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Category Archives: Van Maintenance

Bath Day…

 

Last week, before we changed his tailgate struts, we gave Old Red a bath. It had been a very long time since we’d had the chance to get him clean and he was looking rather green and very sorry for himself.

Not any more though!…thanks to…

…a handy husband (armed with a jet wash)…

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…a telescopic brush from Maplin (and a bucket of hot soapy water) note: this brush is cheap and *sort of* does the job. I don’t know if I’m just not strong enough to tighten it properly, but the brush head comes loose very easily. This is pretty annoying as it can cause you to give the paintwork a bit of a clunk, and you have to keep stopping to tighten it . It extends to 2m, which is great for reaching the top of the hi-top, and the brush handle plugs into a hose but Luke was already using our hose for the jet wash, so I made do with a bucket

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…and a helpful little sister (who had her first go at babywearing)…

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…we now have a shiny clean van who looks like someone loves him.

BeFunky Collage

Our wash and fix-up day also gave us the chance to give Old Red’s bodywork the once over, and we’ve been able to make a list of things that need to be looked at next. Things aren’t half as bad as I’ve been imagining they were, and despite the fact that Red has barely moved in so long (*cough* years *cough*) nothing seems to be drastically wrong (she wrote with crossed fingers).

The fact that Red has stood needing work for so long has been a constant weight on my mind, and seeing him looking more and more neglected as each day went by was a pretty depressing thing. In the past few days we’ve paid the old boy a lot of attention and not only is he looking better (happier, almost), but we’re feeling a lot better too.

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…it rained soon after we washed him…just our luck!…

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Van Maintenance

 

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Tailgating…aka: Praise Be to VW Heritage…

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For as long as he has lived with us, Old Red’s tailgate struts (the bits that keep the boot hatch open) have been defunct and we have had to use brooms, planks, step-ladders and people to keep it open. This isn’t ideal as it makes access to the engine bay a little tricky, and also because the bike rack tends to drip cold water on whoever drew the “holding the boot open” short straw. So when I was asked to write a review for VW Heritage it really wasn’t difficult to think of a part that we needed.

Their website is organised by vehicle type, which makes finding parts for your bus or car a lot simpler…especially for people like me who don’t have as much experience with this kind of thing. There are also handy diagrams with a key so you can be doubly sure that you’re buying the right part. My lack of expertise made it hard for me to be certain of what I wanted (I mean, how can you search successfully for a tailgate strut if you think its real name is “boot propper-opener”?!) but all it took was a quick email to VW Heritage and I had all the help I needed.

There is also a ‘Live Chat’ feature on the website so, if you would rather open a speedy dialogue than draft an email, you have that option too.

Our parts – a pair of Meyle gas struts – arrived within days of ordering them.

It may have taken us six months to find a good day to get them fitted (I had overestimated just how much time I’d have to do van stuff once Velcro baby extraordinaire was here)…but get them fitted we did!

…finally…

So!

Removing the old struts…

This is obviously an excellent place to start.

Neither of us had much of an idea on how to do this job, so Luke had a look at the van while I had a look on Google. To say it’s an easy job would be a bit of an understatement, …he’d figured out what we needed to do (and started to do it) before the first page had even begun to load on my phone.

The struts are attached to the body of the van by a pin and a horseshoe clip (and two washers in the case of Old Red), and onto the tailgate by a ball joint with a pincer locking collar.

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…horseshoe clip and pin holding the strut to the body… (this is the cleaned clip and the new strut)

With the door propped up on a step-ladder (I don’t recommend using this method yourself as it wasn’t the safest…especially seeing as we kept walking into the ladder and dislodging it), we started by removing the struts from the body of the van.

To do this we used a flat screwdriver to push/slide/lever the horseshoe clip off the pin, freeing the end of the strut. Old Red’s clips had rusted into place but a few squirts of WD40 and some gentle taps with a hammer and screwdriver got them moving.

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The other end of the strut was even easier. You just slip your screwdriver into the back of the collar and lever it outwards to release the pincer hold around the ball stud so that you can pull it away.

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Et voila!…your strut is free.

…And on with the new…

Installing the new parts was just as simple.

Starting with the tailgate/ball joint end…you use your screwdriver to lever the collar open and hook the strut onto the ball stud.

