Trials & Tribulations of Full-Timing in an RV

Discussion in 'Full Timers' started by johnsandywhite, Sep 2, 2007.

  1. johnsandywhite

    johnsandywhite Read Only Funster

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    :Cool: Life can be great out on the open road. Parking wherever and whenever you want. But life is not always a bed of roses. Sometimes there are one or two thorns to contend with:-

    Problems we had Full-Timing:-

    Where do we begin? I suppose the best place is at the beginning. So here goes:-

    Bought 1st September 2000 :- The biggest problem was learning to handle a 31ft vehicle. It had been a long time since I had driven anything so large. A car and caravan may be the same length, but they bend. Usually in the middle. The biggest problem was not the length, but the overhang from the rear wheels. When you turned, it pivoted at the rear in a great big arc. After one or two close encounters, I finally got the hang of it. The overhang also caused a problem with the petrol tank and rear bottoming out on steep changes of incline. Mainly embarking and dis-embarking from Ferries. Having only two 75 ah leisure batteries, we were soon using up the available power. What with satellite, computers, plus the normal everyday use. They couldn't keep up with the job. I had already planned to add 2 more 120 ah which I had already bought, so exchanged them. Still using too much power. Answer? Have a 120w Solar panel fitted at Poole in Dorset. (Expensive?) Why don't we use the generator? We do! But we don't like to annoy other people, so we only use it when we have to. (See later)

    September 17th 2000 :- Dropped our daughter Mandy off at Lyon University in France, on our way heading towards Spain for the Winter. Roadworks were in operation at Beziers. Road cones on metal poles sticking out into the road on both sides. Swerved a little to miss hitting the front lights on the cones. The rear side repeating light hit them instead. My reaction was to correct the pivoting rear end. Result, hit the other side light and broke that too. Later on in the month, we were turning around in an urbanisation with high curbs. Hit the curb with the waste pipe, while reversing. Result? It proceeded to try and push it's way up through the floor, taking just about everything with it. We used the jack, plus peices of wood and rocks as manipulation tools. Then with a pair of pliers, a knife, some string and some silicone sealer, we managed to put it almost back together as if it hadn't happened (I wish! Must buy some tools!).

    October 2000 to January 2001 :- Still using too much power. Answer? Fit two more solar panels myself. One a 120w, the other a 50w. Cost? £100 less than the first one cost by itself. Bought them through a Dutch friend of ours. No major problems to fit. Just a matter of planning where and how to fit the panels, and where to run the cables. Sandy was the most excellent 'Gofer'. During this time, the engine was having an intermittent misfire. Sometimes it would run perfect for 60 or 70 miles, then misfire. Sometimes, really badly. Checked most things, couldn't find anything, Thought it could be a faulty fuel pump or an intermittent electrical fault. Finally broke down on the way to visit friends in the Orba valley. (Sandy and I had given up smoking for the New Year). The engine would only start on full throttle. That's a little bit difficult with an automatic. Having to start in 'Park' or 'Nuetral', then try to not to smash everything going into 'Drive'. The problem was made worse because we were stuck on an hill, between traffic lights, on a one-way system. We had cars behind, and cars coming towards us. If the road was empty, there was just enough room for us to traverse it without knocking down any houses. Needless to say, when we eventually got through the village of Sanet y Negrals, we pulled up and had a smoke. Three days later, 'John the Bash' (local superstar mechanic) stripped the carburettor down, re-sealed it and pronounced the problem cured. (I didn't think so at the time, but I paid him anyway.) At least the engine started and was running slightly better.

