Month: January 2017

On 3D Printer Upgrades (for more bus parts!)

I think this fits here, as I 3D print so many parts on the bus.

After doing the door seals, I checked the mail and noticed that the upgrade parts for my 3D printer have come in. It’s a Rostock Max V2 that I built from a kit (but have upgraded heavily since, with different stepper motors, different hotends, filament rollers, arm tensioners, sealed bearings, custom firmware tweaks, etc etc) in 2013.

SeeMeCNC has updated a lot of parts along the way, including professional versions of community fixes, as well as updates of their own. Since I sold the beetle recently, I had a little spare scratch, and ordered most of the upgrade parts.

The printer as it was this morning (moved to my desk, which has the living room TV on it, for access)


PEI sheet:

E3D V6 hotend, with custom connector for removal and repair

Starting construction on the new hotend. This is the HE280, which has a built-in accelerometer probe that detects when the hotend touches the print bed. This is used with a script for auto-leveling and mesh bed adjustment.


Working with the guide right there.

Thermistor and heater wires soldered in. The reason the thermistor and heater are soldered to the PCB on the hotend itself, instead of run with wires all the way back to the RAMBo control board, is that the hotend communicates via i2c (“eye squared see”, according to James Bruton on YT – I’ve never used it before) with the control board, and just has a big power wire run to it. This reduces the number of wires that would have to run back to the board, and means you don’t have to add any additional ones if you’re upgrading. A huge boon, because removing the vertical aluminum arms is a pain in the dick.


Fan sockets soldered, pcb mount screwed on.

You can use the new hotend with the old U-joint arms, or the new ball-socket arms. I also ordered new ball socket arms, so I assembled the end effector platform with that option.

Add three fans, and screw it all together.



With the hotend assembled, it’s time to remove the old “cheapskate” roller carriages, and the old hotend.

Then, assembly begins on the new cheapskate carraiges. These are injection molded instead of 2 sheets of heavy MDF board. This reduces movement weight of the arms, which does two things: it lets you print faster, and it reduces “ringing” in the prints, where a movement back-and forth (like when the hotend is “turning a corner” on a box-shaped print) resonates through the structure, causing print defects.

First step is to put the bearing covers on. These just press onto both sides of each bearing.


Then, the carriages themselves


These get mounted to the vertical towers with a few screws, and some nifty belt tensioners. No more allen key required to loosen the tensioner, it’s two black plastic pieces (one for the top, and one for the lower, belt ends) that you can pop open with a flathead screwdriver.



Mounting the arms is easy. You just snap them on the ball joints, making sure to put the new white nylon “tensioner springs” in the slots on the arms. The arms themselves are glass fiber-reinforced nylon. I don’t know the percentage (no maker’s marks) but I can feel the glass fibers if I draw a knife tip across the plastic.



Then comes wiring. I won’t get into it here, just mainly picture dump. You need to follow the guide for your particular setup. The only thing I need to say (for those of us with V2s, upgrading) is that the Y-axis stepper motor connector needs to be reversed. The new firmware is set up to invert the Y-axis stepper, I think to reduce crosstalk and interference between movements, and issues it can cause with the auto-calibration script. There are two ways to do this: if you have non-polarized plugs like I do, you simply flip the connector upside-down. If you have polarized connectors, you can either shave off the polarization clip to allow you to plug it in upside-down, or you need to go into configuration.h before you upload the upgraded firmware, and set INVERT_Y to “FALSE.”

Picture showing the stepper motor connections. Note that the “Y” stepper, in the middle, isn’t inverted yet (the wires are in the same order as X and Z)

Wiring in the lid:





RAMBo board before removal:

Board back in:

Calibrating extrusion steps (how many “steps” in motor revolution per mm of extrustion)


On my first calibration run, where the extruder comes down and taps the plate, I noticed it was skipping across a few of the taps, squashing into the bed. I installed a few clip-on ferrite beads, like in this video. However, to reduce hotend weight, I didn’t install them at the hotend itself. I put one in the lid, on the power wires running to the extruder. I also put one right next to the connector on the RAMBo board, on the same wire. Also, since I have a box of like fifty of them, I put one on the i2c communication line. You may notice in earlier pictures you can see one or two of them on some wires in the lid – those are ineffective, and I’m using them simply for weights to help in wire management. For a ferrite bead to work best, you should wrap the wires at least one turn around the bead, and run them through again. That’s why I buy clip-on beads instead of standard ones like in the video, because you can install them without unplugging anything or removing connector wires.

