A few weeks ago I took our camper van to town to the supermarket and to get fuel. As soon as we left the petrol station there was a very loud humming noise coming from the rear of the van. I pulled over as soon as I could and spotted one of the rear tyres was totally flat, it had gone down very quickly. I was on a busy road so it would have been dangerous to change the wheel here so drove a little further and into a car park of  a nearby business where I had space and no traffic to worry about.

The flat tyre

The flat tyre

I’d only driven around half a mile in total however the tyre was very hot. I jacked up the van and removed it, then fitted the spare. I inspected the tyre to look for a puncture but could not see anything obvious so then checked the value. The base of the valve stem was badly cracked and I could see a gap where the air had escaped. The tyres were replaced a few years ago, however it looked like the tyre depot didn’t change the valves which I’d assumed were part of the job. I checked the other rear tyre and that value was also cracked with age so probably wouldn’t last much longer either.

Jacking up the van in a nearby car park

Jacking up the van in a nearby car park

Cracks in the tyre valve stem

Cracks in the tyre valve stem

My local tyre depot wanted £15 per tyre to replace the valves so I looked into options of doing so myself. I found a few solutions however one looked like the ideal method as detailed below. I needed to buy a few cheap items to do this:

  • Xtra tyre bead sealer – £10
  • Rubber tyre valves, pack of 10 – £2.95
  • Tyre valve removal tool – £2.25
  • A few drops of washing-up liquid

All prices included delivery, all bought from Ebay. They’ll be plenty left over for other repairs in the future if needed.

Rubber tyre valve and valve removal tool

Rubber tyre valve and valve removal tool

A tin of bead sealer

A tin of bead sealer

The wheel was already off the van. I began by removing the tyre valve core, using the removal tool. It just unscrewed from the centre.

Next I placed the wheel partially under the camper van, under a jacking point with the tyre valve next to it. I placed an old rag over the tyre to project it. I then attached the jack to the vehicle with a small metal plate underneath.

As I wound the jack up with pressure on the side of the tyre this broke the sealant around the edge. Once the one section was free I was easily able to push the tyre edge down all the way around. I needed to do this as I’d need to reseal the edge.

Compressing the tyre ready for the repair

Compressing the tyre ready for the repair

Using a Stanley knife I then chopped off the original tyre valve which was already half broken through, and removed the end from inside the wheel. Next I used a few drops of washing-up liquid and rubbed this over the new tyre valve to act as lubricant, it’s recommended not to use oil as this can cause the rubber to perish. I then inserted the new valve from inside the wheel as far as I could. I screwed the tyre valve removed tool to the threads on the valve, then pulled this through and into place using mole grips before wiping off the excess washing-up liquid.

Inserting the new valve

Inserting the new valve

Pulling the valve through the rim into place

Pulling the valve through the rim into place

With another clean rag I then gave the tyre edge, and the inside of the rim a quick clean. Next I used the bead sealer, which had a brush inside the lid to paint inside the metal wheel rim. Once I’d done this I replaced the tyre valve core using the valve removal tool.

Applying new bead sealant

Applying new bead sealant

I then released the jack and removed the tyre. I attached to my compressor and refilled the tyre with air. It filled fine, with no leaks. I then repeated the process for the other rear wheel which also had a cracked valve as that would no doubt be the next to go. This worked fine too.

Inflating the tyre

Inflating the tyre

I’d say this was a very successful repair, and didn’t take long to do. I wouldn’t try this method with old perished tyres as I imagine it could damage them however worked fine with my decent tyres and left no marks.

Redneck Tyre Repair

Fixing the Handbrake Lever

At last year’s MOT the handbrake was tightened up as it wasn’t holding sufficiently to pass. A while after this I was unable to put the handbrake on at all as it just wouldn’t stay on, it was as if the ratchet within the handle had worn away so I’ve managed with no handbrake for a while, simply leaving the van in gear when parked up.

A couple of weeks ago I finally had time to look at it. I began by removing the rubber cover which just slid off, this then revealed several pins holding different parts together, held in place by E-clips. The cable was held by one of these pins, clearly visible at the back of the handle and was pretty taught.

Unbolting the handbrake lever

Unbolting the handbrake lever

The handbrake lever was bolted to the floor with two bolts. I began by undoing these, which released the pressure on the pin holding the handbrake cable. I then used a small screwdriver to lever off the E-clip and pulled out the pin holding the handbrake cable. I could then take the complete handle out to work on.

