There were no questions for The Mechanic this issue, but with the weather tuning cold and some members continuing to use their campervan through the seasons, that means heating. There are gas heaters on the market and these are becoming more affordable. Gas is also used for cooking in many campervans, so it’s time to talk gas safety!
Types of Gas Let’s start by looking at the different types of gas available in the UK and beyond. All European countries have their own gas bottle suppliers and each of these have their own regulators and adaptors. Campingaz is available all through Europe in small bottles which is great for quick trips or for solo travellers. We (Editors) use campingaz 907 bottles as they’re fairly readily available in the UK and abroad and they fit nicely in the cupboard under our storage trunk! LPG (or Liquid Petroleum Gas) is the most common kind used in campervans and motor homes and it comes in two types; Propane and Butane. Without going into the differences between them in chemical structure, here are the main differences: Propane Usually used in vehicles where multiple appliances will be running off it. Ideal for cold climates as it operates down to -40°C! It’s much lighter and less dense than Butane. Butane Operates more efficiently than Propane. It’s denser than propane, so a bottle of the same size will hold more gas. Butane can’t be used at temperatures below 0°C (It cools down to a liquid state). Different appliances may need one or the other of the main LPGs to operate effectively, so it’s always worth checking that before you buy. Gas Safety Rules The standard that applies to campervans is BS EN 1949: 2001 + A1:2013. If you ever want more information, it is worth looking that up. There isn’t the same level of regulations for fitting gas and gas appliances to motor homes and campervans as there is to houses, but would still recommend that anyone installing an appliance is registered. If you’re installing gas appliances into your campervan, the British Standard isn’t mandatory, unless you’re going to be hiring that vehicle out. If you are going to be hiring, ensuring that everything is compliant with the law is down to you, just as it would be if you owned a house or flat that you were renting out. You’re allowed to undertake work yourself if you’re not a registered gas engineer, as long as you’re competent. (The definition of competence is vague, but you’ve got to ask yourself whether you’d be happy to undertake the work and have the responsibility on your shoulders). There’s a lot that could potentially go wrong, and the stakes are certainly high, so it may well be worth getting a registered engineer to fit it. Registered gas engineers can charge anywhere between £30 and £100 an hour, but it’s worth looking around in your area if and when you need one.
Top Tips for Gas Safety Ensure the gas is turned off before you travel. If you’re using your vehicle for work purposes and carrying compressed gas, you must show a sticker to alert people. If you’re not using your vehicle for work, but still carry compressed gas, it is advised to have a warning sticker displayed whilst carrying the gas. Unless your campervan or motor home has a rotating rooftop device, you’re limited to carrying two 10 litre bottles of gas in the UK. All flammable gasses must be carried upright at all times. Make sure you’ve got a Carbon Monoxide alarm. They might not be stylish, but they’re potentially lifesaving. Note that LPG gasses are heavier than air, so will form a ‘puddle’ on the ground in the event of a leak. Floor vents must be kept clear. If parked up in snow/mud/etc then ensure that the vents aren’t blocked. Changing the bottle is the most dangerous time, always make sure that you know how to remove and fit the regulator and keep well away from naked flames when changing the bottle. Don’t use a naked flame to look for a leak (sounds obvious!) and check for pipe leaks by using water and washing up liquid solution, bubbles will appear at a leak. Make sure you have a fire blanket and/or fire extinguisher, as well as a fire alarm. If you’ve got an older VW it is recommended to carry an extinguisher any way, in case of a dreaded engine fire. Can you really have too many extinguishers in an old VW? The rules and tips for gas safety aren’t complicated and if you keep to them, the use of gas in your campervan is perfectly safe and an excellent resource.
This issue, The Mechanic takes a look at an often overlooked but important issue, windscreen wiper condition.
