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Discussion Starter · #42 · (Edited)
More Suspension Refinements & Future Plans

I've finally put some money into fixing an issue that has been plaguing my patrol for quite some time now, and that really came to light on the last trip. When I dropped my lift down from 5" to 3", I didn't replace the shock absorbers, meaning that the tubes are too long for the lower springs. This isn't normally an issue, however when driving offroad heavily loaded, and I hit a bump at speed, the suspension will bottom out on the shock absorbers instead of on the bump stops. Obviously this isn't ideal.

So, to rectify the issue, I've ordered a full set of Superior Adjustable 2.0 Monotube Shock Absorbers. I was happy with the performance of their older models, and I do use the adjustment on them depending on the terrain and weight in the vehicle. I think these are the right choice for my build as they should be able to handle anything that I can throw at them.

Another small suspension issue is that my rear sway bar was very noisy and would clunk loudly when the suspension was working. After checking over the system I found that one of my adjustable quick disconnect rod ends had worn out. The grease seal had disintegrated and the ball was loose in its socket. I was never happy with the swaybar setup; climbing under the vehicle to connect and disconnect it gets pretty tiresome :cautious:. So, I've decided to solve the problem my ordering a Superflex Swaybar for the rear.

And finally, lie many other GU's. my front bumpstops had snapped off at the ends, which certainly wasn't helping the shock absorbers, so I've ordered replacement front bump stops.

One other area that could use improvement is my water storage setup. I've ordered a Bluetooth water tank gauge to take the guesswork out of how much onboard water I have left. This is an easy to install unit that monitors the water going in and out of the tank to tell me exactly how much water i've used and how much I have left.

And lastly, After doing more tests with the solar, I've decided to upgrade my permanently mounted 110 Watt panel to a 160 Watt, and I've purchased a 200 Watt folding solar blanket to use when camped up for multiple days.

As for today, I'm about to purchase some parts to add wireless dimming control to my awning lights, more on that in the next post.
 

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Discussion Starter · #43 · (Edited)
WIFI CONTROLLED AWNING LIGHTS MOD Part 1

This is a fairly low cost ($100) modification that adds a bit of style and versatility to the LED lighting strips that I installed on my wing awning.

While adding LED lights to it was a great idea, I want improve it. Being able to turn the the lights on/off with my phone or tablet will make things easier, particularly when getting into the tent/swag, and getting up at night for a slash. So, I've decided to create a "module" of sorts that plugs into the roofrack and the awning. To make this a reality, I decided to create a "module" that goes between the awning lights and power supply, that houses a wi-fi enabled LED controller that I am familiar with. However, since the controller isn't weatherproof, and it will need to be located close to the awning strip lights to avoid voltage drop, I decided to mount it in a weatherproof enclosure underneath the roofrack.

The LED Controller I used runs on 12-24 volts and supports 5 channels: Red, Green, Blue, warm white and cool white.

Here is the circuit diagram for those following along at home:
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So after a trip to Jaycar, I picked up a weatherpoof enclosure, one meter of trailer wiring, a roll of 7.5A twin core power wire, some cable glands, a 6 pin and a 2 pin Deutsch plug, . I chose an enclosure that would fit nicely on my roof rack.

I removed the LED controller from its casing, and I decided to mount the controller in a way that would not put holes in the enclosure and therefore compromise its waterproof integrity. I settled on using the leftover aluminium strip from my last project mounted to the box using the preexisting screw holes in the enclosure.

Below: The controller mounted in the enclosure. The board is mounted on 4 standoffs that are bolted to the aluminium strips.
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\From there I installed two cable glands and cables; one for power, one for the connections to the LED's.

Above: The wired up board. I used 7 core trailer wiring due to its ample size (the brown wire carries the positive connection for all LED's) and suitable colors.

