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Thread: Train horns

  1. #1
    Sumo Blue
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    Train horns

    Finally! Sorry it took me so long to get this posted up, but it took forever to get things planned out, and then once things were installed, I had a busy week and didn't have time to post.

    Where to go?
    Ebay, hornblasters.com, or gogodiesel.com for parts/packages. For fittings, you can't go wrong with suicidedoors.com. The have EVERYTHING and don't charge you for shipping, even if its going to be at your house in 2 days. I used all three and can't say enough good things about Matt at hornblasters or Doug at gogodiesel.

    What to buy?
    Horns
    Compressor
    Air tank
    Pressure switch
    Solenoid valve
    Air line
    Wire (10 ga power, 14 ga for remote trigger wire, and 14 ga black ground wire)
    Fittings for air line
    Pressure gauge

    What I went with:
    Horns--Nathan K3HA on custom mounts
    Compressor--Viair 480C (100% duty cycle, 200 PSI working pressure)
    Airtank--7 gallon with six 1/2" ports and two 1/4" ports
    Pressure switch--Viair 165/200 PSI (turns compressor on when tank drops to 165 PSI and off when tank reaches 200 PSI)
    Air line--1/2" DOT brake line
    Wire--20' of 10 ga red, 50' spool of red 14 ga red (lots of extra for future projects), 10' of 14 ga black
    Inline fuse holder for 10 ga power wire with 30A fuse
    Fittings--way too many to list, but if you need help sorting this out I'll be happy to help. What you'll need truly depends on how you're designing your system and what size air line you're going to run.
    Pressure gauge-- 0-300 PSI with 1/4" threads from Home Depot
    Custom brackets to mount horns and tank

    Planning your project
    First thing you need to figure out is what you're going to use and where its going to go. Hornblasters and Direct Injection Performance (gogodiesel.com) sell package deals that can fit most budgets. I liked what I saw, but wanted to upgrade some components so I pieced my system together. For example, I wanted a great compressor, not just a good one. I wanted 1/2" air line, not 1/4" or 3/8". I wanted the biggest tank I could mount on the underside of my truck. You get the idea.........

    On a side note, get a 100% duty cycle compressor. What is this? It refers to the amount of time a compressor can be operated in a given time period at 100 PSI and at a standard ambient temperature of 72 degrees F. Duty cycle is figured out this way: Compressor On Time / (Compressor On Time + Compressor Off Time) = Duty Cycle % As an example, a compressor that is rated for 25% duty cycle means that the compressor can be operated at:
    100 PSI @ 72 degrees F for 10 minutes ON and 30 minutes OFF
    A 33% duty cycle compressor can be operated 15 minutes ON and 30 minutes OFF.
    A 100% duty cycle compressor is rated for continuous duty (no OFF time needed).

    Horns love air and you'll want to use the largest line you can find, but they'll still be really loud with 1/4" line.

    Allright, so you've decided what components you're using and you know where they're going. Now for the fun stuff.

    Mount your components. After I got my horns, I realized they were too wide to put under the truck in stock form. So I did some research came up with an idea. Remove the bells from the manifold and make 3/8" plates to drill and tap for air fittings. The air chamber in the bells is too shallow to drill and tap directly, and I've saved the bells by not drilling into them (should I decide to sell at a future time). I had to get in touch with a machine shop in my area for this and it set me back $75, which was a bargain for what I got. The air hole was drilled and tapped for a 1/4" thread. First two pictures are of the fitting (1/2" push to connect with 1/4" male NPT 90 degree elbow) and the air chamber of the bell. No way to mount it directly, so I had the plate in picture 3 machined.
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    Sumo Blue
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    For reference, here's what the horns looked like on the stock manifold.
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    Sumo Blue
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    Since the stock manifold also serves as the mounting bracket and I wasn't using it, I had to make my own brackets based on where the horns were going. I decided to mount two bells facing forward and one bell facing rearward. This is pretty common on trains (gives a slightly different pitch and is more effective when the train is travelling backwards) and allowed me to mount the solenoid valve inbetween the bells with a minimal amount of airline.

    Making the custom mounting brackets:
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    Sumo Blue
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    I'd figured out how to mount the bells without the stock manifold, but needed a way of distributing the air to the bells. My solution was to go with a 1/2" union cross fitting (first picture). I used a 1/2" hex fitting to connect the solenoid valve directly to the union cross and 1/2" push to connect fittings with 1/2" MNPT ends to carry the air to the bells (picture 2)

    And I decided to paint the horns black, just to make them look nice. Stuff a rag down the mouth of the bell or you'll clog the diaphram and the horn won't work. Pictures of the painted bells with the painted mounts, mounting plates, solenoid valve, and union cross (pictures 3 and 4).

