Gearbox update

I went back to Keldine and asked for the owner so I could complain about what has happened with my gearbox. I find out that the owner of Keldine autos is Trevor, who also owns Ford parts and supervised the refurbishment of my gearbox. 

After explaining that I was very unhappy that my claims weren’t being taken seriously and it was obvious to anyone that gear changes weren’t smooth he agreed finally to give it another test drive and we drove around the estate for 2 minutes, and it was very evident that gear changes were not smooth, I could feel them through my feet as we drove. I looked at him when he put it into 3rd gear and it almost crunched and he looked back and simply said “It is perfect. You can’t get any better.” When we both felt the crunch and we both knew that it was far from perfect, I realised he is not ever going to admit that it isn’t right.

I think the fact that he isn’t even taking a look at it either, or offering to for more money speaks volumes. 
I’ve driven this van for 13 years almost and I know for a fact there is still a fault with the gearbox so I asked him to write me a letter stating that in his opinion the gearbox was perfect and the job was done properly. He stated that he would not do that as it was a waste of his time. 

Clearly there is no value at all going back there ever, they are flatly refusing to admit anything is wrong, so now I must find someone independent who can look at the gearbox, and give me their opinion.

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Gearbox checkup

After several phone calls where I was promised a call back and none of them materialized, I decided to call down to Ford Parts anyway. I met Trevor who apparently supervised the refurbishment of my gearbox.
I explained that I wasn’t happy and that it felt very much like the synchromesh was failing. I was experiencing the same problems I had in Southampton. He said he’d have a little drive so we both went out. As soon as he came to a junction and geared down I said “You must have felt that grate into gear slightly?”
He looked at me as if he had no idea what I was talking about, but then said “That noise is from the gearstick block, not the box.” He believes the gearbox is perfectly fine even though we both heard it ‘clunk’ into gear. It’s clear they are not going to admit anything is wrong so my next task is to get a second opinion, and maybe even a third.

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Engine rebuild

I found a company in Paisley called Premier Engines. They pick the block up, rebuild it and send it back for £1284. That finally happened last week and on Friday I received an email to say they had tested the block and there were no further problems so it will take between 5 and 10 working days to rebuild.
When it gets back it needs new timing belt and a few other bits and pieces and the MOT will be due, so the spending isn’t finished yet. The final bill is probably going to be about £2500 however I ought to have at the end of that a van with a totally refurbished engine and gearbox so, fingers crossed nothing else goes wrong.

Whatever anyone else says, I will never own another Peugeot in my life, I’m put off them forever and not just the lack of reliability, but the sheer extortionate cost of parts.

An interesting side story comes from when I tried to pay Premier engines so they start the repair.
I logged into internet banking and filled in the online forms to pay them using bank to bank transfer. However Nationwide stopped me saying as it was a new payee that hadn’t been paid before I had to have my electronic card reader to get the code from. The reader is in the van so I rang them to explain and they said telephone banking was automated so it too would need the card reader. I said well no problem, can you please do it. They said no they don’t have the ability.
After a short and frustrated discussion I asked for a supervisor who confirmed, without the card reader I could not make any payment. premier engines does not take card payments over the phone due to high levels of fraud, so as this occurred Friday morning I would have to wait another 3 days before I could pay them by going into a branch and get the job started.
The principle that I cannot spend my money how and when I wish to because the bank controls when and how I have access is to me a huge problem and not fair or right. I understand their need to be secure but they have a responsibility to establish security that does not result in people not being able to spend their money.

So I’ve raised a formal complaint with Nationwide because this is the 3rd time I have been stopped from spending my money by their practices and it simply isn’t acceptable.

I logged onto Santander as I had enough in that backup account to pay the garage so I did that. Their security sent me a one time code to my phone, I typed that into the online payment form and hey presto, the bill was paid! Thank God for Santander! Oddly when I went back to Nationwide to transfer funds to the Santander account to replace what I’d just spent, that transaction was also blocked despite Santander being a named payee! In frustration again I used the app on my phone and that allowed me to pay Santander immediately! No consistency or sense in how this all works so I am going to continue to make a formal complaint about the bank to the ombudsman in the hope that if enough other people also complain, the bank may eventually change it’s practices.

In the meanwhile I am staying with my friend in the lakes while all this is going on. By the time I get my van back I’ll have been staying with her for 3 weeks, so massive thanks to her and I shall have to find a way of making it up to her for being such a fabulous friend.

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Engine woes

When you live in your van full time what’s the worst that can happen? Gearbox fails? Engine fails? You break a leg? Well of the top ones I just had the second…the engine seized.
I’d just finished work at midnight and went to drive to a new place for the morning. I felt the engine struggle and I assumed it was in limp mode. However I only just made it into a layby and it cut out and was clearly seized.
I had been noticing lately that the meter on the binnacle reported only 2 bars of six for the oil, but when I’d tried the dipstick it was full, so assuming an oil pump fault I checked the dipstick again to find…completely empty! A quick look revealed a loose oil filter Grr! Luckily I had oil so I topped it to full again and went to bed intending to try the engine in the morning after it had had plenty of time to cool down and the new oil to get in. As I was very anxious I got no sleep that night contemplating what it could be, what it could cost me and what this might mean to my lifestyle. I didn’t even have internet or phone connection in the layby so I lay in bed worrying all night.

Come the morning I tried the engine and it started fine, so I was HUGELY relieved as you can imagine. I set off to another layby which I knew was close by and where I knew I could get a signal, just in case the engine wasn’t quite right. Very lucky that I made that decision because about halfway to the layby, some 500 yards I could feel the engine struggling. I managed to reach the layby and coasted in with the engine off. The oil was definitely full although the meter on the binnacle said empty, but no oil light was on, so I assumed now there was a fault such as a broken oil pump.

The recovery guy came and they took me to Chris Ritchies in Barrow who the next day confirmed the engine was damaged and needed to be replaced.


