For this edition, we join John and Ruth and their adventures in Spain.
Back in 2007 my Wife Ruth and I embarked on our first major foreign jaunt in our Type 2 that we’d owned since 1993. We had previously visited many parts of the UK but decided that now was the time to be more adventurous. The ‘van had been reliable other than a very occasional hot start problem, but that always resolved itself after a few minutes, but we still felt we needed breakdown cover for this trip abroad. Once arranged, we booked the Portsmouth-Bilbao ferry and in mid-July headed off. We had a fairly loose itinerary but had arranged to be in Madrid to meet up with Spanish friends for a couple of days. Having successfully achieved that, we decided to head to Cuenca, of the famous ‘hanging houses’ and La Ciudad Encantada fame. We had earmarked a site in advance and found it readily enough. It was a scorching hot day and so we parked in the shade of an enormous tree outside reception, while Ruth walked onto the site to have a look at the facilities before we committed to stay. She came back and said it looked good, very good in fact and so she went back to book us in while I fired up the van. It wouldn’t start! “Aha” I thought, I‘ll just leave it for a few minutes and all will be well… It wasn’t. It refused to offer any signs of life. After an hour or so of trying, leaving it and trying again we realised that it was not going to start. What to do now? We decided that we had to call for breakdown assistance.
At that time the breakdown cover was with Europ Assistance, so there was an English speaking number to call. They passed on our difficulty to a local garage and a further hour went by before a flatbed ‘relay’ type truck appeared. Panic. We did not want the van to be taken away. Ruth speaks some Spanish and explained as best she could that we needed the van for our holiday to continue. He seemed to understand so we relaxed a little. His first act was to get under the FRONT of the van before hauling himself out looking a bit sheepish. Under the back he went, fiddled about, presumably looking for the starter motor (I wasn’t sure that he found it) and after several minutes he surfaced and with a faint smile and went to his cab. He started to reverse his truck to the van, at which point much flapping of our arms and shouts of ‘no’ took place. He stopped just short of the front, raised the flatbed of the truck and then proceeded to winch our van onto it. By now we were beside ourselves but, with a shrug of the shoulders he clambered up into our van, put it in gear and let the handbrake off. We looked on in horror as it very quickly rolled backwards down the ramp with the tailpipe missing the pebbly ground by no more than half an inch, before he let up the clutch and it started. He had been oblivious of how close to wrecking the engine it had got, but all was well it seemed. Our van was now running but what if it happened again? A brief discussion took place and the gist of it was that a new starter motor was needed. He couldn’t provide one and all he could offer was ‘to was always park on a slope’. Now us seasoned campers know that flat surfaces are best, but for the rest of that holiday we were the only campers looking for sloping pitches. Did we have any repeat performances? Yes we did, but fortunately not too often. Usually it started when cold without any difficultly, but petrol stations were an issue as that would almost always be a stop when the engine was hot and then it didn’t always want to start. Ruth became very good at pushing after several such occasions, much to the amusement of onlookers. We did however complete our intended holiday and once back home had a new starter motor fitted. At this point the van was 34 years old, had done 100k and had the original engine and ancillaries so I thought I’d write to VW UK and ‘complain’ about the poor quality components. This was firmly tongue in cheek and I expected a humorous reply, but to my disappointment the joke wasn’t spotted. We still have the van and have since taken it on several trips through France and Spain.
Post Covid we hope to be able to do it again, but probably not this year
With the UK’s first Covid lockdown lifted in July 2020 and some travel restrictions relaxed, we decided to make the best of the situation and use the time we had booked off for our now cancelled wedding, to travel some parts of the UK in our ‘79 Bay. You can’t get much more socially distanced than travelling and sleeping in your own vehicle. We started our road trip by following the Welsh coast from the Gower Peninsula in the south, to the Isle of Anglesey in the north. The countryside on the Gower is beautiful. Unfortunately we don’t have long to explore as we have some miles to cover before our next stopover and other sights to see on the way but have just enough time to head to the far point of the Peninsula to a spot called Rhossili. Rhossili Bay is famous for an excellent beach and beautiful views over the bay to Llangennith and Worm’s Head. The beach is popular for surfing and the surrounding area with walkers. Rhossili is also famous for sunflower fields that engulf the area during the summer months. After a quick stop to appreciate the view, we head off and make our way to Pembrokeshire. There is some fantastic countryside here and it reminds me very much of Devon and Cornwall. Having done some research, we head to a spot called Martins Haven in the hope of some seal and dolphin spotting, maybe even some Puffins.
