297:Saturday 7th April 2018

After several weekends of getting rained off, I bit the bullet and bought a pop-up car tent. Mary and I did a trial run yesterday and found that the side panels were like a big sail or kite and real difficult to put up. I chose not to use the side panels this time, but if I had all the tie-downs stretched out, it may be possible. Anyway guess what... It didn't rain, not a spot until after I had finished and had dinner. It did keep the sun off though.
Today's job was to finish fitting the air ride front height sensors. I did the rears at my friend and neighbour Luke's workshop on a 2 post lift and as I needed to run cables under the length of the car. Today's wiring was much simpler and all the work was under the wheel arches, so I could do this with a jack and some axle stands.
I drilled 2 holes and mounted an L bracket to the lower wishbone. I fixed the height sensor link rod to the L bracket and with the strut at full extension I marked the position of the other end of the link rod. I then evacuated the air from the strut and jacked it up until the car started lifting and marked the other end of the link rod again on the wheel arch. I measured between the marks and the difference was 50mm (this is not the full height as the bracket was mounted about half way between the wishbone hinge point and the end where the strut connects). I then marked half way between them as this is where the link rod needs to be so I could mount the sensor in the midway position with the arm half way. I connected the sensor to the link rod and set it with the arm half way and set the jack so the link rod end was also at the halfway point. I marked the top and bottom of the sensor and where the holes were, then took sensor spacer mounting plate and used this to mark the holes. I drilled the holes with a small drill as a pilot for the self tapping screws that are used to mount the sensor. I ran the screws in on their own first to cut a thread, then mounted the sensor on the mounting plate to the wheel arch. Did the same on the other side, connected the wires, then set about calibrating everything. The valve block processor has a built in calibration routine that you can set automatically or manually. I tried the auto calibrate first and it took ages pumping the suspension up and down and waiting for the compressor to refill the tank etc. At the end of the calibration I got min height errors on the rear sensors. Next I tried automatic pressure calibration and manual height calibration. After another round of ups and downs, I got to set the min and max heights and then some more up and down to finish the calibration. It's quite fiddly trying to set the limits to a particular pressure as each push of the buttons makes the strut you are adjust jump 2 or 3 PSI each time. This also resulted in minimum height errors on the rear again. So for the last attempt, I did manual pressure calibration and height calibration. It took me about 20 minutes to complete, but it is tip top now. First trip was to the end of my road and back. I used the mid point setting and ran over some bumps and small kerbs, and superb, no donking. I am a happy bunny today. I had a fiddle with some of the presets to put them at the percentage heights I chose instead of the calibrated 25, 50, 75% settings. Now I have what I expected from the air ride and now I can start tidying everything else up so I can start showing it with pride. Zoom in on the photo below to see the detail of the sensor, link rod and bracket etc.

296: Monday 2nd April 2018

I have been delinquent with my posts recently. I notice the last post was October and have made a few change since then. After destroying the DC-DC converter, I bought a new and improved one. This has a 1kW output at 14.0v, so just like a car alternator. Now when I power on, I get my battery gauge reading half way and it just stays there. I ran power steering, fan, lights and the air ride compressor all at the same time and it didn't vary. Cost was about £230 by the time I had it shipped from Hong Kong. I am really pleased with the way it performs. I had many Iota DLS55s and they all broke eventually.