Now, anyone who reads my blog regularly will probably wonder how it is that one person can have so much bad luck over a long period of time. Well, so do I! I do try to think positively and say some people contract a disease and lose limbs, some people get cancer and are given a few months to live, some suffer appalling injuries in attacks and…well you get the picture. It doesn’t fix my engine, and it doesn’t make me happy, but it does make a difference to the stress to think that there must be thousands of people just in the UK alone who would love to swap their serious problems for mine.
After a scour of the internet I finally found a company called Premier Engines in Paisley, Scotland. They’re going to arrange to get the engine from Chris Ritchies and rebuild it and it will cost around £1140. To strip the engine and put it back when it’s refurbished Chris will charge me about £750, and it needs new oil and timing belt before it’s replaced so there’s another couple of hundred quid. So it’s going to be £2000 or more all told to get it back to working condition.

Fucking bummer eh? But like I said, someone just lost a leg in a motorcycle accident so putting things into perspective it’s not that bad.

As a sort of add on story, I found an organisation called the Federation of Engine Manufacturers. It’s obviously a trade organisation so I checked the site out and tried many of the garages that were listed there. There was one that did marine engines, one that was VW/Audi specific, one for Caterpillar equipment etc etc. The only garage I found that did engines of the sort I’d need I contacted and when he rang me I was chattering on and mentioned refurbished engine. He immediately said don’t touch one with a bargepole and was quite insistent about that. I asked why and how a refurbished engine was different to a manufactured one and he flustered a bit and asked me to check on his website where it was all explained. He continued to ask if I wanted him to quote me for an engine and I said yes but I wanted to know what I was being quoted for, ie: what is remanufactured compared to refurbished. He was still unable to tell me so I left it and checked out his site, which had absolutely nothing at all about refurbished on it!

Meanwhile he sent me an email saying he could not find me a remanufactured engine, here’s a snip from the email:

“The reason you cannot compare reman to refurb/recon is because there is no definition of reman/refurb which is why we do not sell them.”

Of course I emailed back saying if there is no definition, how do you know you don’t sell them! Anyway I went back to the FER site to use their forum and found that of all the questions that had been asked over the years, I could not find a single one that had been answered! Also the site looked like something from the 90’s. So the Federation of Engine Remanufacturers is in my opinion a faded organisation that does not appear to have any clout or standards at all, hardly any members and no participation in their forum so I am left to find my own garage.


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I met up with an old friend this evening at a Toby carvery. It was lovely connecting with her and we had a right giggle over old times. Just prior to her arriving there was a couple in  the car park who had a dog that came up to sniff my dog. They had coffee mugs in their hands and had obviously come out of a blue van nearby. When we came out later on in the evening they were still there, having a cuppa sitting in the grass. It looked like they were staying the night so being a local and knowing some much better places to park, when my friend left I went over to them to let them know.

We got chatting and as it happens they were actually booked into the adjoining hotel so they had no need of safe parking places. But as we chatted it turns out that he was Martin Furey! Now any fan of the Fureys, The Chieftains or the High Kings -all Irish folk bands- will know that he is the son of Finbar Furey, himself one of the 4 Furey brothers in the eponymous group The Fureys, and Martin being of the 4 members of the High Kings. We were chatting and chilling and it was all relaxed so I didn’t bother asking for his autograph, although I did ask to take his photo for this blog which he declined, and I respected his decision to do that. Still, it was a pleasure connecting with such a talented musician and a nice man. If you’ve no knowledge of these musicians or this music check out his website here.

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Gearbox update

So finally I book the van in to Keldine autos at Gateshead for the gearbox to be sorted. I picked them totally randomly cos tbh I’ve been to that many garages and been told that many things that now I just want it sorted. They telephoned me to give me the news I half expected…it needs a complete overhaul. Well, it couldn’t just need selector rods could it lol So I gave the go ahead and went into a hotel for a week.

When I got it back it was absolutely filthy.  IMG_20160729_170618031_HDR IMG_20160729_170639510 IMG_20160729_170719450 IMG_20160729_170734647 IMG_20160729_170755982 IMG_20160729_170829668_HDR IMG_20160729_174553769_HDR Greasy oily handprints all over the paintwork outside, and all over the steering wheel and door handles. You can see on the babywipe how much muck came off after just wiping the steering wheel once: it took 4 goes to get it clean. The footwell was disgusting and the mat if you can see in the picture is covered in grease or oil from the boots. I had to throw that out as no way was it coming clean.
I have no clue what the sand/grit stuff is in the footwell, but it had to be swept out and washed thoroughly. Maybe they put that down to soak the oil up?

Also the liner in the wheel arch was left unsecured. There’s a plastic clip that holds it to the front of the wheel arch and another different type fits the rear of the wheel arch. Along with some clips that I already wanted for the bonnet liner they cost me £42. The van wasn’t even repaired at Keldines, they had taken it to a place called Ford Parts. It’s a completely different company.

But at least the gearbox is fine now yes? No. Well, it’s debatable.

I took the van back and one of the lads at Ford Parts drove it and said it was fine. That worried me because the gears were still clunky to get and sometimes I had to really push the gearstick to get it into gear. After a couple of chats they finally said that the gear cables were old and worn, and since the entire gearbox had been refurbished it must be those cables at fault. £300 per cable to buy and about £200 to replace meaning an £800 job. What a fucking joke.
I mean they may well be correct about the cables causing the problems I don’t know, but I found some on ebay which claim to be genuine Peugeot parts for £116 the pair so I’ve bought some and will take it back to Ford parts to have them fitted.

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The Old Keswickian

Seems like I rattled the cage of the owner of the Old Keswickian. Alan Simpson who claims to be the owner disputes how much I paid for my fish and chips. That’s very odd. I know how much I was charged, I wonder where the discrepancy occurs?
Anyway, he points out the price and then continues to  say I was probably ‘non compos mentis’ when I visited and therefore dialogue is futile, and he hopes I will never come back.  A few emails followed, all quite insulting, I see now why the Old Keswickian is the way it is. Well, with an attitude like that matey if I was coming back, I won’t be now.

However as I said:
The Old Keswickian; fish was fine, chips were dry, hard and tasteless, the cartons they use are so small food falls off, pay extra for a plastic fork, expensive.
the Kingfisher charged me a fair price, food was delicious, served in an appropriately sized carton and I was given a fork for free. What’s not to like?

