Category Archives: Preparation

The Sunburnt Bumper

It seems at this time of the year, there is an endless demand on outgoing funds for the Motorhome.. Service, Insurance, COF and a rattle or two you’ve discovered that could be silenced.

This year, the big one was repainting the Bumper just to add to the list.

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looks like a peely shoulder !

To be fair, a new vehicle where ever it is made should not have to have its bumper repainted after only 6 years so that grates a wee bit, but not being one to dwell on these things, it had to be fixed.

Before.. you can see the yellow tint in the lacquer from the sun.

The deterioration started about three years ago and when I raised it at the time with the dealers, I was told it came under the Fiat warranty which had by then expired.   ….Hey Ho as they say.. Lets get on and get it fixed…!

It started with the whole bumper going a yellowy colour and then the paint peeled off in bits. I progressively sanded parts of it to blend the colour and make it look a bit better as it got worse.

About to be taken off

After talking to one of my favorite RV repairers Peter at RV repairs who is also a qualified spray painter, he advised that I should leave it as long as possible so as much of the peeling paint would fall off and remove the need for a massive sanding job!

.. It couldn’t wait any longer !!

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

In Devonport where I live, there is a great family run business which many of my mates at school have worked at over the years, run by Dennis  and Nathan Hale, called Fleet St Panel beaters.  They have a great reputation for doing things properly and are well known around the community as being really nice people.

In getting the newly painted Bumper. reattached

Where they are next to the supermarket in Devonport is pretty tight for big vehicles so it was a case of getting the bumper taken off and taking Rafe back home until the painting was finished.

All sanded and primed.

The bad news came on day 1 when after taking it off, we found that the bumper was actually fiberglass, not plastic. This meant it couldn’t be dipped to strip the paint off and they couldn’t bake the new paint on. It also needed to be sanded thoroughly before applying a special primer for the fiberglass. The good news part of this is that fiberglass is really strong.

Sanded and ready for some colour

Nathan was telling me it they budget on a couple of hours to prepare a plastic bumper. This one needed a day and a half of sanding as a lot of it was by hand. .. I could see my budget being blown sky-high and Fiona giving me a stern talking to 😐

All finished and waiting for Rafe – pic by Nathan

Unfortunately, they had a couple of staff off sick  and with the extra preparation, the 4 day job turned into two weeks but the outcome was well worth the wait. The finish was just sensational.

Although I was given the German paint codes, Kris the painter used a fancy machine that could read the colour off the side of the van and match it wirelessly to paints in NZ that can deal with our UV.

All done .. – WOW – pic by Nathan

An amazing colour match and friends who have known the van from new and know a bit about paint reckon it looks better than it was at the beginning.. I agree!!

Yes, it cost a bit more but I’m not complaining with such a great paint job.

Looking really good.. also with the polished headlights.

I’ve ordered a new logo sticker from Dethleffs and have my friendly local signwriter Tom putting the blue and white decals on over the next few weeks.

Wow

Full Beam Ahead

Just recently, I noticed that my headlights were getting a bit foggy and getting a bit of a yellow tinge to them. After checking a few websites out for a remedy, I found that there were several kits available for restoring the headlights.

I bought one of these kits and it being one of the better well known brands, I applied it to my headlights and they came up like magic. .. but they didn’t stay like it for long. Then I found out that the sealer used in most of these kits only lasted a few months and the headlights reverted back to their hazy yellow look again.

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All ready to go.. (bumper off being sprayed too)

Looking up on the web again, I found a company that comes around to your Motorhome, professionally cleans up your headlights and applies a two pot sealer that lasts for 5 years or more. It is baked on using Infra Red lights which also makes a big difference.

Fully prepared

Scott arrived right on time and parked right next to Rafe and immediately set about masking up the headlights and covering the front of the van with plastic to protect the van from muck and overspray.

Once that was done, he fired up the generator in the back of his van and sanded the residue of the useless sealer I’d put on and got the headlights looking quite clean but very cloudy as they now had no protection at all. After changing grits on the sander progressively up to 3000 grit, the headlights then felt like silk.

