Jet turbos, injectors and RVs
Braydon Hopping loves a challenge. He’s building a reputation in and around Marton for being the go-to guy for tricky auto electrical, or 12-volt problems.
Whether it’s stripping back a race car wiring harness to shed some kilos, or amping up a powerpack for a helicopter, Hopping Auto Electrical is on to it.
Braydon and wife Miranda have owned the business since 2016 – buying it from Braydon’s parents Lindsay and Sonia Hopping. Taking over was not something Braydon had always aimed for. His technical mind was first drawn to electronics and communications technology. He was installing and advising on mobile systems (GPS, alarms, radio) when the global financial crisis hit in 2008 and work started drying up. He and Miranda, a primary school teacher, decided to move from Tauranga back to his hometown of Marton, and try a fresh start.
“My father needed someone extra in the workshop, so I started by giving him a hand and then decided to do my apprenticeship.”
Miranda also retrained, as an early childhood teacher. “There were no primary school jobs going in Marton, but I was fortunate enough to be offered a job at an early childhood centre in Bulls, so I worked there while I studied for the new qualification.”
Within three years, Braydon qualified as an auto electrician – finding his background in electronics a big advantage in grasping the concepts and technical expertise needed for working with 12-volt circuitry.
By 2016 the young couple was ready to take over from Lindsay and Sonia, who were ready for retirement. “They still own the building, but eventually, we want to take that on too and expand the size a bit,” says Braydon.
Building the brand
Braydon’s technical expertise and Miranda’s attention to customer needs and business compliance have combined to drive the business to new markets. Solar installations in RVs, race car wiring, large construction and road contracting businesses and others are increasingly turning up on the Hoppings job sheets. To reflect this, Miranda has broadened the stock in the small showroom and added inverters, various lights and other accessories. Last year, she spent a huge part of her time developing health and safety processes to be accepted for assessment by PREQUAL. This is an independent system that assesses a business’ health and safety regime and provides an indication to other companies that staff are able to perform work safely. “It means that big companies like Higgins and Waste Management can see our service will meet their health and safety requirements” she says. Meanwhile, Braydon and apprentice Toby McGinity have been head down in the intricacies of wiring, diagnostic curiosities, and designing solutions for tricky problems.
The HEPA filter challenge
During the past few years, one of the headscratchers for Hoppings has been to install a HEPA air filter into the cabs of two Komatsu excavators to protect their operators from asbestos. HEPA filters are installed in a vacuum and capture dust and other tiny particles as they flow though an intake system. The challenge was that the filter wouldn’t fit in the door where the cab ventilation system was installed. Instead, they had to fit it externally using the heater and manifold. “It was quite tricky figuring out where to install it because the door frame was in the way,” says Braydon.
The jet turbine helicopter challenge
Rotor Work is a busy local helicopter operator, and owners Malcom and Jason Dellow came to Braydon with a potentially life-threatening problem. The small powerpack supplied with one of their helicopters was not powerful enough to spin the turbine up to a safe ignition speed, particularly on the first cold start of the day.
“If it doesn’t spin fast enough, the high temperatures caused by the start-up can affect the turbines and cause metal fatigue,” explains Braydon. Braydon and Toby set about assembling a much more powerful power-pack. It needed to be a 30-volt system to match the aircraft. “This posed some problems as 12-volt batteries weren’t going to do the job. And then there was the issue of managing the charging of the powerpack before use. It resulted in a bit of outside-the-box thinking. Our solution also lowered the ignition temperature by about 100 degrees which is a substantial improvement for a gas turbine.” Rotor Work now uses the pack daily for the first start-up cycle of the machine.
The fun stuff
Not all the work involves hours of research or problem solving. Braydon and Toby have plenty of fun stuff. “One of our customers is seriously into four-wheel driving. He has the latest Ford Raptor and he takes friends and passengers out for weekends or in some cases week-long expeditions and then there’s Daise, his really tough Nissan Safari, which has been purpose-built for the really tough tracks.” Hoppings has been tasked with fitting out both so they can be used to drive late into the night and camp out. “So we’ve added lots of extra lights, solar panels and a charging system to manage the RV battery (which runs the coffee machine and other gadgets), and lots of radio communication equipment.” Other fun jobs include hauling the wiring harness out of a racecar and stripping it right back to the bare essentials, all to save around 10 kilos in weight. “Doing our bit to make the car go faster,” laughs Braydon.