Disassembling the handbrake lever

Disassembling the handbrake lever

Looking at the handle once out it was obvious what the problem was. The ratchet mechanism was actually in very good condition with all teeth intact. However from underneath I could see that the actual handle was slightly bent, which caused the handle to move side to side. This meant it was difficult for the ratchet to engage as there was too much play.

The distorted handbrake lever

The distorted handbrake lever

I removed the remaining pivot pins and took the entire handle to pieces. I then used a vice to gently bend the handbrake back into shape, reducing the inside space from around 10mm to around 5mm. I used pliers to straighten it out as much as I could so the gap was even from undermeath.

Bending the handbrake lever back into shape

Bending the handbrake lever back into shape

Next I greased up all parts which would rub against others before reassembling the handle. I had to rotate the lever which the handbrake button moved, back into the correct position to work with the ratchet. With this in the correct position I then reattached the cable to the handle with the pivot pin, before bolting the handle back to the floor.

The main components of the handbrake, ready for reassembly

The main components of the handbrake, ready for reassembly

I tested the handbrake and it worked perfectly well, far better than it ever had. So a simple fix, which cost nothing!

The repaired handbrake reassembled

The repaired handbrake reassembled

Last week I had the T25 booked in for MOT. I used the same garage as usual, Halls garage in Morton. As far as I could tell there were no issues with it this year. For the first time in my ownership it actually passed – with no advisories! So a great result.

Time to uncover for the new season

Over winter I had our VW T25 Devon covered up to protect it from the elements. I bought a cover from Just Kampers back in 2014 when we bought the van. It’s tricky to put on but still keeps the van totally dry over the winter months. A few people had left bad reviews on these covers however ours has worked great up to now. The van was totally dry when uncovered yesterday.

Uncovering after the winter

Uncovering after the winter

We’ve also had problems with damp inside the van as there are a few areas of bodywork which let water in still as the bodywork needs attention. One is the bottom of the back window, the other the front windscreen. Both caused by rust against the rubber seal. At some point when I’ve the time and money I will remove all windows, chop out and weld up all rust around the seals.

To combat damp inside the van I found a cheap dehumidifier in Homebase which needs no power, it uses tablets which slowly dissolve absorbing moisture, which then collects in a tank in its base. This was a UniBond Aero 360 priced at just £7.96 including one tablet which should last up to three months. It’s designed for use in damp rooms in houses but perfect for use in a camper van with needing no power. Our T25 had a major damp problem over the winter, the windows, skylight and inside of the pop top were sopping wet. Within a couple of days of putting the Aero 360 in place this totally dried it out so I’ll be keeping it in when the van is sat at home.

UniBond Aero 360 Moisture Absorber

UniBond Aero 360 Moisture Absorber

After uncovering the van on Saturday I attempted to start it up. On the third turn of the key it fired up which was a pleasant surprise, I was expecting it to take far more effort. I had tried to start it up every week over winter which had helped but hadn’t done so for a couple of weeks.

We decided to have a family day out in it so headed over to visit relations in a barn conversion around half an hour away from us. The van drove as well as it ever had since we have had it. Their house backs onto a large field which was a caravan club site up until a few years ago. We’ve yet to sleep in our T25 and we’ve now had it two and a half years. We plan to spend our first night in our relatives field as soon as the weather warms up a little more. There’s still no interior in the van but all we need are sleeping bags, it’ll still be more comfortable than in a tent! I’m sure once we’ve spent a night in it we’ll all feel confident about trying other campsites or even wild camping. The main complication is the need for mains power for our son’s ventilator, although I’d like to look at solar options in the future to go totally off grid.

Potential first campsite to try out soon!

Potential first campsite to try out soon!

After a nice dinner and catch up with our relatives we headed to Belton House as it was only ten minutes away from us. We’re National Trust members so can get in for free. Belton House is well known in the area for having a fantastic adventure playground, perfect for tiring out a couple of small children!

Part of the playground at Belton House

Part of the playground at Belton House

Belton House is a large estate with plenty of long walks, a large house, gardens, restaurants and snack bars – plus the impressive play ground with a small ride-on train. As we drove in it was really busy as usual and we had a lot of heads turning as we drove in to park up.  We spent a few hours here before packing up and heading home.