    Part two starts now:-

    January to March 2001 :- We completed our visits to friends in the Orba valley. Then we slowly made our way back up to Lyon to pick up Mandy. We got there OK. Caught the Ferry, dropped off Mandy at Luton, and headed off towards Coventry with the intention of calling at 'Midland American Motorhomes'. The weather was the usual. Buckets of water falling down from the sky, causing us to miss our correct turn off. We were on the by-pass when we heard a rumble from the rear followed by an enormous bang. Just a short distance further on, the same thing and everything dipped to the rear offside. We stopped as quickly and safely as we could to investigate. Problem? 2 blown offside rear tyres. (We had been running the tyres at the recommended pressures, 55 to 65 psi. Should be 85 to 95.) Hazard lights flashing, we reversed 200 yards back to a lay-by. Phoned the breakdown services and waited several hours. Then on checking, I realised Sandy had not dictated to me our correct Mobile number. Rang the breakdown service again, starting from scratch. Guess who came to our assistance? Yes - 'Midland American Motorhomes'. In the proceeding hour of torrential downpour, they succeeded in replacing my wheels with 2 of there's. We followed them back to their premises during a thunderstorm which included ice and snow. A couple of days past before they could fit our new tyres and steel liner. They then started checking for the problem of the engine misfire. When they eventually found the fault, it turned out to be 'plug leads'. Even they were dumbfounded. While we were there we contacted an LPG conversion company who arranged to use the facilities on site to do our conversion for us. We spent 2 weeks at the premises and left happy with the conversion and repairs. The facilities on site were great, but we were thankful to be finally on our way again. After visiting our families, we set off for Germany to visit friends there. Filling up with LPG in England and France was not much of a problem, but in Germany it was. We later found out what to look for (Flüssiggas). We had just arrived at Staffelsee, Murnau, Germany, when it started to snow. It did so for 4 straight days and nights (See the Photo Album). One of the reasons for going to Germany, apart from visiting our friends, was the opportunity to go to the Munich Motorhome and Caravan show. The intention being to look at the different 'Automatic Satellite Systems'. This we did, and our friend 'Ed' helped us to get a very good deal over the internet and phone, for a 'Kathrien' system. That's one advantage of being in the common market, so shop around! Another problem solved. Many large meals and bottles of Vino later. With the snow melting just a little. We set off once again for sunny Spain.

    Part three is here :-

    Typical Problems :- With a full tank of reasonably cheap petrol (Spain). You get into what we call 'the trucking mode'. You just don't want to stop to go and empty the old bladder. Our solution, (probably highly illegal?) is to go into 'cruise mode', and change drivers. We then use the facilities we have on board. Must say! The first time I tried it, I nearly had to sit down! (Think about it!) One of our problems is we like wild camping too. We know! We've heard all about the spongers of society, living off the backs of others. We had five years on a camp site. We made lot's of friends, and generally enjoyed being there. But at the end of the day, if you don't like the neighbours (or perhaps the other way round). You have only one choice. Sell up, probably at a great loss and move on. If you are wild camping and don't like your neighbours you can easily move on. No packing away of the awning, or coupling up the car and caravan. Just pop a few things into drawers. Start up! Hey presto, we've gone. But the problem we have being wild campers is finding a place where facilities are good. We do not want to create problems for other people. We try not to be too noisy (for instance running the generator). We do not leave a mess. Disposing of our rubbish of all kinds, are one of our main priorities. We eventually find this Utopia. Others join us, then we all finish up having to move on. Another problem, is the constant one of parking in a position that is safe from accident and thieves. Yes! We have had both, see later problems. When we had a smaller camper, (See Photo) we used to be able to park in the same place as a car. Not so easy now at 31ft. Although most of the larger Supermarkets have ample parking space, they seem to not want larger vehicles on the premises. Barriers! We need 3.4 metres (11.2ft) minimum to get under. Some smaller garages pose a problem at times. (Sod's law!) Usually where your fill up point is, the access is too restrictive. Once in Germany we had travelled quite some way off the main roads in order to fill up with LPG. (We also required our domestic gas filling up.) The village we had planned to call at, turned out to be one road in and out. The garage (??) was some 75 yards off the road, down a small, narrow lane. (In such a position, I usually walk the route to ascertain whether it is possible or not.) After several procedures of forward, turn, reverse, turn etc, we eventually managed to fill up and be on our way. Another problem of being mobile, is the requirement of keeping in touch with friends and relatives. The phone is fine up to a point. But it can prove rather expensive when in foreign lands. (Even in the UK!) Our solution is to send e-mails to the one's who have the facility. The one's who don't, we write a letter, but receive no replies. We use the mobile phone to send quick, short, text messages. We also use the mobile phone along with the computer to access the internet.

