The sound of music – Radio install Part 1 – Auxillary fuse block

Sometimes I think the most difficult part of any project is starting.  More often than I like to admit, when I get the chance to work on Moby most of that time is spent cleaning the garage so I have space to work.  Then I get a week or two of enjoyment out of walking into a nice clean garage space, waiting patiently for my next opportunity to have a little bus time, before stuff starts migrating off shelves, walls, and out of the house to clog the work bench and garage floor.  Then I get to spend my time cleaning once again.  Such is the current situation after traveling for the holidays – everything just got dumped into the garage.  That is today’s project, to clean once more!!  This never ending process brings to mind a question a friend asked at the beginning of the summer.  She asked me if I was a hoarder to which I replied that I was, of course, not a hoarder and simply keep the useful stuff.  My problem is keeping it all neat and tidy!

A little over a month ago before the holiday madness arrived I managed, with much forethought and determination, to clean the garage and keep it that way in preparation for installing a variety of new bus accouterments; all centered on a new radio.  Moby arrived sans radio and I, with the exception of a couple solo trips, never really thought about it missing.  Perhaps, the years without a bus made me happy enjoying the bus experience again; just tootling along listening to the engine without noticing the absence of an accompanying musical soundtrack.  Or perhaps, subconsciously, I thought other projects needed attention before I turned to such novelties like a radio. It is not that I didn’t want a radio, to the contrary I spent quite sometime researching them but for whatever reason never got around to the purchase.    Martha finally took action, most likely because she does not find the engine melody as entertaining as I, and bought a radio for my birthday.

So begins the few posts that will outline not only installation of the radio but a few other goodies for which I slowly hunted and then accumulated during the last few months.  Because I find that the stock fuse panel can get overused, I wanted to install a new power source in the cab, not just for the radio but any other device that might come along at a later time.  This first step in Project Radio Install required running a separate power line from the battery to cab.

I picked up a generic fuse block from my FLAPS.  This one has 6 fused terminals and is rated at 30 amps.  Decide what equipment you want to run from the panel and buy one with suitable amp rating.

I picked up a generic fuse block from my FLAPS. This one has six fused terminals rated at 30 amps. Decide what equipment you want to run from the block and buy one with a suitable number of terminals and amp rating.

Choosing a place to install the new fuse panel is really up to the individual.  I avoid drilling new holes or modifying the bus if I can find better solutions.  I decided to install the fuse panel behind the fresh air lever brackets above the left kick panel.

Choosing a place to install the new fuse block is really up to the individual. I avoid drilling new holes or modifying the bus if I can find better solutions. For this project, I decided to install the block behind the fresh air lever bracket above the left kick panel.

Because the fuse panel was too thick to install under the fresh air bracket an extension was needed.  Now all the brackets, nuts, bolts, etc.. that I carted around all these years suddenly rose to their potential!

Because the fuse block was too thick to install under the fresh air bracket, an extension was needed. Now all the brackets, nuts, bolts, etc.. that I carted around all these years suddenly rose to their potential!

Of course nothing is easy, the bolt holes in the bracket do not align with the ones in the fuse panel.  Gotta make new ones!

Of course nothing is easy, the bolt holes in the bracket do not align with the ones in the fuse block. Gotta make new ones!

I marked the location for the new bolt hole with a hammer and punch.

I marked the location for the new bolt holes with a hammer and punch.

The punch not only marked the metal but provided a dent so the drill bit would not ride when drilling started

The punch not only marked the metal but provided a dimple so the drill bit would not ride when drilling started

13/64-inch hole drilled to match original.

13/64-inch hole drilled.

Filled down the sharp points between the two bolt holes.

File used to smooth the sharp points between the two bolt holes.

Repeat for second bracket.

Repeat for second bracket.

Spare nuts, bolts, and washers came in handy for mounting the fuse panel to the extension brackets.

Spare nuts, bolts, and washers came in handy for mounting the fuse block to the extension brackets.

Brackets installed on fuse block.

Bracket installed on fuse block.

An extra hole was needed on the top (right in this picture) extension before installation behind the fresh air bracket.  7/32-inch hole drilled for the larger fresh air bracket screws.

An extra hole was needed on the top (right in this picture) extension before installation behind the fresh air bracket. 7/32-inch hole drilled for the larger fresh air bracket screws.

Fuse panel installed.  The extension brackets went between the air duct and fresh air brackets.

Fuse panel installed. The extension brackets went between the air duct and fresh air brackets.

Selecting the appropriate gauge wire is important because it must be able to handle the power load required.  Use too small of a gauge and the wire will at best provide insufficient power or at worst melt, catch fire.  When in doubt, use a higher gauge wire.  I chose 10 gauge wire after consulting a wiring chart similar to this one at my FLAPS.  Determine the power source and amp load (12 V and 30 amp respectively in this case) and wire length (17ft plus or minus a foot or so in this project).  While perhaps a little much for current purposes, the 10 gauge wire will allow for future accessories, such as an accessory outlet for charging phones, mp-3 players, etc...  The source for this chart can be found by clicking on the image.  Many thanks to RBE Electronics for making it available to us all.

Selecting the appropriate gauge wire is important because it must be able to handle the required power load. Use too small a gauge and the wire will at best provide insufficient power or at worst melt and catch fire. When in doubt, use a larger wire. I chose 10 gauge wire after consulting a wiring chart similar to this one at my FLAPS. Determine the power source and amp load (12 V and 30 amp respectively in this case) and wire length (17ft plus or minus a foot or so in this project). While perhaps a little much for current purposes, the 10 gauge wire will allow for future accessories, such as an accessory outlet for charging phones, mp-3 players, etc… The source for this chart can be found by clicking on the image. Many thanks to RBE Electronics for making it available to us all.

