Wednesday, 31 January 2018

4x4 Insect Screen

After finding Jan’s eyelet pliers in her sewing cabinet I was able to finish and install the insect screen today.

After three failed attempts to install an eyelet in the mesh I realised I had the eyelet in the pliers the wrong way around <duh!>.  So with the eyelets in….


I was able to secure the screen to the front of the 4x4 with cable ties at the bottom and nylon cord at the top.


The rubber foam tape on the reverse side of the screen is in exactly the right place to prevent the fibreglass mesh chaffing on the fake chrome or paintwork.  I’m going to leave the screen on for several weeks and monitor the engine water temperature.

There are now two new projects.  Jan’s sewing cabinet has been damaged in storage and needs repairing.  I’m also thinking of removing the 3rd row of seats in the 4x4.  They will be replaced with a fridge slide and set of drawers.  I suspect the fridge will prove to be quite useful in the back of the vehicle as the frozen food is usually starting to defrost by the time we return from the nearby shops.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Filters and Sand

The stainless steel mounting plate for the secondary fuel filter is only secured at the base and will probably vibrate more than that English entertainer Rolf Harris’ wobbly board.  My guess is after a few thousand corrugations it will have cracked the wheel arch.  Obviously I don’t want to damage the vehicle.

My solution was to visit Bunnings and buy a length if flat steel bar.  I’ve already cut it to length and drilled a hole in one end.


The plan is to connect one end of the bar to the mounting bolt on the battery bracket.  The bar will have a 90 degree twist and then a 90 degree bend which will enable it to be bolted to the mounting plate.


A – Mounting plate for 2nd fuel filter

B – Bolt on battery mounting bracket

If this works then the ability of the mounting plate to oscillate should be significantly reduced.  Fortunately my brother-in-law is a plumber and I should be able to “borrow” his oxy-acet torch to heat and bend the bar.

Postman Gary has delivered the box of stainless steel nuts and bolts purchased off Ebay from China.  This enabled me to do further work on the radiator insect screen.  After the upper portion of the front grill was removed, I managed to fit four plastic cable clips into the bottom of the lower grill.


Then another five clips were attached to the skirt which fits between the grill and the radiator at the top


The bottom nuts were particularly difficult to both fit and tighten so I’ve smeared all of them with Sikaflex in an effort to prevent them working loose with vibration.


The grill was then reassembled.  I now have four clips at the base and five at the top as anchor points for the mesh screen.  The last task is to insert eyelets into the top and bottom edges of the screen. 

When to go off formed roads in the outback it’s a requirement that the vehicle has a sand flag.  The flag has to be made of orange high visibility material approx 300x300mm with a reflective ‘X’ on both sides.  It’s flown on top of a pole attached to the front of the vehicle.  The purpose of the flag is to warn vehicles coming from the opposite direction.  You don’t want to drive up a steep sand dune a speed only to have a head on collision with a vehicle coming the opposite way.

These flags are expensive,  so I’ve decided to make one.  My ancient fibreglass fishing rod has volunteered to be the pole.  All the ‘0’ rings for the line were removed (apart from the one at the tip) and I cut off the base in the middle of the steel reel holding bracket.


Next I drilled a 5.5mm hole in the base and then threaded it with an M6 Tap from my Aldi Tap & Die kit (thank you Aldi UK).


As I don’t plan to fit a bullbar to the front of the 4x4 I’ve decided to mount the sand flag pole on a bracket attached to the bonnet gutter on the passenger side.  The bracket will be made from stainless steel in a reverse ‘Z’ shape.  I’ve already asked the family chief financial controller if she will make the flag from one of those orange safety HiViz vest which I hope to buy dirt cheap in the disposal shop.


With a little luck the DIY flag will cost $20 compared to $120 from a shop.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Lazy Sod

I’ve really taken my eye off the ball…. five days without a post!  It’s not as if nothing has been happening.

I’ve made up those test leads and already used a few testing the wiring in the Isuzu.


A courier delivered the filters for the Dyson which I fitted the same day.  It seems to be breathing easier and has more suction.

