Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vanagon Factory Repair Manual

I bought "VW Vanagon - Factory Repair Manual, 1980/1981". The front page looks the following:

From Volkswagen Transporter T3

It's supposed to be the complete (idiot's) guide to:
  • maintaining Vanagon,
  • replacing parts,
  • diagnosing problems,
  • repair like a pro
, as it's fully illustrated.

Inside one can find A LOT OF exploded views, which show what goes where and when. Such views are important for inexperienced mechanics like myself. Here's an example of page from the book:

Where did I buy this book

In Hawaii. And to be more precise -- on eBay from a guy living there. I paid for the book $19.99 and extra $34.95 for p&p. A lot of money, but I think the book is worth every penny I paid!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Solar battery charging

Everyone knows what happens to car batteries if the temperature is below freezing (0°C, 32°F). They don't give any power to the starter. From the scientific point of view their capacity drops a lot when it gets colder. For the driver it means one -- he can't start his engine and has to walk in the cold. It is especially difficult for diesel engines as they need to be warmed by glowplugs before they can be started and need a lot of torque in the starter (as they have high compression ratio).

Since I have my camping solar set, I wanted it to charge the battery that's used to start the engine.

My solar set consists of the solar photovoltaic panel, auxillary battery (under the passenger's seat) and a charge controller. This controller has three sets of connectors: source of power (to charge the battery), the battery and the devices to be powered from the battery. If the voltage in the battery is high enough, it allows the devices to use electricity. If not, the devices are disconnected.

I used the third set of connectors and attached a plug that's compatible with cigarette lighter sockets. If sun is shining, it charges the auxillary battery along with the standard one.

That's why when I leave my camper on the guarded parking near my apartment, I leave the solar panel under the windscreen. And why I chose a parking space with a lot of free sunlight.

From Volkswagen Transporter T3

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gettin ready for X-mas

The Christmas is on it's way, so I decided to add some christmas spirit to my VW T3.

I used the camping battery, the DC/AC inverter and a timeswitch. Ans a set of 50 lightbulbs. I connected the inverter to the battery and turned it on. Then I plugged the timeswitch and the lights to the switch. I set the switch to turn the lights on for half an hour between 8 PM and 8.30 PM. I set the whole thing at 1 PM.

I came back to the camper later, around 8 PM, to make a photo of the christmas decoration. But it wasn't lit. Why? Because the inverter drained the battery by just powering the time switch. So I connected the solar charge controller to the engine battery (just like the camping battery was charged by solar panel) and turned the lights on.

From Volkswagen Transporter T3

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First summer holidays ideas

Do you remember the idea of making a trip around the Baltic Sea I mentioned over two years ago? This idea came up again. ;) I spoke with Tomek the other day and we thought that driving around the sea with two campers is a great way to spend summer holidays.

With two campers as Tomek is about to buy his own camper built on VW T3 (T25 / Vanagon). :)

The idea to drive over 7,000 km is a bit tricky. It's not like there are no roads and no repairs shops, but it'd be really expensive if something would go wrong and would need repairing. To save the money we'd have to take as much stuff as possible, with the three week supply of food being the last thing to worry about. An axle or two, two spare wheels each, fuel hoses, some wires, a small genset and a welding machine. And many nuts and bolts of various shapes and sizes. ;)

We decided to plan the trip for 17-19 days and spend an entire 3 weeks in the trip. So we would have two or more extra days in case anything went wrong. Of course we'll prepare some backup plans so we could get home sooner by a ferry of some sort.

The trip would be a bit more difficult because at the end of the february my wife should give a birth to my daughter (son?). The kid will of course come with us, but we'll have to take his needs into account. ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The quest for the lost motorway

I live in Żyrardów -- a town located about 25 miles west from Warsaw. Near my town one can find small parts of an old (lost) motorway -- Olimpijka. It was supposed to be built for 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and to connect Moscow and Berlin. But only small part was finished, only about 50 km, now a part of the A2 highway. The rest of this highway at the moment consists of some bridges, partially built overpasses and 250 yards of tarmac. I always liked such places, so we tried to find as many as possible.

We started over a year ago, in april/may 2007. The first thing we found was that tarmac, followed with mud road cut in a forest and a overpass.