Back at the van after a great day out

Back at the van after a great day out

We aimed cross country on the way back and found some great back roads we’d never been down. We had no idea where we were but with a good sense of direction eventually hit the main A52 road and were back on track. A very enjoyable first day out of the season. We didn’t see any other dubs to wave to on this occasion but I imagine a lot are still covered up. We now can’t wait to get out again – We’ll be using the van most weekends from now on as we did last year up until it turns cold again. And hopefully having a few nights away camping and continuing work on the project. Wave if you see us!

Making good use of our VW T25 Devon

It’s now approaching two years since I bought our VW T25, and still we’ve not started work on the new interior – or the exterior for that matter. This is mainly due to family life which leaves very little time for much else, especially as we both work full time and totally different hours half the time. Our daughter is 5 and son is 2, who was born 3 months premature and has a few special needs which take up a lot of our time. They do both absolutely adore the T25 though – especially our son who gets really excited when we travel in it.

The Children

The Children

Anyway I haven’t done any more work on our camper van project since my last post in April however it’s been getting a lot of use.

We decided when we bought it that we wanted to keep it on the road and enjoy using it as much as we could, and that’s exactly what we’ve done so far. It’s had a few problems over the two years but up to now I’ve managed to fix them all for a relatively low cost.

A road trip over the Lincolnshire Wolds

A road trip over the Lincolnshire Wolds

Approaching the Wolds

During the week I drive my modern VW Passat to work most days, however have a cheeky commute in the T25 at least once every two weeks if not more, as I have today. At weekends the van is used as the main family vehicle, unless it’s really cold and the roads have been salted. I avoid taking it out then as it has rust, and I don’t need salt making it any worse.

A picnic stop half way over the Wolds

A picnic stop half way over the Wolds

While it’s partly stripped out inside it’s excellent for runs to the local recycling centre as you can get so much in, and it’s so easy to sweep out afterwards. It also gets used for collecting fire wood for the same reason, and recently to deliver a load of our home made compost to my parents house, and to collect kitchen units for our kitchen refurb which we’re starting soon.

Earning it's keep

Earning it’s keep

Last week our Devon had it’s second MOT. I took it to the same place as last year, Halls Garage in Morton as I feel they have a better understanding of old vehicles than most garages with them specialising in classic cars.

This year the van failed on a few items but they were all minor – hand brake not holding sufficiently, main brakes needing attention, the horn not working, and one of the headlights not working on main beam. The last two I knew about and had attempted to fix in the short time I had available.

Helping with pre-MOT repairs

Helping with pre-MOT repairs

I’d changed the bulb but this hadn’t fixed it so knew it must be a wiring problem. The current wiring to the headlights is pretty bad, the wires have been chopped around by a previous owner so that was most likely the problem. With the horn I removed it and tested it with a battery, it worked fine. I tested the button on the steering wheel and this also worked. I replaced the crimps at the horn end but still no luck so it had to be the wiring between the button and horn. I didn’t have time to go any further with this though so left this to the garage.  All the issues were fixed by the garage and the T25 was issued with the MOT certificate with no advisories.

It also seems to start better since it came back so I don’t know if they had a tweak while it was there, or whether it’s just coincidence!

So the T25 is good for another year. Hopefully I’ll have made some good progress by then and actually get away in it, even if it’s not finished.

Removing the old interior

We set about removing the old cabinets and appliances from our Devon last weekend. We’re hoping to get going with the new interior now we have a little more spare time and money. Everything had been removed and refitted by someone previously as the units were generally all attached with right angle metal brackets, and sat on a reasonably new looking plywood board.

Current interior before removal

Current interior before removal

Before starting removal I traced all of the leisure wiring. I stuck numbered labels on all wires, and draw a diagram so I knew what the current connections were. I then removed the wiring as I took out the cabinets, as they were all wired to a leisure battery in the bottom of the cupboard.

Plan of the current leisure wiring

Plan of the current leisure wiring

Some of the wiring

Some of the current wiring labeled up

We decided to leave in the Rock and Roll bed for now as we want the van to be usable as a family still, especially as the weather is improving. I’ll take this out briefly though as I still need to take up the floor. The plywood board looks new too, however I need to inspect the state of the van floor underneath, and add thin insulation. Once I’ve seen the condition of the floor board I’ll decide whether it’s okay to reuse, if not I’ll replace it.