Running the wire from battery to cab is pretty straight forward. For access to the cab from the bus underbelly, remove the splash pan.

Running the wire from cab to battery is pretty straight forward. For access to the cab from the bus underbelly, remove the splash pan.

Brass rod use to fish the wire from cab to underbelly using the same route as the VDO gauge wires.  I found it easiest to run the wire from front to back because I could get the most precise length cut and not waste wire.  Leave the wire spool in the cab and let it unroll as you pull the wire under the bus.

Brass rod use to fish the wire from cab to underbelly using the same route as the VDO gauge wires. I found it easiest to run the wire from front to back because I could get the most precise length cut and not waste wire. Leave the wire spool in the cab and let it unroll as you pull the wire under the bus.

Remove the left kick panel for easier access to install the fuse block and running the wire up from under the bus to the fuse panel.

For access for running to power wire, remove the left kick panel.

Wire taped to brass rod before fishing.

Wire taped to brass rod before fishing.

Wire taped to brass rod before fishing.
Wire taped to brass rod after fishing.

Wire taped to brass rod after fishing.

I wanted to run the power wire along the route of the original wire harness.  Here you can see the wire coming from the cab to the wire harness (right) where it is held in place with zip-ties.  One tip when running the wire: leave lots of slack and do not use the metal tabs or close the zip-ties tightly while you thread the wire.  After you reach the engine compartment and attach the wire to the battery, go back and pull the wire tight from back to front while closing the metal tabs and zip-ties.  This makes running the wire much easier and allows you to pull the slack back up front for a more precise final cut.

I wanted to run the power wire along the route of the original wire harness. Here you can see the wire coming from the cab (left) to the wire harness (right) where it is held in place with zip-ties. One tip when running the wire: leave lots of slack and do not use the metal wire harness tabs or close the zip-ties tightly while you thread the wire. After you reach the engine compartment and attach the wire to the battery, go back and pull the wire tight from back to front while closing the metal tabs and zip-ties. This makes running the wire much easier and allows you to pull the slack back up front for a more precise final cut.

From the pedal area, the power wire follows the wire harness to the back of the bus.  In addition to zip-ties, I also used the metal tab clips designed to hold the wire harness in place.

From the pedal area, the power wire follows the wire harness to the back of the bus. In addition to zip-ties, I also used the metal tab clips designed to hold the wire harness in place.

If I had a longer rod I would have fished the power line through the metal harness tube (below red wire in picture).  Instead I used two factory drilled holed just above the tube at either end.

If I had a longer rod I would have fished the power line through the metal wire harness tube (below red wire in picture). Instead I used two factory drilled holes just above the tube at either end.

Follow the wire harness right into the engine compartment.  Beware of tangles as you thread the wire through the bus.  If you tangle the wire, you will need to pull the wire back out and start again.  Also be sure to thread the wire carefully around the various mechanical parts.  I ended up wrapping the wire around the CV joint as I fished it into the engine compartment and had to pull it out and try again.

Follow the wire harness right into the engine compartment. Beware of tangles as you thread the wire through the bus. If you tangle the wire, you will need to pull the wire back out and start again. Also be sure to thread the wire carefully around the various mechanical parts. I ended up wrapping the wire around the CV joint as I fished it into the engine compartment and had to pull it out and try again.

Using an inline fuse is beneficial for a couple of reasons.  First, it protects the power line and fuse block.  Just be sure to select an amp rating equal to or less than what your wire and fuse block can handle.  Second, it allows easy power disconnect when working on the fuse block or taking the radio offline when the bus goes into winter storage.  I used a 30-amp fuse to match the fuse block as the wire should be able to handle 35-40 amps.  Fuse style is not important but I think the glass fuse holder makes it easy to take the fuse in and out when replacing or disconnecting power.

Using an inline fuse is beneficial for a couple of reasons. First, it protects the power line and fuse block. Just be sure to select an amp rating equal to or less than what your wire and fuse block can handle. Second, it allows easy power disconnect when working on the fuse block or taking the radio offline when the bus goes into winter storage. I used a 30-amp fuse to match the fuse block as the wire should be able to handle 35-40 amps. Fuse style is not important but I hope the glass fuse holder will make it easy to take the fuse in and out for replacement or disconnecting power.

Of course the connectors I had were too small to fit the battery clamp screw and needed to be enlarged to 21/64 inches.

Of course the connectors I had were too small to fit the battery clamp screw and needed to be enlarged to 21/64 inches.

Inline fuse attached to end of power line.

Inline fuse attached to end of power line.

Inline fuse and power wire attached to positive battery terminal.  It is best to place the inline fuse as close to the power source (battery) as possible. In this location the fuse will blow before the fuse block or wire overheat.  If the inline fuse is installed close to the fuse block, the risk of damaged wire or even fire goes increases.

Inline fuse and power wire attached to positive battery terminal (leave fuse out until installation is complete). It is best to place the inline fuse as close to the power source (battery) as possible. In this location the fuse will blow before the fuse block or wire overheat. If the inline fuse is installed close to the fuse block, the risk of damaged wire or even fire increases.

After pulling the slack up into the cab, measure, cut, and install connector on the power wire.

After pulling the slack up into the cab measure, cut, and install a connector on the power wire.

Power wire installed, fuse panel ready to go!

Power wire installed, fuse panel ready to go!

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