Tuesday, 14 June 2016

More maintenance/improvements

A few more stories to tell on the maintenance side of things. After a period of OK starting, the battery failed again. It was a £220 odyssey extreme, and fair enough, I caused the failure by leaving the radio on it's own circuit (not automatically turned off when the van is), and that sort of parasitic load isn't good for any battery.

New one fitted, and better wires run to the starter, and continual use of the kill switch that disconnects the earth every time we parked up for any period of time has solved it.

Then as we planned to go away the other week, a new problem came about. Since last year there's been a small leaf on the rear wheel, and I assumed it to be another wheel cylinder gone. But the brake fluid wasn't going down, so realised it had to be diff oil coming through the axle to the wheel and getting past the bearing seal. I had the same problem on my MG Midget, and it's a pretty easy job to take out the half shaft, press out the bearing with a suitable sized socket as a drift, then replace.

In March i'd used the van to pull a full load of timber that i'd cut down, and on the journey home, there was a noise coming from somewhere that i'd not heard before. Then as I took it on a test run to work on the Wednesday before holiday, I discovered the problem. The noise (which got much worse by the time I got to the other side of town and turned back) was the wheel bearing failing. Therefore the seal wasn't the major fault, but the whole bearing.

I set about taking the half shafts out to discover they are a press fit and you need a slide hammer. haven't got one, so gave it to the garage to do. The problem was that getting a spare bearing is really quite difficult. Could only find Adrian Bailey stocking them, and it was now the Thursday and we are going on holiday Friday night. Massive thanks to Adrian who dropped everything and got the part in the post express delivery, and it arrived Friday lunch time. next big thanks is to Sheltune garage in Northampton who did a great job. You have to heat the old bearing ring with an acetylene torch to make it expand enough to hammer it off. It took the chap 45 minutes just to do that one bit. he eventually managed it and got it back together by 4.30 Friday afternoon!

Here it is at 3pm in sheltune:


So off we go that evening, and the other minor fault that i'd been suspecting shows it's head. The fuel electric fuel pump makes a banging noise when it's pulling through air, but goes quiet once fuel comes through. On some recent journeys it had been making noise on and off at random times, so I guess the pump was failing and bought a replacement in case. As we left for Cromer it started to make the noise more often, and then found the engine was being starved of fuel at high speed. I pulled over to replace the pump, a fairly simple 20 minute job, but upon starting up again, nothing. No fuel coming through at all.... So is the new pump a dud? Switched them back and the same... so it's not the pump, must be something else. A blockage in the fuel line between the tank and the pump maybe? I blew down the fuel line and it was absolutely clear. Then I realised the problem. There's a split in the fuel pipe at the tank exit, and rather than pull fuel through, the pump is pulling air through the split. That's where I ended up at 11pm at the side of the road with the fuel tank out, but in the dark realised it wasn't going to be possible to repair there and then, so got a tow home (Autoaid, £42/year for full recovery, excellent service, much better than the big names). Saturday morning I had new fuel line throughout and we were off again by 10am! The rest of the trip went without any faults, so just some improvements to make this summer...


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Not the best start....

10pm on a dark, chilly night in East Northamptonshire.  Kneeling at the side of the road, a woman cradles her baby wrapped tightly in a blanket and hugs her small son into her chest.  There are no streetlights here, the smell of fuel is abhorrent and she's in pain.


Sound like a nice start to a story?

Nope, it wasn't!!

This was us a few weeks ago on our first big trip of 2016 in Trevor the van...it didn't start well. We set off after dinner on a Friday night but only got 16miles down the road before running into trouble. We pulled into the entrance to a country park and the husband got to work trying to figure out why fuel wasn't getting to the engine.  A new fuel pump, hastily fitted, didn't do the job and he quickly realised something more was afoot; our fuel tank pipe had split.

With a bit of a fuel leak on the go, I was ordered out of the van with the kids (only 2 as our daughter had gone ahead with her Grandma) and sent 100 yards up the road.  It was cold and dark, the poor baby was in his PJs and my son was super super tired. I had a splitting headache from chronic sinus pain. I was not amused, shall we say, and even muttered the words "shall we just get a bloody caravan"...which my husband politely decided not to respond to!

Our wonderful neighbour came and got me and the kids and we traipsed into bed. That was 1030pm and it was another couple of hours before the camper van and husband were retrieved by the rescue truck. 

With the morning came a warm day, a trip to the out of hours doctor sorted out the sinus pain, and with an hour's work replacing the fuel tank pipe, we were ready to give it another shot...