When I installed the wires on the 6 pin plug, I wrote down which color wire/ color corresponded to what:
-Pin #1 - LED Voltage + -Brown Wire
-Pin #2 - Green Channel -Green Wire
-Pin #3 - Blue Channel -Blue Wire
-Pin #4 - Red Channel -Red Wire
-Pin #5 - Warm White Channel - Yellow Wire
-Pin #6 - Cool White Channel - White Wire

Then I crimped the wires onto the pins and installed them according to my list above.
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Above: the wires cut to length and plugs crimped on.
Below: closeup of the plugs. Two pin for power and six for the LED's
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I mounted the completed "module" onto the roofrack by bolting it onto the plate aluminium. I had a LED floodlight attached, however I didn't use it as it was a harsh white color and the awning lights were more than bright enough. I used the mounting hole for the floodlight to attach one side of the module, and I marked and drilled a hole to mount the other end.
Below: The module mounted in place on the back of the roof rack.
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I soldered lengths of the power wire directly onto the LED lights. After soldering and testing the connection, I put heat shrink over the connections in a way similar to how the wires came attached on the LED strip lights. When I ran the wires from the strips through the awning frame, I took care to make sure they would not get caught as the awning folded in and out.
Below: How the strip lights are attached to the frames.
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Once the connections were done, I stuck the strip lights onto the awning frame with the adhesive strip.
Below: I decided to go 2 strip lights per frame for a total of 6. These lights use the 5730 chips, which through my testing I have found to be the brightest while still being extremely compact and reasonably power efficient as there are 60 LED's per meter. I tested each 5 meter section of LED's, and they both drew close to 20 watts. Each frame is approximately 2.4 meters long, and I doubled up the LED's meaning there are 288 per frame and a total of 864 on the awning. The expected power draw for all LED's at full brightness is 57.6 watts.
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The strip lights use the 5730 package and are in a warm white color. The strips are 5mm wide and encased in clear heat shrink tubing for waterproofing, and there are 60 LED's per meter.

I secured each end of the strips to the frame with cable ties, and used an extra cable tie over the power wires to prevent them from becoming stressed and snapping off. From there I cut and soldered the positive wires from all of the LED strips to a single positive wire. After that I heat shrinked the wires, and connected them to the male Deutsch 6 pin plug.
Below: The completed male plug. I had the awning off the next day to upgrade the solar planel and took the time to protect the wires.
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Even though the controller supports 5 channels, since there are 3 zones that I want to control, and there are 3 channels for RGB, I hooked up an awning frame to the red, green and blue channels on the controller. I used plugs to fill the pins for the unused warm white and cool white channels. After checking things over, I powered it up:
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Unfortunately, I didn't order enough LED's, so I could run one strip on the rear two frames. Once they arrive I will fit them as I've run the power wires.

To control the LED's I use an app on my phone or tablet. It has its own Wifi network that needs to be connected to first however.
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Above: What the app looks like. It makes adjusting the brightness easy with the slider, and the led controller can even make the lights respond to music, and be programmed to make the LED's flash "dance" in sequence. By adjusting the "colour" the brightness off the 3 wing awning frames changes. By tapping the "RGB" icon in the top left, the 3 color channel brightness levels can be individually adjusted using sliders. The most useful thing about this controller however, is that it remembers its last setting when it is power cycled. So if I leave it set at full brightness and turn it on and off with the switch in the cab, it will work as normal (the LED's fade on, which in my opinion is a nice effect).

Since the controller is a cheap ebay unit, I have ordered a spare led controller to carry with me. I made the system modular, the reasoning being that I can unplug the module, and remove and change a faulty circuit board in the bush in less than half an hour. No need to cut and solder wires. If worst comes to worst I can also bypass the controller by connecting the wires together in the terminal block.

Another advantage of this system is that the lights shine down into the fridge when it's open, which will make seeing inside much easier.

I can't wait for the last strips I ordered to arrive, however I've tested the system at in the dark and there is already plenty of light. There is a small amount of feedback that goes back into the sound system when controller is run at some brightness levels, however I'm fairly sure the reason it's leaking in is the poor grounding and insulation on the bluetooth dongle connected to my car PC (it has similar feedback when connected to a device). I may replace the dongle in future with a different one to see if it makes any difference.