Even after only one print, using the same gcode file (in particular, the one for my Alternator Adjustment Bolt Cover), the quality is through the roof. The arms are much sturdier, the movement is quieter (new firmware adjustments), and everything is smoother. The photo above doesn’t do anything justice, as that was during extrustion calibration. It was over-extruding, and that photo was with some carbon fiber-reinforced filament, which is always blobby on the first layer for me. I’m extremely happy.

All-in-all, you could do all the upgrades in maybe 3 hours. I was watching Netflix and texting a bunch, so it took me maybe 4 or 5 total.

On ease of use

e: ^^^^ It’s probably long enough that it hit the wheel itself and bent over, maybe? I honestly think it’s sabotage – one of my neighbors’ ex-wives comes over randomly between 2 and 6 month increments, and randomly breaks shit. She’s the one that slashed the tires on my beetle, broke the window to the bus out, pulled boards from my fence, etc etc. I refrain to type anything out that indicates my attitude towards her 2 AM drunken hispanic yelling and vandalism.

Had some dental work done this morning (only took 18 months from my deployment to get that through – Thanks, Army!), so I can’t do anything too intense or I get mad pounding in my teeth and jaw. No welding or lifting, etc.

So, I replaced the front door seals. Not much to type. Pull old seals, clean up channels, put some glue in the channels (using black RTV/Window Sealant), install new seals and trim to fit. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.













Bonus! Now, pulling the interior handle causes the door to pop out. Before, the seals were crushed, so you had to pull the handle then elbow the door open.

On superstitions

WELP! In my last post, I typed the words:

spare tire

…which means life saw fit to let me catch a nail on the way home from work this morning.

Nail head


Bulge right alongside (parallel with) the nail head.


I don’t park anywhere near any curbs during ANY of my driving, so I’m wondering if the bulge is from the nail just coincidentally cutting a band? These are poly band tires. Since my spare tire is a 2014 semi-offroad-style tire from a different brand, it has a larger diameter than the Hankooks I’m running. To avoid differential and transmission damage by having mismatched size rear tires, I put the spare on the front driver’s side, and rotated the front tires to the rear. Thankfully they have less than 4k on them, so wear is minimal between the other three, in case something else happens before my new tire comes from Amazon. Also, Amazon delivers tires with free shipping! Holy shit!

Checking the front brake disc while I have the wheel off:

(not a crack, a scratch from my screwdriver)

Pads are still super thick. Almost no wear! Which is surprising, considering they’re the size of milk bottle caps.

Spare on.



Kinda wish I had bought four of these Douglas tires, but they don’t make them anymore :smith:

I didn’t even notice the nail or bulge on the way home (glad I took surface streets :stare:). I had gotten underneath the car to use the last few free hours I have this weekend to track down and hopefully quell some oil leaks.

The push rod tubes that the new engine came with were used, and had been painted. In addition, while they had used the high-temperature Viton seals on the head sides of the tubes, they had used standard buna-n rubber on the engine block side. Both sides have been leaking, since new, from multiple push rod tubes. By far the worst ones were/are the driver’s side, and I was hoping to tackle those today. I found an ebay listing for eight tubes with accompanying (allegedly) Viton seals, for around $65. That seems expensive, but the tubes usually sell for around $12 apiece, and seals $4 each (with two seals per tube). So, a steal for some shiny new galvanized tubes.


While the oil leaks on the new engine are NOTHING in comparison to the old one, it still was seeping down in places, but only when the engine was running. This makes sense, as the push rod tubes are above the level of oil when the engine is off, and only have oil running through them when the engine is on and oiling the valvetrain.


You can see the build-up of burned oil on the driver’s side exhaust manifold


Now, this is something I’m not proud of. One push rod tube in particular has/had been leaking worse than the rest. I had pulled it once before, RTV’d it up, and then slathered a TON of RTV on the outside, at both ends. I regretted this today, as I had to clean all of that shit off. Despite that, after maybe two weeks, the oil seeped right through. I only bought myself some time.



So, off comes the valve covers, and the rocker arms.

Then, the push rods, and the push rod tubes. I used the old push rod tubes to keep the rods themselves organized. They have to go back exactly where they came from, in the correct orientation, as the push rods wear on the rocker arms and hydraulic adjusters together, and you don’t want to start that process over.

Push rod tubes out, two at a time (so I had a lower chance of mixing up the rods, only two on the paper towel at once instead of four).


The seals go on the ends of the tubes, and you slather it all in a high(er) temp grease. All I have is a can of red lithium grease, and I’ve read it’s safe for Viton seals, so that’s what I used.

Tubes in (you can see the excess grease squeezed out)


And all four on the driver’s side done.