I mounted the remote for the air ride system onto the left side of the dash. It is well illuminated and along with the 2DIN Android head unit, JLD404 Intelligent Ah meter and the bespoke Probatron battery monitoring touchscreen display it is starting to look like KITT. 
I have been trying to get the air ride system to work better as I get a horrible loud donk noise like someone hitting an anvil with a hammer from the rear when the ride is set high or low as the struts reach their end of travel. With a 300kg  battery in the trunk it does this quite easily. Getting the car to ride half way for normal driving depends of a lot of factors like how stiff the struts are, ambient temperature, how many people in the car etc. When it was set half way, no donk noise (except for huge bumps). I took the plunge and bought the height sensor kit for the system. This will get past all the factors and will sit the car half way and keep it there when I set it up. The air suspension has 5 preset buttons on the remote. The top and bottom are fully up and down respectively, The three in between are so the user can program 3 different ride heights for different driving situations. I have set these for cruising (low), normal driving (medium) and speed bumps (high). The picture below shows the left rear height sensor fitted and connected. I have run the cables and tied them up so they are in the front with the air ride controller. I borrowed my friend Luke's workshop with 2 post lift so I could get right under the car. I started to get too many back, and shoulder pains. So I didn't get to fit the front ones. I have ordered a pop up tent to put on my driveway so I can work on my car without having to wait for good weather. That should come by the weekend so I can make some brackets and mount the front height sensors. The tent I have ordered is 4.5 x 3m (15 x 10 feet), so it will completely cover my car, and has 4 sides so I can easily get it in and out and make space all around. I am looking forward to this now. I have also fixed the rear bumper structure to the skins by drilling and screwing through. I covered the screw heads with filler, sanded them smooth and sprayed some primer. I was getting some rust bubbles appearing on both rea wheel arches, so I ground it back, ran a wire brush tool through it, treated with Jenolite, filled, sanded and sprayed this with some primer. I have ordered some red paint in a rattle can so I can go over these repairs. I shall get a proper painter to tidy up my work. Bodywork is my least favourite part of working on cars. I can never get it right... 

295:Saturday 28th October 2017

Over the last couple of weeks I have been fitting the Air suspension struts to sparky.
I borrowed a 2 post lift from my friend and neighbour Luke for a weekend. On Saturday 14th October 2017 I had my friend Trevor Harding helping immensely.
Before we could get to the bolts we had to remove the trim panels in the back, but these were held down by the battery pack and it's racking. That was the first hour or so.
The struts went on fairly easily with a bit of release oil on the threads. Setting up the bottom height was a matter of trial and error to start with. Our friend Duncan Thomas turned up later to see how it was going and helped run the air lines from the rear struts to the valve block at the front.
On Sunday 14th October 2017, Duncan Thomas came along to help and we got the front struts fitted. After the experience of the rear struts, the front was easy, but ran out of time to do any setting for the bottom height.
While the drive battery was disconnected, the 12v system was getting no top up, and the battery wasn't great. When I cam to power up the compressor on Saturday it damaged the DC-DC converter so there was no recharging of the 12v system. I connected a mains charger to the 12v system on Sunday when we started and there was just enough juice to do the journey home. I had to order another DC-DC converter and I am still waiting for it to come from USA.

I saw an advert for some LED light strips for the rear lights and bought some from EBay. I fitted these and also installed a new electric aerial only to find I had 2 male connectors in the trunk. I have ordered an adapter with 2 female connector to join these together. That's something to watch out for when buying a universal fitting aerial.

294: Sunday 10th September 2017

Since the last post the 2 cells in my battery pack that were suspect have officially died. I have remove them from the connections but kept them on the end of the pack to prevent the other batteries moving. I then disconnected the charger output and opened the case. Carefully with the power on, I adjusted the output voltage to the new lower voltage now that I was down to 36 cells. Put it all back together and all was working fine again. I have been using the car now for a while, but at first it was very low on acceleration even in 1st gear. After trying lots of different settings, I ran the optimization routine and then the power level was a lot better and the acceleration was good in 1st gear. Having less power than the old DC motor and controller was something I now getting used to. I have noticed that with just basic regen for throttle lift off, I am using much less capacity and I reckon the power usage is around 300 Wh/mile.
So now I'm up and running again I've switch my attention back to the air suspension. First I mounted the tank in the space where the old lead acid batteries used to be, then the compressor just under the left headlamp. I had to fabricate some brackets for this and I found that when I went to put the tank back after fitting the compressor, there was no room to fit an elbow on the end, so I made some brackets to move it over by 65mm. 
With the tank and compressor in place, the next job was to mount the valve block. When I tried to connect the air pie from the tank filter, it was difficult and was a tight bend to get across by the tank. I made some new brackets and raised it up about 50mm.

Next job was to wire it all up and make the air connections from the tank to the valve bock and the compressor to the tank. I ran the usb cable through to the inside of the car and threaded the motor controller usb cable through at the same time. on the front you can see the remote controller (wired). I could operate each valve successfully once the pressure in the tank had built up. I also tried my mobile phone app and that worked too. I noticed the pressure was dropping slowly, so I put some leak indicator on all the joints and found bubbles at the junction of the pressure switch and the adaptor for the tank. I took it apart and put some PTFE tape around the threads and fitted all back together, problem solved. I pressurized the system and watched the pressure drop again, but then it stabilized. I shall check it again in the morning. Next job is to run the pipes to each corner of the car and then fit the new air struts. These were adapted specifically for the Ford Probe so they should go straight on. Will need to drill some holes in the inner wings to run the pipes through unless I can loop them under as there are plastic wheel arch liners.

