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skadi the syncro
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phlogiston
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 3:17 pm    Post subject: skadi the syncro Reply with quote

with so many impressive build threads underway here, i've been a little reluctant to start my own. how can my build be interesting when i don't even own a welder, let alone a powder coating oven! nonetheless, i have already received so much help and advice from folks on this forum that i'm now on here almost daily, so i figured it's time to post some content. after all, i love telling stories and sharing photos. so humor me. i'm going to start from the beginning, and it will probably take me a few posts to catch up. we all need something to read on our lunch break, after all...

about 10 years ago, i hit the "layoff jackpot" for the first time. i sold my porsche 951 to buy my first vanagon, wendy, took my severance pay and moved in! it was the first best year of my life. fast forward 10 years (of vanagon filled adventures and wrenching) and again i find myself collecting unemployment and living in a van... this time a mitsubishi delica L300 in new zealand.

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i was having a great time chasing storms, but the mid engine van just wasn't the same... so i decided to come back to the usa, get a job, and start saving for a syncro. fortunately, wendy welcomed me home and after a not so quick engine rebuild, she got me up to seattle. we had a great winter but through it all i knew that 2wd was not fit for the northwest.

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so finally, last fall, i emptied out my new savings and bought my first syncro from a guy on bainbridge island.

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well that love affair was short. during the course of my initial maintenance, i discovered that significant structural rust had been carefully covered up with undercoating and bedliner spray. that's what i get for focusing all my attention on the seams and window seals!

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so i bought another syncro! then swapped the recently rebuilt transmission from the first into the second, and sold the first at a loss to a mexican guy who who planned to go tear around the beaches of baja with his wife and kids. it seemed like a cool future for a rusty van.

now i had a platform for my dream van.... time to go snowboarding with my friends!

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well now winter is officially over so i've had a few weekends at home to dig into the syncro... more content to come!
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desertrefugee
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great story-telling. I've been known to tell a few myself. Nowadays, most are from my days of yore as I ain't as spry as I once was. Am truly jealous of the incredible back country jaunts. And during the mean season, too!

Kudos, welcome and congrats on the Syncro!
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome.
Strip that Syncro down and build it back up.
All of the knowledge you need logs in here daily.
There are many different parts and many different astethics to choose from, but at the end of the day...its a Syncro.

Arrow I used to be a part of the Burton Snowboard R&D team....still have my split snowboard and many other pre production back country goodies.
Nothing better than a ride to and from a remote location in a Syncro Exclamation
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bring on the build Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen. Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Hodakaguy
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice! I need some local Seattle inspiration (and $$$) to get going on my own syncro build. Looking forward to seeing what you do with this.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love this and am looking forward to more. And I want to know what Skadi means.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love the ideas that people implement into build threads for their ideal van. Looking forward to the build.
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

andafiro wrote:
I love this and am looking forward to more. And I want to know what Skadi means.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ska%C3%B0i
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phlogiston
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

this is skadi. she was named for the norse goddess of winter and mountains. i credit my girlfriend for coming up with the name after i spent hours poring over lists of mountain peaks that started with 's'.

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she wasn't always this way...

in fact, when i purchased her back in january, she was running pretty well, despite several years of sitting unused. the PO owns a "german garage" in seattle, and had cannibalized quite a few electrical parts over the years. my first task was restoring the functionality of the headlights, turn signals, and reverse lights. every bulb had been removed from the vehicle, along with some of their sockets, the headlight switch, and flasher relay. replacing these parts did not restore the functionality of the flashers, so after a bit of probing, i realized the relay was not making contact with one of the connections inside the relay box.

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what a strange construction. i'd always wondered what was inside that box; it was worth the trouble of this repair just to have an excuse to see! i bent the contact for the flasher relay back into place and my van new was road worthy!

my plan for this build is to address issues in roughly this order: safety, preventative maintenance, and FUN. the first safety issue was the tires. how the hell did this happen?

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plus, the PO had mounted the 14" mercedes rims with the wrong lug nuts. i like the aesthetic of these rims, but their small size did not fit with my plans.

