Buying a Van .... A story Part 1
This was originally a thread on the Motorhomefacts forum, starting on the 3rd November 2010 and I said at the time that I would probably turn it into a Blog, so here it is.
Now there are some difficulties turning a forum thread into a blog, chief amongst them is what to do with the comments that other people put in the thread, do I seek their permission to reproduce their words for example. What I have decided to to is paraphrase all of other people's comments and when I do they will appear like this. One other problem is the thread on MHF has now lost all its pictures etc, so I am having to illustrate this anew.
In the thread I kept amending my list of snags and improvements, in the end as much for my benefit as anyone elses so it appeared every page or so, I will only give a flavour of how the list developed in this blog. I am retaining some but not all of the dates of the forum entries and adding others where I used expressions like 'yesterday' which of course made sense at the time, that and other extras not in the original thread will be in blue like this.
Posted 3 Nov 2010
In spring last year (2009) we did part of our coastal trip around Scotland 6 weeks in our 5.2 metre panel van conversion me, my wife and two dogs. At the end of the trip Doreen said that she felt claustrophobic and we needed a bigger van. She also hated the bed making routine which meant that once the bed was made there was little to no standing room. Later that year we were told that could expect a grandchild in the family and we only have seatbelts on the driver and front passenger seats. So we have been gently looking ever since but its only recently that we sorted out in our own minds what we wanted.
A year ago we wanted a van less than 6m long with a wide open space in the lounge area, perhaps a fixed bed and not on a Fiat. Examples: Murvi on a Sprinter or a Wildax Constellation on a Citroen. In the last little while we wanted a van less than 6m long, fixed bed with four belted seats and not on a Fiat. Couldn't really find one ticking all the boxes.
We belong to a Renault Trafic group and went on one of their rallies just over four weeks ago (early October 2010). We were randomly spread around a campsite and next to us was a van that looked less than 6 metres but which we overheard had a fixed bed. We asked if we could look inside and straight away realised that it did tick all of our boxes and such compromises as we could see we could live with. Unfortunately we were also told the model was discontinued.
I logged on to Motorhome Facts mid afternoon whilst still at the rally and found that Nuke (site owner) was offering free tickets to the NEC autumn caravan and camping show on a first come first served basis. We were lucky enough to get tickets so later the next week found ourselves at the show.
So we looked at various other vans before going to the Chausson stand, whilst looking at the latest model (S2) I remarked to the salesman that I much preferred the earlier model the Flash 02. The salesman, Nigel, said that they had a used one with just 2500 miles on the clock at their Darlington branch and that could reserve it for us if we paid a refundable deposit. Now Darlington and Salisbury are 300 miles apart which is a long way to go on spec but we quickly remembered that in less than three weeks we were travelling to Yorkshire to attend a rally. We didn't say yes straight away but by an hour later had been back to the stand and parted with the deposit.
Well that takes us up to yesterday afternoon (2nd Nov) when we arrived at Discover near Darlington and I'll take a break now......
There then followed two pages of humorous posts from people impatient to know what happened next and recounting good and bad experiences with Discover.
Posted 4 Nov 2010
… OK Ok already there is a life outside MHF you know.
Well after our 300 mile drive we were a bit tired, but not too sleepy to notice a couple of minor faults on a quick once over as we were shown around the van by a sales guy who didn't seem too familiar with all the ins and outs of it, it wasn't his sale. We also found the dreaded can of tyre weld (?) and ancillaries in the wardrobe which meant this model doesn't have a spare tyre.
We then plugged in our Trafic and settled down for the night outside their fence but with an electric hookup from them. Next morning, yesterday (3rd Nov), our salesman from the NEC came and saw us and brought the van outside for us to do a road test after comprehensively showing us over the van again.
Doreen and I both drove the van for a few miles and concluded the drive was very acceptable, but the handling was not as good as the Renault (which runs on rails) but its a coachbuilt not a PVC so that was to be expected. No more heel and toeing around roundabouts or kissing the apexes for us.
