the eyebolts.  After several months, a check of all the attachment points are seemingly doing fine.

The HappiJac camper tie downs mounted on the truck cab are doing well although they are digging into the truck bed some, thus cracking the paint job and deforming the metal ever so slightly.  The deformation is minor at this point.  I did not install a torsion bar between the bed mounted tie downs.  Being my truck is an older model, I'm not overly concerned.  However, if I had a newer model truck I would certainly have used the torsion bar in conjunction with the plates.  The torsion bar is supposed to prevent that 'digging in' from occurring.  Mind you...'my camper is even lighter than all commercial units', so I would certainly use that torsion bar tie-in if I were carrying one of those manufactured units in my truck bed.

Those Stainless Steel HappiJac Turnbuckles are everything individual's claimed them to be and a little more.  They are extra durabable and have not given me any problems, they stay tight and the inert springs work as the manufacturer claimed, providing me with stress relief when turning into and driving across driveway drainage configs.  Occasionally, I can hear the spring as it is being compressed and relaxed, but this is not a bother to me...Heck, put this kind of load on your back and you just might croak every now and again as well (laughin)

You can see the large, 1/4" thick fender washers and there are 5/16" thick flat iron plates that sit on top of the reinforced area in the interior. 

Months of driving and no movement, the reinforced fiberglass area is holding up as planned. To see the structural fiberglass mixture recipe which was used to reinforce this region for the bolt-throughs.  The pockets were cut and filled, wrapped in 7-8 ounce cloth, layered with 1708 biaxial cloth on top (both on exterior and interior), both interior and exterior recieved a little more lamination as corners of panels were lain (as seen in photo above) can see the wrap.  Eyebolts protrude through a 5/16" thick plate on the interior, another 1/4" thick structure washer and possess two nuts.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Camper Brake / Turn / Clearance Lights...the thoughts concerning laws and the install

Installed some basic red lens combination lights on the camper rear.  The 12VDC lights that I bought were purchased from Agri-Supply and made primarily for metal fleeced trailer walls.  Thus, had to install a grounding wire to the fixture prior to mounting in my walls to complete the circuit.  Had already ran my wires from the truck's brake/turn/run into the rear wall region.

You can see that portion of the electrical rough-in here.

Prior to mounting the camper I drilled a 1" hole in this tailgate channel stop to accept a 7-pin female 12VDC receptacle.  Spliced into the wires feeding this left rear brake light to pick up the circuit.  Also, robbed two of the pins inside the receptacle to serve as a feed and a switchleg from a switch up in the cab that would operate a brighter backup light on the back wall of the camper.  

I mounted a agricultural harvester light with a trapezoidal pattern that would allow me to see the light in both side view mirrors.  Mounted it a little high to distribute the pattern well and it works pretty good.  Not sure if a flood would have worked better but it does provide ample light when backing up in dark spaces.  Also have it switched inside the camper as well, in case I were to ever hear a rustle at night near the door. 

 I understand that the Federal Transportation Laws mandate that brake/turn/running lights on tractor trailers, dump trucks, anything with a fixed bed or box of the sort has to have these lights arranged so as to signify the width and height of said box.  That having been said, slide-in truck campers are somewhat of a special animal.  From what I understand of the written laws, they are considered 'truck cargo' and thus do not meet that criteria.  Furthermore, noticing that most of the manufactured units have their brake lights mounted much lower than mine and some do not even have any at all, I thought I would be kosher in the arrangement chosen.

It seemed that some of the manufactured units had upper brake light strips in combination with another pair of lights but most did not.  My original plans were to have a 2.5 foot strip centered at the top in conjunction with the these 6" round lights.  I had even purchased the strip but after the door was installed and the "much needed" rain gutter....something had to give.  --> it was the light. 

I considered height of install in respect to the 'seated approaching motorist' and wanted them in the plane of sight.  These lights are about the same height above ground as the cab brake lights found on all modern pickups and I mounted them just above the vertical plane of my truck lights.

The closer proximity of the light arrangements are far enough apart to be seen as separate at 200-300' but close enough to grab one's attention.

  The install didn't turn out half bad.  I'm pleased with the overall setup, although I do wish I could have had somewhere to mount the upper brake light strip.

Smittybilt Beaver Tail Step purchased for ease of access

As I was looking and prodding for a select step for entrance into the camper, I quickly discovered that the tubular types are marketed all over the internet.  Wanting something safer than tubular, I kept looking until I landed upon the Smittybilt product line.  They make a step called the Beaver Tail that is absolutely bullet proof in its composition, design and weld quality.  Not to mention, a flat stepping surface area as opposed to tubular. 

The step weighs a hefty amount as it is all solid metal, no hollow stuff here....just solid metal.  Its designed to serve a two fold purpose; a step and an attachment point for vehicle retrievals.  Used extensively with those sporting offroaders that need to pull one another out of tight spots and continue onward.

When I say it is hefty and durable, they are understatements...this is a great step folks, really it is.  One of those few items that you buy 'once' and it stays intact the remainder of your days.  Heck, may even end up on your child's vehicle one day.  They are just that tough.  After dealing with the vast array of cheaply designed product on the market today, I must say "I was overly impressed."

The only slightly negative feedback I have against the step is the powder coated finish does not have much texture to it thus making it slick and hazardous when wet out.  I ended up purchasing some step traction tape off of ebay, cut into strips and installed on my step.  Made all the difference in the world.  My wife's complaint was, "Why I didn't take my time to cut and install the tape in a more fashionable manner".....i admit it...i was rushing.

The step is perfect for slide-in truck campers, the surface area is just right allowing both feet to firmly planted at the same time if need be.  Also, built proportional to most full size truck bumpers.

Here you can see the distance the step protrudes from the hitch when mounted.  Overall I am pleased with the Smittybilt Beaver Tail Step 


Rain Gutter Install Over Door

Bought a piece of aluminum channel from McMaster to install over entrance door to divert roof waters.  Was a little bit of a challenge getting it fastened due to the width of the channel preventing easy access for tools, but I managed to do so.  Just took me a while.

What seemingly appeared to be a 20-30 minute install turned into a much lengthier one.

revealing the tight clearance above door that I desired

Performs well, even in severe rainstorms.