Last weekend I spent many hours in the garage soundproofing and sealing the 3-Wheeler’s cockpit (see Hangar works #18).
To do this, I had to dismantle some parts of the car, such as the seats, the backrest and the seat bulkhead panel. To remove the backrest, I had first to remove the boot tray, exposing the whole rear wheel area.
Taking advantage of the fact that I had access to that area, I cleaned as much as I could and checked that everything was in its place, and the screws, nuts and all the parts susceptible to loosening were well tightened.
And then I had a bad surprise: my fuel filter was hanging from its bracket, but totally loose. The support seemed to be broken.
Being very concerned about having a piece of the pressurized fuel system loose, I immediately checked if this was normal, chatting with my colleagues and discussing in the Talk Morgan forum later.
I received pictures and found some drawings, showing different supports and brackets. The supports holding the fuel filter have evolved with the years, so not all are the same. My car being one of the latest manufactured (December 2019), it has a new support consisting of two pieces welded together. The first piece is an Ω-shaped bracket that is screwed to the chassis structure, behind the backrest. Welded to it is the second piece, consisting of a simple O-shaped metal plate, so like a ring, with an open side with a screw, that embraces the fuel filter. The fuel filter is secured to it by tightening the screw.
Investigating further, and analyzing the pictures received, I suspected that my support was mounted already broken, because some drawings and pictures showed the two pieces welded back-to-back, and not by the internal faces of both pieces. Like shown in this drawing.
Just removing the boot tray, there is plenty of room to access the screws and bolts. All screws are M6, so using a 10 mm wrench you’re good for all screws, bolts and nuts holding the Ω-shaped bracket and the filter itself. Once all are loose and removed, I can slide the support out from the filter.
The first thing I notice is that I was right about the two pieces being welded together, but also wrong about how they were welded. They were not welded back to back, but by their internal faces.
My initial anger has turned into simple frustration when seeing that the piece has been split by its weld. At least I can say that the design is good at welding both parts by their internal faces, since when what happened to me happens – that the welding fails – the part that holds the filter remains hanging from Ω-shaped bracket, instead of falling on the drive belt next to the left shock absorber, which would have been disastrous.
Here below you have some detailed pictures my broken support. It’s a pity to see such a piece broken with just 4500 km.
If you look closely, you will see that the two pieces were welded together by just a couple of small solder spots. The vibrations of the car have broken these two small weld points, even though the bracket only holds the fuel filter, which is light, and without tension of any kind.
The good news are that this is easy to fix. A couple of drills and good quality marine degree stainless steel bolts, lock nuts and washers, and the support is back with, in my honest opinion, a more solid and much more reliable union of its two pieces. I chose to do this task using two M6 bolts and lock nuts, to be aligned with the size of the original ones used in the support. One set of bolt and nut may suffice but putting two will keep the assembly more solid so I can really forget about it.
First thing to do: drilling the two holes in the O-shaped ring that embraces the fuel filter. Once fixed to the vice, I start drilling with a small diameter drill, and increase to end up with the correct size, as usual. I better change the size of the drill as many times as necessary rather than trying to drill directly with the “big” bit and do a mess. And with this support, this is really the best way, because the support, that seems to be made of dichromate steel, is soft as cheese. Using the high-quality bits, I don’t have to do any pressure for drilling. Just with the weight of the drill, and the machine at the lowest rpm, the bit cuts through the support like a hot knife through butter.
In this case the sequence goes as follows: 2,5 mm bit, then 4 mm, and finally the 6 mm one. This is an easy and fast task.
Once the holes are done on the O-shaped metal ring, it’s time to use this piece to mark the holes to be done on the Ω-shaped bracket and repeat the drilling process.
With all drills finished, and the edges of the holes smoothed with a metal file, I check that the chosen bolts and nuts fit correctly. The M6 bolts, lock nuts and washers are made of 316 stainless steel. The bolts have a hexagonal head and are 16 mm long. I use a tooth washer for the side of the bolt’s head and standard washer with a nylon lock nut on the other side.
I tight them with a 10 mm combination wrench (box-ended side) and a 10 mm socket wrench.
All fit in and get very tight thanks to the lock nut on one side and the tooth washer on the other side. But the 16 mm long bolts are a little too long: they protrude from the side of the Ω-shaped bracket. The ideal would have been to find 13 or 12 mm bolts, but 16 mm was the shortest I found in the hardware store.
To solve this little problem of excessive length, I use my good friend the Dremel tool to cut out the excess length of the bolts.
Being careful not to damage the support, it takes me around ten minutes to cut properly the two bolts and smooth the cut surface.
Now the bolts don’t protrude over the Ω-shaped bracket, so they won’t interfere with the chassis plate where this bracket is screwed to.
The result is neat. And, in my honest opinion, a lot more solid than the support as it comes from factory.
Down in the garage, it takes me less than 10 minutes to fit the support and fuel filter back in place. I did not need to disconnect the fuel filter. It’s really easy and with a simple 10 mm open-ended wrench you have room to tight all the nuts.
