Condensation

Condensation is a matter of fact, it’s part of life, it’s physics and as Scotty will always tell you, ‘You cannae change the laws of physics!”

So what is it? Simply put it’s when a gas turns to a liquid. The gas is warm air, the catalyst is a cold window, the result is gas turning to liquid ie: water. The warmer the air the more humid it is, the more water it contains, therefore the more condensation when the warm air and cold surface meet. The opposite of condensation is vapourisation, when a liquid turns to a gas. ie: water to humid air.

 

A DryBag and a silica crystal canister.
A DryBag and a silica crystal canister.

Condensation in a motorhome is of course unwanted as damp over time can lead to mould and can even affect the structural integrity of the wood frames inside, rot fabric and corrode metals. To try to minimise this happening the air humidity needs to be lowered, and/or ventilation in the van needs to be improved. You can do this simply by opening windows, using extractor fans but these tend to be power hungry, using dehumidifiers -and although there are some 12 volt dehumidifiers on the market, there efficacy is minimal- and using static dehumidifiers such as canisters of silica crystals, containers of salt based crystals and bags of moisture absorbing sand.

Of course not having damp clothes inside, covering pans and opening windows while cooking can help. A window is best left open when sleeping too as we give off large amounts of moisture as we breathe, it’s something like a half a litre per day. Constant ventilation is by far the best enemy of condensation but you could use some of the other methods mentioned to help you out.

 

 

 

  • The containers of crystals are relatively inexpensive but they are best used in static vans or vans that are in storage. The moisture in the air is attracted to the crystals and collects in a container underneath. These are very easy to spill when moving so are counterproductive for a van that is being used.
  • Some crystals are based on silica gel so as they absorb moisture they simply expand, these are effective but need to be replaced regularly.
  • 12 volt dehumidifiers don’t use a lot of power but they are an additional drain on batteries and they collect very little moisture. Also they’re quite bulky so it’s difficult to place them in small corners and places where condensation is worst.
  • The method I use is called DryBags. These are bags of a sand type material that absorbs moisture and you can see the material change colour from light to dark when they are quite moist. The weight changes too and you can easily tell a dry from a wet bag. To rejuvenate you simply put them in the oven on the lowest settings for a few hours to burn off the moisture and they’re ready to be used again.

All of these methods simply help you manage condensation, it’s a thing that is around constantly, but more or less on sunny, windy and rainy days: you can’t ever beat condensation completely. I know of one motorhome owner who blocked all of his vents and sealed every nook and cranny he could find on the basis that it would keep cold air out thus avoiding condensation. Of course what happened was the lack of ventilation made things worse because the water could not evaporate so he got much worse damp than he would otherwise have suffered. 

A 12 volt dehumidifier
A 12 volt dehumidifier

On cold days in winter I run my fire at it’s lowest setting pretty much all night. Part of the reason is to prevent pipes freezing and to keep ambient temperature reasonable. But because the fire is lit and producing heat which causes condensation when it meets cold surfaces, it’s best to keep a vent or window open. Even during freezing days I find with the fire turned up higher to keep me warm, it’s best to keep a window open for ventilation. If there is any movement of air like from a light breeze, this actually helps the warm air in the van move around, which helps reduce condensation but even without a breeze the meeting of warm and cold air creates it’s own movement. 

But if warm air carries moisture surely you’re making moisture by having the fire on? No, by having warm air you’re heating the cold surfaces to some degree, so that less water condenses. There are some who claim that they never suffer condensation and that you need extra insulation, or you have a leak, or some other excuse. It’s simply not true. Every motorhome gets it and as said at the beginning, you can’t change the laws of physics, Jim.

Most motorhome owners have a habitation service carried out annually and they always check for damp so take heed of any warning of dampness and deal with it quickly because the effects of damp can be unimaginably expensive. 
Do some checks yourself for cold spots in your van, these are likely to be the places that condensation occurs; little used cupboards, underbed storage, overcab bunks. When you find cold spots check them for damp when conditions are ripe, such as when waking on cold mornings in winter, late evenings in winter when the heating has been on for some time. 
If cupboards are packed tightly this restricts airflow, move some things out so that air can move. 
On warm and windy days open your windows. It’s good for window rubbers to have windows opened regularly anyway and gives you a chance to clean the windows thoroughly and clean the rubbers. Oiling the windows every couple of years is also advisable to help keep the rubber in good condition. 
Choose a method to combat damp, but check regularly and if it’s not working try a different method. 

Vila Nova de Cerveira market day

I did say I was staying around for market day and although Trip advisor said it was 9 am til 11 am on Sundays, market day is actually all day Saturday in Vila Nova de Cerveira. (Which I’ve found out means New Town of the Deer.) It’s well worth going in search of the deer up the mountain too 😉

The very large car park where all the motorhomes park was blocked off this morning with bollards: both the entry and exit. I saw one lad carrying  a bit of fence along so I watched where he went and he was parked in a car on some waste ground that adjoins the carpark. He was putting up a sign that said people had to pay. So, block off the free, town car park, then open up waste ground and charge people for parking there? There has to be reasoning behind that but I’ve no idea what it might be. 