The road in the forest doesn't look spectacular.

I also made a movie of the tarmac. Here it is:

We found two more interesting spots on last sunday. I should probably say that we found them earlier on satellite photos and simply drove there using the GPS coordinates.

From Volkswagen Transporter T3

This was supposed to be an overpass of the highway above planned railway track. Eventually the highway was not built, nor was the track.

We also visited a concrete bridge built over a small creak. Nothing very spectacular.

You can find more photos in my picasa web album.

If you'd like to visit those places, I can provide you with the GPS coordinates. Just write a comment here. :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ania's driving

This is the second time ever when my wife Ania decided to drive my camper. We're going to meet my parents in Warsaw and to buy some cheap diesel fuel.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New camping battery? Not right now...

I thought I need to buy new camping battery. The one I have installed in my camping solar system works poorly. It discharges itself very fast... I thought it was couple of years old and it reached it's lifetime. I wanted to buy a new battery.

Since we have to pay some deposit when I purchase new battery (it's refunded when I leave the old battery in the shop), I took the old battery from the camper and wanted to buy a new one. In one of our local shops the new 12 V 45 Ah battery was sold for 150 PLN (less than $60). But one small detail grabbed my attention and saved me the money.

A small plastic envelope is glued to the battery. Inside that envelope is a piece of paper with warranty and user manual. And the warranty has the purchase date written on that paper. When I read that date I was very surprised. I found out that the battery was purchased last year, on august 10th! So the battery is not old, it might only be broken. Or... just needs to be charged fully and will start working.

So instead taking the battery to the shop, I carried it to my apartment along with rectifier.

From Volkswagen Transporter T3
The battery was almost completely discharged. I am afraid the lead plates inside the battery are covered with sulphur and the battery will not work properly. But if it's broken, I'll try to get a refund or new battery from the manufacturer as the warranty is valid for another year.

The photo shows the rectifier does work. I hope it'll charge the battery within a day or two...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New front turn signals

Some time ago I found on one of polish internet auction sites a set of white front turn signals, coupled with position lamps. They were prices as high as PLN 200 ($82, but closer to $70 then) and I thought that someone must be insane to sell them at such price.

Three or four weeks ago I was scrolling through Ebay and I found so called VW Vanagon T3 80-92 clear corner light lenses and bought two sets. One clear, one dimmed (smoked). I wasn't sure which will suit my camper best.

They arrived on thursday. I just came home after installing a set. Would you guess which one I installed?

From Volkswagen Transporter T3
Lenses as taken from the boxes.

The clear lens, mounted on the right side.

The smoked lens, mounted on the left side.

Both lenses while hazard flasher is on.

The white looked very nice, as large part of my camper is white.
The smoked also looked nice, as some parts in front of the camper (grilles, bumper) are black).

And the winner is:

The clear, of course!

I will sell the smoked lenses to someone here. :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Small repairs

On saturday I spent a couple of hours with my camper, making some small repairs.

The most important thing was to fill the oil in the engine as it's level was below minimum. I had oil in 4 liter can so it was a bit difficult to pour it into the inlet. I used a flexible hose I got with a tank of screen washer fluid (brand new, so I didn't introduce any washer fluid into the oil tank). I poured 0.5 liter of oil.

The next thing was to replace the bulb in the left front light. The left headlamp worked only with high beam (driving beam) but not with low beam (passing beam). But it was not the light that was broken. It was caused by an old fuse, as it's wire broke.

I also found out why the two rear registration plate lamps didn't work. The cause was as simple as two broken bulbs.

I enjoy working with my camper when it's such easy... ;)

Friday, September 12, 2008

New engine coolant and new wheel covers

On tuesday I drove my T3 to Tomek. We were going to change the cooling liquid, 'cause the cooling system was filled with distilled water. In Poland we have cold winters with temperature drops down to -30°C (-22°F), far below the freezing point. So having water inside an engine is a bad idea.

The VW T3 has in it's engine 16 liters of cooland, so Tomek bought 3 5-liter coolant tanks.

From Volkswagen Transporter T3

We had some trouble in finding a good place to flush the old liquid from the system. Finally we disconnected two hoses that go from the engine to the radiator.