You can see where I’ll be eating from now on.

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Leaving the EU

I think it’s incredibly sad that during the whole campaign for the referendum of whether we should stay in the EU or not, we were bombarded with propaganda from both sides which blurred the real issues and helped no-one make their decision. No government or professional has any idea what is going to happen should we stay or leave, so how do you expect us to make our minds up when we don’t even have decent information?
That fact alone makes me think that they don’t actually care whether we stay in the EU or leave.
Personally I don’t think it will have much impact: the plutocracy who rule us for the enlargement of their private funds and power will still rule us and whether the people are richer or poorer the wealthy will remain wealthy and in power.

I also was saddened by the peoples’ response to the whole thing. Leaving became synonymous with racism for some obscure reason, and it also became clear that the wealthiest voted stay while the poorest voted leave. I’m not sure what they says but it was telling how disrespectful and rude people were of each other. We supposedly fought world wars to protect our right to freedom and democracy for what? To be called moronic because we vote to leave? To be labelled stupid because we chose to remain? I’ve never felt so sad about the state of the UK as I do right now.

We are out: we voted to leave the EU and instead of everyone saying “We all want the same thing let’s stick together and achieve it” many asked for a second referendum! So much for democracy.
I don’t know what will happen but I do know that we are in the 10th year of recession, and after years of austerity our deficit has increased not decreased, so at least Cameron has resigned which is a fabulous thing, and I think to myself with the state of the country, can we possibly be any worse off out of the EU? We certainly have done nothing but get worse and worse as a member of it so maybe it is time to try something new?

We’re a very divided nation, and a very antagonistic one, and the Govt and media is largely to blame for that, so I hope the next few years helps to try and heal that.

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Fish and chip drop

For as many years as I can recall I have been going to the Old Keswickian in Keswick for a lovely bit of cod and chips. There’s nowt like taking your food away and sitting on a bench in the sunshine to eat it while you watch the world go by. In Keswick there is a definite lack of seagulls to spoil the experience too.

However I’ve noticed for some time now the Old Keswickian’s chips are large and dry and tasteless. I asked the lad serving one day if they had changed the potatoes they use and he looked at me as if I was stupid and shook his head. Now on their website they say the following:
“our potatoes are the finest quality, primarily Lincolnshire, Maris Pipers and Markies, selected by our local merchant for their correct sugar content and dry matter percentage, so you get a superior chip…other than 100% vegetable oil (non hydrogenated) and flour, nothing else goes into our fish and chips…no additives…no colours…no preservatives…nothing!! Can other food outlets claim that”.
All I can say is, even frozen ones from elsewhere can taste better.

Something else I’d noticed but not really bothered about is the tiny carton they place them in. It’s very small and once they put the fish on top of the chips, the chips fall out and as happened yesterday, I dropped half my fish trying to eat it. The carton is not even the size of the fish and because the fish is balanced on the chips it’s very difficult to eat it. Especially if you use those silly wooden forks. Those silly wooden forks have been around for so long: I recall trying to use them as a child and they’re OK if all you have is chips, but they’re useless for eating fish with. You can pay 10p for a plastic fork which is much better, but if you paid £7 almost for fish and chips can’t they let you have a plastic one free?

So instead of enjoying my food in the sunshine, I dropped half of the fish on the floor trying to use the wooden fork to eat it, and the chips were so distasteful that I threw half of those away. Now, that cost me £6.95. Almost £7 is not a number to be sniffed at. It’s not a small amount that you’d not be bothered about if you lost, but given that I lost half my meal (partly by accident and partly by choice of course) that means I paid £3.50 for something I didn’t enjoy. I did enjoy the fish, so half of my £3.50 was pleasant, but half of that fell onto the floor because it was balanced precariously on a pile of chips in a tiny carton. So that’s £1.75 well spent out of almost £7. not good value.

So, I’ve contacted the Old Keswickian detailing my concerns and will update with their response. In the meanwhile, I’ll be scouring Keswick for the best fish and chips.

*Update: I have 2 backup sims that I use in an old phone so that I don’t have to give out my real number. I gave one of those sim numbers in the form I used to contact Old Keswickian on their website. An hour later I started getting nuisance calls…what an odd coincidence.

*More Update: Went into Keswick and had haddock and chips from the Kingfisher fish and chip shop on main street. Greta service from helpful staff, beautiful fish, lovely chips, in a proper size carton! and he gave me a plastic fork for nothing. £5.50 for all that. Old Keswickian is old hat now, I won’t be visiting there ever again. (The nuisance calls stopped after a while)

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Gaslow filler

So, I got my Gaslow system about 7 years ago, and only got round now to fitting the filler kit!
The filler kit is the bit that allows you to fill the tanks using a service station hose. The filling point has always been jammed in the bottle cupboard attached to a metal bracket to make it easier to fill. However when you buy a Gaslow system they do come with a proper kit so you can fit the filler to the body, making it much easier to fill.
This will be easier too I am a little tired of messing around as I’ve always had to do, it’ll be much more fun now that it’s fitted properly.
One thing that surprised me is that when I drilled the hole out of the skirt to take the filler, I found the skirt to be made of 1 millimetre thick aluminium, 5 milli plywood and a core of polystyrene!
A slice of my camper wallThe entire van is made of this, although there are solid struts here and there for strength and shape, this is essentially what the box I live in is made of.
I guess they do it for lightness, and insulation although I’m not convinced polystyrene is the best insulator going. It’s slightly worrying when you think that it would be relatively easy to break into most campers and caravans simply by using a hooked Stanley knife and cutting a hole in the wall.
Anyway I got the filler point fitted neatly and this is what it looks like in place. Sorry for the state of the van it hasn’t been washed in 2 weeks. Gaslow filler point

I could have chosen white which would have matched nicely, but there’s a lot of black trim and the water filler port is black so although white might have matched better, it would have looked odd with the other things being black. And yes, it’s about time I washed the van!