Anyway I took Jack for a nice walk then left him in the van as markets aren’t the best environments for small dogs. They’re crowded and bustling and he could easily be stepped on so he was left in the van with a nice chicken strip to chew on. I got such an accusing look from him too. I half expected to come back and find something chewed lol

Pano of market day in Vila Nove de Cerveira, one of the biggest markets I've ever seen
Pano of market day in Vila Nove de Cerveira, one of the biggest markets I’ve ever seen

I made this panorama shot so you can see just how big it is. The scale of the vans in the centre of the photo gives you an idea as they are quite large vans. It was designed with plenty of room though so although it was busy and crowded I never felt hemmed in. I noticed a monotonous regularity of stalls though as I went round. There were only a dozen or so different types of things for sale, but repeated a dozen times. The prices on each stall were pretty much the same too so if a pan was €200 on one stall, it’s price didn’t very by more than a euro or two on the other ones. Jeans were common for €10 and shirts for €14, and each stall that sold them was pretty much the same price. Leather goods I noted were fairly inexpensive and that’s the first time I’ve seen that. Belts however were still silly prices with the cheapest one I saw being €15 for a very plain and simple belt. 

As I walked round it was apparent people were haggling though. I did see one man haggling about a €10 pair of jeans lol Maybe it’s just what they do? I wanted a wire brush on a long stalk for some of the cleaning and rust proofing I’m doing to the van. I got a fairly robust one with brass bristles for only €2.50 which was a good price. I had one out of Poundland some time ago but it was rubbish and became useless very quickly. When I pretended to brush my beard with it and made a satisfied face and put a thumb up at the stall holder his face was a picture 🙂 Oh and a lady who was selling me a new wallet and haggling for all she was worth let off the longest fart I’ve ever known! She did not bat an eyelid and did not break stride with her chatter (whatever the heck she was saying) and even when I put my finger over my nostrils she simply knocked €1 off and wrote the new price on a piece of paper lol If anyone’s wondering I got it for €10 and as long as it is really leather than it’s a good price cos it’s exactly what I wanted.

Wild dogs and Englishmen 

A typical old cobbled street leads down to the riverside in Vila Nova de Cerveira
A typical old cobbled street leads down to the riverside in Vila Nova de Cerveira

An Englishman came up today to say hello. First time that’s happened to me I think in all the years I’ve been travelling. I was working on replacing the rocker cover gasket but sadly I don’t have the right tool for the bolts. It’s becoming increasingly apparent though that the head gasket might really be gone, so I may as well start biting the bullet and saving money up for this to be done. It’s a fairly large job and the garage in Germany wanted to do it for €2000! lol Anyway we had a good chat about all sorts so it was nice to meet you Martin and Pam. 

At least I got the exhaust sealed up properly and the EGR valve seated correctly so that’s a step forward. So, my mission until returning to the UK in April is save money so I can get the head done when I get back there. 

This is a pretty town with good enough shops and plenty of nice walks so I may stay around for another week. I’m off work this week so I can do as I like and maybe explore for a bit. 

 

As ever here’s a few photos I’ve taken so far. 

 

Vila Nova de Cerveira, Portugal

So, I drove at night to get to Portugal, and my Monzo card failed at the toll booths YET again Grr! But to be fair so did 2 Nationwide bank cards and a Santander bank card and my Revolut and Tesco cards. I was told in one shop today that they only accepted Portugese cards! Hmmm. 
Anyway as Monzo doesn’t have any security on the app on the phone I’ve decided to stop using it. What’s that got to do with being in Portugal? Nothing really!

The old town square
The old town square

But this little town is lovely. It’s just what you expect from an old Portugese town and although it’s small, it’s really nice to wander around. Wednesday is my first night off work so I’m going to have a try of some of the little cafes and restaurants and bars over a few days.

I found an amazing shop called Hiper Bazar where everything is dirt cheap, and they sell everything. I got a new ceiling lamp for the loft, new cable cutters, a brass brush for the drill, 2 new hose fittings and a few other things all for €12. I may even go back again and see what else they have haha

The van doesn’t seem to be using any less fuel now the exhaust is fixed, and when I first start up there is still that smell of exhaust comes through to the cabin area. I might strip down the EGR valve and pipe connections again and make sure they are all sealed and fastened correctly. Also at idle it’s rattling so I wonder if they’ve loosened the heat shield or something.

Anyway I found the aire ok and there’s tons of room so I think I’ll stay here at least til the weekend. It’s bloody raining as usual so maybe if I wait it out I might get a sunny day if I’m lucky!

 

 

 

Where I stayed: Vila Nova de Cerveira, Viana do Castelo, Portugal, 4920. N41.938103, W8.746711 Free with waste dump and fresh water.

Poio, Spain

The Hat at Poio
The Hat at Poio

We haven’t travelled far in a couple of weeks as I’ve been arranging garage visits and doing some of my own repairs too. I found I had a leak from somewhere so I found that and sorted it and have planned a full reseal of the entire van. 