I'm also thinking about using the other two LED channels for lights on the awning and possibly a horizontal strip or two across the awning's aluminium frame to shine sideways. As usual, I'll test the setup out bush and decide how I can make it better :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #44 · (Edited)
160 WATT SOLAR UPGRADE

After upgrading my power storage capabilities, I decided to give my solar a bit of a boost. I was quite happy with the 110 watt fixed solar panel. It has been driven through torrential rain, hot dusty areas, and had many trees and branches scrape across it, and it was still looks new and is working well. I saw that there was a new 160 Watt Version out for a very reasonable price, so I ordered one and set to upgrading.

Unfortunately I had to remove my awning to get access to unbolt my mounting system. This was made easy however by my new LED module as I simply unplugged the awning, undid the 4 nuts holding it on and with a second person set it on the ground.

The most difficult part was fitting a Deutsch plug to the wires. The wires on the panel came with a different connector, however to plug it into the harness on my roofrack I needed to fit it with a 2 pin Deutsch DT. The panel cables looked to be 8mm2 and of non-tinned copper. After fitting the new panel I gave it a test; At midday the old 110W panel was generating 83 watts. At roughly 2:30 PM after it was connected, the 160W panel was making 105 Watts.

On paper the new panel gives me a 45.5% gain in output. In practice it means that I can run both fridges, my car PC playing music on a sunny day and still be charging my lithium house battery, meaning that for half of the day I am generating more energy from the sun than I am using.

I had to remove my recovery tracks to fit the longer panel (it is the same width, but is longer). I will mount the mounting racks further back, however I am considering upgrading to max tracks.

Below: The mounted panel. I'll put the recovery tracks at the rear so that can easily be a accessed from my rear ladder.
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Discussion Starter · #45 ·
Superflex Swaybar & Rear Monotubes Installation

There are no photos with this one, working under the car with no hoist is a pain and I couldn't be bothered taking pictures.

So after playing around with the factory rear swaybar and quick disconnects, I got tired of disconnecting the swaybar. Plus, with the vechicle fully loaded for a trip the handling gets a bit boaty. So, I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade it. I ordered a Superior Engineering Superflex Rear Sway Bar Kit. Superior has moved the mounting points on the chassis farther forward. which increases the bending moment on the swaybar, allowing it to flex more and restrict the suspension less. The new brackets mount onto a corner brace on the chassis where a crossmember meets the rails, in a sandwich style configuration. There were two round spacers/washers supplied that fit into the holes on the brace to give it extra strength. From there it was a matter of installing the two vertical mounts with bushings, and adjusting the height. Before I set the height of the chassis vertical connectors, I measured the distance from the chassis on either side to the bump stop plates. Even though the surface I parked on was slightly lower at the driver side, and the weight is imbalanced what with the sub tank and 35" spare tyre on one side, the difference was only a couple of millimeters shoreter on the driver's side. I was pleased to see that Superior gives you the choice of using the supplied quick disconnects with split pins, or a more permenant configuration with bolts.

The second issue I addressed today was swapping my 6" rear monotubes for 3" ones. After I lowered the lift from 5" to 3", it became apparent that they were far too long and would bottom out over big bumps. Doing this job on the ground is a pain in the ass and I wouldn't recommend it. I used the factory jack on top of some cement pavers lifting the tow bar on the opposite side to reduce the gap between the shock and the mounting stud, then used a wooden plank as a lever with some bicks under one end to compress the shock enough to fit it onto the stud. The only downside to using the Superflex arms is that the chassis brackets fit onto where I had the old monotube reservoirs mounted. This required a bit of creative thinking to relocate them. I mounted the driver's side one behind the swaybar chassis mount, and the passenger side one on the body above the corner of the main fuel tank. The last step before testing was to set the damper on both shocks using the 8 stage adjustment knob on each reservoir. I chose 7 (8 is firm, 1 soft) on the driver side and 6 on the passenger side.

After checking over everything, I took my Patrol for a test drive over to a nearby offroad area with some sand hills to flex on. I flexed up the suspension on both sides (couldn't get it to its limit as the hill was too small and crumbled a bit), and checked underneath to make sure nothing was rubbing or had come loose. From there I did a test drive on curved roads to feel what difference the new suspension made. I'm pleased to report that it has made a huge difference to the handling, I took a 90 degree turn with bad camber at about 40kmh, and was happy to find that the vehicle didn't tilt like it used to. This definitely inspires confidence for both on road and offroad driving. I was considering swapping my coils to heavy duty units, but with the superflex swaybar this won't be necessary. I will be lowing the damping setting by one notch one either side as the ride was considerably firmer.