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so they were sold on the rusty syncro and skadi got the rhein rims and Hakka C Van tires from wendy, who was now relegated to "parts van" status. wendy likes rolling on my snow tires & steel rims, anyway.

my family likes to help with the van when it's nice out. i can't wait to get some CLK rims and knobby tires on there, but these will do for now.
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i'm not a big fan of counting expenses, at least when it comes to fun things like vacations and building my dream van. but after reading so many threads about battles with insurance companies, i've decided to keep track of my expenditures. i'll try to keep the info up to date here in case anyone is looking at this and wondering what it costs to fix up a syncro.

purchase cost: $10000
switches, relays, bulbs, sockets: $66
running total: $10066


Last edited by phlogiston on Thu Jun 27, 2013 4:45 pm; edited 3 times in total
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phlogiston
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

insyncro wrote:
:arrow: I used to be a part of the Burton Snowboard R&D team....still have my split snowboard and many other pre production back country goodies.


i grew up in northern vermont, so burton is part of my snowboard roots, although i've taken issue with some of their business practices in the years since. i've broken my share of prototype splitboards over the years as well.

insyncro wrote:
Nothing better than a ride to and from a remote location in a Syncro :!:

that's exactly why i've been dreaming and saving for years. no more getting stuck in my 2wd van halfway up the access road and adding an extra thousand feet of vert to the approach!
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wheeling around a rock garden can do that.
phlogiston wrote:
how the hell did this happen?

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

phlogiston wrote:
insyncro wrote:
Arrow I used to be a part of the Burton Snowboard R&D team....still have my split snowboard and many other pre production back country goodies.


i grew up in northern vermont, so burton is part of my snowboard roots, although i've taken issue with some of their business practices in the years since. i've broken my share of prototype splitboards over the years as well.

insyncro wrote:
Nothing better than a ride to and from a remote location in a Syncro Exclamation

that's exactly why i've been dreaming and saving for years. no more getting stuck in my 2wd van halfway up the access road and adding an extra thousand feet of vert to the approach!


Well, I left the Big B a long time ago, but had a blast and they sponsored me throughout my professional career, helped me land a side job coaching Ross our Gold medalist and helped me see the world. Times change and businesses grow...to fast sometimes.

When I left, I drove off in a Syncro Westy and many working there were green with envy.
Follow your dream.
Don't hesitate to contact me for tech support if needed during your restore.

Maybe we can make some turns together someday and I'll show you around one of my vans and take a look at Skadi in person.
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phlogiston
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

insyncro wrote:
Don't hesitate to contact me for tech support if needed during your restore.

Maybe we can make some turns together someday and I'll show you around one of my vans and take a look at Skadi in person.


thanks!! i work outside, so as soon as the rainy season ends here (um, that's a joke i think) i have some mild rust abatement to perform and i expect i will have some questions regarding the bewildering array of metal coating products on the market.

and some day i'll be unemployed again and hopefully making a trip back to the east coast to do some fly fishing with my dad... i'd be stoked to stop by your shop along the way.

now, if i'm ever going to catch this thread up, i better post some more pictures. today wasn't the most productive afternoon of wrenching, so just a few should close the gap...


after many years of owning old vehicles, i have grown very weary of oil leaks. so eliminating them was one of my first tasks. one was coming from under the left side pushrod tube cover, the other turned out to be the power steering pressure line. damn, i had no idea a hose could cost so much money! but i wanted the OEM flow restrictor to keep my PS system quiet, so i sprang for an OEM replacement hose.

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i was rather afraid of breaking a rusty exhaust stud as i carefully removed the pushrod tube cover, but fortunately my fears were not realized and i was able to coax them free and finally get a look underneath. all 4 tubes had been dented by some carelessly wielded wrench at some point in the past, but only one was leaking. i opted to replace just the one. it was encouraging to see that the cylinder head and channel gasket both looked fairly new.

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this seemed like an opportune time to install the sender for my oil pressure gauge... i couldn't bring myself to throw down for another pricey auto meter 270degree sweep stepper motor gauge, so i grabbed the sender from my other van and replaced it with a new pressure switch.

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i didn't have a replacement for the copper crush washer, so i annealed the old one with a torch and sanded it smooth. i'll be damned if i add an oil leak while i'm fixing another!

