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).

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.

Solar power for our VW Type 2 Bay window

Once again, no warranty or responsibility is given, offered, or implied from information contained in this article.

For those of us in sunny (ish – I live in the UK, there are limits) countries, who like to go away in our vehicles and who use 12 volt electrical items, solar charging is now possible. In fact, it is quite easy with a small amount of reading and hopefully this article will help.

The theory

  • You have a battery that I’m going to call the leisure battery but you can call it a second battery or camping battery. It powers your various camping related items but is not designed to run large appliances like heaters or disco units!
  • You want to charge that up for free from the sun so that you are not tethered to an electrical socket on each camp site.

The calculation

  • List all equipment that you have in your vehicle that needs powering from 12 volts
  • Check on the equipment or in the manual (which is probably online too and you can magnify the text easier!) for the wattage or the amperage. Make a note of each one in a list.
  • Think about how often you use each item in each day and be realistic.
  • Think about when you camp.

 Now, convert the amps to watts by multiplying by 12 if you only noted the amps.

Otherwise list each item like this:

  • Fridge uses 60 watts and will be in use for 8 hours per day on average when in the UK. That makes 480 watt hours per day.
  • Lights are 2 watts each and I use 4 of them making 8 watts. In use for 2 hours each. Total is 16 watt hours.
  • I use 2 USB sockets that are 7.2 volts and 2 amp which is a maximum of 14.4 watts. Total of 3 hours per day. That is 44 watt hours.

Then add up all those little watt hours to get a total for the day. In this example I get 540 watt hours. It doesn’t really matter what that means, just get the number!

In the UK I think we can get 6 hours of sunshine per day in the summer and 4 hours in spring and autumn (fall). Your country may be different and your feeling might be different.

You then take the total watt hours, in this case 540 watt hours and divide that by the number of hours of sunshine (aka charging) to get the number of watts of input charge you need to counteract the discharge. 540 watt hours divided by 6 hours is 90 watts.

Therefore to replace the lost charge I need a solar panel that has an output of 90 watts. If you need more than 100 watts, consider more than one panel.

The solar panel itself

They come in 3 main flavours, choose the type you prefer!

  • Briefcase – these pack away and get stored unused when travelling. They can plug into the cigarette lighter that connects to the correct battery.
  • Solid frame free standing panel – these can either be inclined towards the sun and stood on the grass when you are pitched or could be mounted on the roof of your vehicle. They tend to be the least expensive.
  • Flexible and semi-flexible – these tend to be the most expensive and will be the focus of the rest of this article. They can be permanently attached to your vehicle.


We purchased a 100 watt solar panel that is “semi flexible” meaning it is about 2mm thick and bends a little but bending too much will break it. We used a Biard panel but other manufacturers are available and the price was around the £130 mark for the supply only of just the panel but this was in 2015.

We then purchased a used roof rack and connected it at the back of our bay window to the roof gutters with a little modification as roof racks are generally lower and narrower than a Bay window needs! It did cost £4 ($6) though!

As an expedient, we laid the panel on the grass upside down, laid the roof rack on the panel also upside down and gaffer taped the two together. It was a plan for a couple of months before glueing the panel to the Dormobile roof and 3 years later it is still gaffer taped!

There are two cables coming out of the solar panel and remember they are live except in the dark so tape them up / ensure the ends are not able to create a short circuit

The clever box in the middle

You cannot just wire the solar panel to the leisure battery – bad things will happen. You need a box in the middle that will stop the leisure battery sending its charge out through the solar panel into the night. It stops the solar panel over charging the leisure battery so far that it explodes. You need to avoid that. This clever box is called a regulator or solar controller and comes in 2 main types – PWM (pulse width modulated) and MPPT (maximum power point tracking). The PWM is less efficient at getting power out of the panel into your battery but is generally a lot cheaper. MPPT would be recommended if you camp outside summer as it is more efficient in less than full sunny days or if you have more than one panel.

The clever box for us was a cheap PWM controller that was about £10 / $15 and has just 3 lights. Charging, discharging and battery health (green is good, flashing is full, red is bad).

Wiring it

We dropped the solar panel cables down the air vent at the back so that there are no new holes on the van and therefore no chances of a water leak! Then got the wires up next to the spare wheel inside the vehicle as the controller is easier to see and that engine bay can get quite warm.

