Mar 28

Tesla Model 3 Tow Hook License Plate Mount

I knew from the beginning that for my next car I will not want a front license plate. But since I live in British Columbia and I believe that sometimes the police can have the last word (….pfff) I said fine, I will mount one. I generally dislike the plastic mounts and loving the front end of my Model 3 so much I decided to look into tow hook plate mounts.

I also considered mounts from STO-N-SHO and The Bandit, which mount in the lower grille and also some from DEWHEL, DC Sports, Etreme Online Store and Evannex. I will not say that all these don’t work since I haven’t tried them, but somehow I found the Cravenspeed Platypus (Amazon) the most appealing, likely because of the amount of details on their website and also previous reviews from other Model 3 owners.

Full disclosure: I am NOT getting anything in return from Cravenspeed for writing this up.

At the time I got this on Amazon, it was listed at $93 which is not a bargain, but at least I had the option to return it for free if there was something wrong with it. Before ordering I had to confirm that they include the extension bracket that helps the mount clear the Model 3 sensors. Customer service was very prompt and confirmed that the mount comes with the extension bracket included.

craven1

It came in a nice box with everything required for the installation.

For the install, I had to remove the tow hook receiver plastic cap. Quick warning for anybody installing a similar mount, when removing the plastic cap, do not pull too hard as there is a wire attached to the cap with a zip tie on it’s back side. I am not sure what the wire is used for, I’d appreciate someone posting a comment about that. After cutting the existing zip tie I put some electrical tape on both sides of the connector, just to keep it clean, considering that it’s exposed to the elements behind the bumper.

IMG_1683A

 

A brand new zip tie and the wire was loosely secured to the lower notch just behind the bumper

Next step was to attach the tow stud which, by the way, it’s left hand threaded, meaning lefty loosey now becomes lefty tighty. For this I needed a 3/4 wrench.

With the stud attached, it was time for the extension bracket. This is a special bracket that helps the plate clear the Model 3 sensors. Normally, I believe they don’t include this for most of the other cars. When installing this, it’s important to make sure that the threaded hole is used for the plate support, not for the stud mount. Initially I tried to use the threaded end with the stud but then consulted the manual (always a good thing) and noticed that I had it wrong. Should look something like this:

Next, it was the back-plate’s turn. The short screw is used for this one and it can be a bit tricky to tighten because of the leverage created by the extension arm. While trying to tighten the top screw, I was usually moving the bracket out of alignment, but with a bit of patience, all was good and tight.

Finally, plate installed. I had absolutely no false alerts from the sensors. So far I can say this fits the bill and proved to be an easy and pretty sturdy install.

 

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I will be happy to answer.

 

Apr 16

Adding trailer hitch and wiring on the 2017 Volkswagen E-Golf

Hitch

After getting my new E-Golf, I’ve been searching far and wide for suggestions on a good trailer hitch. Initially I wanted it for mounting a bike/ski rack, but after some more thinking and research I wanted the wiring too, just in case.

I have to say information was scarce at best, most likely because the manual states clearly that no towing should be attempted with the E-Golf for whatever reason. So, in true Canadian fashion, I went ahead and started doing some research.

In terms of hitch I found that Curt hitches seem to be very popular, among MK7 owners anyway. I was not entirely sure which one would fit perfectly so I proceeded to lift the car and take a look underneath to see what mounting options I have. Here is a picture of what the undercarriage looks like behind the rear bumper.

E-Golf under body - Rear

I confirmed this way that what I was looking for was Curt 11412 Class 1 Trailer Hitch. The mounting points seemed to align and some suggestions pointed to the same part number. Notice the orange high voltage conduits. I heard that in some situations with other E-Golf owners these cables were too close for comfort to the mounting points, but in my case it turned out that they are quite far away.