So, why Gaslow? Well when I got the van I had 2x 6 kg propane bottles in it and when each is empty you take them to a Calor stockist and swap them for full ones. Currently I think a full 6 kg bottle is about £21 from Calor. However it’s difficult to judge when the bottle is empty, also they may be almost empty just as you’re going off on a trip, so you find you very often swap them out when they still have gas in so £21 for a fill, but you’re filling more frequently than necessary.
Now 6 kg is about 14 litres of gas but the Gaslow bottles only take about 12 litres. It’s a safety thing. Currently LPG or autogas can be had for about 49p a litre of you shop around, 70p a litre on motorways. Even if you pay 70p a litre and fill them up, that’s 2x 12 litres at 70p which is £16.80. So I save more than half the cost of swapping 2 Calor bottles. Not only that but you can fill the Gaslow bottles at any time, even if they’re not empty you can top them up, so no wasted gas as there is with Calor.

Unsurprisingly Calor won’t let you fill at their stations, because they don’t want their profiteering to be hurt so they claim Gaslow bottles are unsafe. They’re not of course, they fit every standard going but the truth is Calor want to take your eyes out because they are making so much money out of bottled gas and they hate the fact they’re losing out to the likes of Gaslow and the other companies who supply these bottles.
LPG is all over Europe too and I’ve used it successfully in Italy, France, Germany and Belgium although you need adapters for the taps over there. Now I am going to celebrate my handiwork with a chicken casserole that’s been bubbling for hours, a JD to wash it down with and a movie. Life’s good.

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No gear, no idea. Gearbox woes

Gearbox. *sigh* The very word is becoming anathema to me now. Today the 7th garage to have a look at the van said it was not the selector rods and gear linkages, but the gearbox itself at fault. I’m kinda starting to believe them now. So I’ve booked in for next week for an 8th garage to have a look, but with the view to actually begin a repair or replacement.
Oddly the problems were getting slightly better in recent days but when I came back from Sunderland to Gateshead I lost first gear, then it got stuck in second, then when I parked in the camper place for some parts I wanted it would not go into reverse properly, then when I came out I got 1st but it got stuck in first and would not come out!
What a journey haha
If the garage on Tuesday takes the gearbox out and finds it is the gearbox at fault I think I’m going to bite the bullet and ask them to replace it, and all the selector rods and cables, and the clutch, then at least I know it’s all done for a good while.

I am continually being told “but you got 135,000 miles on one gearbox that’s amazing!” See, I don’t think it is. But what do I know.

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The Skye’s the limit

My fourth night on Skye and already I feel rested and peaceful. The nights are dark and silent, although night before last I watched the edge of the Geminid’s shower through the sunroof. That was pretty amazing. It’s raining again this morning but as I’m working til 4pm I don’t really mind.
I’m busy testing the second battery too: it looks like they’re both shot.  🙁

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Pulley the other one…

You recall I got my clutch done at Hoddy’s, and after I got the van back it was rattling, I mean proper rattling, like the tin man having sex with an empty bean can. I wondered it it might just run in or something but after 2 weeks it was doing my head in so I went down to Hoddy’s to get it looked at.
I parked up outside wanting to be there early for the morning but was woken about 1am by a car driving past a couple of times. I never bothered looking out but I listened and I could hear all manner of stuff going on. Then I heard this loud voice (which turned out to be a recorded alarm) shouting “You have been recorded and the police have been called and and we are continuing to monitor you!”
I did look out then, just in time to see a young lad legging it down the street and a small car with no lights on doing off after him. Quite why he ran past the car then they drove after him to pick him up I’ve no  idea!

Anyway, so I tried to settle down again but after about 20 minutes the police show up. 2 cars and a dog van. Well, when Jack heard the dog there was hell on and when he saw all the cops wandering around outside he went mental at the window and wanted to rip them all to pieces lol.
I opened a window and told the cops they’d missed the lads and gave them as much info as I could. Sadly about 15 minutes later another one came and asked me it all over again lol I didn’t get settled til about 3am.

So, I get up in the morning and it’s 9am before it dawns on me that the reason Hoddy’s hasn’t opened is that it’s bank holiday Monday…..

I do it all again. Ground hog day or what lol But at least this time I get it in and they say the crankshaft pulley has gone. £130 to replace. I said yes then rang other garages who said about the same  price too and when I picked it up he showed me the old one which was indeed in pretty poor state. Sure enough when I drove away the engine sounded much better. More money I hadn’t bargained on but hey ho.

I had asked them to do the MOT too. It failed, and the main thing out of 4 was the lower suspension balljoint. However the guy was bothering more about having the wrong reflector on the rear of the van. He went on and on about it, even saying “I can’t fail you for it cos I checked, and I can’t, but it is wrong.” I found that odd and the fact he went on so much that in the end I said it’s not even an advisory, so let’s leave it. But he as still mithering me about it as I left. So the next day I drove down to Preston to the only Robins and Day main dealer that I will visit. It flew through the MOT without problem, and they even had time to investigate the brakes for me to establish whether I can have vented disks on. Sadly, they can’t tell without stripping the brakes entirely. I suppose the moral there is if you’re not sure, get a second opinion.

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New generation

I picked up my new generator yesterday but it needed some 10/30 oil and a new male plug. What I did not expect was it to have a socket on the side which is the 2 pin European TUV type socket. Luckily I had an adaptor, but I lacked a 3 pin male to make a fly lead so I had to wait til today to go to B & Q to get one. It also needs 10/30 oil although I could not find any anywhere. I decided to settle for some 10/40 as I’m unlikely to face dramatically cold temperatures anytime soon. £15 friggin’ quid for a litre of the oil! Seriously, they’re having  a piggin’ laugh though! Greedy robbing bastards! but you see they know, if you want it, and need it, you will pay for it. And so works our great capitalist system.


But I digress: I got an old plastic carton and filled it with .4 of a litre of water as that is the generator’s stated oil capacity. I marked the level with a Sharpie, then emptied and dried it and filled it with oil to that level. I used the supplied funnel to fill the generator and it was precise. The oil just reached the very base of the threads that the dipstick screwed into: very neat.
I’d filled up with petrol the night before and although they say don’t brim it because of expansion, I’m a true rebel so I squeezed exactly 4 litres in instead of the recommended 3.80 litres. Blargh.