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well the fixes worked, and for the first time in ages, i owned a leak free vehicle!

pushrod tubes: $57
OEM power steering pressure hose: $281
new total: $10404
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phlogiston
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

so there are fun projects, and then there is due diligence.

i couldn't get started on the former until i took care of the "important stuff". i didn't know much about the maintenance history of my van (other than that it had sat unused for at a few years), but the appearance of what looked like mold on the fuel lines had me nervous.

as has been the case many times throughout the initial stages of this project, i struggled to find a balance between slightly conflicting goals--making my vehicle as reliable and safe as possible while not wasting too much of my engine conversion budget on WBX parts. the soonest i'll realistically be replacing the engine is next summer, so i decided to replace as much of the fuel system as possible and started researching parts.

i did a lot of reading on fuel hose, and my research led me to find a pretty good deal on some dayco J30R9 rated hose. hopefully someday i'll get as many views on a thread about something slightly more interesting!

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after a few more lunch breaks spent reading about fuel injectors here on the samba, i decided that replacing my aged (and perfectly functional) bosch injectors with new sorenson ones was preferable to my other options (keeping the old ones and hoping they don't fail, buying $$$ new bosch ones, or sending my existing ones out for ultrasonic cleaning and leaving the van off the road while i wait for their return). for a little more than the cost of cleaning my existing injectors, i got a set of GP Sorenson 800-1206N rotary injectors from autozone ($113 with coupon code).

with all the parts amassed, i figured i could take care of the job in a weekend afternoon and not be without my van for a single work commute.

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VC was out of the fuel line sleeve material, so i slit my old ones and reused them. i realize they are mostly superfluous, but they are pretty easy to install when slit and give me peace of mind in a few locations (such as the sharp flange in the intake manifold just to the right of the pressure regulator).

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i replaced the fuel pump and filter as well. the pump was working fine but was needed on the rusty van to replace a leaking one. i went with the chinese rebuilt replacement from VC after they assured me they'd had no reliability issues with them.

i hooked up my fuel pressure gauge to check everything out, and noticed that i was measuring 34psi at idle, rather than the 29 speced in bentley. oh well, i felt bad about replacing all but one component anyway, so i ordered up a new bosch pressure regulator from gowesty autoparts. that completed the replacement of every part of the fuel delivery system.

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there, now i feel better. time to work on something a little more fun.
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phlogiston
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

as i worked my way around the van, i was slowly compiling a list: "things to do while the dash is apart". fortunately i had an extra instrument cluster from my other van, so not _all_ of this work involved driving around with no gauges.

time to dig in!

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one of the first things to deal with were the rotten grounds behind the fuse panel.

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the wire terminals didn't look too bad, so i cleaned them up, slathered them with "de ox it" conductive grease, crimped down the loose ones, and happily saved myself some crimping & soldering in very cramped space. the back of the ground tree as well as its mounting screw got a healthy dollop of de ox it as well. i like this product for excluding oxygen and moisture from electrical connections while helping to increase the electrical contact area of irregular surfaces.

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as a side note, does anyone know what the big relay and fusible link above the rusty ground tree is?

while i was in there, i went to work on the PO's hack job of wiring. the stereo was powered off the ground side of the horn, so it got power through the horn (while the horn was off) but then shut off whenever the horn switch was closed to ground that side of the horn for a beep! i removed a rat's nest of wiring from a long gone alarm system, and got rid of every instance of my least favorite wiring invention ever--crimp on splice terminals.

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i find it hard to believe some dolt actually attached a damaging and unreliable crimp splice terminal to a high current lead in order to power the fog lights! (top left arrow).

that was fun... but my fetish for blue LEDs was not yet satisfied. the next step was replacing the incandescent gauge illumination with, you guessed it, blue LEDS! i noticed that the diodes used in these modules had enough output in the UV spectrum to cause fluorescent painted items to glow, so i ordered a set of different colors of fluorescent paint from blacklight.com. i was pretty unimpressed by the luminance of their paint, and even less impressed by its uneven coverage. but i'd spent $35 on the stuff so i felt compelled to use it!

