Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Working Inside the Trunk

Time to work on Voxy's trunk :) As most of you know, VW beetles have their trunks in front - Remember the common joke that the engine has been stolen everytime they open the hood :)

In the case of Voxy - the trunk is also where most of the electrical wirings are and if I'm going to make Voxy a dependable daily driver - I would have to make sure that everything inside the trunk is neat and tidy to prevent electrical problems.

Here's a shot of the trunk during the clean up process - I definitely wouldn't want to pop up the trunk one day and see grass growing inside or worse see rats and frogs getting comfortable there :)

Since the electricals of the volks are okay when I got her, I just had to wrap most of the wires in electrical tape and cable ties. The idea is to group as much of them together to avoid criscross spaghetti looking wirings. I had to add extensions on some of them as they too short to join the "big group". TIP: Before starting, make sure you disconnect the battery terminals to prevent electrical shorts in case you make a mistake

I also took the chance to clean the contacts with sandpaper. This ensures a continuous and stable flow of current on all of the components.

See - It is possible to sit comfortably inside the trunk while working on it.

How quickly time flies when your having fun - its already dark and work continues!

After everything has been tied up (you can still see several wires that are not grouped together since I didn't want to mess with them anymore as I was afraid that I might mess up the wirings) - its time to lay on a fresh coat of black paint to complete my trunk renovation. - I first made sure that the dirt, dust and rust was carefully washed off  (don't forget that these are electricals - use as little amount of water as possible) I used some kerosene on places near the contacts TIP: Make sure you use kerosene in a well ventilated area.

After a couple of coats - everything looks sharp and presentable.

Next up, more of exterior works - watch out!

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fixing Loose Sockets / Switches

Do you have sockets like this at home?

Or switches like this?

If you do, then like us, you can't turn on these switches or plug something in them without the fear of being electrocuted - they become a nightmare. The most common method of dealing with this that I've seen is the ballpen method - it is where you use a ballpen to switch on the lights :) It is pretty effective but fixing this problem won't take you 10 minutes...

FIRST thing you have to do is to turn off the main power switch (see my earlier post to do this) - better be safe than sorry :)  

 Next is to pry out the cover of the switch with a flat screwdriver - just be careful - we don't want to break the cover right?

This is what you will see under the cover - looks scary with all the wires, dust and plates - don't worry its not that complicated inside and since you've turned off the power - you can work with ease! 

Remove the two screws holding the base plate in place so that you can carefully pull it out.

Observe that this didn't escape the wrath of the floods :( - good time to clean them..

The socket is attached to the plate through these clips - all you have to do is to clip it back in again...

Tighten it gently using your screwdriver and your almost done!

Return the screws , clip on the plates and problem solved!

Yes! You can definitely fix your loose sockets and switches! :)

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Facing The Plates

Like what I've mentioned in my earlier post - Voxy's license plates are really frustrating borderline disgusting :(. Well, I'd have to face them sooner or later .. why not begin now? :) While removing it, I wondered how her previous owner treated her. Imagine her being left in the sun, mud and rain for months - that's all about to change with me now. :)

Let's have another look at the plates - I was only able to take a picture of one - but believe me - this is the better plate :)

As you can see, there are rust stains all over it- I think this is because of the rusted plate holder - and it is full of old LTO stickers - 2005 was the only one I could read out as the others have already faded. I think it is a good sign though as it indicates that the car was registered several times - meaning it was used throughout those years - why register a car you're not going to use right? :)

Tried cleaning them with soap, water, gas, alcohol and the other chemicals lying around in the house but had no success in doing so - I had to take drastic measures. It would have to be either be one of two things 1. apply for duplicate plates 2. restore them . After conducting an extensive research (see - i followed my tip in my third post ) - I found out that it will take months before LTO could issue me new plates (and at a high cost) so I decided that I'll have to follow route number 2 ( for the meantime while I'm saving up and waiting for my duplicate plates).

DISCLAIMER: I am not sure if this is legal and allowed by LTO, BTMO, etc - do this at your own risk. There are some who claim that there's nothing wrong with this as long as you have your papers with you - but there are others who say otherwise. In the end - its your call. In my case - I figured that I'm actually doing everyone a favor by improving the way my plates look and making it visible to everyone :)

I started by stripping off the old sticker/paint and revealing what's underneath - i think its made of aluminum - shiny!

I then sprayed a coat of primer and several layers of white paint (Rattle can spray paints). TIP: In spray painting - it is always better to apply several thin coats rather than thick ones - doing so will give you a uniform and flat coat. Applying thick coats lead to paint runs and will be a pain in the butt. Your first coat will not always cover the entire thing - in the case of the plates - it turned out like you just sprayed white powder in the aluminum surface - but that's okay - it will turn out perfect after 2 to 3 coats.

I finished it off by spraying on coats of clear paint to protect the white base and improve its shine. TIP: Whenever using spray paint (especially with rattle cans) it is best to apply several coats of clear to prolong the life of the paint - the extra cost for the clear paint pays for itself in the long run

I was supposed to apply the green decals myself but decided that the cost of the sticker and the difficulty of cutting it is not worth it. For just 200 pesos - I had a professional do it since their computers can cut the stickers better. It is important that you ask them to put reflectorized stickers as this will allow your plate to shine at night - the same way a stock plate does.

FINISHED PRODUCT - looks brand new right? Made me realize that YES! YOU CAN RESTORE YOUR TRASHY LOOKING PLATES! :)
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Let There Be Light! :)

Instead of calling in an electrician - why not do it yourself?