Windscreen wipers are an invaluable part of any vehicle, providing the driver with a clear, unobstructed view of the road when it is needed most. Whether it is rain, sleet, snow or leaves covering your windscreen, the wiper blades will quickly and efficiently clear the obstruction, meaning you can continue your journey in safety. However, of all the parts of a car which are subject to wear and tear, windscreen wipers are perhaps the most fragile. Manufactured from thin rubber, they are designed to operate smoothly on the windscreen without damaging the surface of the glass, yet despite their fragility they are often required on a daily basis, possibly for long periods of time during wet weather. In winter they become frozen to the glass and in summer they are used to help to clean the windscreen, while being subjected to high temperatures. It is hardly surprising then, that windscreen wipers do not last indefinitely and require regular replacement. Often the need to replace wipers is overlooked, although regular servicing and MOT testing should identify if they are becoming worn. However, rather than relying on these tests to assess the condition of the blades, car owners should be aware of the common signs that the windscreen wipers are failing, especially with autumn upon us. So what are they? Streaking: blades that are in good condition should clear the rainwater from the windscreen effortlessly, in one complete action. This means there should be no streaks of water where the blade has failed to make contact with the glass. Unusual noises: windscreen wipers should operate with minimal noise or ideally should be silent. Sounds such as squeaks, screeches or scrapes could indicate that the blades have become worn. Irregular movement: wiper blades which are in good condition will move smoothly across the windscreen. As they become worn over time, you may notice that the blades judder on operation which is an indication that replacement may be necessary. Ragged or distorted blades: visually inspecting the condition of the windscreen wipers should be a weekly task for all vehicle owners. By lifting the arms of the wipers away from the windscreen, you can quickly assess the condition of the rubber. Ragged, jagged or distorted edges, where the blade makes contact with the glass, should prompt you to replace them immediately. Worn blades may not only hinder your vision, but can also damage your windscreen, which will in turn not only cost you dearly in a replacement screen, but also hinder your vision even more, making it dangerous to drive with the vehicle in such a condition. Replacement blades can be picked up very cheaply for all types of van, so there is no excuse not to check yours and change if required, but remember… “Buy Nice or Buy Twice”.
The Mechanic features some technical talk every issue and welcomes member submissions. This issue, The Mechanic takes a look at a very common problem for the T4 Transporter and how to fix or prevent it from occurring.
A common problem that T4’s and their owners’ suffer from is the clutch pedal mounting bracket cracking. This in turn then causes the clutch master cylinder to become loose and move. This may not be a huge problem in the beginning, but it will eventually break away completely, leaving you without a working clutch in your T4 van. As well as the damaged pedal, it can also damage the master cylinder beyond repair and/or crack the pipe work, covering your foot well and footwear in corrosive brake/clutch fluid.
There is a quick and affordable repair/prevention method by fitting an additional angled bracket that strengthens the existing pedal bracket. The kits are readily available online and can be found with a quick search. The kits contain an angled bracket, three M8 bolts (one longer than the other two), an M8 nyloc nut and four washers (one larger than the other three). Fitting Guide 1 Start off under the bonnet and locate your brake servo unit. It is the big round unit below the brake master cylinder and brake fluid reservoir. 2 Remove the M8 bolt (13mm head) from the lower right side of your brake servo and replace it with the longest of the three M8 bolts supplied in the kit, along with the largest M8 washer. 3 Now move inside the car and into the driver’s foot well. Locate your clutch master cylinder, located between the clutch and brake pedals and remove the two M8 mounting bolts (13mm heads). 4 Place the new clutch pedal support bracket into position, ensuring that it goes over the protruding bulkhead bolt you first fitted. Now loosely fit the bracket to the clutch master cylinder using the two remaining M8 bolts and small M8 washers supplied in the kit with your support bracket. 5 Now fit the other small M8 washer and M8 nyloc nut to the longer bulkhead bolt you fitted earlier and tighten. 6 Now tighten the two clutch master cylinder bolts you fitted loosely earlier. 7 Job complete. Enjoy a strong clutch pedal and relax knowing that this failure has been repaired or prevented
If you have an air-cooled van and experience the dreaded “click” when trying to start your van, it could be that the original wiring and ignition switch now has a higher resistance than it did back in the 70’s and cannot cope with the current required to turn the engine over using the starter motor. One way to counteract this is to fit a relay that takes the current load and the ignition switch activates the relay. A relay sourced for this application can be purchased from Just Kampers; JK part number J12928. Parts required Suitable cable for wiring the relay – suggest Halfords 12v 17A cable sold in 4m reels Several crimp connectors The relay itself – JK part number J12928 Method It is advisable to always disconnect the vehicle’s battery before carrying out any work on the electrical system.
Mount the relay in a safe place as close to the starter motor as possible.
Take the existing wire from terminal 50 on the solenoid and extend it to reach the relay position.
Connect this extension from terminal 50 on the solenoid to terminal 86 on the relay.
Now connect terminal 85 on the relay to a good earth on the vehicle body/chassis.
Connect terminal 87 of the relay to the live terminal of the vehicle’s battery.
Now connect terminal 30 on the relay back to terminal 50 on the starter solenoid.
Whilst every attempt is made to ensure that these instructions are as accurate and clear as possible, the author or club itself cannot be held responsible for misinterpretation of these instructions or for any subsequent accident or damage caused through mis-fitted parts.
The summer is here and that hopefully means that we are experiencing warmer air temperatures. With warmer air temperatures, comes warmer engines. Those using aircooled engines will find it even harder to keep the engine cool during the summer months and we have all seen the odd VW at the side of the motorway! Don’t let that be you (not through overheating anyway!)
Although it may seem like a small detail, to ensure cooler engine temperatures, it is absolutely vital that the tinware and engine compartment rubber seals are all present and intact. This ensures that there is cool air above the engine and hot air below it. These are known as the cool and warm zones. If tinware parts are missing, or the seals around the front and back of the engine are torn or broken, hot air will be drawn from the cylinder heads and exhaust back into the cool zone around the top of the engine and then sucked in by the cooling fan and re-circulated over the cylinders and heads, causing the engine temperature to rise, potentially to a critical level. This can cause all kinds of problems over time, some of which may not be immediately obvious, from hot starting troubles, to cracked cylinder heads, up to and including a seized engine. If you’ve just bought a car/bus, it is well worth checking the condition of the tinware and seals and also making sure that there are no foreign bodies stuck in the cooling fan (remember to do this with the engine turned off!) If you are fitting a reconditioned or new engine, don’t just rely on refitting the parts that were on the old engine, as they may not be correct either. The thermostat is another vital piece in the cooling system. There is a set of flaps inside the fan shroud, that actually block cooling air when the engine is cold, in order to warm up the engine more quickly. These are opened by the thermostat, located between the cylinder barrels and if this part is defective your engine will very quickly overheat. Check the function of the thermostat and flaps and if required, replace. The alternative is to completely remove the thermostat and flaps, which while it certainly simplifies matters, is not ideal. It means that your engine may never reach the correct operating temperature in cold weather conditions. The last few points to consider are your ignition timing, air leaks and fuelling. Poor ignition timing can cause your engine to run too hot, it’s unlikely to be visible if it’s wrong but you should hear it. Fuel mixture is equally important, so ensure the carburettor jetting is correct for the size of the engine, fuel starvation will raise the engine temperature internally. Your fuel system could be setup perfectly, but if your engine is sucking air in elsewhere through a split hose or a broken gasket, then the whole fuel/air mixture is compromised and the chances of running lean and therefore hot, are increased too. Spraying the intake system with Wd40 whilst running will help to detect this, an air leak will suck the spray in, using it as fuel and changing the engine note at the same time. I hope there are some helpful tips for members to help stay cool this summer.
Spring has sprung and those classics will be starting to come out of hibernation. After months in the garage with the occasional start up to keep it ticking over, your engine can suffer. I have personally experienced this after months of an engine sitting during restoration work and being moved from one side of a workshop to another. Once the work was complete, trying to drive away from the workshop, my T2 Bay Campervan wouldn’t accelerate down the road. Reason – fouled spark plugs.