I did notice that there was approximately 20mm of piston visible on the (5") front shock absorbers during my flex checks, so in the next few days I'll fit my new shorter front monotubes. Unfortunately I don't have a hoist and won't be able to fit my new front bumpstops myself.

In other news, I fitted my Topargee H2F-BT12 bluetooth water tank meter. installing and it was easy enough, though I haven't properly tested it. The instructions said to leave 20mm of straight tubing on either side of the flow sensor, however with my compact installation this wasn't possible. I suppose I will see how this goes on my next trip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #46 · (Edited)
Electrical Fault Finding & A Nasty Suspension Surprise

This was an excersize in fault finding, and a lesson in the strange things that can happen in electrical systems when they go wrong. Hopefully this is useful info for anyone diagnosing their own faults. Lately a very annoying issue has surfaced with my electrical system. Whilst driving around, my carPC (which is the brain for the audio/entertainment, engine gauges and navigation) would suddenly shut down, usually over small bumps. This quickly annoyed me enough to make time to sort it out. Keep in mind that intermittant faults like this one are the most difficult to troubleshoot. The PC and monitor (both of which turned off) are both powered from the forward fuseboard, so that was a logical place to start. The fact that both turned off indicated that neither the PC/monitor was not likely faulty. I did the following in order:
  • Checked auxiliary battery voltage, both on the battery monitor and with my multi meter. Voltage was 13.2V.
  • Measureed voltage at the Front distribution board circuit breaker (on cargo barrier). Voltage was the same.
  • Measured voltage at the junction inside the forward fuseboard (fuse board positive to a known good earth, I used the factory cigarette lighter socket).
  • Turned on the water pump and observed the voltage and listened to the pump. The voltage and pump were all over the shop, speeding up and slowing down randomly.
  • Turned the car PC on, thankfully the fault persisted and it shut down after about 30 seconds.
This is where things got weird. The voltage was all over the shop from 6 to 16 volts. To eliminate any other potentially faulty devices I disconnected the solar charger by pulling the plug off of the rear fuse box. To eliminate the newly installed wire from the cargo barrier to the fuse board I tested the resistance with the multi-meter. It read 0 ohms, indicating the wire was good.
  • Unplugged the other circuits connected to the forward fuseboard (Shower and auxiliary battery illumination) to rule out of they were the cause
  • Wiggled all wiring by hand with the PC on to see if there were any problems with it (PC would shut down instantly if there were). I couldn't reliably get it to shut down, however as I put the battery box lid back on it did, which was a clue.
  • Remove the monitor and inspect the wiring inside the dashboard. Not shown on the drawing below is the wiring for the SPDPS. It consists of two relays and a voltage regulator to supply a USB hub mounted above the dashboard. Any potential short circuits in this system could result in the PC suddenly shutting down. After checking everything over there was no indication of any fault (burnt or discolored wiring, burning smell). I was satisfied that this was not the cause. Any major short circuits would have tripped the 15 Amp breaker, of failing that the 40 Amp breaker on the cargo barrier.
With all the clues gathered so far, it was time to recap: The problem happened when I put the battery box lid on, which as it went on put pressure on some of the wiring. The new wiring I installed on the positive side checked out and was not at fault.

I decided to check it anyway, and pulled up the plastic gutter covers/steps along the passenger side, and removed the plastic panel above the rear wheel arch. Keep in mind, I ran dedicated earth cables back to the auxiliary battery for all the systems installed below, but since the Car PC is over 5 years old and is in the roof, It is earthed to the body. As soon as I pulled up the wheel arch panel the problem was staring at me in the face. I had earthed the auxiliary battery onto the bolt for the rear seat-belt, but probably had too many beers and forgotten to put it back on when I refitted the plastic panel. What was interesting is the fact that the car PC still sort of worked, indicating that the earth was finding its way another way. To be perfectly honest I still don't know why I got such a high voltage reading on the positive side, and why the voltage was going up and down under steady load. The eye terminal was loose and was probably resting against the bolt, forming a poor connection that varied over bumps when driving. In any case, when hunting down electrical issues it is always a good idea to check all earthing points!
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Above: The location on the drawing where the culprit earth was.