Curt Hitch 11412 Golf MK7

In terms of pricing, the best deal I could find was on Amazon for $122. The hitch itself is very well build and appears to be quite good quality. Initially I thought that it may not clear the lower part of the rear bumper but it turned out to be perfectly sized to come out exactly near the edge of the bumper. The package arrived in a matter of days and here’s what’s included:

Curt 11412 package contents

Basically all necessary components to mount it, including the vital fish wires for the four bolts. There are a few very good videos on YouTube that show how to install it, but all in all, it’s quite easy and straightforward. Having somebody holding the bar up while securing it would help but it’s easily done by one person too, if in a comfortable position under the car. The basic steps are:

  1. Attach fishing wire to all four bolts
  2. Add each square hole spacer on the bolt
  3. Fish two of the bolts into the smaller opening in the frame by inserting them first through the larger opening (See fist picture above). Use the smaller holes closer to the rear of the car not the ones towards the front of the car.
  4. Insert remaining two bolts in the larger holes and use the square hole spacers to hold the bolts in place
  5. Mount the hitch bar
  6. Screw in and torque to specifications (110 ft/lbs)

Here are some shots during the install:

 

Package contents
Package contents
« 1 of 13 »

 

It took about 30 minutes in total out of which I probably spent half of that fishing the wires. I had some trouble convincing the bolts through the large opening but with a little bit of patience and a large hammer they submitted to my will. (Just kidding about the hammer)

And here is the finished product. Apologies for the cleanliness (or lack of) of the car. That day rained hard and I was looking forward to installing the hitch. No time and frankly pointless to take the car to the wash.

Curt 11412 HitchCurt 11412 Hitch
Curt 11412 HitchCurt 11412 Hitch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trailer wiring

As I mentioned before information on the E-Golf tail lights wiring was quite scarce at the time of writing. I had a vague idea of what type of wiring I was dealing with but not with 100% certainty. Since Curt had a somewhat universal kit for tapping into the existing wiring, I went for it, and decided to figure out the connections later. The kit that I got is the CURT 59236 Multi-Function Taillight Converter Kit. I believe the also sell the non-powered kit, but in my case, I wanted to make sure that I don’t draw power from the main lights circuit. This means that the converter works on a completely separate power source directly from the 12V battery.

This is the kit:

MULTI-FUNCTION TAILLIGHT CONVERTER KIT 59236

It also comes with several zip ties, a fuse, snap locks, butt connectors and ring connectors for the power wire. In a nutshell, all you need to install this comes in the package. It even comes with two-sided adhesive pads to ensure that the unit will not rattle on the mounting point which is by a self tapping screw, also included.

The hardest part by far was to take off the panels in the trunk in order to run the wires and mount the unit. If you’re planning to tackle this yourself, be prepared with a lot of patience and fine motor skills. The tabs of the panels used to hold them in place are very fragile and can break easily, not to mention that the metal clips can fall off in the deepest crevices of the car never to be found again and forever rattling while you drive.

This is the standard connector for the outer tail lights on the E-Golf.

IMG_0128

A good old multi-meter told me what I couldn’t find anywhere. The three wires from the bottom:

  • Brown – Ground
  • Purple/Black – Running lights
  • Red/Black – Turn signal/ Brakes

This is on the driver side. If I remember correctly, the wires for running lights and turn signals have slightly different colors, but the are in the same positions. There is a fourth wire (white/black) to the left of the running lights wire in the middle, which has apparently the same functionality as the running lights. My guess is that one of them is for the regular lights while the other is for the side red positional lights.

I mounted the converter unit on the driver side because the longer turn signal wire they provided was for the passenger side. The location was pretty good also as there was enough room to comfortably mount the unit.

MULTI-FUNCTION TAILLIGHT CONVERTER KIT 59236 MULTI-FUNCTION TAILLIGHT CONVERTER KIT 59236

The final step was to run the power wire from the unit all the way to the battery in front. Little did I know that this turned out to be the most time-consuming and not because I wasn’t sure how to do it, but because of the time I took removing the threshold panels and fishing the wire all the way to the front driver foot well. From there I knew there was a grommet in the firewall that would put the wire right behind the 12V battery under the hood. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of this but thanks to Paul Barrett from DAP I knew exactly where to find it. You can see his very informative video here.

Once all was connected and cleaned up, ran a quick test with the multi-meter on the trailer connector and everything works perfectly.

Hopefully this will help other E-Golf owners a little bit in their quest to install a trailer hitch and figure out the wiring.

 

Oct 09

Home Improvement DIY: WiFi Gas Detector with Text Alerts

Hey guys, back with another little project that I’ve been fiddling with for the past week. With kids around, every parent is thinking how to make their home safer for the little ones and for everybody in general. One of the most dangerous thing in the house can be the stove and since we have a gas-powered one, I always wondered why there are no simple gas detectors that can be used around the stove, just to alert instantly that gas may be leaking.

sparkWell, that was the moment when I decided to build one of my own. Having a Particle (Spark) Photon lying around, I decided to use that as a foundation for the project. I like the fact that they are very small and cheap, and also can be flashed over the Wi-Fi. Having that settled, I needed the gas sensor and some kind of alerting system.

