Buying a Van Part 6
This is the first part of this saga that wasn't previously published as a blog on a motorhome forum and will be organised differently. Parts 1 to 5 covered the first 22 months of ownership, up to the end of August 2012 and this will cover at least the next 24. (I am writing this in the summer of 2014). Now spring 2015 and still going.
In the first 22 months I carried out some fifty plus modifications, repaired twenty odd faults but its much more stable now and we really do use our motorhome, as can be seen below.
As I was driving to Chard, Somerset today to get a broken shower tray mended (see - I don't do every job although I did replace a shower tray in a previous van), I was mentally running through the jobs and finding that I couldn't remember very many of them. I think that is because many are 'below the surface' changes, that may make things work better but aren't 'in your face' so to speak, or they belong to the 'obvious' category, clearly on view but arguably should have been part of the original build by Chausson. My wife Doreen was speaking to someone at a meet recently and saying that I had done some mods but not very much! Well that's as it should be, under the radar.
Our trips (main destination or area)
2010 Back from Discover Darlington via Eden Camp and York. Canterbury. Nights away in new van: 9
2011 Canterbury. Mid-Scotland (>3 wks<). Kent. Amsterdam. Stratford. Upavon. Derbyshire/Yorkshire (4 wks)*. West Wales. Upavon. Folkestone. Mychett. Tetbury. Bletchley Park** Nights away: 95
2012 Devizes. Oxford. N Curry. Sherborne. Romsey. Amsterdam**. Ireland(4 wks)*. New Forest. Malmsbury*. Lancing. Wimborne. East Anglia. Romsey. Durham/Chester. Bletchley Park** .Buxton. Nights away: 103
2013 Holt**. Dinton. Kent. Scotland (and N England*)(>5wks<). New Forest. Fordingbridge. Corfe Castle. Bordon. Malvern. Devon and Cornwall (2wks). Ropley. Moreton in Marsh. NEC** Nights away: 80
2014 Bristol/Taunton. N Wales (2wks). Mychett. Hamble. Chedder/Exmouth/Corfe (3wks). Lichfield National forest
*Campsite assessing for Alan Rogers **On my Own
As you can see we tend to stick to UK nowadays, this is because we can't leave our dog(s), in fact the last time we left them was in 2011, Amsterdam and we had to come back early as Jake was unwell in UK. Jake died at the end of 2013.
Getting ready to go - Filling up the Chausson
Everone fills up the space available, the more space you have the more you lug around with you.
In the ideal world your motorhome would be parked outside fully packed, provisioned, watered, fuelled and ready to drive away but the reality is somewhat different. Obviously fresh food gets packed just before you leave and you also have to chill the fridge down first. What about clothes, a certain amount can stay in the van all summer but there is obviously a difference between the type of clothes you take away for a long weekend and the packing for a month. The result is that it takes us far longer to leave than it used to do when we had a Romahome. If you have more, you have to check more and there is more opportunity to leave stuff behind. What has also happened with this Chausson is that we now have more stuff than we can take without say, filling the shower room, so as well as clothes and food we have to make decisions about what not to take.
BBQ/Grill: We have a small Cadac and an even smaller Coleman grill. The Cadac has a dome and extends the BBQ's use but uses up more space. So take BBQ or not? Which one? This is tied into the next decison.
Cadac Table and Rucksack
Telescope: The telescope can stay in the van under the bed all year but there is not too much point if you are planning to be in a brightly lit area or its high summer, unless something spectaculatr is expected in the sky. However it comprises a holdall and one of those Really Useful boxes plus a small box and the all important tripod. White ruler in the pictures below is 12".
It also tends to mean more warm clothes to pack. As the holdall fits where I keep the Cadac, and the tripod nestles on top, generally we don't take the telescope in the Summer, except in Scotland perhaps. Conversely if we do take the telescope and there is a chance of a BBQ we take the Colman grill.
Heater: I have an electric oil-filled radiator (600W) and a ceramic heater (2kW). Neither is any use without electric hook up so it would be no point in taking it if you are to be without hook-up or its going to be hot. The 600W one stays in from Autumn to late spring It has it's own space under the bed
Mattress infill: The bench seat and table convert into a small bed with the addition of one extra piece that stays firmly in the loft unless we know that we have grandkids to cater for.
Tents etc: When we had the previous van we had an ingenious use of a small windbreak and BBQ cover to make an ad hoc tent to store stuff. It would be used today to store child car seats. We also have a tent not unlike a toilet tent but double the ground plan. We have taken that when we looked after grandchildren, plus a play tent.
