Germany, an update.

Well nothing much has been happening here, but then everything has! 

I spent some time up north with family and friends and it was a wonderful time. I think I value them more as I don’t see them every day and it’s bitter-sweet to leave. Popped in to see my friend in Ulverston as usual so I put the van into the garage there for it’s MOT so it won’t expire while away.
They had to replace the support strut that the radiator rests on due to corrosion and a tyre that had a split in and I’m unhappy about that, as it’s not long since I got new front tyres, and as there was 3 good ones left I asked the fitters to put the 2 best ones on the rear. Grrr. 

Never mind the bill was £350 and the work all done although they now say the rocker cover gasket is not needing replacing so they didn’t do that. Everything else…apparently…is fine. Although it quickly became apparent that the engine was still using oil so clearly everything isn’t fine. *sigh*

It was suggested in a Facebook group that my cylinder head gasket may be to blame. So I’ve checked online numerous times in loads of places and I have not one single, solitary symptom of a blown head gasket. So off I popped across the channel to head for that Norway trip that I’ve long wanted to do. 

A few days later I pulled in to  a layby near Munster. The engine was rough, it was using oil still and when I got out the stench of hot rubber was strong. I checked the brand new rear tyre to find it was really hot. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, I think it’s just cheap rubbish. I wish I’d asked them to put Michelin Agilis on as they are excellent on the front.
Anyway I struggled but finally found a garage to look at the van in Munster. They were called Lowen Centrum.

Greasy streaks left on my door
Greasy streaks left on my door

After several hours their diagnosis was…blown cylinder head gasket. €2000 to replace it please! I was pretty stunned not just at the diagnosis but at the price! I said I’d best head back to the UK to get the work done there and he warned me the van might travel 100 or 100 km’s but then would surely fail and I would be in trouble. When I returned to the van I found it covered in greasy handprints both outside by the door, on the door, on the bumper, and the steering wheel was also filthy with dirty oil.. Yeah Peugeot main dealers charge more because of their higher standards eh? Well even 2 weeks later I can’t get these cleaned off!

I spent the next week trying to find another garage. I contacted 6 in total and only one contacted me back. I took it along and he did not even put it on the ramp. He said it sounds fine and he could see no smoke when I revved it and feel no air or other sign that the cylinder head gasket was gone. He found a perished vacuum tube which he replaced for free but I gave him a few Euros as a thank you and he said the turbo might have a problem which would explain the oil usage, but he wasn’t sure. I left there none the wiser and wondered at this fabled German efficiency which tbh I have seen no indication of whatsoever. 

So, here I sit, near Fussen, wondering what the hell to do now. If I go on I risk catastrophic engine failure. If I come back to UK I risk yet more garages who have no clue what’s wrong or how to fix it, and waste my time on  a fruitless exercise. 
Oh the joys of motorhoming! 

 

 

Update: 

17th September and the other day I was coming down the motorway and realised that plumes of black smoke were coming out the exhaust. I stopped as soon as I could and took the vacuum pipe off the EGR valve which disabled the valve from working. As far as I know if it’s disabled it’s permanently closed and that cured the black smoke almost instantly. A few good revs at 3500 rpm and clouds of black smoke for a few seconds, then it drives nice and clean again. 
Now, black smoke is a sure sign up unburned fuel. The injectors have just been professional refurbished and the fuel return pipes all replaced, those are things that might cause black smoke. I know what the EGR valve is for and what it does and how it works, yet I can’t find a rational explanation as to how disabling it would prevent black smoke, and yet it does. 
So, I’ve given up totally on garages because not only are my brakes sticking, and they’ve now been supposedly overhauled 3 times, but there’s still excessive oil being used and black smoke coming out if I enable the EGR valve and no clarity of why in the year I’ve been visiting different garages including Peugeot dealers and independents. 
I am now going to teach myself diesel mechanics, and try to find the solution myself. 

Belgian Breakdown

Image of damaged engineSo, this happened. 

Diesel injectors are complicated things that squirt fuel into your cylinders. They are under immense pressure and so are held in place by a large, solid metal clamp which is bolted onto the engine block. When you change an injector, or take it out to clean it as I did you must take off the large bolt and clamp and then pull the injector from it’s seat. The bolts that hold the clamp down must be in very tightly due to the pressures involved, otherwise the injector would simply shoot out of the hole and punch right through the bonnet.

They can be responsible for poor fuel consumption and as I am plagued by that I have been refurbishing an old set of injectors. So I was parked in a layby in Belgium swapping the injectors for the replacement set but when I was taking this one off, the bolt head snapped clean off. Oops. You can see the threaded part of the bolt still in place arrowed in the picture.

With no way of holding the injector in place the engine simply won’t work. To get the bolt out I need a screw / bolt extractor and I haven’t got any. I could try drilling the bolt and hammering a small flat screwdriver into the hole, but if it doesn’t work I could damage the engine irreparably. 

