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 . 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.
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, however since I sleep in my tent which is under my awning, I'd like a way to switch the lights off once I'm inside and tucked into my sleeping bag, as opposed to using the switch in the car, then trying to get into the tent/ and bed in the dark or while holding a torch. So, I've decided to create a "module" of sorts that plugs into the roofrack and the awning. As most other camping related systems are controlled wirelessly by my phone, I decided to use 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 make wiring easy and 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.
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.
Below: The weatherproof enclosure.
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.
\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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.