We have a small breathable ground sheet to put outside the door in the wet season and a larger one for summer which is about the size of the awning. We have windblockers, these fold down very small and are light, the poles for the sides have a dedicated place under the bed, see photo so, the windblockers stay in all year.
Wind poles under the bed with detail of fastening
Now this needs a mod as explained below.
Bicycle Just a few days ago (end of June 2014) I bought a £600 folding bike. Which will definitely be in the way. Its a unisex one, easily adjustable and a way for one of us to be getting out and about. I don't know if this is going to be a long term thing but we had to try it. Fitting a bike rack would be easy on existing mounting points but it would have to be demounted before reversing off the road at home. Here it is folded in its cover.
Bike in its bag.
Other Stuff: Kites, inside screens, different chairs, spare bedding (dog and human), rucksack, table, the list goes on and on .... a lot.
What we have left behind
A place for everything and everything in its place is a maxim we try and follow and when we get back home we tend to top up the consumables straight away however we still seem to forget stuff. I started making a list in the back of my logbook in case there were systemic failures that I could correct.
Ordnance Maps: As I have a large collection I transfer any useful ones to the van before making a trip, along with any guides for the projected area. There is a sinking feeling when I reach up for the one I want and find no maps or worse the maps for last trip, because that implies two failures.
My waterproof: I have a good quality lightweight coat which folds up small and vanishes into one of its own pockets. I try and leave it in the van but its so handy to have with us if we are walking at home in changeable conditions that its been taken out and left behind more than once.
Stuff sack(s). Rather than stuff dirty clothes into plastic bags we have stuff sacks, of course these go in to the house after every trip, once or twice they have failed to re-emerge
Eggs and tomatoes: For us these are non-fridge items home and away but here the problem is not being without them in the van as what we come home to find after a period away, the same applies of course to bread.
Pen(s): It is a mystery to me how pens get emptied from the van but they do. I carry a zip up bag with small stationery items in pens pencils sellotape eraser etc and pens as well have their own place in the cockpit but forget them we do.
Electrical adaptors: There is a box labelled with its contents carrying all the leads, adaptors and small power supplies that we need these days. All but one of these items are duplicated at home so there is no need for any to be removed from the motorhome but for some reason they migrate homewards.
Medicines This is a show stopper. We have left the dog medicine behind and had to return. Taken our tablet boxes that hold a weeks worth but failed to the second weeks or just miscounted and gone short at the end.
Doggy items: This is the largest category of failure. At one time or another we have left just about everything of theirs behind, I blame them for not doing proper checks.
Back to the Modifications
Between August 2012 and June 2014 there haven't been very many modifications
Fire blanket I was looking for a place to put a clock and looked at the door above the hob then thought really the only thing you could put there would be a fire blanket and as we were at a show managed to buy a compact one and fitted it straight away after checking that the door hinge springs were man enough to support more weight.
Clock and Thermometer. When I first wake up in the morning I like to know what time it is and what the temperature is inside and out. This allows me to make all sorts of decisions. I spent hours looking for a suitable clock and a position to mount it that was for instance easy to see from my bed. If it was big enough to see it was too big to mount. I was just about giving up when I saw a combined clock, barometer and temperature gauge I still had limited options for a position to put it but it was mounted on its own piece of wood that matched my decor and was really nice looking. Only other problem was that it was from a ship's chandeler and around £250. At about the same time I saw a tiny combined clock and temperature gauge that also gave frost alarm and was intended for car use with a remote sensor. It was about a fiver on eBay. I bought the cheap one. Mounted it with some double sided foam tape on the bottom of the shelf that runs across above the bed headboard. The remote sensor lead joins in with the lamp cable then follows the one going to the high brake light repeater on the rear of the van where the sensor nestles in ithe brake light housing. It is shielded from direct sunlight but allowances have to be made if the sun is shining directly on it, however that is unlikely first thing in the morning. Of course its a bit inconvenient in the middle of the day if you want the time or the temperature but its a fixed bed so all I have to do is lie down on it.
18ºC inside 15ºC outside 06.10am
We had difficulty fitting a child seat because the original seat squab was too squashy. An upholstery firm made us a new one out of flooring grade foam. Today (10/7/2014) we have reverted to the original as the grandkids are now on booster seats and in any case Mum and Dad have their own motorhome now.
Accidents, Breakages and Failures
The two 'Aldershot' bumps have been documented in part 4 and the leaking roof that was Duck taped together in Ireland was mentioned at the end of part 5.
