Author Archives: Nick Gillott

About Nick Gillott

Website Manager and General Committee member of the Owners Club. Owner of Eric the Viking (converted panel van with Viking roof) undergoing complete restoration. Tinkerer to Poppy the camper van (1972 Crossover dormobile).

Brakes. It.

Hello everyone, the date coincided with a well known event, so today’s post had to be about brakes. There is not much humour writing a weekly post about maintaining a vehicle!

As we start the 2019 season in the UK, you need to think about the important things for your vehicle. Engine, fuel, ventilation, warmth, power, torque. They are all irrelevant – if you cannot STOP, that’s the only important thing you need to ensure is working!

Today’s post is about the REAR original brakes on a split screen, Bay window and T25. These are drum brakes and the principle is similar across all manufacturers and we are going to look only at the shoes in this article.

Tools required

A jack to lift the vehicle
Axle stands – good sturdy ones, for a change they do not need to be enormous
Hubcap removal tool if you have standard steel wheels. You can improvise with a thick wire coat hanger!
Sockets – 11mm, 17mm (early Bay), 19mm (late Bay)

Taking it apart

Put the vehicle in gear and let the clutch out so that the vehicle isn’t going anywhere and the wheels will not turn. Remove the rear hub caps using the removal tool or a coat hanger suitably shaped to fit into the two little holes on the side. As you yank, keep your feet against the tyre as a hubcap catching device otherwise you will scratch the expensive and shiny cap!

I find either gloves or a screwdriver to go around the removal tool makes the job much easier, so I am pulling the screwdriver not the thin bit of metal.

Loosen the wheel nuts on the two rear wheels by half a turn as it makes things far easier. Then jack up the back of the vehicle using the rear beam (the big thick tube between the rear wheels) high enough to get axle stands under that beam. Let the vehicle down onto the axle stands slowly and safely. Ensure that nothing is loose, about to fall over or anything else that could impact your safety.

Now remove all of the wheel nuts and put the two rear wheels somewhere safe. Under the vehicle is usually a popular place.

Crawl underneath the FRONT of the vehicle and start heading backwards. Towards the rear of the cab section you will see the handbrake cable coming from the front and there is a mechanism that has a cable from there to each of the rear wheels. Slacken off the bolts here to loosen the handbrake cables – you will need to adjust the handbrake anyway and the handbrake if often the reason you cannot continue and get the hub off. the bolts that you need are square and 11mm but could have rusted, take options on the tools required!

Now sit in front of one of the rear drums. There is a backing plate, understandably at the back of the circular drum. At the back of that are the adjustment screws – loosen them with a screwdriver once you expose them by carefully removing the rubber bungs. Get those bungs out, inspect them for damage and put them somewhere safe. If you pried them out, look for damage as they harden with age and may need replacing. If you got the bung out and there is no screw behind it, you took out the optional lining inspection bung. Two bungs – adjustment, four bungs – only remove the bottom two.

The screws go ANTI clockwise to loosen. They rust, so be prepared for both swearing and replacement.

Now that you have removed the bulk of the tension from the parts inside the drum, let us have the first attempt at removing the drum. There are 2 11mm bolts, they may also be rather stiff but a decent socket will normally get them off. Once those two are off, the only thing holding the drum on is rust and anything inside that should have moved and did not.

Grab the drum firmly and pull. Heave. Have another go. Wiggle it, wobble it but keep it at the same parallel angle or you can jam it. If it does not move, and if it hasn’t been off in years that is likely, hit it with a hammer – either a “dead blow” hammer or a piece of wood and a big hammer. A mallet just isn’t enough. If you still cannot remove, start adding penetrating oil and more of the hammer until it all gives.

With the drum off, review the state of your knuckles and measure the inside of the drum circle with a tape measure. As you move around, if it exceeds 253mm diameter, replace the drum. Also check it is consistent as a variation here is what causes the shuddering braking where it is on/off which is inefficient, dangerous and disconcerting.

Now look at the “shoes”, the curved pieces on either side of the middle. The outside of the curve is the brake pad, there should be 6mm on a new pad and 2.5mm is the minimum point where you need to change them.

Replacing your shoes

Remove the handbrake cable, remove the spring holding the shoes together, pull the shoes apart and remove them – you WILL get dirty. If you have anything else in there like springs, separating bars or anything else, get a picture before, during and after to be safe. With everything disassembled, clean it all and replace anything worn to the limit or rusty.

You can buy the drum kit (no, not annoyingly noisy music gear) quite cheaply from a motor factor or your chosen VW stockist and some of the parts in the kit may not be needed, don’t worry about leftovers!

Doing more brake work

If you want to tackle more, don’t reassemble things, read next week’s article.


Understandably, reassembling is the opposite exactly. Put the new or cleaned parts back in reverse order. Tighten the bolts and adjusters down so that the shoe just about touches the drum.

Make sure that from the original you have nothing left over, everything has been copper greased on all bolts and that no grease is on the shoe or drum. I quite like to sand the outside of the drum and paint it but it is never seen and not overly expensive to replace, but everyone is different.

Once the drum is back together fully and adjusted in situ, tighten the handbrake cable such that you can turn the drum with no handbrake but you have minimal travel on the handbrake lever to stop the wheels turning. That can take a few goes!

Jack the vehicle up, get the wheels on, add the wheel nuts, tighten them, let the vehicle down and torque up the nuts.

Test the brakes fully and feel proud. You did that.



Rebuilding the gear linkage

Many of us suffer from that indistinct, rather sloppy gear change. In fact, fixing it is a bit time consuming and will make you a bit oily but is not as tricky as you might think.

This video is for a VW Beetle but a split screen, early Bay, late Bay, type 25 and type 3 all have a similar mechanism. Buy the right parts, have a wire brush and some degreaser like Gunk handy and it can transform you gear changes!

First club camp of 2019 – are you coming?

Now that your bus is awake (see last week’s article Wakey Wakey), you can think about a spring camp if you haven’t already got your year mapped out already to include all of the club camps listed in our Events page.

Next up is the April Fool’s camp, less than 3 weeks from now starting March 28th at Sixpenny Handley near Salisbury just nestled into north Dorset.

Come and join the members having a spring weekend!

Wakey wakey!


Yes, it is that time again. Hurray! Finally, after the long winter in our non-mobile houses, we can get out our beloved vehicles.


Hopefully you all followed the article Time for bed/ to help put your vehicle to bed for the winter. Now that spring is in the air and we are starting to think about getting out and communing in nature, this is a key time to get things ready.

Doors locks – there’s nothing more annoying than a failed lock. get it fixed now before the season really gets going. Door lock issues can be very straight forward but a simple lubrication can be key. Pun intended. A non residue lubricant is best to move the dirt away as WD40 can leave enough gunk to create issues. We favour silicon spray. A little into each lock.

Windscreen wipers – did they perish in the cold winter freezing them to the windscreen. Inspect and replace now.

Water – check the radiator if you have one. Ensure that the bottles that you emptied in the Autumn / fall have no mice, carefully hidden Christmas presents or mildew. Clean with a weak Milton solution if it is drinking water or food related.

Batteries – check the charge on each battery with a good meter. A flat battery can indicate an earth leak. A failed battery needs careful investigation.

Carburettor – Or equivalent. Check for good operation, no stuck flaps or other deterioration over winter. If you are a professional, this will be straight forward. If you are an amateur, a test drive very close to home will highlight problems! But only after the other checks.

Brakes – your vehicle should roll easily, otherwise this can indicate jammed brakes. Parking in gear for long periods of time can be better for your brake health than a jammed set of brakes. Check the brakes for operation. Check the brake fluid level. If it has been more than 5 years, change the brake fluid as it is hygroscopic and slurps up water incredibly quickly. Water is not a good fluid for applying the brake pads to the disks.

Seals – inspect all door seals for any signs of damage, water ingress or other problems and sort them out now. Glue any loose bits back down with the correct glue.

Windows – ensure that they all open and close fully. Or at least as fully as they did last year if applicable!

Ignition – Once you are feeling confident, get in to your pride and joy and turn on the ignition to number 2. Look at the lights on the dashboard. Check there ARE lights! Are they what you expect / are used to seeing? Have you got fuel (for those with a working fuel gauge)?

Crank it over – don’t expect it to start immediately but things should kick into life within a few seconds.

A little test drive on your driveway will allow you to test the brakes, maybe the steering and other important parts. Softly, softly.

Stay local, take your phone with you and warm clothing. Just in case!

Once you get home, assuming that you have a big smile on your face, make a list of snags, get indoors, put the kettle on and start planning for your summer.

Check out the events page and come and see us at a meeting soon!

Buying a VW Campervan

Apparently other vehicles are available, so this will be mainly applicable to those other, lesser brands.

Defining the term

They all do the same thing but have many names. Each person will have their own term but loosely we are talking about Camper Van, Van, Bus, Bulli, Kombi and others covering everything from the iconic Split Screen to the current T6 (at time of writing). For specifics on the VW variants, see also the definitions page.

With that out of the way, let’s refer to the vehicle as a “van” for simplicity.

External requirements

The physical size of the outside is often a determining factor. A friend purchased a perfect Mercedes Sprinter in 2018, completely unmarked exterior, excellent condition all over and a bargain price. He drove it home and his wife compared the physical size of the van to their house and it was promptly returned! Remember that if you are not away in the van, it will be sitting outside your house unless you are lucky enough to have additional storage.

If you want a shower, permanent toilet room, standing height with no requirement to lift a lid then you will be hard pressed to fit all of that into a van the size of a Split Screen!

External tricks

For many reasons, you may decide that you want to stand up inside your van. If you do not need this, a “tin top” could be your ideal vehicle. A solid metal roof will not leak water! Another option is the “High top”, a lid usually made from plastic that does not move, giving additional height for the vehicle. A sunroof on a modern vehicle is likely to be watertight but this is not guaranteed, a sunroof on an older vehicle has a much higher chance of water ingress.

A lifting roof aka pop top comes in all shapes and sizes. these can hinge on the long side, the short side or only part of the overall roof. They are made by many companies and you can move a roof from one vehicle to another as long as it is the same model…you cannot put a Split Screen pop top onto a T6!

A pop top will add the ability to drive a small vehicle and make it larger when you arrive, but can leak through any openings and will add weight up high, reducing fuel efficiency and possibly impacting handling, especially around a corner.


If you want the world inside a van, you need to compromise. We find that small is beautiful and you are limited on space making you focus on the items that you really need with you. Two adults can easily have everything required to tour Europe for months, you just need to pack sensibly and use the space effectively.

External – it is made of metal

It may sound obvious but vans are generally made of metal and this metal will ultimately fall foul of the dreaded brown stuff. Rust. ALL vehicles are fixable but this comes with cost and time. If you have a tight budget or want no downtime to maximize usage, rust is something you want to avoid. This sounds illogical but paying more on a vehicle without rust is often more cost effective than a cheaper vehicle with rust unless you can weld. Then the sky is the limit – buy a rusty van!

Internal requirements

If you want a perfect interior, many vans are already done but may not match your taste for layout, colour and style. Interiors can be swapped out easily but again this costs money. You can build your own interior for very little money or buy incredible units and pay for installation but this quickly runs into multiple thousand pounds.

An interior will have a second hand value – don’t just scrap it! Sell it and use the money towards the interior that you want in your van.

Fixtures and fittings

If you need it ready to go, what do you need? Bed, sink, fridge, TV for the evening?

Bed – our first van had a fantastic interior and the bed was 41 inches wide with the vertical sides of the sliding door and kitchen units. The foam from the seats made up the bed at an inch thick. We did not sleep much and it made a huge dent in the enjoyment of being away.

Our new interior (built at home for the cost of timber) gives us a 60 inch / 5 foot wide / 1.5 metre wide bed. It is long enough for an adult, wide enough comfortably for two adults and the “bedhead” is the solid back door, so you can read in bed with your head propped up. It makes so much difference that we actually say we prefer that bed to the one in the house. This is our key requirement, sleep!

Sink – washing up is a necessary evil when you eat in the van or have a cuppa. If you only ever eat out, never need to wash up or use site facilities to wash up, a sink may be optional.

Fridge – a cool bag will get you a long way to keeping food and drink cool and they are inexpensive. Some camp sites have a freezing service for ice packs for a few pounds allowing you to keep food cool for longer. Moving up to the next stage is a fridge, running on electricity (either 12 volt or 240 volt when at a camp site) or gas. These can be picked up used but get them serviced. Compressor fridges are not as efficient as an absorption fridges if you want efficiency. Be careful though, a good sized 12 volt fridge is over £500 new and they need to be thought about sensibly to avoid flattening the battery. See also our recent article on solar panels and split charge relay.

TV – If you absolutely must have the TV on in the evening, you either need a large additional battery or mains hook up on a camp site to power it. You will also need a decent sized aerial / dish to pick up the signal. Another option is a computer tablet that charges from USB which uses much less power and can have TV programs and movies downloaded to it before you leave.

Cooking – kitchen / stove / burner. These can be portable and sit in a cupboard or fitted permanently. Even if you just want a cuppa, you need one. These can be purchased reasonably inexpensively new and if you get a used one, anything with gas or electric on it should be serviced before use.

Think about other things that you cannot live without and would not get into a suitcase for a flight.

Heating – this one is contentious. Camping outside the key summer months means that you might be a little chilly. Bespoke heating is available and usually runs off either gas bottles, or your petrol or diesel tank. If you are careful, you can instead heat your van with the cooker as that is generating heat although it is not as efficient.


Already covered earlier but important enough to cover a second time. If you don’t know the specifics of the vehicle type that you are buying, you may not know where exactly to look for hidden rust that can be really expensive to fix. Find an expert to tell you where to look or take one with you to view the van.

Inside wheel arches, underneath in the hard to reach places, around the gearbox or engine area. These ones are key places where rust and rot are not seen although there may well be many, many more!

The viewing

See it in the flesh taking an expert with you. Anything else means you will probably get a shock and it could be a shock to your wallet. Prod things, check everything, take a list with you of things to check. Do not be put off with cheap and shiny bits – trinkets like candles, blankets, curtains and other items make it look great but are cheap and possibly do not come with the vehicle. Focus on the metal shell of the vehicle, the engine, gearbox and other high cost items.

Does everything work and show signs of being maintained rather than cleaned last week after sitting unused for a decade? Is the pop top stiff with lack of use and with cracked canvas? Look for water leaks everywhere.

Do you have any service history, bills, documentation or other paperwork that adds confidence that this van has been loved?

Does the logbook match the vehicle for chassis number, engine number if applicable and the address of the viewing? Check the MOT if applicable, the address visited to the log book, check the mileage on all paperwork. Get a sense of regularity of use, regular use is better than sitting in a field.

The price

Scene tax is a term used for buying a van at a show. It may not apply where you are purchasing. Buying privately is possibly cheaper than buying from a dealer unless it is a pig wearing lipstick (poor van made to look like a great van). A dealer will have a higher price for the same vehicle to cover profit, warranty and servicing. Insist on seeing the HPI paperwork from the dealer even if it is online. Again, check the details match! There are bargains and nightmares both privately and at a dealer.

Shop around online, look at as many as possible to understand the price ranges. Use other examples as a haggling tool. If it sounds too good to be true, be wary! Never use escrow, don’t pay in advance, don’t pay until the goods are in your hands. Buy from the property marked on the logbook not a McDonalds car park nearby. And don’t inspect a vehicle in the dark.

How much

“You get what you pay for” is true! If you pay £2,600 for a Bay window van, it is going to need a lot of work. Trust me on this one, I am over 3 years into the metalwork restoration. If you pay £30,000 from a dealer for a one owner, low mileage, always garaged, T6 with full service history and a 12 month warranty, you are likely to have fewer problems than me.


Lots of people sell in the spring ready for the season, looking for wide eyed folks with wads of cash who want to live the dream. Best time to buy is really September when the dream wears off but even so, be careful of the reasons why people sell! Then you also get the winter to prepare for next season. Good luck!

Type 2 T6 Buying Guide

Bringing us firmly up to date, the T5 finished production and the new T6 was launched in September 2015. The change in overall look is not as significant as previous model changes, which is why you will find the club rondel features 5 vehicles as from the front the T5 and T6 look incredibly similar.

Sleek, modern, powerful and with plenty of driver aides, the T6 is an incredible motorway muncher with everything from the frugal 84bhp diesel engine up to the 200bhp engines available as both petrol or diesel. Gearboxes are 5 to 7 speed as per the T5.

If this model interests you, here is a buying guide:

transporter_6__van_presales_flyer t6_passenger_carriers_presales_flyer        

Type 2 T5 Buying Guide

The Volkswagen Type 2 T5, the fifth generation of transporters went into production in April 2003 have been launched the previous October and continued until 2015.

If this twenty first century model tickles your fancy for its series of 2 litre to 3.2 litre petrol and diesel, front engine, water cooled engines with 5 to 7 speed gearboxes, modern refinement and equipment, this might be the one for you.

There is also a doubleback model that glides out an extra box from the back extending the length when parked to make a huge, spacious, luxury camper inside.

Here is a buying guide if you think this one is for you.