The passenger side push rod tubes were/are mostly all good. One or two of the seals is very slowly weeping, but not enough to leave even a stain on the exhaust below. For now, I’m leaving well enough alone and saving the other four new ones for later.

In this photo, the rear of the bus is to the right. You can see the engine mount “mustache bar” (two bolts without nuts sticking straight down out of it) is COVERED in oil. Called that because it looks, well, like a mustache when removed.

For spatial reference, it’s the grey bar to the right, almost touching, the orange oil filter in this photo:

Just rearward of that bar itself is the fan shroud, which also has a lot of oil dripping out of it:

Here’s a picture looking UP. The mustache bar is at the top of the photo, the bulk of the shroud is at the bottom, out of frame. This is the flange on the fan shroud that bolts to the engine and surrounds the fan seal mounting.
(notice the oil)

Seeing the oil in the fan shroud, dripping down all over the mustache bar, I assumed that the fan seal itself had failed. It was pre-installed by the engine builders, and there’s always a chance my fan hub (that the seal mates to) was scratched, or I got some dirt in there, or the seal itself was cheap (as evidenced by a lot of other things on the bus). So, I took the red fan off, and looked at the fan hub, expecting to see oil everywhere, streaming down the face of the engine.


Well…huh. Not really any oil there. A few spatters, sure, but definitely not a failed fan hub seal. I even spent $10 on a new one, and had it ready to go! :argh:

The area behind the fan has a few “oil galley” plugs. This is a photo of a lot of them. You can see that I’ve “peened” a few of them, and the traditionally bad-for-leaking culprits were drilled out and tapped with threaded plugs by the engine builders. Behind the galley plugs is oil at (when cold) 100+ PSI, so if these fail, it’s usually “bye-bye engine” if you don’t catch it immediately. However, nothing really to note.


Even the oil pump, pictured here with the “VW” logo and “3f” markings, usually a big leaker if installed improperly, was bone-dry.

Now, the fan itself definitely did have oil streaks on it, going centrally outwards, so it has an oil leak behind it. It turns out, after doing some reading on TheSamba and similar, that a lot of people put thread sealant compound behind that big washer in the center of the fan hub, and on the underside of that flanged bolt. I guess that some cranks (the fan bolts directly to the crank) can have oil walk up through the center, and come out behind that big washer and get flung outwards. My fan was filthy with oil, so I pulled that big bolt and washer off, and saw this:

No pictures because the light was fading, but I cleaned up both sides of the washer (and hub mating surface) with a razor and brake cleaner, and used some Permatex thread sealant on everything. You’re supposed to wait 24 hours for curing, but I had to move the bus off of the street and park it in the parking lot. We’ll see if this is the fix. I was losing barely enough oil to notice between changes, but it was dripping down all over the exhaust and causing smoking after a freeway run, or after parking. Especially noticeable at night, and made a bad smell.

On accessories

My aftermarket jail bars came in. Now the spare tire won’t tap on the window, and my feet won’t kick the rear window when sleeping anymore.



Also squeezed a few new decals on it





On Cleaning

Went out today in my fever-dream haze and decided to get some fresh air by cleaning the back patio. Spent a few hours back there, organizing tools (dumping both boxes, cleaning everything, and sorting it as it went back in), power washing, etc.





The reason I’m posting it here, though, is that I found a brand-new sliding door rubber seal for the bus! I thought that maybe I bought one back when I first bought the bus, but wasn’t sure. As they’re like $60-100, I was reluctant to possibly buy a duplicate. Now I’ve got one that’s only a little sun baked!

On second versions

Going to re-print the door handles. I just added a channel to add some 6mm round bar (bent to shape, obv) for reinforcement. Driver’s handle is cracking a bit.



Also designed a simple m14 spark plug holder. Will have to use an old spark plug to thread the hole, but holds four plugs and designed to be installed in the engine bay. Saw a vintage part up on ebay, decided it was something I could make very simply. Printing it now.


On Privacy II

Small update: for the front curtain, I’ve been using a string run between two (3d printed) utility hooks. I’ve had, on my “to do” list, “curtain bar bus” for about six months.

Today, I finally did that. It’s not fancy, but it gives a lot more privacy. Shit quality photos, because camera was sold for (vw) bus money. But they get the point across:










Test with a miscellaneous EMS blanket


I also took care of putting in a new valve cover gasket on the CR-V. One of those cases where, no matter where she parks or what she was doing, it leaves a dollar-sized oil spot, but I notice no oil level drop of note between changes. Maybe from the top of the top hole on the dipstick, to the bottom of the top hole.



New gasket on.


Probably helps that I have all of the real tension washers now. Before, I had lost maybe 2 or 3 of them, and was using standard washers.