Roof leak This started in a downpour in county Wicklow in May 2012 with rain dripping into the sink (lucky). The route of water into the van was unclear but the seal at the front left and right where the GRP 'nose' is attached to the box shape of the van has always been suspect. This leak came back first as a slight stain on the headlining vinyl and I ignored it and just replaced the Duck tape (I now have white tape that blends in with the van colour). I checked the damp level and found that it was low, near the normal level for wood. The staining got noticeable and damp reading increased to 15% so eventually I took it to Highbridge to see what they could do. It was decided that the two small fairings at the side of the roof that 'join' the sides to the front would have to be removed and replaced with new, along with the long strip across that does the same. They could dig out the whole area and replace wood plastic etc but said that it was labour intensive work and expensive and they normally only did this as part of a warrantee claim and if I wanted I could do it myself. So I agreed that their repalr was limited to stopping any more leaks. This they did in early 2014. Note Discover botched up the hand over of all habitation warrantees.
I then removed a strip of the stained part of the vinyl inside and am monitoring the improving moisture level whilst I decide how best to cosmetically improve the look of the inside once it has completely dried out.
Battery monitor switch When I installed the NASA battery monitor I noticed that it was a requirement to interupt the power supply when setting it up. It was suggested that you remove and replace the fuse whilst pressing buttons on the monitor. Now this gave me a little problem, the fuse was under the bed and the monitor was being fitted over the bed so instead I fitted a small push button switch in the cupboard behind the monitor. Now I could calibrate the monitor on my own without contortions. After a while I noticed that sometimes the meter was clearly inaccurate and I traced it down to the switch. It was a little push on push off switch and had come from my copious supply of electrical and electronic parts. All the ones I had were the same a fairly high and variable resistance when operated with a small current (a few milliamps) at 12V yet they would all work to swich a mains lamp off and on. In the end I replaced the switch with a crimped connection that was easy to disconnect.
Someone, who must remain nameless, grips the door surround when she gets in. During the Dorset holiday in 2014 it was noticed that it was ripped. This rubbery material is cast with a rib running underneath which fits into the aluminium extrusion of the door frame. As well as the visible rip, around 6" of this rib is ripped off leaving the whole piece flapping. Its a work in progress. The parts have benn sourced by Highbridge Caravans and will take a couple of months tio arrive. Parts? As well as a relacement seal at £16 a metre plus VAT I have also bought a matching handrail to the one on the otherside of the door although fitting it may be a dockyard job.
This crack occured sometime in our Welsh trip this year. It was clear to me that the tray is insufficiently supported, bending even with Doreen's meagre weight on it. The crack was about 5" long. I tried Capt Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure but with the underlying lack of support, it was clear that that was only a temporary fix. I was going to do it myself. Drill holes at the end of the crack to act as crack propagation stoppers, inject expanding foam and solvent weld the crack together. In the end though decided to take it to Caravan and Motorhome solutions in Chard who in addition to supporting the tray using a different material to expanding foam coated the whole tray in a tough material that acts as a non-slip shower mat.
Fridge freezer box Hinge
Part of one just snapped in June 2014 so I bought two new ones.
In January 2013 we came home after being away for a few days using our car to find that all four wheel trims were gone and later found that the driver's side mirror had also been stolen. Replacement for both using original Ford parts wasn't cheap but it was the sort of money that its not worth claiming on the insurance. The design of the new wheel trims had changed, the originals clipped to the outside of centre ring of the wheel these new ones more conventionally clipped inside the wheel rim and were much less substantial.I was originally quoted £118 for the set, when they came they were 'only' £74 plus VAT. I used silver cable ties to ensure they didn't come off easily, as this type often do.
I was glad that they managed to remove the mirror glass without damaging anything else, however that caused a saga of its own. I didn't notice anything odd on the short drive back from the garage but later noticed that they had fitted the wrong curvature of mirror with the result that the rear views on either side were different which is quite disconcerting. Eventually the right part was sourced and fitted.
You can imagine how upset we were when one morning in April 2013 we found two wheel trims removed. This time the Police showed much more intereste and we had SOCO crawling all over the van taking fingerprints, only one trim had been taken the other had come apart and had been abandoned nearby. It is surmised that my newly installed security lighting had frightened them off. The police took the abandonded wheel trim away as potential evidence but three months later returned it. I put the thing together and its now a spare as I had replaced both trims. When I went to Fords to collect the two replacement wheel trims which they had had to order in, I saw that they had several piles of them and was informed that they had seen a rash of people replacing stolen trims. Not everyone reports such thefts so I contacted the police and advised them that the garage was supplying an unusual number of replacements.