    Part Four starts here :-

    March 2001 - Continued :- We fitted the 'Kathrien' Satellite system with no major problems. The biggest of which was having the instructions in 'German'. Sandy was once again the most able 'Gofer'. Got moved on by the police (along with 15 others that had joined us at one of our regular parking areas) at midnight. Moved to a lay-by on the outskirts of Benidorm. Parked a little too close to the curb. Result? The awning was slightly torn by the sharp trimmed edges of the Palm trees. (The awning had been badly weathered on the upper edge over the years. Sod's law yet again!) The sun doesn't always shine in Spain. They can have dull weather too. When it happens, eventually the storage power of the batteries gets used up. Answer? Run the generator. Wrong! The generator won't start. Not even turn over. Not a flutter. DEAD. Strip everything down, check all the connections. Found the bad connections. Sorted! Not yet! It turns over and starts, but will not continue running. To cut a long story short, had to strip down to the circuit board where I found a resistor had rotted away it's connection to the circuit board. Solution? Soldered up a new connection. Generator running. Why didn't we run the main motor? That wouldn't start either. Flat battery. When it rains it pours!

    September & October 2001 - Arrived in Spain for our winter stay. Raining. Always does. Never fails. But when the sun comes out, it's worth it. Just got settled at the beach, phone message on our UK mobile. We have to move our equipment from our friends garage as they are turning it into a flat. Dash down to the Orba valley. They are in Ireland, not back for two weeks. We visit some of our other friends. Then generally pass the time walking, riding around the Orange groves and up and down the mountains. We have a game of tennis or two. Finally load up 2 tons of equipment and set off to take it to the UK. Spent a couple of weeks just south of Barcelona to top up the tan. Called at our Spanish friends garage to have a second battery box constructed to carry our second pair of 120ah batteries. Then set off for France and the ferry. More to follow:-

    Part Five :-

    October 2001 continued - We use to go from Santander to Plymouth. But, because our families are now scattered around near Southampton, Luton and Yorkshire. Plymouth is no longer a viable port for us. P&O, Bilbao to Portsmouth, we don't like in any shape or form. We don't like having to have a berth forced on us, that we do not want, at a price we shouldn't have to pay. Still, that's another story! So! We have worked out that by using LPG in France and England, and using the free roads in France and Spain, we pay almost the same within a few pounds. Why don't we use the Motorways in France and Spain? Well, why do we have to pay the same as if we were a 12 wheeler juggernaut? It costs us £1 to travel the Dartford tunnel/bridge. Nuff said! (Fishes back side comes to mind. ed.) By the way, there is an excellent route from Caen, Deippe or Le Havre to the south of France, that is 65% to 70% free Motorway. I digress - back to the journey. We had a some brake fade coming down the Pyrenees (we had had that before when we had done a large amount of braking, so thought nothing of it). The brakes gradually got worse, so pulled up to check the fluid. Checked under the bonnet, and topped up the fluid. Continued on to Rouen. We were coming through a series of traffic lights, sweeping bends, turns, bends, and up and down hills, when the brakes failed completely. Yanked on the hand brake. That failed too. Nowhere to go. Car's on both sides of us. Result? Hit a nice shiny, metallic blue, brand new Puegot 406. His vehicle managed to stop our's before we could hit anything else. But it made quite a mess of his prized car. After some time of filling out reports, talking to the police, with the help of a local French, ex-American student (who got married to a Danish girl while they lived in Holland), as interpreter. We taped our bonnet back onto the front, and proceeded at a very slow speed. Finally pulled up at a Motorway service garage and waited for the morning. They called out a mechanic who spent several hours checking the brakes before announcing he could not do anything there. We would have to be taken to his main workshop. End of the day arrived and a very large tow truck came and started stripping off our prop shaft to facilitate the towing of our home. This was followed by a hairy journey up the motorway in the opposite direction we were travelling. This resulted in us being taken to some sort of motorway graveyard. So, we set up the satellite to await the morning. It came! They didn't! At 4.30 pm, action at last! Seems the fluid I topped up was for the steering. The one for the brakes was over the front near side wheel. Thirty minutes and a lot of money later! We were on our way. An expensive lesson learned. I should just mention here. I took the motorhome to a respectable, well reputed, American Specialist to have a 30000 mile full service/check up and M.O.T. The results from the tests were:- Front brakes 30% worn, Rear Brakes 10% worn. Handbrake - hardly at all. (More on this later.) We took the ferry from Le Havre to Portsmouth for a 10 day trip. Guess what? Sure as eggs are eggs, (Sod's law again) we have to go through Custom's for a full check. The only place they didn't look was under the bed. (No! We had nothing under there either!) They even looked in the flight cases of our equipment. Still! You can't blame them! They are only doing their job aren't they? (What was that?) If I had a pound for everytime I was stopped by Custom's, I could afford to buy my cigarettes and wine in England. Never mind! Here we go! On with the Journey:-
     