You just have to be careful to put the fuel filter in the correct position, as it has a short pipe section ending with a yellow cap that, if the filter is not twisted to the best position, can touch the spring of the left shock absorber. In the picture below you can sense (because the photo perspective doesn’t allow you to see exactly how close it is) how close this pipe ends by the spring. It’s just 3 cm away! If the filter is twisted counterclockwise, this yellow cap will be in direct contact with the spring.
After closing the boot tray and put away all the tools, I go for a short drive to make sure everything works fine. The 3-Wheeler roars as it should.
There is no reason to think that all the new fuel filter supports fitted in the latest 3-Wheelers will fail as mine. And as commented before, if they fail, the design is good, so the fuel filter doesn’t fall over the drive belt. However, if you are a more preventive than reactive owner, I recommend that you take the time of reinforcing the support with at least a drill with a screw and nut, in case the welding fails like mine.
Yes, we know it: the Morgan 3-Wheeler is a noisy car. Nothing strange, as it’s a fully open cockpit powered with a huge V-Twin 2 litres engine with loud exhausts. In fact, this is precisely one of its charms. If you buy such as machine you can’t complain about the noise it makes!
However, it has some parasitic noises that are not so attractive. Once you know your 3-Wheeler, your eustachian tubes start to detect them. Here and there, a rattle, a clonking, a rubbing, a squeaking… We have a permanent battle against metallic rattles and vibrations. The difficulty to cancel these is to find the source. But once you find it, these kinds of noises are easy to solve. With a little effort and persistence, the 3-Wheeler stops sounding like a maraca.
Then there is the most famous noise: the bevel box situated just behind the seats.
For those who are not familiar with the 3-Wheeler powertrain, the bevel box is a simple gearbox that transforms the movement of the transmission shaft into the rotation of a pulley at 90º on which the transmission belt that goes to the rear wheel grips. Here below you have a nice scheme of the 3-Wheeler’s transmission (built 2014 and on), with the bevel box in the red circle.
Some describe the bevel box’s sound as a whining, others as a howl, or like a whistling… Others say they don’t hear it at all… It depends on every car, and I guess it depends on the pilot’s eardrums too. Some bevel boxes happen to be much noisier than others, without a clear technical explanation, but don’t get me wrong: the bevel box’s noise, if you can hear it driving your 3-Wheeler, is not as loud as a WWII air raid siren. It is a permanent white noise, inherent to its mechanical characteristics and design, and many are not bothered at all with it.
Some owners try to reduce it using different methods, such as an oil type / brand change or filling it to a different oil level, with more or less success. But it’s a noise that can’t be fully cancelled. Fortunately, in our 3-Wheeler it’s quite discrete; or at least we don’t notice it that much.
The most common way to reduce this bevel box noise, and many others, is to do a proper soundproofing of the cockpit using sound and vibration absorbing materials. The most popular is the Dynamat Extreme. It’s defined as “a light-weight, elastomeric, butyl and aluminum constrained-layer vibrational damper“. You can find it very easy on the Internet and acquire enough sheets to line the 3-Wheeler’s cockpit for less than 200 €. In our case, I bought three packs of what the brand calls “door kits”. Each one has four sheets of 910 x 300 mm. It showed to be more than enough!
There is another task to do once you remove all seats and panels. And it’s as important as the soundproofing; or even more in my personal opinion: to seal the cockpit.
What do we mean by sealing? The Morgan 3-Wheeler cockpit suffers from permanent ingress of dirt, and water when it rains, because there are gaps between the panels. So, the dirt and dust (and water) lifted by the rear wheel and the aerodynamics of the car sneak into the cockpit through these gaps. It’s not a major issue, because the dust getting into the cockpit is little. But little by little, it becomes a lot… To seal the larger gaps, I will use a 10 mm thick and 50 mm wide very dense neoprene self-adhesive tape. This material is more resistant than any other kind of foams, and it lasts and repels water much better. For the thinner ones, I’ll use a classic self-adhesive aluminum tape. The combination of both tapes will dramatically reduce the ingress of dirt and water into the cockpit, according to the comments in the Talk Morgan forum. We hope so!
Let’s go to work! I come down to the garage and download the 3-Wheeler from the trailer where we keep it safe. I move our SUV to make room for the Morgan between it and the trailer.
For this occasion, I have a new toy: a superb 50W LED working lamp on a telescoping tripod. If you plan to do any job in a garage as I do, I recommend you get one of those!
The first easy task is to remove the seats and mats. A small portable vacuum cleaner and some wet rags to clean the floor, and we’re ready to continue with the dismantling of the backrest and the propshaft cover.
The backrest of the 3-Wheeler is made in two pieces. To take them out, you need to remove the four M6 screws that fix the upper part from behind the upper closing panel where it lies on. And to access them you must first remove the boot tray. Easy task. All screws are accessible. First surprise: our four M6 bolts of the upper backrest are very loose. So loose that their big metallic washers move quite free. This was a source of a metallic clinking for sure! One more detected and solved (while all back in place).