We rolled up in Norfolk a good time later into the afternoon and immediately sought out the beach, getting the sand between our toes and sploshing in the shallows; little knowing that this was the last time in our week's holiday we'd be in tshirts let alone on the beach!

What followed was a daily grind of gale force winds, horizontal rain, gloomy sea mist and chilly weather. Not the best May half term break you might say!!  We were camped right by the sea but for three days basically didn't see it because of the fog.  Our awning took an absolute battering and I was peeking through the curtains whenever I woke at night to see if it was still there! 

Not the best looking tent structure I've seen


We were lucky to get away with one shattered pole and two broken guy ropes I reckon. If it wasn't for the army-issue industrial tent pegs that husband hammered in, we'd have lost the whole awning!  Some other camper vanners weren't so lucky and packed up early after their awning was wrecked.

As you do, we gritted our teeth and with the mantra "fun doesn't have to be fun" we got on with our week away.  With the ground sodden we couldn't turn the kids out to run around so made our own fun with bingo and books in the camper van at night.  We had a great day at Weybourne Station for the Dad's Army event and I even got a pic with Captain Mainwaring! What a highlight!
legend!
 We explored local museums (Sheringham particularly good), visited the Muckleburgh collection, ate fish and chips and flew kites when the skies were clear.






We survived although we'll be checking the awning out once we can face putting it up in the garden.  Next trip is August so a bit of time to get it sorted, thank goodness!  Another eventful trip in our beloved Trevor!!




Over 700 miles covered...and no European breakdown cover used!

Back in October 2015 we took Trevor on his most adventurous jaunt. We've done a few different countries (Ireland, Scotland, Wales) but never south of the UK.  This time we were going for it with a high risk trip to Northern France for a family holiday.


In a fashion expected of us, we made the trip down to the Eurostar terminal the night before our ferry and opted to camp up in the queue. The top was popped, and we got some sleep, all waking right on cue for a quick coffee before boarding.  We were travelling with other family members (who were in cars) so a convoy the other side was the plan.

There isn't too much to write about with this holiday as things with the van went right to plan - no hiccups or any mechanical traumas.  It was our health that was dodgy with most of us falling foul of a sickness bug at some point in the holiday; we were tag teaming it! Not pleasant but luckily for us my parents were on the same campsites as us but in chalets/caravans so we could take it in turns to try and rest.

The campsites in France were superb as you'd expect. Many were closing down for the holiday season so were really quiet but great facilities, kids areas, nicely maintained. Definitely we'll be back when it's peak season to give them a try again (when the pools are open!!)

Out and about in Northern France was fantastic. Lots of day trips, sightseeing and visiting the D-Day landing beaches.
A day out in Caen - amazing castle and a top lunch!


Apart from a quick check on the diff oil levels before we headed home, we didn't need to do anything major with the van - what a total relief!!

Trevor you were a star!!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

This year's trips (and baby number three joins us!)

Been very slack on the blog lately - we've been busy!

We welcomed our third child into the family in January, which meant he was old enough to come along with us when we went on our first trip of the year in the van back in May.  It was a super weekend in Skegness with family.  Fitting three kids in the van was "interesting" - we settled on putting our middle child in the front car seat with the eldest and youngest wedged in the back, with the non driving adult sat in the back too to keep an eye on things! 


Next up was Swanage in July for the town's festival week, and what a brilliant time we had. Great, traditional entertainment for the kids including 'wacky races', a tots disco, fancy dress, sandcastle competitions and for the grown ups a fun run, darts, pool competitions and of course the infamous wheelbarrow race! Mentioning the pool competition brings me onto the most dramatic van moment of the holiday - Dave entered the pool comp and as it got later I took the kids back to the van (we'd driven into town) to put them to bed and wait for him to get knocked out...

Hours passed....it got darker...still hours went by...kids were asleep and I was bored...I saw a lone pool player walking home with his cue...still no Dave.  Has he walked home to the campsite, I thought?  About 1130pm I decided to start the van and drive up to the venue to check - however there was absolutely nothing happening when I tried starting it.  Great.  I couldn't ring Dave as my phone battery had died, so eventually spotted some girls going home and asked to borrow their phone - it was now 1230am, and I got through to Dave who had literally just won the pool competition!  (thank goodness - I wouldn't have been happy if all that waiting was for nothing!)

Dave returned victorious to the van having also won the wine in the raffle (my pay off for babysitting I think!) - there was no starting the camper so in the back streets of Swanage at 1am we pushed the campervan and eventually managed to restart it - thank goodness! Could have been interesting for local residents to see us brushing our teeth on the pavement come the next morning....