Cabinets and appliances removed

Cabinets, wiring and appliances removed

Rear cupboard removed

Rear cupboard removed

The gas pipes to the cooker and fridge were not connected anyway so no disconnection was required. The sink was simple, just a fresh water and waste pipe to pull off, then a few screws to undo to lift off. This was the case for everything really, simply undoing screws until things lifted out. The wardrobe in the back was more tricky, this was a glass fibre construction and I wanted to remove it in one piece, we weren’t sure at this stage whether we would reuse anything we had taken out, or whether other T25 enthusiasts could make use of any of it.

The next stage is to temporarily remove the rock and roll bed, and remove the plywood floor covering.

New Boots

Over the Easter weekend I made good use of our T25 in the fine weather. On the Saturday morning I came out to a totally flat rear tyre. I re-inflated it but it clearly had a large hole so I swapped for the spare. This is a pain to get out as it’s stored under the front of the vehicle. I have to remove the number plate, then undo a bolt to lower a metal plate to release the wheel. The plate is hinged at the back and usually ends up suddenly dropping once the nut comes off so you have to watch your fingers!

Cracked Tyres

The cracked tyre of the spare wheel

I fitted the spare but it was in poor condition, it held air but was covered in deep cracks. All tyres on the vehicle look very old, they are all covered in fine cracks. I decided I ought to replace the two worst ones – the flat one and the spare. Searching online I found a few options but in the end bought them from blackcircles.com, mainly as I could see the fitted price and book a time slot and pay.

It wasn’t too clear what type I needed as the markings on the tyres were slightly different to normal tyres. They were marked at 185 R14C. Usually tyres have a profile number too, for the thickness of the tyre from the edge of the wheel to the edge of the tyre vertically.

Tyre Spec

The tyre spec

I knew that T25’s and other camper vans should have different tyres to cars due to the extra weight. Some people buy aftermarket alloy wheels and fit them to smarten up their vans, however you should always use alloys which are designed for van use to support the weight. We decided a while ago that we would stick with the van’s original steel wheels as it suits the character of the camper. In time we will powder coat the wheels in either white  or cream, and buy new chrome hub caps for the centre of the wheels.

Anyway back to the tyres. I asked on our very friendly VW T25 Club group on Facebook and had an answer of the tyre profile within a couple of minutes – 80. So the tyres are 185  80 R14C. The C indicates they are higher rated tyres for use on commercial vehicles such as vans. I was pleasantly surprised to find the tyres were much cheaper than I was expecting. I have a VW Passat as my daily drive, and tyres on this are around £130 each fitted for mid range brands. On the T25 I was looking at just over £60 per tyre fitted for Pirelli Carrier tyres from Blackcircles.com. I ordered these online, chose a local garage from the list to fit them and paid online.

Jacked up and a wheel removed

Jacked up and a wheel removed

I had these fitted yesterday. I removed the cracked spare from the rear of the vehicle and took both wheels in, in my boot. They would have sorted them on the vehicle but I decided it would be quicker to simply drop the wheels off on the way and collect later which is what I did. I then fitted the wheels with the new tyres on the back of the vehicle, and put the wheel I removed as the spare back under the front. I should get a few years out of the new tyres.

The wheels with new tyres fitted

The wheels with new tyres fitted

Setting up the timing

Once I’d replaced the Hall Sender and the engine was running, it was time to setup the timing. To do this the only special tool I needed was a timing light. These varied in price massively, all I wanted was a relatively budget model which would do the job. I searched online and came up with the Draper 52616 Xenon Timing Light available from Amazon for £21.99 which looked ideal – and had excellent reviews. I ordered this and it arrived a few days later.

The Draper Timing Light

The Draper timing light

Before I began setting up the timing I first repainted the TDC position of the flywheel onto the front of the flywheel, using a blob of white paint. This was essential so the timing light would highlight the TDC position clearly.

Repainted TDC Position on Flywheel

Repainted TDC position on flywheel

I then started the engine so it would begin to warm up. Next I connected up the timing light. This has crocodile clips for positive and negative. My particular timing light didn’t have long enough wires to reach to the vehicle battery, or leisure  battery. To use it I connected jump leads to the leisure battery which I hooked over the back seat. I then clipped the crocodile clips to these.