The second step is to unscrew and remove the seat belt buckles from the side panels. Otherwise, it won’t be possible to take out the lower part of the backrest.
Then, the way I take out the backrest is as follows: gently, I pull forward the down part of the lower backrest while I punch downwards its upper part. The lower backrest then, little by little with every punch, tilts and slides down and forward-out. As you see in this next picture, this maneuver is to liberate the two aluminum plates screwed to the lower backrest, that are inserted behind the upper backrest.
After removing the lower backrest, again with gentle punches I push downwards the upper backrest, so it slides out as it is wedged between the rear upper closing panel and the body profile. Now the seat bulkhead panel (lower part) and the upper closing panel (upper part) separating the cockpit from the rear wheel area are totally visible.
In my car, built in December 2019, I can see that the Morgan Motor Company has already put a sound insulation kit over the seat bulkhead panel, to reduce the famous noise coming from the bevel box that is just behind it. It’s a hard layer of dark grey material. I ignore what is it, but it’s nice to see they’re improving and trying to solve known inconveniences.
At this stage, I could stop removing parts and panels, and simply put the Dynamat sheets over the floor and the visible panels. But I want to do a reinforced soundproofing and sealing with the neoprene tape as many gaps as possible. So, I keep removing parts, such as the propshaft cover, the seat bulkhead panel, and the lower side panels. Of course, cleaning as much as possible during this process is mandatory. Now the interior is ready for a deep soundproofing and sealing!
The first piece I work on is the detached seat bulkhead panel. I put Dynamat on both sides. Even over the factory sound insulation kit, because this is the panel that gets over the bevel box.
The Dynamat Extreme sheets stick to any clean surface really well. In fact, the product is so sticky that you have to be wise and very precise while putting it! You need to measure the surface and cut to shape the sheets with high precision. Using paper or carton templates is the best way to assure you don’t do a mess over the difficult surfaces. Because if you make it wrong, removing a sheet is not easy and will leave a mess of black sticky paste on the surface.
To work with these Dynamat sheets, you’ll need large scissors and gloves. Be careful with the edges! The aluminum is very thin and sharp. You can easily cut yourself if you don’t wear gloves.
The result on the seat bulkhead panel is very satisfactory. The Dynamat sheets are flexible enough to adapt to curves and edges. However, I prefer to cut some specific pieces out of them, for very precise spots of this seat bulkhead panel, as its shape is complex just where the bevel box is covered.
Now it’s time for the propshaft cover. I put two layers inside this cover, as there is enough room for it, and because this tunnel is open on both ends to the front (gearbox) and rear (bevel box) areas below the car. So, air currents carrying dirt and water can ingress this area. The Dynamat layers will reduce the noise and protect the piece against this dirt and possible water ingress.
Now I come back to the car. It’s time to cover the grooves through which dirt and water seep into the cockpit. Neoprene thick tape in hand, I start filling the big ones. In some cases, I need to put a double layer of this neoprene tape! In the following picture you can see that just behind the seat bulkhead panel, you can see the tarmac below.
From there, the dirt can ingress between the side panel and the aluminum body through a massive gap. Here below you can see I blocked this gap with the neoprene tape, sticking two layers one over the other and applying pressure to insert them there.
To fill the grooves between the edge upper closing panel and the body, I continue using the thick neoprene tape. I manage to block almost every gap around its edge. This tape is really useful and seems to be really tough. I hope it lasts for long.
After looking for every little gap, I come back to the Dynamat. Time to do the floor. It’s probably the easiest area as it’s flat and the shapes are almost rectangular. Few cuts with the scissors and the floor is done quite fast.
Only the area of the front mat on the pilot’s side takes longer, because I have put some industrial 3M Velcro strips to avoid the mat moving around in front of the pedal set. So, I have to cut small pieces of Dynamat to be fitted in between the Velcro stripes.
The last areas to be covered with Dynamat sheets are the upper closing panel and the sides. Cutting first some carton templates, the upper closing panel is relatively easy, and I use the aluminum tape to make sure the very thin grooves around it are sealed. I avoid overlapping the seat bulkhead panel, so it can be removed for maintenance without damaging any Dynamat area.
The inside of the body sides are probably the most difficult parts because they have an angle rear side, the two plates and bolts supporting the exhausts, and a chassis vertical bar at the front. I manage to make those with a single long Dynamat sheet. I first cut the sheet to the exact shape, then cut holes for the nuts, and finally stick it sliding very carefully the sheet between the front vertical chassis’ bar and the aluminum body panel. A delicate move with such sticky material!
With all soundproofing and sealing works done, I re-install all panels, backrest parts and seats. It is relatively easier than dismantling them. The whole process, working alone, took me about seven hours.
Looking at the cockpit with all back in place, you can’t notice any of these works.
Then we take the Morgan for a test drive. And we can’t be more satisfied! It really works! The car is truly more silent. This improvement is one of the best we’ve done!
