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:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Biard-Monocrystalline-Solar-Approved-Charging/dp/B008MZKKVE/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1427513391&sr=8-4&keywords=biard+100+watt

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.

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.

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.