Dave's written a separate post about all the maintenance jobs from this summer - a long list as usual!  My job is going to be to repaint the van - the paintwork is looking decidedly tired now and some bits are peeling off. We are off to France in October so I'm hoping to have it spruced up by then...I'll be checking our European breakdown cover too....

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

NVH (noise) in a 40 year old van

My day job is designing the metal structure of Nissan cars, most recently doing the engine compartment metal of the Mk 2 Qashqai. Part of my responsibilities on top of the metal are dash insulation, carpets, battery brackets and all sorts of other bits and pieces. Having commented a couple of times on noise concerns on CF's on the forums, I thought i'd make a post explaining how to make it possible to have  a conversation with your passenger without having to shout/resort to megaphones.

When we first bought the van, the noise while driving was deafening. Having spent years just getting it running, the noise was never the priority, but a couple of years ago I took one of our NVH (Noise Vibration and Harshness) experts out for a run around the block to diagnose the cause and suggest a solution. He was immediately clear on both - there are gaps between the engine bay and the cabin allowing engine noise to come through unchecked, and there are gaps from the cabin to the outside world allowing wind, road and engine noise to come in. The main problem as well was a blowing exhaust manifold to down pipe joint, but that's the easiest to solve with a new gasket.

All the leakage to the engine bay is through the engine cover. Around the edge there may have been a seal once, but there's nothing there now, so noise goes straight through the gap. I fitted some sticky backed foam sealer with immediate results. Here's a picture of it in place, it runs all the way round the opening

I've lifter the cover up here and you can see i've got two beads of sealer running around. Before being compressed they were 5mm high, but are compressed to ~1mm when the cover is screwed down.

The difference in engine noise was amazing. From shouting to each other and having the radio on full volume, we now drive along in comparitive peace....

Next was a problem that only really shows up at high speed. At high speed the pressure outside the van reduces as the wind rushes past (like an airplane wing), so the pressure of air inside the van is higher, sucking the doors and windows open. The Sash on the front doors is very weak, and can be sucked outwards so much that a gap opens up between the door sash and the seal on the body side. I used the same sealant in this area, in some places with two beads of seal on top of each other the gap was so big.


That was enough to completely close the gap and eliminate the problem. before, I could actually see daylight through the gap like this:

(i've opened the door a fraction to show the effect). Now that i've made those simple changes, the van is so much better than I could ever have expected. in the future I might go further and add some insulation to the actual dash metal panel. The theory here is that you add a soft layer (foam or felt with air in it) that absorbs higher frequency noise, and you add mass tat blocks and reflects lower frequencies. In Nissan we do that with multiple density felts or Polyurethane foam along with 'heavy layer' - a plasticy  gooey substance that's found in the dash insulator. If I get round to it, i'll make another post, but there are more pressing issues to attend to for now...!


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Maintenance and improvements

Some serious maintenance jobs...

It's been a year of a few big problems and conundrums but eventually some good solutions. The first trip of the year was to Skegness, and as the journey went on, it became harder and harder to access 3rd gear. The synchros had been going for a long time, in fact ever since I bought the van, but they had finally gone necessitating double de-clutching and matching engine revs to get it into gear. Never fun. I knew what the problem was, and frankly the options for repair though available, are a bit hit and miss with second hand or old stock parts. Certain parts of the Vauxhall 4 speed box that i've got on the van aren't available any more, but my fellow CF enthusiast in Northampton Graham West came up trumps with a spare box that he'd removed from a crashed vehicle about 20 years ago. It had sat in his garage ever since, but when we dragged it out, it was still full of oil and seemed to turn smoothly, so we took a chance.

At least there's plenty of room to get under a CF without jacking up, and the cross beam in the picture is the only other part holding in the gearbox:



Fitting it is both a very easy and very difficult manouevre. Getting to it, stripping off the prop shaft and cross member are easy - 10 minute job. The difficult part is getting the bolts out that join the box to the bell housing. You have to go in through a tiny window, and have the clutch lever in the way. There's plenty on the internet about how to overcome this - buying the special Vauxhall tool being the easiest, but i don't have one and the price on the internet could surely be bettered by a bit of ingenuity...

Photo's upside down, but there's a bolt somewhere through that hole behind the lever and down a bit. First I cut a spanner in half and welded it back together on a crazy angle to allow me to get to the bolt. that's effectively what the Vauxhall tool does. I also had to shave some material off the flanks of the spanner jaws, and that made it so weak that it sprang off the bolt rather than turn it. Several hours of frustration later and I discovered how to disconnect the lever from the rod, allowing it to move out the way more, get better access, and get a standard ring spanner on the bolt. 1/12 of a turn at a time and job done.