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The collar locks securely around the ball, but we gave ours a good wiggle, just to be sure we’d done it correctly.

The other end slides back over the pin on the body…

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…and then you can replace the washers and clips (Luke cleaned ours before putting them back on) before standing back to admire your  handiwork.

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…done! Many thanks to Auntie Stephie for keeping her nephew happy while we worked…

It was such an easy job, and I just can’t explain how satisfying it is to not only have a working boot on our van (so satisfying that we opened and closed the boot many MANY times to test it out), but to actually have done it ourselves. Camping is going to be a whole new experience now, and doing work in the engine bay is going to be SO much easier…not to mention safer.

I’d like to offer a massive thank you to the guys at VW Heritage for their help in getting our first repair done. The struts are excellent quality and not only were they easy to fit, but they work superbly too. Our rear door is heavier than most (because of the huge, clunky bike rack) but it now opens and closes really smoothly, and (most importantly) it stays open without human intervention!

Now we’ve got one job off the to-do list, we’re keen to get on with more.

VW Heritage have a handy Wishlist function on their website that account holders can use to save items they want for future purchase (or in case a kind soul should want to buy you presents) so I’m going to use that to keep track of all the parts we need and want. With summer just a few weeks away we don’t have long to get Old Red back on the road, but I’m feeling really positive about our ability to get it done.

 

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Hardly Posting…

It’s been a month since my last post. I am SO frustrated at myself and my life at the moment.

George is almost 5 months old now and I (naively) thought that he’d be a bit more independent by now…happy to sit and play with toys or have a nap on his own. Ha.

He doesn’t really like to nap anywhere other than in my arms, and although he will sometimes fall so deeply asleep that I can put him down, he has the uncanny knack of waking up as soon as I get into doing something. As such, I get half a load of dishes done, washing gets done but gets left in the machine, dried clothes sit in piles waiting to be put away…

We’ve now entered a stage of development where only I will do too, so I can’t even pass him to someone while I get stuff done (or try to at least). Luke does pretty much all the housework (and gets to finish all my half-done jobs) which must be pretty annoying for him. I’m trying to remind myself that George will only be little once, and that the day will come when he doesn’t want to be cuddled, and that on that day I will be immeasurably sad, but that doesn’t work all of the time. I want to be the selfless super-mum that society tells me I should be, but some days I just want to have my arms to myself, to read a book, to tidy a room…to go for a pee without having to yell “IT’S OK! MUMMY IS STILL HERE! YOU’RE NOT ON YOUR OWN!”…

Even now, I’m typing this (laboriously) on my phone while he sleeps in my arms. He keeps stirring and I feel guilty for not being a good mattress and keeping still, but I’m fed up of not getting things done, and this blog (and my failure to write for it) is a major source of guilt for me at the moment.

Another source of guilt is Old Red…

…he’s rapidly becoming Old Green…or Old Rust Bucket. It makes me SO sad and SO depressed…

As it stands he hasn’t moved (not properly) in over 2 years and is SERIOUSLY in need of work. A lot of it is going to cost money that we don’t have, but a lot of it can be done by us and (hopefully) quite cheaply. Our first job is to fit our tailgate struts, which Luke is going to do on the next sunny day we have.

Roll on sunny day!

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2016 in Baby, Life, Parenting, Plans, Van Maintenance

 

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The Struts Have Landed…

A while ago I was asked to write a parts review for VW Heritage, a company that stocks parts and accessories for all kinds of Volkswagen vehicles.

Old Red needs a LOT of work so it was hard to know what parts to ask for, but in the end Luke and I decided to get tailgate struts so we don’t have to rely on planks or the strength of our arms/backs to hold the door open.

They arrived yesterday morning!…

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I feel so honoured to be asked to do my first “proper” review. Luke and I will be removing the old struts and fitting the new ones ASAP…watch this space!

 

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Oh dear! What’s With the Battery?…

If you hadn’t already guessed, the title of this post is to be sung to the tune of “Oh dear, what can the matter be?”

In my last post of last year I said that one of the things on our to do list was to get Old Red’s battery out and get it charged. An easy job you might assume? Well, not as it turned out…

Had it been left to me (Mrs Procrastination Pants) it would never have gotten done, but my husband is a “can do, will do” kind of man. The kind of man, in fact, who will think of a job that needs doing and actually get up and do it. My usual stance on things it to think of them, feel too lazy to do anything about them and decide to do them tomorrow. Maybe. Or possibly some day after that. If I can be bothered.

