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!
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 !
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.
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.
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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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.. 🙂
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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.
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Boxing on. you can see the original bit
Boxing and base for HW and heat pump
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.
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Start of the pour. Ray and Ryan at the back
The ready mix going in. Ryan floating off the slab
Ray filling up the slab for the Hot water and pump
The car testing it
all finished ready for Rafe
With extra soil
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! 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.
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.
We also have a 16 amp socket going in to keep the batteries topped up.
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.
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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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.
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!
A lot of 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.
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Nice pull out pantry
The bedroom slideout
The back of the Motorhome being prepared
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
As seen in Hamilton
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.
As a Photojournalist of some 25 plus years and a Commercial Photographer for another 20, these books are all about the images. We went to some amazing places giving me the opportunity to get some great images.
Bugger it we are off to the Pinnacles in a convoy is about meeting Motorhome friends in Taupo NZ (central North Island) and heading in our three Motorhomes down to the Pinnacles at the bottom of the North Island.
We travel through the Hawkes Bay wine region on the way, go to a UB40 concert, survive a raging storm and enjoy a great meal in an old style Country Lodge. Lots of fun and some great images.
Bugger it we are off to Europe in an Old Hymer is based on our two week trip to the UK to pick up an old Classic Hymer Motorhome and then following our Motorhome friends through the Chunnel and over 5 weeks explore central Europe with bikes.
There were lots of adventures and lots of laughs. A truly memorable experience.
Bugger it we are off to the South Island of NZ is about our three month trip in our own Dethleffs Globe 4 around the beautiful South Island of New Zealand.
We met lots of neat people, caught up with some friends and relatives, stayed in some amazing places and had a great time.
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After 4 years of service, one of Rafe’s house batteries finally popped its clogs and a visit to the battery hospital was in order.
These images are all done from a cell phone.
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Batterytown came highly recommended by my son Andrew after he’d just upgraded our old boat Rorqual’s, new house batteries. He’d gone from 220 Amp hours to 450 odd something Amp Hours.. huge! .. plus he’d moved from lead acid to AGM’s too.
I’d been reading in some of the overseas forums that some of the British Fiat Motorhome owners had a few issues with the batteries that came fitted with some of the Fiat based motorhomes of the same age as Rafe. And sure enough, I had the same brand as well. Although to be fair, I always thought 4 years was about as much as you could expect from a bunch of house batteries.
They’re not easy to get at in the Globe 4 as they’re under the drivers seat but its only a 10 minute job getting the seat out. If you’re doing it yourself as I did, be careful when you pull the seat out that you carefully disconnect the air bag and seatbelt sensor cables when you lift the seat off the pillar! Its all in one big Yellow plug tucked down the side of the seat.
On a Dethleffs too.. Make sure that you disconnect the Solar Array by pulling the fuse out BEFORE you disconnect the old batteries or you’ll fry the control panel (Expensive!)
Only one of my batteries had died but you can’t put a new battery alongside an old one as the old one will kill off the new one in double quick time.
The brand that came recommended in the UK was the German brand Varta and they were getting a much better run out of them than anything else. This also was the brand that Batterytown recommended as well so I was pleased about that.
Apparently they have some new technology silicone on the plates which stops the sulphation on them which stops them performing. This apparently gives them a lot longer service life and effectively increases their badged Amp Hour capacity to some degree as well.
It could be marketing stuff but it all sounds good and if its working for the Brits, it must be ok.
So after fitting them I was off to get them tested, just to give me peace of mind. I have in the past fitted brand new house batteries on Rorqual and found a couple over the years with dead cells straight out of the plastic wrapping !
So all good.. we’re off now for another 5 or more years hopefully with some new Varta batteries.
We started planning Queens Birthday quite a few weeks ago so we could book into the anticipated busy Miranda Holiday Park and get parks, for both Rafe and our friends in their Tracker.
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Rob, Helen and Chloe were joining us for the weekend and we were really looking forward to catching up with them again.
The weekend forecast was not great but we figured that our old favorite spot would be pretty safe.
We arrived around midday on Saturday to find that Rob, Helen and Chloe had already arrived and after getting Rafe level and some vents open and the power on, Fiona and I were off to the hot pool.
The rain hadn’t started yet but was forecast to arrive anytime. Later in the day, it was all on and overnight into Sunday, it just didn’t stop. It didn’t prevent us though from ducking in and out for a swim on both days.