If you’ve read the blog, so our previous posts, you should know already that the seating position in the 3-Wheeler is quite different from the one in a standard vehicle. And for many reasons. Not only because the seats and the steering wheel aren’t adjustable, but because you are seated really low, on the floor of the vehicle. In a standard car, the pedals are in a clearly lower plane. The 3-Wheeler looks much more like a super sports car, with the base of the pedals in the same plane than the seat and therefore than the driver’s hips.
You have just a quite simple cushion, consisting of a wooden plank base, a foam padding, and the whole elegantly upholstered with leather. No springs, no memory foam, no technology but, in our case, an electric heating pad below the leather, as we ticked the box saying “heated seats” in the options list. This is fitted between an L-shaped profile of the floor at the front, and the plate that serves as the base for the backrest at the rear.
This seat is just 8 cm high in the back and 12 cm in the front. As it lays flat on the floor of the car, its slope by this difference in height gives you the slight sensation of being fitted in a sportier way. But the reality for a tall driver is that the seat is still too flat. When I sit down, and despite having the pedals positioned as far away as possible from the seat, I have all my weight resting on my hips, on the back of the seat next to the backrest, and my knees are always bent. Therefore, my thighs do not rest on the seat, since the front, despite being 12 cm high, is still too low for me.
In my case, this causes a slight overuse pain in my right knee. This leg is the one that moves the least while driving since the right foot must be permanently on the accelerator or brake. Probably because when I change the pedal I do it with my ankle fixed on the ground, or just moving it a few centimetres, and therefore the rotation of the foot also affects the knee. The discomfort only appears after driving for a couple of hours, but it is just as uncomfortable, without being unbearable. If my thighs were laying on the seat, the knee would suffer much less with so much less weight when rotating the ankle.
I’m clearly not the only one feeling that the seat is too low at its front. Many of our friends in the Talk Morgan forum have solved this in the simplest and most efficient way: adding a wood slat below the front of the seat. The size of this wood slat, so how much it rises the front of the seat, will depend on your height and your personal preferences regarding the driving position. But having your thighs supported by the seat is clearly a much better and comfortable position.
The discussions in the forum clearly stated that this wood slat below the front of the seat improves the driving position. So, I bought one of 44 x 56 mm.
But until now, I did not have the time to work on this support, meaning that we went for our first Long Range Campaign in France without it.
During this trip with the Back Adder Team, we enjoyed a fantastic first day driving the 3-Wheelers through amazing French roads. And my pain in the knee obviously reappeared. Then, the second day, during a short stop at the Gorges de Saint-May, I saw that Chas was using the famous wood slats under his seats. I told him I was thinking to build a couple of them for our Morgan and asked him if they really make a difference. As his were not screwed nor fixed in any way to the bottom his 3-Wheeler, he simply took the one under his co-pilot seat and he lent it to me to test if I noticed a difference. I can’t be more grateful to Chas for it! Only when I sat down did I realize the enormous difference. And as soon as we started up again and were driving several kilometres, the pain in my knee disappeared as if by magic, and I felt much more comfortable behind the wheel. As Chas was driving solo, he lent me the wooden slat for the whole trip. Thank you again my dear friend! This helped me so much!
Knowing now that this solution works so well, I started the brainstorming thinking about the best way to build our wooden slats.
The first thoughts were about how to solve its few inconveniences. I found three.
The first thing I noticed when I put the wooden slat under the front of my seat is that, as the seat was not fitted anymore over the thin edge of the L-shaped steel profile at the front, it slipped forward when I moved my hips. It also slipped forward during the driving even when I wasn’t moving, probably caused by the vibrations, the braking, and the road bumps. With the seat resting over the edge of the L-shaped steel profile, it still happens, but not so notoriously. So, I need to find a way to avoid the seat moving forward.
The second thing is that the wooden slat could also move. The one I was using was not perfectly shaped to my 3-Wheeler and had no way to be fixed to the floor. Being loose, it moved sometimes with the seat. Not as much as this one, but still moved. I will see how to fix mine to avoid any movement.
The third thing is about the shape of the wooden slat: if its profile is square or rectangular, the seat rests over a thin edge of the slat.
I will have to work on mine, to make it follow the same angle than the seat with the floor, so this last one rests over a flat large surface on the slat and not a thin edge of it.
With these premises in mind, I get down to work and, after making a very simple paper template, I cut the wooden slat to get two pieces and shape them so they fit perfectly in front of each seat.
I wish I had a table saw to make the slope on the top of the wood slat. But I still don’t have that fancy tool and instead I use my jig saw and the orbital sander. The result is not bad at all, despite the basic tools I used.
Being of 44 x 56 mm section, I decide to cut them so they’re taller. This means that the front of our seats will be raised by 56 mm.
When I made the paper template, I marked the exact location of the three bolts that help to fix the floor with the L-shaped steel profile in front of the seats. With the position of these screws marked, I drill holes deep enough to allow the screws’ heads to get into the wood, so my wood slat lies totally flat over the steel profile.
I finally give the wood few varnish layers to protect it against moisture and any possible water ingress.