After road testing and making sure the problem was solved, I moved onto the next job, where I got the nasty surprise.

I decided to fit my new front monotube shock absorbers. Starting with the passenger side, I removed the tyre and unbolted the reservoir and mounting plate, then undid the top and bottom shock bolts and removed the bushes. The old shock has lost its nitrogen charge, but this made compressing it easy and it came out without a fight. I wanted to mount the new reservoir on top of the coil tower, the old spot above the radius arm was ok but I suspected with the extra uptravel from the new shock (The new tubes as 40mm shorter) would start touching the reservoir. Plus, having the reservoir clearly visible above the tyre looks good. So, I unbolted the tower cover plate as I would need to drill holes in it. This is where things got ugly. Underneath, the top of the tower was pretty badly rusted. Water has clearly got in there and got trapped under the cover. I have new bump stops and was going to have a mechanic replace them (can't do it with the car on the ground as the spring is in the way). The nut for the factory one on top of the coil tower had turned into a big blob of rust, even after chipping the rust away it became clear that it needed to be cut off and the stud hammered out. This is where an hour job turned into a multiple day one :/
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Above: The passenger side tower with the cover removed. This one was packed full of mud, which probably helped keep the air out and slow the rust.
Below: The same tower after digging out the mud/clay. This one was not as bad as the driver's side, but clearly needs a birthday.
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I spent an hour or two chipping away at the layers of rust with a chisel, scraper and angle grinder. The next day I decided to stop messing around, and bought a wire cup wheel for my angle grinder. This fit nicely inside the bowl shaped top, and easily removed 80% of the rust. I then applied some rust converter (phosphoric acid) with a small paintbrush, and waited 16 hours for it to cure. While it was drying, I mocked up and mounted where I wanted to put the new reservoir. I found that it would sit nicely along the edge of the cover, but before I drilled any holes to mount the stainless bracket, I put the tyre back on and checked that it would clear the reservoir and hose. With no issues there, I drilled two 6mm holes in each cover. The covers themselves were looking a bit tired, especially underneath, so I used my wire cup wheel to strip off any surface rust and rough up the paint, before giving both two coats of enamel rust guard.

Tomorrow I'll attempt to lower my front axle enough to remove the springs, so that I can cut out the old bumpstops and fit the new ones. I doubt I'll be able to drop it low enough to get them out, but I'm optimistic that I can make it work.
 

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Hey mate, I had that problem of rust in the coil tower as well. The factory drain hole is pitiful. I took the covers off, permanently, and also made the drain hole on the unrusted side a lot bigger. The rusty side was too far gone. Like you, I tried to fit 80 series bump stops but the bolt holding the factory one on was a rust blob. I had to cut the whole bottom out of the tower, then I welded in a piece of flat bar to mount the new bump stop. The advantage is that now there is nowhere for crud to accumulate.
I had a post up with photos, but I can’t find it anymore.


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Wow that’s quite a saga about the electrical gremlin. They do the weirdest thing.
Intermittent faults like that do seem to come down to faulty earths 90% of the time. Well done finding it.
It’s for that reason that all my accessories so far are twin core and earthed back to the negative bussed fuse box, which is earthed directly back to the battery. Even the dual battery itself is earthed back to the starter battery. I have a MUCH simpler setup than yourself with only 3 accessories off that fuse box so far, but I plan to keep doing it this way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #49 ·
@andrew1964

Haha I couldn't even see a drain hole on either side 😕. That doesn't inspire confidence in getting them out, I was hoping to cut off the nut/stud then bash it out from the top with a drift. My plan for water ingress was to keep the factory tieed foam strips off of the cover plate, that way it would have an air gap to let water more easily evaporate. If that doesn't work I was going to cut a couple lengths of aluminium bar, mount the reservoirs to them and bolt them on where the cover went. At least then it would be open enough for me to get my hand in there to scoop out any water/muck.
 