Anyway we had seen enough to say 'yes' so we did.
We then signed a few forms and arranged the insurance, leaving the salesman to negotiate the repairs through their workshops and tax it.
After filling up with water we went for a last drive in the Renault to Barnard Castle and Darlington.
Lottie was a rescue dog originally from Darlington so it was back to her roots.
On our return we were told that the faults that had been picked up by us were sorted and that all would be ready for a handover today (4th Nov). Last night was spent again on Discover's hook up where we were joined by another van.
We are now awaiting a full handover and gas check.
We do have one disappointment but its not to do with the new van so I'll leave that for a later post.
There followed more comments for people wanting to know more, expecting me to have gone home already and generally being impatient.
Posted later the same day
This morning's handover went well, we are not motorhome virgins so much of it made sense immediately and so an hour later the van was in our possession parked next to 'their' Trafic and we started the process of swapping stuff over.
This next bit is the disappointment:
Apart from year, model, engine size and mileage they weren't really interested in our Trafic or its extras. They wanted me to strip it clean. So we took for example the TV, gas cylinders, mains cable and tomtom, ok I suppose but in a small van these items were shoe horned in and a lot of thought had gone into the their placement and of course the TV antenna amplifier, TomTom external aerial etc could not be easily removed so were left. They wouldn't add anything for my solar panel so we have removed it, but had to leave the regulator behind as it is buried in the woodwork. Where it will probably baffle the next owner as it operates load shedding of the fridge etc as the battery discharges.
There is a rack around which the EHU cable is wound with clips for the socket and plug. When the new owner puts a new 25 metre EHU cable around it, it won't fit. I made the old one fit by removing a couple of feet which I used for a french hookup and a polarity reversal cable.
It just seems such a waste and the 5 years of gradual trial and error to get things right, thrown away in the hour or so it took us to dekit the van.
Anyway bitch over.
What was surprising was that as we started to load up the new van how much stuff there was and how soon the new van looked full. I was stripping the Trafic, Doreen loading the Chausson. The look on her face as I brought yet another box or bag had to be seen to be believed. Of course much of this was because we don't yet know where to store things. I will be adding quite a few dividing shelves I reckon.
So early this afternoon (still 4th Nov) we left Discover and drove the 40 miles or so down the A1 to this camp site. (Boroughbridge) On the way I played with the cruise control which was intuitive but it was a hard slog in the wind I seemed to have to do a lot of steering compared to the Renault where hands on the wheel on a motorway was only optional.
In a little while we will be repacking some things and then on Friday going to a rally.
This is only an interim report, give us a couple of days and I'll say how its going.
PS I have already reversed up a hill and across wet grass and there is no problem with the clutch or gear ratios. In fact 1st seems even lower than the Renault trafic
PPS We miss the Trafic already, but are enjoying the extra room and the fixed bed.
5th Nov 2010
Ok its 6am as I start this and we've just had our first night in the van. Very comfortable although Doreen managed to bang my knee with the loo door at some point in the night. The site flooded in the night but we had already been moved to higher ground.
We have started a snagging/improvements list. The previous owner had it over a year but did under 2500 miles and it doesn't looked lived in at all. In fact looking at the list we have made you would think it had never been used, for example number 8 on the list below. If you were to reach up from the bed in the dark you could easily pull the front of the shelf above you down on your head.
We have to name the van. When the old and new ones were parked next to each other Doreen suggested 'Ugly', a bit harsh I thought, but Sallytrafic was beautiful to look at so not a fair comparison. It is very spacious inside and not ugly at all. Anyway our snagging list:
1. Name Van.
2. Add towel/drying rails.
3. Design and fit cupboard shelving.
4. Replace curtain hooks.
5. Fit rubber glove holder.
6. Fit gas lighter holder.
7. Design and fit partitions under bed.
8. Fix over bedhead shelf properly.
9. Replace halogens with LEDs.
10. Add shurflo accumulator to water system.
We made a bed and travelling area for the dogs by lowering the table to the rear seat squab height, laying some breathable ground sheet on it and putting their plastic bed on top of it. It is retained neatly by a bulkhead and the front passenger seat. That is a good solution and has the advantage that they are out of the way during enroute stops or when you first arrive. It doesn't allow you to use the belted rear seats or the table though so at the moment it is only option 'A'.