I had just started to write about the secondary fuel filter for the 4x4 when I realised I’d already written about the special purchase price.  Obviously there was a missing blog post.  After checking Live Writer I discovered my last post hadn’t been published?  I’m not as lazy as I first thought…….. It’s just my memory that’s failing Smile

Well that fuel filter kit was delivered yesterday and despite the heat, I decided to install it.  That was probably a mistake I erred in my judgement on this as the heat really started to get to me.  My first car (a 1967 Vauxhall Viva) had plenty of room under the bonnet.  However finding space in the Isuzu engine compartment is like looking for rocking horse droppings.

Eventually I squeezed the stainless steel mounting bracket down beside the starter battery.


I modified the fuel lines and then fitted the Fuel Manager secondary filter.  I’m not satisfied with the 30 micron filter supplied with the kit and will change it at some future date for a 10 micron version. 


I can’t get my hand under the filter (no clearance) to open the water capture drain tap and I certainly couldn’t replace the cartridge with the filter installed.  This means the Fuel Manager will have to be removed each time I need to replace the filter.

Another new project.  I need to make up a “GO BAG” for my outback journeys.  This is a small bag that will hold all the items I might need to survive for 48 hours in the event of an emergency.  The most obvious risk is the vehicle and trailer catching fire.  It’s not unknown for a vehicle to be total destroyed by fire within 10 seconds.  My GO BAG will travel beside me in the vehicle and will be the first thing I’ll grab when bailing out.

A rummage though my old steel trunk has revealed I already own a few GO BAG items.

IMG_2163 From the top left:  Fire extinguisher, a small stove, compass and water bag, nylon cord, aluminium foil blanket, matches, water purification tablets, candles and boot laces.  A face net.  the bag is going to need more items before I’m satisfied. 

My trunk had a few more useful items


Some cooking gear


The trusty folding shovel purchased in the Hawaii military PX back in 1985.  Very useful when nature calls.

Friday, 26 January 2018

The projects don’t stop

This is the last post which for some reason didn't get published.
Now that my sister has a shinny new computer she was contemplating of throwing out her old one.  However I asked (nicely) if she would donate it to me.  I now have a reasonably fast computer.  Well it’s faster than the Asus laptop.  Of course the desktop pc didn’t come with a hard drive. But it did come with 10 years of dust!
This afternoon I sat at the table with a one inch paintbrush and the vacuum cleaner hose carefully removing all the dust from inside the case.  The computer no longer gasps for air and is running much cooler.  I’ve decided to convert it into a part-time data backup machine.  The first copy of all out data is on the home server and the backup copies are on several usb external hard drives.  This pc will be our second backup.  I found six old hard drives which I mounted in the case.
I’m using Ubuntu linux as the operating system (because it’s free).  If I used one of the hard drives for the operating system it would be a waste of a hard drive.  Ubuntu takes up very little storage space and my alternate strategy has been to install Ubuntu on a 16GB usb thumb stick which is plugged into one of the usb ports on the back of the pc (red arrow).  This seems to be working!  All I have to do is copy all our existing data onto the six hard drives and configure the computer to run headless on the network.
There has been more progress on the 4x4 project.  Yesterday I was able to purchase five used steel rims and tyres off the internet for $70.  They are off a Holden Colorado, but will fit the Isuzu 4x4.
This means I now have nine steel rims.  The five tyres are worn.  I might be able to get some more life from them on the camper trailer or as trailer spares.  Having nine rims started me thinking about how they might be used.  Initially I was going to keep five for the 4x4 and offset my costs by selling the remaining four.  But now I’m thinking of keeping all the rims and converting the camper trailer wheel hubs to accept the rims.  This would mean all my outback travel rims and tyres would be the same size which has obvious advantages.  I could then sell the three original (new) trailer rims and tyres.
I’ve also had conversations with three vehicle suspension suppliers.  I know the 4x4 will be carrying a heavy load when I head into the outback and I obviously want to minimize the risks.  I also know the track conditions will be so bad they are likely to shake the fillings out of my teeth.  So I don’t think the standard suspension will suffice.  It’s manufactured to a budget and is designed for a comfortable ride on bitumen.    I’m going to need to replace the springs and shock absorbers with something stronger.  After listening to all the sales pitches I think I’ve settled on a supplier.  He carefully listened to my requirements and didn’t try to sell me the most expensive system.  More on this project later.
Finally, this afternoon I bought a secondary diesel fuel filter.  Boaters will know all about the need for a secondary fuel filter and I believe one is required on the 4x4 for similar reasons.  Remote Australian fuel outlets don’t have a high turnover and the storage tanks were probably installed when Joseph received his rainbow coat.  I need to allow for contaminated fuel!  Well after a considerable time on Google I found the best priced distributor for a ‘Fuel Manager’ secondary filter to fit the Isuzu was in Perth <surprise>.  Their price was $285, which was $50 cheaper than the next supplier.  But then I also discovered they were selling the same filter kit on Ebay for $275.  Before I could click the purchase button Jan had found an Ebay discount voucher which resulted in a further reduction of $13.65.   Well that was a win!  Smile

