Trailer Updates and Improvements

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been working on a few things to improve the usefulness and utility of the trailer I use to haul the Jeep.

First thing I added was a carrier for a second spare tire.

It seems that one is definitely not enough. My last trip to Moab, I had three flat tires on the way out there. I ended up buying a second as a replacement. I bought a simple mount that attached to the tongue to locate it. I wish it as a little higher, though. Perhaps I may build one of my one at some point in the future.

Next was some additional storage. Found this used truck bed box locally.

It fits reasonably well and it gives me a place to store extra straps, the stabilizing jacks and maybe some gear that I’d rather not put in the back of the truck. Bolted it down to the deck.

Next up, was some new tie downs. I wanted to secure the jeep with straps that were parallel with the length of the trailer.

I had previously been crossing the fronts and using axle straps to secure the rears to the rub rail on the rear of the trailer. The front mounts were welded together and I mounted them through the deck. Keeping the straps straight is a safer alternative.

And for the rear, I just welded them to the rear frame. I had trouble with the driver’s side – the wind kept blowing away my shielding gas for the welder. It’s an ugly weld, but it’ll hold. AFter putting these on, I am wondering if I shouldn’t have welded these on some 1/4″ plate and then welding those onto the frame of the trailer. I may end up cutting these off and redoing them. At least I could clean up the welds.

Most trailers don’t come with reverse lights. I’m not sure why. But I wanted them and I wanted something bright, so when I’m backing into my driveway, I have a little more visibility on where the back of the trailer is, and I will lessen my chances of hitting something I don’t want to.

Problem is, the pigtail that came on the trailer was missing the center pin, which is the pin that supplies power to a reverse light. I replaced that with one I bought from Amazon. It also came with a terminal box which made splicing it into the existing wiring rather easy.

That gave me the ability to fish some wires down the inside of the trailer and attach some reverse lights. I welded the brackets for these to the underside of the rear frame.

They certainly brighten up the area.

And in that same vein, I often find it challenging to see the trailer in my side view mirrors at night. My windows are tinted, and then they are up, it’s hard to see where the trailer is tracking. I like to be able to see the tires, to make sure I’m not too far over in the center or towards the shoulder. I added some small lights just in front of the axle to illuminate the ground in front of the tires.

This will solve that problem.

I still have some other improvements to make, most notable is a backup/rear view camera system that can unplug easily from the truck. I have most of the parts I need, I just need to make a bracket to mount it on the Jeep’s spare tire, for when I am towing the Jeep, and something to mount it to the trailer deck when I am not. I had a wireless setup, but it was pretty unreliable.

Arc Shot

I set up an old video camera on a tripod, put a welding shield in front of it, and was able to film this arc shot of a TIG weld. If the sensor in the camera had a better dynamic range, I think I would have been able to capture some more detail in the arc.

Homemade Harrow

We had this 90′ maple tree removed from our backyard. I was sad to see the tree go, but a good part of the trunk was rotten and spongy. After the stump was ground and the mess cleaned up, I wanted to fill the hole with some top soil and plant some grass. Moving around 7 yards of dirt was going to be a chore, so I made my version of a harrow that I could pull behind my lawn mower.

I used my PrimeWeld TIG 225 in stick welding mode mostly because I wanted to practice SMAW and also because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning the metal.

I think it came out great, especially since this was all from scrap metal I had lying around the shop. It did exactly what I needed it to do and made the job a lot easier. I made this YouTube video of the build and part of how I was able to use it.

Firewood Rack

Firewood Rack

We had a large maple tree removed from our backyard recently. The tree was in bad shape and we felt it was a good time to have it removed. I asked the crew to cut up and leave one of the large limbs so I could split it for firwood to be burned in our fire pit.

I wanted to keep it dry while it seasoned, so I designed and built this firewood rack. It was a simple project, and the first time I decided to record building something just for YouTube.

Bathroom Cabinet Project – Part 1

3D drawing of bathroom cabinet

One of the projects I have been wanting to build for a couple years now is a new wall cabinet for our downstairs half bath. This room is very small, barely enough to fit a toilet and an extra small sink. There’s no storage at all. I thought about just buying a cabinet to go over the toilet, but I wanted to make something. Something from steel and old wood. I designed it in SketchUp.

I had the steel lying around for a while, I bought it before the workshop even existed. I put the Harbor Freight bandsaw to use cutting each of the pieces of angle and square tube.

For a cheap saw, I have it dialed in to cut very straight and accurate. I needed quite a few small pieces, needed to do a little bit of grinding to get the lengths just right.

I still need practice with the TIG welder, so I decided to use this project. Tacked everything together before finish welding with the TIG 225X.

Having the welding table and my homemade clamps made this a lot easier. I also used a set of Hobart corner clamps to get me started.

One of these days I will have to invest in some Fireball Tools squares, but they are very expensive. I might try designing a set and cutting them out on the water jet at CWRU.

I need to go get the rustic wood for the cabinet, and make the doors yet, and the figure out what I want to do for a patina. But with the Coronavirus lock down, I can’t really go anywhere.

Welding a 2″ Cube

I wanted to get a little TIG practice in with the Primeweld TIG 225X. I had some 2″ mild steel flat bar left over from a different project, so I decided to cut it up into roughly 2″ lengths and weld it together to make a cube.

My welds still need a lot of work, but every bit of practice counts. I should have taken my time on this, but, TBH, I was just happy to be welding.

Broken Fender Liner

I have a set of front inner fender liners from JCR offroad. I love the look of them.

But the one on the passenger side broke sometime last year (or maybe the year before?). Sometimes it gets caught by the wind and will start bangin around. And my Jeep needs a bath.

Now that I have a Primeweld TIG 225 that can weld aluminum, It’s time to fix it.