When I wanted to change the time from BST on the Ford audio system I couldn't see how, so I got out the Transit manual, it referred me to another book which I duly found only to discover it was only in German. So after figuring how to change the 'Uhr' I looked at the other manuals which are in a virgin state. What a ragbag of manuals in all sorts of European language imaginable but often without an English one! What is the point of giving me the Webasto handbooks in I think Portuguese Spanish Italian French German Turkish(?) Greek and probably Serbo Croat and not the English one. I have a mod kit for the fridge, all in French. The control panel and circuit diagrams are also only in French. Well apart from how to work the radio all this won't matter too much, who reads manuals anyway.
We are moving on to a rally today so have time to use the van a little more whilst still within reach of our dealer. Just a word on Discover. We found them very professional. We were never offered a coffee or any other of the simple to do but relatively meaningless extras and frills that salesmen often provide and which act as red herrings during the process. They did everything they said they would do, when they said they would do it. This I found of more worth than a cup of coffee.
Over the next few weeks I will no doubt add to my snagging/improvement list and to this thread.
I now need to drink a cup of coffee and consider how to add solar, increase battery capacity (plenty of room in battery compartment) and what gas system to add (currently our campingaz cylinder plumbed in). I will add some photos but currently Doreen is still sleeping over the top of my camera usb lead.
There were many congratulary comments and one explaining that my extras in the Renault were just potential problems to Discover, I suspect they just took it to an auction site.
6 Nov 2010
Yes I see that Dave but its still a pity and a waste especially as its probably going to be someone's first van. If there had been more time I would have sold it privately. Glad you liked the photos, I wasn't in a good area for uploads with my 3 mifi.
The improvement list (because they are mostly improvements not snags) now has:
11. Soap dispenser in Bathroom (Fiamma)
12. Awning Light
There were more congratulations on the new MH and one asked why the dog bed couldn't go under the table and another asking how I kept in touch with MHF away from home.
7 Nov 2010
At floor level there is large cross section cover for the trunking for the webasto air inlet and two of the hot air outlets. This means their bed wont fit.
I have a mifi. It connects to the internet through the 3 mobile network and provides a wifi connection to my computer.
8 Nov 2010
Well back to the story
We only had a small Campingaz 907 cylinder in the Trafic, as it only had to power the hob. I didn't think the motorhome purchase through or I would ensured that at least I had taken my full one with me.
So Discover gave me a small butane pigtail, I balanced my campingaz cylinder on an upturned plastic box added the adaptor valve and drove away. At Eden camp two days later the gas gave out. I started thinking about my gas options for the coming few days and more permanently. The Chausson has diesel heating but gas hob grill and boiler, there is room in the gas locker for a single 11-13Kg cylinder. My options seemed to me to be:
1. Get a refilled campingaz which would delay the real decision until I got home. Cost £21.
2. Get a new Calor propane or butane 11/13kg cylinder. Cost £20 plus cylinder.
3. Get a new Flogas propane or butane 11/13kg cylinder, Cost £18 plus cylinder.
4. Get a Gaslow refillable system. Cost unknown
5. Get a LPG tank. Cost unknown.
Well I hadn't considered FloGas before as I wasn't certain of the retail outlets and as there were too many options, some of them requiring more thought we opted for No 1 and we set out to get a camping gaz bottle. Three hours and 50 miles later we returned to Eden Camp having drawn a blank. Friends at the rally lent me a Flogas propane cylinder for the night and as I had already purchased a butane/propane pigtail adaptor we connected up and started thinking again.