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@andrew1964

Haha I couldn't even see a drain hole on either side . That doesn't inspire confidence in getting them out, I was hoping to cut off the nut/stud then bash it out from the top with a drift. My plan for water ingress was to keep the factory tieed foam strips off of the cover plate, that way it would have an air gap to let water more easily evaporate. If that doesn't work I was going to cut a couple lengths of aluminium bar, mount the reservoirs to them and bolt them on where the cover went. At least then it would be open enough for me to get my hand in there to scoop out any water/muck.
You really don’t need that cover plate. They don’t keep crud out, only in. Ditch them!


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Discussion Starter · #52 · (Edited)
Chassis Repairs & Suspension Fitting Completed

After another day of painting, I fitted up my new monotubes. I did attempt to lower the front axle low enough to get the springs out so that I could replace the bump stops, but without a hoist I decided to can it for safety reasons. I decided to leave the factory stops in for a bit longer, and attack the problem in a few months time when I have my own shed with a hoist. I cleaned both towers with turps, protected the surroundings with rags, then gave them three coats each of rust protection enamel. As a final precaution I sprayed some WD40 into the dishes and cracks to try and keep water out (but not too much as the water would become trapped under a layer of WD).
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Above: The passenger side tower.

From there it was time to fit up the new shock absorbers. They come with silicone boots, and instructions with the correct height to put the boot at to avoid it overstretching or compressing, which was a welcome addition from the older models I installed. What I did miss, however, was the braided stainless steel outer sheath on the hose between the body and shock absorber. The ArmadaXtreme front monotubes I'm replacing had them, and In this way it felt like a downgrade. I would gladly have traded the eight stage adjustment for a properly protected hose, and keep in mind the Armadas were $105 cheaper (but didn't have damping adjustment). The Superior 2.5 shocks don't even have them, and for a product twice the price I found that pretty odd. I did like the reservoirs, being made of anodized aluminium they do look good, and will dissipate heat better than the Armadas.

One more gripe with the Superiors is the finish on the pistons - as you can see in the photo below there is what appears to be fine scoring on the piston near the seal. I have contacted Superior about this and will update this post with how it turns out. EDIT: Suprior got back to me, they said the scoring wasn't deep enough to cause an issue but offered an exchange. I declined as I agree that it's not bad enough to warrant sending it back.
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To get the monotubes in, I made things easier by using the factory bottle jack to lift up the chassis (the front axle was on axle stands), giving me more clearance to get the shocks in and only having to compress by hand them a little bit. Turning the adjustment to setting 1 (softest) helped too. After that I put the bushings and washers on. Superior supply 8 galvanized washers of two different types per shock absorber, however starting the locknuts was impossible with all of them fitted as the assembly was too thick. I'm assuming that the extra washers are for if the factory ones on the chassis are missing for one reason or another, but mine were in good condition so I only used two on each side. The supplied bushings also appeared to be thicker than other ones I've fitted.

Below: The fitted shock absorber.
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Next the silicone boot needed final adjustment. I used a pencil to mark the height required on the tube, and lined up the boot with the marks before using the supplied cable tie to secure it. The bottom of the boot fits over a galvanized metal ring/washer. I was pleased to see that it has 4 large holes in it to let air in/out as the shock and boot compress/rebound. I'm think my old monotubes had this feature, but it should help extend the life of the boot.

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I bolted on the shock tower cover, and positioned the reservoir where I wanted it before using the supplied rubber mounts and hose clamps to secure it in place. I spent some time playing around with the position, and thinking about the best way to mount it. A key concern of mine was not bending the hose too much or allowing it to chafe on anything (especially the tyres when they travel up). I even unbolted the shock tower to see if I could run the hose through it, however unfortunately it fouled up on the body and I couldn't move it far up enough to get it out or the reservoir through. Hammering the body inwards to make room was an option, but decided against it, after all the shock is a consumable part; the body is not.

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I settled on the configuration above. The hose is more kinked that I would have liked, but I'm satisfied that it won't hit the tyres or coil/shock tower even while vibrating over bumps. The damper adjustment knob is still accessible even with the wheels on, and while the reservoir will cop a lot of mud and water from the tires, it is tucked up away from any sticks and rocks that it may have encountered elsewhere. The final step was to check everything over before taking it out for a test drive. I had the damping setting at 4 (middle), but found it a little firm for driving on the road. I've since changed it to 3, but may even set the front and rear to 1 to see how soft and comfortable I can get it. I did flex my Patrol up on the same sand mound, but once again the mound was too small to max out the suspension travel and I couldn't find anything suitable to test it on. On my next trip I'll be sure to test my flex and take some photos.