Sunday, 21 January 2018

More Heat

Yesterday afternoon my sister asked me to accompany her to the computer shop where she wanted to buy a replacement desktop pc.  She confessed she didn’t know much about computers and wanted my advice/support.  I think I probably confused her with the options rather than the planned assistance.  Nevertheless she did buy a pc and then asked me to help her set it up at her home.  She and her husband are in the middle of installing a new kitchen and with several large holes in walls were windows will eventually go there was not point in them running their aircon.  After an hour the sweat was pouring off me! 

At 5pm we stopped for the day and I returned home to find Jan sweltering.  The evaporative aircon had been unable to cope with the conditions.  This type of aircon doesn’t work very well in humid conditions and consequentially was only pushing out warm humid air.  My initial thought was the water pump in the rooftop aircon had failed but after climbing onto the roof I established the unit was working correctly.

When my father died my mother was not capable of cutting firewood or operating the log stove and so a reverse cycle aircon was installed.  This kept her warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

I’ve always believed an evaporative aircon uses less electricity than a refrigerated reverse cycle unit.  The evaporative system only consists of a small water pump and a large fan whereas the reverse cycle requires a compressor.

You might recall I fitted an energy monitoring and recording sensor when we moved into the house and today I ran both systems to see how much electricity each used.  The evaporative system uses 1.03 – 1.34kWh

Power Consumption

Whereas the reverse cycle unit uses 2-2.8kWh.  It might appear the reverse cycle unit is more expensive, however it will turn on and off to maintain the desired temperature.  The older evaporative system doesn’t have a thermostat control and runs continuously.  so the energy usage gap between them may not be a great as initially presumed.

Of course if we had solar panels on the roof we wouldn’t care how much electricity was being used! Smile

Oh…. and it’s going to be another hot day tomorrow

Friday, 19 January 2018

Ebay delivers and more project progress

With plenty of time on our hands we retirees can afford to wait for items to be delivered.  Ebay items purchased from China can take up to a month to arrive, but they are considerably cheaper than anything locally sourced.

When we were on the Llangollen in winter 2015 Jan bought a Casio digital watch in Ellesmere.  The strap broke just before last Christmas.  A new strap bought in Australia was considerably more expensive than purchasing the same model watch from Hong Kong on Ebay.  Postman Gary delivered it today along with a few packages for me.  I’ve bought a 64GB micro SD storage card for the dashcam.  The temporary card was too small and rapidly filled with video.


I needed to ensure the card was compatible with the dashcam (some cards aren’t) and the seller needs to be carefully vetted as there are plenty of fake cards out there. 

I’ve been wanting to make some test leads to replace those “lost” in our Australian housepack.  The original leads were purchased for $1 when we were living in Singapore and proved to be very useful.  It was possible to purchase leads already made but I’ve some spare cable.  For $4 I was able to buy 20 insulated clips from China on Ebay.


I braved the heat and made up the leads on the assembly table in the afternoon.


Bunnings (B&Q equivalent) had some black Sikaflex in stock which enabled me to do further work on the 4x4 radiator insect screen.


I smeared Sikaflex through the fibreglass mesh to make a bonded exterior edge and then used more to bond the foam tape to the mesh.  It doesn’t look pretty but then it’s going to be covered in flies and grass seed.