293: Wednesday 9th August 2017

No photos today, but good news I have my AC drive system running.

First time I powered up the system I had an error 18 (Severe B+ Overvoltage) flashing on the LEDs. I had already got the software and cable to configure the drive, so I thought I'd just go in and set it up.

I couldn't find the cable...! I paid nearly £60 for this on eBay and turned the house and garage upside-down trying to find it before I reluctantly ordered another (another £60). It came quickly from Germany. I connected my laptop and after a bit of dialogue with the guy in Germany and a few windows registry settings changed, I could set parameters in the motor controller. This might be useful for others as the Curtis 1239e controller is still quite new. The hardware set-up has some slight differences with 1238. The reason I chose this model was the wide range of voltages (72v to 144v) that is can work with and the 12v control side that is not affected by the drive battery pack voltage.

So the error 18 was not due to overvoltage, but with the controller being configured with a low voltage, so I changed the battery pack setting to 121.6v and then the fault cleared. I linked out the interlock for the throttle and then I had a main contactor fault. This was preventing the main contactor from closing (error 39).

At this point I went to enter the settings that I had been sent from Jeremy who sold me the motor and drive. The next problem was that I could not open the excel sheet. I tried everything and I was getting errors from windows. I went to work the next day and opened the file no problem on my pc at work, so I did a cheeky 'save as' in various excel version formats to my cloud drive at home. I printed a hard copy just in case. When I got home I decided to just use the hard copy and put the settings in the controller.

When I keyed on with the new settings the contactor gave a nice click after the pre-charge had built up enough voltage at the capacitors on the B+ terminal. I then had an error 47 sequence fault. I wired the throttle switch to the interlock input and then the fault was still there. I used the input monitor screen to note the throttle min and max voltages and then entered these into the parameters. The fault code cleared.

When I powered up there were no fault codes, so I checked the gearbox was in neutral and operated the throttle pot... Nothing...! I looked at the input on the screen and I could see the input for the throttle switch, but no input for forward or reverse. I checked the wiring and found I had omitted a connection to the forward and reverse relays for the signal supply. I had removed this from the circuit because my old DC drive had 120v control signals, so had a 120v supply to the relay contacts. I replaced this with the 12v supply and then I could see the input for the forward switch working on the screen and motor came to life. I checked the reverse input too. I put it into 3rd gear and gave the drive a little bump with the throttle to check the motor was turning the right way for the car to go forward. All o.k.

I noticed at this point that my battery monitor was showing extremely low on 2 of the bars. I check the individual batteries with my multi-meter and they were really low. I had suspected these 2 batteries of being faulty or damaged some time ago, but this was just from being left alone with the Anderson connector disconnected (no load), so they were self discharging somehow. Next job is to reconnect the charger and get everything bolted down and secured so I can go on the road.

292: Saturday 24th June 2017

It's been a while since the brushes burnt out on my old DC motor and I started the change to AC. I had painted the new bracket for the rear motor mount and went out to fit all the brackets. I had forgotten to paint the modified driveshaft bearing support bracket. So I painted that and then spent some time tidying my tools away. I have been working on my kitchen at the weekends and spent one weekend in Dublin Ireland to see Kraftwerk live at the gas board theatre. Today I got back on the Probatron conversion. I needed to strike a compromise because I still have things to do with the house and the car, so I am doing car on Saturdays and House on Sundays until both are moved on. The picture below shows the new Curtis controller and my old DC-DC converter positioned on my old heat sink that I had for the Zapi controller.
Had to do a bit of drilling and cutting the fins on the heat sink to get the bolt holes lined up on the controller. I also mounted the throttle brackets and fitted a new spring to the throttle box. I then mounted the whole assembly onto the car brackets. The controller was touching the brake pipes on the firewall, so I gave the pipes a tweak with a hammer and a block of wood then it bolted in just fine.