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  2. johnsandywhite

    johnsandywhite Read Only Funster

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    :RollEyes::Err: Part Six :-

    October 2001 continued - We returned to Spain. Arrived at one of our favourite places, having had just enough LPG to get us there. We parked up, with the intention of a having a few days taking the sun and a breath of fresh air. This we did and enjoyed it very much. Set off to go south to Altea . We had turned over from LPG to petrol, and the engine kept stopping. Kept switching from LPG to Petrol. Still kept stopping. Pulled into a laybye to investigate. Problem? Discovered the petrol solenoid wasn't opening. Solution? Hard wired it to the spotlight switch on the dashboard. (Now redundant after the spotlights were broken in the accident in France.) Problem solved? (Maybe? It allowed us to carry on anyway.) We go to Altea in order to assist our Dutch friends unload into their Villa for their winter stay. (It's become a sort of tradition, because we finish up going to our favourite Chinese for a meal.) We were invited down the following weekend for a meal in the Villa. While we were there, the heavens opened up. Riding back down the mountain on our bikes, Sandy's brakes failed. Her solution? She stuck her foot in the front wheel to stop it. If I hadn't been there to act as an additional brake, she would have catapulted off to Ibetha. She had a very sore big toe for months. But she was also lucky not to have sustained serious injury. We do live in exciting times!

    November 2001 - We were parked right at the beach on a concrete pad (in summer they build a restaurant on it). The winter storms had just started. Friday night was pretty rough, with a raging storm. But the next day sun was shining and the sea appeared to have calmed down. Don't believe it. We were woken at 5.15am Sunday morning with the motorhome appearing to be on the back of a whale. We moved pretty sharpish. As did the five others that were parked there. There was another storm the following week which we didn't witness. When we rode our bikes along the beach to where we had been, much of the coast road had been damaged. Where we had parked had disappeared into the sea. Maybe it had been a whale we had parked on after all? (Sod's law? Or maybe this time it's Jonah?) After another visit to our Dutch friends, we decided to stop on the way back and have Fish & Chips. We enjoyed the meal, and I jokingly said to the waiter we would now have to have a slow walk back home. Would you believe it? I had a rear wheel puncture, so I had to push the 3 miles the rest of the way home. Remember I taped the bonnet up after the accident in France? Well, I finally had the time and the weather (and the inclinaton) to fix it. With a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, some string, a bit of tape, some sealer and some fantastic assistance from the trusty old 'Gofer' it looks almost as good as new. (Sandy keeps telling me to have my eyes tested. Can't think why?) Started to have petrol smells everytime we ran the main engine. More:-

    Part Seven :-

    December 2001 - We continued to have petrol smells so decided to investigate. Stripped down to the carburettor. Great! It's got those funny star type yanky screws (Actually they are square!). Can't see where the fuel is leaking from, so put everything back. Did this several times after having bought some funny star type yanky screw bits. Still couldn't find any leaks, and we hadn't blown up yet. Sandy's bicycle brakes were getting worse. She had also buckled the front wheel in the accident (which I had corrected slightly). Solution? Sandy got a new bike for Christmas.

    January 2002 - The New Year dawns, and we still have petrol smells. Decide to investigate yet again. Stripped down to the carburettor. Can't find a fuel leak anywhere. But the fuel consumption has gone up. One problem we found after the LPG conversion, was that the generator wouldn't run unless we were turned over to run on petrol. I had sent an e-mail to the conversion company explaining the problem, saying that I thought the problem was that the solenoid in the fuel line was connected in at the wrong place. (This turned out later to be the case - more later.)