We walked Ruby (our Springer Spaniel) down to the seafront, but don’t spot any Seals, or Dolphins, or Puffins! But the trip wasn’t wasted, on our way out of the area we spot farmers digging up Pembrokeshire New Potatoes, also known as Pembrokeshire Earlies, which are famous for their distinctive, delicate and almost nutty flavour. We come across a handwritten sign advertising them for sale at the side of the road. We like to buy food for our travels in this way, it’s a great way to support local business and get an authentic taste of the area you are visiting. We stash the “earlies” with a plan to enjoy them with some fresh, local fish – the search is on! The next day, we decided to have an early-ish start and hit the road, setting off on our route up the west coast of Wales towards Aberystwyth. I had scouted
a few places using Google Maps that I think might be picturesque but quiet and with somewhere to park. One such place was Abercastle; a beautiful bay with fishing boats bobbing on the sea. With a break in the rain, we headed down to the water and did some coastal foraging whilst Ruby had the run of the beach to herself. We didn’t find much to forage, but Ruby found part of a lobster’s head that she paraded proudly for a while! WONDERFUL WALES PART 1 Jumping back in the camper, we continue our scenic route, climbing higher and higher towards cliffs where we can see the weather rolling in from the sea. Our destination is a working lighthouse at Strumble Head. The lighthouse was erected in 1908 and replaced a light-vessel that moored in the nearby Cardigan Bay. The tower is 55ft high and one of the last lighthouses to be built in Britain. When we arrive at the lighthouse there is one other Motorhome there that looks like it spent the night, the rocks under their wheels are a giveaway… I don’t blame them though!! The cliffs here are shear but beautiful. We watch the lighthouse flash for a few moments before continuing off along the coastal road to Fishguard. Fishguard has a lovely little Harbour (presumably the original fishing harbour) in an area called Lower Town and you are able to drive all the way along the harbour edge which is lined with pretty houses and yachts bobbing gently in the water. We park up and make a cuppa, watching the surroundings for a while; there are gulls preening on rocks and a cormorant fishing too. On our way out of Fishguard, heading towards Cardigan, we pass a dairy farm that is selling milk direct to the consumer via vending machine! Another roadside food purchase, perfect!
We decide to take the back roads between Fishguard and Cardigan and end up on roads with grass growing in the middle, the best kind for slow paced Campervan driving, allowing you time to appreciate the views and surroundings. On arrival at Cardigan (and still in search of fresh fish!) we spot a fish restaurant… closed. Ending up at a nearby chippy for lunch, our search for fresh fish continues as we head off from Cardigan to our campsite. The next leg of our journey takes us further North along some beautiful coastline and into Snowdonia. Join us next time with more tales from the driving seat
For this edition of Member’s Motor, we look at Kirsteen’s Bay, called “Mou.” This is what she had to say about it.
June 2015 – Mighty Dubfest, Alnwick, Northumberland… unbeknown to me, my brother (at the Dubfest with his T4 Autosleeper) informed Ron (my other half) that “she would love one of those” – a T2. My parents had owned a succession of 5 bay windows and a T25 in the ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s, so I had grown up with VW Type Twos! My 50th birthday was looming and we started looking, we thought we would have to head down south on holiday to be able to actually view some. However, a chance conversation at the classic car show at our local heritage railway and I heard of a van for sale in Alnwick (5 miles from home). It was RHD with a pop top – my two must haves – only possible issue – it had a Subaru Impreza engine! My eldest son (petrol head) was concerned that as I always hear a water cooled engine approaching, I might be disappointed with the van. I decided that as my daily drivers for 20+ years have been Subaru Impreza turbos, that wouldn’t be an issue (can’t imagine where my son gets the petrol head from!!) So three weeks later Mou arrived, bought from the mechanic who had put the Subaru engine in. She needed lots of TLC inside, her Devon furniture had seen better days, but we cleaned and scrubbed her up and used her as she was for Summer 2015 whilst we decided what we would like to do with the interior. Externally she was painted ‘Landrover blue’ – the previous mechanic owner had done a lot of bodywork repairs which he then painted with what he had in his workshop.
