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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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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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Barefoot – Looking Back…Right Back…

***FROM THE ARCHIVE OF DRAFTS***

Despite having Old Red for over a year (*ahem* almost three), I’m still a bit of a newbie when it comes to packing for outings. In some ways I am brilliantly organised, sometimes usually to the point of having way too much stuff, but I’m still learning what we need and what we don’t need, and our trip to Barefoot Festival was yet another education.

What Worked…

  • Our gazebo!…last year (*ahem*…YEARS AGO) for Beat-Herder I bought a gazebo on a whim. This gazebo was NOT waterproof. Pie and I discovered this when we saw torrents of rain pouring through it and onto all our neatly stored stuff. The new gazebo has a woven plastic roof so it was much better at keeping rain out (when it wasn’t falling diagonally that is).
  • Once again, Poundland was a brilliant source of camping supplies…we got some tiny waterproof picnic rugs (just big enough for two people to put their bottoms on, or for one person to stretch their legs out) that were really light and folded up very small so they fitted in my festival bag. The main tent didn’t have any flooring so they were really useful to keep our bums dry.
  • Also from Poundland…a pack of three rain ponchos for a quid. The hoods on them were rubbish but they were easier than a coat to put on for a brisk run to the toilet, and you don’t mind leaving them outside in the rain as much as your favourite mac (we tucked ours into the roof of the gazebo).
  • Big fleecy blankets from Primark…they not only made excellent blankets (as you might expect), but they also worked really well hung from the gazebo as sunshades. We kept them up with pieces of rope (from Poundland of course) and LOTS of gaffa tape. They made our camp feel like a very cosy little den.
  • Instruments!…we took Luke’s guitar, my ukulele and an ocarina, along with quite a few music books. We had many lovely hours sitting in the sunshine and singing our hearts out.
  • Cooking for ourselves…we had a meal plan (of sorts) for the weekend, and took a BBQ along with us. We factored in a few meals out so we got to try wood-fired pizza and an amazing french-toast croissant, but ultimately we spent very little on food and ate really well. Admittedly, the fact that Luke is a chef didn’t hurt either…

Next Time We Will…

  • Remember that it’s never too early to start packing…especially if it’s camping stuff and things you don’t use on a daily basis. On the other hand, there is definitely a point when it’s too late to pack, and that point is about half an hour after you planned to leave. Next time I will try not to blur this line again…
  • Stick to the list…the list is there for a reason. If you don’t give the list the respect it deserves and put it in a pile of paper on the coffee table you are bound to have to go home for pillows and coffee presses, and you’ll end up spending the entire weekend buying tea at £1.50 a cup and having to barter for tiny sachets of sugar…

And We Will Take…

  • MORE BEER!!…we didn’t bring enough so we ended up buying 6 pint bottles of cider from the beer tent on our last night. That set us back twenty-four quid. TWENTY FOUR QUID!
  • More tarpaulins and blankets to make rain/wind/sun shields for the gazebo…and more rope! We took a small bundle but nowhere near enough to make an adequate ‘den’. Our den kept falling apart.
  • Pegs!…both of the clothes and tent variety. These would also have been very useful in the construction of sun/rain shields.
  • More instruments…like drums and a tambourine and maracas. Guitars and ukuleles are ace, but it would have been nice if everyone (kids included) could have joined in an made some noise!

……………………………………………….

The majority of this post was written not long after Barefoot Festival, some time in the summer of 2013. Now it’s March 2015, I’m three months pregnant and I’m very aware that the next time we go to a festival we will probably have our little one in tow (unless, by some miracle, we manage to make it to a festival this summer…when I’m six months pregnant) so we’ll have a whole new set of things to take into consideration.

On one hand I’m very excited at the thought of the adventures and fun the three of us will have together.

On the other hand, I’m already wondering what essential stuff we’ll forget this time…

 

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Why I’m Not Writing a “Mommy” Blog…

Although I’ve been meaning to revive my blog for many MANY months, I’ve got to admit that being pregnant and wanting to record my experiences is the main reason behind my new-found motivation to write. For a while I toyed with the idea of starting again. New life, new blog, new domain name. After all, wouldn’t it make more sense to write about this part of my life (our lives) on a blog created solely for pregnancy and parenting?

Well, yes, probably…but after much deliberation, that’s not the tack I’ve chosen to take.

You see, the thing is that this is my blog. When I started it it was supposed to be a place where I could talk about my life and my adventures. Along the way, Luke became part of my life, and although the name of the blog didn’t change, he became part of it too.

Like my husband, my pregnancy and my baby aren’t separate to my life as the girl with the camper van…they are part of it. When I got pregnant I didn’t stop being me, and I didn’t lose the will to do the things I’ve planned to do. I’m not abandoning my life and the vision I had for it, I’m simply enriching it with a new member of my family.

So that is why I won’t be writing a Mommy blog. It’s not that I have anything against the women who do (or, indeed, the men who write Daddy blogs), I just don’t see my pregnancy or my choices in parenting as being in their own little bubble, standing out from my life. My life is ALL the things I do, either alone, with my husband, or with our baby, and I want this blog to reflect my life as a whole, not just one facet of it.

I don’t want to give up this blog now that I’m expecting, just like I don’t want to give up on getting Old Red back on the road…and I can’t wait to start blogging about our adventures with him as a family. This is the happiest and most excited I have been in a very long time 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Life, Pregnancy, Random

 

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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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