The leisure battery has two new wires, leisure battery positive to the hole on the regulator for battery positive. And then battery negative to regulator battery negative.

Then the solar controller should give you a light on the box.

Next I connected the solar cables – positive first as it is always live in daylight – to the solar controller / regulator. Now my controller had a light saying it was charging.

Then I checked the voltage coming from the controller to the leisure battery – I was getting over 13 volts! It works! I used a dedicated wire directly to the battery rather than using the chassis as it seemed to keep the regulator a little happier with its lights, I don’t know why!

Next step

Erm, that’s it

Now I have a solar panel permanently on the roof, always charging from dawn until dusk even on the move. The regulator means that even with the engine running and the split charge working, we do not over charge the leisure battery and it works even under the car port in the winter keeping that battery going until spring time.

Total cost of solar system £160. Cost of replacing the leisure battery every year £120. Saving on electricity per night at a camp site is up to £10 per night. This system seriously pays for itself in no time.



VW makes electric vehicle

Following on from our recent post about the id Buzz did you know that is not the first electric vehicle from Volkswagen based on the classic type 2 chassis?

Ah, but did you also know this original version was a little older?

Back in 1970, Adolf Kalberlah was there looking at alternative methods of power and VW made a type 2 T2 Bay window with a top speed of 43mph and a range of 43 miles.

That is about 7 times the range of some of the current crop of electric vehicles and this was 48 years ago.

Read the full details at

Split charge relay – charge your second battery as you drive along

This is how I did it. Your implementation may be better than mine, no warranty is offered, given or implied, ensure that you get a qualified electrician to install this, the value of your system may go down as well as up. Small print – seriously, this stuff is for suitably qualified people only.

I have a second / leisure battery in my Type 2 T2 Crossover Bay Window van. It powers the fridge, some lights and the ignition side of the Propex gas heater. Since we are often touring, it made sense to charge up that battery when driving along. Using a system similar to the Westfalia T25, we made a slightly crude but effective system.

Parts purchased from online sites:

  • 1 x 100amp relay. This is about 4cm cube / 1.5 inch cube and cost me about £7 / $10
  • Some wire. Heavy wire to get to and from the positive terminals of the battery (same thickness as the existing battery cables) and lighter duty for the switched live and the earth of the relay.

The theory

  • The alternator output is only live when the engine is running.
  • I only want to have this system charging when the engine is running.
  • Once the leisure battery is charged, stop charging.
  • Use the existing regulator in the alternator
  • Use some spade connectors and crimping tool already in my toolbox

This effective bit of wiring charges the leisure battery from the main battery when the engine is running. The main battery gets charged at the same time from the alternator. The alternator regulator ensures that the main battery and thus the leisure battery do not get over charged. Simples.

How it works

The relay arrived and has 4 terminals that are numbered in tiny writing. There are spade connectors for each one. I bolted the relay to a suitable place above the engine on the roof of the engine bay.
Spade terminal 85 was wired with about 4 inches of cable to the same bolt I was using to attach the relay so now we are earthed for the relay (battery earth is direct from the battery).
A new heavy wire went from terminal 87 to the positive terminal on my second / leisure battery to receive power when the system is live.
A new heavy wire went to terminal 30 from my main starter battery to be used to charge the second battery.
And finally I removed the spade connector from the top of the alternator. Then I fitted a piggy back connector to sit in between that wire and the top of the alternator to take a new wire “in the middle” but any method of getting a wire in there is valid. That wire only needs to be small, the same size as the wire coming from the alternator. This wire “tells” the relay when to open and start charging the second battery. This wire goes from the top of the alternator to number 86 on the relay.

With the heavy wire from terminal 87 NOT being connected to the second battery, it should be dead normally. I kept this held carefully and when the engine was running, I was getting over 13 volts as the relay is sending that down to terminal 87 from the main battery. Turning the engine off showed no charge coming through, so we had a proof of concept. That last wire was connected to the leisure battery and tightened down.

Due diligence
All wires were then cable tied neatly so that they do not flap about when you are driving along as it is difficult to monitor the engine bay from the driver’s seat.

In use
Because the relay is automated, there is no switch to move, it stops charging when the engine is off and the relay is solid state to reduce the chances of failure.