I have also had a spark plug with a closed gap (don’t even ask how that happened, but it involved losing part of the carburettor through the engine… lucky it didn’t do any other damage!) The condition of your spark plugs can make a massive difference to the running of your engine, so it’s worth checking them every so often, especially after a period of time unused. Hopefully the following information will help to make you a spark plug expert. Before starting work on checking your plugs, it is helpful to have the right tools to hand; accessing the rear two spark plugs at cylinders 1 and 3 can be a real fiddle, especially on later twin-port engines where access is further compromised by the inlet manifolds. A short 21mm socket and universal joint may give you a bit more flexibility. When checking the plugs, it can help to remove each lead and plug individually so that you don’t get them mixed up. This will cause an incorrect firing order and your engine will not run. When removing the ignition lead from the plug, be sure to pull it off by the connector, not the lead itself, as you’ll run the risk of pulling the lead off the connector (trust me!) If you notice any damage to a connector or if a lead is a lose fit, it is best to go out and buy a new HT lead set. Make sure you have the socket on the plug properly when you’re undoing them and it’s also best to do all this while the engine is cold to avoid burning yourself! Once the plug is out, take a good look. Is it brown, grey, sooty or oily? If the engine is running right, it should be light brown or grey. If it is sooty but dry, your engine is running rich and not burning all the fuel. If the insulator is white and flaky then your engine is running too lean. Either way, you’ll need to tune your carb to adjust the fuel/air mixture. If the plug is wet and oily, there are a couple of possibilities. The first is that you’re not getting a spark, in which case you may have noticed a misfire. If this is the case, check the HT lead connection at the plug and also where it pushes into the top of the distributor cap. A worse scenario is that your engine has worn piston rings and/or valve guides, which means a rebuild is on the cards. If there is serious carbon build up on the plug, or what looks like molten bits of metal, chances are your ignition timing is out. Whatever their condition, while the plugs are out of the engine they will benefit from a good clean up using a brass wire brush. While you are at it, check the spark plug gaps using a feeler gauge. For most air cooled engines the gap should be 0.024” or 0.6mm, however check your workshop manual because the gap will be different on some engines. If the gap is correct, the gauge should slip in and out without much resistance. If it is too loose, you can adjust it with a gentle squeeze in a vice to close it slightly, or if the gap is too tight, carefully prise open the contact with a flat bladed screwdriver. Spark plugs should be checked every 3000 miles and replaced every 10,000 miles as part of your service routine. If you suspect a poor running engine there is no harm fitting new ones sooner, they are relatively cheap for a set. When refitting, always start screwing the plug back in by hand, only using the socket for the final tightening, otherwise you risk forcing a cross thread. If you feel any resistance early on, unscrew and carefully try again
The mechanic has noticed a recent uplift in questions and concerns surrounding the upcoming introduction of E10 fuels. The following is information provided by the Federation of British Historic Vehicles Clubs that we hope members will find useful. Federation of British Historic Vehicles Clubs – Introduction of E10 petrol After an extensive consultation process, the Department for Transport has announced that they will legislate to introduce E10 petrol as the standard 95-octane petrol grade by 1 September 2021. They will also require the higher-octane 97+ ‘Super’ grades to remain E5 to provide protection for owners of older vehicles. This product will be designated as the ‘Protection’ grade. The introduction of the 95-octane E10 grade and the maintenance of the Super E5 protection grade will be reviewed by the Government after 5 years to ensure they remain appropriate to the needs of the market: In relation to the E5 protection grade, such a review will examine market developments over the period. HM Government have sought to reassure FBHVC members and historic vehicle owners that, without a suitable alternative becoming available, it is highly likely the Super E5 protection grade would continue to be available. Filling stations that stock 2 grades of petrol and supply at least one million litres of fuel in total each year will need to ensure one product is the Super E5 protection grade. While not all filling stations meet these criteria, almost all towns across the UK will have a filling station that supplies the ‘Super’ grade and currently one major retailer, a national supermarket group, has committed to offer the product. The main exception to this is in certain parts of the Highlands, north and west coast of Scotland, which will be covered by an exemption process and allowed to continue to market the 95-octane E5 grade. The Federation therefore recommends that all vehicles produced before 2000 and some vehicles from the early 2000s that are considered noncompatible with E10 – should use the Super E5 Protection grade where the Ethanol content is limited to a maximum of 5%. To check compatibility of vehicles produced since 2000, we recommend using the new online E10 compatibility checker: https:// www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-e10-petrol . It should be noted that some Super E5 Protection grade products do not contain Ethanol as the E5 designation is for fuels containing up to 5% Ethanol. Similarly E10 petrol can contain between 5.5% and 10% ethanol by volume. Product availability varies by manufacturer and geographical location and enthusiasts should check the situation in their location. Latest News: The federation’s fuels specialist Nigel Elliott has received some new questions with regards to ethanol and the use of E10 in historic vehicles and his