First things first, a little practice with some 1/16″ coupons I bought from Weld Metals Online.

Then I jigged up the broken pieces and welded them back together.

Through on a coat of paint and reinstalled it.

Happy with the results. Should be plenty string now.

And my Jeep still needs a bath.

Cooling Things Down

Some years ago, while out at Southington Off Road, I sank my Jeep. Oops.

And ever since then, it has run a lot hotter than it should. Even at highway speeds, it shouldn’t get any hotter than 215 degrees. Not mine, if the Jeep was working (on trails, on the highway in hilly areas, or on hot days) I could see temps hit 240 and higher.

I have suspected for a while that the radiator cooling fins were clogged with mud. The mud and water at Southington are very sandy and full of silt. I’ve known many a Jeep that needed new front axle seals and spending a day in that mess. And I was sure that there was a leak in it somewhere. You could smell coolant when it was running hot, but it never lost that much fluid, so I was certain it was pinhole leak.

It’s been bugging me for years. So I decided to take the time during this Coronavirus lockdown to go ahead and replace my radiator. I found a YouTube video that did a really good job of describing the steps for a Jeep very much like mine.

Disassembly

Disassembly took about an hour. After removing the air intake and air box and draining the radiator (I had to make tool for this – the petcock was unreachable with the bumper and winch still attached), it was a matter of removing a series of bolts that hold the transmission cooler and the A/C condenser on the front of the radiator.

Took a little doing to work the radiator around the hoses and lines, but all in all, the aforementioned YouTube video was spot on.

Once I got the radiator out, it was obvious why I was running into heat issues. Not enough to cause it to completely overheat, but enough to not cool it down fast enough. All that silica sand from Southington. Never again.

With everything out disconnected, I took the opportunity to clean some of the Moab out of the engine compartment. That dust just gets everywhere.

I bought a new factory replacement radiator from a local dealer. I had looked at aftermarket options, but quite frankly, justifying the triple cost wasn’t going to happen. And the other lower cost solutions, well, let’s just say I didn’t want to take that risk either. At least if there’s an issue with this one, I know I can get it replaced.

Reassembly

Reassembly is pretty much disassembly in reverse. It was a little challenging getting the radiator lined up so I could reconnect the condenser and transmission cooler.

A few of the bolts are really hard to get to. I had to remove the driver’s headlight to get to one that attaches the condenser lines to the side of the radiator. The driver’s front were the hardest. Had to really contort the radiator being careful not to stress the lines.

New Coolant

I purchased several gallons of concentrate coolant. During disassembly I tried to drain as much of the coolant out of the engine as possible. If I’m going to go this far, I might as well do a coolant flush at the same time. I also borrowed a burp kit from a friend to make it easier to get the air out of the system.

I mixed up a couple gallons of 50/50 mix and poured some in with the burp kit. One I started the Jeep, it started to warm up, but when the thermostat opened up, it started to push coolant up into the funnel. That told me there was an air block in there somewhere. So I put the Jeep up on ramps and let it sit for a while. The next time I started it, I got quite a few bubbles in the burp funnel. I managed to catch some on my phone.

No Heat!

So now the coolant is flowing, but I have no heat. There must have been another air block in the lines leading to the heater core. I decided to leave it to cool down overnight and hopefully, more air will work its way out.

Heat!

The next morning, I noticed the coolant level in the fill funnel had gone down quite a bit. I poured some more in and shook the jeep a bit, and even more bubbles came up. Turned on the Jeep and had heat again. The air pocket must have worked its way out overnight.

Took it for a test drive. Haven’t seen temps like this in a while.

Of course, it’s only 45 degrees out right now. Won’t know for sure until we get into the summer months, but I am optimistic.

Generator Transfer Switch

I’ve been wanting to install one of these for a while. Especially since we moved into this new house. The house we are in today, has a sump pump. On on rainy days like today, you can hear it kick on about once an hour or so.

Not long after we first moved in a couple years ago, it was a rainy winter day, the sump pump was kicking in on regular basis, and we lost power. Yikes. So I did what any reasonable person would do, I panicked ad rushed out and bought a generator.

I assembled it, filled it with gas, and ran an extension cord through my basement window, after cutting it’s screen, to the sump pump. It must have been pretty full (I didn’t take the lid off to check) because it ran for what seemed like 4 times its normal duration.

Since then, we’ve had a few other outages, and I have had to do the same thing. But I got creative and ran a second cord to the TV and internet modem so we could have something to watch. I even ran another cord upstairs to keep the heat lamp for our bearded dragon on.

And now that my wife works full time at home, and since I have been working at home for the past couple of weeks due to the Coronavirus shut down, I decided now would be a good time to direct wire a generator transfer switch into the breaker panel.

All in all it was a fairly easy job. I just had to choose which six circuits I wanted to have operating off the generator. I installed an outlet in the side of the house for the cord to the generator. Ran some #8 THHN building wire through some conduit into the transfer switch. And then wired the transfer switch into the breaker panel.

Also grabbed some scrap metal and welded up a hook for the power cord and mounted it below the transfer switch.

The system tested out fine. I was able to run our boiler, the sump pump, the fridge, the internet modem and wifi, my office, my wife’s office, the downstairs TV and an outlet in our master bedroom.

Now I just need to wait for the next power outage. 🙂

Horizontal Band Saw

Finally waited long enough to buy one of these Harbor Freight horizontal band saws.

Didn’t bother keeping the stock blade. Bought a new blade right off the bat and used it to set the alignment of the blade. It took a little doing, but it’s dialed in and cutting straight.

I found this document for aligning the blade and adjusting tracking. It’s still not tracking 100% on the lower drive wheel. But I think I have a plan on how to fix that with some help from the internet.