I was thinking about other ways these wood slats may help to improve the 3-Wheeler beyond their main purpose of lifting the front of the seats.
By simply been there and lifting the front of the seat, I see their first inherent advantage: the cable and connector for the heating seats will not be crushed anymore between the seat and the floor. Good news!
Also, under the co-pilot seat we carry the vehicle’s papers inside the black leather Morgan pocket, together with a classic yellow high visibility safety vest. With the seat lifted at its front, the room below will be high enough, so these won’t be squashed anymore under the co-pilot’s weight. Same for the yellow high visibility safety vest below the pilot’s seat. More good news.
Then I though it would be nice to put some snap buttons to this leather pocket, and then have it fixed at the bottom of the seat, so it doesn’t move around while driving, and when you lift the seat you can get the papers more comfortably. When needed, as it’s fixed by very simple snap buttons, you can easily take it with you. Plus, it’s way more elegant than just letting this pocket lie on the floor of the car.
Still thinking about the possible advantages, I remembered about the wind jackets. During our trip in France, both Ana Maria and I carried a nice wind jacket. Useful in the cold early mornings, or when the temperature drops, or when it rains.
When we were not wearing them, we rolled them and kept them under our knees, just in front of the seat. There, the jackets didn’t bother us too much while driving, but with time they started unrolling. And as being on the floor, they permanently caught dirt and dust. To solve these inconveniences, back in Madrid we ordered a couple of nylon bags 30x10x10 cm in size, perfect to keep the jackets protected from the dirt inside!
These bags are really practical, but they could still move around below our knees. But now I have a nice wood slat just there! Turning to the snap buttons again, I put three on each bag, and on the wood slat. Now the bags with our wind jackets inside will stay clean and nicely fixed in front of the seats. And again, as they’re fixed with snap buttons, we can take the bags with us anytime!
Now it’s time to deal with the problem of the seat sliding forward over the wood slat. To avoid this to happen, the solution is obvious: to put some kind of stop under the seat, so that it touches the wooden slat and does not allow it to slide forward. But considering that there will be people on the seats, so quite an amount of weight, this stop needs to be quite serious. I search inside my boxes looking for a metallic profile that would do the job, I find two fantastic steel plates with a 90º tongue. They will do a fantastic job! But before using them, I use the table swivel vise to bend them, so the angle is closer than 90º, so the tongue makes a flat contact with the wood slat. Remember the seat is not flat but has a certain slope with the wood slat at the front! Therefore, the tongue of these metallic profiles needs to be bended to reduce these 90º to the proper angle for a flat contact.
While screwing them to the base of the seats, one of the seats showed a little obstacle: the leather upholstery gets too much below the seat, so the metallic plate won’t sit flat on the base. Easy to solve. I remove some staples to access the leather layer and cut a piece of it with a cutter. Then put all back with new staples and screw the metal piece, now totally flat on the base.
I come down to the garage to double check measures and that everything goes as it should. I see that the wood slats will lay over the L-shaped profile properly, but just for half of their size. The profile is 20 mm “deep” while the wood slats are 44 mm. So, 24 mm will hang out. The L-shaped profile lies over the floor of the 3-Wheeler and has some black sealant mastic between them. In total it’s 3 mm step.
As the wood slat will be screwed to the front vertical side of the L-shaped steel profile, this may not be a real issue, but I prefer to add a 2 mm thick aluminium plate down there. Considering I will very soon line the inside with Dynamat Extreme sheets, and being these 1,7 mm thick, but these being not totally rigid, the 2 mm aluminium plate plus the 1,7 mm of the Dynamat sheet should be good enough to fill this gap.
With this last detail finished, I can go down to the garage and screw the wood slats to the L-shaped steel profiles in front of the seats. And the job would be finished. However, there still another detail that bothers me… The stop I screwed below the seats to avoid the sliding forward, are made of solid metal. And every time we’ll lift and put down the seats, and also every time the seats are going to push on the slat trying to slide forward, the metal will be hitting and rubbing over soft wood. Not a good combination for a long-term solution! The metal will scratch and finally tear apart wood from the slat.
After thinking about the best possible solution, I decide to avoid the easy way, and do a nice artisan job. I cut a piece of aluminium plate and bend it properly, so it has the right angle to sit on the wood slat.
Then with the Dremel and a lot of patience and delicacy, I carve the wood slat the shape of the aluminium plate.
After a long time with millimetric cuts with the Dremel, the aluminium pieces finally fit into the wood. I love the result! It’s very elegant and will do a fantastic job protecting the soft wood from the metal seat stops!
Now I’m finished for good. Let’s see how they fit in the 3-Wheeler! First thing to do when I’m in the garage is to drill three times – one per screw – the vertical parts of the L-shaped steel profile on the floor. I will use 4 mm diameter and 40 mm long wood screws to fix the wood slats to this profile.