Last summer we needed to use Red as a spare bedroom, but he was facing down-hill, meaning that our friends either faced a difficult climb into bed or sleeping with all the blood rushing to their heads. As such, we needed to turn the van round. Being the “can do, etc etc” man that he is, Luke realised this, found a socket set, removed Red’s battery, and stuck it on the battery charger in the twinkling of an eye.

Many people will tell you that it’s impossible to reverse the polarity of a battery. They’ll tell you that it’s a myth. Well, I can tell you right now that those people are wrong.

Red’s battery had gone beyond flat. It was dead. As dead as dead can be. Flat as a pancake that’s been run over by a steam roller. As it turns out, when there is ZERO charge in a battery you can INDEED reverse the polarity of it if you put the leads on the terminals the wrong way round. This RUINS the battery by the way. Read more about it here.

Now, it must be noted that I am in NO WAY blaming my Mister for this. After all, had it been left to me the battery would still be in place – completely dead – and the van would still be pointing down-hill.

As it is, we had to bump-start the old boy (not an easy task…pushing was required) to get him moved, and now we need a new battery, but it’s not actually all that bad really is it. Plus we’ve learnt that the myth of reversing the polarity of a battery is not a myth at all! It’s just a shame we had to learn the hard way…

 

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To Do…

We don’t need to do much to get Red back on the road…

  • Charge the battery and get it back in the van!
  • Replace fuel lines (after RAC man clipped through them…idiot)
  • Revive breakdown insurance
  • MOT…and whatever else that entails
  • Tax
  • Get someone to pass a verdict on the gearstick…and then maybe get it replaced.

…but there’s a lot of things that we need to do, and that we’d like to do, and this is just some of them…

– Door and Window Seals

This is actually quite an important job, and although the current seals are holding up enough to keep water out, they look terrible and really need replacing. Most of them are cracked and broken, and they make the van look very shabby and uncared for. It wouldn’t be an expensive fix, it’s just the time it’ll take to get all the windows out and back in again. Luke is really keen to do it, and we have friends and family who can lend advice and help, but I’m reticent.

– Interior Finishings

There’s quite a few places on Red’s interior where little bits of trim have come away from the van and need to be tacked back down. This includes (but is not limited to) several pieces of plastic that cover the exposed chipboard on the edges of cupboard openings, and the carpet that covers the edge of the top bunk (the bit you pull on to slide it out). You can see the overhanging carpety bit in the second picture down. This is incredibly minor and very easy to fix…so it’s way up on the list.

– Foam and Upholstery

As I’ve said before, Old Red spent part of his life as a rental van, and so has been slept in by lots of people. Consequently, the upper mattress and the back seat/rock’n’roll bed are both looking pretty tired and have become threadbare in places (to the point of now being a tear).

Threadbare "upstairs" mattress...

Threadbare “upstairs” mattress…

Despite this tear, and the thinness of the mattress, the top bed is REALLY comfortable. I’ve slept in it a few times and had a great night’s sleep (admittedly, I was very drunk), which is more than I can say for the rock’n’roll bed, which is much thicker, but no where near as comfy. The foam can’t be as dense and so you (well, I) end up with sore spots if you stay in the same position for too long.

The back part of the bottom bed that covers the engine compartment has become broken too. It has a tiny wooden over hang that goes down the very back of the van inside the tail gate. I’m not sure why it’s there, and it was attached very precariously…

How the over-hanging part is supposed to look...

How the over-hanging part is supposed to look…

How it looks now its broken...

How it looks now its broken…

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Close-up of where the part that over-hangs the boot has snapped away from the base of the bed…

When I take the bed out to open the engine hatch I always make sure I put this part down carefully so that I don’t break the over-hang away from the base of the bed, so I can only assume that this was the handiwork of our RAC man from last year! Nevertheless, it’ll have to be fixed as it prevents the tailgate from closing properly, and when we do it we might as well get new foam and fabric, and have a brand new seat/bed made.

– Curtains

When I first got Old Red, I hated the curtains and wanted to change them. Two years on and he still has the same coral coloured velvety curtains that he had when I bought him and I still hate them.