thoughts are as follows: There are three key areas of concern with Ethanol compatibility with historic and classic vehicle fuel systems: Corrosion of metal components Elastomer compatibility – swelling, shrinking and cracking of elastomers (seals and flexible pipes) and other unsuitable gasket materials Air/fuel ratio enleanment Corrosion of metal component Ethanol has increased acidity, conductivity and inorganic chloride content when compared to conventional petrol which can cause corrosion and tarnishing of metal components under certain conditions. These characteristics are controlled in the ethanol used to blend E5 and E10 European and UK petrol by the ethanol fuel specification BS EN15376 in order to help limit corrosion. Corrosion inhibitor additives can be very effective in controlling ethanol derived corrosion and are recommended to be added to ethanol in the BS EN15376 standard. It is not clear if corrosion inhibitors are universally added to ethanol for E5 and E10 blending so as an additional precaution it is recommended that aftermarket corrosion inhibitor additives are added to E5 and E10 petrol. These aftermarket ethanol corrosion inhibitor additives often called ethanol compatibility additives are usually combined with a metallic valve recession additive (VSR) and sometimes an octane booster and have been found to provide good protection against metal corrosion in historic and classic vehicle fuel systems. Elastomer compatibility As the ethanol molecule is smaller and more polar than conventional petrol components, there is a lower energy barrier for ethanol to diffuse into elastomer materials. When exposed to petrol/ethanol blends these materials will swell and soften, resulting in a weakening of the elastomer structure. On drying out they can shrink and crack resulting in fuel leaks. Some aftermarket ethanol compatibility additives claim complete protection for operating historic and classic vehicles on E10 petrol. The FBHVC is not aware of, or has tested any additives that claim complete fuel system protection with respect to elastomer and gasket materials for use with E10 petrol. The FBHVC therefore recommends that elastomer and gasket materials are replaced with ethanol compatible materials before operation on E10 petrol. Air/fuel ratio enleanment Ethanol contains approximately 35% oxygen by weight and will therefore result in fuel mixture enleanment when blended into petrol. Petrol containing 10% ethanol for example, would result in a mixture-leaning effect equivalent to approximately 2.6%, which may be felt as a power loss, driveability issues (hesitations, flat spots, stalling), but also could contribute to slightly hotter running. Adjusting mixture strength (enrichment) to counter this problem is advised to maintain performance, driveability and protect the engine from overheating and knock at high loads. Modern 3-way catalyst equipped vehicles do not require mixture adjustment to operate on E10 petrol because they are equipped with oxygen (lambda) sensors that detect lean operation and the engine management system automatically corrects the fuel mixture for optimum catalyst and vehicle operation. Operating classic and historic vehicles on E10 petrol If you should decide to make the necessary vehicle fuel system modifications together with the addition of an aftermarket additive to operate your classic or historic vehicle on E10 petrol. The FBHVC strongly recommends that you regularly check the condition of the vehicle fuel system for elastomer and gasket material deterioration and metallic components such as fuel tanks, fuel lines and carburettors for corrosion. Some plastic components such as carburettor floats and fuel filter housings may be become discoloured over time. Plastic carburettor float buoyancy can also be affected by ethanol and carburettors should be checked to ensure that float levels are not adversely affected causing flooding and fuel leaks. Ethanol is a good solvent and can remove historic fuel system deposits from fuel tanks and lines and it is advisable to check fuel filters regularly after the switch to E10 petrol as they may become blocked or restricted. If your vehicle is to be laid up for an extended period of time, it is recommended that the E10 petrol be replaced with ethanol free petrol which is available from some fuel suppliers. Do not leave fuel systems dry, as this can result corrosion and the shrinking and cracking of elastomers and gaskets as they dry out
Many people will be away and wish they had something with them – here is a list from club member Ian Crawford on spares he packs in his 1971 Bay window that he bought at 1 year old in 1972. I am not sure about corks – leftover wine is not something I really understand!
Parts • Accelerator Cable • Aluminium Tube (To Fit Inside Fuel Hose If Leaking) • Battery Earth Strap • Brake and Clutch Fluid • Brake Pedal Return Spring • Spare Bulbs • Cable Ties (Various Lengths) • Carburettor Return Spring • Clutch Cable • Coil • Condenser For Distributor (Make Sure You Have The Correct “Bung”!) • CV Axle Boot Cap and Grease • Distilled Water • Distributor Cap and Rotor Arm x2 • Distributor Contact Points • Dynamo Brushes • Engine Oil (5 litres) • Fan Belt x2 • Fuel Hose and Clips • Various Fuses • Handbrake Cable • Rocker Cover Gaskets x2 • Spark Plug Set • Starting Relay and Fuse • Tyre Valve Cores • Voltage Regulator • Walking Boot Laces
Tools • Allen Keys • Battery Diagnostic Tester • Feeler Gauges • Hacksaw Blades • Insulation Tape • Magnetic Dish Holder • Magnifying Glass (My Eyes Are Dimming!) • Multi Meter and Spare Battery • Plastic Wire Cutters • Pill Pot Containing Matches, Lighter, Flints, Water Purification Tablets, Sweeteners, Sewing Kit, Safety Pins and Buttons. • Shorting Links • Stanley Knife • Tyre Pressure Gauge • Vaseline • Wine Corks • Other Various Tools Ian has provided a pretty extensive list here, very cautious! We would also recommend a timing gun if space allows, a foot pump, warning triangle, decent jack, various sockets and spanners and maybe even a fuel pump! (We even carried a spare carburettor once!) Thanks to Ian for his submission, hopefully this will help members when putting a kit together.
