Hangar works #16 – Rear-view camera on trailer

We continue improving our trailer!

2 m wide, 4,75 m long and 1,8 m tall: our tailor-made trailer!

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?

The simple wiring diagram from Auto Vox. Can the cable between the camera and the power box 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.

The Auto Vox W7 monitor + WiFi rear-view camera.

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.

Standard 4-wires rear-view camera extension cable.

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.

The image of the right shows the empty spaces for the missing pins, marked with a red cross.

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!

Standard color code and pin number chart for 13-pins connectors.

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.

The 13-pins connector is not an expensive item. Better spend few more Euros and get the best quality one!

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.

The junction box and the 13-wires cable (not all shown in this picture).

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…

Few simple tools are needed.

The result is really good thanks to these crimp connectors.

The new 13-pins connector.

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.

The junction box with the wires and the terminal blocks.

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.

Detail of the junction box, fixed to the trailer’s tongue right hand-side arm.

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.

The route from the junction box of the 12V power supply for the camera, marked with the red line.

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.

View of the cable’s route, below the platform.

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.

Crawling under the platform was not the most pleasant task…
Detail of the spot where I drill, to accesss the inside of vertical square steel tube of the canvas structure.

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.

The route is not so simple. But it’s the proper way to do it

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.

Detail of the 12V power cable exit from the square steel tube.

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.

View of the small junction box with the camera’s power box inside, and the transmitter.

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.

Once we’re up there, the route is much simpler.

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.

Detail of the back screw securing the camera.

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.

The camera and its little plastic hood.

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.

The camera is quite discrete with the canvas on.

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.

If it gets into the vision of the camera, we’ll fix this strap with a Velcro.

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.

We have two 12V sockets in the rear centre console.

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 cable is highlighted in red so you can see it better.

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.

The rear route of the cable.

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.

Up to the dashboard, the route is perfect. The cable is hidden and fully protected.

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.

I put a little black lanyard to the cable connector, to pick it easier from behind the dashboard.

Unless you have a true detective eye, the only noticeable thing on the dashboard is the small black lanyard.

Once the monitor is connected, the cable is hidden between the dashboard and the windshield.

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.

Good location for the monitor. The driver sees it and it doesn’t hide any section of your view on 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.

The image quality is good enought to see clearly what’s happening behind us.

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.

Hangar works #15 – LED lights inside the trailer

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.

Our nice looking trailer with its green canvas on.

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.

With the canvas on, and the side door closed, the inside is very dark.

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 six lamps marked with the red circles.

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.

The six LED lamps do a pretty nice job.

A useful accessorize and so easy to install! It really makes a difference!

Hangar works #14 – The video camera

A few weeks after buying the Morgan 3-Wheeler, we just had our first action camera: a really nice and compact GoPro Hero 7 Black.

Our GoPro Hero 7 Black

We bought it because we thought it was a nice idea to finally have one, so we can take videos on our mountain bikes, while diving, and of course while driving the new 3-Wheeler.

We premiered it for the first time on our Christmas holidays diving in Roatan – Honduras, and we were surprised by the quality that such small cameras have today.

Diving in Roatan – Honduras

The first thing we noticed is that the GoPro is way better doing videos than just taking pictures. I guess they’re designed that way and we’re ok with it.

Video taken diving with our GoPro – Roatan – Honduras

Once back home in Madrid, and with the Morgan finally delivered and safely parked in our garage, the first idea was to use the GoPro with a stick and be used by the co-pilot to take video during our drives together.

Having it fixed to the 3-Wheeler was not the original idea then, but looking at many videos on the Internet, taken with the camera fixed to the roll hoop or with a suction cup, showed that the GoPro could be of better use if fixed. And also, it could be used by the pilot during a solitaire drive.