    February to May - Continued to have petrol smells deciding now and again to investigate. Stripping down the carburettor each time. I even dream about it. No Solution yet. There was a Fiesta around this time in the village where we were parked. We had finished watching TV, switched off the lights, and turned over to sleep. The motorhome is rocking slightly. (No! Not that!) Think it might be the wind. Wait a minute! It's not windy! What the? Who the? Several gypsy boys were trying to steal Sandy's new bike. Quickly dressed and gave chase. They disappeared. Found a front wheel in the middle of the car park. Decided to increase locks on the bikes. (See more later)

    End of May 2002 - Finds us travelling north making our way slowly back to the UK. Just about an hour north of Valencia, travelling at between 55 to 60 mph. Beautiful day. Sun shining. Not another vehicle in site for miles. Approach a nice sweeping left hand curve. A convoy of trucks coming the other way. On the apex of the corner is a stationary line of traffic. I couldn't see them because of the convoy. No warning! (Shhhhhhhhhhh!) What do I do? Well in 5 trillionths of a millipecand. I have slammed on my brakes. Started a swerve to the cycle path, and missed 6,7,8,9 vehicles. (Shhhhhhhhhhh again!) One jumped up little Renault Traffic Van has decided to stop over the white line. Several exchanges of documents later, and the Guardia Civil saying - 'These things happen!'. We were on our way again. We got to our favourite parking area in the north, with the brakes sounding like a chainsaw. We invited our mechanic friend and family to visit and dine with us at the beach. In conversation he said he would investigate the brakes if we came up to his village. So a couple of weeks later we trundled up and down to his village, where we parked in a nice safe spot? We went down to visit our friend and finished up staying for evening dinner. When we returned? What the ??? Who the ??? (Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!) (To be Continued :)

    Part Eight :-

    Thieves :- Yes! We have heard all the stories. Yes! We thought we had taken all the precautions. But I ask you? Would you not think 3 bicycle locks, a chain, plus several bungees would be a sufficient deterrent? No way 'Jose'. Snip, snip, snippety snip. GONE. 2 mountain bikes. The extra number plate even had it's cable slashed off. Later! Saw my bike with a young gang of boy's. I approached them to lay claim to my bike, while my friend rang the police. The boy holding the bike said he had had it for years. You would not believe it! But to cut a long story short, he gradually faded into the background. By the time the police arrived, he had gone altogether. My bike? It was a little the worse for wear. The brakes were bent, the sprockets were bent. But it was good enough for me to run backwards and forwards for water and things when required.

    So into June 2002 - Seems the brakes were not 10% worn at the rear. They were shot completely. It was necessary to replace the disc rotors and the discs. Our friend priced them up and ordered them and we sat down to wait, with the rear end meanwhile, propped up on axle stands. We had been in a similar position some years ago, waiting for parts for our Autohomes Transit gearbox. That's how we made our friends here. (Another story, for another time perhaps?) The parts eventually arrived. We paid the bill and set off for France, anticipating filling up with LPG, just over the border at our first available fill up point. We first had lunch then filled up. Engine wouldn't run on LPG. Remembered months ago the petrol solenoid problem. So, took off the engine cover. Checked all the wiring connections. Checked for the solenoid opening. It was. The engine would start on LPG, but then would cut out, closing the solenoid. Tried hard wiring the LPG solenoid, all that did was flood the engine. Decided to continue the journey on petrol. (Sod's law! We hadn't filled up on cheap petrol in Spain, Shhhhhhhhhhh!) Several expensive fill ups later, and several checks of the smell of petrol, I finally found the leak. It was leaking from the mechanical lift pump. Probably overheated due to it having been running dry while on LPG. Couldn't fix it, so we arrived in England and started visiting the families. During this time I was making enquiries locally to find assistance with our LPG problem. (The company that had done our conversion had gone out of business. Shhhhhhhhhhh) Arrived at our daughters, and spent the next two weeks surfing the internet to find some help with our predicament. (See Favourite Web Sites) I surfed to Italy, India, Russia, Poland, Checko, Yugo, Holland, the US of A. Eventually found someone within a reasonable distance and went and camped on his doorstep for two weeks, until he had time to look at our installation. There turned out to be one other piece of electrical control (faulty) connected on our system that I hadn't noticed. I was politely told it wasn't necessary, and that the system fitted wasn't up to the job anyway. So we decided to upgrade the parts required. I assisted him on the Saturday afternoon to complete the upgrade and replacing the lift pump. Making sure the solenoids were all fitted in the correct places. Fired the motor up, checked it on the emmissions meter. Then went for a test run. Absolutely chuffed to bits. Set off up the motorway to Yorkshire. That's strange! The petrol gauge is still going down. Oh! Well! Nearly there now.

