Battery Death and Accidental Crotch Welding


I don’t like having enough power to weld flowing through a twice-defective part located directly between my legs.

While on deadline recently I discovered the car battery in Junior was dead. “No problem!” I thought. “I can connect to the house batteries and start right up!”



I have a set of Big Wires running between the car battery and the house batteries. By flicking a switch, I’m doing exactly the same thing one normally does with jumper cables — connecting the bad car battery to a running alternator and good battery to charge it up and provide starting power. Except that, while I could *hear* the relay clicking, no power was flowing.


It turns out the Mercedes-branded relay itself was physically broken due to shitty construction (gory details here on my Sprinter Source build thread) for the *second* time.


I had the good fortune to connect with a local DIY Sprinter van converter named Neil, and he had offered me access to a driveway and workshop while his friend was out of town. After we had lunch at Off the Waffle, with its fabulous disco bathroom, I took him up on it. I helped him get his new counter legs swapped out, then removed the driver’s seat from Junior to examine the relay situation.


Meanwhile, it started raining fried forest as the Eagle Creek Fire got into full swing, burning through the only two trails I’ve ever hiked in the Gorge. Not only was this awful for the loss of beautiful wilderness, but the ashy skies meant that my solar panels weren’t working very well. The first backup for this kind of situation is to use the relay interlink to charge the batteries from my engine when I’m driving, but, as I already mentioned, it was fucking broken.

There was a tiny, crappy plastic tab that had broken inside the relay, and I welded it back into place with my butane soldering item. It works again now, but I really want a different relay. It’s hard to imagine one being shittier than this one from any major manufacturer. I should have returned this one the first time it broke, but I was broken down in Abilene and *really* needed it to work right away.

Neil has this crazy Rainbow vacuum that is actually half bong. It sucks all the air through a water bath, making its output nearly dust free. They’re Dyson-level expensive, and their design seems to have been *planned* to make them look hopelessly outdated, but otherwise it was really cool.

This cutie lived at the house we were working at. Despite being part Poodle, my Least Favorite Breed, he was pretty snuggly and lovable.



I’ve been using a variety of inferior vacuum solutions in the van, but since I have at least three Dyson stand-up vacs at home in various states of almost-working, I might actually install one in the van as a central vac.

The ash has decreased now, though the fire is much bigger. I squeegeed off my solar panels at Costco, and while they’re not completely keeping up with usage, the functional interlink is helping the batteries in safe territory until the weather improves. If I have the opportunity, I may use my 30A Dewalt wall charger to top them off.

Neil has been a huge source of van conversion and living information, and a great host. I’m super grateful to him for turbo-charging my van life experience. Thanks Neil!

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