We have not used an electric hook up for several years and can confidently arrive to a site with a full charge even with the fridge running all day.
It cost about £12 with all wiring.
I know how it works, so any changes can be done confidently.
It took about an hour, most of which was terminating the cables with mole grips as I am too mean to buy the proper crimping tool.


Events from 2018 and looking into 2019

What a busy club year! If you take a look at you will see that the club has had one of its busiest years in a long time. A lot of places and shows with the club stand, the club gazebo and most of them had club camping.

Club Stand

The club stand at Volksweald July 2018

As we move towards 2019, it would be great to meet more members and welcome back repeat visitors to club events. If you would like to join us, come along, we don’t bite. Our emphasis is on using the vans, having fun and sharing (knowledge, information and stories. Don’t ask to share sausages though).

If a member would like to organise a club camp, please contact and talk to the events manager. Please remember that a club event is at least 8 people, 4 vehicles, a stand, tables, gazebo, maybe the club marquee, BBQ and a host of other equipment. It takes a lot of planning, preparation and time to make an event happen. If you want to join in, come along, we provide the framework either as a standalone event or as a club presence at a VW show for fun times.

That bit about us not biting? It might not be true. Woof.

Tyres (or tires)

How do you bait an air cooled VW van / bus owner?

  1. Is it called a bus, a van or a kombi?
  2. What oil should you put in the engine?
  3. What are the best tyres to use?

A bus is quite tall, rather narrow relatively speaking and quite heavy for its form factor. As such, by the time you add an interior and a few people, the high profile (70 profile) tyres supplied on the original steel wheels can end up with quite a load. In fact, this means that a standard road tyre is possibly going to be ok for you, but a high load rated tyre will be recommended by most.

In 1950, the first splitties had 16 inch rims, which reduced to the 15 inch steels in 1955. Ultimately VW moved to just 14 inch wheels by the time 1965 was reached.

A lot of web sites struggle to show you a VW Type 2 split screen from 1951 to help on correct tyre options. The Bentley manual notes that you need reinforced radial ply “tires” with a C rating. Here in the UK a 102 rating is also used for reinforced sidewalls, which would be strongly recommended rather than standard car tyres.

If you drive a modern car, you will probably be inflating your tyre to around 30psi. It may well have a narrow sidewall (the flat visible black part from the steel or alloy rim to the circle of rubber that touches the ground) of a 30 or 40 profile. Your van tyre may well have a 70 profile meaning there is around twice the distance of rubber from wheel to outside edge, adding a lot more force and impact when rolling.

Add to that the tyre pressure which is often recommended at between 55psi and 65psi depending on tyre manufacturer and recommendation plus of course the load.

All this makes for a lot of strength required on that rubber.

Also check the outer walls (visible and the other side that you can’t normally see) for cracks which can be the source of a blow out and reasons for unexpected flat tyres.

Buy the right tyres for the job.
Inflate correctly.
Check the pressures and tyre condition regularly.
Replace a tyre that keeps going down, has visible defects or as advised by a tyre specialist or your MOT tester.

Tyres are often overlooked but are a key safety device, just as important as brakes.

Now, which oil should I put in my Type 1 (upright) engine? 🙂

Time for bed!

As the long season comes to an end and following on from last week’s winterizing, some owners may elect to cover their pride and joy with a cover.

Please. Pretty please. Pretty please with little chrome covers on. Don’t cover your expensive paint work with a tarpaulin that will get condensation inside it, press that moisture onto your bodywork and accelerate the attack on the paint and the metal underneath.

If you don’t have access to a garage or a car port that will keep most of the weather off, try to invest in a good breathable cover. Get the right one for your vehicle and make sure that the material is not flapping around, abrading where it touches.

Ideally park on hard ground that will not have standing water. Parking on grass at the bottom of the field will collect water underneath which will evaporate upwards into your van and its little cover. A breathable cover will let some or most of that collected moisture out but ideally you should remove the cover over winter every month to let things properly dry out and then put it all back to bed once more.

If possible, get a cover with straps that go under the vehicle from side to side, so that the wind cannot lift the cover off the vehicle. It is disheartening to get home from work in the dark and find your expensive van exposed to the elements and a wet cover wrapped across your hedge.

For those of you lucky enough to have a garage, a dust cover is optional but again, think about the possibility of trapped moisture pressing against the bodywork. Does a quick dusting or a nice spring time wash and wax give more benefit than the winter cover?

Got to dash, I think my van might be snoring.