    And finally Part Nine :-

    June 2002 - Spent the rest of June and part of July surfing the Internet looking for parts to renew the front brakes and the handbrake. (See Favourite Web Sites) Finally found the details of price, availability, delivery and ordered the parts. In the mean time I had checked over the lights and made certain everything worked as it should.

    August 2002 - Finally get the front brake pads, rotors and the handbrake shoes. But no handbrake cable. Our son Simon, who has a brilliant set of tools. Volunteered to do the job with my assistance (only because he wouldn't lend me his precious tools! - What happened to mine?). We progessed in a methodical, logical way, and succeeded in completing the job with hardly a problem. Apart that is from the handbrake cable, which hadn't arrived yet. I had booked in for the M.O.T. for Monday 19th August at 1.30pm. Saturday a phone call to say no handbrake cable yet. Decided to refit the old one. Monday dawns. We had breakfast and decided to go early to the M.O.T. station just in case there were any teething problems. Yup! There sure was. The motor battery was as flat as a pancake. No lights. No indicators. No nothing! (Shhhhhhhhhhhh!) Don't panic. Use the jumper leads from the internal batteries. Great! Everything works. Start the motor. (Nearly melt the jump leads) Disconnect the jump leads, and off we go. The battery is charging, but not holding a charge. On the way, the brakes were pulling every which way but straight. The handbrake was also sticking. Used some extra heavy force to try and bed them all in. (Think it's working.) Pull up near the Test centre and have lunch. Same problem, no battery power. Do the jumper lead trick again, and decide to leave them connected. I don't know how? But we passed the test with flying colours, except for the extra rear fog lights. I told them they had never worked! Didn't know I had any! They said I had to fix them and come back the next day. A quick re-wire and all was passed OK. So back down south to visit Mandy plus the other families down south.

    September 2002 - Back to camp at our friendly LPG premises until he could re-calibrate the LPG mixer. (Sod's law - I had been within a nat's whisker of doing it myself. We live, we learn?) Surely you're saying there can't be any more problems? Well at the moment, just the one. We had swapped the motor battery for one our son had lying around. It appeared to be working and in good condition. But with jumper leads flying all over the place, it seems the alternator had packed in. Took the alternator off for a re-build. Still not charging. Bought a new battery. Still not charging. So we had no more time left before we had to dash off for the Ferry to pastures greener. So we are still running on jumper leads from the leisure battery to the motor battery. All being kept topped up by our Solar power. That's the excitement of travelling around in your own home. You need to be a Plumber, an Electrician, a Motor mechanic, a Computer engineer, analyst, and progammer, TV and Satellite specialist, truck driver, body repair man, and all with just a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a toffee hammer, a ball of string, some sticky tape, and some super glue. Oh! And several tubes of silicone. So until the next update. Problems? No Problem! Maybe you might say, most are self inflicted? Maybe you say we are a little bit complacent, negligent, or trusting to luck? We hope not. We would like to think we make the best of the worst that is thrown at us. It certainly makes for an exciting and adventurous way of life.