Postman Gary also delivered on of the filters I’d ordered from Ebay for the Dyson vacuum cleaner.  Dyson stopped supporting our model in 2015 so any parts have to be obtained from 3rd parties.


I didn’t know this filter existed (real men don’t read manuals).  I managed to remove the top off the filter housing using the plastic trim tools purchased for the 4x4 (A in the above photo).  The old filter is inside the yellow ring (B in the above photo).  Apparently it’s supposed to be white and replaced annually.  As you can see, it’s black! <eek>  Perhaps this isn’t surprising given the Dyson is 10 years old.  The new filter is too big (arrow C) Sad smile  so it will need to be cut down.

The last job of the day was to check whether the 16 inch steel rims I purchased will fit the Isuzu 4x4.  The vehicle came with 18 inch alloy rims and I was slightly concerned the smaller steel rims wouldn’t fit.  They are off a Holden Colorado.


After removing the 18 inch rim and tyre I did a test fit with the 16 inch steel rim.


The smaller steel rim clears the brake calliper and fits onto the axle studs.  I also checked the offset and it’s the same as the Isuzu.  Everything is OK so I’ll start looking for suitably sized outback tyres.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018


Given the right conditions; in Australia;a single female fly and its offspring are capable of producing 13 million flies a year.  Furthermore, the majority of them can be found in the outback.  To keep them at bay your typical Aussie bushman will wear a hat with corks dangling on strings fixed around the brim.


And if you believe that you’re as daft as the above gullible tourist! Smile

Your average Aussie bushman knows all the flies want is a small sip from the moisture in the corners of his eyes or around the mouth and is prepared to tolerate that.  However the sensible tourist has one of these.


With billions of flies out there is unsurprising a percentage of them commit suicide by bashing themselves to death on the vehicle radiator.  And it isn’t just the insects that’s a problem!  The native grasses have to be very hardy to survive in the dry environment so when it comes to procreation, spreading their seed by attaching it to passing vehicles is a good idea.


Photo from Beadell Tours

If the radiator clogs with insects and seeds then the vehicle can overheat causing potential engine failure.  Naturally I don’t want that to happen so I’ve decided to make radiator screen similar to the one above.

I did look at fitting it behind the grill but access to the area is difficult and as I’m probably going to need to clean the screen daily I’ve decided to make one using fibreglass mesh insect screen.  The type of mesh you fit to a door or window.  Metal mesh would probably scratch the paintwork.  I’m going to strengthen the top and bottom edges with some 3mm brass rod and will apply adhesive foam tape on the reverse where it touches the vehicle.

The first step was the make a template from a piece of cardboard left over from the delivery of our new fridge.


Next, I cut out the mesh slightly larger than the template.  It needed to be larger in order to fold the edges under thereby doubling the strength and removing any sharp ends.


duct tape was used to hold the folds in place.  I needed something to replace the duct tape and remembered I had a craft glue gun which I use when refilling inkjet cartridges.


$2 from the Reject Shop back in 2008.  I don’t trust this glue to be permanent as I suspect it might be water soluble, so I will replace it with Sikaflex once the screen is assembled.


With the vertical edges glued I made a start on the top and bottom.  To provide some strength I’ve fitted 3mm brass rod into the seam then glued the seam with the hot glue gun.


I’m leaving about an inch of mesh between the rod and the edge because I plan to fit eyelets which will be used to secure the screen to the vehicle.  The fibreglass mesh might chaff the vehicle paintwork and fake chrome grill so I fitted adhesive foam tape around the edge and across the centre wherever the screen touches the grill.


There are two outstanding tasks left.  The Sikaflex needs to be smeared on the other side of the mesh to bond the mesh to the foam tape and to seal the edges.  And the brass eyelets need to be fitted.

Hopefully the screen will be effective in protecting the radiator from being choked.  However there will still be an under-body grass hazard.


