Category Archives: Preparation

Bent Keys

We were just about to pick up our Grandchildren and take them down to Rotorua for the last weekend of the school holidays when a fault came up on the dash that I hadn’t seen before.

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It was an image of a door and a padlock in orange and prevented the motor from starting. It would turn over with the key but never fire.

The key code fault

Out came the Fiat handbook which said the fault was related to the key and the code that needs to come from it and go to the engine management system. If it persists to check with the dealer.

I tried taking the key out and putting it in the opposite way and the engine started straight away.  I thought this was a bit scary so thought that given we were about to take the Grandies out of town, we should get it checked out, so off we went to the Andrew Sims Fiat service centre in East Tamaki.

The key in its incorrect position
The key in its correct position

After talking to their service manager Nick, he immediately said yep, its the way you’ve got the key in the ignition and you’ve solved the problem . It was all solved in seconds and I could relax  ๐Ÿ™‚

How the dash should look !

Because the keys flip out with the push of a button like a flick knife, the weight of my keys on the key ring and the fact that the lock on the key is getting a bit long in the tooth and isn’t what it once was, it is folding and preventing the code in the key handle from getting down the key to the engine management system. .. the answer… Take it out and put it in the other way so the key can’t fold and all will be well.

They don’t work when they’re folded.

So after 5 years of owning Rafe and running all over the country and never seeing this before, a new little thing to know about an ageing key.

The key in its straight form

Even one of the senior Andrew Sims guys there at the time wasn’t aware of it either, so we all learnt something new that day. If you didn’t know this, you could easily get stuck somewhere and not know that the solution was so simple ๐Ÿ™‚

A happy Rafe with his key in the right way around!

Our Motorhomes new park

Over the last month or so, our Motorhome Rafe has been stored up in Albany getting covered in Motorway dust and crap from a concrete distributor close by so it was somewhat of a relief to be able to park it back at our house again and give the van a good wash!

Our house is one of three units on a cross leased section which run down the hill overlooking each other and then over the golf course. When I say overlooking.. just our roof but we’re at the top closest to the road.

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It had a parking ramp here already but it was in the shape of a triangle and we all know that Motorhomes and cars for that matter tend to rectangular ๐Ÿ™‚

Our neighbour Doug is a semi retired builder who is a magic guy and was happy for us to do whatever we needed to make Rafe fit in the hole.

Boxing

Enter Ryan and Ray, a couple of concrete experts who are good friends of my son Andrew to take on the project of adding to the existing pad to make it useable and also add another around the corner for an outside water cylinder and Heat Pump.

The project went without a hitch, even getting the concrete truck in to do the pour and the result is perfect.

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

Since then, the Water Heater and Heat pump have been installed and we’ve managed to get Rafe in here but not without some drama!

The first time in. I got a good friend of mine Alan to be my eyes and ears at the back to help me in. The first obstacle was a hump at the end of the drive which I thought would grab the overhang but surprisingly for me, there was never an issue.

Click on the Gallery below for a slideshow

The tight bends around the front fence were a bit of a problem and I managed to get the front wheels stuck in a small patch of grass behind our letterboxes!ย  After jacking it up and slipping some things in to jump out, it finally did but not without creating some stress and some mess of the grass.

Rafe stuck in the grass. Alans cell phone pic
Some of that fence has gone

Anyway, we’re in and it works a treat but I have decided since to convert a fence panel into a gate and add some gravel to make it a lot easier to get in and out.

Tighter than it looks

We also have a 16 amp socket going in to keep the batteries topped up.

Hot water and Heat pump in

Thanks to Ray, Ryan for the great concreting, Pete the sparky for his wiring and Alan, a big thanks for helping me get in for the first time.

The Motorhome Surgery

Just recently, I had the pleasure of having a guided tour through ACM’s Auckland Motorhome repair and manufacturing factory. Amazing stuff.

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A decapitated Luton restored

ACM was started 7 years ago by ex boat builder Chris Cunard (think Super Yachts) as a repair facility and later added his own range of manufactured Motorhomes. After chatting to Chris for a while, you very quickly get the sense that build quality is the name of the game and you can see this everywhere you look.