Our only doubt was about the result of our GoPro Hero 7 Black recording with the tremendous vibrations provoked by the massive X-Wedge S&S V-Twin engine. Would the stabilization software of the GoPro counterbalance it properly? According to what we could see from other users in the Internet, it should! So, we gave it a chance and ordered the GoPro suction cup.

The GoPro suction cup set and its bag

The GoPro suction cup comes in a very nice bag, with plenty of accessories that allow you to fix the GoPro almost anywhere around the car. And the characteristics announced by GoPro declare that it can be used up to speeds of 150mph / 240 km/h, well above what the 3-Wheeler is capable of.

The position we like the most for the camera is just over the dashboard, between the two small windshields.

We choose to locate the camera between the two small windshields

This position gives you a nice sensation in the video like being just at driver’s position with a nice look at the bonnet and the two tires under the fenders, which we really like. The frame is, in our honest opinion, the very best.

Nice panoramic camera vision from this position

Some other 3-Wheler drivers prefer to fix the video camera to the roll hoop, in a center position. It’s a nice option too, giving you an upper vision of the road and the front of the car, including the dashboard and part of the steering wheel. And I say part, because depending on your size, this camera position between the roll hoops implies that part of the vision is hidden by the driver’s and copilot’s shoulders and heads, and in some cases a lot.

Fixing the camera to a roll hoop is another common position, but not our choice

Being as I am a relatively tall man (I’m 1,82 m / 5ft11in), and with wide shoulders, and also considering that we chose to use helmets while we drive on open roads and motorways, a roll hoop camera stand is definitely not the best option for us.

So, we keep the chosen camera’s position between the windshields as the best for now.

The camera positioned there is at hand for both the driver and the copilot

Another advantage of having the camera there, is that both the driver and the copilot can manage the device. Pushing the record button is really easy, and at the same time you’re looking at it, so you know it’s there and it can’t fall off the car without noticing it.

The camera is always at sight of the passengers

But still, despite the GoPro declares its suction cup is good for speeds up to 150 mph / 240 km/h, the 3-Wheeler is no ordinary car, and its vibrations are a concern. Not only because the stabilized video image, but more because of the reliability of the suction cup when subjected to so much vibration.

For this reason, we looked for a safety solution, just in case the suction cup fails. Again, there are different solutions taken by other drivers, most of them consisting of a rope attached to the camera and knotted somewhere to the car. And ours is not much different, but we looked for something as simple as the rope concept, but without having a rope or long lanyard hanging around in front of the dashboard and flapping with the wind.

Thinking about the possible solutions, I realized that the male Lift-The-Dot fastener just between the two windshields was there, asking to be used for more than just attaching the tonneau cover when the car is parked. It’s clearly the best possible anchor point for this purpose.

This male Lift-The-Dot fastener between the windshields will be useful!

So, we came up with a simple solution.

We first attached a classic nylon cord lanyard with a female small plastic side-release buckle to the GoPro frame.

The GoPro Frame with its Nylon cord and the female side-release plastic buckle part

And then me made a short lanyard with a Lift-The-Dot fastener at one end, and the male small plastic side-release buckle for the Nylon cord of the GoPro frame on the other one.

Here’s a view of the short lanyard set

We made this short lanyard using the scraps of the dark brown leather that our upholsterer used to handcraft our luggage set, the back cushion for AM and the steering wheel bag.

For the link between the Nylon cord and the lanyard, we chose to use a side-release small plastic buckle. We believe it’s a better choice than a metallic carabiner or something similar, as it’s lighter, safe enough, and will not cause any metallic clinking.

Classic side-release small plastic buckle

So, the lanyard is made out of the same leather we have in the 3-Wheeler trim and upholstery. A perfect match. And it elegantly clips on the Lift-The-Dot fastener between the two windshields, securing the camera in case the suction cup fails.

Image of the camera in position with the lanyard anchored to the Lift-The-Dot fastener

Regarding the suction cup, we use the base – logically – and the shortest device allowing the camera to look upfront. The result is quite a compact set, and not too high that does not disturb our road visibility.

