We’ve been looking forward to getting back to the oil conversion for some time, and the time was flying!
One thing to keep in mind when taking on a build, is that everything takes 5 x longer than expected. The next section was a good example as I planned to have it done over the course of a week. It took more than 3 weeks. I failed to calculate in time for shipping, totally forgot about the December festive season, and thought that completing the system would be very inexpensive…
Making sense of the piping network that we’d installed more than a year before, was confusing. I knew what the first step had to be, and the plan would develop itself from there.
After some pacing up and down weighing the option, we decided that the best place for the unit would be underneath the cab (on the passenger side), and mounted to the chassis.
The heat exchanger was sponsored by Richard from HGF Plate Heat Exchangers, and it’s function is to heat the vegetable oil before it enters the injectors. Oil is more viscous that diesel, so it makes sense that the injector tips would be affected by swapping over to the thicker oil. I had also installed a diesel filter as well as hydraulic oil filter as we were super paranoid about chips/fries going into the engine, and clogging the system.
If you think about it, when you put some oil into a frying pan, and turn on the heat – the oil gets runny.
I also needed to make sure that the oil didn’t get too hot, so had to do extensive research on the topic. There are many types of veg oil, and all of them have different smoking points. I had to find out at which temperature would the oil be at the same viscosity as the diesel, and at which temperature would it burn the best in regards to consumption.
My research from many studies indicated that I needed to be between 70 and 90 degrees Celsius.
I had never installed the temp. gauges for the first heat exchanger we installed. It is strapped/clamped to the exhaust. It was a clever invention to an expensive problem, as we did not have the funds available to purchase a “plate heat exchanger”.
Mark Sampson (the man who inspired us to convert Betsy) told me that he had many issues going into Europe, as the winters were way colder, and he’s heat exchanger didn’t manage to heat the oil enough. He mentioned that it would be a good idea to have a pre-heat stage, before the final heating.
I decided to add a second heat exchanger, in turn making the exhaust clamp unit the pre-heat stage.
Back when we were busy building the first part of this section, we never finished as Covid hit. The temperature gauge was never installed, and now would be the first opportunity to see how hot the original exchanger got.
First step was to build a mounting bracket for the new unit. We had some steel lying around on the property, and Pugs was generous in letting me grab a piece. I started by measuring the space between the chassis, figured out the lengths of the bolts, and just generally making sure it would fit.
The bracket had to be quite strong, as the unit weighs in around 30 something kg’s
I did not want anything rattling, so had to add some space for conveyor belting or what I could find that would keep the unit off the steel.
It did have an 8mm bolt welded to it – which was a good place to start, as we’d like to keep the unit in the bracket. I drilled the 8mm hole on a piece of angle iron, and continued from there. After I got finished thinking about it, I just dug in an effort to get it done quick (driving out to the farm to work everyday is expensive on fuel). My welding is definitely getting better, and I tacked everything up with the arc welder (not quite there yet). After testing it to see if the unit fits, I grabbed the Co2 machine, and everything went smoothly for the time being.
I grabbed 2 x 10mm bolts, as there were two original holes in the chassis, and an old square tubbing section that I cut and drilled 10mm holes through one side and a larger one in the other in order for me to get the bolts through. Took the square tubing sections to the truck, mounted the bolts and tacked the screw to the tubing. I then welded the tubing onto the rest of the bracket.
I did not have a great piece of conveyor belt to keep it from rattling, and went over to Ben, the neighbour. He lent me he’s magnetic drill, and also had some brand new 3-4mm thick belting, and offered a piece of it. He has also helped me in the past, and always has good advice.
I cut strips of conveyor, and stuck them onto the base of the frame. The unit also needed something to keep it from falling out, which we (Vusi assisted me here) used some flat bar, bent it, and then drilled the mounting holes. As the head of the bolt was in the inside of the bracket, I used wooden spacers instead of conveyor, and cut a hole for the head of the bolt to make it flush, and not obstruct the heat exchanger.
We also tapped a thread into one of the holes, so that you could fasten the flat bar to the main bracket.
Excitedly, I went to try it out. Shit, my measurements where off, I did not account for the total width when the bolts are yet to be inserted into the holes, and I tried to cut a small triangular section from the side wall to make it past a pin that was obstructing it, but quickly realised when the height of the heat exchanger is added, I would definitely not be able to wedge it in.
I was also concerned with the size of my bolts in relation to the weight of the heat exchanger. I phoned up Paul from Umdwebo Projects. He has pretty good knowledge of these things. He advised me that I would definitely need to beef it up a lot.
After getting the opinion of some of the “elders” around, I had a thick piece of u-channel in my hands. I tapped 8.8 12mm bolts onto them, and welded the bolts to the channel. I then chopped the front of the square tubing that had the 10mm welded to them, but left the square tubing sidewalls as an extra bit of support for the U channel. I welded the channel to the main frame of the bracket, and also to the square tubing.
Then I built another L-shaped bracket from thick angle iron, and welded a 12mm bolt to that. It would act as an extra support for the main bracket, but would be separate, so that I could move it around.
That was plenty beef.
(check video for reference)
I drilled the necessary holes into the chassis, and moved the unit a bit further back towards where the unit had more space. The only way I was going to get the unit into the bracket (mounted) was by loosening the subframe, and sliding it between the cab and the chassis without the subframe obstructing.