    Here's a little(?) Update:-

    January 2003 - We had visited our friends in Holland. Visited our friends in Germany. We had spent several weeks with friends in the Orba Valley in Spain. We went to Birthday parties, Christmas parties and of course, the New Year celebrations. But throughout this period we were awaiting a phone call which would see us winging our way back to the UK. It came as soon as we awoke on the 4th of January. During all the time we had been away from England, our batteries had been kept topped up by the Solar panels. Also by running the generator most evenings to top up the batteries, watch TV, and operate the computers. (The generator never missed a beat.) After the phone call, as the day was cloudy, we started the generator. We quickly made our goodbyes and were on our way North. Two hours later, with the sun beaming down on the solar panels, we switched off the generator. We made it to just south of Barcelona, decided to do some stocking up at the supermarket and park up for the night. Did the shopping, went to start the generator. Nothing! Not a peep. There appeared to be sufficient battery power, but the generator would not turn over. Went outside in the gathering gloom to investigate. The starter motor solenoid on the generator was clicking, but the motor wasn't turning. (Tommorrow's another day?) Next morning, drove to our mechanic friend at Vallirana (Valley of Frogs). Our friend allowed us to put a booster charge to the batteries. He had a look at the motor alternator, and pronounced it wasn't working. He then checked the starter motor on the generator. Yep! That wasn't working either! So with the batteries boosted and the sun shining, we headed north to the other side of the Pyrenees to Le Belou in France, to fill up the LPG. Parked up for the night. During the night, it rained cats and dogs. In the morning it's snowing! Everything covered in 6 inches of snow. NO POWER! Oh! dear, now what do we do? Went walk about in the snow trying to buy or hire a generator. No way. Climb on the roof, clear off the snow from the solar panels. Great! It's showing 0.1 amp charge. Should just about be charged up by the 6th of January 2004. To cut a long story short. To save power, we didn't use any internal heating, just the burners on the cooker (we know you shouldn't do that, but we were B!!!!!! Cold). We didn't use any lighting equipment, internal or external. Then with the temperature dropping as low as -10C, Sandy (the trusty gofer) used a spatula to scrape the ice from the front and side windows to enable us to see where we were going. We wore several pairs of socks, thermal long johns, 'T' shirts, several layers of jumpers, plus coats, gloves and hats. Driving until it was dark, we parked up each evening and climbed into bed after the evening meal. We read our books by candle light and torch. It took us 5 days, but we made it. Now we hope to get everything fixed and in 100% working order, ready for our next (mis-) adventure. Take care. We sincerely hope all your troubles are few! Just another update (September 2004). We have sold the Coachmen and will tell you all about it when we get a spare moment to update again

    Here is the FINAL Update(?):-

    February 2003 - The reason for our trip back to the UK was for the funeral of Sandy's Step-Father. He was 84 years old. Smoked 4 packs of cigarettes and drank a bottle of Whisky a day. He had wounds from World War II and had Asbestosis from previous work employment. Anyway, on with the update:- We spent a month with Sandy's Mum, then trundled back up North to Doncaster to get everything fixed ready for our return back to Spain. Our son Simon got out his trusty Snap-On tools and we proceeded to strip out the Main Motor Alternator and the Generator Starter motor. We couldn't get them repaired (past it by a long way), so I ordered some new ones. The Starter Motor was actually 25% more than the Alternator. The mind boggles?

    March 2003 - We spent some time with family in Doncaster and Luton, visited Mum (in-law) again, and booked the ferry for France. No problems, everything going like clockwork. Yippeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

    April 2003 to April 2004 - Nothing to report? Everything going brilliant. Had a geat time. We had the usual services to do for the MOT. Other than that? Nothing. Absolutely great.

    April 2004 - Saw us seeing off our Dutch friends who were going back home. We then made our way up to El Moli in the Orba Valley to visit our friends Mike & Sue for a while.

    May 2004 - We were at the side of the beach just south of Barcelona. Had a great couple of weeks sunning, riding etc before we headed North to make our way back to the UK..