    And the bells attached to their custom brackets (picture 5).
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    Sumo Blue
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    Mounting the tank was much easier. I attached it to the frame using one of the holes already present in the frame and made a few custom brackets. The best one is the custom strap that has closed cell weather stripping on the inside to prevent rattles and clangs.

    Pictures of the tank and brackets (pictures 1 and 2).

    Pictures of the tank mounted (pictures 3 and 4). You can see the brackets and metal strap we fabricated, as well as a safety strap (48" ziptie used for hanging duct work).

    Picture 5 is a view of the back of the tank (looking through the rear fenderwell of the passenger side). You can see I've used a 90 degree elbow that has a 1/2" male NPT end with a push to connect end for the hose.
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    Sumo Blue
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    I drilled four holes in the frame to mount the compressor in front of the tank and swapped out the screws Viair supplied in favor of hex screws.

    I mounted the pressure switch in front on the tank on a 1/2" street t fitting. This fitting has a two 1/2" female NPT ends and a 1/2" male NPT end (screwed directly into the tank). The pressure switch has a 1/8" male NPT so I had to use a 1/2" to 1/8" reducer.

    Pictures of the compressor and tank.
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    Sumo Blue
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    Mounting the bells.

    Two bells are mounted on the outside of the frame rail on the driver side, one facing forward and the other facing the rear of the truck. The third bell is mounted inside the frame rail, just in front of the gas tank (picture 3).
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    Sumo Blue
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    Run all your air lines and mount your solenoid valve. I didn't have to use a mount for my valve because the air lines are rigid enough to hold the valve in place. On my truck, I have the compressor and tank mounted on the passenger side. The bells and solenoid valve are on the driver side. I ran the air line from the rear of the tank over a cross member and zip tied everything in place.

    This particular valve is a 1/2" Mac Daddy valve purchased from hornblasters. I think they use the best valves on the market.

    Most important part of this is to keep the air line from the union cross to the bells as short as possible and the same length. Air is in the lines up to the valve. Once you activate the valve, air has to travel from the valve to the bells........if you use a lot of line, you're going to have a slight delay from the time you push the button to honk the horns and the time they actually honk. If one line is longer than the others, you'll hear that bell first before the other two kick in.
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    Now for the really fun stuff, and the part that wore me out: wiring.

    The pressure switch has four wires: two red, one white, and one black. Black is the ground wire (attach to frame), the white wire is connected to the red power lead of the compressor, the thick red wire connects directly to the battery via 10 ga wire with a fuse (put the fuse as close to the battery as possible---the compressor will draw a max of 23A so use a 30A fuse), and the thin red wire goes to a power source that is only hot when the key is turned. This thin red wire will keep your compressor from running if you have an air leak when you're away from the truck. I chose to wire this to one of my upfitter switches and can keep the compressor from kicking on, even when my pressure drops below 165 PSI. The advantage to this is that I can empty the air out of my system by honking the horns if I need to (found a couple of leaks and had to disassemble then reassemble). I'm looking for a 1/2" drain valve for one of the ports on the tank to do the same thing more quickly and more quietly. The other advantage of this is that if the pressure has dropped and the tank needs to fill, you're not starting your truck when the compressor is running. And you can shut the compressor off when the truck is sitting---the compressor is going to get HOT when its filling the tank. If you're driving and while the compressor is running, you'll have air moving across the compressor which will help keep it cooler and extend it's life.

    The compressor has two wires: one red and one black. Connect the red power wire to the white wire on the pressure switch and the black one goes to a ground. I drilled a hole in my frame and used some lacquer thinner to remove the rubbery coating and expose the bare metal to ensure a good ground.

    The solenoid valve needs to be taken apart to expose the connectors for your wires. The valve has three posts. Hold the valve upside down from the way it is in the picture so that two of the posts are above the third post, kind of like a face (two eyes and a nose). The "nose" post isn't going to be used. The other two posts, the top ones (the "eyes"), are your positive and your ground. It doesn't matter which is which since you're using DC. Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the front of the valve (the part that's missing in the second picture) where you run your wires, but you should be able to figure it out. The front of the valve where the wires will go is held in place with a philips head screw. Unscrew that and look at the face of that connector. There's a flat head screw in the middle that you need to take off to access the connecting points.
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    Sumo Blue
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    Wiring the pressure switch and the solenoid valve triggers into the truck was a little more difficult. The biggest questions were which wires to tap.