Clingy curtains of doom...

Clingy curtains of doom…

Most of the curtain hooks have disintegrated in the sun and so they look really untidy when they’re pulled back, and have worrying gaps when they’re meant to be closed. The ones on the back windows are supposed to tuck into a curtain wire so that they don’t hang in your face and let people look in on your sleeping head, but they don’t tuck in properly, and the ones on the side (pictured above) have mostly come undone from all their little rings (pictured below) so they hang loose and cause you to accidentally flash your bum to passers by…

Renegade rings, running free from their curtains...

Renegade rings, running free from their curtains…

…and if all this wasn’t bad enough, the fabric is like velcro on clothes, so one wrong turn in your pyjamas can leave your entire van exposed to the outside world. Not good when your cabin-mate is making tea in the semi-nude!

I’m not sure what we’ll do to replace them yet, whether it’ll be new curtains, blinds, or some other creative alternative that I’m still trying to work out (more on that later), but it’ll be soon!

– Engine

At the moment Red is rocking a 1.7 diesel engine that drinks an AWFUL lot of oil. I spoke to the garage I bought it from and they didn’t seem to think it was a problem. At first I was worried it might be leaking through the turbo seal, but they assured me that this wasn’t possible if your engine didn’t have a turbo. Silly me!

Just to be sure I had a local garage check it out, and they agreed that it wasn’t a problem unless you didn’t like buying oil and topping it up every 200 miles. Some engines use a lot of oil, and Red’s engine happens to be on of them.

As he’s such a big and heavy beast with such a bijou engine, he doesn’t go very fast and he really struggles up hills. It’d be nice to replace his engine with one that went a bit faster and didn’t consume quite so much of the golden black stuff. Our friend has a spare BMW engine that we could use (as you do), but it’s a case of being committed enough to do it. That’ll be a massive project, and one that could end up creating more problems than it solves!

– Paint Job

Old Red, or Van Burgandy as he’s often known (we’re both massive Will Ferrell fans) is currently red all over, and is unfortunately peeling in a few places down to poor resprays and failure to use primer on certain parts. In today’s cleaning odyssey Luke managed to clean a large piece of paintwork to reveal black plastic wheel arches. Bad show paint person.

It’d be wonderful if we could have him completely resprayed, but I know what a huge task that’d be and so I try not to let myself think about it too much. It’s a distant dream, but a dream all the same. I just wonder if he’d still be the same van if he was a different colour?

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2014 in Lists, Van Maintenance

 

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Killing Mould…Again…

Last year I wrote a post about having to get rid of mould from some of the textiles in Old Red.

I promised myself last year that I would empty the van for winter, and make sure that it got aired out properly every week, but that plan never really came into being, and so everything that was in the roof conversion (and therefore, out of the sunlight) had gotten spotted in that horrible white dusty mould again. I felt awful that I hadn’t learnt my lesson last time, and that I’d neglected Old Red so badly…

Mould on the seatpad from the rock'n'roll bed, which I'd stored in the roof...

Mould on the seatpad from the rock’n’roll bed, which I’d stored in the roof…

...and mould on the mattress from the bed in the roof...

…and mould on the mattress from the bed in the roof…

Luckily, it wasn’t too bad (although the pictures don’t do it justice), and there wasn’t any mildew so there was no terrible staining.

Like last time, I made up a solution of water and vinegar in a spray bottle. I didn’t have any white/white wine vinegar this time, so I made do with cider vinegar, but this was a LOT more stinky. Last time, the smell faded, so I’m hoping that’ll happen again this time!

I used a stiff bristled brush to get rid of the visible mould, but this time I remembered to cover my face to avoid breathing in too much nasty stuff…

I'm coming to get you Spores!...

I’m coming to get you Spores!…

My sister and her boyfriend both offered me a dust mask, but I was far more amused by my tea-towel bandito look.

Once I’d scrubbed as much as I could I sprayed all the mouldy surfaces and let the mattresses sit and dry in the sun, turning and spraying as necessary.

The mattresses look much better now, but they’re still a bit stained and tired looking after many years of use (by many people) and could really do with a refresh. We don’t have plans for a journey out any time soon, so new foam and upholstery has been added to our to-do list.

 

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