Germany, an update.

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. I popped in on my way south 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* Also in my humble opinion, the rocker cover does indeed need replacing.

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.

Dirty oil streaks left on my door
Dirty oil 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 1000 kms 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 by email including the English text but also a German translation done in Google translate, 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 manage to get back to the 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 of 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 of 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. 

Königssee, Germany, and the trumpet man

I’d long wanted to visit Konigssee, it’s renowned for being the cleanest lake in Germany so since 1909 only rowing boats and electric boats are allowed on the lake in order to prevent pollution. It’s about 5 miles long and at one point a mile wide and the tourist boats sail every 10 minutes or so, so if you visit you never queue long to get on a boat. 

As you can see the lake is formed in a deep and sheer valley
As you can see the lake is formed in a deep and sheer valley

Like most valleys it was supposedly carved out by a glacier and the highest mountain there rises to over 9,000 feet. 

I was quite shocked when I looked at the photos I’d taken from that day out. Normally I take some as simple records. They’re not arty in any way, they’re just to give a wide or overall view of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. When you leave the car park there is a walkway to the jetty that is several hundred metres long and winds it’s way through an absolute throng of gift shops and other small types of shops. It’s bold with colour and noise and there’re some fabulous things for sale, such as the most amazing cuckoo clocks, and Lederhosen for him and her, starting at €600!

And yet I didn’t take a single photo to show all these amazing shops. That’s not like me and I’m a bit bamboozled as to why I didn’t but hey ho, it’s not the end of the world and I can recall what it was like anyway. I could easily have spent thousands of pounds in an hour so beware if you go. 

Quite often when travelling I don’t do tons of research about where I’m going. I knew Konigssee was there but I hadn’t googled it so finding everything out while there was a pleasure. I know some prefer to know all about it when they go but each to their own right? Anyway, so I didn’t know about the Flugelhorn. 

Being Flugelhorned.

A flugelhorn is basically a trumpet. So if you look at some of the pictures you will see that on the lake the valley walls rise sheer for hundreds of feet all around you. We stopped in one part where they seemed to go on forever and the feeling was almost smothering. Once we had stopped altogether one of the crew came to the middle of the boat and opened one of the doors. He then opened a locker and got out a trumpet. Germans call these Flugelhorns.

Stopped, while we got Flugelhorned
Stopped, while we got Flugelhorned

I suspect a few others too had no idea what was going on because they were looking at him blankly, wondering if we were going to be treated to some music. Well, we were. He played a very simple tune on his trumpet, a few bars at a time, and THE most amazing echos were bouncing off the walls of the mountains over and over and over again. It was the most simple tune but the most beautiful thing to hear it in the deathly silence, echoing back and forth along the lake.

I was so taken aback by it all I didn’t even consider taking my phone out to record it and as I looked around only 2 people did actually have their phones out. It was stunning and so unexpected and when he finished we all applauded because it was actually quite a moving experience. If you ever go to Konigssee make sure you get Flugelhorned!
They did have a little collection afterwards and of course we were all feeling so nice about it we were all giving a couple of euros, on a boat of maybe 40 people, so the two crew didn’t do so badly out of it. I wondered how many times a day they’d do that too…

I’ve got a file so you can hear the tune but there appears to be only 2 echos in this recording, we heard 4 at least. It’s here anyway if you wish to hear it. 

When I got back I spent more time in the gift shops because it was a blisteringly hot day and I was in no hurry to be anywhere. It was fun just seeing all the lovely stuff which if I was wealthy and had a large house I’d probably buy. As it happened I didn’t spend a penny. 
Oh by the way dogs are allowed but they charged me €3.50 for Jack which is a bit much considering he’s so small. They say your dog MUST be muzzled as well but I didn’t see a single one that was, so Jack’s muzzle stayed in my pocket and no-one said a word to anyone.

I drove up for the day early in the morning and paid for their car park, but the night before, and for several nights while I got my leak repaired I’d stayed in the train station car park at Berchtesgaden. 
Where I stayed: Unnamed Road, 83471 Berchtesgaden, Germany, 47.627236, 013.001140

As ever here’s some photos.

Berchtesgaden and the broken hose

Getting there…Just! 

Berchtesgaden is a lovely little village very close to Konigssee in Germany and to get to it you must drive up a very steep mountain and then drive down the other side. You know what’s coming don’t you…

Driving up I was forced to go right down to 1st gear. It was still a struggle and half way up I noticed the temperature climbing. I still have awful memories of when the engine seized so when I saw the needle rising slowly I felt utter dread. I watched it rise from it’s normal halfway point to the 3/4 point and I prayed under my breath to a god I don’t even believe in that I might make it to a flat bit. I knew I wasn’t far from Berchtesgaden and I needed to make it into a town in case I needed repairs.

The road flattened slightly, enough for me to get into 2nd gear and ease off the revs. After a short while the temperature needle started to drop and I allowed an enormous sigh of relief!

That didn’t last long though as I turned a corner and the road rose again, so steeply that I had to not only drop to 1st gear again but gun the engine to gain some momentum. I was tickling the throttle with my foot to give it only enough to make the van go but trying not to let the heat rise again. Sure enough it did and this time it quickly went past the 3/4 mark. Oh god…no wonder I don’t believe in you you cruel bastard!

Then when I actually had my hand on the key ready to switch off (which would have been hell to manage as I was still climbing a very steep mountain!) the road began to flatten again and within seconds the revs dropped and the temperature gauge started falling. (These DW10 engines were designed to run very cool anyway, that’s one thing in my favour.) 

This time thank god the road actually started to fall away quite quickly and within a couple of hundred meters the temperature gauge was dropping nicely. This engine has very large dual fans on the radiator and I could hear them going like the clappers. Unbeknown to me at this point there was very little coolant left in the system so this proves how important good coolant is rather than filling with water or cheap stuff. 