For this instalment of The mechanic, we welcome a submission from the club’s chairman; Malcolm Marchbank. SR PWM MPPT – A question of control
If you have or thinking of getting a PV (photo voltaic) solar panel, then these terms may concern you. There have been several articles about the use of solar panels to provide power in vans when there is no hook up available. The panel(s) will almost certainly be used to charge a battery for use when there is insufficient power available from the sun. The maximum power available from any panel is in a very clear set of circumstances, the sun needs to have an energy at the panel of 1000 watts per square meter, the sun’s rays must strike the panel perpendicularly, the air temperature should be 23 deg C. So, if you set up your panel at noon on a cloud free midsummer’s day carefully angled so the sun strikes it at 90 deg and there is a gentle breeze, a 100w rated panel will give 100w of electrical power. In any other circumstances the power will be substantially less. So, in reality it is better to estimate the average power to be 30 to 60w from a 100w panel. The next thing is how to make the most of the power we do get. If you examine the “rating plate” fitted to almost all solar panels you will see some numbers. Ok you see 100w max power but look at the “ipmax” this is the current at maximum power, ”vpmax” this is the voltage at maximum power. A typical example of a 100w panel ip max =5.55a vp max =18v 185.55 =100w. So we need a control unit to regulate the power sent to the leisure battery. Small panels less than about 30cm square sold as “trickle chargers” to maintain a battery while laying on the dashboard have so little power they are self regulating (SR) as the current is so small as never to damage the vehicle battery. Those for phone or device charging rely on the internal battery controller in the device to regulate the power and prevent overcharging of the internal battery. This leaves the choice of the two types of actual control unit PWM (pulse width modulation) or MPPT (maximum power point tracking). At first the generally available controllers were all PWM and cost from £8 up to around £35. These work by monitoring the battery voltage and sending pulses of power to provide an average voltage to the battery. Initially when the battery is low, the power pulses are very wide, but as the battery voltage rises then the pulse width is reduced. It is important then for the controller to “know” when the battery is at full charge so the pulses can be reduced. Different (lead acid) batteries fall into at least 3 types; Flooded, AGM and GEL. Each has a different charging requirement. So, any controller needs to be set to the correct type. Cheaper controllers may have no settings at all or be described as “automatic detection” and are probably best avoided! When you look at the typical full power voltage and current from a solar panel you will notice the voltage is too high as the maximum needed for the battery is 14v so the best this controller can do is to give 145.5=77w. The rest of the power is wasted due to the effective internal panel resistance.
So around 25% of the power we do get is just wasted, to overcome this a MPPT controller can be used. This is often a combination of PWM control (for trickle charging when full power is not needed) and an inverter which is controlled by a microprocessor. This changes the 18v 5.55a into 14v 7a, this is an example as the controller constantly measures both panel output (change in sun intensity) and battery condition (low, charging, full) and adjusts the inverter to maximise the power to the battery. This results in an efficiency of better than 95%. SOLAR PANEL CHARGE CONTROLLERS Transporter Talk Issue 169 | 23 I have tested this and can confirm that just changing the controller increased the current from 5a to 7a . If as I have, you have more than one solar panel (I use 3) and they are all slightly different outputs, the MPPT sorts out the balance even when one is in shade and 2 are in sun. The MPPT controller is as you would expect, more complex and expensive up to around £70. This may mean that some suppliers may claim to be MPPT when they are not. I was fooled by this but claimed back from the seller as the description was clearly false. I have some photographs of the various types; PWM 10 amp, fake MPPT (plenty of usb points on it!) and a real MPPT 10 amp unit. So check that you get the correct item! I have 2 panels on the roof of my Westy and when raised the angle is quite close to optimum. I also have one on the front luggage rack so I can get power even as the sun passes over. I have this arrangement to support not only lights and water pump, but the compressor fridge that is of course run 24/7. I would
not want to run out of ice for our G&T’s after all! Malcolm
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