Our step-by-step guide from start to end of all the mechanical work that's been done on the van, including all of the trials and errors in between. We’ve included the cost of all materials used to give an idea of what to expect when considering converting your own van.

 

Replacing the wiper linkage

From day one we’ve had a rusty leaky van. Trying to identify the source of the puddles in our foot wells was an arduous task as it turned out to be a combination of many things: a leaky door seal on the driver’s side, a split windscreen seal, and the windscreen wiper linkage on the passenger side. We picked up a secondhand wiper rack from the scrapyard for £20- the guy there told us these were like gold dust and in high demand, and it’s no wonder: the number one most asked question concerning LDVs is: “Why are there puddles in my foot well?!” We serviced the wiper rack by removing the old grease around the parts that had seized up and applying new grease to get them moving again - it worked a treat, but that was the easy part.

We’ve dismantled and reattached our wiper motor (see below) so many times now we can do it in under 5 minutes, Formula-1 style. This had to come off in order to be able to change the linkage.

To do this first you’ll need to remove the passenger glove box which is attached by 4 screws underneath the cup holders and above the air vent on the left (you’ll need to open the door to reach it). Once this is out of the way, you’ll need to undo the two security screws holding the ECU in place; for this you’ll need a specialist screwdriver kit. We were given one as a present from Wilko and it has been infinitely useful to us as it contains just about every size and shape of screwdriver head. Get yourself one of these before you start- the ECU screws are a six-pointed star shape. Once the bracket is off and the ECU is safely out of the way, you will need to bend the ECU mount forward- yes, bend it. Another joyful design flaw of the LDV is that the wiper motor, which is basically designed to break, is inaccessible simply by dismantling a few screws. You will also find that the relays are in the way of the motor, and you may need to do some bending and wiggling to get these out of the way.

You’ll need three people for the next task: one to undo the four 10mm bolts on the inside of the van holding the wiper motor bracket on, one to stop the nuts from moving and falling in the engine bay (located behind and around the water filling bottle), and one to curse and swear while trying to locate an LDV manual for this kind of thing (spoiler alert: there isn’t one).

Finally the only thing that will now hold the wiper motor on is one small bolt that connects it to the wiper arm. You will need an exceptionally small 8mm ratchet spanner for this, very flexible arms and a crooked neck.

You should now successfully have removed the wiper motor along with most of the skin on your arms and your patience.

Then all that’s left to do is put the bonnet down, undo the bolts holding the wiper spindles on, push these through the body work, wiggle the linkage out from the inside and then do all of this in reverse.

The tricky part is ensuring the wiper arm is in the right position once you’ve reassembled it all; ours wasn’t and as a result we ended up going through three wiper motors over the course of a year. You’ll know something’s not right if the wipers are making a clunking sound (see below). Make sure before you reattach the wiper arm that you have run the wipers on a full cycle to set the motor in its default position, and do the same manually with the actual wipers on the screen.

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First MOT

For the first seven months of the build our van was off the road. Sitting in the driveway all winter hadn’t done it any favours so there was a lot of MOT prep to do. We bought a new exhaust for it as the old one was badly split (£50), and two new front tires as the old ones had cracked from sitting still for too long.

We decided to go ahead and carpet the cab to try and hide the worst of the rust and bodged repair jobs, including the rusty seat mount we’d pop-riveted in place. We then reattached all the seat mounts, seats, seatbelts and the handbrake and gear stick covers which luckily helped to cover up our poor job on the carpet.

It failed its MOT, the first of many fails to come. We had a feeling it might so it didn’t come as much of a shock. Luckily what it failed on wasn’t anything major, just a few tweaks and minor adjustments. The only annoying thing was they weren’t satisfied with how we had fixed the hole in the cab floor; they wanted it welded and not pop-riveted so we had to take up our new carpet along with all the soundproofing. The welding was a horrible job for Lucy’s dad and almost set the van on fire. Apart from that the headlights needed adjusting slightly and there wheel bearings, just a minor tweak.

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First breakdown

Ben passed his test in April 2016, three months before we were due to set off. He’d been looking forward to taking the van for a spin for the longest time. We got in, drove it literally 10 miles and it broke down. Not the best of starts. He thought he’d done something stupid - he tried to take off from parking in the village on a brief trip to work and it wouldn’t budge. We thought the handbrake might have seized up so we tried forcing it off by rocking the van back and forth but no luck.