The GoPro suction cup with its shortest and simplest device

As you can see in the above pictures, we put on our GoPro a foam windslayer. A very simple accessorize that can be bought in Amazon for very little money, being the best quality (high foam density and good cut) less than 15 €.

The windslayer for the GoPro

It is amazing what such a simple accessorize can make to cancel the wind noise! Check out the wind noise difference between these two next videos!

Video without the windslayer
Video with the windslayer

The only negative point of the foam windslayer is that you need to remove it every time you have to replace the GoPro battery. And you need to do it with love to avoid tearing the foam.

Regarding the settings we use for the GoPro video, we set it to 4K / 60 fps resolution, wide view and of course the stabilization ON, as main parameters. It’s a personal choice and some others may use different settings. But those work perfect for us and they give us pretty nice stable videos, as long as there is enough light, because the stabilization software of the GoPro is quite terrible with low light and at night. Which seems logical, as the camera is a very compact one with a small lens and sensor.

Hope you enjoyed this post!

Hangar works #13 – Lift-The-Dot lanyards

The tonneau cover of the Morgan 3-Wheeler is fixed to the body using with Lift-The Dot fasteners.

The tonneau cover is fixed with Lift-The-Dot fasteners

Once the cover is removed, you have all around the tonneau a total of 12 Lift-The-Dot male fasteners. Or 5 if you keep half of the tonneau cover on. And we normally don’t think about them for any other use than fixing the tonneau cover.

There are 12 around the tonneau

Thinking about how to secure the video camera – a GoPro mounted on its suction cup between the two little windshields – I could see the central Lift-The-Dot male fastener really close to it, and consequently the best option for a safety anchor system.

The idea of a short fabric lanyard, with a Lift-The-Dot fastener at one end and a small carabiner for the Nylon cord fixed to the GoPro frame at the other, seemed the best option. With such a solution, we wouldn’t have any long cord hanging around inside the cockpit and in front of the instruments.

Here is the drawing of this simple idea:

A very simple lanyard

So, we ordered a little bag of ten Lift-The-Dot socket with backplate fasteners (Part No: 07 at www.woolies-trim.co.uk for just £7.00).

Lift-The-Dot socket with backplate

For the carabiners, we just looked into our drawers for those old and never re-used lanyards they give you in every conferences and fairs. And we cut them to retrieve their small carabiners.

The small carabiners are taken from old lanyards

For the fabric, in our case, we still have some scraps of the dark brown leather that our upholsterer used to handcraft our luggage set, the back cushion for AM and the steering wheel bag. So, we decided to use those.

As the leather is thicker than, for example, a Nylon strap, we did not overlap the whole lanyard, leaving the end where the Lift-The-Dot fastener will be fixed to with a single leather layer. Otherwise it would have be very difficult, maybe impossible, to fix the fastener. We made three of them, one specifically with a plastic fastener instead of a carabiner for the video camera lanyard (we’ll explain why in our next post).

The three lanyards we made

Here with more details, you can see that the Lift-The-Dot fasteners are on a single leather layer.

The end with the Lift-The-Dot fastener is just one layer of leather

The leather strap is glued and sewed. To fix the Lift-The-Dot fastener, I used a couple of very simple tools: a sharp knife and a hole puncher. Using the hole puncher to cut the hole for the male part of the fastener, the one that’s screwed on the edge of the 3-Wheeler tonneau, and the sharp knife to do the small cuts in the leather for the Lift-The-Dot socket tongues that will grab the backplate, and also finishing the leather around the fastener.

A simple sharp knife and a hola puncher is what you need

The result is an elegant, flexible, and really resistant lanyard you can fix in any of the 12 Lift-The-Dot fasteners available around the tonneau. And on the top of that it’s the same leather than the trim of our 3-Wheeler!

These very simple and easy to make lanyards are useful for very simple things, increasing somehow – it depends on the point of view – the storage capacity of our 3-Wheeler.