Photo from Beadell Tours

It’s not unusual for this amount of grass to build-up in a day of travelling.  Dry grass will ignite at 130C and the vehicle exhaust is hotter.  Actually when the diesel particulate filter (DPF) is doing a regeneration it reaches 500C.  Already there have been a number of Ford Ranger utility vehicles destroyed by grass fires as a consequence of the grass touching the exhaust.   This was one of the hazards I thought about when selecting a suitable vehicle.  Unlike the Ford, the Isuzu DPF is located high in the engine compartment.  But grass build-up is something I will have to carefully monitor. 

Saturday, 13 January 2018


I’m grateful to my new blog proof reader (thanks Marilyn) who has [yet to] volunteered to check my posts.  Jan has lost interest since we left Waiouru and I’m rather lazy when it comes to spelling, grammar and punctuations.   I remember writing a essay only to have a member of the staff give me two A4 sheets covered in rows of commas along with instructions to insert them where appropriate.  So it’s Stralya rather than Stralia

One of our readers asked about Stralyan spiders and after searching Jan found the following poster.


Of course this is just a small sample.  Jan doesn’t spray them with the insect aerosol… she drowns them!  She has a particular dislike of the Huntsman.  I suppose it’s the eight eyes following you!  It would probably be better to not kill the Huntsman as it dines on flies, cockroaches and small lizards.  However you do need to be careful about the female Huntsman which is quite aggressive when carrying her young and will give you a venomous bite.  

When we last lived in Perth two decades ago flies were a big problem; mostly because our suburb had market gardens on its northern outskirt.  Animal dung and compost heaps were the problem.  Two things have happened in our absence.  The market gardens are now residential housing estates and the introduction of the dung beetle removed much of the animal waste issue.  It wasn’t until I backpacked through Egypt that I realised the ancient Egyptians revered the dung beetle as a god.  I’d probably do the same if it totally eliminated the flies.

So while Jan chases down and exterminates spiders I’ve been re-examining the Dyson vacuum cleaner.  I’ve now discovered two additional filters whilst the third (foam) filter has perished in storage and crumbles when touched.  Unfortunately Dyson stopped supporting our model in 2015 and no longer carries spare parts.  However eBay has come to our rescue and I was able to order a replacement set of filters for $40.

It’s 37C today so all outdoor work has been cancelled whilst we wait for the arrival of the cooler temperatures and rain from Cyclone Joyce which is battering the State further north.

Oh, Jan’s new fridge was delivered yesterday. The courier driver wouldn’t bring it into the house claiming he wasn’t allowed to do this in case it was damaged.  I suspect it was more a case of he was running late with his deliveries.  However we managed to squeeze it through the back door using my brother-in-law’s sack trolley.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Table, the Bread and the TV

Jan very kindly assisted me move the heavy Jarrah BBQ table to the back of the house and place it upside down on the assembly table.  I’m probably asking too much of a great grandmother, however I know the exercise will be good for her.  Once it was on the assembly table I disassembled and sanded the timber back.  This is the first time its been sanded since we bought the table 20 years ago.  With a little luck it will also be the last time for me!

Fortunately there were no ‘tricky’ sections requiring hand sanding which enabled me to complete the task in a day.  Then it was reassembled and given two coats of oil.


Meanwhile Jan had gone back inside (and away from the stifling heat) where she dragged the Aldi bread maker kicking and screaming into the galley kitchen.  Jan only uses the bread maker to kneed the dough.  If it’s used to bake bread the machine leaves a hole from the mixing paddle.  We’re having 'Lidl Scottish Baps’ for lunch.


I’ve been spending hours most evening attempting to get MythTV working on an old 386 pc.  I must have reinstalled the operating system two or three dozen times before realising the latest version of Linux wouldn’t recognise the TV capture cards, or if the pc did, it was intermittent.  Eventually I rolled back to an earlier version of Linux and the three capture cards were successfully recognised. BUT the cards would either report they had failed to record TV programs or simply not record.   After a week of pulling out my hair I realised the old 250GB hard drive I’d been using had an intermittent fault.  When I pulled it out of the computer I discovered there was a label on it with the word “Defective???” in my handwriting <Duh>.