291: Sunday 7th May 2017

The last 2 weekends have been about changing from DC motor and controller to AC. I had the brushes burn out again around Easter time and I figure now is the time to change to AC (no brushes, better regen capabilities). The picture below shows the controller and charger removed with the old motor still in the car. Notice there is only a small gap between the motor and the body.
I found a company in UK that had some HPEVS AC-50 motors and was able to get me a Curtis 1239 controller for a reasonable price. This works well with my existing 120v battery pack. This is a smaller motor than what I took out and also the controller is a lower rating, but the cost to get performance is too high. I found the low speed performance of the DC motor to  be excessive for my journeys, but the AC system behaviour is so much more configurable with the Curtis controller.
The motor fixings were the same as the old motor including the 4 threaded bolt holes around the perimeter and the shaft size was the same. The only difference was the shaft was shorter. The old motor had an 11mm spacer to hold the taper lock hub off the motor. This provided the right geometry for the clutch to be in the correct position for the actuator. With no spacer, the hub was rubbing on the motor. With the 11mm spacer, the hub was hanging off the end of the motor shaft. Neither of these conditions was acceptable. My neighbour Luke has a friend who has a lathe in his garden workshop so we went to see him and he made the outer mounting ring 9mm shorter and made me a 2mm spacer This then gave the same distance as an 11mm spacer. You can see in the photo below the hub is lined up nicely with the end of the motor shaft. I had to cut the stepped key to match this length. I inserted the adapter bolts around the edge of the hub before locking the on the motor shaft. I then added the flywheel adapter, then the outer ring and bell housing adapter plate, then the flywheel and clutch in that order. I mounted The motor last Saturday with help from my friend Sandy
The place where I got the motor from had some other bits that I paid a bit extra for such as wiring looms, shaft key, motor bolts, rear motor cover and this rear mounting bracket. At this stage as shown in the photo I was on my second attempt at marrying my old mount and this new one. I had cut off the bent part of the bracket as my first attempt was to add an extra 12mm of metal to bridge the gap difference with the old mount. I Decided to just use bigger angle section and replace the whole end of the new bracket. I had to cut another slot for the transducer cables on the back of the motor. The bracket is just tack welded in this here.
Monday night I went with my neighbour Luke to his workshop where he MIG welded the joints, then went over them with a TIG welder to make them look neater as this will be on show. We added 2 triangles on the back and one on the front to provide extra strength and rigidity and help prevent any twisting. These were also MIG and TIG welded. I just need to give them a good coat of paint then it is ready to go back on. We also re-made the drive shaft bearing support bracket to fit this new motor set-up.

290: Sunday 23rd April 2017

On my way home from work just before Easter and sparkie broke down with the motor arcing. Got the motor out today and 2 of the 8 brushes have gone and the rest are badly worn. I am going to take the plunge and change to AC. I'm going with a HPEVS AC-50 motor and a Curtis 1239-8501 at 120v. Also the taper lock was broken on the flywheel hub, so that explains the clonking when pulling away.

289: Tuesday 4th April 2017

Saturday my friend Sandy came round and helped me get the air receiver fitted for the air suspension system. The feet on the receiver almost exactly matched the rails they were going on to. I pulled out some 40mm L section mild steel and we made 2 brackets to fix to the rails. We then drilled holes in the sides of the brackets to bolt the receiver on and then offered it up to the rails to mark through the other holes. We then drilled the rails and fitted the tank to the car. Last job for Saturday was to paint the new brackets with smooth red Hammerite.
Sunday Morning I bolted the receiver tank. In the the photo below you can see it in the car nice and secure. Next job is to make a bracket to mount the compressor pump and valve block.

288: Friday 31st March 2017

Last Saturday I set out to make space for the Air suspension equipment. The main space is needed for the Air Tank that is about 550mm x 260mm diameter. Also need to mount the compressor and the air management valve block. I took out the old battery racks that were left over from when I had lead-acid batteries in the front of the car. I had to put his back so it was supporting the front slam panel for the hood. This is not a very strong panel and I had to cut the original mount to get batteries in there. So with a basic frame prepared I moved the Anderson Connector, Current shunt and wooden mount, brake vacuum pump and the gauge driver circuit as well as re-routing the cables. The Air Tank drops in right on the frame (by luck) so I just need to make some brackets to fix it down.