We can use them for just a momentary use, such as keeping on hand the garage door remote.

Or the case of your camera…

In our case to secure the GoPro too…

Sunglasses case, your cap, and anything else you can imagine that needs to be on hand while you’re driving or just for a moment.

A simple, easy to make and use and practical solution!

Hangar works #12 – Bonnet locks

As explained in the previous post (Hangar works #11 – Boot lock), we were genuinely concerned that neither the boot nor the hood of the Morgan 3-Wheeler had a lock.

Now it was time to solve the bonnet safety. And I have to say that, again, I’m very satisfied of how I’ve solved it!

After analyzing the bonnet structure in detail, how it sits on the main body, I had a clear idea of where and how secure the bonnet against the stealing baboons.

As it happened with the boot lock, the solution I came for does not intend to be the safest and the strongest, but a preventive locking system to protect against thefts by opportunists.

So, let’s go with the description and explanations!

The bonnet of the 3-Wheeler has its Dzus fasteners along its bottom line, two on each side. Looking in detail where these Dzus fasteners are fixed, so where their lock springs are situated, we can see that the closest one is situated in a large plated area just in front and below the rearview mirror.

The best area is in front and below the reaview mirrors.

The bonnet overlaps generously over this area, so it looks like the best zone to find a solution. But what’s beneath this area? Having a look from the inside, we can see the back support and lock spring for the Dzus fastener, and that a relatively large area of this body plate is free. It’s bordered by a couple of chassis’ steel tubes, and the ash wood arch behind the dashboard. The major concern can be the wires fixed to the vertical steel tube. I’ll have to be careful not to damage those while drilling.

The area – pilot side – looking from the inside.
Same picture with some description.

Now that we know we have a nice area where the bonnet overlaps the main body, and that allows us to work on, what’s the idea?

I normally focus my solution’s research in the automotive industry. And when nothing shows up there, I investigate the nautical world where you can find a huge amount of wise solutions to specific needs, and with high quality materials. And this was the case here! With inventiveness and a little bit of imagination, I came up with the simplest possible solution, using a hatch cover pull.

A nice nautical accessorize

The hatch cover pull I chose is made of 304 stainless steel, and its dimensions are shown in this drawing below.

Combined with a spring, some washers, and a luggage key lock, this is the solution I got.

The items shown in the drawing above are:

1 – Luggage key lock or lock pin. As we’re looking for protection against thieves, I’ll use the luggage key lock instead of the lock pin. It has to be a standard one, with 3,2 mm thin shackle so it can get through the modified drill of the hatch cover lock. The key locks are a pair, so both sides pilot and co-pilot key locks open with the same key. Combination locks are not recommended at all for this application, as you can’t see them underneath the dashboard! So, getting the right number combination can be a really funny task.

2 – A stainless-steel washer, with 7 mm diameter hole – then sold as for 6 mm screws -, and especially large outer diameter of 18 mm to increase the area for the spring contact. I have drilled a 1,5 mm hole into the washer, to pass through the nylon cord.

3 – Stainless steel compression spring. This is a 10 mm outer diameter compression spring, 9,9 mm inner diameter, with 3 kg strength, and 70 mm long. I have cut the spring to 45 mm length, to get the best compromise between strength and easiness to compress and putting the lock.

4 – Nylon cord. Very thin one. About 1mm diameter but very resistant. Why this cord? Easy to understand: if the washers and the spring are all loose pieces, you can drop any of them to the 3-Wheeler floor, in the footwell. This can happen very easy if you consider you’ll be trying to slide the shackle of a small lock through a very narrow drill in the hatch cover pull’s stem, in a place you don’t see, so “at touch”, and while maintaining the whole with a compressed spring. It’s not easy to do and having everything flying off will happen for sure. Then, looking inside the deep, dark and narrow footwell of the Morgan 3-Wheeler for a washer or a spring, can be really difficult, if not ridiculous, unless you’re a hyper-flexible acrobat of Le Cirque Du Soleil. The nylon cord keeps the washers and the spring all together as a “unit”, much easier to handle with, and avoids the flying off of any part. The cord passes through the 1,5 mm drill of the washers (including the plush no#6 glued to the washer no#5) and then a simple overhand knot keeps it secured to each washer.