In October 2016 we stripped out everything – furniture, panels, floor, roof bellows, passenger seat etc and I had a very noisy drive south of the Tyne to get her re-sprayed back to original – Orient Blue and Pastel White. We then replaced the roof bellows, the metal rods needed to be taken out of the old bellows and slotted into the new ones, I did this on the living room floor (the only place in the house big enough) during my Christmas holiday 2016. I had to cut the new bellows to put the metal rods in – I measured many, many times before making the first cut!! I laid the floor tiles whilst Ron was recovering from a knee replacement (that meant I could escape to the garage!) Stephen, my eldest son, as well as being a petrol head, also likes turning his hand to anything, he made the cupboards and table (not bad for a scientist!). The cab seats, bed cushions, panels and headliner were all completed by a local upholsterer and we fitted them in.
I have taken Mou to a number of local classic car shows, in various states of completion, people are always interested in what you have done. We have enjoyed many holidays and weekends away – The North Coast 500, the Welsh coast, annual visits to the Lake District, to name a few. Hopefully we will get to Skye in 2021 (postponed from 2020). We have been to the Mighty Dubfest, Beach Gathering, Volksfling and Volkspower festivals regularly as they are relatively local. Tagged on the end of a holiday to East Anglia we went to Viva Skeg Vegas in 2017. On the end of our holiday around the Welsh coast we went to Volksfest Wales in 2019 where Mou won ‘Best Bay’. After 17 years of living together, Ron and I got married on 27th August, we were already booked to go to the Budle Bay Beach Gathering on 28th August for the bank holiday weekend so that became our ‘campermoon’ obviously!
Whilst looking through photos on Northumberland Transporters Facebook page I spotted a van for sale that had belonged to my parents in the ’70s – it wasn’t the original colour anymore but I recognised the number plate, so not content with owning one T2, February 2020 I bought a second; but that’s a story for another time….
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
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…
CAVEAT: brakes are obviously safety-critical components, so only attempt this job if you are confident that you can do so safely! This is a personal account of a process and not an exhaustive set of instructions; the author cannot be held liable for any injury arising from accidents caused by a failure to carry out safety-relevant tasks properly.
Some while ago, in that pre-Covid world in which we could drive places (remember that?), I started to become aware of a tell-tale grinding noise coming from Mortimer’s nearside front wheel. There still seemed to be adequate braking power, nor was the van pulling particularly in either direction when I applied the brakes, so I wasn’t unduly concerned. But I thought I’d take advantage of the lockdown to jack him up, whip off the wheels and take a look at the callipers and brake discs.
The old caliper
You can imagine my horror when I saw that, in the first assembly I looked at on the nearside, the calliper pistons were frozen in such a way that the brake pads must have been forced up against the disc surface. The pistons normally only protrude slightly from the inner surfaces of the calliper, allowing enough space to snugly fit the two pads with a tiny bit of clearance. But as you can see on the picture, the dirt seals – concertina boots that should move in and out with the piston and protect it from contamination – had long since perished and the pistons had accordingly seized up in extended position. On closer inspection, it also became apparent that there was zero friction material left on either pad(!) – what I was hearing was metal on metal. Whatever braking performance there may once have been was obviously a thing of the distant past! The disc surface was as scored and uneven as you would expect under those circumstances, and the disc was obviously beyond redemption. Things were a little better on the other side, with some wear left on the pads – although the fact that van wasn’t pulling to the right suggests that that brake wasn’t functional either. I toyed with the idea of trying a rebuild but, when it became evident that there was no way I was going to get the bleed valves free, I thought I might as well save myself a lot of bother by buying new callipers for both wheels along with two new discs.
