Monday, January 26, 2009

Installing the speedometer pickup

These notes only apply to pre-2009 BugE kits that have drum brakes. The new BugE kits now come with disk brakes.

The speedometer kit came with a speed sensor, mounting bracket and several magnets. The instructions covered programming the unit rather well, but it did not cover the more mundane task of mounting the sensor!

In the image to the right, the sensor is shown mounted in the bracket. A hex wrench is used to secure a set screw for the sensor. The kit also came with some tiny rare earth magnets (circled). To mount the sensor, I used a 1/4-20x3/4" hex bolt and two washers left over from a Radio Shack grommet kit (Part# 64-3025). Earlier in the BugE steps, I used the smaller grommets from the package to protect the holes when I was filling the frame with anti-corrosion paint. Since I did not use all the larger sizes, I had quite a few left over. Inside the yellow square, a 1/4-20-3/4" hex bolt is shown cut to 3/8" long plus a washer can be seen. The other nut/bolt is shown so the original bolt length can be seen.

The left most photo shows the speedometer arm balancing on the steering spindle pin. The bolt & nut are held in the mounting arm tight due to grommet#1 filling the space. The sides of the hex nut have been filed down slightly so it will fit tightly in the brake channel. Once the brake assembly is pushed back onto the steering spindle, all the parts are held together by pressure. Grommet #2 was added for a tighter fit. Once the bracket is in place, the sensor is mounted to the arm using a set screw.

The next step was a bit messy for me. There is no place for the magnets on the BugE tires. I didn't want to weaken the wheel by drilling little mounting holes so I figured that the little magnets should be glued on. The product I used was J-B Weld. There are three reasons for this. First, the mounting material should be strong. Second, it should be resistant to water. Third, and most important for me at the moment was that it was cheap. Fortunately, I had a box full of glues, epoxies and calk collected over the years. So, I punctured the tubes, mixed the product and it worked. I was impressed. I'm pretty sure the "new" pack I used was at least 10 years old!

Once the epoxy dries, I put the wheel back on. Then I used a Dremil tool to drill a square hole through the wall of the BugE large enough, and square enough for the sensor wire end to go through. Then, I took a small grommet & split using a razor blade so it can go around the cable. Then, I took a larger grommet & work it over the connector, then put the larger grommet over the smaller split grommet. Then, I stuffed both grommets into the square hole which will took up the space around the cable. Hopefully it will hold. I'll be watching that cord. If it wanders around too much in the wheel well, I may use some split tubing to force it to take the same path up as the brake cable.

At a later time, the speedometer needs to be calibrated. Since the instructions that came with it cover this step, I won't go into detail on how the unit is programmed. Just as well since instructions such as that usually differ from unit to unit.

Kit Materials used:
(From speedometer kit) mounting bracket, sensor, magnets, hex wrench

Additional materials
  • (1) 1/4-20 x 3/4" hex bolt & nut, cut to size
  • (2) grommets left over from the earlier anti-rust step for arm
  • (1) large grommet, (1) small split grommet for speedometer pass through.
  • (1) J-B Weld epoxy package
  • (1) set nitrol gloves (for the epoxy)
  • (1) stirring stick & disposable mixing container
  • zipties
Tools used:
  • 3/4" wrench to take off wheel nut
  • Hammer to hammer out cotter pin
  • needle nose pliers to convince pin to come out of the axle.
  • Vise to hold hex bolt for cutting & hex nut for filing down
  • Dremel tool (with cutting wheel) to cut down hex bolt to desired size
  • File to remove material from the sides of the hex nut so it will fit in the channel
  • ruler & pencil (to measure where magnets go so sensor can pick them up)
  • Drill & drillbit (for passing through sensor wire)
Time used:
  • Jacking up the wheel, taking off cotter pin, castle nut & wheel washers - 15 minutes.
  • Imagining a solution & test fitting parts together - 20minutes
  • Cutting down the bolt & grinding the nut to size - 15 minutes
  • Mouting arm to wheel - 15 minutes
  • Drilling hole through body for sensor cable - 15 minutes.
  • Securing wheel with castle nut & cotter pin, then removing from the jack stand - 15 minutes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

BugE bumper probem - and solution

Monitoring the Yahoo group informed me that there was an issue with the rear shock absorber (also known as BugE bumpers). The issue was that the bumpers would bulge out beyond the ends of the bumper assembly, cutting into the BugE shock fitting. This may lead to an early failure of the BugE bumpers with all sorts of ugly consequences. When I was building the BugE, I noticed my BugE was experiencing similar symptoms. (Lots of bulging, even with no batteries installed). Since I was VERY close to putting the batteries, giving the bumper a full load, I needed to get this repaired!

For those of you with the rear suspension BugE's that don't have improved bumpers, here are two methods to upgrade. One takes money, the other takes time.

For around $35, you can make an inexpensive improvement over the rubber BugE bumpers by replacing them with a EnergySuspension Universal Bushing kit #9.4102R. The kits are available through AutoZone.... You typically get two, so you'll have an extra!.

To change out the bumpers, remove the shock from the vehicle. (don't forget to support the rear since the rear of the BugE will fall without a jack to hold it up) Once removed, the rear shock comes apart with an allen bolt. .

If you don't have $35 at the moment, some humble $0.99 hockey pucks can also be used. To make center holes, I just use progressively larger wood drill bits to drill out a hole. To make the 1/2 puck in the middle, I used a recipricating saw and vise. Messy but effective. The ride is somewhat stiffer than original but the material seems to be holding up well.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Front Brakes

The new BugE now comes with different wheel and brake system so someone doing a new BugE build will find some differences. However, these pages may help someone who may be servicing a 2007 to 2009 model BugE.