Chris Cunard

One of ACM’s Leading hands Daryl, showed me around a couple of the new Motorhome’s they are currently making for customers. Apart from having their own standard models, they make bespoke vans for those with special interests or hobbies. They also do repairs for other dealers brands too.

One of those I saw was one made for someone who was confined to a wheelchair. All the benchtops were lower. There was a special hydraulic lift at the back for entry and the bathroom and bedroom was all specially fitted out so they could enjoy Motorhoming. Fantastic!

Room for the slideout with the wheelchair Galley

A lot ofย  slideouts in the industry are driven electrically. These ones have huge hydraulic arms to drive it instead which should make it a lot more reliable. The hydraulic drop down legs for levelling were huge too.

Click on the Gallery below to see a Slideshow

One of their clients who liked his music so much, they designed and built his Motorhome so that he could take a built in piano with him and it looks like part of the Motorhome.

Good on them for taking their hobby with them!

Click on the Gallery below to see one of the finished Motorhomes

Stairway to Heaven

Athough I was lucky enough a few years ago to have a look through the Niesmann and Bichoff factory in Germany, it was really nice to see a local builder building Motorhomes basically by hand, doing a really nice job of them and providing employment and skills training for young Kiwis.

The Gas Gadget

And this is a beauty! People who know me will tell you how I love a good gadget that can do something useful.. This is one of those.

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The Kit with the two sensors, the rubber base rings and the gauge.

I bumped into Duncan from Apollo as I left the NZMCA Motorhome show and he was telling me about this new Gas remote fuel gauge. It is called a Mopeka.

The sensors all connected to the phone app

It works by having two sealed sensors which are each magnetically attached to the bottom of your Gas bottles that send a signal to a remote LED gauge telling you how much Gas you have left in your bottles.

My new Gas bottles ready for the sensors
A sensor on the bottom of a bottle
The Gauge for inside somewhere

It also has a phone app and it will work with that too but you have to make sure that you tell it your bottle size and that you’re in NZ. It defaults to a weird bottle size in the US ๐Ÿ™‚

All ready to be put in the Gas locker. Note the rubber ring on the base.

I thought I’d give one a run and see how they went. The whole process from start to finish took me about ten minutes and once I’d set it up for two 9kg bottles in NZ, it looked like the perfect solution to prevent middle of the night alarms from the fridge, when a bottle has run out, usually in the rain  ๐Ÿ™‚

Ready to go

Rafe is in storage at the moment until his new concrete pad has settled so isn’t parked at the optimum angle. I think once it is level, this device will have half a chance but given that the bottles are both swappa bottles that only ever have about 70% gas in them anyway, I’d say its pretty accurate.

Not really a good test for it!

A really clever device retailing about $300 from Apollo Entertainment.

With the phone app

Granny Tag

It has been Musical houses all around with son Alex and his wife Sarah and the boys moving to a new house. Our other son Andrew and partner Jenna have also moved house, and us moving into Rafe fulltime it has been a busy time. To add to the fun, we’ve been trying to give away some of our โ€œextraโ€ stuff while they move !

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Alex getting the lawnmower

Everyone is settling down now and we tried our new parking at Alex’s new place in Ardmore just this last weekend and it works a treat. Rafe is right next to a fence overlooking the families horses and they were keen to see what this Motorhoming lark was all about too, coming over for a look see ๐Ÿ™‚

Close up inspection of Rafe

After Alex had mowed the lawns and Fiona had played Granny Tag on the new Trampoline, we all set up our bikes out and set off along the road to Ardmore airfield for a ride and then an ice cream stop. A great day out in the sun.

Liam Fiona and Ayden having “Granny Tag”

This is about our 5th week at Takapuna Holiday park and we’re about to head down to the South Island in the next week or so and catch up with friends down there..

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

Perhaps we’ll get a bit more serious about finding a house when we get back in late May when the prices hopefully will have dropped a bit more ๐Ÿ™‚

The Horses feeding next door

We’re Out!

What an arduous process.. The house sold finally in October with a settlement of Friday 22nd Feb.

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The packers in.

It was listed twice. The first time with Drew, my son after it had been rented out for two years while we did the European and South Island trips, and we listed it virtually as soon as we’d moved back in. It was a bit scruffy having been rented out and we fixed the big things but in the end it wasn’t enough and the feedback was awful.

