Tuesday, November 17, 2009

VIN Inspection day.

The night before, it was time to pick up my reserved 5x9 uhaul trailer with a ramp. A couple weeks ago, I reserved one online. So, I figure arriving at the u-haul place at 6pm gives plenty of time to recover from mistakes.

They didn't have it.

Fortunately, it was early in the evening so I still had some options. The least favorite option would be to use a trailer without a lift gate. Since I would likely be loading and unloading the BugE several times, and each time it would require another person, that was not an attractive option for me. Fortunately, after making several calls, the clerk eventually found a ramp trailer from another location I could use. Whew! It was an extra 50 miles of driving to fetch it, but hey, I got a trailer.

So, I load the BugE on the trailer so it's ready to go. It's getting late. Time to tie it down. Dang! Busted off the mirror mount! Fortunately, I had access to tools and materials for a quick fix. After doing the repair, I decided to do a final test drive (top speed was only 42 but I attribute that to cold batteries). Other than that, all systems checked out. So, put the BugE back on the trailer being much more careful when tying it down.

Morning arrives. It's a crisp autumn day. A little too crisp. The temperature dipped down into the 20's. So, I go out that morning to find that the BugE canopy covered with thick frost! Fortunately, it was early enough in the morning that i could cover the canopy with a motorcycle cover and run a hair dryer to melt the frost into water beads. Not great, but at least I can see through a bunch of frozen water beads. During the journey, the water beads didn't go away but at least it didn't get worse. Fortunately, once I parked the BugE in the DMV parking lot, the beads eventually melted and evaporated away.

So, I drove the BugE in line with other cars who need VIN investigations for one reason or another. Fortunately, I brought a book. Once my turn comes, I drive the BugE into the DMV garage. The guy is nice and seems genuinely interested in the vehicle. So I give a tour of the BugE controls, give them a tour of my pre-made notebook itemizing all purchases and then I get escorted to the waiting room. Although I didn't see the inspection process, I'm thinking that they were more interested in examining the purchases featured in the notebook than establishing the BugE could perform as needed. Glad I brought that notebook! Eventually, a nice shiny yellow VIN certificate is glued to the side of the frame and I'm able to load it back on the trailer. Yipee!

Well, not really. The Field Investigation office needs to fax the MV-272.1 form back to technical services. Then technical services mails a VS-103 form back to my address. So, more waiting. Then, I get to trailer the BugE AGAIN to a "safety inspection" station (read 'local motorcycle shop') where they will apparently ponder the boxes on a VS-103 form which they might see once in their lives and fill it out best they can. Why the field investigation people aren't trusted to inspect headlights and tail lights is a mystery especially since they are the ones who pull people over for lighting should a vehicle not meet inspection requirements!

What was also interesting was the guy who inspected my vehicle also said, "I'll fax them a copy today. However, you should wait a week, then give them a call to follow up." Based on past experience, I expect I'll need to contact them. I've been doing communication in writing when I can so a record is kept.

Anyway, the inspection process killed the morning, but I still had some afternoon left. So, I decided to get a weight certificate. This private inspection station was on the "approved" list of stations I could take my BugE to. So, I avoid the big rigs, pay my $10 to the cashier and drive the BugE on the truck drive-on scales. Then I realize the truck scales in the photo have two problems. First, they aren't sensitive enough to just measure the BugE. Second, to request a weighing from the weight operator, the weighing station buttons were VERY high (since truckers don't want to get out of their cabs). So, I had to find a long stick to push them. It was almost comical. Fortunately, there were few trucks that day. So, I did a tare-weight of the car and trailer. Then I drove the BugE on to get the weight difference. I found my BugE weighs in at 440lbs.

Unfortunately, I was to discover that weighing the BugE did me no good at all this day. In the description, the weight operator just put in "general freight" rather than typing in the VIN number. It wasn't their fault - I didn't tell them to type it in. Due to this, I was to discover later that the VIN omission on the weighing slip made this weighing a useless exersize.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Motor & headlight interlock

Since this vehicle is a motorcycle, the traction motor should not be operated without an interlock requiring the headlight to be illuminated either in a high-beam or low-beam state. So, the idea is to tap into the 12V going from the handle bar to the lamp from either the high or low beam light circuits to energize a small relay. This little relay will then interrupt the throttle signal, making the speed controller provide no power to the motor.

Sounds simple. Ah, but life isn't so simple. I can't just tap the high-beam wire & tap the low-beam wire, then tie them together so when either one is powered. Otherwise, both filaments stay on since one feeds the other where they meet which would be just before the relay coil. So, I need to put some diodes in to prevent this back-feeding. Also, when using the handlebar control to switch from high-beam to low-beam I noticed there is a tiny bit of time when neither circuit is powered. This can make the small relay drop it's contact, which is probably not a thing we want happening when underway. So, a capacitor has been added to power the relay coil for a brief amount of time during hi-low or low-hi switchover. The capacitor has a rating of more than twice what I needed so the relay will stay energized several seconds after the lighting is switched off.

Here's the schematic for that part of the circuit.  Part numbers are Radio Shack parts.  In the photo, I also used an optional relay socket in case the relay needed to be switched out quickly.  So far, the relay seems to be operating flawlessly.  So, a quick switch out socket probably isn't needed.