With the drills done, and the wood slats in place, I use a marker to see where the screws will get in. And then I pre-drill the wood with a 3 mm bit. I do this to avoid the soft wood to crack while inserting the screws, because the screws will enter very close to the bottom side, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this pine wood cracking. After so much work and dedication to make them look beautiful, I don’t want to risk seeing them cracking because of the last screws!
Finally, I fix the wood slats. They look really nice!
The co-pilot seat with the Morgan leather pocket fixed with the snap buttons looks gorgeous!
When I put down the seats, as I supposed the metal plate screwed at the bottom of the seat lies on the aluminium bended plate inserted in the wood slat. I need to push backwards the seats, with few light punches to see them sliding to the correct position, and perfectly fitted between the frontal wood slat and back below the backrest. Excellent fitting!
Then we try to fix the nylon bag with a wind jacket inside, in the snap buttons screwed in the front face of the wood slat. Success again! They fit and get fixed perfectly. Now we can travel with the jackets protected inside the bags, fixed to the front of the seats, away from dust and dirt, and so practical you can take the bag with you!
Work done! We take the 3-Wheeler for a short drive to feel the new seats position. Both Ana Maria and I are extremely satisfied. It’s a huge comfort difference! And aesthetically we’re very satisfied with the result! I hope you like it too!
As mentioned in the previous post, you always find aspects of your vehicle, in this case our trailer, that can be improved. Mainly by adding nice accessories.
When driving a trailer the size of ours, as wide and tall as the towing vehicle, the main concern for us is the visibility. The wing mirrors still give you perfect vision, as the trailer is 2 m wide, so not wider than our SUV. But the rear-view mirror is totally blind, so we can’t see anything happening behind the trailer. It’s not only an obvious problem when you’re reversing: being blind to whatever is behind you is uncomfortable while you’re driving too. At least for us.
I started investigating about rear-view cameras suitable for a trailer or caravan. You have many options on the market. But not so many when it comes to rear-view cameras for a trailer. The main obstacle is the image transmission. It has to be wireless, as there is no reasonable way to pass a wire from the trailer to the inside of the SUV. And there the choice is dramatically reduced.
After reading many reviews, I chose the brand Auto-Vox. The reviews in Amazon and in other webs like eBay and YouTube are very positive. Their systems are P2P digital direct communication, claiming it has a much clearer image and no interference problems with Bluetooth or any other WiFi signals.
I was originally thinking about the TD2 monitor and wireless camera set. The CS2 seems to be very similar too. But both have the WiFi transmitter quite close to the camera, connected to the camera with just 1,4 m cable. This means that the transmitter will stay quite far from the SUV dashboard where the receiving monitor will be placed. Can the cable between the camera and the transmitter be extended?
I decided to write to Auto-Vox and ask if there is any possibility to have a longer cable between the camera and the transmitter. And I was nicely surprised as they replied very fast and clear.
First, they recommended to buy the W7 model, as it has a better WiFi reception thanks to the antenna on the monitor. And the monitor is a little bigger with 5”, instead of the 4,3” on the other two mentioned models. The W7 has a price of 120 €, which seemed very reasonable to me, for its quality and features.
And second, they told me that I can extend as much as I want the length between the camera and the transmitter using standard rear-view camera’s cable extensions. Having many choices in Amazon. They just warned me to choose a 4-wires cable, as some cameras use 5-wires cables.
So, I bought a couple of extension cables of 2,5 m each.
One for the trailer, that combined with the 1,4 m length of the camera cable, will take the transmitter to the front of the trailer, much closer to the towing car, enhancing the WiFi signal.
The second one for the interior of the F-Pace, to have a discrete route for the wire inside the car too, from the monitor to the 12V socket, avoiding annoying cables hanging in front of the dashboard.
I have a clear idea of how to install and wire the rear-view camera system. But I still have a major modification to do in our trailer! And this is to get a 12V power supply for the rear-view camera. And this happens to be a relatively complicated task. Continue reading to know why!
The trailer has a standard lighting system pre-wired by the kit’s manufacturer, ready to be connected to the Jaguar’s modern 13-pins connector. But physically, the trailer’s plug has only eight pins: from 1 to 8; so missing the 9 to 13.
What are those five missing pins for? And why are they missing? The pins 9 and 13 are supposed to give permanent 12V from the car’s battery, with 30A capacity. And the 10 and 11 give the 12V too, but only when you ignite the car, with 15A capacity. Pin 12 is a spare, so with no specific use. Using these pins, you may power your fridge, TV, and many other appliances of your caravan. And here is the reason why the connector of our trailer has not these pins: because it’s not a caravan but a much simpler trailer with no appliances. However, it’s a shame that the connector has not the thirteen pins and allow you to connect them all. This cost-reduction philosophy of the lightning system’s manufacturer was not the best for us this time!
The 8-pins of the trailer’s lightning system are divided in two 4-wires cables, one for each side of the trailer.
The situation implies that we must change the trailer connector and put a new one, with all thirteen pins, and rewire the trailer lightning system into it. To do so, we buy a good quality 13-pins connector for 10 €. So, it’s not an expensive item.