So we took some advice from some stagers and designers and painted all the main rooms Real Estate White. We painted doors that had been stripped that hadn’t been painted and Double Hung windows that needed a makeover.

The end result was a massive lift in the look and we relisted with Barfoots in Devonport as the Lake Road traffic and Devonport was too far from Drews other open homes in the bays.

Finally a result!!

Click on the Galleries below for Slideshows

On the Tuesday after the packers came, we moved Rafe into the driveway ready for us to sleep in.

Prior to that, we had already packed everything into boxes, loads to the local op shop and the tip and the contents of the Pantry and Fridge was loaded into Rafe along with our clothes and the toiletries from the bathroom. Rafe’s cuboards were almost bursting ๐Ÿ™‚

Rafe in the driveway

The packers came and by the end of the day, all our furniture was safely locked away in a storage facility in Glenfield.

The big day came around on the Friday. Fiona went out to a girls lunch with friends to get away and I sat and waited for the Setllement calls to happen.

Around lunchtime, one of the purchasers furniture trucks arrived and he sat outside waiting. At 2pm another truck arrived and they all camped on the grass verge outside. About 2:30, the purchaser arrived to see what was happening.

It seemed the buyers bank had been a bit slow getting the funds through to our Solicitor and they had only just got the money at 2pm but just before 3pm, I received that call that I was waiting for and finally drove Rafe out of the driveway for the last time.

Lots of money in the bank, all the debt gone and no house!

LOTS of freedom! No more lawns to mow for a while and no more rates to pay. Yippee.. .. now to find another much smaller house for two people and a Motorhome!

Painted Handles

On our way back from the South Island last year, we stopped over in Taupoย  for a few days to catch up with friends Gary and Dianne. Staying with them as well were other friends Ian and Lynda in their Dethleffs XLI.

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Rafe in Taupo next to Ian and Linda’s XLI

One of the common issues that we had with Ian and Lynda and our Dethleffs Motorhomes was the state of the plastic outside door handles for the Garage, the Gas Locker and vents for the heater and oven.

Rafe on the ferry showing all the faded hatch handles.

They were originally white but had faded with the UV light and gone a dirty yellow/creamy colour which didn’t look too flash. I’m sure this applies to many other Motorhomes and Caravans with NZ’s harsh UV light too so this might be something many of you can do to your own Motorhomes to solve this problem…. read on!!

Ian found a way to take off and strip down the door catches and with special plastic paint with primer, painted them white which looked amazing. Ian even made a spray booth out of a cardboard box so the overspray didn’t end up all over Gary’s Garage ๐Ÿ™‚

Rafe’s handles were looking really scruffy so after talking to both Ian and Gary, I took the handles and the vent covers off. After stripping down the handles and masking the key locks, I cleaned all the bits with Sugar Soap and the sprayed them with Plastic Primer.

Click on the Gallery below to see the process in a Slideshow

The Primer only takes 30 minutes before you can top coat it so it was time to make a cardboard box spraybooth ๐Ÿ™‚

The Oven vent and the Truma heater vent covers on

Rafe’s habitation door handles and front Fiat door handles are all black so Satin Black was the colour.

Two hours and several coats later, I reassembled the locks and stuck everything back on Rafe and it looks fantastic.

Looking the part

All thanks to Ian for his great idea and some tips from Gary too!

Weights and Tyres

At the recent NZMCA Motorhome show at Mystery Creek, I caught up with Phil from Carters Tyres. ย  After 59000 k’s, Rafes tyres were down to 2mm and I needed to replace them before my next COF so I was keen to find out the ins and outs of tyres.

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Phil from Carters

One of the things I wasn’t aware of that Phil highlighted was that many Motorhomers and Caravanners weren’t really aware of the weight limits on the tyres themselves. While we are all very aware of GVM’s and Axle weights, as that is what you get fined for if you get them wrong, many of us overlook the per wheel weights on our tyres.

Checking the rear wheels

As Carters were weighing vehicles the next morning, I moved to where the scales were and Rafe was weighed.

The scales

Both the back wheels were 1100kg’s or within a few kg’s either side (without the bikes) and the front wheels were 970kg and 1020kgs. ย The Michelin Agilis tyres that I had on have a weight limit of 1250kgs per tyre so no worries there.