Later on Saturday, Rob and Helen popped over for a cold one and some cheese and biccies. I was amazed that despite the forecast, Chloe was still keen to stay the night on an air bed in a small tent between the two vans!
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Tent sites near us
The BBQ area
Gumboots for Happy Hour!
Sunday… It was all on, some Thunder, and LOTS of rain. The drainage ditch behind us was chocker and threatening to come into the park from the road. There was water everywhere.
Later in the day, the rain eased up and Rob and I went for a walk to have a look around. Many of the parks with Caravans and smaller vans were half under water. Most of the tent sites near us were submerged but despite all this, everyone seemed happy. The pool was busy everytime I went anywhere near it too!
If you’re going to get stuck in a downpour, I couldn’t think of a better place to be really:-)
I had to pop in to Apollo TV to get my now nearly 4 year old Apollo dome serviced as I was having trouble getting some of the channels. Chris was very happy to sort it all out for me!
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Ever since Prime moved, it has been really difficult to get and TV1 and TV2 suffered badly from rain fade where TV3 didn’t!
After talking to both Chris and Duncan, I made and appointment and off I went to their office in Whnagaparoa. Nice guys that were only too happy to help me with the dome. It also turns out that my Dome cover has just about done its dash so there is a new one coming. $399 fitted. They get hammered by our high UV and get cracks in them. Mine has cracks around the screw holes on the edge so is all good for a wee while.
Chris got the ladder out and within 10 minutes or so, had it reset and pointing correctly at the Satellite fixing all the problems. Apparently my dome has a GPS in it to it knows where it is in the world and sets itself and the skew based on position and the signal strength as well.
Chris was telling me that when they first starting bringing in the Domes, they realised that the Dome Cover was much bigger than the Dish so they had the Dish made as large as they could and still fit under the Cover giving us TV watchers more signal!
I couldn’t get over the friendly customer service and speed at which they dealt with my wee problem.
While talking to Chris, he was telling me about the new Avtex Sound Bar which fits on the bottom of the Avtex 19” TV and vastly improves its sound while only drawing .75A and they’re only $375 retail.
Duncan set one up for me to have a listen and the sound is stunning. The power and sound is all sourced directly from the TV where they mount underneath. All very easy and tidy. They can also be used as a remote Bluetooth speaker for your cell phones too.
Their first shipment is arriving shortly and is already just about completely spoken for!
Some of the new technology in this space is amazing with so much happening.. now to just win Lotto and I’ll be very happy 🙂
We woke up at Franz Josef to find we had no power left. A combination of too much TV, no sunshine on the panels and sitting in one spot for too long. The electronic controller in Rafe turns things off if it looks like it’ll damage the batteries so nothing died! So lesson.. less power consumption unless we can generate more by moving or some sunshine. This is our first time in a winter South Island so its all about learning that the sun doesn’t work as well on solar panels in winter. 🙂
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After using the superb dump station and topping up with water, we set off for Haast and the pass. It was just drizzling when we left but by the time we got to Haast, it was pouring. After having lunch in Rafe with some locally sourced fresh bread, we set off through the Haast. It looks great and as many said, its an easy drive, even when its raining!
We stopped briefly to have a look at the Thunder Creek Falls which look amazing. The 5 minute bush walk to get to the falls is stunning.
There was one guy there who thought by hopping on rocks he’d get a better shot. The problem was his kids followed him! The shot would’ve been the same from the side of the river 🙂
We left there and a little bit further on, we stopped off at another called the Fantail Falls where various visitors to the falls had made little stacks of river stones by the falls.
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Great place to take piccies
Thunder Creek falls
People enjoying the stones at Fantail falls
The stone stacks at Fantail falls
Rafe at Hawea .. amazing park
The play equipment. Even a couple of old Tractors.
Lake Hawea from the township
Another nice spot and easy parking but it was still raining !
The plan was originally to stop at the Makarora Tourist centre but when we got there, it all looked a bit farm paddock like and Rafe being quite low is a bit allergic to lumpy paddocks to park in so we kept going and decided on Lake Hawea Holiday park by the lake and give Rafe’s batteries a good tweak.
Its a neat Campground and they’re very welcoming. We parked down by the lake despite the fact that there was a good wind coming off the lake but it was due to drop off. We also managed to fluke a TV signal first pop through the trees which pleased Fiona 🙂
I went for a walk along the lake and had a good look around. Nice bathrooms and a Laundry and a good sized Kitchen too.