20′ Enclosed Race Trailer – Part 3 – Electrics & Winch

As previously discussed, the shore power connection wasn’t exactly high quality. Someone removed the 30 Amp plug and replaced it with a 15 Amp plug that didn’t actually fit in the housing. Since it was on the driver’s side, going down the road every time I looked in the mirror, that thing was flapping at me.

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Since everything had to come off the wall for paint, including the electrical panel, the was a fairly straight forward fix. A new 30A shore power connector was fitted, along with an adapter for use with normal 20A service.

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With that fixed, it was a simple matter of relocating the wiring in a way that was tidier, and positioned in a better place (the plugs were too high on the wall originally, and the E Track too low, so they switched positions). I removed the plug along the front wall, as it seemed superflous. I may re-add that later, but I already have plenty of 120v plugs in the trailer now.

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With the 120v service sorted it, it was time to move to the 12v side of things. My main 12v goals are:
-A winch to load the car
-An electrical jack
-A battery to power all that (and eventually some interior lights)
-A solar panel to keep the battery charged

The main component here is the battery and battery box. A tongue tool box from HF was mounted at the front of the trailer.

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I didn’t realize when I bought it that it was narrower than the outer frame rails, but I figured it was cheap, and it was big enough to do what I needed, so while it might look weird, there’s no real reason to replace it at this point.

I was a little concerned with the front mount bolts chafing the wiring harness from the truck:

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I found that I didn’t have any wire loom big enough to wrap around all those cables, but I DID have loom big enough to fit around the bolt. Stupid? Stupid like a fox!

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The battery box was mounted around the center frame rail:

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I didn’t have much horizontal real-estate to mount the solar panel to, but when parked at home, the panel faces nearly due west, and is in full sun in the afternoon.

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I was a bit concerned it wouldn’t work well like that (since all directions are to mount it horizontally), but it appears to be putting out plenty of juice:

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The battery never sees that much power, thankfully, as the solar panel runs through a 12v charge controller to prevent over charging the battery.

I drilled a few holes through the frame with big rubber grommets for the 12v wires to pass from the battery to inside the trailer under the floor, with marine cable pass-throughs to keep the weather and bugs out.

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I mounted the winch using a Bulldog winch mount. The front 2 bolts are through the frame, the rear 2 are bolted through a 6 x 8″, 3/8″ thick spreader plate.

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The winch wiring runs to the solenoid / wireless control box, and then to a 12v fuse block to provide service for lights and other sundries, then to the battery via a 150A circuit breaker.

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It’s definitely not a professional job (because I’m definitely not a professional), but it’s about probably the tidiest I could do without shortening the winch power cables. That’ll probably happen eventually, but I want to wait for a few months and make sure nothing crops up as a reason to move something drastically.

The electrics are *DONE*. FINALLY. Between drilling holes for grommets through the frame, making cables and figuring out where I want everything mounted, and cleaning up the 120v wiring, it took all my free time for about 3 days.

Oh! Wait…I’m sick or walking all the way to the shop for fresh tool batteries. I’ve got an idea!

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Yeah that’ll work. I think that lives there now.

Continued in Part 4

Electric Power Steering Conversion – Part 1

UPDATE: Now that this is done, and has been a huge success, I want to put a quick guide & parts list right up top for reference. This is if you take the DIY route. EPowerSteering.com also sells full ready-to-run (just fabricate mounts for your car) kits:

Compatible Steering Columns:
02 – 07 Saturn Vue
05 – 07 Chevrolet Equinox
03 – 06 Saturn Ion (only in steering column with metal ECU case!!)
Pontiac Torrent

EPS Controller
Steering Column Adapter (requires cannibalizing stock Miata column)
Dust boot (to keep water from running down into the sensors)
Fuse holder
60A Fuse (get a spare, just in case!)

When you order the controller, put a note in that you would like a 10K potentiometer adjuster. Per EPowerSteering.com, the adjustment range on the 10K is much more appropriate for smaller cars. I can attest that with the standard 100K that they ship with, my adjuster hovers around “nearly off”, and the 10K pot will give finer granularity in the lower ranges of adjustment.

If I have one complaint about the race car it’s that the steering wheel is fairly brutal on the driver. With aero and 9″ slicks going through a Manual rack there’s a ton of feedback. Too much feedback. And because of how heavy it is even with the Manual rack (again, 9″ slicks), I haven’t even wanted to run a depowered PS rack.

Of course, power steering would fix this, but it’s heavy, often messy when they boil over, and saps power from the engine. I already don’t have nearly enough power, so that’s out.

However, I found out recently about a GM electric steering column that’s been seeing heavy use in Rally and other offroad racing disciplines, along with a company that sells a controller that spoofs the CanBus signal, and allows you to adjust the amount of steering assist. I’ve been toying with the idea for a while now, but an autox buddy had one installed in his Ecotec powered Lotus 7 clone and frigging loves it. With some direct experience and some research in the bag, the time came to start building.

So here’s the plan:
-Snag a steering column & controller
-Fabricate mounts and an intermediate “adapter” to go between the end of the GM rack and the input of the Miata’s intermediate shaft. I want to keep it as bolt-in as possible in case something breaks and I need to swap stock parts in.
-De-Power and refurb the PS rack I’ve had sitting on the shelf for ages now waiting for its moment to shine. With the power steering, adding in the faster rack would be good. I’m going to pair this with a smaller steering wheel to lower the distance my hands will need to travel on the wheel for a given angle of input.
-Add steering rack travel limiters to prevent the 15x10s rubbing on the sway-bar in paddock / grid / during big spins.

The steering column in question is out of the Saturn Vue & Chevy Equinox, and is a little over 3″ shorter than the stock NA steering column. I went to the local Pull A Part and snagged one out of the yard, along with the full wiring harness. The nice thing about this column is that they’re built for far heavier cars than what I’m putting it into, so it should be plenty. This system has seen extensive use in the offroad racing community, and I’ve seen them installed in things between ride-on lawnmowers and Unimogs. It appears to be insanely versatile.

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To get everything lined up in the right place took a lot of careful measurement. It doesn’t need to be micron-perfect, but within 1/8″ or so is the goal.

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The mounts are within an inch or so of where the Miata’s mounts are, so I’ll be able to use the stock upper mounts points (using a modified stock column mount), and will need to re-engineer the lower mounts. The plan is to weld brackets onto a stock upper column mount, and cut the lower mounts off of a sacrificial stock column.

Overall, the GM column is about 3″ shorter than the stock Miata column. This is a good thing as it will allow me to get the steering wheel in a stock location without having to modify the intermediate shaft that runs between the column and rack.

After disassembling the sacrificial stock Miata steering column, I discovered, much to my amazement, that the lower section (where it bolts to the intermediate shaft) is 3/4″ diameter. And just about every aftermarket steering component out there is 3/4″. Due to that size being ubiquitous, EPowerSteering.com sells a 16mm spline to 3/4″ shaft adapter.  I’ll use that and a section of the stock steering column to build a small adapter that will spline / bolt onto the bottom of the GM column, and spline / bolt into the stock intermediate shaft.

I took the parts to a buddy’s shop where we cut the stock steering column down to length, and TIG welded the parts together. It could have been MIGed, but with the threads and fine splines, I wanted to avoid spatter at all costs.

After it was welded, I drilled and tapped through the adapter and spline stub to run a bolt to serve as a failsafe in the event the weld breaks, as that weld essentially is a single-point-of-failure in the steering system.

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With the column setup complete, it was time to start fabbing the mounts in the car.

Continued in Part 2