UPDATE:
I have continued to play around with the damping adjustment settings on all four shock absorbers, and I have to say that my Patrol has never rode better than it does now. Lowering the settings from 6 to 3 has made a dramatic improvement in the way that they soak up bumps, both from potholes/drains and speed bumps. Going over those annoying speed bumps that are both tall and long (at the recommended speed limit of course) is now a joy, as the suspension smoothly travels up and soaks them up after the front wheels touch the ground on the other side. Before my next drive I will set them all the way down to setting one (softest), and I expect the ride to become even comfier. The beauty of this is that I can easily firm them up for situations like driving on soft gravel roads, where having more rigidity increases safety.
 

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Well I can see from your photo why you are keeping the cover plate. Mounting the remote reservoir on top of the plate will make it even harder to clean out. Might I suggest a piece of flat bar across the top and mount the reservoir to that? That way you can still get a hose in there to wash it out.


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Discussion Starter · #54 ·
Well I can see from your photo why you are keeping the cover plate. Mounting the remote reservoir on top of the plate will make it even harder to clean out. Might I suggest a piece of flat bar across the top and mount the reservoir to that? That way you can still get a hose in there to wash it out.


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Yes I did mention in my provious update that I was probably going to get rid of them. I'm not happy with the mounting as the plates are very thin and flimsy and the reservoirs can be moved by hand. I have some 3mm aluminium strip that I'll cut and mount the reservoirs to in the near future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #56 · (Edited)
Solar Charger Upgrade, Solar Blanket & Wireless Awning Mod Part 2

I've rolled 3 small projects into one post for convenience.

While I am happy with my recently added 160 Watt fixed solar panel on the roof, I have decided to further upgrade my off grid power capacity. This will especially come in handy in cloudy whether, and give me more of a boost when the sun is coming up and going down. To do this, I upgraded my solar charge controller, and I have decided to add a solar blanket instead of another fixed panel.

I decided on a Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/20 smart solar controller. This is the next model up from the 75/15 I had previously. I made an oversight when ordering the 75/15 and accidentally ordered the model that didn't come with onboard bluetooth. This annoyed me as I needed to run an external bluetooth dongle, which was expensive and looked messy when installed. I removed the old charge controller, marked and drilled the holes for the new one. Since the outputs between the 75/15 and 100/20 are identical, it was a straight swap to change over the wires.

For a solar blanket, I decided on a Kings 200W Solar Blanket with MPPT Regulator. While I actively avoid buying chinese products, China is the #1 manufacturer of solar panels in the world, and I have no reason to doubt the quality of the panels themselves. I was disappointed (but not surprised) to find that the integrated bag for the panel was damaged right out of the box. The stitching on on the bag partially missing and was hanging off. After making a claim online and waiting almost a week got reply, I took it into my local supacentre warehouse, waited in line for 20 minutes, got told they don't have it in stock, then found a solution by exchanging the blanket with a different model that had a different charge controller (I kept the original charger).
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Above: Kings quality right there, broken right out of the box.

With that debacle over, I got to integrating the blanket with my existing roof system. My solution was simple; take one of the Anderson sockets off of the existing crappy Kings MPPT charge controller, and wire it in parallel with my existing panel.

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Above: The installed controller and Anderson plug.
Below: I used two M6 nuts to space the plug away from the door so that the dust cap could be fitted. The 100/20 has a nice sized heatsink (the 75/15 had nothing), which will keep it running efficiently on a hot day.
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I planned to use the blanket resting on my bonnet, so before I mounted the plug I checked to make sure the included extension cable would actually reach from the controller (at the back of my patrol) to the front. Thankfully the cable was more than long enough. To set up the blanket I simply ran it along the roof rack to the front and plugged it in at both ends.