The worn brake pad
The first job, of course, was to get the old callipers off so I could remove the discs. This was relatively straightforward. I first had to undo the two 17mm retaining bolts on the inside of the assembly. I then used a pin punch to knock out the two pins that hold the retaining spring in place before tugging out the old pads. It was then a question of pulling out the clip that holds the hose in place and removing the whole assembly from the disc, being careful not to place undue strain on the metal brake pipe that attaches to the calliper. I also needed to bear in mind that the topmost bolt has an unthreaded section on the shank closest to the screw head. The nuts were pretty tight, however, and I needed a torque wrench to get them off. According to the BUSARU guy, the torque is about 110 lbs.
The top bolt
The tricky part in getting the discs off was removing the two button head Allen bolts. Stopping the drum from rotating was an issue until I had the brainwave of clamping the disc to the backing plate. I managed to free up one bolt on each side by conventional means but soon found myself in danger (of course!) of irredeemably rounding off the holes in the other two in my desperate attempts to get them to budge. I even resorted to cutting a groove into one of them (and the surrounding metal) with a grinder to create a slot for a screwdriver. But nothing could persuade it to move! A quick appeal to the Samba revealed a range of opinions on the subject, from just drilling the heads off (the logic being that the thing was securely held in place by the wheel anyway and wasn’t going to go anywhere) to using an impact driver. I like to do things properly if I possibly can, so it was off to eBay to get myself an impact driver (can’t believe I’ve never owned one!). And, hey presto, a couple of whacks on each side got the troublesome little critters out. I took a quick look at the condition of the bearings, which seemed fine and well-greased, so I left them alone. I then fitted the shiny new discs to both sides.
The shiny new disc
The next job was to disconnect the old callipers from the brake lines. Now, as the brakes are safety-critical parts, I’d always shied away from doing anything that would involve having to refill and bleed the fluid. But, having watched a number of YouTube videos on the subject, I concluded that I had nothing to fear but fear itself and went ahead. It would have been a good idea to apply some WD40 to the nuts first, though: on one side, the pipe started to twist with the nut (which should normally spin freely around it), which promptly sheared off. So it was back to Just Kampers for a new 24-cm brake pipe (I swear I’m keeping that company afloat single-handed at the moment!).
Offering the caliper to the disk
With the old units out of the way, it was just a matter of fixing the new ones in place, torqueing up the bolts, and sliding in the new brake pads and backing plates, having first applied some anti-squeal gunk to both sides of the plates. Once they were both in, it was the turn of the retaining spring and the two pins (here I reused the old ones because the new pins supplied with the kits resisted my efforts to tap them into the holes). I used a pin punch and hammer to tap them home.
The new caliper in place
Then it was just a question of bleeding the brakes, replacing the wheels and venturing out for a short road test (keeping an eye out for the police – strange times!). Job done!
Virtual Coffee Morning brings people together by Events Manager Lorna Williamson
In these strange times, it’s easy to feel lonely. Even the passion you feel for your VW Campervan is not always enough on its own, let alone the frustration of knowing that the open road is still out there, waiting…
Enter stage right the VW Type 2 Owners Club. This British Club decided to create a feeling of togetherness when people can’t actually get together, with a simple event built around the joy that only a VW Campervan can bring.
Using the Club’s Facebook and Instagram pages plus good old email, the VWT2OC encouraged its members to take their Sunday morning coffee out to their van, and get a picture.
“Nick and I had been joking for weeks about camping out on the driveway,” said Events organiser Lorna, “…we always sleep better in Poppy! Combined with input from a member who wanted to feel connected, and the fact that you can never have too many photos of vans, we came up with the virtual coffee format. We’ll be trying something similar on VE Day!”
Not everyone had access to their van – some being in storage, in the workshop, at home while people were away caring for relatives, or simply not available on the oil rig where the member was based! But people valiantly entered the spirit of the thing, with well over 100 photos shared, and these are some of the results…