The thieves were not caught. I still look out for a white Transit van with posh wheel trims.
What happens next?
Well we get on with enjoying the van of course. I have materials coming to mend the door and I will replace the habitation batteries this winter. I still need to decide what to do with the roof interior
By the way
We often banter about who leaves the cupboard doors open and messes up the van well on one of my trips away by myself:
Highbridge caravans provided the materials and they arrived sooner than expected so having a spare hour or so I went ahead and fixed it.
To remind you here is the before picture:
The surround is made of a soft rubbery material and when I got it off the next picture shows the break and gives a clue to why it broke. The thickest part of the surround has been cut away to fit around the door stricker plate. A sharp edge had been left which is always a good starting point for a tear. When I fitted the new material I cut a slot for the plate leaving the thickest part intact I made sure it neatly fitted and there were no sharp notches then fitted the rest of the surround and the remainder of the latch. The plastic cover rests on the surround.
When I put it all back together I found that the door closes much better than before. A result I think. One further problem was that my wife, having a bad back, and being only 5ft tall has to haul herslf in and clearly has been wrapping her fingers around the spot where the surround tore. I bought another handle to match the one already fitted on the left hand side. I found I could either match the height of the top of the handle or its angle but not both.The mirror is in the way to some extent and as its glued in place I couldn't easily move it. After playing around with its position I settled for the following:
The top fixing bolt goes through solid wood but the bottom one goes through two pieces of wood held apart with a filler. I will be addressing that over next winter.
We bought wind blockers for the awning a couple of years ago but the side ones are held up with rigid poles which stops the awning from being flexible enough to absorb wind gusts. This year at the Malvern show we bought a mod kit which introduces springs in the poles. It means that there are effectively four poles to store and they give you a bag as part of the kit. For me it means that I have to modify my store solution.
Flushing the loo.
Large Roof vent
A slotted pin fell out some time ago and it sometimes is a fiddle to close so I have bought some new pins and then will adjust the mechanism (Nov 2014). Then before I had a chance to renew the pins the drive mechanism failed. Getting a new mechanism proved problematic. Leisureshopdirect seemed to have stock which evaporated after I placed my order. Other places wanted twice the price for them. Eventually they arrived (they are made in Germany) and were quickly fitted in March 2015. In the interim months the vent was held down by gaffer tape!
The original table is incredibly heavy so it is not moved very often. I have always had a mind to use my router on it and lighten it up by about 30-40%. Now that Lottie is very old we need a much lighter table that we can move away completely to give her more room at night. I bought a used one from eBay and extended the leg. It rests on the existing mount but I have had to modify that slightly for more security. Now that I have the original table in the house I weighed it: 15.5Kg!
Accidents, Breakages and Failures pt2
I keep a little note in my log of jobs to do when I get home, often these are just a record of something new to put in the van. I thought I would give you a taste of that, this is from our last trip away at Easter.
1. Repair hob. One of the three hobs has only had a small flame for some time I stripped it down couldn't see any blockage but there was evidence of a spill so I got a strand of thin copper wire and gently pushed it through the central hole. This cured it instantly. I expect the rice boiled over and partially blocked the hole.
2. Shelf for Electric Kettle. This is a recurring idea to have somewhere in the kitchen area where the electrical kettle can boil safely without blocking the sink area. I've looked at it again without coming to a way forward.
3. Crib cards. We get through packs of playing cards (no TV!), it is essential when playing crib that no card is bent or it will always get 'cut'. In March we threw away a pack for that reason and forgot to renew them. We have a stock in the house so they were easily replaced this time.
4.Teak Tray. When we were in Denmark (2007) we bought some small teak filing trays that looked useful but have never found a use for them. We have now put one in the van.
5. Turn indicator. Since new one of the turn indicators has let the damp in. Its bulb holder is damaged and the grommet doesn't seal. I must find out if its a Ford or Chausson part. For this trip I have just dried it out again.
6. Weigh Gas. The cylinder was replaced in Edinburgh 21st August 2014, 47 camping nights ago so I was pleasantly surprised to find it still has 4.2Kg of gas left.
7. Change hooks for poles. (wind blocker) Easily done as I already had some better profile ones.
8. Hook in Loo. I had three hooks!
9. Try different table. See above
10 Clean up condiments. Condiments tend to be spilt but are kept in their own little box so I just needed to take it in to be cleaned when I topped them up.
11 Awning. See above
12 CDS. Change them!
As you can see mostly minor but if I don't write them down I tend to forget them.