Friday, October 15, 2010

The excitement after the lull after the excitement

Well, after I said that the tread on the tires wasn't too bad Murphy started making himself known.  Two of the tires started leaking: one because the rim is so corroded, and one through the valve stem.  So I enlisted the help of Tire Rack and in 2 days 4 new wheels showed up at my doorstep, freshly mounted and balanced and ready to go on the car.

Getting insurance was actually more difficult than I expected.  My current insurance agent (AAA through Commerce Insurance) refused to cover it because the conversion was not done by a professional.  I called a few other agencies that other converters have had success with (Progressive, Farmer's, MetLife) to no avail.  Finally, I asked the advice of an acquaintance a few towns from me who is driving a conversion, and he gave me the name of his insurer (Liberty Mutual).  They had no qualms about insuring my conversion, so I switched all my auto insurance business to them.  Not only that, I'm now paying 20% less even after adding this car to my policy!

Once the insurance was squared away, getting plates was a no-brainer.  The insurance agent filled out an RMV1 form for me, specifying that it now has an electric powertrain.  I took that and the Title with the purchase info on the back (from 2009!) and took it to the Registry.  They didn't look at it twice.  Took all of 30 seconds to get my plates (most of that time was filling out the check!) and I was on my way.

Of course, once I went to get it inspected I realized that I should have asked a few more questions because the computer still thought the car was gas powered.  Oddly enough, the technician could change it right there on his computer.  Who knew?

The inspection experience was interesting.  I went to the gas station where we've gotten all of our cars inspected for 10+ years (thinking it might help to have some experience with the guy), and I explained to him that it is now totally electric and that although it is a manual transmission he could treat it as if it were automatic.  That was surprisingly hard for him to understand.  He kept trying to feather the clutch to get the car started!  But he eventually got it into the inspection bay and punched in the license plate number into his computer.  That's when we realized the Registry had not done their job right when the registration was entered.  But once he made the change on the computer the safety part of the inspection went easily enough, and the sticker went on the window in no time.  Of course, by then all of the mechanics were gathered around the car asking questions so I popped the hood and showed them the engine compartment.  I couldn't really tell if they were impressed with my handiwork or just thought I was crazy.  When I pulled out of the station they were all standing at the inspection bay door watching - wondering if it would actually be able to avoid getting hit? - and I waved out the window as I left.  See you next year!! (but not before..... heh, heh)

So here I am at home sucking juice out of the wall.

And at work.

Things were going so well!  Then Murphy again knocked at my door.  I was tooling around town with a friend (he's helping me work out a way to interface the dashboard tachometer with the DMOC motor controller) the evening after my second commute to work (yes!) when the shifter went slack (no!).  Fortunately, it was still in gear but the shifter lost all contact with the transmission.  So I pulled over to the side of the road and quickly determined that the connection between the shifter and the shifter cables were gone.  So I limped home (boy, acceleration is poor when you start out in 3rd gear!) and took the center console apart.  The bushing that held the main shifter cable to the shifter rod was in pieces and scattered about.  Well, at least it wasn't something that I had done wrong during the conversion - I never touched the stupid thing!

Of course the dealer sells the bushing only with the entire cable ($216!), but thank goodness for eBay.  Apparently these bushing fail all the time and there are people who sell machined parts (<$20) to replace the poorly-designed originals.  The only downside is that they have to ship it to me, so I'm spewing fumes to get to work again.  But hopefully not for long.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The lull after the excitement

After those heady days leading up to the Coupe de Volt's maiden voyage, the last few weeks have been a bit of a letdown.  But I trudge forward and am getting things done.  Progress has been made on a number of fronts:

Fixing stuff that's broken: the burnt out headlight and fog light were easy enough to replace, but the backup lights took a little more effort.  I quickly determined that the bulbs were fine and that the problem was in the "back-up light switch" on the transmission.  Fortunately, it was very easy to replace ($15 at Autozone) so I now have working backup lights.  I think the car will pass the safety inspection now (tires are loud but the tread is good so I think they'll be ok, and the alignment isn't that bad).

Battery monitoring: I had previously run 3 wires from the batteries in the front of the car to the rear of the car for the PakTrakr, so the next step is to splice in to those wires to make the connections to the batteries and the PakTrakr remote module.  Each remote monitors six batteries, so I needed 3 remotes to monitor my bank of 13.  The instructions for connecting the batteries to the remotes were straightforward, but it was a little confusing at first as to how to connect the 3 remotes together and to the display.  After a bit of trial and error I finally got it right.  The correct wiring scheme goes like this:
Wire #1 from each remote (to be connected to the negative terminal of the lowest potential battery in the series for that remote) has an in-line fuse soldered to the lug.  So because "Battery #1 is in the front of the car I had to splice that lug/fuse into the wire that I had previously run through the car.  That was really the only tricky part to connecting the PakTrakr wires to the batteries.

Slight modification to the battery box vent: I placed the vent hole in the back of the battery box as high as I could without cutting into the steel frame, but the hole was actually below the top of the batteries!  So I constructed an air dam to draw air from the top of the box.  The air dam consists of a few layers of plywood which are glued together then screwed to the wood.  Here are a couple pictures: