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For this installment of The mechanic, we welcome a submission from Jonathan Bruton. You may recall his submission for issue TT166 concerning brake overhaul, this is the second chapter of that story. Not long after I had put my tools away and given myself a smug pat on the back for having successfully installed new callipers and discs on the front wheels of Mortimer Henderson (TT Issue 166), my ’73 Bay, I happened to see a Facebook post from Nick Gillott to the effect that the master cylinder also needed replacing at regular intervals. The master cylinder, as its name suggests, pushes brake fluid through the lines to the slave cylinders at the wheels when you hit the brake pedal, operating the brakes through hydraulic pressure. Anyway, I tried to ignore this unwelcome piece of advice but could no longer do so when it became obvious that the pedal was getting spongier by the journey; when I finally got around to checking the level of the reservoir, it had gone down quite sharply, and I could see brake fluid dripping out of the hole in the front pan beneath the pedal assemblies. So, action was clearly needed.
Once the pan was removed, the first thing to do was to locate the cylinder, which I had never looked for or seen. As you would expect, it is bolted to the frame beneath the brake pedal assembly, and the brake pedal rod fits into it through a rubber boot, which itself fits through a hole in the frame and is designed to keep out dirt and debris. Two brake lines lead away from it – one to a T-piece which then feeds the front wheel brake assemblies, and the other to a pressure equaliser bolted to the offside edge of the frame, which feeds the rear brakes. The main fluid reservoir crouches on it piggyback style and is attached via two nozzles that run through rubber grommets. Finally, the brake light switch screws in at the back (on my replacement cylinder, there were two holes for the switch, and a video I watched for the same job on an early Bay showed two brake light switches, for reasons I’m not clear about).
At first glance it was immediately apparent that all was indeed not well. The boot was in shreds, and the assembly was clearly leaking, presumably because dirt had penetrated the seal. But replacing it looked pretty straight forward, and I naively anticipated that it’d be done in a single afternoon! It really needed to be as well, because we only have one parking space, which has the charger for our main car, a fully electric Nissan Leaf, which we can’t use if it’s blocked by a hulking great immobilised van! This has been a point of friction between me and my long-suffering partner in the past, but I blithely assured her that there would be minimal disruption. In this optimistic spirit, I ordered the replacement part from JK and offered it up to make sure it was the same as the one on the van, which it was. So now it was a matter of whipping off the two 13 mm nuts holding it on, unplugging the brake light switch and undoing the two brake pipes, emptying the fluid reservoir in the process. Yeah, right! For some reason best known to themselves, VW had opted for nuts and bolts rather than studs to hold the cylinder on. Which would inevitably mean that the whole bolt would just start rotating. Which both of them did. With one of them, I could get a wrench on the bolt head and get the nut off no problem. The other one, however, was conveniently located in a recess, making it impossible to access with a wrench, so there was no way to hold the bolt still. In the end I had to resort to a mechanical nut splitter to remove the offending nut. With a bit of persuasion by hammer, I was then able to loosen the cylinder and start moving it backwards. The next issue was with the two brake pipes. When new, of course, the nut rotates freely around the pipe. After 47 years of exposure to God knows what, however, muck and corrosion do their worst, and the nut sticks fast to the pipe. Once I’d been forced to buy a new 11 mm wrench (inevitably, the only wrench missing from my set was the one I needed), I ended up doing what the guy in the early Bay video had earnestly warned me I really didn’t want to do, which was to shear both of the nuts right off. After a few seconds of panic, however, I realised that both sections of pipe were relatively short and could easily be unbolted from the other end: at the abovementioned T-junction and the pressure equaliser.
Perhaps this kind of damage is more consequential in an early Bay. Whatever, I then relaxed and let the brake fluid drain out through the fractured pipe ends into a handy receptacle below. My advice would be to assume that these pipes are going to be toast and simply order replacements when you order a new cylinder; it’s no big deal. So, having broken both pipes and removed the retaining bolts, I took the cap off the brake light switch and pulled the cylinder out, complete with fluid reservoir. Now, this is attached to the secondary reservoir in the cab by a length of plastic pipe held in with two plastic hose clips, themselves secured by two tiny cross-headed screws. These are a bit pesky to reach, but I got the lower one out easily enough, assuming I wouldn’t need to move the uppermost one, and removed the whole assembly. The reservoir plugs into the cylinder in two places, as I said above, and it’s a very tight fit – which it needs to be – so I had to use a screwdriver to exert some leverage to get it off. No problem there. It was in good nick, with no cracks or splits, so I could simply reuse it. The new cylinder comes with the sealing grommets, so you just have to use some elbow grease to push the reservoir on. Just make sure you get it the right way round! Once it was all in place, I bolted the cylinder in place, having replaced both nuts and bolts. Annoyingly, I missed the delivery driver when he came with the new brake pipes the following day. That day being Friday, it meant that the van would have to sit on the space until at least Monday. I averted a charging-related roasting by offering to take the Leaf up to the nearest charging station, so harmony was restored. Monday came and the eagerly awaited pipes with it. As they have a diameter of 3/16 “, they’re very easy to bend without kinking. The only issue here was that the length of pipe that went to the pressure equaliser was only just long enough, meaning that I had to carefully plan the shortest possible distance. Having removed the old pipes, it was then something of an epic task to get the nuts to engage with the threads at both ends – I would get one in place, only to find that the other end simply wouldn’t oblige. In the end, I had to loosen the cylinder body again, and, after rather a lot of swearing, the nuts were finally in place, and I could reattach the cylinder to the frame and reinsert the brake pedal rod into the boot. Surely it would now just be a simple matter of reattaching the plastic pipe to the bottom reservoir, refilling it with fresh fluid, and bleeding the brakes. Ahem. Not quite. To start with, there was the second hole for the missing brake light switch. Not much point putting fluid in for it simply to run out again through a great big hole. As automotive bolt threads seem to
be narrower than their DIY counterparts, my local hardware store was unable to provide a suitable blank. Happily, they directed me to a garage round the corner, and the chap there fished around until he found a bolt with a nipple, which looked like it came from a carburettor assembly, that had the right thread and would do the job. Now, it would surely all work. With great lightness of heart, I tightened everything up and started to refill the cab reservoir – only to discover that the fluid was dripping out at the bottom almost as fast as it was going in! Yes – it was the hose. Leaking at both ends. Meaning that, to investigate, I’d also have to undo the topmost clamp, which was virtually impossible to reach from underneath. Filing that away as a problem for later, I replaced the pathetic little plastic clip at the bottom end of the hose – where it joined the lower reservoir – with a proper jubilee clip and tightened it nice and snug. I then had the blindingly obvious realisation that it would surely be possible to undo the reservoir in the cab and lift it out to get access to the clamp immediately below it. But I couldn’t see how to release the reservoir. Fortunately, the Samba came to the rescue, and I was soon undoing the two little screws that held it in, which enabled me to lift up the reservoir and shed light on the problem. Sure enough, the hose at the top end was split, so I trimmed it and replaced the plastic clip with another metal pipe clamp. I also realised that the nozzle (I can’t think of the proper word for the protruding part the clamp attaches to!) and was supposed to have a plastic sleeve around it to aid the seal, but this sleeve was missing from both ends, so all I could do was make sure the clamps were located on the slight bulge in the nozzle and done up nice and tight. And then – glory be! – the leak was finally sorted! I filled her up and fetched my handy little Draper oneman bleeding kit, which is a bottle with a one-way plastic hose that fits snugly over the bleed nipple and doesn’t permit any backflow. When you’re lying under the van, you can operate the brake pedal from underneath and watch as the air bubbles shoot out of the bleed nipple and disappear into the bottle, to be replaced by a lovely golden bar of brake fluid, which is a fine sight. So, there it was. All done. Except that I couldn’t find the cab fluid reservoir cap. Anywhere. I’m sure many of you will know what it’s like not to be able to find the tool you’ve just put down and to have to spend ten minutes searching for it until you find it in your pocket or somewhere. Anyway, as my frustration and incredulity increased, I resorted to rummaging through the recycling until I found the top of a squash bottle which could be made to fit. Better than nothing! Anyway, I could finally triumphantly drive the bus off the parking space and swap it for the Leaf, which I plugged in, thereby ensuring that domestic harmony would continue without a ripple. And then, there was the reservoir cap. Perched on top of a wheelie bin, where I’d left it. Laughing at me. Jonathan Bruton
The next edition of the club magazine has been finished by our Editors and looks fantastic. It should be arriving through your door soon! If you are enjoying the club magazine and have a story about a trip, an upgrade, a restoration or just a tip, send a contribution to our Editor Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For all members having the club magazine drop onto your doorstep this week. We were planning to send the magazine with a fridge magnet, however production ran to 44 pages for the magazine rather than the planned 40, so postage became a problem as it tipped us over from a letter to a packet at 98 grams.
Next issue, we plan to keep to the 40 page limit to allow your fridge magnet to be included in the March April edition.
What started out as a suggestion from long time club member Paul Turner (second page, bottom left image) for sitting in your van and having a cuppa turned into the largest meeting, albeit virtual, seen by the club in many years.
Another wonderful turn-out from the Club! Dressing up and Stone Henge appeared in many of our members’ photos, to celebrate the Summer Solstice, in lieu of our planned Isle of Wight Club Camp. That’s been put off till next year, but you can spend a few enjoyable minutes looking over these photos instead. No ice creams, though, I’m afraid…
What a splendid spectacle our members created in celebration of VE Day’s 75th anniversary! Bunting, Union Jacks, costumes, musicians, champagne, tea and cake, and even a Land Girl 😊 Here’s what our members got up to on 8th May 2020.
Installation of Propex HS2000 in a 1974 T2 Bay (Dougal) by Mark Henley
We purchased our van “Dougal” just over a year ago having been VW Beetle owners on and off for a few years. My wife and I attend music festivals as part of Oxfam’s festival team and having camped in a small 2-man tent, we felt we deserved some luxury, plus getting in and out of the tent at 57 was taking its toll on my knees – hence Dougal appeared.
Dougal was everything we wanted, if we had a hook-up, we would take a small fan heater and all was toasty and cosy, especially in that last hour or so before you get into bed, and in that first hour when you wake. Without a hook-up life was not so rosy (but infinitely better than a 2-man tent) so we decided to invest in a Propex Heater HS2000. I ordered it online as a kit and it arrived within 2 days for me to fit over a year later – it was a job I left on the backburner 🙂 (Sorry).
Mainly as a result of Covid-19, I have time and the motivation (not being bored) to install it. Like most blokes I’m a great one for not following procedures, but broadly I followed the supplied instructions, which were in fact a help. Below I have added some other bits and pictures which I hope will help anyone else with time on their hands to do this. I installed it under the rock and roll bed (which is what many people do).
Step 0 – Tools, Bits and Bobs
Review the kit contents and make sure you have the right tools for the job.
The kit will have components for a gas connection from a gas bottle to the heater, however you may already have a cooker and/or a refrigerator that already runs from your bottle. If this is the case, you will need a t-piece or a small manifold to ensure the heater has a supply without affecting other appliances. If running a large number of appliances, then you may want to switch to Propane which runs at about 30% higher pressure than Butane (but a bottle doesn’t last as long) – a Propane regulator is supplied with the kit.
There are no 8mm gas pipe fixing clips supplied in the kit. You will need to have a handful of these to fix the 8mm copper pipe to the sides of cupboards or the floor of the van (to keep the pipe where you want it).
A minimum of jubilee pipe clips are supplied in the kit but it was two less than I needed – buy some!
PTFE tape is useful for a good gastight seal on threaded fittings.
You will be cutting 2 x 40mm holes in your van floor, it would be a good idea to buy 2 x 40mm grommets to put around the sharp metal edges.
High temperature sealant.
Wire strippers/crimpers would’ve been useful, but I managed with pliers.
A good electric drill is a must!
95mm and 40mm hole saws are needed for the air vent holes and the exhaust/air intake holes.
A small gauge pipe cutter is a must if you want a good compression seal.
A multi-meter or one of those light-up screwdrivers will be needed to test your electrical installation.
If you haven’t got a spare switch on your domestic panel then a switch to isolate the unit electrically is a good idea (some people have seen a bit of current drain when the unit has been connected directly to the battery).
An 8mm gas isolation valve (ball type).
In hindsight I wish I’d bought a small gauge pipe bending tool – much easier than trying to bend the pipe around the outside of a coffee mug!
A coat hanger (all will become clear).
Step 1 – Preparation
Empty your van!
Remove anything from under the seat/bed. Remove the bedding/cushions (the bedding might need an air anyway).
Remove everything from the cupboards between the bed and the side of the van. (In fact, remove absolutely everything from all your cupboards because its time you had a sort out – there won’t be as much room for storage under the bed with a heater there!).
Remove the gas bottle from its locker/cupboard to somewhere out of the way.
FIND SOMETHING TO HOLD THE BED UP WITH! (Or buy some large plasters for your head).
Step 2 – Safety
The battery was disconnected. I have a starter and a service battery so I disconnected both. I’d be drilling some big holes later on and messing about with the main control panel. Safety glasses are a must when drilling or working under the van. Thin rubber gloves aren’t essential but good to have also.
Step 3 – Where shall I put it?
I had already decided on a suitable location for the heater. The only viable location in Dougal was in the bed box so I crawled underneath and using the 4 bed frame bolts as reference points I found a suitable obstruction free area in which to drill pilot holes for the exhaust and air intake pipes. I drilled a small test hole – which is a very good idea as I’d managed to get the front/back the wrong way around when I was underneath, and the test hole came out somewhere I didn’t expect it!
Having drilled the pilot holes in the right place and filled the previous test hole (and checked underneath again) I had a crisis of confidence. Do I really want to drill 2 one and a half inch holes in the bottom of my pride and joy?
One quick pep-talk by the missus later and it was done. No going back now.
Why do the holes need to be 40mm wide?? I have looked online and there are a few reasons offered – so you can attach the pipes and jubilee clips from above seems to be a popular one (I tried that and it didn’t fit), to give you wriggle room if your measurements are a bit out is another, to give space around the hot exhaust pipe perhaps (which makes sense because of the heat), or to act as a drop vent for any future gas leak maybe (that also makes sense as the heater is installed slightly off the floor). Whatever the reasons I stuck to the instructions, but emailed Propex for a view. [Since writing this they confirmed 40mm holes give a heat safety margin. Propex also stated the holes can be filled with high temperature sealant but that in line with good safety practice, a gas drop vent is needed].
To finish the holes off I coated the insides with a little wood preserver and a touch of anti-rust on the edges of the metal floor pan.
It’s possible at this point to fix the heater to the floor using the brackets and screws provided but my preference was to leave that until I knew everything matched up (it better had – I’ve just drilled 2 bleeding big holes in the floor!).
Step 4 – Power and Control
The kit comes with 2 looms – one for power (12V dc), and the other for control via a switch/thermostat control box.
Dougal has a domestic fuse panel and switch bank to the rear which had a spare switch (marked “spare” so I knew it was spare). I would advise using a spare switch if you have one or fitting an isolating switch to the heater as some people have reported an amount of “leakage” which has slowly run the service battery down.
To access the fuse panel and the rear of the switch panel required disassembling the rear storage cupboard, the pieces of which were carefully stored with corresponding screws for ease of re-assembly.
The fuse panel has a 12V DC bus so instead of using the fuse holder supplied, it was easy to utilise an empty position on the panel which was then wired to one side of the spare switch. The other side of the switch is used by the positive lead on the power loom. The 5 Amp fuse supplied was inserted into the fuse panel.
Now for the hard bit – feeding the 2 looms through the bottom of the bed box, through the water tank store and through to the back where the fuse panel/switch terminals are. A hole already existed for other electrical wires on the floor of the bed box where it enters the cupboards, however it was not large enough to allow an additional 2 sets of wires through, and there wasn’t room for a small drill, so gently using a chisel (actually not so gently) the hole was enlarged to allow the plastic thermostat connector and power feed to pass through (Arghhh – after doing this I subsequently found out that the plastic connector can be detached and reattached to the wires – making the job a tiny bit easier!).
In order to pull the wires through to the back I used a straightened coat hanger which was pushed through the small hole for other wires going to the back, the power and control leads were taped to it and then pulled through. Of course, if you want to do it the easy way and feed the cables from the back to the front then feel free!
The power cable ends were terminated appropriately and the red one fed to the “spare” switch, the black one to earth.
At this point I decided to test the power connection. You could leave it until the end but testing it at this point would a) prevent a lot of rework later on, and b) give you a reasonable feeling that you know you are doing ok!
I reconnected the service battery briefly, turned the isolating switch on, and tested the voltage at the heater end of the power feed – 12.8V!! Marvellous!
I disconnected the battery again before going any further.
The next decision was to decide on a location for the thermostat. The instructions state anywhere between waist and shoulder height. At shoulder height I’d imagine the heater will take very little time to get up to temperature as heat rises, consequently it may be cooler lower down. At waist height it would take longer to get to temperature but be warmer lower down. As we spend a lot of time sat down in Dougal, we decided the best option would be to position the thermostat just above waist height, sited on the domestic switch panel and accessible from lying down in bed J.
Using an 8mm drill, 3 holes were drilled close together and then filed to form a slot to pass the plastic connector through. The control unit was then fixed to the surface using the screws provided.
The control connector halves snapped together quite easily and then the various wires were tidied up using the cable ties provided. Any excess wire from either loom was cable tied in the cupboard.
At this point I screwed the heater to the van floor, removed the electronics cover on the heater and connected first the thermostat connector, and then the power cable. If for any reason you have left the power on and connect the power first, then you risk blowing the mother board in the unit (it doesn’t mention this in the instructions but seemed to be a hot topic on various internet forums). After fitting the cable grommets and replacing the cover I used cable clips to tidy everything up in the bed box.
Step 5 – Exhausted Already
This was a case of making sure you take everything with you that you need as there is nothing as tiring as getting under your van three, four or even five times to get a screw, a clip, a screwdriver, cable ties, etc., that you forgot to take in the first place. It took me four goes and one of those was to get safety glasses to keep dirt out of my eyes (a good tip).
I also found I had a lot more room by jacking up one side of Dougal.
I used the jubilee clip supplied to fix the exhaust pipe to the heater. Before this I had decided on a route for the pipe that fulfils both the technical requirements, namely that;
the pipe should run slightly downhill (to drain any condensate), and that
the pipe should point anywhere from just to the rear of the heater exhaust pipe to fully pointing backwards.
The pipe preferably should exhaust towards the edge of the vehicle but as long as the two criteria are met, and it isn’t exhausting into an enclosed box section then you should be ok. Carbon Monoxide is heavier than air so will pool under the van and slowly dissipate. It’s also a good idea to make sure the exhaust is on the opposite side to the sliding door otherwise you could be exhausting into your awning and anyone sleeping in there may be hard to wake up!
The instructions also advised not to place the exhaust within 50cm of a fuel tank breather vent.
Due to the placement of my heater I couldn’t quite reach the sill of the van but it was close enough and fulfilled the technical requirements, so I was pretty happy. There was also a convenient unused cable tab for me to attach the pipe clip to.
The inlet air pipe followed a similar route, again pointing slightly to the rear of the vehicle and was long enough to reach the sill. Both pipes were specified lengths to make the heater run efficiently. Do not shorten them!
I decided to seal in the exhaust pipe with RTV High temperature sealant but left the air intake hole open to act as a gas drop vent for the bed box.
Step 6 – It’s a Gas Gas Gas!
According to the regulations (BS EN 1949), if you are going to hire your van out, you need to have the gas system fitted and tested by a Gas Safe Registered engineer (still a Corgi engineer in my head). If you aren’t hiring it out, you can have a go yourself (yikes) but it is still a good idea at some point to get it checked out by a registered engineer. On boats it is an insurance requirement to have the system certified every year, or after any change. Gas explosions and CO poisoning are the main causes of leisure boat fatalities in the UK. I suspect the risks in campervans are possibly higher as there is no legal or insurance requirement to get gas systems checked by competent people.
Food for thought, but by following simple guidelines you stand a very good chance of installing a good gastight system.
Provide unique isolation for the appliance being fitted, so if there is an issue with the appliance it can be taken out of line without affecting anything else.
Minimise the number of joints – if possible, use pipe bent to shape rather than compression fittings – it minimises potential leaks.
Only use rubber gas hose where you need the flexibility i.e. in the gas locker. It should be as short as possibly needed. All other pipe should be treated as part of a permanent installation and be copper/steel.
Flexible pipes should be replaced every 5 years (the manufactured date is on the pipe).
Gas lockers, if internal, should fitted with a vent/drain.
Only use PTFE tape on threaded non-compression fittings. PTFE can stop a compression fitting from being effective.
Like a house, protect your pipes from damage by keeping them within the confines of the vehicle. I have seen a couple of YouTube videos where the pipes are routed underneath the vehicle and I personally think it’s asking for trouble.
Happy with your installation, then test it for leaks.
It was a long time ago, but I did part of my apprenticeship as a gas pipe fitter with two Glaswegians from Corby. It’s just a shame I never understood a word they said. Anyhow I don’t have a copy of the standard and at £150 I probably won’t bother but you won’t go too far wrong if you follow the above.
My run of copper pipe to the gas locker was relatively simple – heater to small ball valve, valve to gas locker through the bottom of the water cupboard. I made a hole in the locker to house the kit-supplied rubber to copper fitting which I swapped for a bulkhead fitting to enable it to be secured on the wall of the locker. I used PTFE to put the brass elbow in the heater unit – all the other fittings were compression fittings.
4 joints in total to test, which I did by connecting the rubber hose directly to the gas bottle. I filled a large syringe (don’t ask) with 50/50 fairy liquid and water. At this point my wife came out to see if I had a drug problem she should know about, and on watching me squirt the joints with the mixture remarked “Ooh, should it be blowing bubbles like that?”.
Damn! Still a 75% success rate, and the offending joint was tightened up and retested satisfactorily.
Oh, and make sure you have kitchen roll under the joints being tested.
Step 7 – A very expensive hairdryer
It made sense at this point to test the whole system so I connected the hot air pipe to the unit with the large jubilee clip, reconnected the battery, turned the gas on, turned the “spare” switch on at the panel, and switched the controller to “flame”. I’d asked my wife to come out for the grand switch on, my kids weren’t interested, and my neighbours weren’t allowed to be there because of social distancing otherwise I’d have asked them round.
Bugger! The LED that should’ve been green was flashing red L. A quick read of the installation instructions and I discovered that due to the initial absence of gas the unit had “locked out”. One quick reset later and I tried again. Success J. By this time my wife had wandered off to feed the cats or do something more interesting. I celebrated alone but was chuffed to bits.
Step 8 – Tidying up
It’s relatively simple to install the air vents in the bed box front, once you get past the idea of drilling 2 very large 95mm holes. Once done there isn’t a lot left to do other than maybe protect the unit with a cover – so you can still use the storage space – and enjoy the heat!
Actually, one very important thing, if you haven’t installed one already, is to install a CO Alarm. If you already have one, check when you bought it as they tend to need replacing after 7 years (some may last 10 years).
Unfortunately, we can’t go anywhere as yet so we are confined to sitting in Dougal on the drive, but at least it’s warm!