What was weird, after draining all the liquid, we could only pour inside less than 10 liters of the new coolant. It seems that some water was left somewhere in the system. I have to add some additive that will protect it from freezing, though some kind of device Tomek has shown that the coolant is enough for -22°C.

I also have two new wheel covers, with beautiful chrome layer!

Tomek found out that two of my wheel covers aren't painted with gray paint, but are covered with chrome and some dust. With chrome-cleaning paste and a cloth he managed to restore them to the beauty you can see above.


In the middle of cleaning.


At the moment I have to buy the other two wheel covers. :)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

New pump and faucet

So I have new water pump and faucet. Nothing very difficult, just some $50 spent, two pair of wires cut and new devices soldered.

There'll be only one photograph. These are the pumps: old versus new. The red is obviously the old one. ;)

From Volkswagen Tr...

The new faucet looks exactly the same as the old one. But works differently.

The old one had to be turned clockwise to start the pump. At first the turning caused the valve to be opened, further turning started the pump.
The new one needs to be turned counter-clockwise. Like ordinary faucet or any other valve. :) Turning the valve starts the pump and after some further turning the valve is opened.
Small diferences, but mean a lot...

See for yourself. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Quick fix for stupid failure

The day before yesterday my beloved camper didn't start. The starter didn't work, all the lights on the console went black. When I opened the engine bay cover and asked my wife Ania to start the engine, I saw some sparks on cable that goes from the battery to the starter. Since it was late and raining, we left the bus where it stood (luckily it was next to my parents-in-law) and took a cab home.

Yesterday I went there to fix the failure with my father-in-law. I am very glad he never refused to help me with my camper. He knows a bit about cars and engines, so I can almost always count on his help and knowledge. Of course my main expert and idol when it comes to cars is Tomek, who was mentioned here many times. :)

Our first idea was: cable between the battery and the starter is broken. My father-in-law tried to pull it from the connector on the battery and saw that it's loosened there. So we disconnected the connector and dissasemblied it. I didn't like the look of it.

From Volkswagen Tr...

All the surfaces that were supposed to provide good contact between those connectors were covered with patina. So I took sandpaper and metal brush and cleaned all the surfaces. The main cable (on the photo below it's the one I hold) was also covered with solder to provide better electric connection.

Once everything was clean, we bolted the connector back, covered it with vaseline (to stop water and patina) and attached it to the battery.

The starter runs like never before!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Holidays in Kolobrzeg - photo summary

I posted here some info on our summer holidays near Kołobrzeg. Now it's a good time to summarize the entire trip. I always liked photos and made some, so I'll post selected photos as a good summary.

From Volkswagen Tr...

You can see here the camper's cupboards filled with food and clothes. We hardly managed to put everything inside. :)

I like this closet, 'cause it allows the clothes to hang almost freely. And it is really huge (compared to space in my VW T3). I think I'll add a mirror on the inside of the door.

Bikes attached to bike mount. If you'd like to buy such bike mount, contact me, I have one spare. :)

This 12V->230V electricity inverter is an important part of my camper's electrical equipment. But on this photo it was used by my dad to charge his cellphone from his camper's battery.

The bed is large.

The first evening.

The first evening (cont).

Mig-21's we saw on our way to Borne Sulinowo, on an airfield close to Nadarzyce.

In the Borne Sulinowo. These buildings were part of russian military base.

Second day of our trip, road somewhere between Borne Sulinowo and Kołobrzeg. It's a result of asking GPS software to find the shortest route. As you can see, the road was very narrow. I was glad we didn't have to pass any other cars... :)

That's me, removing the back cover of my fridge.


The back of the fridge. You can see how precise the removal of cupboard's back was. You can also see my camping battery and solar charger.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

repairs on the campsite (2)

When I wrote the last post, I thought I'll have every important appliance in the camper working. But things changed since the day before yesterday.


The absorption fridge works only on gas. It doesn't work on 12 nor 230 volt electricity. I have no idea why. I removed the back cover of the fridge cupboard only to see that the power is delivered where it should be. The 12 volt heater conducts current, but doesn't work. I don't know why, I have no equipment to see what's wrong. I tried to see if the 230 volt heater works, but only got electrocuted. For the lack of tools I tried to check that using standard lightbulb.