A quick web search revealed lots of Flogas outlets in fact at home I'm closer to FloGas than to Calor. Talking to others at the Rally revealed that the payback time for options 4 and 5 at today's prices was quite a few years. Given that Flogas is cheaper and there was a petrol station selling it near our next campsite we decided on option 3.
When we got to that petrol station they only charged me about £18 I said that I hadn't a cylinder to exchange and they said that was OK and still charged just for the gas. I don't expect that is universal!
So now the gas is sorted and we have spent the day at the National Railway Museum in York.
There was a comment saying we should consider gaslow refillable as we only have room for the one cylinder, in case we run out.
9 Nov 2010
We will always carry a campingaz 907 for the BBQ/grill so have something for when it runs out.
10 Nov 2013
Home now. After confirming that I can reverse it on to my bit of off road hard standing I settled down to designing the new bits and sorting out my snagging and improvements list. This involved emptying the van measuring some parts and getting behind some of the panels to see where 'stuff' is.
There seems to be a space behind the low profile front on each side to the rear of the main top locker.
I removed a panel and straight away could see sunlight through the glass fibre in places.
That is NOT good as it means that its probably very thin and only resin there rather than fibres. Not sure what to do about that yet I will have to look at the other side and see if its a problem there as well. It also could do with being insulated.
I went in search of the connection to the wiring that is provided for an awning light and where you connect the solar input. This I found behind a plastic panel in the wardrobe so no need to run a cable around the van but its not going to be that easy to make a connection to outside of the van from there. Plus any regulator will be well out of sight there - more to think about in the coming days. Even with a big flat roof there is only one part that has enough room for my 130W panel. Luckily not too far from where the fixed wiring is.
Inspection of the roof showed up a crack opening up between the flat part of the roof and the lowprofile end cap. I will look again tomorrow when it is raining but there is no evidence yet of water ingress.
Well I guess that was enough for today. It starts to knock you back when you start finding things wrong. My snagging improvement list now has 25 items on it.
12 Nov 2010
After a couple of days of measuring and gaining access to places you're not meant to go to. I've divided my list in two and considerably lengthened it/them.
1. Name Van.
2. Add towel/drying rails.
3. Design and fit cupboard shelving.
4. Fit rubber glove and tea towel holder. .
5. Fit gas lighter holder.
6. Design and fit partitions under bed. .
7. Replace halogens with LEDs.
8. Add shurflo accumulator to water system.
9. Soap dispenser in Bathroom (Fiamma)
10. Awning Light. Prefitted Cables found
11. Extra mains socket
12. Bed end cupholders
13. Front seat cupholder
14. Hook for rubbish bag.
15. Make fitted cover for bench seat.
16. Get winter covers for fridge and grill.
17. Cut up carpet to retain some.
18. Wet clothes hooks over door
19. Fit solar panel
20. Fit two larger batteries
21. Fit Nasa style battery monitor.
1. Replace curtain hooks. (poor quality)
2. Fix over bedhead shelf properly.
3. Seal side of worktop
4. Get English language versions of some manuals.
5. Fit new outside door clip
6. Investigate thin glass fibre
7. Investigate roof junction sealing.
Someone asked what is an accumulator?
Its a device you fit anywhere in your water system and it acts like a reservoir of the pressure so when you put on the taps a little bit the pump doesn't run until the reservoir is empty then it runs for a while. You don't get the stop start effect,
There then followed a page of posts telling me I should do various claims on the warranty and take it back to Darlington etc. and the first of what would be many asking why I bought a van that I would have to do so much to and one pointing out that only part was glass fibre the rest being polystyrene.
18th Nov 2010
Yes agreed, its the glass fibre end cap that I can see light through (see my post on page 6) not the polyester sides and tops. I have had a pool of water sitting on top of the van near the lifted sealant and none has come into the van so this seal seems to be mostly cosmetic.
19th Nov 2010
I republished my list showing some progess and so ended the first two weeks of ownership and the end of part 1