Connecting the Timing Light

Connecting the timing light

The timing light had one other cable. This needed hooking over the lead to spark plug number 1, this was the top right one as you look at the engine from  behind.

spark-plug-1

Location of spark plug 1

 

Clip on spark plug 1

Clip on spark plug 1

The next job was to loosen the distributor, by undoing the hex bar at its base a little. This only needed to be loose enough to be able to twist the distributor – as that’s how the timing is adjusted. I also pulled off the hose from the vacuum unit (mounted on the side of the distributor).

Loosening the distributor

Loosening the distributor

The clip on the lead to spark plug one detects the sparks, and causes the light to strobe with each spark when the trigger is held. When pointed at the flywheel the strobe then causes it to appear that it’s still. When the TDC mark is visible you can then set this up to a number on the scale next to the flywheel.

Using the timing light

Using the timing light

I held the timing light with my right hand pointed at the flywheel, and used my left hand to very gently twist the distributor. A very small twist makes a large movement of the TDC mark. I positioned this as close as I could to 8 on the scale, then retightened the distributor.

rotating-the-distributor

Tweaking the distributor

tdc-position

TDC position 8 on the scale

And that’s all there is to it! It’s pretty straight forward really. I turned off the engine, reconnected the vacuum hose and refitted the grille on the flywheel before packing up the timing light.

Finally I took the van for a test drive – it drove fine. We’re now ready for more adventures, with more knowledge of the engine.

Replacing the Hall Sender in the Distributor

After having a couple of breakdowns in the VW T25 I did a fair bit of research online to try and figure out what had caused the engine to cut-out. I put a post on the VW T25 Club Facebook group, fellow members suggested it was most likely related to a fuel blockage – or an electrical problem associated with the distributor.

As far as I could tell there was no problem with the fuel getting through – the fuel lines had been replaced only a few months ago, and the filter looked to be clean. I had a thorough examination of the distributor which was new to me as I hadn’t looked further than the distributor cap and rotor arm previously. I noticed down the side of the distributor three thin wires came out of a gap in the side – and two of these had the sheath worn away to bare wires which were very close to the metal of the distributor body.

After more research I determined that these were connected to a component within the distributor called a Hall Sender – which I’d never heard of before. Reading up on various forums I discovered other people had had the same problems as me with the engine cutting out within minutes of starting a journey when the engine was already warm. They had changed the Hall Sender which had rectified the problem.

As the wires and connector on my Hall Sender were in a bad way in my VW T25 I decided I ought to start by replacing it, it needed sorting anyway. The wires were too short to repair.

I tried various suppliers of VW T25 parts to buy a replacement Hall Sender. In the end I bought the part from Just Kampers.

Thew new Hall Sender

The new Hall Sender

Before removing the distributor I needed to get the flywheel in the engine to ‘Top Dead Centre’ (TDC). I opened the flap behind the number plate and removed the plastic grille covering the flywheel by removing three bolts. This also had a plastic scale attached which came off, I reattached this with two of the bolts.

Location of the flywheel

Location of the flywheel – behind the grille

Next I had to crank the engine round to the TDC position. The flywheel has a small notch which indicates this, I added a small blob of white paint to the front of the flywheel so this was easily visible. I then put the gear box into fourth gear and released the hand brake. Using a large socket ratchet with a 13mm socket I put this onto the bolt in the centre of the flywheel and cranked the engine around until the white dot aligned with the 0 on the scale. The van moved forward slowly as I cranked it around. Once in position I took it out of gear and reapplied the hand brake.

Flywheel in TDC position

Flywheel in TDC position

I then removed the rotor arm, took off a plastic cap underneath it – and put the rotor arm back in place. There is a small notch in the top edge of the distributor indicating the TDC position which the rotor arm should be pointing to, which it was. The distributor was now in the right position to remove.

Rotor arm alignment

Rotor arm alignment

To release the distributor I first disconnected the wiring connector, and the two vacuum pipes. I then used a small 10mm spanner to turn a hex shaped bar at the base of the distributor, on the left. This was very fiddly, however eventually the distributor became loose and I could wiggle it out.

Loosening the distributor

Loosening the distributor

Next I plugged the hole the distributor came out of, to ensure nothing fell in. The best thing I found was a GU10 spot light bulb which fitted perfectly.

The plugged distributor hole

The plugged distributor hole

The removed distributor

The removed distributor

For the next stage – dismantling the distributor, I worked at the table in the van. I removed the rotor arm again, and now had to remove the round plate below this. The first thing to do was remove a circlip, unfortunately someone had clearly had this apart before and replaced the original circlips with the internal type – when they should have been external clips. This meant that the holes were half covered inside the groove, and I couldn’t get the clip off. I had to use a small screwdriver to lever it off, luckily the replacement Hall Sender came with replacement screws and circlips.