Luckily I have breakdown cover for Europe so I rang them and after establishing where I was they said they’d send someone. I was on the computer and kept looking out of the rear window for the breakdown truck and the guy in the car behind kept smiling. I think he thought I was looking at him. I glanced around and it was obvious that this was like some layby’s in the UK, a place for men to meet other men. I tried glancing without him noticing that I was but he did anyway and he probably thought I was simply being coy!

Anyway the truck arrived and the although the guy spoke barely no English this is Flemish Belgium so everyone speaks French so we managed to get by, resorting to using Google translate on our smart phones when we got stuck. The guy from the car behind came out and started stroking Jack as the recovery man was getting my camper onto his truck. He tried to speak to me a couple of times and it was slightly embarrassing because his intent was obvious and yet given the circumstances he was not prepared to give up.

If I was a woman and had to put up with that shit daily I’d buy a bloody big baseball bat…

Anyway we finally got on our way and Mr Breakdown texted almost the entire 40 minute journey grr. I tutted a couple of times as he was veering toward the side of the road but he seemed totally unperturbed. I had to grit my teeth and bear it.

We finally arrived safely at a garage and he handed me over to the mechanic who spoke even less English. I am not sure if he was putting it on cos he seemed not to even understand “OK!” However with sign language and my little French we got the van parked in a bay on the street outside the garage, as of course I’d be sleeping in it that night. I felt more settled as the AA had rung me twice to check progress and when I mentioned his lack of English and my poor French they said if I got stuck they’d liaise with the mechanic for me. 

Parked outside the garage in BelgiumSo, here I am outside the garage after a good nights sleep. Notice anything? Yeah…my van is 10 and a half feet tall and the garage doors are about 7 feet tall. So there’s no way he can fit me inside, and it’s raining outside, so…

And yes I was right, it was 2 days before he finally got round to repairing the van. I phoned the AA again to let them know what was happening and he had told them they did not know where I was. They did however know I was sleeping in the van so I think they were simply avoiding doing the work in the rain outside.

He came out anyway and I had googled the words I needed and explained what I wanted doing. Pointing at the bolt I said “Percer” to mean drill it. Then “Extrait” for extract, then “Remplacer” for replace. He nodded and went off (presumably to get a new bolt) and was back and had the job completed within an hour! Merde! I was secretly chuffed cos although it took them ages to attend to me, the job was done quickly and the bill was high for what they did, but within reason.

Anyway I was just chuffed to be fixed so I paid the €112 bill (Daylight robbery!) and took off. 

So, I’m driving down the motorway after leaving the garage and after spotting sign for a rest area I decide to pull in for a cuppa. Guess what? Yeah, the exact same one I’d been taken from a few nights ago by the breakdown truck. Given that you join the highway about a mile before it, and leave the highway about 3 miles after it to get to the garage, how come it took 40 minutes to get there last night? Well I did a bit of Sherlock thinking and came up with this:

I was a foreigner and stuck. He was an independent breakdown operator. He texted almost throughout the journey. He brought me to a garage that could not fit me in. It took 2 days to get round to fixing my van. For what was actually done to my van the price was steep.

I think he was texting the whole journey because he was trying to ‘sell’ my breakdown to a garage. He must have been driving around the streets waiting for a good price before settling on the one he took me to. Conspiracy theory? Or truth? Who knows. Anyway, I’m off to France now to find some screw extractors and some new parts cos if this ever happens again I can do the job easily myself.

Oh and no…the guy in the car behind me wasn’t there when I returned! lol

More brakes…

I was very pleased with the job done on my brakes when I came back from Italy, although I have since then found some vented discs, which I intend to buy and fit.
However I did ask that the brake cables be replaced at the time, and they convinced me that the existing ones could be “made good” so I allowed myself to be swayed. Here we are almost 6 months on and the cables are giving me problems now. The first 2 inches of pull on the handbrake handle is loose, and then it suddenly goes stiff as though the brakes are on, but they are not. So I’m going to get the whole cable assembly replaced in the morning.
Let’s hope that doesn’t break the bank.

Taking a brake

Put my van in to be checked at G and C Autos in Gateshead. I was worried about a brake light on the dash, but apparently it was just the sensor on the rear going mad. I knew the front one was broken too as I had snapped the lead one day when putting the snow chains on, so they fixed that also. Topped up the brake fluid and reported that the load balancer was leaking. *sigh* Another part fitted by Croxdale Autos just over  a year ago, so now I gotta get booked in for that. I wonder where Croxdale get their parts from cos they fitted a wheel bearing that failed too, although luckily that failed in warranty.

Anyway, brakes all cleaned and working again, so they aren’t the reason the van is using too much diesel and lacking power. They suggested going to a diesel inejctor specialist so thats what I’m going to do. Happy days :s