    Remove the fuse panel below the steering wheel to expose the fuse box. On the right of the steering column is a grey connector with a dark blue wire in it. This is the trigger wire for the regular horn and is a negative trigger. Its an open circuit until you depress the horn button (not grounded, pushing the horn button in the steering wheels completes the circuit by giving it a ground).

    I wanted to be able to toggle back and forth between my regular horn and my train horns using the upfitter switch, and the best way of doing this was with a 12V, 30A, 4 post relay.

    Pictures of the horn trigger wire and a basic wiring diagram of the relay. In the first picture, I've already tapped the horn wire with a black wire (which will go to the relay).
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    Sumo Blue
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    If you have upfitter switches on your Superduty, here's the specs on them:

    Upfitter 1: 30A, orange wire with a light green tracer
    Upfitter 2: 30A, orange wire
    Upfitter 3: 10A, orange wire with a yellow tracer
    Upfitter 4: 10A, orange wire with a light blue tracer

    The 4 wires are behind the fuse box and are labelled Aux1-Aux 4. They should be tied off already in a small bundle and have blunt cut ends with black rubber caps.

    I used upfitter 3 for my relay (turn the solenoid valve on and off) and upfitter 4 for my trigger wire for my pressure switch.

    On the relay, connect the orange wire with the yellow tracer to the positive side of the coil. Connect another jumper wire from the ground side of the coil to the dark blue horn trigger wire. On the "switch" side of the relay, connect a 12V hot wire (always 12V) to the open side of the switch and your power wire for your solenoid valve to the other side of the switch. See the diagram in the previous post if you're confused (relay option 1 word document).

    In this picture, you can see upfitter wire 4 (orange with light blue tracer) connected to the trigger wire for my compressor at the top. On the left side of the relay, you can see upfitter wire 3 (orange with yellow tracer) connected to the relay. The red wire on the front of the relay goes to the solenoid valve and the black wire on the right is my jumper wire going to the dark blue wire for the horn. You can't see the wire for my 12V hot going into the relay.

    One thing--don't go probing wires on the steering column for a 12V hot. There's a chance you could set off your airbag. No crap. Look for a 12V hot on the back of the fuse box.
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    holy chit that looks like a lot of work

  13. #13
    Sumo Blue
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    Finally, reassemble your dash and loom your exposed wires to clean things up.

    How do they sound?

    "Dude, that's the loudest thing I've ever heard."

    Honestly, I have to be very careful where I honk and who I honk at. I had a guy run a stop sign on me in a parking lot and I almost t-boned him. I gave him a quick blast and he almost jumped into his passenger seat.

    On another occasion, I was driving by a golf course and caught a foursome on the fairway. One guy was at the high point of his back swing and I have him 2 quick blasts. All I saw was a watermelon size chunk of grass fly through the air He told me I was #1 and the other 3 guys with him were laughing so hard they could barely stand up.

    Finally, I was about 100' away from the main entrance to my work. I was showing a co-worker the horns and gave him a quick honk. A car entering the parking lot drove over the curb and then slammed on his brakes.........the guy was inside frantically looking left, right, left to figure out where he was about to get creamed from.

    The 1/2" line flows so much air that I can only get a few quick blasts out of the horns before my compressor kicks in, but the horns will continue to make you deaf all the way down to about 60 PSI. Way more honking than I'll ever need.

    I'd like to extend a special thanks to the following people:

    Phil, for helping me fabricate all the brackets and figuring out where everything is going to go.

    Doug, from Direct Injection Performance (gogodiesel.com) for answering all my questions. I can't remember exactly what I bought from him, but its a laundry list of stuff. He sells complete horn packages as well as individual components. After all the time I've spent on the phone with him, I consider him a good friend.

    Matt, from hornblasters.com for the exceptional service and great products.

    And last but not least, Ken Kanne from http://thehorndoc.trainhorns.net/home.html

    Ken and I have never met and when I contacted him over the internet, he gladly took the time to help me out. I'd say he's the Carrol Shelby of train horns and took a lot of his time to help me come up with a viable solution for mounting the horns once they were off their stock manifold. He gave me information on stuff I had no idea about (what pressures I could run, how to tap into the bells, biggest fittings I could use, etc) and his advice gave me the ability to set these up without destroying the bells. He even offered to fabricate the mounts for free.

    If anyone has any questions about this, please feel free to shoot me an PM or an email

    sickpuppy1973@yahoo.com

    And remember, honk responsibly.

    --Snake

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    i want some loud horn. BUt its a mod i never take the leap on

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    Snake - Great post dude. Good enough for a sticky in this "how to" I recon.

    You have got me real interested in going this mod to my 250 dude. I just love the idea of ripping one up the buggers when you get messed with. Can't wait to do it now. Thanks man for a great how to.

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