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.