We then called out what seemed like an honest mechanic (how naive) to have a gander. He took the rear right wheels off and started talking about all kinds of awful things like seized differentials and buggered axles which obviously freaked us out. He then quoted us £300 to fix it including labour and parts. Luckily, very luckily, Ben had a friend with breakdown cover who managed to get the van towed home the next day for free saving us around £200 on a call out charge on a Sunday. Lucy’s dad – who is actually a mechanic and not a dodgy one either – explained that it was nothing to do with the diff; the brake shoes were in such a dire state that the lining had literally fallen off and wound its self around the brake disc, locking it on solid. So thanking our lucky stars we didn’t listen to mechanic number one, it only set us back around £40. Phew!

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First service (ever?)

We took our van in for a full service before we set off on our first mini road trip around the UK, and it turned out to be the first service the van had ever had. The oil, air and diesel filters were black and filthy and the fan belt had a great big gash down it, but at least the underneath of the van got an all clear. Unfortunately when the mechanic changed the diesel filter it disturbed the fuel line and created a massive air lock, which prevented the van from starting. He spent several hours trying to get the van started again but needed a fuel pump which he didn’t have with him, and he was already working an hour past closing time so we sadly pushed the van outside the garage and spent the night in it broken down.

The next morning he arrived with his fuel pump and within half an hour he had removed the huge quantities of air from the fuel intake, and the van lived to see another day. Despite all his work the mechanic only charged us £70 (with another £56 on parts) as he was a friend of Lucy’s dad.

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Second breakdown

Now there’s a classic sight: An LDV Convoy aboard a tow truck. She made it up her first mountain but sadly she didn’t make it down. One of our rear brake cylinders burst its seal, and the last place you want to be with no brakes is on top of a mountain. We got the van towed down and to a local garage, but finding parts for it was going to be a tricky task. 

LDV parts can be problematic to find in the UK so needless to say in Spain, it was dire. We took it to a DAF garage as DAF was the parent company of LDV before they discontinued making them. We then had huge problem communicating with the Spanish mechanics and suppliers, wrong parts were ordered, estimated finishing dates were given and then retracted and there were mix ups with our breakdown cover and hotels. At the end of the week, we were stung with a huge bill of nearly £500, which, considering the work needed and the cost of the parts in the UK was quite a shock; a pair of rear brake cylinders would set you back around £40 in the UK. All this being said, we were secretly pretty chuffed that we had a bath and a shower to use at our leisure for the entire week, and make the most of them we did! We perfected hotel room dining with instant noodles, soups and our speciality; a hairdryer-melted cheese toastie. At least we had our lives and our brakes were better than ever.

Our breakdown cover company really looked after us that week with 3* hotels and buffet breakfasts. We said goodbye to our hotel suite, our lovely bath and our brief encounter with the normality of travel holidays and took the taxi back to the garage to collect our van, our rucksacks full of complimentary shower gel, hair nets and single ply bog rolls. 

We have since learned that the only garage we can trust abroad is ATS Euromaster; they’re a Europe-wide tire company but in our experience are willing to give just about anything a go. You can also agree on a price with them beforehand and they're extremely helpful.

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New window

As some of you may know, our side window was smashed when we got broken into back in December 2016, and, being an LDV, absolutely no one could get a replacement window for us out on the continent. So we returned with a bodged sheet of aluminium held in with screws and covered with Plexiglas and a terrible draft. 

We picked up a secondhand window from the scrapyard for £25 (although it was more like an LDV graveyard the amount of sad looking vans that were sitting there rotting away).

Removing the window was a fairly easy process, which involved simply drilling out the pop rivets and punching them through. After just 15 minutes the window popped out.

We fitted the new one in, drilled some new holes for the pop rivets as most of the old ones didn’t match up, then went around it with a rivet gun. Job done! If only we’d known it was this simple. Neither of us can resist touching the window whenever we climb into the van, amazed to finally have some glass back in it again.

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Wiper motor: A Saga

Due to an incorrectly fitted wiper linkage, we ended up going through three separate wiper motors over the course of a year. The clue should’ve been a loud clunking sound the motor was making beneath the dashboard, but LDV owners seem to unanimously agree: the wiper motor is overpowered and under-supported. The thin aluminium bracket that holds it in place is just not strong enough to cope with the throw of the wiper arm. Therefore you should avoid using the highest setting on your wipers completely, as this is the most powerful one and the one which does the damage. Just pretend you only have two settings.