We've been having problems with the lights in our living room for quite some time now. It sometimes turns on but oftentimes nothing happens when we flip the switch. When checking broken flourescents (light fixtures),you always start with the starter (since it is the cheapest part - you can buy a one for under 10 pesos) and the bulb, if both are working, you move on to the socket (since they get brittle over time) , the wiring, switch and lastly the ballast. In this case, I have covered all of the basics and the light is still dead - time to replace the ballast.

As with all electrical work, it is advisable to turn off the main power supply to be safe. Above is the basic diagram of the lights at home (this applies to lamps as well). As you can see, the switch controls only 1 side of the wire (powerline) - this leaves the other one as always ON and can electrecute you!
Look for the main circuit breaker at home that often looks like this (there are also other models, use google to get an idea of what they look like)

In our case, turning off the left most breaker(main switch) kills  all of the power at home. Switching off the other breakers only kills the power from either the sockets, lights, rooms etc. To be sure, I always turn off the main switch. You have to figure out which of the breakers in your house is the main switch. 

AGAIN, let me remind you that touching a live wire can give you quite a shock and in extreme cases kill you. You've been warned - just turn off the power :)

Now on to our problematic light -
After removing the cover, you will notice that it is held in place by 4 screws (circled in red - the 4th one is under the wire). To remove the fixture, you have to disconnect it from the wires that give it power (black ones) and then remove the screws
After removing the fixture - make sure you separate the main wires and never don't them to touch each other. Since I will be testing the fixture before I install it, I will be turning the power back on again. If both wires are live and comes into contact with each other, sparks will fly and these are not the ones that you would want to watch - they can result to a blown fuse or worse, melted house wiring.

Ballasts can be bought at local hardwares for under 100 pesos. But since we have old fixtures lying around in the garage, I've decided to test if I can salvage some parts from it first.

To test, I have hacked off the plug from a broken lamp and used this to plug in the lamp to a socket.

The old one works while the cleaner and newer one doesn't - on to switching the ballasts! TIP! Observe that the power connection between the lights and plug are not on the fixture itself but is placed on the wooden table. The fixture's base is steel and can conduct electricity - having the wires set there could result to sparks and electrical shorts.

To give everyone a better understanding - here are the parts of a traditional fluorescent light. This diagram also applies to tube fluorescent lights and lamps.

Removing these two nuts frees the ballast. After transferring the ballast from the old to the new fixture - everything's set and I can place it back again in the ceiling. Just make sure you test it first and switch off the power lines again. Also wrap the power lines with electrical tape once you connect them

Hopefully, this doesn't give us problems again soon.

It only took me 20 minutes to finish this repair and so can you. You just have to always follow safety precautions and everything is fairly easy. Always bear in mind that YES YOU CAN FIX THOSE LIGHTS!

COST: Nothing - got the ballast from old light fixtures
TIME to complete: 20 minutes
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Interiors done!

After some thought, I've decided that an all black dashboard can be quite dull. After looking at several VW bug pictures (courtesy of google) I've decided that I'll paint the grills near the speedo and the glove compartment cover with metallic silver. That should give my dash a bit of attitude :)

I was supposed to just paint on top of the existing black grill but observed that  the spaces in between the grills are too narrow - indicating that it already has several layers  of paint. I decided to strip it off the old paint - with the use of stripsol and metal brush - before applying a fresh coat of primer and metallic silver.

Used this brand of paint stripper as it is relatively "stronger" than the other brands  - based on my experience, a little of this stuff goes a long way. TIP: This is a very strong chemical and should be handled with care. Never use this on plastics as it may melt or cause them to warp. It is advisable to apply this using a paint brush, wait for a couple of minutes for the paint to bubble then use a metal brush or paint scrapper to peel off the paint. Have rags ready and be careful with the peeled paint because the paint stripper is still active. This stuff stings once it touches your skin :)

 You can see different layers of paint on the grill( if i remember it correctly - it was red, blue, red and black plus their primers). It's a good thing I've decided to strip the grills of their old paint. I had no idea how to remove the hazard switch from the grill and didn't have the time to google it so I just taped it. I later found out that you can remove it by just unscrewing the flat washer (stupid of me hehe) - mental note - Always research something thoroughly as it makes the job easier.. believe me.. Since I was already at it -  I decided to paint the steering wheel as well (wrapped the letter part in newspaper)

Due to the bug's old age, the fuel gauge is a bit weathered, old, unreadable and unpresentable. I asked several vw shops and found out that a surplus fuel gauge in semi good condition ranges from 800 to 1500 pesos. Ouch! I decided to do a DIY on the gauge first :) I opened up the gauge by prying its cover(the black border) and took out the faded plastic cover. I then went to one of the local glass shops - the ones who do aquariums, windows etc - and asked them if they could copy it for me. Most of them can't do it since it had to be thin and rounded on the corners. I resigned to the thought that I'll replace it clear acetate ( the ones used in oldschool projectors) or laminating films instead but decided to try my luck with a couple more shops and my perseverance paid off - I found one that can do it. In the end, the gauge looks brand new and at the fraction of the cost! :)

Broken switch that had to be replaced and some loose wiring...

Look at how weathered the black paint is...

After some TLC and a new coat of black paint..

 (click on the image to enlarge)

Looks pretty nice isn't it? 

I will definitely enjoy driving this :)

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