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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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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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Old Red Will Ride Again!…

A year on from our Barefoot/seaside adventures, and poor Old Red has been off road for 12 months. Life has gotten in the way again, and we’re both feeling bad for our neglect, but we’re putting a stop to it!

Today has been…VAN DAY!

We got quite drunk last night and slept most of the day away, but that didn’t stop us!

We’ve been scrubbing and spraying and sorting…

Mouldy mattresses...again...

Mouldy mattresses…again…

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

I’m coming to get you Spores!…

Washing off all the green...

Washing off all the green…

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Despite all the work, we’ve still got a MASSIVE to-do list…but now we can at least go inside the van without tripping over crap, touching something greasy, or breathing in spores. Which is nice!

Let the vanning and the blogging recommence 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2014 in Plans, Van Maintenance

 

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That Really Grinds My Gears – Part 2…

So, as I said a few posts back, we suffered a broken gearstick over the Barefoot Weekened, but we were lucky enough to be saved by a resourceful RAC man and two kind mechanics. Sadly, there was going to be more to this tale…

Luke dozed all the way home from Kings Lynn, but when we got home he complained that he could smell fuel. I’d been able to smell it all the way back but had assumed it was oil from the funnel we’d used to fill up. My sense of smell isn’t the greatest and I honestly hadn’t given it a second thought.

Remembering the RAC man’s attempt to earth our battery (clipping onto the fuel pipe instead of the bodywork), we opened the boot hatch expecting to find a leak.

We found six.

All three of the woven fuel lines were leaking at both ends. Wonderful. Thank you Mr RAC man,

Luke searched around online and found that we could buy metres and metres of the right tubing for not a lot of money, so we’re not too put out, but we don’t really know what we’re doing to replace it. Luckily, a friend’s step-dad has the same model van and does all his own repairs, so we have enlisted him to teach us what to do. All we need to do now is find a free weekend to get Old Red back in working condition again. It’s put paid to our travels out for a while…

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Van Maintenance

 

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That Really Grinds My Gears…

We left Barefoot on Monday, July 29th, heading for the sea with another day of holiday ahead of us. As I said before, we hadn’t wanted the festival to end, and so we’d set off for the east coast with Kings Lynn and the seaside in our sights.

We didn’t have a campsite booked (or even planned) and we weren’t even sure of where we were going, and so when we spotted a sign for a farm shop we turned off the beaten track and onto a country road. The fabled ‘shop’ was a van on the side of the road that sold a few rotten looking vegetables, so we kept on going to civilisation and eventually found ourselves pulling into an Aldi store in Wisbech.

We pulled into the car park with no problem and headed inside to buy all the essentials that we needed for the night and morning ahead (bacon, sausuages, a kite and a diabolo…as you do) and prepared to get back on the road.

…and that’s when we hit our first problem…

I’ve moaned about my clunky 5-speed gearbox and difficult gear-stick before. I always have trouble getting it into first and reverse is almost impossible…but this time it was a million times worse. Instead of plain old refusing the slide up into reverse, the stick was kind of twisting and bending in a very worrying manner. It felt like it was broken. After pulling up the collar and giving it some closer inspection, we found out that is WAS indeed broken…

The weld that connected the stick to the linkage was not only very badly done, but was also cracking and letting the stick turn around on it’s thread. Oh dear,…

Rather than try and force it into reverse and break it completely, Luke pushed us out of the space and I got the van into first, planning on limping it to a nearby garage.

…and that’s when we hit our second problem…

Just as we were pulling away the gear stick went SPLAT on the floor of the van and we were stuck in first. Oh deary dear…

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And so, at 5.15pm, just 15 minutes before most garages close, over 100 miles from home, we pulled into another parking space and began ringing around to find someone who could help us…to no avail. Eventually we called the RAC thinking that our adventure was over before it had begun.

The RAC man arrived incredibly quickly, and was a lot more helpful than we’d imagined he’d be. He told us that he couldn’t tow us (they’d done their usual trick and sent an entirely unsuitable response vehicle out), but he was more than willing to get us into second gear and limp us along to a garage. Not only that, but he knew a garage nearby that might still be open, which was on the same estate as his mate’s welding company. Result. If the garage was closed then we’d have to camp there overnight and his friend would be more than happy to weld us back together in the morning.

It was a great plan, until he realised how difficult it was going to be to get the van into second gear, and so he asked me to start the engine to see if that made it easier…

…and that’s when we hit our third problem…

Old Red wouldn’t start.

Nothing.

The hazard lights wouldn’t even come on anymore. The battery was dead, maybe from the fridge being set to 12V throughout the journey, or the fact we didn’t have an earthing strap attached to the bodywork. The helpful RAC man started us up by connecting jump leads to the battery and the bodywork…

…and that’s when we hit our FOURTH problem…

He didn’t connect the bulldog clip to just the bodywork. No. He connected it to the bodywork via one of our fuel pipes. It was only when Luke asked why there was diesel spilling everywhere that he even noticed he’d done it. Needless to say, I was not overly impressed with him at this point and time was marching on.

Before too long the pipe was trimmed and reconnected, we were in second gear, and we were following silly Mr RAC man out of the car park and along the four miles of road to the garage. At 10 miles an hour. It was 6.20pm by this point and I was already looking at nearby hotels and trying to work out if we could afford to sleep somewhere that had a toilet, rather than in a car park. There was no way we were going to get to the seaside that night…

And then we pulled up here…

Cannot recommend these dudes enough

Cannot recommend these dudes enough

Michael Motors, Unit 1, 62 Weasenham Road, Wisbech PE13 2RU…if you are ever in Wisbech and in need of the help of a mechanic, these are the guys to turn to! Admittedly, the first guy Luke spoke to said ‘tomorrow’ in a very gruff voice, but his colleague very helpfully pointed out that they were there, and we were there, and they might as well do it right then so that we could get on our way and not have to camp on their forecourt overnight. 

And into the garage we went…

Back in a garage...again...

Back in a garage…again…

One earthing strap, a bit of expert welding, and £50 later, and we were ready to roll again. I was beside myself with joy (and, honestly, disbelief) and thanked Michael and Thomas for their kind help. Luke tried to give them extra money for a drink but they refused on the grounds that if they drank they wouldn’t be around to do late-night fixes. They’d be at the pub.

I called them angels but they refused that too and said that they like to help wherever they can. Michael told me that he’d once leant his car to a woman for three days because she’d broken down with her kids in the car and he didn’t have time to fix it for her then and there. Once again, I told them they were angels.

Back in one piece again!...for the time being

Back in one piece again!…for the time being

…and so our mini seaside adventure began…

 

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