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it took about 5 coats to cover up the white of the gauge needles completely. to anyone else trying this, i have subsequently found fluorescent marking paint available in rattle cans for $7 at some ace hardware stores. i would recommend this as an alternative to the crappy paint i bought.

while the gauges were out, i applied the 10cent fix to the odometer drive gear.
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i had the great idea of resetting my odometer to near zero, but didn't realize that the numbers could get stuck halfway between digits. i had to use a scary amount of force to get the shaft pressed into the grey drive gear by the 1's place wheel, so i'm not excited to take this apart again some day to fix my error. in fact, i used a small gear driven press at my work to do the assembly and was quite terrified that i'd broken an expensive syncro speedometer when it finally snapped into place!

while i was installing LEDs, i also wanted to replace the burnt-out high beam indicator. i've always wanted to swap the weak little incandescent for an LED (that would actually be visible in daylight) and this was my chance. most blue LEDs have a very focused 15 or 30degree beam pattern that would result in a very bright glare directly in your eyes when viewed straight on, and little visible light when viewed from an angle. i wanted a more diffused light source that would look the same from all angles. fortunately such a product exists:
5mm Blue LED with 360degree beam pattern
after trimming the leads to the correct length and verifying the polarity, this LED plugged into the existing connector and fit perfectly into the existing opening.

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the LED i used is rated for up to 20mA of continuous forward current, but i knew i would want much less than that to avoid being blinded by the indicator at night. the factory configuration of the dash has a small resistor in series with the incandescent high beam indicator. i cut this out and replaced it with a 10k ohm resistor in series with a 10k ohm potentiometer. this way i could fine tune the brightness of the LED under different lighting conditions simply by turning the pot. once i settled on an ideal value, it could be replaced with a fixed resistor.

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next on the list was the stereo. someone had stolen a head unit from this van in the past and had bent the dash pretty badly in the process. the previous owner had replaced the head unit with a half-decent alpine, but i'd already pulled that to sell with the other rusty syncro. i wasn't a big fan of the kenwood head unit in that van, but it had bluetooth, a USB port, and most importantly for my future plans, 3 separate high voltage RCA outputs. eventually, i'll replace it, but for now it's good enough. i ran new power and ground circuits and cleaned up the wiring harness a bit, then turned my attention to the dash metal. my blacksmith friend helped me hammer it mostly flat, and we probably could have done a better job if we weren't rather exhausted when we stopped by his workshop on the way back from riding off the summit of rainier.

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i sprayed it with primer, but wasn't happy with the results (see first pic), so i sanded it down and applied some bondo, then shot it rattle can black. not perfect, but better than the rusty, wrinkled mess that was there before.

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with the new head unit installed, i figured it was time to replace the broken antenna so i could tune in some digital stations and listen to BBC on my way to work!

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my first install attempt did not pass the leak test, so i pulled it and used 3x as much RTV the second time. i was not impressed with the fit of the "OEM German" hirschmann antenna, but hey, it was only $20.

all this time, i'd been mulling over a solution to one of VW's biggest design failures in the vanagon--the lack of front seat cupholders! my many searches of the samba and various auto parts web sites did not yield any options that suited my tastes. the flip down cupholders are too small, awkward, and fragile for my liking, and frankly, the only solution i've been happy with is the $1 plastic molded one that i had attached to the dash in my old van with a drywall screw. this style is designed to hang from a window, but the "hook" portion at the top can be easily cut off. i was not happy about using such a cheap and non-elegant solution, so i decided that instead of running screws through the pristine dash panel of my syncro, i'd borrow the panel from my 2wd van, cut it out for the diff lock panel, paint it black, and not feel bad about hanging cheap plastic cup holders off it with screws. someday i will find the perfect cup holder, and then my nice black dash panel will come out of storage. but for now...

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...this will have to do. the holes visible on the left are from a traditional flip down style cup holder that i installed years back. i found it so clumsy to use that i switched to the cheap one on the other side even before it broke.

the only thing worse than having no cupholder at all is not being able to find it in the dark! i spend a lot of mornings driving in the dark, either to work or to the mountain, and got sick of fumbling around with my coffee cup, trying to place it in a cupholder that i couldn't see. i wanted a solution that would indirectly illuminate the cup holder without the light source being visible from either the front seat or back, and the footwell heater vent seemed like the perfect place to hide a few LEDs.

