Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fuel system update

Well, the van has been running fine all week long. I changed the filter but the problem is worse then I had initially anticipated.
The fuel tank is dented, probably by the lift machine at the oil change shop, or I drove over a large rock (which I haven't done). The dent is pushing the fuel gauge arm up causing bad readings at less then half a tank. The tank seam has also split slightly. The fix is a new or used tank. These are not cheap. I priced a new one at $150 but the damn tank has this crazy complicated mess of hoses and o-rings and seals which costs another $80. Throw in some shipping and I would be out at least $250 to fix it. The good news is that I already have a new fuel gauge sender unit to install into a new tank. I could attempt to fix the tank by banging the dent back out but I would still have to take the tank out and then weld the split seams.

I can ignore it for a while but eventually I should replace it. For now, I will stick to using the odometer to gauge fuel use-age or fill up at a quarter tank.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vandwelling Update - Post Marathon and the Van's reaction to my return

I have returned from my vacation. Lots of fun and it was great to see the family/extended family.

The marathon went well and I did not get injured apart from extreme soreness. Now I can drive around and proudly show off a 26.2 sticker.

The Van decided to change its' strategy, instead of attempting to kill me it decided to try to break down and leave me stranded. Maybe it was a sign that I am not supposed to keep working in Houston, the van didn't want to take me to work on Monday. Regardless of its intentions, this is what happened:
I am cruising along the highway when I suddenly start to slow down. I can't accelerate anymore but I still have enough power to make it to an exit. Once at the light I can't accelerate and can barely creep forward to an abandoned parking lot where it stops running. Attempts to restart are futile. Hmm... feels like a fuel issue.
I disconnect the fuel line at the motor and stick it into a jar and crank the motor over to see how much the pump is putting out. Not much comes out which confirms that I do have a fuel issue. I bypass the fuel filter and try again. This time I am getting little squirts of fuel but not a steady stream. Maybe the tank is low or the pump is fatigued? Gauge reads 1/4 but I put in the emergency 2 gallons of fuel that I keep stored under my bed and then whack the pump with a hammer a few times. This time the pump started pumping out a normal stream of fuel. I hooked the fuel line back up to the engine and drove away.

If the pump is going bad, it will cost me 150, if the filter is clogged it will cost 10, if the fuel level sender is faulty it will cost 50. I think I have a spare fuel filter and I already purchased a new sender last year because the gauge wasn't working when I purchased the van and when I went to replace it, it turned out that it had simply been disconnected. I will change the filter first, assuming I have one. Next, Ill drive around till it is almost empty, if I run out of fuel before the gauge reads empty then I know that the sender is bad and I can change that out too but if nothing happens then I will keep going and save up some cash to buy a new pump.
Maybe I will test the pressure and volume output of the pump this week and see if I can rule it out.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Vandwelling update - Pre Marathon Edition

Well, the marathon I've been training for is finally here. I fly to Denver today and will return on the 13th, the marathon is on sunday. Surprise, surprise, looks like it might rain and a 20 degree drop in temperature that day. Sigh, any time I try to do something important in CO I get weather fucked.

More DVD copying to my hard drive. I am down to the last box which is mostly seasons of shows I like. It feels great to be able to carry my entire collection of movies and photos in one hand and store it in my pocket. Next step is to sell off the movies, although I am not quite ready to hand over some of them.

Van update:

Fog lights were installed last week. I need to add some spacers to get the light beam higher up and align the pattern. I used a spare defroster switch and an open slot on the dash board. It is awesome having them and will be even better once I have them setup correctly. Now I need to add a set to the rear to come on when backing up.

Oil was changed on Friday, the oil pressure warning light/buzzer kept coming on but I think it was just air pockets working their way through the system. I also think the technician overfilled the system but it seems to have settled down now.

Propane filled up on monday. 

Box of van parts sold - all I have now is some tune up parts, spare belts, and misc hardware. It feels good not having all that extra stuff. I honestly dont know why I was so concerned about having all that stuff. If I need to I can get all of it.

Fixed the seat beads, the string that held it together was coming undone so I replaced it with 80lb fishing wire.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

4/30/2012 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. This past month was Ok ....Lets see how it went. How much is Van dwelling in my VW Westfalia saving or costing me?

Previous Monthly Financial post here

If I sum up total expenses from 4/1/2012 through 4/30/2012 I get -$1056
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $12,679. close but higher then last month...
lets take a closer look.

Regular Food costs: -$197 or -$49 per week (High)
Fun Food Costs:  -$92 or -$23 per week (Low)
Fuel: -$228 or -$57 per week (Normal to High)
Van: -$33 (Propane and Fuel system Cleaner)
Travel: -$88 (Road Trip fuel and Toll Tag billing)
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: -$0 (Nothing new in April)
Misc: -$384 (Genetic Testing Kit and External Hard drive for DVD collection, shipped a box and renewed the domain name )
Storage:  -$32 (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)
Gifts: -$0

Things that were not necessary this past month: Travel, fun food, Genetic Kit, and Hard Drive
The fun food expenses were eating out with friends and solo burritos, I am tempted to not put my solo burrito meals in the fun food. Travel was a trip to Canyon Lake for camping, I picked up the fuel bill. The Hard drive was needed so that I could eliminate the physical clutter of DVDs and also backup my laptop's files. The Genetic kit is also a luxury expense but will be interesting to see what it says. This brings my luxury expenses to $564 and necessary to $491Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $5900... :)

Ok, clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Regular Food and fuel: -$450 (Seems my food and fuel costs have been slightly higher then estimated)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$0
Van:  -$100 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month)
Fun: -$200 (I need to watch my fun costs)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10164

Again, just under my 11k mark but still disturbed by fun/misc expenses. The genetic kit and the hard drive killed this month's budget. Fun food and travel were lower this month but still contributed. 

I am optimistic about next month's expense sheet, should be interesting to see exactly what another almost normal month will look like.

Note: Sold mattress and vacuum. Still have van parts, watermaker, tent, and lots of clothes

Here is the status of my dividend income:
I have a running total of yearly expenses which I base my numbers off of so if my monthly goes up my dividend income against it decreases in value.
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities.

 Last post it was at 23.5%. Previous Monthly Financial post here

Current level is now estimated at 24.0%

Note: I have another paycheck's worth of cash to purchase more stocks but I am waiting for the market to decline a bit before i do. If I were to include that additional stock purchase my estimated level would be at: 26.97.3%

Progress at a snail's pace but improving, My plan for May and the rest of the year is to push hard on dividend stocks and trim expenses.