Wires, wires, everywhere!

Crankin’, but not runnin’…

I have the engine wired up. It took several days, mostly because it was hard to dedicate much time to it.

After much waffling, I finally decided to put the fuse block on the frame downtube. It will be more accessible for troubleshooting there. Almost everywhere else within reach would be exposed engine heat.

I welded two tabs to the pipe and drilled them to fit the mounting holes in the fuse block. The fuses face downward so they will be visible from underneath once the body is back on.

For weeks, I’ve been spending time trying to draw up a wiring diagram, but I’ve started it over repeatedly. Just can’t seem to get it together. I decided to kind of wire and draw simultaneously, based on a checklist of things that need wiring. For example, I need to wire everything on the engine that needs straight 12V when the key is on, so I list them: electric choke, fuel cuttoff solenoid, coil (through ballast resistor).

On the checklist, I set the wire colors, based arbitrarily on some concepts in my mind. For example, red is almost universally 12V power, but I like to think of things that always have power should be red. What’s reddish, to indicate 12V, but not always? Ok, orange. 🙂

So, I cut a piece of orange wire long enough to go from the choke to the fuel solenoid. put my nice quick disconnect spade connector on one end, cut another orange wire for solenoid to the ballast resistor, then put both of those in a spade connector for the solenoid and a ring connector on the resistor end of that one. Then run a wire from there to the fuse block, cut to length, put another ring on the resistor end and for now leave the other end a little long, but cut it.

There is a stop-run switch on the handlebar, so I guess my orange wire should extend up there before plugging in to the fusebox. Of course, that requires that I decode the wiring to the switches and connectorize it. The connector itself takes a while, but when it’s all wired up and ready to go, I meter it all to make sure they all work and then I finally draw out that bit of the diagram, remembering to include all the connections and connectors. I also try to draw the parts in a rough representation of where they are on the trike.

Ok, next wire.

So, you see, it takes a while.

The payoff is that by dedicating my thoughts and wiring retentiveness to the job one circuit at a time, with a big picture in mind, I think the trike will be well wired, reliable and easier to troubleshoot when something does crop up.

In the beginning…

I tend to go on. You have been warned.

For now, I will skip much of the detail about how I came to seek and acquire my VW trike, but some details will be handy at some point in the future.

I found this on a CraigsList ad in Houston. We went to see it on a Sunday and I returned the following Saturday to pay for it and pick it up.

The previous owner found it in the back lot of a pawn shop in this condition. I believe he said it had been there for 8 years. He had it himself for several years. He had another project he wanted to take on and he needed the garage back.

While he had it, he repaired a big crack in the fiberglass, shot a coat of primer on it, made the gas tank removable, put a good 1600 dual port engine on it and changed the tires out.

There was a battery and enough wiring for the engine to start and run, but that was all. The alternator was not even connected. I’m a wire guy, so I kinda like that I have a blank canvas for the wiring.

In short, as I received it, it only needed all the wiring, brakes and a front tire to be road worthy. Not pretty, but road worthy.

The brakes were not difficult to repair. All I needed was everything but the drums. Luckily for me, that was still a pretty short list. Master cylinder, switch, 5 steel lines, 2 flex lines, two slave cylinders, a handful of springs and clips and 4 cans of brake cleaner. He stops now.

With brakes in place, I was ready to take a clandestine trip around the neighborhood. I had trouble keeping it in gear, but the thing worked!

The trike ended up at the pawn shop after a collision. The PO did a pretty decent job of repairing the fiberglass damage, but there were other things that, in analysis, was actually collision damage. The majority of it had to do with the shifter and things attached to it. The shifter itself was fine, but the mount was cracked, one of the linkages was bent and the nose cone on the transmission had a really nasty hole and crack on it.

To replace the nose cone, I should have had to remove the transaxle, but the mounts, especially the front one, were so shot that the transaxle could move enough to let to do that procedure with it still in the frame! The shift linkage is joined with rachet U-joints. The shift shaft in the nose cone was welded directly to one of these U-joints. I had to cut it short enough that the shaft could clear the bushing in the nose cone, but keep it as long as possible for reconnecting to the shift linkage.

All that helped shifting, but with the motor mounts set to extra sloppy, it was still hard to put/keep it in gear. I bought new urethane mounts that have only in the past week or so been installed. I’m looking forward to another ride to see if that finally fixes the shifting.

The motor mounts are just one of the items that I’ve been gathering since about Thanksgiving 2008 to be installed on the trike. We’re getting close to our vacation and it would be very cool to take the trikes somewhere for vacation, so for the last month or so, I’ve done a lot of work on the thing.

We attended a BTW benefit last fall and my most lovely and generous wife bid on and won a $1000 paint job for a trike or bike for substantially less than $1000. We wanted to make sure we had the bike titled before we sent the body off to Bondo Joe. I got that stuff out of the way and got the body to the paintshop a couple of weeks ago.

That evening, I received this email:

I’ve been back in the shop looking at your trike body and have come up with some ideas. What I need is some pics of the bike. You told me to do whatever to it so you must of talked to someone that knows me, so when I was looking at it a lot of things came into my twisted mind and I need to know if you like dragons because I came up with something that I think would look really cool. The way I see it a wizard rides a dragon. That’s all I’m going to tell you about what I’d like to do. If I do this to it nobody will ever call it the Enterprise again. It will be known as the dragon bike. And It will be purple. Do you want to ride a dragon? If not I’ll think of something else to do.

I definitely like dragons, so I’m pretty excited to see what he comes up with.

In the mean time, I had lots of shiny bits to install, like chrome tins and polished aluminum valve covers. I painted a lot of engine parts using Krylon’s X-Metal system. It’s basically a decently high temperature candy color paint intended to lend an anodized look to polished metal. They also have a silver base coat called “metal converter” for surfaces that are not shiny metal. In my case, I used the converter because all the stuff I wanted to make colorful were themselves different colors, so I ended up using it on everything. Everything includes the intake manifolds, alternator and distributor. Doesn’t sound like much when listed like that, but it looks pretty nice. I used the converter silver alone on the engine block.

Since that pic was taken, I have put the plug wires back on, mounted the ignition coil and ballast resistor (out of sight) and welded on tabs to mount the fuse block to. All I have left to do is wire everything. Everything.

I have 100′ each of 10 colors of wire, weather tight connectors, 8 circuit fuse block and a wiring diagram that is about 90% complete. I hope to have the chassis wired and ready to add lights, gauges and switches when the body comes back from Bondo Joe.