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a quick bench test proved the idea pretty promising. a bit of silver paint helps get the light through the air duct, and i got a bit of help applying the paint (as well as a bit of flack for introducing an 8 year old to the joys of spray painting).

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the finished product.
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i originally had 3 LEDs across the front of the footwell vent outlet, but that provided too much light out the front vent and not enough out the side vents. so i mounted a single purple/UV led along the front and drilled through to mount a diffused "360 degree" blue LED inside the vent outlet. the rear air baffle got a spritz of silver paint as well.

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measuring current through a series chain of LEDs.
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drilling mounting holes.
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stefanie applies a bit of blue fluorescent paint to the cupholder base. again, the performance of this paint was a bit lackluster, at least under the illumination of a single 40mW LED.
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assembled and powered on...
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this is a long-exposure photo. to the naked eye this appears more subtle and not at all distracting to the driver. the LEDs are powered from the dash illumination circuit and dim slightly with the control on the headlight switch.

i took this opportunity to install the (conveniently color coordinated) oil pressure gauge from my other van. i had always been a little bothered by the reflection of the gauge face illumination on the windshield, so i painted the chrome bezel black to knock the reflection down a bit.
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a nice color scheme (as long as you like blue!)
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phlogiston
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sometimes i'll put off fun and easy upgrades until i finish a more demanding project. this time that seemed a little like overkill since what i was waiting to do was also adding LEDs...

i thought perhaps there was a problem internal to the transmission that was preventing the reverse lights from working. i was quite relieved when i pulled the old switch and found it did not close its contact when actuated. a new $5 switch and i was back in business!

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i was quite tempted to replace the reverse lights with a $25/ea 45 LED light module. it's difficult to compare relative output power of products in that vendor's catalog, but i noticed that the current draw of the 3 watt, $10 module was actually 15mA higher. now power consumption may not scale linearly with power output across these products, since there is no way to tell what method they use for control of current through the diode, but that was enough to convince me to stick with the cheaper product. i can put the $30 i saved towards putting a cheap LED fog light on the rear bumper for a proper reverse light.
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as a side note, they now sell a 15watt reverse light for $27/ea if you really want to pack as much power as possible into that little tail light assembly.

LED on the left, incandescent on the right. license plate lights and side marker lights also replaced with LEDs. not really an accurate comparison of output since the CCD is saturated by both bulbs. the LED seems slightly brigther to the naked eye, but it was the nice color that i was after anyway. went with "cool white" for the reverse and license plate light, and the red side marker LEDs really improve the color over the pink output from a white bulb behind a faded old lens.
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note that for the license plate bulbs, i went with a 6 LED module, but i think the light output from this is actually a little too much. because the housing is oriented with the axis of the bulb pointing downward, i think that one of the cheaper products with a single LED might be more appropriate for this application.
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Bman
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Location: Coos Watershed, Oregon
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pretty neat syncro and build thread you got here phlogiston. Thanks for the detail and explanations, a lot of that wiring usually is too confusing for me, but after reading this i am encouraged to give it a go.

Looking forward to more.
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~Bryan
1989 Tiico Westfalia "Taj"
1984 2WD Doka Transporter
1989 "Bluestar" Wolfsburg Tintop

2WD Doka build thread: http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=503578&highlight=
FaceHook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/VW-T3-DokaSinka/129026087217120?ref=hl
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insyncro
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love seeing LED upgrades.
Looks great!
Blue van, blue LEDs Wink

Its nice seeing the entire clan getting involved too Very Happy
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phlogiston
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Joined: March 30, 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

my family is quite attached to our beat up old 2wd weekender (all 3 of us lived in that van for most of a summer--along with all our possessions--when we were moving up to seattle a couple years ago), but they are slowly warming up to the syncro.

i just need to get her down off the jack stands so we can all go tear up some forest service roads somewhere and seal the deal.

and with that in mind i need to get off my computer and go get to work!

here's a preview of the next project to be covered here...

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insyncro
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keep up the good work.
Slowly but surly.
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