Filled with oil…Check!
Filled with petrol…Check!
Open air vent on petrol filler cap…check!
Choke out…Check!
Engine switch on…Check!
Economy mode switch on…Check!
Pulled the handle…nothing. That’s fine, petrol needs to get through. So I shoved the choke back in and gave it another pull and it started on the third pull. The green power light flashes for a few seconds then steadies and then you can plug stuff in.

I’d made the new fly lead so I plugged it in and instantly my Sterling charger came to life and after it’s internal start up check was complete it started charging. The 2 x 220 ahr batteries are down to about 12.1 volts, effectively flat, so I knew the charger would pull on the generator in order to bash a high charge out and sure enough it did.
Out of curiosity I switched economy mode off and of course the engine note got louder but still was not as loud as my old SDMO before it departed for the gennie heaven. On economy mode it was quieter still and yet powering the charger with no problem at all. One thing I noted was that to plug the fly lead in, the socket is almost at the base of the generator body so you have to bend right over and in fact it’s easier to tilt the generator back over to get the plug in. Poor design there.

Anyway. well see how long it lasts on 4 litres of petrol: my SDMO lasted 11-12 hours on 7 litres but had no economy mode. As I sit here about 2 hours after starting it I can hear it outside and it is definitely much quieter, and a sound meter app on my phone says 54db at about 7 metres. However it is ‘missing a beat’ constantly, as if it is about to start being starved of fuel or air. It’s not affecting the charging at all and my SDMO used to do this, but only once or twice per use. This is doing it every few minutes and it could be simply the engine running in, I’ll wait and see.
It fits in front of the front seat but only just, but it is lighter when filled with petrol than my SDMO was when empty. Champion state 25kg but it really doesn’t feel anywhere near that.

So, as long as it runs without any problem, and uses roughly the same amount of petrol for each battery cycle, then for £369.99 I am very happy indeed. I’ll keep you updated of course 🙂

**Quick update: it’s been running now since 19:30, that’s almost 8.5 hours and the charging routine is about where you’d expect it to be. However for the last couple of hours the engine is running almost permanently as if it’s about to cut out, faltering for a beat every few seconds. Although it’s a very quiet engine, that ‘stuttering’ is incredibly irritating. It only does it in economy mode at low power draw, so my guess would be that the economy mode  setting is too low. I could use a teeny bit of choke and see if that helps, or simply set it to run faster, there must be an adjustment on the carb. I’ll wait and see how long it gets out fo one tank of fuel first then adjust it and try again later, to compare fuel consumption.

For the techies here’s the spec from Champion:

Manufacturer: Champion
Product Code: 72001I
Continuous KVA: 0.00 KVA
Maximum KVA: 0.00 KVA
Continuous KW: 1.60 KW
Maximum KW: 2.00 KW
Sockets: 1 x 230v 13amp
Fuel Type: Petrol
Run Time: 9.50 hours
Noise Level: 53 dba @ 7m
Weight: 25.00kg
Width: 335mm
Height: 415mm
Length: 490mm
Fuel Capacity: 3.80L
Starting Method: Recoil
Frequency: 50Hz
AVR: Yes
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A clutch of good news

Following on from getting my van back with a lovely new rear end, I decided that if I was to go abroad this year I should really get the clutch done first. What I’ve noticed more and more is that when driving, the rev counter suddenly goes up by maybe 500 rpm’s without altering the speed, then drops back down again. I think that’s the clutch slipping. It is a 3 ton van so perhaps I could not expect the same life out of this clutch as I could from a car. 11 years and 110,000 miles is probably not that bad when you think about it.

I had been asking around as Robins and Day wanted a wallet scaring £800 to fit a new clutch. I finally got quoted £166 by Hoddy’s in Gateshead who are Vosa approved so I’ve booked the van in for Monday morning and we’ll see how they do.

I also ordered a new wing mirror. £138 from Wingmirrorman. Now when you stack a wing mirror against a new clutch to be fitted and there’s only £28 difference, what’s that all about!

I had spent some time shopping around for a new generator too and was become bogged down by so many makes. Finally a Welsh company stepped up with some advice and they narrowed my choices down to two: a Yamaha and a new American import called Champion. As the Champion was much cheaper at only £370 I decided to go for that one. I should get it tomorrow so hopefully it will live up to all the hype. It’s always an anxious time spending this amount of money on anything, especially with a company you haven’t used before. I’m thinking positively though, the generator simply has to work as well as my old one and I will be content.

I’ve been really busy copying all of my 2000+ DVD’s to hard drive so I’ll try and get round to adding some photos to the last few posts when I get the chance.

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Van finally in for repair!

Finally, after waiting since March, I dropped the van off at Camper NE today. I’m due to get it back next Saturday morning and I have a brand new Astra to play with in the meanwhile.
They are rebuilding the bumper assembly by hand, using fibreglass as they are not manufactured anymore since my van is ‘obsolete’ having been made in 2004. The side panels are simply wood clad with aluminium but those also have had to be made by hand as the patterns don’t exist now.

I find it difficult to believe that since the accident in March it’s taken this long to sort it out. And I still haven’t got my excess money or the replacement computer from Silverbeck Rymers. According to them they are bound to contact me only once every 3 months with updates, and as I’ve called them several times the 3 months starts from when I last rang them. Absolutely appalling if you ask me.

I’m in the Rex hotel in Whitley Bay for the time being. It’s a bit run down, but the beds are clean and the dog is allowed so it serves me OK. Plus it has a bath as well as a shower so I’ve been lazing in that every night. The beach is about 150 yards form the front door too so me and Jack have partaken a little of that. I have a relative in Whitley as well so it was nice to catch up with her and she showed me some local shops.
Jack doesn’t like the hotel room. He’s very clingy with me and isn’t eating much, but he’s loving the beach. No phone signal, but the dongle works fine which is just as well as the hotel internet is good, but keeps dropping now and again for a few seconds. That wouldn’t bother me when not at work but work demands an always on connection so I use the dongle for that.

I find it very odd to be within four walls again. I pulled the plug out of the telly and watch Star Trek and movies on my computer. But the view is of a brick wall 5 feet away from my window so I’m glad I’m only here for 9 nights.

