Our time back on “The Island” 18th June – 19th August 2017

After a couple of days of catching up with all the families we had a week before the wedding, we began with a deep clean of the van, emptying all the storage spaces and wiping them out along with all the surfaces, the fridge and the hobs and grill. The floors were swept and wiped, the carpets in the cab were even treated to the hoover! It was sparkling and all sorted in a day!

After an 8000 mile trip the van was desperate for an oil change service, we usually change the oil every 5000 miles, 8000 is hardly neglect, the oil was only 4 months  old after all!

However, it needed doing so a trip to GSF for the filters, spark plugs and a replacement window winder handle, followed by a drive down to the unit for a can of oil (we bulk buy the oil as we have a supplier who’s very fairly priced but they are a bit of a drive from us!) meant we had all we needed, the next day father and I cracked on with it, in fairness the oil was pretty clean! The spark plugs and air filter however were very grotty, one plug looked like it had been at the bottom of the ocean, possibly something to do with the occasional misfires we’d been hearing! Why I hadn’t changed the plugs before setting off 4 months ago I’ll never know!

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With a quick wash of the outside the old bus was looking presentable once more and ready for the wedding!

We had a great time at Beau and Beth’s wedding, they should be very proud of themselves, it really was a lovely day! And yes, the van was our accommodation for the night!

Now the plan had been to get back in time for the wedding, sort a few things out with the van and get back off “The Island” (I keep using this expression ever since I heard a German guy refer to the UK as it in Northern Italy!) However, word had got round that I was back, one thing led to another, or should I say one job led to another and we found ourselves at the beginning of August, with a list of uncompleted jobs to do to the van! I’m not complaining, I enjoy my work! And the wage is handy; Zo also got to get involved in a couple of weddings too, but nonetheless time had got ahead of us and it would now be a race against time to sort the van out and get up into Scandinavia before the weather changed for the worst!

First thing on the agenda was sorting a little bit of paintwork out, nothing heavy, just a touch up! I’m no Paintsprayer but Charlie Brown is no show winner! No runs in the paint, happy days!

 

Also fitted a new set of bolts and bits to the 2 front grills as what a previous owner had cobbled together just wasn’t cutting it!

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Second on the list was a couple of bushes, whilst spending longer than I really wanted to under the van when we broke down in Italy, I had noticed that a couple of bushes could really do with replacing, most importantly the main gearbox mounting bush that had perished to almost nonexistentence! Whilst there, the gear linkage bush nearby was replaced as well (both supplied by Brickwerks) this work was carried out by the mechanic who works on our daily vehicles, for what he charged compared to how long it would’ve taken me with no ramps, it was a no brainer! And what a difference it made! I now wonder in hindsight whether this may have contributed to the problems we had had in Italy…

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With another thing ticked off on the list, gear changes now even more positive, we took a drive down to the tyre shop, we’d replaced the front pair before we left back in February leaving the rears as they had a bit more life in them! However they had now seen better days and after reading about the minimum 3mm tread depth laws in Scandinavia it was definitely time for a fresh pair! KMC Tyres on Sweetbriar Industrial Estate in Norwich sorted us out, as always, never beaten their prices and a great bunch of guys too! I will always recommend them!

With all that done, there was just one more job to do on the list, The Big One! The dashboard out, Heater blower motor replacement. Really wasn’t looking forward to this one but as daunting as it first seemed it wasn’t all that bad! However I couldn’t have done it without Zo’s dad, an electrical engineer by trade, which also helped!

For those who don’t know about this task I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

When I made our parts order from Brickwerks I asked them if there was anything else worth doing whilst we were here, they were very helpful and suggested that it may be worth upgrading the resistor (definitely worth doing as ours had started to melt a hole in the air box!) we decided to do what others had done and reposition it outside of the air box and onto the bulkhead/metal work.

