How to Look After Your Camper Van and the Environment

camper, climate, emissions, MOT, smoke, vanlife, vanliving -

How to Look After Your Camper Van and the Environment

So I found myself in a bit of a dilemma recently when I took my beloved Thelma camper for its MOT. 

I was very shocked to have failed the smoke emissions test, which has never happened before. All of a sudden I found myself without transport, without my camper and I felt like a huge part of my freedom had been taken away. 

For all these years I have been so fortunate to have the choice of driving away in my van, exploring and sleeping where I choose and wake up to a new view each day. I haven't been away in my van for a few months, more because of the cold winter months and the vast amount of rain we have been having but just knowing Thelma is there, allows my sense of freedom to remain just bubbling in the background.

So when my van was suddenly not allowed on the road and she was a failure, I actually burst into tears. Thelma is so much more than just a vehicle, she has been to places with me, seen so many things and I built the camper conversion all by myself with so much thought and hard work. She was never just a load carrier or a transporter, she was my travel buddy.

The saying "You don't know what you've got until it's gone" suddenly came into my head as I realised just how important my van was and is. Emissions are a real hot issue at the moment and the government are cracking down on anything affecting our climate, especially diesel vehicles.

So immediately I knew a few things to get working on to bring my emissions down but the process became quite the obsession as I did these things but the next emissions test failed as well and the reading actually went up a fraction. With more research, tears and frustration, I went on a mission to understand what was going on inside my van and to know the process enough to do what ever was necessary to bring Thelma back into action. I needed to learn the engine, the parts, what I could do myself to save money but also when I was out of my depth. I needed to also share this with others and have driven many a person mad with my dull talk about injectors and diesel additives! 

The most frustrating part of all this is Thelma is low mileage, I have cared for her the day I bought her and always done full services and fixed any issues immediately. She is a perfectly good vehicle with a lot of life left in her, I haven't even touched the surface of what the engine can do, it's just whether the rest of the parts can keep up! 

Let me know what you do with your camper van to keep them in top shape and what you do when it comes to emissions?

1 comment

  • Anthony Joyes

    Diesels are a brilliant nightmare, while I am not keen on the mass production methods of batteries, the overall result is so much better. Roll on stuff we can all afford!

    My old (2004) T5 / 30 LWB panel van has the ubiquitous 1.9t engine, in other words it just about coughs its way up a hill in standard trim! It has proved as reliable (touching wood project, see what I did there) as one can hope …. right up to when the ECU packed up and I found it was a bodge of a bodge – sigh. Getting that repaired (business in Bury St Edmunds, put 12 months warranty on it too) made a surprising difference and economy improved… a little. Adding a Tdi Tuning box (you just plug it in, does not touch the ECU) improved economy a little more, and stopped most of the coughing and wheezing at every incline. Judicious waggling of the gear lever down from 5th to 4th or 3rd even has been eliminated almost completely which means better economy.

    Of course, 20" diameter wheels with 10" of rubber across them slows things up :-), but the 100mm drop looks and drives SO much better. I fully recommend TransporterHQ v2 headlamps with DRL option; the agro of dropping the front end off to fit them was well worth it for the looks and effectiveness, while Van-X rear LED lamp units sorted the back too – simple, plug-n-play.

    Inside, there is an L-shaped seating area behind the cab seats, which converts to a bed, and the hob and sink are in one unit down the near side of the van, with another unit including a pop-up power point tower beyond the seats on the off side.

    Ground power hook-up from a discreet wee plug under the rear valance (customveedubs electric hook up), married to vehicle 12v power from 2 parallel 120ah leisure batteries (plus split charge and and a solar panel), with a Kiravans power control unit across them all

    I’m just in the process of putting a new headlining in the cab and the load area, with LEDs in the lining of the latter.

    There is no pop-top, they’re worth more than the van is so the choice was made to let that option go. Barn door awning from Kiravans (always remember to get the one for spoilers if fitted to your barn doors – what, do you think I made that mistake?! ;-) ) and table inset in “ol’ creaky” the sliding door.

    Probably worth mentioning the Pioneer touch screen head unit – ridiculously cheap – from Dynamic Sounds, and with Apple Car Play installed, and a reversing camera too.

    Is it the best friend of the ecology? No! It’s an old diesel. Is it freedom wrapped in metal? Yes! The ol’ gal spends a fair bit of time on the Isle of Mull, and in parts of the island that are unmade road, so she pays her way. North Cost 500 on the agenda as well as other Scottish islands, West and North. Happy days

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