NorCal FJs

FJ Cruisers of Northern California

Nestor came by and we installed the Helton Hot Water system.  The idea here is if you are more of an Overland style FJer and want to be out for extended periods of time, back-country etc. you could have a nice warm shower as long as you have a water source.

Here are the basics of the install.

  1. Mount Heat Exchanger - of course, I'm working with Nestor, so he took the time and energy to construct a bracket for me.  We insulated the bracket w foam (Home Depot, ~$7) to protect the wires underneath from the heat.  
  2. "T Off" radiator system hoses - to tap into coolant.  Most often you will see in installation videos, the installer will cut the radiator hoses.  Not necessary on FJ.  Turns out there is already a break in the hose, and we just removed/backed off the clamps and pulled out the metal ~5/8" joiner (like an electrical butt splice), and then put the Helton 5/8" T joint into the hoses and connected to Heat Exchanger.  BUT, even though you are not cutting, you will spill some coolant. So, of course make sure the vehicle is cool and make sure to put a bunch of shops rags underneath (and we put some on the ground to help just in case some got through)
  3. Mount temperature valve - The Helton hot water system comes with an extra component - The Temperature Control Valve - that allows you to regulate the volume of coolant entering the heat exchanger to prevent, say, scalding yourself. 
    Nestor had the idea to remove the engine cover and mount it there using a 1" bracket from Home Depot's electrical aisle. (bracket comes w rubber which we replaced and ultimately used, even though it's not photographed here.)
  4. Mount "Bumper Bracket" - the bumper bracket comes w Helton kit and is designed to make system access easy.  The blue barb is intake (cold water from, say Yuba River) and the red barb is outlet (hot water from heat exchanger).  There was a bunch of hose routing from heat exchanger to bumper bracket that took a long time but is not worth showing (happy to talk anyone interested through it or post some pics).  Once again, so good to have Nestor there - he pointed out a spot to route the hoses that I didn't even know existed.  For the bracket, we drilled a couple big holes w a step bit and then dropped a couple self-tappers to hold it to the body.  Don't forget your touch up paint when you drill through the body.
  5. Mount pump - The Helton system comes with a small intake pump / sending unit.  Honestly, this thing seems hella chincy.  The system is (allegedly) rated for 3 GPM (max) so I picked up a SureFlo 12V, 3 GPM Aquaking pump.  The thing cranks and gives great water pressure.  The downside is that it appears to be cycling the water through the heat exchanger too quickly for it to heat up. (we do know the heat exchanger is working because the first bit of water to come through is very hot!) Next step is for me to exchange 3 GPM pump for a 1GPM. I'll definitely report back. We recently mounted my winch box in this spot and we mounted the pump on top of that with a couple of long bolts, a few nuts and some washers.  Shave a couple ribs off of that air filter box and put on some 3M doublesided tape and the thing is shockingly sturdy. Image above includes blue hoses for intake and red hoses for hot water.  Routing is a bit elongated to prevent any kinking in hose.

Took pretty much the whole day to complete.  That included a break: 

- to exchange a 24VDC pump (erroneously purchased) for a 12 VDC,

- to pick up the 1" temperature valve bracket, and

- to pick up 5/8" radiator hose that I accidentally returned to Pep Boys (and accidentally kept 1/2" hose).

Cruiser Outfitters sells the kit pieces a la carte.  I recommend purchasing from them:

  • Heat Exchanger
  • 5/8" temperature control valve
  • 5/8" "T" connections
  • 20 feet of Red and Blue 3/8" hoses
  • Bumper Bracket - you could plumb this differently with some quick disconnects.  The barbs on this thing work really, really well, and it's hard to pull the hoses off. 

I also recommend purchasing your own shower head and skipping their cheap-ass sending unit/shower head/storage bag.  Bag already ripped and shower head leaks at bottom.  Sending unit is decidedly weak.  Little extra work to get the coupling correct.

Last, consider quick disconnects on bumper bracket.  I might still do that.

It's a slick system that I believe is worth doing.  Once I dial in the flow rate, will let everyone know.

Cheers,

MG

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Nice job.
Where does the shower head mount?

In your hand? (just guessing;)

At the end of the hose connected to the red fitting on the bumper bracket.

The "bumper bracket"'s red barb. You attach a hose to it and at the other end of a hose is the shower head, which you hold in your hand.

Access to some clean drinking water can be limited at times, and most people prefer purchasing disposable bottles, but they can only get you so far. Purchasing a great water filter can turn tapped water into a limited supply of clean drinking water and boost your health conditions. Many countries across the globe do not have filtration plants that can turn tapped water drinkable. Getting suitable under the counter water filter for your family can save you the trouble of buying disposable drums.

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