The new controller required several firmware updates, after those were done I adjusted its settings to make it compatible with my Lithium battery. The profile for my iTechworld 120X was still in the Victron app, and so it gave me the option to load it into the new controller. However, as soon as I did so, it gave me an error (data could not be read). The only way to clear this was to follow the instructions in the Victron app: Reset the controller by disconnecting the solar and battery supply and wait three minutes. I tried twice more and had the same issue. The cause of this problem was probably that the profile for the my old 75/15 was not compatible for the 100/20. Manually dialling in the profile fixed it, but weirdly I can't delete the old profile or create new ones.

Below: The blanket set up on the bonnet. I leaned it up against my CB antenna to angle it towards the setting sun.
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Before connecting the blanket, my fixed panel was putting out 11 Watts. After connecting the output jumped up to 52 watts, which is about given that the sun was setting. What I like about this setup is its modularity. For short weekend trips I can leave the (surprisingly heavy) blanket at home, and for longer trips I can bring it to increase my off grid capacity.

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The last of my LED strip lights arrived, and I completed my wireless awning project. I now have two LED strips attached to each of the awning's three supports. This provides an excessive amount of light, however I can dim the LED's at will. As mentioned in part 1, I carefully selected the LED strips, in particular the types of LED's on them. The 5730 LED package type used on the strips throw out light at a wider angle (120 degrees), and have a higher brightness output per chip than the other commonly used LED's. This comes with a slight downside; they are fairly power hungry.

After finishing the wiring, I tested the power draw of the system, but observing the power consumption on my Victron battery monitor before and after switching the lights on. Running all lights at full brightness uses 70 Watts of power, each strip uses about 20 watts give or take, and the controller about 8 Watts. Dimming the lights can reduce power consumption by about three quarters.

Below: Testing the system at night. I think it will give any campsite a warm and cosy feel.
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Either way, I am still extremely pleased with my setup. The advantages are:
  • No extra setup time for the awning; I can still set it up in 30 seconds or less.
  • Extremely bright
  • Relatively low cost - approximately AUD $105 for the controller, enclosure, wiring and strip lights
  • Has different zones; eg I can turn off the kitchen area (closest zone to the spare tyre) when not in use
  • Fully dimmable to save power
  • Warm white light that has a more cozy feel and attracts less bugs
  • Wi-fi controller allows me to use my phone or tablet to turn it on and off remotely. Especially handy for getting up to go take a slash at night
  • The lights automatically fade up when switched on to avoid getting blinded
  • The controller can even make the lights flash and "dance"to music
  • Reliable and has redundancy: I accidentally short circuited a strip during construction, and the corresponding channel on the controller failed on, so at least the lights will still work if there is a minor fault. For a major fault the fuse on my DC switchboard will blow (tested that too 😉)
Disadvantages:
  • Installing the strip lights was difficult; Soldering in difficult and awkward positions was required.
  • May still attract insects (though dimming them will help mitigate this)
  • Holes for wires needed to be drilled in the awning frame
  • The led controller can still fail, and the waterproof box can potentially get full of water
This will probably be the last project for a couple of months; I have just bought a house and will be busy moving in and furnishing it, not to mention decking out the shed and turning it into a workshop.
 

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nissan
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Discussion Starter · #58 ·
Well done. The lights look great

Can you link to the ones you bought? do they have a normal switch as well or is it all done through the phone?
Hey Jack, I have them on a carling switch up front so I can switch off the controller to save power. This is the controller I bought, there are plenty of similar ones on Ebay/Aliexpress/Amazon.
 

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09 ZD30 CRD Wagon
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Hey Jack, I have them on a carling switch up front so I can switch off the controller to save power. This is the controller I bought, there are plenty of similar ones on Ebay/Aliexpress/Amazon.
Thanks mate that’s great. Which warm white LED strips did you get? Although they use a little more power, they sound like they give a softer spread of light. I also can’t start the cool white LEDs that are available everywhere 🤢
 

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nissan
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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Thanks mate that’s great. Which warm white LED strips did you get? Although they use a little more power, they sound like they give a softer spread of light. I also can’t start the cool white LEDs that are available everywhere 🤢
These are ones I used. The strip is 5mm wide, but you can 10mm wide strips with the LED's turned sideways, and with more LED's per meter of strip.
 
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