5 – Another stainless-steel washer, with 7 mm diameter hole – then sold as for 6 mm screws -, and especially large outer diameter of 18 mm to increase the area for the spring contact. I have drilled a 1,5 mm hole into the washer, to pass through the nylon cord. So identical to no#2.

6 – Plush sticker. Normally put under the feet of furniture to avoid scratching the floor when moving the furniture. Cut and drilled to the no#5 washer size and holes. This plush will be in contact with the internal aluminum wall of the cockpit and avoids the metal-to-metal contact eliminating scratches on the paint and possible metallic clinks.

7 – This is a tailor-made decal. I made it with my home printer, using adhesive paper, and covered it with a transparent adhesive film. So, I can choose any shape, words, and colors. It will be glued around the hole of the bonnet where the stem of the hatch cover pull enters, so visible from the outside when this last one is not in place. This decal is multipurpose. First, it protects the bonnet paint around the hole from scratches and friction marks. Second, it reminds you to put the locking system. And finally, it’s pure decorative. I have printed many, so when the first ones I glued on the bonnet will wear out, I can replace them right away and even change the design and color if I want to print new different ones. When in place, the head of the hatch cover pull hides completely this decal.

8 – This is the hatch cover pull. It must be slightly modified as follows: its standard hole for the ring pin is only 3 mm in diameter. Using a very high-quality bit – remember we’re working on high quality and hard 304SS – and using a powerful drill at its lowest possible RPMs, I increased the diameter to 3,5 mm so the 3,2 mm shackle of the lock fits in. It’s very important to have everything properly secured and positioned before drilling, as the stem of the hatch cover pull is just 6,2 mm, so there is very little room for error! If the bit deviates from the axle while drilling, you can destroy the stem making it totally useless for its purpose.

9 – Sticker decal 3D resin domed. With an outer diameter of 30 mm matching the 32 mm flat heat of the hatch cover pull perfectly! It’s a high-quality decal, outdoor resistant to sun (UV), heat, washing, rain, etc. Purely decorative. I could have left the hatch cover pull as it is, with a flat polished stainless-steel head. But I find it bland, so putting this high-quality sticker on it with the Spanish Air Force cockade is much more decorative. On the co-pilot side I put the Guatemalan Air Force cockade, in honor to AM, the best possible co-pilot! The source of these decals is a local company in Madrid, and they can do almost any design you want! Choose yours!

Once everything is placed, the locking system is reduced to three pieces. The truth is that they’re five, but I say three because the washers and the spring are tied together with the nylon cord.

And finally closed, the scheme is very simple.

The following video, with a terrible Spanish accent (sorry for that) explains the philosophy of the locking system and shows how it works.

After building on the locking system, now it’s time to install it on the Morgan 3-Wheeler!

I took detailed measures before deciding where exactly I should drill the holes.

Since the beginning I know and accept I won’t have a direct view on the locking system inside the cockpit while placing the key lock. With this negative part in mind, I chose a place to drill in the reduced available area, more based in aesthetics and being sure I won’t damage anything while drilling.

First thing was to remove the bonnet.

NOTE: If you plan to do this in your M3W, you may choose other position for the holes. However, you should take into consideration the following comments. If you drill higher, then the bonnet shape is curvier so the flat head of the cover hatch pull may not seat completely flat. And the access to the system in higher position makes it more difficult while closing the system with the washers, spring, and key lock. And if you drill lower, you’ll be too close to the Dzus fastener. You may gain a little bit of “comfort” while closing the system from the inside, but still won’t be much better. At last, it’s your choice, and you may differ from mine!