Removing the distributor plate

Removing the distributor plate

There was a small metal washer to remove, then the round plate had to be removed. I could see it had a tiny pin against the spindle in the centre, to stop the round plate rotating. The plate was well and truly stuck so I applied WD40 then very gently levered it upwards with a screwdriver, working my way around the edge slowly to ensure I didn’t bend the plate. It gradually came loose. I ensured I didn’t loose the pin and removed the plate.

Distributor plate removal

Distributor plate removal

I now had access to the Hall Sender. I removed the vacuum unit off the side, and the clips which held the distributor cap in place. I had another internal circlip to remove which I again had to lever off. The Hall Sender was attached by three screws to the casing of the distributor, after removing these I wiggled the old Hall Sender off.

The old Hall Sender before removal

The old Hall Sender before removal

The distributor after removing the old Hall Sender

The distributor after removing the old Hall Sender

Next I fitted the new Hall Sender, which was slightly different in appearance, presumably as it was a reproduction of the original Volkswagen part. This took a bit of levering to get it in place so the three screw holes lined up with the holes in the distributor. Once they did I put the screws in place, including the clips and vacuum unit.

The new Hall Sender fitted

The new Hall Sender fitted

The connector on the new Hall Sender wouldn’t fit into the gap in the side of the distributor so I laid the wired in the gap and let it hang loose for the time being. When refitting the vacuum unit I first had to unsure the arm from this was hooked over the stud on the new Hall Sender. I then screwed this back to the distributor.

I replaced the first circlip using one of the correct external ones which were included with the new Hall Sender. I then gently pushed the round plate down back into position, keeping the notch in the centre aligned with the groove in the centre spindle. Once fully down I used a small punch to tap the pin back in place, and put the other new external circlip in the groove of the spindle.

Now I was at a stage to refit the distributor into the engine of the T25. I put the rotor arm back on and rotated it so it aligned with the notch on the edge of the distributor. I wiggled the distributor back down into place until it was fully down, ensuring the notches on the very bottom of the distributor slotted into the holes.

On inspection of the Hall Sender’s wiring connector this was totally different to the connector it needed joining to, as it did warn on the Just Kampers website. I chopped off both the connector from the Hall Sender, and the connector it needed to join to. I then used small terminal block to join the wired after tinning the ends with a soldering iron. I wrapped a little insulation tape around the wires coming from the distributor to protect them from wear temporarily.

Wiring the new Hall Sender

Wiring the new Hall Sender

I retightened the clamp of the distributor next. I then removed the rotor arm, put the plastic polo shaped cover back in place, put the rotor arm back on, clipped on the distributor cap and reattached the vacuum tubes. I was now at a stage to try starting the vehicle.

The distributor back in place

The distributor back in place

I turned the ignition key and to my surprise it started up first time. The T25 sounded to be running fine, however I now needed to setup the timing before it would be ready to drive again.

A couple of breakdowns within a couple of days

A couple of weekends ago I made good use of our T25 bus after not using it for over a week. On the Friday I drove it to work as I do occasionally, to give it a good run. I was pretty low on fuel, and the fuel gauge doesn’t work well anyway. It was a day that my son was at nursery so I was running a little late anyway. I didn’t have time to get fuel on route so decided I would on my lunch break, which is what so did. The amount of fuel showing dropped very quickly to the low end of the red area which was a little worrying however I made it to the petrol station fine and added fuel.

On the way home I picked up my son from nursery, then within a minute of starting the journey home the engine cut-out in the centre of town. I tried to start it again but it just wouldn’t go, it was as if the fuel wasn’t getting through. I assumed it was related to running the tank so low earlier, and that it must have pulled some dirt through. No matter what I tried it just would not start so I ended up calling the RAC. They were going to be 75 minutes. However 40 minutes after breaking down the van fired up – so I cancelled the RAC and drove it fine all the way home.

The following day I drove it into and around the local town, we had no problems with it at all, it ran as good as it ever has with us.

The day after I used it for a few journeys. The first journey was fine, however on the second I had another breakdown around twenty minutes into the journey. This time it was on a single track road in the middle of nowhere, with no phone signal either. It was just me, plus my daughter and son on board. I assumed it would be similar to last time – up to a 40 minute wait, then it would fire up again. However an hour in I still couldn’t get it to start. Loads of vehicles and cyclists had slowly passed us, but not one stopped to offer any help.