Pump and faucet

Both worked yesterday. When I wanted to put the faucet together, I thought it'd check the last time if everything works. I forgot to put inside the part that closes the water flow, so the water fountain made everything wet. Including the switch that had to be cleaned when the faucet didn't work. I thought it just needed to dry and will work. I was mistaken. The next day the switch worked great, but the pump did not. So not every important appliance does work...
The photo shows me tightening the screws that hold the couch's hinge.

We're leaving tomorrow. I had enough of cold sea (today the water temperature was 11'C - 52'F), messy bathrooms and stupid rules on this campsite. More details on the latter - in one of future updates.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

repairs on the campsite (1)

Since we arrived at this campsite, I repaired some broken appliances here. That's why I wrote yesterday that my camper is in it's best shape ever...
The most important thing is the starter. Repairing it was the easiest on the list, though. I had the same thing some time ago (sorry, no URL today, you have to scroll through the blog's archive). Tomek repaired it easily and laughed at me as it was so easy to figure out what caused the starter to fail. He phoned me yesterday and gave me detailed instructions on what I need to do.
Do you see the blue cable, lying on the starter? It tells the quarter that I turned the ignition switch. It is of course supposed to be installed on the starter. I told you it was easy to fix...
Tomorrow: how I fixed the sink faucet and how I tried to make the fridge work on electricity and got electrocuted.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

at Kolobrzeg

Long time, no news. You might thought I died or the campervan broke or something... None of this happened, honestly speaking, the camper is now in its best shape ever, but that required some work to be done.
After leaving Krepsko, we drove with my parents to Borne Sulimowo, a town that 20 years ago held a large Russian military base. We ate there lunch and were going to separate for the rest of the trip. But when I wanted to start the engine, the starter didn't work. So dad pulled us and we started our camper's engine this way.
We arrived at a campsite near Kolobrzeg some two hours later (see photo). I had trouble with my cellphone charger, because of that I couldn't use my GPS software installed on my phone. We had to use old-fashioned maps instead. ;) And I had to make sure the engine will be running at all time...
Now the starter is fixed, more info on that tomorrow... In Poland it's midnight, a good time to go to sleep.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

day one done

So we arrived at a campsite near Pila. I picked my wife here. I wrote "we", 'cause I drove with my father. He has his own camper, built on Ford Transit. Mine is better. ;) we ate some grilled fish and now are getting prepared for the night. Tomorrow we're driving with my wife to Kolobrzeg, my parents are going somewhere else.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

vistula river

This is the Vistula river. Photo taken couple minutes ago. More info and a full update on today's journey in the evening. Subscribe to RSS feed (link on the right) if you'd like to read it as soon as it's written.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

bicycle mount

This is a test post to check if I can post something here using MMS message sent to an e-mail address.
The photo shows the bicycle mount I installed today.


Tomorrow I am going for my wife, the day after we're going to Kołobrzeg on the Baltic Sea coast. Yesterday and two days ago I spent some time with my camper, preparing it for the trip.

I started with the most important issue on saturday. I had to check if the camper's 230V electricity worked. I am going to use it intensively during our holiday to power my electrolux camping refrigerator, laptop computer and probably some other stuff. I bought a connector that allowed me to connect my campervan to standard socket which can be found on polish campsites (and in our homes).

From Volkswagen Tr...

Then I had to check if there's any electricity inside the van. I put a lightbulb in my only 230V socket. As you can see, it worked.

The next stage was to clean the van and make some room in the trunk below the back seat. I use it for the most important things such as:
  • jack,
  • toolbox,
  • a box with lightbulbs, connectors, fuses and some other electrical stuff,
  • a box containing screwdriver and some bits,
  • compressor,
  • some spare parts,
  • some wires,
  • unused (yet) loudspeakers.
When I finally dug out the trunk and was able to vacuum it I was very proud.

To make some room in the camper, first I had to throw everything out.

The gray bucket is my camping bin. The black vessel with two handles in the back of the photo was a pot for a christmas tree I planted with my wife on my piece of land at the beginning of may. The shovel and scythe (you can see the wooden part of scythe on the photo, just under the fence) I use on my land and never have time to store them anywhere else than in the camper.