Sunday, February 10, 2008

Reader assistance requested

We are still in the exact same spot on the street outside PEDCO. Louise has really been too miserable to move until this morning, and now I am realizing that, even if we are burning a gallon of oil every thousand miles, we'd need to drive around for five hours today for that to even be visible on the dipstick. So we'll stay put today, and instead monitor oil consumption on the way to Death Valley. If it seems to still be high, we'll plan to come back here the following week. By then, we should also have the results of the oil analysis, which should give us more direction, and, of course, whatever we learn tomorrow from cutting open the filter.

None of which is the subject of today's post. Now that we have about 300 or so readers daily, with perhaps half of those being regular returning readers, I have discovered that the blog is a great place to post my pleas for help (thank you, readers!). This fact was driven home in a very big and visible way when I first posted here about our loss of steering fluid, and no fewer than three people wrote in within a day to offer suggestions and advice that turned out to be prescient. That particular problem was one in which I likely would have received the same timely advice had I posted it on the two bus-related boards that I frequent. Today's question, though, is even more odd-ball but probably of interest to a wider audience.

Let me first say that the weather is fantastic here right now, with outside temperatures in the shirt-sleeve 70's. I popped my scooter out Friday night to run out and get more tissues, as Louise blew through (pardon the pun) the remainder of our supply, and I rode out last night for Chinese take-out. If she's up to it tonight, we might even ride over to dinner. We have not seen weather like this since we left Palm Desert in early December, and I've been enjoying being outside, even just to walk the dog.

Since Louise was down for the count yesterday, we weren't going anyplace, and the weather was beautiful, I decided to tackle an outside project that I have been putting off: repairing one of our fancy HID flood lights.

As with many things aboard Odyssey, there is a story to these lights. When we first got the bus, it had a large spotlight on the roof, dead center at the front, which could be swiveled 360° and tilted via controls on the dashboard and in the penthouse. It also had a beam that was selectable between spot and flood.

It was a decent light, but it had three flaws: First it was a foot tall, making Odyssey even taller than the 13' she is today (the tallest thing on our roof now is 10"). We constantly worried that we would catch it on something and knock it right off the roof -- nowadays, the very solid deck rail supports tend to knock off low tree branches and the like before they can damage the air conditioners, anemometer, etc.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it was nearly useless as a light on a motor coach -- so take note if you are thinking of buying this type of light. The times we were most likely to want to use the light were when we were caught out after dark, and were trying to pick our way into a forest or campground with narrow roads, obstacles, low trees, and the like. Even on the "flood" setting, the beam was not wide enough to illuminate everything we wanted to see, and so we ended up using the little joystick, while we were driving, to light up whatever we needed. The little tilt/swivel motors were not very fast, and at times we ended up stopping in our tracks while the light caught up. I suspect that all the swivel/tilt remote-control lights, even lower-profile models from Jabsco and other marine suppliers, have the same limitations, although I see them now on a lot of production motor homes.

Lastly, it was taking up valuable real estate on the roof, right where we wanted to put our deck. So we ditched the light, giving it to a fellow bus nut as a thank-you for taking our old L16 flooded batteries off our hands. (His bus is a good deal less tall than ours, so the extra foot of headroom was not an issue.) I decided instead to mount a pair of wide-angle, true "flood" lights at either corner of the roof, to light the way under the aforementioned extreme conditions. After we mounted the Girard awnings, which have a raw and unfinished appearance at the leading edge (we did not have room for the fiberglass fairings Girard makes to trim out the installation, nor did they make a model that would fit Odyssey's roof line unaltered), I further decided that mounting a pair of big flood lights just ahead of the awnings would disguise that fact.

We bought many of the parts and pieces that went in to the conversion on eBay, and that's one place where I set out to find 24-volt automotive flood lights. What I came up with turned out to be the deal of a lifetime: a pair of 24-volt, HID "work" lights made for mining and heavy construction equipment, for which I paid $166 (for the pair) plus shipping, brand new. I have since learned that these light retail for over $600 each. And the reason I got such a great deal on them is exactly what has me in today's pickle: they are 24-volt, which is so uncommon in the US market that there simply isn't a critical mass of buyers -- Freddy Four-Wheeler with his jacked-up Jeep just can't use a 24-volt lamp.

Infinity chose to mount the lamps "sideways," which ultimately proved to be their undoing. The lamps are "sealed" against weather and splashes, but there are weepholes at the bottom and sides to allow any stray moisture that works its way into the housing to drain out. One of the larger side weepholes, strategically positioned to quickly drain water before it can get into the reflector, thus ended up on the top, allowing water into the fixture, apparently faster than the other side weephole (now on the bottom) could drain it, and one of the reflectors filled up with water, causing a high-voltage short the next time I turned on the lights.

One of the lights is fine. The other now needs a new bulb (easy to find, if pricey at $100 apiece) and a new ballast. Even the reflector is now pitted, but I can live with that. The ballast seems to be the difficult piece of the equation. And so I am asking for any pointers to either a complete light fixture (Hella model AS200 FF Xenon, 24-volt), possibly as a used take-off from old equipment, or one with a broken lens or housing, or to a 24-volt, 35-watt HID ballast with the proper connector for a D2S lamp.

This is what the whole fixture looks like:

And this is what the ballast looks like (both found on eBay, but, unfortunately, 12 volts):

If you have a line on either, or suggestions for alternate solutions, drop me a note or post here in the comments. I already know I will not likely fix this problem for less than what I originally paid for the entire set of lights, but I'm trying to avoid having to plunk down $600. I did find a Chinese-made 24-volt ballast for $50 (including shipping from Guangzhou), but I am a bit leery of an unproven product (vs., say, Philips or Hella brands) and it has AMP connectors instead of the D2S receptacle that I need. I could always cut the D2S connector off the old one and splice, but that means no longer having a fully sealed cable on the high-voltage end, and the voltages in question are nothing to be trifled with.

I'm also open to buying a complete unit from an off-brand competitor such as this one, if I can be assured that what I will find inside is an identical ballast, connector, and bulb that I can retrofit back into the Hella housing that I already have. For the truly geeky, this brochure has an exploded view of the light so you can see what I am working with here.

So if you know where I can find some take-outs, or you know what's inside a cheaper fixture that I can cannibalize, sing out.


  1. Try here it seems they have pieces.
    BTW I can sympathize with your mechanical
    problems. Less than 10k miles ago we had both a rebuilt engine (Jasper long block) and Hydravacs
    for the braking system put in our 1973 Bluebird
    Wanderlodge. This past fall one of the valve seats in the long block loosened from the intake in the long block and then less than 2 weeks later the Hydravacs went bad resulting in a pretty substantial bill for both items. I talked to a rep, wrote and emailed Jasper receiving NO response when writing and, through my mechanic was told by the rep. that because it was more than 3 years and the warranty had expired nothing would be covered. I guess you just have to accept that you have to pay to play. Needless to say though I WILL NOT recommend Jasper to anyone. I will use a local mechanic the next time and give him the money. Anyhow good luck. I read you often. Maybe one of these days, whenever you're in Michigan, I can show you the nice out of the way and cheaper camping.
    cheaper out of the way camp sites

  2. It would help if I give the URL:

  3. try looking at aircraft parts. almost all planes after 1970 are 24 volt systens


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