Next it was fitting the new box. Effectively you have to push it upwards to the right height, then slide forwards locating the input shaft through the clutch spines. Easy with the right kit, difficult when you're lying on the road with the box on your chest bench pressing it into place trying not to bend the shaft... About 4th go I managed it, think I didn't do any damage, and got it bolted back together. Filled with gear oil and tried it out.... perfect. The annoying gear stick vibration is gone, the shift is smooth and synchros actually working fully.... lets hope it lasts. The only problem was a severe leak from the rear oil seal, but Adrian Bailey has some new old stock, and after chisseling the old one off, fitted a new one OK and problem solved. There's a small leak through the gear selector but nothing to worry about (I checked it after several long journeys and it hadn't lost a measurable amount.

Next was the exhaust. I'd done the back box years ago in stainless, but the down pipe was second hand in mild steel and kept coming loose at the manifold joint. Decided to replace it all, especially as it looks like Adrian is packing up the business, and as far as I know, he's the last man out there re-making bits for CFs. brand new stainless steel pipe and box fitted and will be there still in one piece many years after i've expired!

 It did take some cutting and bodging as it seems there are loads of variants of diameters of pipes and of course my old and new pipes don't match. But a sleeve joint and loads of sealant sorted it!

Finally, after years of really trouble, i've finally sorted (fingers crossed) the battery drain and starting problems. Some years ago I replaced the starter motor as i'd done everything else and concluded that had to be the problem. The new starter always turned over a bit slowly, so assuming it to be good, I ended up back at the battery. Faulty leisure batteries and a mis-functioning split charge relay that prevents the leisure battery from being connected when the engine is cranking were all part of it, so I decided to go back to basics, strip out the leisure battery and all other wiring systems to just leave the radio, wires to the dash clock showing battery voltage and the main starter. After all that work - no difference. Next to check was the main wires to the starter. I'd shorted using jump leads and it made no difference, but I decided to make sure by getting new battery cable and routing it direct to the starter for the +ve and -ve. That eliminates the well known problem of corrosion of the seat mounting box that has the -ve connected to it (battery sits under the passanger seat) causing bad earths throughout. Still no difference. While on holiday, the starter packed up completely, I guess the solenoid sticking. See kath's post about bump starting at 1am... When home I contacted a guy I'd used years before who deals in alternators and starters from a barn just outside Daventry. Picked up a starter form a Jag V8 engine that fits the CF with a minor mod of drilling out the mounting holes, wired it up (same terminals so dead easy) and turned the key. It's a geared started unlike the CF original, so the motor turns a gear that drives the output shaft at three times the speed. Therefore the engine turns at three times the speed, making it much more likely to start on the first turn. Turned the key and vroom, straight to life like never before, instant firing of the engine and problems solved. Just shows, everyone advises that starting problems are almost never the starter, but when all the evidence says it is, worth checking the starter. The old one must have had a short, causing major battery drain when you cranked, and causing it to turn over extremely slowly. That's the second major headache i've had where a replacement part is faulty putting me onto the wrong track for ages...

here's the new starter and wires. New earth connected to the bolt that attaches the starter to the bell housing:

 And the battery. Earth goes via a kill switch that enables the battery to be completely disconnected when not in use. Switch is the other side of the wooden panel so accessed through the passenger door (or by leaning right across). Wires are there for a secondary battery, but don't think I need that now.





Monday, 14 July 2014

Spending the cost of the van....on seat covers...latest investment!

Trevor's been in the family for many years now, and you'll know that in that time there's been the need for relatively frequent constant welding jobs to keep him together and to keep the rain out (always a work in progress that issue, as we discovered on our recent trip to Yorkshire!).

Although these patchwork sessions did the job, they weren't the tidiest in other ways and our poor front seats took the brunt of the welding splatter when welding all around the screen. They were pretty nasty to start with and had some of that horrible vinyl covering which your skin sticks to in hot weather (never nice to peel your thighs off the seat). Having said that, the seat covers were basically shredded and pitted so frankly most of our backsides were on bare foam rather than the cover.

Not the most inviting seat!


So as a treat we decided to invest in getting the seats reupholstered. Our local seamstress who lives literally around the corner had just completed seats for a VW camper and did a fab job so we had faith she'd give us some refreshed and replenished seating fit for Trevor!

Some of the foam was replaced during the process, and we chose a cherry red leather (swit swoo) as the new covering.  It looks absolutely awesome now, we were delighted with the result and the chairs are a pleasure to sit in!

now then, that's better!