And then a 13-wires cable (23 €) and a high resistance PVC junction box (14 €), IP66 with one inlet and three outlets, all with their corresponding cable gland, to rewire the trailer lightning system and add a third cable to bring the 12V to the trailer’s rear-view camera system.
After we receive all items, the works commence!
I start working on the 13-pins connector. Apparently, it’s a simple task. But the thirteen wires of the cable are relatively thin. In fact, all the cables of the trailer’s lightning system are very thin too. I can’t imagine using the thin cables corresponding to the 9-13 and the 10-11 to connect 30A and 15A appliances respectively. No way these thin cables can stand such a high amperage! However, I pretend to connect a rear-view camera, consuming ridiculous current, so this won’t be an issue this time.
Because the cables are very thin, I decide to use wire copper crimp connectors to make the task a little bit easier. The tools needed are very simple: cutter, pliers, small screwdriver…
The result is really good thanks to these crimp connectors.
Despite most of the cables have the appropriate color code as per standard international specifications, some do not. To avoid errors, I decide to put cable markers with the corresponding pin number on each one. And then I work on the junction box and do the same job, but connecting the cables to a standard terminal block.
As final modification, I had to slightly increase the diameter of the inlet cable gland hole in the junction box, to fit a larger cable gland, because the 13 wires cable is too large for the smaller cable gland that came with the box. An easy task with the Dremel.
Now the 13-pins cable set, made of the 13-pins connector, the 13-wires cable and the junction box are ready to be installed on the trailer’s tongue!
Time to go downstairs to the garage, and work on the trailer to install everything! I know it’s going to be long and complicated at some points. So, I ask my father to help me again. Two engineers, better than just one, will always work better and faster and solve any challenge wisely! This is why I talk as “we” again, because most of the following work was achieved with the excellent help of my father.
To fix the junction box, we use as a base a stainless-steel perforated plate, bended in U-shape and riveted to the right arm of the trailer’s tongue.
We do all the necessary connections to the junction box, so the lightning system works again at its best.
And we take a third 2-wires cable, connected to the 10 and 11 pins, so to the 12V given with the ignition of the towing car. We decided to use this power supply for the camera, active while the car is running, so we have a permanent image of the back of the trailer while driving. Most of the people would connect the rear-view camera power supply to the reverse light circuit, so they get the image only while reversing. But we prefer to have the camera permanently active to see at all time what’s happening behind us, as a rear-view mirror. We believe is a more convenient configuration.
This is how we have run the cable from the junction box to the rear-view camera. The run of the cables is marked in red color for you to have a better understanding.
We get out of the junction box with the 2-wires cable and run it parallel with the right-hand side lightning cable, getting into the right arm of the trailer’s tongue.
Both cables run inside the right hand-side arm of the tongue until the tilting axle of the platform just in front of the front wheels’ axle. Then run to the side of the platform and come back towards the front until the front right corner of the platform. There the camera power cable runs alone up inside the square steel tube to the upper part of the structure.
Here you can see a couple of details under the platform. The cables are fixed with tape and nylon straps to the inside edge of the platform, to make sure they don’t fall while driving and get damaged. To do this installation, crawling under the trailer and drilling down there was necessary. Not a very pleasant job, but worthy as the result is the wisest and cleanest installation.
After climbing up inside the square steel tube, then running horizontally inside this same tube, the 2-wires cables exits the tube to reach the connection box to the camera power device.
We put a grommet where the cable gets out of the square steel tube, to avoid its sheath to get damaged by the sharp edges of the hole we drilled.
Once we got there, we install a simple waterproof small junction box, to put inside the camera power box. This little box is very simple, and as it’s placed in the shade inside the trailer, under the waterproof canvas, it shouldn’t make any problem.
From this box we take out the very thin power cables that connect to the transmitter. As you can see in the next picture, the transmitter is placed under the square steel bar at the very front of the trailer, and also protected in the shade and from the rain under the canvas. This is the closest we can get to the towing vehicle, having the transmitter protected from the rain and UV rays that would damage it.
From there the task gets simpler. Just six more drills on the metal structure to pass through the square steel bars and get to the camera at the rear of the trailer, using one of the extensions cables we purchased. All cables are protected inside rectangular plastic conduits, secured to the steel structure using double sided tape and reinforced with some rivets.
Here are a couple of pictures of the rear-view camera before putting the canvas back on the trailer. As you can see, it’s a typical small rear-view camera, stuck to the square bar with a 3M double sided tape and secured with a screw to the steel bar.
We put a small plastic cover over it to protect it from direct rain, the sun, and the water flowing backwards from the top of the canvas while driving.
It’s quite a good camera. It’s IP68, has 5 lenses, works with only 0,1 lux and the whole system is good to work from -20ºC to 65ºC (-4ºF to 149ºF). And it has a decent 110º vision angle.
As you can see, we put the camera on the top of the trailer, below the last square bar of the canvas structure. This is quite a high position, but the choice was to put it there or very low between the plates, just 50 cm above ground. This last option was really too low, and as we’re looking for a view similar to a rear-view mirror, the upper position was clearly the very best choice.