Sanded but not sealed

Out came the chemist in Scott and he sat down and mixed up the sealer.. it looked like three different parts actually and it all looked very precise.

Mixing the sealer

Next came the spray gear and the mask and as he sprayed  each headlight, it was like someone turned the clarity filter on.. the difference was amazing. He then set the IR lights on to bake the sealant on.. After about 30 minutes, on went another coat and it looked even better.

Before !
first coat

Scott’s a really interesting guy having worked in the UK as an engineer supervising the manufacture of Computer chips for many of the worlds biggest manufacturers. When he came out here with his Kiwi wife a long time ago, it was time for a change.. A really clever guy and looking at my headlights, I felt pretty fortunate to have someone like him cleaning them up.

The cost was a little over $120 which I thought was pretty good value given the setup involved and what he had to do.

Click on the Gallery below to see the Sideshow

The danger of not doing it and ignoring your headlights is .. you fail your COF when the line between high beam and low beam gets diffused by the cloudy headlights.. by then you’re also likely to have crazing in your lights which can never be sanded out. The only remedy then is to replace the headlights which in most of our vehicles is a very expensive exercise.

Drying

An amazing process and I have that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that our UV laden sun can go for its life on my now well protected headlights.

Scott’s email is scott@fullbeam.co.nz

Drying coat 2
All Done

One of those clever creations, the Water Pig

One of the nice things about doing a blog like this is every now and then, you come across a really clever person who has designed or invented a clever new way of doing things.. this time its Ross Parkes, an all round clever bloke who  after needing a spare part for his SOG system, decided he’d design and 3d print it !

The other side.. ready to go

From here, ho moved on to his Water Pig  Its probably better that I let Ross tell this in his own words as when you hear the background, its an interesting story…

Much tidier

Take it away Ross 🙂

The Water Pigs, it all started when the fan motor on our SOG started failing and I enquired as to the cost a replacement – some $162 – yikes so instead I looked into the practicality of making a replacement fan assembly using a standard 50mm computer type axial fan.

During that investigation I considered that 3D printing a fan unit might be fun so purchased an Ender 3 v2 printer. Spent a day setting it up and then designed and made the fan housings (pic below) and experimented with different fans until I found one that worked ok – a whole nother story…

Pic by Ross
Pic by Ross

After that I played around and made some other SOG parts such as the bayonet fitting that goes in the top of the cassette – really to get around the design issue with the factory fitting in that it allows liquid to get down the pipe to the motor if too much slosh going on. It also meant we could have a fitting on our spare cassette all ready to go when we do a swap and also played around printing our new house which is yet to be completed

At that point I had become fairly competent designing and driving the printer so started thinking what else could I make and the water filler attachment that we use on our van came to mind. Like many people I have something I made from bits and bobs that you can connect the hose to so as to not have to hold it when filling with water. (pic below) A bit of a consideration if you have larger tanks or if you are on your own.

Pic by Ross

And so was born the first “Water Pig” or “Poaka Wai” (pic above) which fitted the Fiamma brand fitting on our Traillite and out of interest I posted it on a couple of Facebook groups, “hey look what I made” and then had a flurry of people also wanting one but of course they were not all Fiamma…

So on with the R&D hat again and came up with 8 different piggy designs, some of which I am still refining.  It would not have been possible without the help of quite a few people out there who volunteered to be guinea pigs for the water pigs. There are still a few tweaks that I need to do to perfect some of them and I have quite a lot of “seconds” that I sell off for not very much, well actually, I sell the good ones for not very much as well 😉 It is important to note that there are “commercial” water filler fittings available on Amazon/Ebay for various filler types but these are quite expensive and from off shore sources.

A whole bunch of piggies – Pic by Ross

The process of printing the pigs is not quick with each taking 5-7 hours depending on the size. (pics below – A piggy for Rafe) I could print them quicker but they would not be as pretty and probably not as strong.