Anyway, I came to Poio as it’s on the coast and me and Jack really like that but we found a garage here who agreed to weld the split in my exhaust pipe. We managed this with no Spanish at all from me and not one word of English from them, but the job is done now so all is good.

Where I am there is a lovely park right on the prom with some form of structure in the middle of the grass part of it. It’s obviously some form of art that has been put there probably simply for aesthetic purposes. Anyway, here’s the hat, on that structure, enjoying Poio beach even though it’s rained all day!

Poio, Pontevedra and another good garage

Paulo had also told me about an aire in Poio which he said was very nice. I decided to give it a try and sure enough it’s by a park and right by the beach of a lovely bay. I noticed as I drove in that on the main road is a huge fruit and vegetable market and a garage so once I was settled I walked back up to speak to them. 

The Peugeot garage had said £1300 to repair! Apparently their recommended cat is £1000, although they also allow a warranty on another one which only costs £500 lol There is an aftermarket one that Euro carparts do for £180 but I can’t get one out here.

So, using Google translate on my phone and a lot of waving of hands etc I asked the bloke in the garage if he could weld the broken joint in the cat. He immediately said yes and we arranged for me to come in after work the next day. A lot of Spanish businesses have lunch between 1pm and 3pm but then work until as late as 8 and 9pm at night. I’ve ordered that stuff from Amazon but I would prefer a permanent weld of course. 

Jack, chasing squirrels...*sigh*...at least it was a grey one.
Jack, chasing squirrels…*sigh*…at least it was a grey one.

He also, without a word of English managed to make me understand that if I walked around the park and crossed to the far side of the bay, there was a beautiful walk along the bay culminating in a great wide open scene. I spotted the path he was talking about and decided if the weather stayed good I would indeed try that route.

So next day I went in and he didn’t book me in, didn’t take my keys and say we’ll ring you, just pointed at the other cars inside and indicated that I wait lol It was almost 45 minutes later that he had me drive it in and they began the weld. They did it quickly and it looked like a good job and he charged me €60 so I was content with that. 

Annoyingly my Monzo card would not work to pay him. I got out my Nationwide bank debit card but that didn’t work either. This happened at the toll booths when I first got to Spain and I remembered that my Tesco credit card was the only one that worked. So I gave him that and that didn’t work either. Grrr. In fact out of 7 debit and credit and Mastercard cards not one single one worked. I managed to find the €60 in cash but it meant paying him partly in change from my purse that I keep for launderettes and parking etc.

When I phoned the bank later they said the card was probably faulty but as 7 were declined I suspected it was more to do with the charging system. I suppose that’s a reminder to always have some real cash on you no matter what. 

The garage is labelled as Talleres Rosil and can be found at Casalvito, Poio, Pontevedra, Spain, 42.438129, -8.695677. 

Anyway the van seemed to be fine so I went back to the aire and then walked up to the fruit and veg shop and went mad in there lol Oddly, their reader took my Monzo card fine.

Where I stayed: Poio Area de Autocaravans, Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain, 36995, N42.438383, W-8.693519, free parking with fresh water and toilet dump.

Every tunnel has light at the end

So Paulo who replied to a post on a Spanish motorhome forum turned out to be a great help. His mother is Irish so his English was very good. It also turns out that he is part of a management group for motorhome aires in Galicia. Not only that but his boyhood friend is Daniel, who happens to manage a Peugeot dealer in Pontevedra. 🙂

So off I went to visit Daniel who quickly established that the water pump had indeed gone but to replace it meant a whole new timing belt and kit. That’s actually fair enough, most non-dealer garages would recommend this too. Amazingly they booked it in for the next day and had the whole thing done in 3 hours flat. He showed me the damaged pump, it’s 14 years old and had simply worn out.
What I liked was that I already had an auxiliary belt that I was going to fit anyway and I also had a whole set of plates that protect the engine and timing gear, and they fitted those parts for me. I’d bought them after having the engine refurbished as at some stage of the engine coming out and going back in the top one had been cracked and broken. The timing belt was totally exposed to the open and in fact there were other problems with the engine going back in such as a damaged EGR cooler and downpipe, damaged fuel filter and a variety of other things. Chris Ritchie in Barrow is a decent mechanic but I think he simply took on a job that was too big for him.

Anyway, I’m very happy with the job the garage did and the overall price was a reasonable amount, less than I’d pay in the UK just for a timing belt. they’re at A Carballeira, 57, 36143 Salcedo, Pontevedra, Spain, and this is their website
I went back the next day to get a rocker cover gasket because I now think that’s the source of the oil leak. I also ordered 2 more FibreFix tapes. I was most impressed that I’d got this far thanks to the FibreFix bandage and the GunGum over the top. But FibreFix do a proper bandage designed for high heat applications so I ordered 2 of them from Amazon and some fire cement. I’ll pick them up at the weekend from the post office in Pontevedra. That should make a semi permanent repair to the split on the catalytic converter pipe.

 

Where I stayed: Pontevedra, Pontevedra, Spain. N42.43302, W-8.6356. Free toilet dump and fresh water, 72 hours max stay per month.