All of these mistakes were made, and cost some time and funds. I did learn some cool things in the process though, so it’s not all bad.
We bolted everything with washers and spring washers, and I’m confident that its strong enough to hold it.
My time had run out, as it was Christmas season, and we wanted to spend it with our family instead of using it to work. We packed up for the year. We work on the truck around once or twice a week. The reality is that you still have to make a means of living, and we give much of our attention to running our business, and trading at local trading markets over the weekends.
At about the same time we made a pretty big decision to pursue and focus our aim in recruiting bone marrow / blood stem cell donors for patients needing to undergo a transplant. It became clear that this is what we were preparing for, and that our attempt to drive through 60 countries would have a true depth to it that would give us opportunity to give back what was given to us in 2018. 2022 would mean getting things done, and we wanted to kick it off with finishing up with the oil conversion.
We tried to get off to a good start to the year, but stumbled. We managed to find our feet, but were trying to cling onto the funds that we received for the FARF award, but had to make the call to slowly start opening the taps to pay for things like new fuel lines, temp gauges, wiring, and then ultimately the actual piping connecting the heat exchanger to the engine coolant.
We started off by giving her a good bath, and headed to Nelspruit after putting up some number plates, and tightening some bolts. I got some good advice from Pugs to see Peter at PrimaForce Exhaust in Nelspruit. He had the facilities to bend pipes, and we could use that as radiator pipe per meter would have worked out to R8000! Installing steel piping with rubber radiator bends to facilitate removing it if necessary was the way to go. An exhaust specialist can weld pipes so that they are airtight, and its way cheaper than the alternative.
Peter for PrimaForce exhaust was a great character, and a man who can also think outside of the box. The system interested him, and he had no issue with me hanging around with his guys. I explained to him, that I try to be part of the process so that I can learn how to repair anything if/when it breaks. It is good to learn these skills, as you never know what’s coming your way tomorrow.
Jolandie took care of the business while all of this was happening. We make many of our products ourselves, so she was sewing away at home.
When we arrived at PrimaForce Peter and his son guided us into the workshop. We all took inspection of what needed to be done, and soon realised that much of the exhaust would have to be replaced. There wouldn’t be another opportunity, and we decided to dig deeper into our savings intended for the Aluminium frame, and get it done. We also saw it as a prime opportunity to move the exhaust opening up the ideal space for our fresh water tank.
The next morning work started at 8:00am and I was introduced to the technicians – Ito and Johnny, we went over the plan again, and Ito started taking measurements for the 38mm pipes that had to divert hot water from the engine to the plate heat exchanger, and back to the radiator to cool down. If the engine runs as it is supposed to, the water should be at 90 degrees Celsius, which is perfect for heating the oil to at least 80 degrees Celsius (I’ll make adjustments as this is around where I’d like to have the temperature).
Ito sculpted the bends with wire, and then bent the 38mm pipes to fit through the engine bay. He sent me on a mission to find the rubber bends (radiator pipe), that would fit all of the ingoing and outgoing pipes and fittings. It was difficult to find them as the suppliers all had different sizes to what was necessary, but eventually I managed to purchase the correct bends from either Nelspruit brake and clutch, and Autozone.
Johnny and Ito cut and welded up the brackets that would bolt the piping together, leak tested the welds, they also managed to fit it exactly so that I could still get to my hydraulic oil filter. They tacked it up, welded it, and painted them.
They also have some good mechanical knowledge, and we quickly noticed that the radiator had no water in it! I had filled it up a year earlier before leaving Piketberg, and was concerned that we might have damaged something. She still sounded healthy, and drove well on the open road, so my concern passed.
I was invited over for lunch, pap and beans along with getting to know everyone better in the workshop. I felt very welcomed, and part of the team. I appreciate hospitality, and showed good character of the team.
I was back the next morning, and Ito and Johnny had already removed the exhaust, and they came up with the perfect mounting position, and had already started shaping wires in order to bend the pipes. They did a masterful job, and the exhaust was replaced from the first heat exchanger to the outlet end, we left the original silencer as our budget didn’t allow it, but traded Peter two 51mm flex pipe, for one large one to add onto the system.
After everything was installed, we filled the radiator back up with coolant and water (the coolant will prevent the steel pipes from rusting) and started up the old girl. We had to get rid a quite a lot of air in the lines, and this took some time. We had to let all the bubbles escape, and that meant opening the radiator cap to let the air out, and filling the radiator while that was going on. We also wedged a flat screwdriver into some of the rubber bend joints, which worked very well in letting the air escape.
There was a leak at the temperature sensor that was tapped into the outgoing port of the plate heat exchanger, but it had diesel leaking from it. I quickly realised that the system was tested on diesel the first time we ran it, and that the filters would still be full of diesel. The leak is unfortunate, as it seems I’ve stripped the thread in attempting to fix it I’ll update later on that little situation.
When everything was done and ready, we paid our dues, said our goodbyes, and took Betsy over to Andre from Fusion welding, so that they could have a good look at Betsy in order for them to quote on the specialised welding needed to be done to construct the Aluminium frame.
At this moment we’re also waiting on a quote from a large Aluminium extrusion supplier for all the pieces we need. We’re nervous, but we know it will all work out as it should.