Along with this little upgrade, they suggested adding an air box foam replacement kit to the order, lucky we did as the original foam had disintegrated! It made a massive difference as well! So much more air now comes through the vents rather than being lost in the dash!

Whilst the dash was out we also remembered to remove and replace the cigarette lighter port which had been disconnected but not replaced at some point before we bought the van! We’d rigged up one before we left for Spain in February so that we could charge phones etc however this was much tidier!

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In fairness to that little old motor it had done well the “Made in West Germany” stamp leads me to believe it was probably the original from 1984! Hopefully we haven’t got to replace it for another 34 years! Although we will undoubtedly have to remove the dashboard before then for one thing or another…

The next day I had some time to kill and decided to try and sort out another little issue that had been niggling us for the past 4 months! Removing and cleaning out the windscreen washer bottle, a previous owner had obviously heard about the old method for cleaning windows was to use vinegar and newspaper, the bit they obviously hadn’t heard was to use white vinegar opposed to malt… yep, that’s right, some fool had at some point topped the washer bottle up with malt vinegar, so when the washer bottle level got low, a yellow/brown liquid covered the front of the van, wasn’t a massive job, I had to neatly cut the pipe where it attached to the pump as due to age it had gone hard and there was no chance of pulling it off, when removed and emptied, I found that a sludge had coated the inside, that was quickly removed by just rinsing a few times however a crust had formed on the plastic which posed a bit more of a problem! After a quick ask on the Facebook club, someone kindly tipped me on how to remove the pump from the bottle without busting it! (Submerge in warm water for a few minutes) after many attempts using various methods the worst of the crust was gone, I reinstalled the bottle without much issue, replacing the filler neck rubber (also supplied by Brickwerks) whilst I was there, problem solved!

After meeting up with a few of our friends and booking the ferry we were left with just one more task; supplies! I don’t think it’s any secret that the Scandinavian countries are some of the more expensive ones and with us traveling on a fairly tight budget it seemed sensible to stock up on as many of the basics as possible! Over the last few weeks we’d built up a bit of a list; the obvious items being food, we entered the Morrisons supermarket, list in hand and 2 hours later, left with roughly 3 months worth of food-dried and tinned for £97! We did buy a few other food items at other shops that day but it all came to under £120!

Also on the list were, toilet roll, kitchen roll, wet wipes and anti-bac gel, with basically no access to hot, running water wet wipes and anti-bac gel is the only way to clean your hands on the road! On our last trip in Southern Europe all of these supplies were as cheap if not cheaper than in England (excluding the anti-bac, crazy prices!) so we’d go shopping on a daily basis but we’ve prepared for the worst, the only cost we can’t avoid is the fuel!

We also purchased 2 water storage containers both with a 10 litre capacity, in Southern Europe we always bought bottled drinking water in large 5-8 litre bottles for very little money, we read that it has for sometime been ok to drink tap water there but in some areas chlorine content can apparently be high and not agree with our weak British guts however we figured that tap water in Scandinavia would probably be better than what we get in the U.K. so without a proper “under slung” water storage tank we thought these would do!

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In addition to these money saving measures we thought it may be a good idea to carry a little more gas on board, going by the Scandinavian fuel prices we can only assume that gas prices would also be high! On our last trip we carried 2 of the Campingaz 907 bottles and found that they were much cheaper to fill up in Europe than in the U.K. We realise that the temperatures will be a lot lower on this trip and the demand for hot food and drinks will be higher, with this in mind we’ve acquired a 3rd bottle that will also be refilled in either Holland or Germany. We’re aware that CampinGaz is far from the cheapest option available but it’s universal bottles do keep things simpler and the compact bottles store easier in a smaller van like ours!

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After another trip to GSF, picking up another set of filters in case we needed to do an oil change mid trip and a spare pair of window winder handles (definitely worth carrying a spare!) we loaded everything up and secured a shovel to the roof rack (hopefully we won’t see too much snow, but you never know!) the van was finally good to go again!

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