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Generator finally dies

As the van will be going in for repair on Thursday, I decided to run the generator to make sure the batteries are topped up to fully 100% charge before it’s left, as leaving batteries discharged even partially affects their life span greatly.

Half way through I noticed a fluctuation from the charger and I could hear the gennie stuttering as if it was running out of fuel. I went out to have a look and the vent in front of the electronics was blowing out sparks! Also I pulled the plug out of the generator itself and found the industrial rubber plug I’d put onto the fly lead had melted. The whole socket assembly was also melted and sparks were flying everywhere. Luckily the cut off switch worked and I shut it down as the engine was hammering along happily still despite the heat and sparks.

I’ve not even bothered to open it up yet, I may not bother at all because I doubt I’d be able to figure out why this happened, I’ll just presume a component failed. I do need to have one despite the solar panels, so there’s at least £500 I’ll have to spend that I didn’t want to.
The generator is an SDMO Booster 2kw and is about 7 years old and for most of those years it has been run every 3 days for 11-12 hours. I have no idea at all if that is good or bad, but I know places like markets and burger vans run their’s all day every day. Never mind, the Hyundai’s come highly recommended and they won’t break the bank so I’ll just do a little more overtime to pay for a new one *sigh*

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DVD overload

So, I’ve got almost 1700 DVD’s now and when I was reorganising the ‘loft’ the other day I realised just how much weight there is in them. Each folder weighs about 3.5 kilos and there’s 8 so that’s 28 kilos just in DVD’s!

So, as I have some saved electronically I looked at what it would cost to put them all onto a hard drive. I reckon I’d get on average 400 per 2tb drive, and they cost £60 each. I’d need 5 which allows some space for more DVD’s so that’s £300 for hard drives. Also I have to rip the DVD’s to a file and copy them over and if I did say 3 a day, it would take me over a year and a half to do!

DVD folder
DVD folder

Each hard drive weighs 170 grams so I am saving over 27 kilos in weight if I get rid of the disks once I’ve copied them. That’s a canny lot of weight to get rid of so I have decided to get on with it. I’ve bought the first 2 drives and have started copying disks, with 12 done so far this weekend.
It’s definitely the way forward although what the heck I’m going to do with my folders of disks once I’m done I don’t know!

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Electricians bad asses?

I joined a Facebook group for electricians called Electrician Q & A. The perfect place to get some advice on issues with the batteries and inverter. Within minutes I had been called a spastic, then told to get fucked by someone else! lol
Most members appeared to be Australian and clearly didn’t want to help, they simply wanted to troll.
So, is you want electrical advice, don’t go to the Facebook group of Electrician Q & A unless you’ve got your hard hat on!

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The Paper Bridge

I’d heard about a paper bridge being built in Grisedale as part of the Lakes Ignite Culture festival, so thought I would check it out. You can read the news release about it here.

Patterdale cricket ground

I had parked in Patterdale overnight so that I got an early start and got up at 6 am after yesterday’s experience and the sky was already bright but no sun, but it looked promising so I set off the 2-3 miles up Grisedale to where the bridge has been built.

I love Grisedale, it’s my favourite route to Helvellyn as there’s no through road so only foot traffic apart from the odd farm vehicle.


The walk was very pleasant as the sun came out a few minutes after leaving the van and with a strong breeze it made for lovely walking conditions. Jack of course was more interested in the sheep than anything else but he stayed close to the track.

You can see in the photo that the weather over Helvellyn was still dark and brooding, in fact several times I felt spots of rain falling but the sun from behind me kept the clouds at bay.

The Paper Bridge at the foot of Helvellyn
The Paper Bridge at the foot of Helvellyn

This is a longish view as I approached the bridge to give you an overview of it’s geographic location. Some people have loudly criticised the fact that it is 3 miles along the valley but the whole purpose of the bridge is to tease people into exploring places they haven’t been before. From Patterdale there is road for a mile or so and then a very good track the rest of the way to the bridge so it’s not like it’s hard going. The views are tremendous and who knows, it might encourage people to come out more and enjoy the lakes.

The Paper bridge
The Paper bridge

1 other person passed me on the way there and from a distance I saw him clambering about the bridge. It stands out a mile with it being bright red but the last hundred yards to it are sodden ground so by the time we got there Jack was muddy up to his belly. What a sight.

Yes, that bridge is made up of 4 tons of paper, the sheets compressed and shaped into an arch. Clever engineering for paper but for at least 1,000 years this is how bridges and other structures were made: no nails, no glue, no mortar, not even dovetail joints.

The Paper Bridge
The Paper Bridge

I took a closer shot here so that you can see the individual sheets of paper  even from about 60 feet. I’m not sure I’d call it art, but it certainly is an attraction.

I chose the right time of day too. Friends who took photos later on have crowds of people in which shows that as an attraction it has worked.



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Crash update

What a run around. The one armed instructor who owns the car that ran into me didn’t answer my calls or respond to voice mail at all. I knew he wanted to settle cash and after taking the van into Camper NE they confirmed the repairs would indeed be around the £3,500 mark.  Although that’s a lot of money I still wanted to give him the opportunity to pay it if he wanted to but he still wasn’t answering my calls.
I phoned his company who he had not informed of the crash and when I called them again later he had clearly lied to them saying he had spoken  to me and arranged something about insurance, which he had not.
I felt like I was dropping him in it but what could I do?
I’m sure not giving insurance details is a criminal offence so I checked with the police who confirmed that was the case then left one more voice mail for him informing him that if he did not contact me I would report him and the police would visit.
Minutes later he rang…LOL

So, the upshot of the conversation was that he’d already informed his insurance company but not bothered to let me know and he then said “Our business is over now so I don’t want you ringing me anymore.” WTF?? I reminded him that I’d delayed my own calls to insurance and tried hard to contact him to do him a favour!
The moral of the story is, never do a favour for a one armed driving instructor!

Anyway, all is in order now and Camper NE say it  may be weeks before they get the parts they need as at 11 years old my van is ‘obsolete’ lol Once they get the parts it will take a whole week to repair so I’ll be lodging with someone for that period.
I hope it all goes smoothly.