So I’m now headed downhill quite fast and I hope that there is enough downhill to last me until I find somewhere to pull in and turn off. Quite fast turns to very fast, and I have to drop a gear and use the brakes. The road curved gently and then flattened, so I slowed to a crawl at this point and continued slowly in first gear until the road dropped again quite steeply. It remained like that for quite some distance and I was trying to think how far up I’d gone when it was overheating…it felt like a mile but maybe it was half that?

As I thought about it the thing I’d been worried about happened, the brakes faded. *sigh* Yup, those same brakes that have been ‘fixed’ 3 times by 2 different garages, and are still crap. Brake fade is usually old fluid that has moisture in it reducing it’s ability to compress and therefore making it ineffective when it gets hot. And here I was again, memories of the Brenner pass a few years ago and the brakes getting so hot they were smoking and the discs were actually warped from that. I had to change discs and calipers eventually. 

Anyhow, so I’ve come up the mountain with a coolant leak and managed to get to the top without the engine seizing, now I was going down the other side with the brakes fading out and no sign of anywhere to pull in. Get in…another exciting tale to tell the grandkids lol

So there I was, quickly accelerating down a steep mountain with barely no brakes and I was scanning the sides of the road thinking I was going to have to crash the van into some trees in order to stop it. I would choose smaller trees so the sudden halt wouldn’t be too brutal and the damage might be less. Everything happened fairly quickly really: I spotted a transverse road and realised I was at the bottom and as I was clearing trees I saw that I would be joining a main road and beyond that were buildings. I pulled the handbrake on one notch and used the foot brake for what bit of braking was left so I could slow before meeting that road and as it happened when I got to it it was clear, so I took the brakes all off and joined the road, at the same time seeing a train station ahead so I turned into it crapping myself cos I thought the van was going to tip over with the sudden turn, then hauled on the handbrake and managed to easily slow the van in the middle of a car park. 

Fuck me. 

I had a look under the bonnet but couldn’t really see anything. It was a boiling hot day so I thought…be cool…Get Jack and go for a walk. So I called the breakdown people and then took furry face for a walk along the path to see where it led and he acted like nothing at all had happened. In fact thinking back, throughout the whole drama he’d been asleep on the front seat!

Anyway before the breakdown man came the engine had cooled so I was able to put a little water in and I saw almost instantly where it was coming from. A split oil cooler hose. So I let that dry then taped it up with some aluminium tape thinking if need be I can manage to move around a little bit. As it happens when the breakdown man came he pointed to a cottage on the side of a hill about 300 yards away and said behind it was a Peugeot garage! LOL

I filled the coolant system with water and sure enough managed to get over there and he just happened to be coming out of his house next to the garage to go cycling. This was Sunday so he was closed but he said he’d take a look at it in the morning. I managed to drive back to the train station car park easily although the water was beating the aluminium tape, but I got parked again no problem. 2 days later he had the replacement hose and sorted it out. Bugger me…life is very rich lol

Exploring Berchesgaden

 

Leipzig, Germany

‘In the countryside’ in Germany

We’re not anywhere in particular at the moment. We’ve been staying out of the way in forests and fields enjoying exploring and walking for miles.

Heading through Leipzig, Germany
Heading through Leipzig, Germany

Jack’s totally in his element and to add to his list of ‘catches’ he got a bird’s nest this morning. Yeah…I was baffled too. He went into this bush on his hind legs and pulled the branches and when they came down he sort of leant on them to bring them lower. Then he came out with a bird’s nest in his teeth! I was so surprised. 

Luckily, but sadly, it had already been found by either a rat or a snake or something as the eggs had been eaten and there was just bits of shell left. As usual he went in the huff for a while when I took it off him because of course it was his catch not mine lol but we soon found a rabbit warren and he cheered up as I let him dig for a half hour. He’s a fearsome digger and he was right in to his bum by the time I stopped him. 

We set off again on our way east but after a few hours we stopped in a rest area to have a cuppa and enjoy the sunshine. Can you guess where we are…

New wheels!

My shiny new Vanco 100’s…they feel sooooo good….they drive sooooo well, but I woke to a puncture this morning! I Googled a tyre place which as it happened was about 2 miles from me. Thank God for internet enabled smartphones! I do like my HTC Desire C now, even though it’s slower than a hole boat with no sails stranded on the beach .

So off I popped and he said the valve had gone. Most likely they had not changed it when they put the new tyres on. Hmmm!! However on investigating further, he noted that in fact the weld that included the hole for the valve was corroded. He asked if I had had a flat on that wheel before and indeed I had. Bad Tyrespot for not spotting that. Very good ATS Barrow-in-Furness for not only spotting it, but taking the tyre off the wheel, swapping it with the spare and bagging up my wheel to take to Peugeot who are only about 2 miles away.

It’s not a Robins and Day Peugeot so I drove over to get some new wheels and guess what? £113 each plus VAT! WTF??? I phoned Perthshire caravans as when I was there last year I noticed some 15 inch ones in for £35 but sadly they had none left. I finally found some at www.tyreleaders.co.uk for only £44 each. Cheaper than some breaker yards wanted for second hand ones. I rang ATS and asked if the wheels could be delivered there and they were fine with that. Good work ATS! So I ordered 2 from Tyreleaders but when I went to check out it did not give me a delivery time as it said it would Grrr. Since ordering them too I’ve found out there’s a measurement called an ‘offset’ and mine could be 115 or 130. I contacted Tyreleaders but they’re in Germany and I got no response from them. So, I’m left not knowing when my new wheels are coming, and not knowing if they’re the correct ones. LOL isn’t life exciting!