Eventually I managed to get a weak phone signal and got hold of my brother-in-law who was ten minutes away at work. After several broken phone calls I managed to get the message through to him and he kindly came out of work at his farm and towed us there in his truck. Once there I tried starting the van again but it still wouldn’t go. We spend around an hour watching the cows being milked, looking around the farm and visiting the calves which turned out to be an enjoyable afternoon out for my two young children.

I tried starting the van again – this time is started up first time. This was around two hours after breaking down. We loaded up and drove the 20 mile journey home fine.

I noticed there was a pattern with both breakdowns – both had cut out in the same way each time. However before breaking down each time, I’d stopped and turned off the van before hand. Then within a minute of starting driving again the van had cut-out. I assumed the problem was either dirt in the fuel, or electrical so decided I wouldn’t drive the T25 until I’d done further research into this, and eradicated the problem.

Changing the oil

When I bought our T25, the previous owner changed the oil for us before we collected it. He was a mechanic and knew a fair bit about VW T25’s. He suggested we change the oil around every 1,000 miles due to the age of the engine. The newer and cleaner the engine oil, the cooler the engine would run with it being air cooled. We were due to go away for a weeks holiday in the van so I bought the parts required to give it an oil change before we left.

I had changed the oil on various more recent cars over the years and knew it was pretty simple, usually just the oil and oil filter to change. I discovered via our T25 club Facebook group that these old aircooled engines also had something called an oil strainer, which I’d never heard of. This is pretty much a small metal sieve which sits above a plate, next to the sump plug.

The parts I needed were sourced from Just Kampers, mainly as they had everything in stock which I needed. I ordered a new oil strainer, seals and sump plug from here. I got the oil filter from our local Exhausts Unlimited branch, and the oil came from Ebay in the end as no one had got this in stock. The Haynes manual recommends 15W – 50 oil which turned out to be very difficult to find.

The oil and new parts purchased

The oil and new parts purchased

Before starting the job the first thing I did was warm the engine with a small journey to the local recycling centre, the oil flows out better if it’s warm.

I jacked up the rear of the van to do the service, and rested it on axel stands. The sump plug and oil strainer were both easily accessible from the rear of the vehicle. Once underneath I discovered what state the sump plug was in, the bolt end was pretty much rounded off and no spanners would grip it. I spent quite a while with an adjustable spanner and mole grips attempting to get the plug undone but had no luck.

Location of the sump plug and oil strainer

Location of the sump plug and oil strainer

State-of-the-old-sump-plug

The oil strainer bolt however was fine and came undone easily, so I unscrewed this and the oil began to drain from around the sides of the plate. I removed all of the oil from here, and screwed out the existing oil strainer. This turned out to be very clean and in perfect condition, however I changed it anyway. The strainer takes a couple of large seals, one above and another below. It also has a washer for the bolt which I replaced too as I refitted the plate.

Draining the oil through the oil strainer plate

Draining the oil through the oil strainer plate

I still needed to sort out the sump plug so it could be used in the future, so then resorted to screw extractors again which I’d used to remove a bolt in the rear boot latch a few months ago. I needed a slightly larger one this time. I had to drill quite a way into the sump plug to get enough grip to get it undone, but managed it eventually. I was glad to have bought a spare one before starting the job. I fitted the new sump plug and washer.

Extracting the old sump plug

Extracting the old sump plug

Next I used a torque wrench to tighten the sump plug and oil strainer to the correct torque as stated in the Haynes manual. These didn’t feel as tight as I’d expected, however it’s essential not to over-tighten the bolts to prevent the problem I had with the sump plug.

New sump plug fitted

New sump plug fitted

Finally I refilled with the new oil. The oil cap and dip stick are both accessible through the flap behind the rear number plate.  The oil tube at first appears pretty awkward to get to, however if you hold the top and pull gently it actually extends which makes adding oil a breeze. I added oil slowly and checked the dip stick a few minutes after each fill to give it time to settle, and to ensure I didn’t go above the maximum mark. Once full I started the engine and gave it a few revs to spread the new oil around the engine.

The extending oil filler pipe

The extending oil filler pipe

Hopefully next time I perform an oil change it will be considerably quicker, as the bolts will come undone much easier.