    June 2004 - The usual routine. Into France to Le Belou to fill up with LPG. Stop for a bite to eat then continue on our journey. We had travelled around 30 miles from Le Belou and the motor started missing occasionally. (????) It gradually got worse, especially under load. Used my usual trick of giving a boost of petrol to the LPG and carried on. Cut a long story short, it gradually got worse (as it does). So bad, that it eventually came to a dead stop on the A75 whilst climbing the mountain. It refused to start. Not a splutter. (Oh! for crying out $&£*$&%& LOUD). Out came the tools, the spare distributor, plug leads etc. Two hours later (dirty, tired, ****** off ) saw us spluttering on our way again (firing on 4 or 5 out of 8 cylinders). Finally (heart in mouth in case it cut out going down the mountain????????) we made it down into Millau. Pulled into the Truck stop by the side of the river and parked up to rest before we started to scour Millau for parts. Couldn't get a Sat signal due to all the trees where we had parked. So I started up and reversed back into the middle to move to a better place. Got into the middle alright and it refused to go any further (as John McEnroe used to say ' You cannot be *&$^^*$ Serious?). Next day, all the electrical things were checked out. Had a 12v supply to the distributor but no spark at the plus. After spending some time walking around every parts and motor shops buying this that and the other, we made enough friends to push us back from the middle parking into a less dangerous position. The main motor parts shop were very helpful as was our laptop interpreter, but they didn't have the correct parts. We did spend a lot on bit's and bobs. But to no avail. I used our laptop along with the Nokia 5110, cable and Nokia Data Suite to send off emails to our 4x4 contact back in the UK. Our pay-as-you-go Sim chips from Spain and the UK were using up the Top-up very quick. Went into Millau and found a Cyber Cafe (and very cheap too). We had decided to order a full set of plugs, leads, distributor, coil, module etc. Just in case it was any one of them. The first lot of parts we received, were the wrong ones (come on - you can't be serious?). They would have fitted the Gulfstream but not the Coachmen. Second set arrived, but without the module that fits in the bottom of the distributor. Built everything up anyway and gave it a whirl. Nothing, not a bit of a spark. In total we were there 3 1/2 weeks waiting to fit parts. We used the waiting time to discover the valley around Millau. Shopping, Mountain biking, swimming in the river (good for washing too, although a little cold). When the final part (module) arrived and was fitted, it fired up. We were on our way within 30 minutes of receiving it (If a little hesitantly). It was still running pretty bad, but at least it was moving. Made it to Le Havre. Got the ferry. One or two other travellers giving us looks (must have been the noise the engine was making? It did sound pretty rough, but we were used to it by then).

    July 2004 - Visited Mum-in-Law and did some Karaoke's for the old folk (?). Surfed the internet looking for RV's to replace the Coachmen. Trundled back up North. Called at an RV repair, service and sales on the way up. He quoted around £2000 to fix the blowing Intake and Exhaust. WHAT? Asked what he would give me in part-exchange against one of his vastly over-priced RV's. He was not interested in our Coachmen at any price. So carried on up North.

    August & September 2004 - I decided to chill out and try and get my head back together. I had lost interest in the Coachmen. I was in 2 minds as to whether to take it down the tip and set fire to it (NO, not an insurance job either). In the meantime while surfing the net. I found a replacement RV. Simon and his friend had been cleaning the Coachmen up and pestering me to work on the Intake and Exhaust so we could at least test it and sell it. So we did. Took off the exhausts and found there were no gaskets fitted (?). So I bought some Gum Gum and other exhaust sealants and re-fitted them. Sounded much better, but it was still missing. To cut a VERY long story short. I found out on the internet that gaskets are fitted after the first removal of the exhausts and that they also needed to be skimmed to true up the faces. Tried several specialists who wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. A friend finished up grinding them true for us. Took off the Inlet manifold and fitted new gaskets all round. When we eventualy started it up, I just could not believe it was the same engine. It sounded as sweet as a nut. Took it for it's test and it failed on emissions on LPG. How can that be? After discussing it and checking. It turned out that because everything was now completely sealed tight gasket wise, that the timing was out. We had to re-adjust the timing and the LPG mix, but it really did sound great. Took it for the test and it sailed through. So while we were doing all this work we had advertised it for sale and I had to pull it off at the last minute because it had failed the emissions test. We did sell it to a lovely couple and I hope all the time and money we spent was worth it to them in the future. So the replacement is a 1993 Gulfstream Crown Regis 30ft. But, that's another story for another time. Happy Motorhoming and may all your dreams come true. Hasta La Vista.

    Latest Update. The Gulfstream wasn't big enough for our needs. So we went to Florida and bought our latest. The 1996 Newmar Mountain Aire 38ft. You can read about that here:-

    http://www.motorhomefun.co.uk/showthread.php?t=803
     
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