Finally, it's time to run the front brake cables! Since I don't like working in confined spaces more than I need to, I decided to mount the controls on a vise to see how my control stick would go together. Fitting my over sized handlebar clamp, turn signal control, thumb throttle, brakes, brake switches and speedometer was challenging. However, I think it's all turned out OK.

The first task was to deal with wiring the rear brake light switches. So, I created a wiring section that would allow each handlebar switch (or both) to complete the normally open tail light circuit. I probably didn't need to use a quick disconnect since there are only four screws on both switches. However, not needing to fuss with small screws when installing or removing the control bar will be nice.

Before installing the wiring, I wanted to see how the brake handle switches work. To do this, I had a vise hold up the control bar so I could experiment with routing the various wires (including the brake wires), I've removed the speedometer and tilted the brake handles up so the switches on the handles can be seen more easily. To the left is a before photo and to the right is an after photo. The switches are normally open circuit devices. That means when a handle is squeezed, the switch is pulled out and the switch completes a circuit. A spring is used on each switch so the switch isn't pulled out too far.

It's a nice idea, however I found a problem with making the switch grip the cable. The problem is that the outside of the cable is too smooth so the little cable clamps cannot maintain their grip. After a few squeezes, I found that each clamp worked it's way up the cable and the switch no longer could be pulled out enough to work. I probably could have added some rubber inserts or perhaps put a small section of stiff tubing on the brake cable prevent the clamp from moving closer. However, I figured there must be a better way.

As I was contemplating what material I could use to prevent the clamp from moving, I accidentally found a solution! As one clamp from one cable worked it's way up it's cable, the other one did the same. Then, they then happened to catch each other as they passed. I noticed that the distance between the handles was about one spring wide. So, I decided to try to use just one spring! Now, when both brakes are fully squeezed, the spring creates enough tension to make the switches work without breaking them. After making the wiring tail a bit neater, I was ready to angle the handles forward again, put the speedometer back on and mount the controls to the stick. There is one slight side effect to this. The brakes are a bit harder to operate with the spring that way. So, I may need to find a weaker spring!

I decided it was finally time to put on the steering column. However, doing this was not so simple. When I put on the steering column, I discovered the holes that pass through the column were a pinch too high. So, I had to grind off about two millimeters from the end so the holes in the steering column would line up with the existing hole in the chassis steering mechanism. After grinding a bit off the end, I used a rat-tail file to smooth the inside of the tube so it would fit again. Even after lining the holes up, I still had to drill out the bolt hole slightly so the bolt & nylock nut could be installed. None of these operations took very much time. However, all the little delays did add up.

The next task was to drill a pair of holes through the fender to reach each brake mechanism (used 1/4" drill bit). Unlike the rear brake, the full length of the brake cable was used on each front brake. When installed, the cables were installed so they cross over each other and are held in place with a zip tie on the control stick. The result is that the right handle controls the right brake and the left handle controls the left brake.

The final (for now) control layout is on the right. The speedometer is back on and the controls have been adjusted to what I think I would like. After the first few test drives, I plan to redo the 12V wiring with what I've learned. I'll be upgrading some components such as changing from thumb throttle to twist grip and upgrading the brake handles to ones that have tail light switches inside them. Since I'll be doing a new wiring harness from the start, according to a component layout that is now known, the wiring should turn out neater. For now, the 12V wiring I have should do for testing performance. After the first few runs, I'll see if any other issues are discovered. (eg. I still haven't decided if I would really use a car radio in the vehicle). Once I have established the final list of must-have features, I'll be developing a new 12V wiring harness that should be quite a bit nicer than what I have now. So, now it's time to move on to other systems.

If you have had a bicycle before and needed to tighten the brakes, the process is almost the same on the BugE. All that is required is a proper sized wrench, vise grip pliers and a bit of patience. The cable needs to stretch a bit so expect some back and fourth between the pinch bolt and testing the handle grip. Although adjusting bike brakes is never fun, it is MUCH easier than adjusting automotive brakes! Less expensive too!

One thing that concerned me is that front cable sections might eventually work their way into the wheel well to rub against the front wheels. To prevent that happening, I added a low cost electrical-tape / zip tie solution that should prevent any additional cable from moving into the front fender. Once the length of the cable permitted in the wheel well is established, put a few wraps of electric tape around the excess cable in the cowl to mark the length. Then add a ziptie to prevent more cable length from working it's way through the hole.

Materials used (from kit)
Control bar assembly (assembled earlier)
Brake cables (from BugE control kit)
Brake handle switches (from BugE control kit)
Steering column (from main BugE kit)

Extra Materials
(4) 7" pieces of wire
two wire disconnect
4 crimp-on connectors (plus two that didn't crimp too well)
Solder / Heat Shrink tubing
Electric tape
Bunch of zip ties

Tools used:
Metric hex key set (all handlebar parts use metric hex keys)
Screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets
Needle nose vise grip pliers (for tightening brake cable)
Regular Vise
Drill ( 1/4" bit)
Grinder & rat tail file (for shortening steering column)
Soldering station (solder iron, helping hands, c-clamp, heatsink, ect....)

Time used:
  • Experimenting with the best way to mount switches to handlebar - 45 mins.
  • Shortening steering tube, re-drilling hole for bolt & installing handlebar assembly - 15 mins.
  • Making handlebar harness wiring - 30 minutes.
  • Trimming FRONT brake cables - o minutes (don't need to do)
  • Installing handlebar wiring & tweaking control angles so everything fits - 30 minutes.
  • Drilling holes for brake cables & attaching to handles & zip tying in place 15 mins
  • Blogging - several hours creating this page and revising previous ones.