Then I marked the dot with a simple chalk marker.

The spot to drill marked with chalk.

Obviously, I marked the exact same spot on both sides. The location chosen is 70 mm up the Dzus hole, on the line parallel to the crease of the body plate where the edge of the bonnet will fit. This line runs 90 mm from the crease of the body plate.

Exact measures shown in this picture.

After marking the place to drill, the drilling process was as follows. Always using a high-quality bit (in my case I used Titanium ones made by Black & Decker) and setting the drill at its lowest possible RPMs. This process is done on both sides, of course…

  1. The black synthetic protection of the area is thick enough to assure that your drill will work on the right marked spot. So, we do the first drill from the outside with a small bit of only 2 mm size.
  2. Clean carefully any aluminum burrs left on the inside of the hole.
  3. Put the bonnet back on and fix it with the Dzus fasteners making sure it’s in normal position.
  4. Now from the inside of the cockpit, place the bit through the drilled hole. Once you passed the bit through the hole, make sure you position the drill totally perpendicular to the bonnet plate. Then drill very slow and careful with very little pressure, until the bit comes out the bonnet.
  5. Change the bit to 3,5 mm size. And, always from the inside and very carefully, drill over the 2 mm hole to make it 3,5 mm with the new bit.
  6. Change again the bit to 5 mm size. And, always from the inside and very carefully, drill over the 3,5 mm hole to make it 5 mm with the new bit.
  7. Last change of bit to 6 mm. And, always from the inside and very carefully, drill over the 5 mm hole to make it 6 mm with the new bit.
  8. Finally, with a lot of kindness, play with the drill and the 6mm bit to increase very little the holes’ diameters, so the 6,2 mm stem of the hatch cover pull passes through both of them tight but without too much friction.

Note that finding the hole from the inside of the cockpit won’t be easy, as the hole done is originally very small (just 2 mm), and you don’t have direct view of the area. Be careful not to scratch the inside paint with the bit looking for the hole!

During the whole process, after each drill clean carefully blowing the aluminum burrs away. Careful if you do it with a cloth or your hand! The aluminum burrs can scratch the paint!

Now all holes are done!

From the outside, it’s just a 6,2 mm diameter hole.

To finish the job I stick the home-made decals outside the hole of the bonnet.

The decal protects the paint from scratches and friction marks.

The stem of the hatch cover pull shall enter tight but without too much friction.

The hole shall be large enough to insert the stem tight but without too much friction.
Inserting the pilot side hatch cover pull.
Co-pilot side.

The most difficult part now is placing all the internals, so the washers and spring and slide the lock shackle into the stem’s hole.

View from the inside.

With the hatch cover pull in place, the first washer with the plush is easy to enter. And the spring after is easy too.

With the first washer (with plush) inserted. The nylon cord keeps all together.

But then compressing the spring and enter the end washer, and maintain it all compressed while you slide the lock’s shackle, just by touch, because you can not see anything in the area unless you are a spectacular contortionist, it is the most difficult. Although with a little practice you end up getting the hang of it.

Putting the key lock is not easy. But once done, it’s secured and neat. No friction noises nor metallic clinks.

Finally with the whole in place, you’re not supposed to remove the bonnet frequently, so in my honest opinion this locking system is worthy and a very simple and elegant solution.

Pilot side with the Spanish Air Force cockade
Co-pilot side with the Guatemalan Air Force cockade

From the outside, you don’t realize this is a lock system. And the force of the spring is strong enough to avoid pulling it out unless you have steel claws instead of nails.

And unless you know it’s there, you can’t notice that you have a key lock on each side of the cockpit just below the dashboard. In fact it’s invisible unless you dive into the footwell heads first.

Enjoy these result pictures!

Larger pilot side View.
Larger co-pilot side View.
With some distance, the heads of the lock system with the cockades look nice.

I hope you liked this solution and enjoyed this post!