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Crash, bang, wallop what a picture!

Well what an interesting day. It started out pretty normal really, having a cuppa with my niece then starting work at 4 pm. At 5:21 pm though it all changed when a learner driver crashed into me!

Broken computer
Broken computer

There I was working away on the computer and minding my own business when there was an almighty bang, and the computer lifted in the air, dropped down onto the keyboard then fell onto the floor. Bye bye computer! You can see from this shot the keyboard missing a key, the legs were also broken off the back. The computer screen is totally shattered. It’s an all in one computer, not just a monitor.

I had been aware of the learner reverse parking around me for some time. It’s common practise on Team Valley trading estate for learners to practise all their manoeuvres and I’m fairly used to it however this one was distracting and I’ve no idea why. When I felt the bang I knew instantly what it was.

Broken bumper
Broken bumper

I thought initially her foot had slipped off the clutch, however I found out later that the car was an automatic so how she managed to ram me so hard when the instructor had dual controls I’ll never know.

You can see the broken light cluster here, and the red marks on the bumper denote where I had repaired the fibreglass last year. It’s split now everywhere where I repaired it and many other places too.

Broken van 2
Broken van 2

The metal strip above the bumper denotes where the floor is and that whole section is bowed inwards. If you look in this photo you can see that the compression of the bumper had also pushed in the wood structure behind it and folded and creased the aluminium skin. It’s not apparent but it’s also dislodged the gas locker. It’s the same on the other side, so that whole skirt and wheel arch assembly needs to be renewed on both sides.

There’s also a weather baffle that was ripped off and some other bits and pieces. I reckon it’s going to cost about £3,500 to repair.

When I went outside the learner didn’t seem that upset really, and the instructor who got out of the car was about 8 feet tall and only had one arm. He kept looking at the damage ans asking “What do you want to do?” I said “Well as you’re asking so much what is it you want me to do?” He clearly wanted to settle cash but when I said I guessed it would cost about £3500 in repairs he changed his mind and said he would ring me later with insurance details that he could not remember. Hmmm.

Anyway so I told him if he rang the next day I’d let him know an estimate of repair costs as I was headed up to a place that repaired campers then he could make his decision. He seemed happy with that and shook my hand with his left hand (the only one he had) and off they went.


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Fitz park parking in Keswick

I mentioned some time ago that the Keswick football club was letting people park in their car park and charging £3 per full day by using an honesty box. Given the sheer greed of the local council’s parking fees I think this was a massive step forward and I use and pay for the parking there regularly, partly as it’s cheap, and partly as I want to let the footie club know that I support their decision, and of course any money can go to helping them out.
It’s not just Allerdale council, all of the lakes has disgusting parking charges now and I really hope more and more places like the football club offer their parking cheaply.

Another one to do so is Fitz Park Trust. Their car park is in fact adjacent to the footie clubs car park, accessed off Crosthwaite road. The same deal is to be had, £3 per day although you can pay for an hour and 2 hours as well. They have a proper pay and display machine there and apparently all money goes to the Fitz Park Trust to help look after Fitz park. Now, whether the council has set up this trust as a back door way of raising money for parks I have no idea, but the deal is good so what the heck.

Finally, the Pencil Museum has also opened it’s car park up to anyone for a fee of £4 daily. If you visit the museum and take your parking stub you can get £1.50 off the entry too.
There’s a large space of clean and flat waste ground next to the tarmacked bays and motorhomes tend to park there. Again for all day parking this is not a bad deal however like the other car parks mentioned, there is no overnight parking allowed.


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New solar panel

As the solar panels I fitted last August have proven so reliable I’ve decided to order another one. My controller can handle about handle 390 watts which in all likelihood is more than I will get from my 4 x 100 watt panels as they’re never likely to work at 100% efficiency.
There’s space on the roof too for one more and then that’s it. So what the heck, judging by performance so far I’d say all 4 and all of the gear to fit them will have been paid for by the end of spring if not before, by not having to run the generator.
These are the panels I have:

If anyone wild camps I’d suggest this is a way to go if you have space on your roof and some capital to spare for a few months.

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Trojan and other batteries

As many of you will know I’ve had countless problems over the years with leisure batteries, mostly related to the fact I was ignorant of battery technology and use in the early days.
I bought 4 x 120 ahr lead acid batteries, then I replaced them with 6 x 110 ahr batteries, they got replaced with 5 x 85 ahr batteries, which were replaced with 6 x 80 ahr batteries, which were replaced with 2 x 240 ahr batteries. Oh yes, I’ve spent a fortune on batteries!

I also spent a fortune on fuse boxes, connectors, distribution boards, and cabling, several hundred pounds on cabling alone would you believe, as you have to have thick cabling to prevent voltage loss. I also attribute the early demise of my original leaf springs to the sheer weight of carrying batteries in the rear of the van. Currently the 60 kg Trojans live behind the front seats so at least they offer traction to the front wheels.

Anyway, both inverters I’ve owned have an alarm that sounds when you hit 10.5 volts, so often I would wait til the alarm went off then recharge. I never realised at the time that draining batteries below 12 volts actually damages them. The Trojans claim you can occasionally discharge right down to 20% of their total rating without damaging them although I’ve never tried that.

I also used to mix and match batteries: 1 x 120 ahr with 2 x 100 ahr batteries, and 2 x 100 ahrs with 2 x 85 ahrs. I never knew that this also decreases efficiency and longevity of the batteries. Often batteries would be part charged and then left for long periods. This was another thing that I never knew affected batteries lives and effectively breaks them prematurely.

So it is with no surprise that you’ll here I broke all of the batteries I’ve ever had. I recall being in Rouen and having to run the gennie every day to enable me to work. 1 set of 6 batteries actually only lasted months before starting to deliver much lower voltage, a consequence of being discharged too far on a regular basis.

The ones that lasted best were Elecsol. They were billed as super light as they used carbon fibre technology, and supposedly could be discharged down lower than any other battery with almost no damage, and remain discharged again, with no damage. In eventually broke all of those too.