For the gas sensor I went for an
MQ-4 gas sensor because it can detect methane (CH4) as well as natural gas (CNG).
I found out later that it’s quite sensitive to CO2 as well, which turned out to be very useful while testing the setup. If you’re planning to use one in your projects and never used one before, remember that the gas sensogassensorrs have a burn-in time when they are powered. That is to say that the sensor needs time to warm up (anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes). This is because the actual sensor has a heating element that helps detect these gases and while that is cold, it will give erroneous readings.

Now on to the alerts. Half of the alerting system was simple, add a beeper next to the sensor which would work perfectly when somebody is around. However I still had to sort out the second half, for the cases when somebody was not in the immediate vicinity. For that I wanted to have text/SMS alerts to my phone and possibly to a buzzer_secondary phone, for example my wife’s phone. Now I realized that I should probably get one of our neighborhood FD guys phone number in there too. :)

Knowing that the Photon is not the most robust controller in terms of notifications (I know there’s the IFTTT or other alerting systems) but I wanted something small, reliable and really not depending on various 3rd parties in the cloud. So I made a small web app on my local web server that would send me specific text message when a URL is hit. Many cell carriers offer now the possibility to send somebody an email to a specific email address, and that email will be turned into an SMS and sent to the phone, so that turned out to be a good enough solution for me.

So the final sequence would be the following: gas sensor detects gas, starts beeping and at the same time triggers a URL which in turn sends an email that gets transformed by the carrier into a text message on my phone. The code that runs this will actually send an alert every 30 seconds while the gas sensor is being triggered. This way I know when the gas has dispersed. Here’s the photon firmware code:

[cpp]
#include “HttpClient/HttpClient.h”

TCPClient client;
//add your server address here. In my case it was a LAN address similar to 192.168.1.1
char server[] = “”;
//add your server port, usually if it’s a standard http request the port is probably 80
int port = 80;
//Initialize timer to 0
int AlertSentSecsAgo = 0;
//This is used to publish Spark events
char strTxt[40];
//Define the PIN for the gas sensor
int GasSensor = A0;
//Define the PIN for the buzzer
int Beeper = D0;
//Define how often to send text alerts
int AlertFrequency = 30;

void setup()
{
pinMode(Beeper, OUTPUT);
pinMode(GasSensor, INPUT);
}

void loop()
{
//I had to fine tune this value at which the alert is triggered based on some trial tests
if (analogRead(GasSensor) > 750)
{
//If we sent an alert more than 30 seconds ago, send another one
if (AlertSentSecsAgo >= AlertFrequency)
{
//Send alert every 30 seconds
sendAlert();
AlertSentSecsAgo = 0;
sprintf(strTxt, “%u”, analogRead(GasSensor));
//Publish an event to the spark dashboard with the current value of the sensor
Spark.publish(“Gas Sensor Triggered”, strTxt);
}
digitalWrite(Beeper, HIGH); //Sound the buzzer
delay(250);
digitalWrite(Beeper, LOW); //Silence the buzzer
delay(250);
AlertSentSecsAgo++;
}
else
{
sprintf(strTxt, “%u”, analogRead(GasSensor));
Spark.publish(“Gas Sensor:”, strTxt);
//Make sure that the alert will be sent next time the sensor is triggered
AlertSentSecsAgo = AlertFrequency + 1;
delay(5000); //Wait 5 seconds before checking the sensor again
}
}

void sendAlert()
{
if (client.connect(server, port))
{
client.println(“GET /<your address to the text web app or service here> HTTP/1.0”);
client.print(“Host: “);
client.println(server);
client.println(“Accept: text/html, text/plain”);
client.println();
client.flush();
}
}
[/cpp]

Finally, for the case I chose a wall surface-mount phone jack box. The size perfectly matched the components that I had.IMG_3404a

List of parts used in this project:

  • Particle Photon ($19 on Particle Store)
  • MQ4 Gas Sensor ($5.50 on Amazon)
  • 5V Buzzer ($3.99 on Amazon)
  • Wall mounted phone jack box ($3.00 at Home Depot)
  • Right-angle USB Mini B cable ($3.99 on Amazon)
  • Jumper wires

Here are a few pictures of the finished project.

[flagallery gid=4]

 

 

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