While I was pleased with the Michelins and how they had worn, they were expensive to replace with prices from nearly $1800 – $2000 for four, depending on who you got at the counter ๐Ÿ™‚

The Michelin Agelis after 59000k’s

Phil was telling me that the Giti company produced a truck tyre with specs similar to the Michelin for almost half the price.. the GT Radial. It has a per tyre limit of 1460kgs, has more belts in the tread to help it track really well and 10 ply on the sides which is plenty. Yippee!!

The new Gt radials

So I booked into Carters in Highbrook in Auckland and Patrick was the man weilding the tools to change my tyres.

Patrick putting one of the new tyres on

I couldn’t get over the technology now used to change tyres. I remember when I was 17 years old odd, I worked in a service station in between photographic jobs and for a while was in the tyre bay. ย I remember a steel pole concreted in the ground with a circular seat half way up that held the tyre while you wrestled with a long steel pole to lever off the tyre. Lots of fun ! These days, its all pneumatics.

A Tyre Changer of days gone by ๐Ÿ™‚

Back to Rafes new tyres.. Each wheel was balanced and filled up with Nitrogen and refitted to Rafe.

Click on the gallery below for a Slideshow

Patrick did a great job on the tyres and driving home felt very different. You could really feel the extra rubber and it seemed to track better at speed on the motorway too. They also seem quieter on the road as well.

Rafe in the Tyre Bay

They’re definitely the place to get your tyres and NZMCA members get a really good discount too!

Another go with the House

We tried and we failed earlier in the year after putting the house on the market without any real tarting up. The house had been rented out for a couple of years and needed tidying up. The advice we had was let the new buyers add their own stamp which is what I thought too but the Devonport market seems to be a wee bit pickier than that.

The feedback was the house needed a bit of TLC and everyone seemed scared to come near it!

Blinds cleaned, room, windows, skirtings, doors all painted.

Over the last month or so, we’ve sanded, fixed up and painted all the doors. We’ve repainted 7 rooms through the house including windows, architraves and skirting boards.

Click on the Gallery below to see a slideshow

We’ve had the garden made over and the house professionally water blasted.. its looking great. We also had some lots of help from stylist friend Stacey, along with Jenna and Fiona with the staging and it looks heaps better. ย Lighter and cleaner looking seems to be the name of the game!

Check out the piccies below…Click on the Gallery for a Slideshow

The first open homes this weekend and we already have plenty of interest so its looking good. It also has powered Motorhome parking and we have a Motorhomer interested in it ๐Ÿ™‚

And what we did before.. Click on the Gallery for a slideshow

Fingers and toes crossed !

David’s Treasure Trove

Rafe is nearly 4 years old and it seems everything is expiring. One of those items is the Electrical Certificate and that was due to expire next month but while I’m doing inspections, oil changes and stuff, I thought I’d get on with it.

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Sunbeam

After making a time with David Allbon who was listed on the NZMCA website, I rocked up to his house in Glenfield with Rafe and David put Rafe through his electrical paces. I was impressed with how thorough it was. He tested all the 240v power points and devices and checked the RCD tripped off in the allotted times allowed. The lead was checked too. We passed with flying colours.

David with a new bike he is working on.

David then led me to do the paperwork on his desk in his garage which just happened to be the boot lid of his Triumph Stag. His Garage was amazing. There was a 1929 Sunbeam, a 1926 Douglas Motorbike, a lovely convertible MG which was covered in his Motorhome bits. He is also working on another lovely old bike which I forgot to ask what it was but a real treasure trove.

The MG

David was telling me that most of the cars he has owned for a โ€œlong timeโ€ which suggested 40 years or more in some cases.

Click on the Gallery below for a Slideshow

Looking at the Sunbeam engine bay with its 6 cylinder, 2 litre motor, you could eat your lunch off it ! Its lovely to see these old vehicles being looked after and loved to this level.

The 6 cylinder 2 litre Sunbeam motor

David and his wife Barbara also have a Nissan Motorhome which was away having some repairs done to it after it was damaged by a falling tree.

If you’re looking for an Electrical Certificate, David is your man..!