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.