The one for Rafe hot off the press – Pic by Ross

Sometimes things go wrong (pic below) so the printer does need to be monitored during the initial stages to ensure adhesion to the build plate is good and also if I have messed with a design I sometimes get it wrong and create some mutant pig…

Pic by Ross

Anyway, its been good for my brain developing the eight little pigs (so far) and hopefully is helping some people out by making dump station stops more efficient and easier due to not having to hold the hose….

In summary.. I’ve tried it on Rafe’s water filler (I had to wash it first before I could photograph it !) and it works really well..

For those looking for one, Ross is an administrator of the Facebook group RV Happy Travellers.  You can contact him here

Well done mate   a nice bit of Kiwi ingenuity!!

1,000,000 Hits

The last 100 k odd seemed like it was taking a lifetime but we made it. 1 Million Hits..

After 5 years or so we’ve made it!

The first post! August 2015

Now that we’re back in a house again, it has been a real struggle to keep up with the content and I’ve found myself doing trips just to get something to write about.  I’ve also just retired last month as a Commercial Photographer, so I will be taking things a bit more quietly from here so you will notice the posts only being made when there is something to publish.

One of our first posts.. Fiona and Rafe at Coromandel Motor camp

But this is the Milestone that matters… !!

Our first trip away in the South Island in our Caravan . wee Rafe.

Thanks again for checking in and thanks to everyone that made suggestions and offered help.

More to come…!!

At Simpsons Beach Coromandel

New Batteries – UPDATE

One of the first things I do after publishing a post is to link it through to several Facebook pages relating to Motorhoming.

I’d only just posted my post on my new Batteries from AA Solar when several people commented on how they were not optimally wired. They weren’t incorrect but I would get more life out of them if they were changed and several made suggestions on how it could be improved.

To be fair, Thorsten the Technician, only rewired what he inherited from the previous setup and increased the wiring size while he did it.

I actually thought it looked much better than how it was but when I posted into the NZMCA facebook forum, the advice came back on improvements that could be made and it was worth giving it another look.

How it was

I called AA Solar and after seeing my photos, they agreed and were more than happy to reset the wiring. What a difference!  Its got a much more obvious flow to it and even tidier than before.. It should perform better too.

Its a Beautiful thing
Thorsten finishing off the changes.

Thanks to all those who pitched in with the advice and thanks to Thorsten and AA Solar for a job well done.

New Batteries ..maybe before time.

Isn’t it funny how as you go through the various upgrades on your Motorhome or Caravan and someone tells you, “buy this, its the best there is” and you say to yourself later “more homework was required!”

In early 2018, I did just that and bought some new batteries which were then the best thing since sliced bread as they had a new fangled silicon plate system.

Click on an Image to Enlarge

Not long after I had them installed, I took Rafe back to get the new batteries load tested as I thought they were dropping their voltage too quickly but they passed with flying colours.

Over the last few years I’ve persisted with them and we’ve found ourselves being plugged in to power more often than we’d probably like to prevent  voltage range anxiety.

A nameless friend and battery advisor has  explained to me that the batteries I had, due to how they’re made were  not  known performers as house batteries for Motorhomes.

So here we are only 3 and a bit years later replacing them with Champion Deep Cycle AGM’s from AA Solar in Silverdale.  With the NZMCA discount, these batteries are known performers as house batteries and are quite a bit less expensive than the 3 yr old ones I’ve replaced.

The empty space under the seat for the new batteries after the old batteries were removed.

Thorsten was the technician on the job and got into taking Rafe’s seat out to get at the batteries underneath.

Thorsten re doing the cables for the terminals.

Out they came and with a quick test, although they had lost a significant amount of power, they were probably ok as low load crank batteries for a year or two. I made the decision to dump them as I could see them sitting in the back of our carport in three years time 🙂

Just about done.

In went the new batteries.. the new Champions were a bit longer but just fitted in under the seat. Thorsten took one look at the wiring for the second battery and declared it to be vastly undersized.. so he replaced this with colour coded heatshrink and new terminal bolts.. very tidy.