With the canvas on, we had to cut a small square hole for the camera and its little protection hood. The result is very discrete.
We hope that the white strap won’t bother while driving. But if it does, a simple Velcro will fix it out of the camera vision angle.
The works on the trailer are finished! And we have connected the 13-pins connector to the Jaguar, and everything works! The lightning system of the trailer works fine, and the camera is powered as soon as we start the engine. We are very happy and proud of the job we’ve done. It took us one day and a half of crawling under the trailer platform, drilling steel, fighting with the cables to pass them through the inside of the trailer arm and the square steel bars, etc. But all ended properly, with the classic small injuries: some scratches here and there, a little cut with the cutter in a thumb, bump on the head when hit under the trailer…
Now it’s time to do the easiest job, which is hiding the extension cable for the monitor inside the F-Pace. I’m trying my best to hide the cable running from the 12V socket to the monitor, as I hate having annoying cables hanging around in front of the dashboard. I know… I’m a little maniac and a perfectionist. I admit it. But if I’ll drive the car for hundreds of kilometers towing the trailer, so with the rear-view monitor on the dashboard, I really don’t want to have these cables hanging around.
Let’s start from the 12V power socket. I chose to use one of the two available ones between at the rear console, between the rear seats.
When we’ll be towing the trailer, so using the rear-view camera, I will connect there the power connector of the monitor, as shown in the picture here below.
The extension cable is the one that will remain permanently installed and hidden inside the car. In this rear area it runs below the passenger carpet. I tried to find a better place, but as the seats of the car are electric, there is no room at all below them to pass the cable in a more discrete way. Obviously, when the monitor is not in use, its power source will not be there and the extension cable will be totally hidden below the small carpet, out of sight.
When the monitor will be connected, the cables in this back area can be partially hidden under the plastic molds of the central console, and just a little portion of the extension cable can be seen. If we have a passenger in the rear, I hope he won’t damage the cable with his shoes.
From the back, the route to the front of the dashboard happens to be very easy. The extension cable is hidden below the molds of the driver’s door side. The cable there is fully protected by the hard-plastic molds, so no risk of being damaged while getting in and out of the car.
Once on the upper part, left side of the dashboard, the route is easy again. I couldn’t insert the cable between the dashboard and the side pillar without forcing it too much, so I prefer to leave it there, a little bit pinched between the two pieces so it doesn’t move.
And as once at the windshield, the cable drops behind the dashboard, I put a simple black lanyard for an easier recovery when needed.
Unless you have a true detective eye, the only noticeable thing on the dashboard is the small black lanyard.
When everything is in place, and the monitor connected, the whole installation is very discrete. It’s really hard to notice the extension cable in the few zones where it’s visible.
The 5” monitor is placed just over the dashboard, fixed to the windshield via a suction cup. The soft part of the suction cup is really sticky. I don’t know which material is it, but it really gets like glued to the glass and looks like very reliable and like it won’t move at all even in the longest journeys.
The position is low enough, so the monitor does not interfere with the normal vision ahead of the car. In fact, for a driver my size, it only hides a small part of the bonnet, but not the road.
When the trailer is connected, and the engine is running, the 12V power installation we’ve done on the trailer immediately switches on the camera transmitter. The signal is strong enough to connect with the monitor on the dashboard. The connection doesn’t seem to hesitate or be weak in any way but totally the opposite. So, good news. It seems that this Auto Vox W7 is a really good product and works perfectly with our trailer + SUV configuration.
And being honest, the image quality is good, not as good as our standard rear-view camera on the F-Pace, but at least we have a clear image of everything happening behind our trailer now.
We are very happy with our new trailer. We specifically designed this platform to carry our 3-Wheeler and considering that it must be parked inside our garage. If you’re curious about our trailer, our post “Fighters and bombers #2 – The trailer”, in the Fighters and bombers section contains all the details.
But as it always happens, there are aspects that can be improved and useful accessories that can be added.
The first example are the LED lamps we installed inside. The inside of the trailer is very dark, because the canvas is made of a green PVC fabric, totally waterproof. And consequently, doesn’t allow a single ray of light to get inside.
This problem was easily solved, fixing six LED lights inside. They are simple lamps, designed to illuminate closets, small rooms or the boot of the car. They are powered with four AAA batteries and have a motion sensor that switches them on every time we get in and out the trailer. They also have the classic switch selector, so you can switch them on permanently if you’re staying inside the trailer for whatever reason, or turn them off, as a classic lamp, instead of using the motion sensor. We got them in Amazon for 15 € the pair.
They have a couple of magnets, so they stick to the steel structure of the canvas. But the magnets are not powerful enough to avoid them falling if you take a road bump. So, we have secured them with a couple of Velcro straps, and now they stay safely in place.
The lamps are powerful enough to allow you seeing the inside. We consider them a safety accessorize more than a luxury one. Simple, easy and practical; the perfect combination.
A useful accessorize and so easy to install! It really makes a difference!