When I learned about exactly where I was going wrong was when I bought the 2 x 240 ahr Trojan batteries. They’re massive with tons of lead in and are built to be reliable and withstand bad treatment. However I have treated these better than any other battery by never discharging them below 12 volts, never leaving them discharged for long periods, and always charging them fully instead of part charging them.
The fluid level dropped in them once when I forgot the check the electrolyte level when I drove to Italy, but it wasn’t low enough to damage the lead plates thankfully.

However, in the time I’ve had them they are now giving less performance than they used to do. When I first noticed this I was incredibly disappointed given the Trojans great reputation and their price, however thinking more about it though I realised that I’ve had them over 2 and a half years, and I did almost boil them dry, and they do get recharged every 3 days and at £550 or something, they come in about the same as the 80 ahr Elecsols which cost almost £100 each for 5. The Elecsols lasted about the same amount of time, although I treated them very, very badly. However, at the age that the Trojans are now, the Elecsols were effectively wrecked. On balance it makes me wonder if I’d treated the Elecsols well, I wonder how long they would have lasted?

So I probably need to think about new batteries but given that my solar panels help to keep the batteries topped up and it’s coming up to spring, I reckon I can safely leave the decision til late autumn and see what deals there are at that time.

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Alternator repair

Coming back form the lakes I noticed the battery warning light flickering on the binnacle. I stopped and checked and the alternator was only putting out 11.72 volts grr. Luckily the battery was fully charged so I quickly diverted the leisure batteries to they would feed the engine battery and set off.
I phoned my favoured garage, GC Autos in Gateshead and he quickly had me booked in and a new 150 amp alternator fitted for £166. First class service from them as always.

I probably demand much of an alternator as I have a battery to battery charger. What this device does is it fools the alternator into thinking that the leisure battery is flat so that the alternator puts out it’s max voltage. The charger then checks that the engine battery is fully charged and when that’s done it starts charging the leisure batteries with up to 50 amps and 14.8 volts. So my alternator is working a lot harder for a lot longer than most.

That’s the second alternator and the van has done 130,000 miles now. The first one failed at year 2 and was replaced under warranty, so lets hope I get almost 10 years out of this one as well, especially given the work it has to do.

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Keswick visit

I was out last night with some work colleagues so I decided to head to the lakes today. The weather was appalling with loads of snow and freezing wind. Nevertheless Jack and me got out for a nice walk around although he wasn’t too happy about his waterproof lol He hates having to wear it but as it was biting cold as well as wet I thought it best to protect him.

I notice there was a caravan set up in the place where I normally park. This is a thing I see all over now and as a caravan is a more established sort of setup than a parked vehicle, I know the council are going to be looking at that spot soon and either restricting who can park there and for how long, or charging for the spaces.
It’s sad that the odd few can spoil it for the so many, but I’ve seen this happen in so many places now. Aberystwyth was the last one to be controlled and whilst I hate that the council has put controls in place I don’t blame them. People were parking for weeks on end and sitting out on an evening on the pavement next to their vans, making barbecues and having tea and drinks with their friends.

A roadside spot isn’t meant  to be a campsite, it’s a temporary spot top park free so you can enjoy the locality. If you want to sit out on an evening and have barbecues, go to a campsite! So many motorhomers are fools to themselves and sadly they spoil it for everyone else who heeds the ‘unwritten rules’ of wild camping.
I do know of some alternative sites around Keswick without having to pay the ridiculously inflated car parking prices that the council set, but I’ll never share those sites online, there’s far too many mindless people out there now.

My simple rules for wild camping:

  • Never empty your toilet except in a designated place. It’s not only against the law, it’s pretty disgusting. How would you like 15 litres of week old human waste poured on your drive or in your garden?
  • Never put tables, chairs etc out on public areas. People have to walk past and to see someone making lunch or sitting reading on public pavements is just annoying too.
  • Never leave litter or other ‘household rubbish’, there are always bins available somewhere so carry your rubbish til you find one.
  • Don’t park opposite houses, someone lives there and they don’t want to see a dirty great van outside their window for days on end.
  • Never stay in the same place more than 3 nights maximum. Other people want to park and enjoy the view, move on, come back another time, share it out.
  • Don’t park on the kerb even if the road isn’t level. Lorries do this in laybys and not only is it destructive but it limits the pavement area anyway. Locals who take pride in their area just don’t want to see it.
  • Never run your generator or engine by the roadside. I’ve seen this in Aberystwyth on the seafront and when you’re out for a walk it’s an awful sight and sound. Go to a remote layby if you must, or have a night on a campsite and charge on hook up.
  • Don’t block access to drives, other roads, farm access gates or simply by parking on a narrow road and causing a bottleneck. It’s just plain selfish and you’ll anger people.

I stick to my own wild camping rules rigidly and I take pride in the fact that I can enjoy my particular lifestyle without irritating or inconveniencing anyone else.


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Dabs drops me in it now!

Jeez…hard on the heels of the Western Digital drive saga, Dabs have now dropped me in it with the two drives I ordered from them!
They were sent to Inverness Post Office, but the post office ‘lost’ them so they had to be forwarded to Washington when I got down here.

Then I find they are the wrong drives, they are desktop instead of portable. Desktop ones plug into the mains whereas portable ones run from your USB socket.

I phoned Dabs to complain and they say say I ordered the wrong ones,  I say I didn’t but I can’t prove it cos the page I ordered them from has disappeared from their site!
So now they say I have to pay over £20 postage to return them and the postage for new ones to come out.

Thanks a billion Dabs, I will never shop with you again.


**Update: I sold the two drives and bought a new one from PC World who had the keenest price on the one I wanted. Job done. 🙂

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Tubular ching ching?

Some clear plastic tubing.
Some clear plastic tubing.

Forget tubular bells, lets hear it for Tubular ‘ching ching’. That’s the sound the till makes when the hardware store in Keswick racks up an incredible £5 for 1 metre of this piece of clear plastic tubing. I actually drew a breath when she told me the price at the till, and I was so stunned I forgot to make a churlish face and say “Crikey!”

This is to try to make filling the water tank easier, you may remember that my fuel tank spout idea didn’t work, so maybe this will, wish me luck!


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