I was really pleased with how it went with the wiring and the batteries and am now looking forward to now being able to be off grid a bit more than we have with known performing, Deep Cycle batteries.

All done !

With the new wiring and all cleaned up it really is a big improvement just looking at it and it almost seems a shame to cover it all up with the seat 🙂 Thanks Thorsten for a really tidy job.

Cracks in the Shower

Now that we’re back in a house and no longer living fulltime in our Motorhome, we’re in a position where we can get on with some of the bigger maintenance issues we should have done earlier.

Click on an image to enlarge

Shower base showing cracks. Pressure on drain outlets.

One of these was over the course of the last few years, we’ve  been getting some cracks in the plastic base of the shower. I’ve been covering them in epoxy progressively to make sure water was not getting through underneath.

Shower base with cracks

Apparently this is not uncommon in both Caravan and Motorhomes and is caused by stress in the plastic due to lack of support from underneath the tray.

Friends of ours have an almost identical Motorhome to ours  have had exactly the same issue so its a common problem.

Wall linings coming out.

Having just had our Truma heater dealt with by Peter and his team at RV repairs and with Peter’s background in boatbuilding, I thought he’d be the perfect man for the job.

Initially Peter was talking about adding some glass matting to the under side of the shower tray to add some strength to the tray but once he opened it all up, that idea went out the window in favour of rebuilding the base to make it better able to deal with the load.

Shower tray removed.. easy to see why it cracked.

Fortunately, there was no sign of any water or moisture at all underneath so I was really pleased about that… my epoxy repairs paid off.

The base was basically a pedestal made of ply supporting the inner two thirds of the tray and not very well.

Peter changed the top to make a thicker plastic top which went right to the edge of the hole, drilled new holes for the waste (in the right places!) and then glued it all together.

With the base out ready, sides cut down waiting for new plastic thicker top

It wasn’t a simple job as all the lining had to be removed to get the old shower tray out and to complicate matters, our bedroom TV was bolted through one of the shower linings up high so that had to come off too.

New base supported properly
All done and solid as a rock

And .. murphy’s law, after 4 days of sitting in Peters workshop, he couldn’t get it to start! The start battery had finally popped its clogs after 6 years of faithful service so Peter jump started Rafe for me to go and get a  battery … do not pass GO, don’t stop for the $200.. straight to the battery shop 🙂

The new Monstrous Battery

We went away last weekend in Rafe and the shower feels completely different.. much firmer and absolutely zero movement. Peter has done a fantastic job.. and thanks for the jumpstart 🙂

Cleaning those MPK vents

As time marches on, things in a motorhome and caravan need to be cleaned and one of the trickier things to clean is the little MPK roof vents normally found in most showers and bathrooms in your motorhome.

Click on any Image to enlarge

Yuk… grubby vent

While you’re taking these out to clean, its a good idea while they are out to replace and broken catches that have lost their tabs like two of mine had.

I had the good fortune to have a friend Bruce who had replaced his so he knew exactly where to get some replacements. Moutere Caravans have packets of 4 for $30 plus a courier so well worth getting before you start.

The torx screws on the arms

I also went to Bunnings to invest in a Torx screwdriver kit which is like an Alun key set which was very useful to get in the tight spots on the vent.

Getting underway….. After starting on the inside by undoing the 4 Torx screws holding the arms to the motorhome and then gently lifting the vent off the roof, I moved the whole assembly to the kitchen table.

Dirty vent on its back ready for dismantling.

Out came a bucket of Sunlight dishwashing liquid in a bucket and a soft cloth.

With the vent on its back facing up on the table, I could easily get the Torx screwdriver down through the handle at each end to remove the screws holding the handle onto the perspex. It also holds the plastic inner to the perspex outer cover so expect it to all come apart at that point.

The Torx screwdriver to get at the handle screws

It makes it really easy though at this point to gently prise out the catches for replacement and give the whole thing a good clean. I got some replacement springs too so replaced those as well.

I replaced all the catches as the ones that weren’t broken were so brittle with the sun that the tabs broke anyway as soon as I tried to remove them.