Fitting another drive fixed that problem only for me to discover the capture cards were unable to obtain a signal for all the TV channels.  Being lazy, I first attempted to solve the problem by cutting 6 inches off the coaxial at the socket in the lounge room and refitting the plug.  That didn’t work, so I went up onto the roof and did the same at the antenna.  Actually the antenna looks like an old analogue aerial rather than digital.  Well that didn’t solve the problem either, so we’re stuck with a limited number of available channels.

However at least I have a working computer running MythTV which is able to simultaneously record six separate channels. 

The next step was configuring the electronic program guide (EPG).  Stralia is one of the few countries in the world where it’s difficult to obtain an electronic copy of the program guide.  Most providers broadcast it as part of their signal and it’s free.  To overcome this problem some clever people in Stralia have written a program that grabs and sorts the data from various sources before making it freely available over the internet.  It’s a separate program which the user needs to integrate with MythTV.  Well I managed to complete that yesterday.

Now I don’t want a second pc with it’s own screen, keyboard and mouse.  I want to be able to remotely access our new “MythTV box” from the main laptop.  I managed to do that today by installing and configuring “MythWeb”.  This gives me access to the TV box through the web browser.


All that is left is the problem of the missing TV channels and as we are NOT going to buy a new TV antenna for this house it will have to wait.  

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Hours of Sanding

Our beautiful Rimu (NZ native timber) dining table was damaged in storage and I’ve been spending hours repairing it.  The hardest part has been the legs.  These are turned and as a result have to be hand sanded back to bare timber.

I made a small stand to hold the legs whilst they were varnished.


The leg on the left is awaiting its first coat of varnish and the one on the right a second coat.  Once I’ve completed this table all that’s left in the way of major refurbishment jobs is the underside and legs of the Jarrah BBQ table.

Research into identifying a suitable camper trailer for my planned outback trips continues.  One manufacturer looked very promising until they advised their two retail outlets are on the other side of the continent.  Transport costs would add another 25% to the total purchase cost ($2000+) which probably puts the trailer outside my price range.  I’m now considering purchasing a suitable used camper which I can modify to meet my needs.

Meanwhile Jan has started cross stitching again.  All her cross stitchers were damaged beyond repair whilst in storage but fortunately she kept the original patterns in a sealed plastic container.  Actually she was doubly clever because she had me scan and print a copy of her original patterns when she purchased them so they are in excellent condition.  Of course I’ve done the same thing again scanning and printing them on A3 paper.

There’s no sign of Jan’s new fridge, but then it’s probably coming from the other side of the continent by camel train.  Fortunately it’s not urgently required as we have the use of my sister’s old fridge.  This will become her beer and wine fridge once ours arrives.

Another thing I’m thinking of doing is removing the 3rd row of seats in the 4x4.  This would lower the cargo floor level thus providing more storage capacity.  I could also fit a 12V fridge slide in the back.  This would mean Jan could purchase frozen items secure in the knowledge they won’t start to defrost on the way home.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Jealous Male Camels

Male camels can get very jealous and possessive.  Particularly when it comes to the wandering eyes of their harem.  Now the last thing I want to do is have a jealous bull camel thundering into my campsite foaming at the mouth spitting ½ litre of gooey saliva because he has seen me showering in the open in front of his ladies.  So when Aldi advertised they had a cheap collapsible tent that would probably make a suitable shower tent we had to buy one.


It collapses into a disc about 700mm in diameter and when erected the tent floor can be removed.  I’ll make a combination peg/pole on which I can mount a shower rose.

The other newly identified maintenance task is repairing the splits in the top of the Camphorwood lined Teak Chest.  We purchased two whilst living in Singapore back in 1981.  One was given to our daughter for her ‘Glory Box’ and Jan has been using the other to store her linen and clothing.  The smell of the Camphorwood discourages insects.

I made the mistake back in 1982 of using our chest as a TV stand and the heat from the TV dried out the top causing two wide splits in the Teak.  After 35 years I finally decided to do something about the damage, so perhaps this isn’t a new job!.

The first step was to test clamp the top to ensure I could close the cracks.  Having satisfied myself the cracks could be closed, I worked PVA wood glue into the cracks using my finger and a feeler gauge.  Then the top was clamped horizontally and vertically. 


The split used to run from the edge of the top to the red arrow.