Tab missing and catch!
One with a tab still!

Be careful with the perspex outer cover as it can scratch really easily.

The new catch ready to go
Sliding in a new catch

As you re assemble it, be careful not to over tighten the screws as you will strip them in the plastic.

All clean ready to reassemble.

The whole process took me about 2 hours from start to finish and it makes a really big difference and the look when its all back together… there’s also something nice about doing it yourself too!

All done and clean.

After 7 years of neglect on our roof, my whole vent was a different colour and as a result, lets in a lot more light.

Nice and clean and back together.
Its a beautiful thing !

Two Fat Bottles

Don’t you hate it when you’ve just filled your LPG bottles up when its a mission to squeeze it back into the Motorhome LPG locker!

Not much room to come and go on.

I was in having some work done on Rafe and Peter the Engineer said “what’s that tape measure doing in your gas locker?” ahh says I. That’s for when you get to an LPG station and you discover that your LPG bottle has expired and you need a new one and making sure it’ll fit in the locker.

The bottles can vary in diameter around the waist by up to 10cm each ! With two bottles in the locker, that’s the difference between getting them in or if you can get them in together, being able to shut the door!! Who would have known !

Bottles in their locker

I found this out the hard way the first time, by just trying quite a few bottles to get two that fitted in the locker together.

Its is so much easier to get them in and out too.

Locker safely locked up.

Truma Trauma

About two months ago we suddenly found that our morning ritual of having the hot water heater come on at 7am to heat the water, and then switch over to take the ice out of the air,  stopped working.

After reading up on some online forums, I found the most likely cause was that  one of the two 900w elements to have failed.  The gas was working perfectly and it still worked on power but just ever so slowly.

Click on an Image to enlarge

The Truma on the Truma test trolley

The van was due to have its annual check for water ingress so I asked one of the really busy techies there to check the resistance on the elements. They were both the same.. strange.. if one is blown, it will have a different resistance reading.

A couple of weeks later, I took Rafe to another RV workshop where I was told there were a couple of “clever truma people” who would sort it for me.  After a week of having the van and removing the heater, cleaning and reinstalling it,  it still wasn’t working.
A big disappointment !

Back to square one.

The exploded element

So.. time to find a Truma Guru and  get this fixed once and for all..

While we were in Wellington recently, we were in a shopping mall and Fiona was doing the shops. I was sitting in the “husband waiting chair” .  I got on the phone and via some friends, I was put onto Peter Webster  who owns RV Repairs who are just up the road  in Albany.. yippee!

Peter W with my old Truma

Still sitting in the “Husband waiting chair” I called Jan at RV Repairs and booked Rafe in for some heater surgery.

After taking Rafe up on a Saturday morning, Peter’s electronics man, a really nice guy also called Peter, who tested the heater with an amp meter found it was only pulling just over 1 amp on full bore.. it should be pulling about 6-8 amps. So he started to take the unit out of Rafe and stick it on their specialist Truma test trolley.

The break

Within an hour, I got a phone call saying that one element had a normal resistance, the other was as dead as a dodo.

After trying to take out the old element, they found the element had virtually exploded in the heat exchanger and when it went, it had damaged the heat exchanger.. two choices,  new heat exchanger or new unit.

My stuffed element

Heat exchanger $2000 plus odd with two elements. There would be several hours to install the heat exchanger in the heater on top of this. The other choice was a new Heater unit .. mid/late $3000’s. I chose the heater. At last the thing will now heat properly again 🙂

Truma’s new policy for replacement elements is to provide a heat exchanger with two elements due to installation failures!

How a new element looks when being installed in the Heat Exchanger

I was absolutely rapt with the two Peter’s getting straight in to solve the problem without any fuss.. They’re clever guys too . Peter W (the owner) is a boat builder and spray painter by trade and the other Peter an aeronautical engineer so they’re perfect for solving a Truma heater problem 🙂  and with lots of knowledge left over !

They’re also motorhomers themselves and great fun with not just two Peter’s but three.. 🙂

The workshop is HUGE