One December morning in Portugal, returning from a party after eight hours or so of rain, we’d decided to leave the mountains before they became completely impassable. Unfortunately, our van had other ideas. Owing to the bodge job we made of replacing the wiper rack back in England, our wiper motor stabiliser arm had snapped clean off and the motor was now flailing and smashing against the ECU. So for around 30 miles we drove with no wipers, stopping every now and again to clear the screen manually. We eventually gave up and pulled to the side of the road in a mild state of despair; our LDV had caused yet another problem. But then, to our amazement, another LDV pulled up in front and an Australian man stepped out and asked if we were in trouble. It turned out he was a dab hand at fixing just about anything. Within less than an hour, he’d managed to fix our wipers with half a broken chopping board, a washing cord and a bucket handle. We couldn’t believe our luck, it was probably the best bodge job of anything we’d ever seen. 

We used them sparingly, but when it rains in Portugal it really rains, and it wasn’t long before the motor had slipped out of its new bracket.

We actually drove from Portugal to Italy with no wipers; we made do with a squeegee and some rain repellent. We got a new wiper motor shipped out and asked Euromaster to fit it for us. We had four Italian mechanics drinking espresso and puzzling over our van, each suggesting a different way it could be done or coming over for a gander to point at our steering wheel on the wrong side. We left there, our pockets €80 lighter with a newly repaired wiper motor, so the last thing we expected to hear was a loud clunk as we were driving along in the rain back in Blighty.

But there are only two types of weather in England: rain and slightly less rain.

We were well practiced in dismantling the dashboard by this point, and had it off in minutes only to find the motor had snapped off its mount. Again.

This time it had been properly fitted, so it became apparent it was a design fault (of which LDVs have many) that the motor is simply too powerful for the three aluminium brackets that hold it on. Replacing the entire motor again didn’t seem to be an option, so instead we decided to make our own bracket for it.

We did this using a chunk of scrap steel which conveniently was the right fit for the motor (it helps to have a garage full of odds and ends, you never know what may come in handy). We riveted this onto the plate, making sure the three broken aluminium mounts matched up so that the motor would be in the correct place. Then we bent a piece of steel over the top of the new mount to hold the motor in place and bolted this on too. Now, hopefully, with a proper mount, the motor shouldn’t be going anywhere.

In the end we ended up buying yet another wiper motor on one of our ventures to the scrapyard, and fitting this with a reinforced mount as our old one was beyond use.

 

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How to change LDV Convoy kingpins

This is a guide on how to replace the kingpins on an LDV Convoy, and also a warning to all van owners why you should grease your kingpins!

 

We’ve been told by many LDV owners that the one thing you should do to keep your van going is regularly grease your kingpins. And what did we do? We didn’t grease our kingpins. As a result this was a massive great fail on our second MOT, leading to the truly horrible job of replacing both the kingpins altogether.

We paid £35 per kingpin, and £47 for a hydraulic press from eBay which was the cheapest method we could find: doing it ourselves, as the garage wanted £400+ for the job!

The first step: dismantling the entire front axle. We jacked the van up and made it super secure with axle stands underneath the gearbox mounts and tree stumps under the front cross member as a backup. Off came the wheels, off came the calipres, brake discs and hubs with our broken ABS sensors; off came our shock absorbers, steering arm, then the four U-clamps holding the leaf spring to the axle. A few taps with a hammer and bang, off it came, its weight supported by the jack we’d slid underneath.

The hydraulic press made removing the kingpins a doddle, and in them we found, among other things, a pair of greased pennies and a handful of needle bearings. Things that most definitely do not belong in a kingpin. Someone had clearly been here before us and bodged the job.

We cleaned up the axle with a wire brush, slapped in a load of grease and pressed the new kingpins into their hubs. Voila! The final step was to reattach the axle, then, using a grease gun, did what we should have been doing from day one: filling the kingpin up with grease to keep out dirt and keep it running smooth, using the grease nipples on top and underneath.

This was a heavy duty nightmare of a job, and one that should only be attempted as a last resort. So here’s your daily reminder: grease your bloody kingpins!

 

Materials used:

2 x new kingpins from Euro Car Parts - £35 each

Grease gun from eBay - £6.27

Tub of lithium-based grease

6T Hydraulic press from eBay - £47.95

Total cost:

£124.22

 

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Second service

It’s a given that a van doing as many miles as ours will need a regular service. This time is was undertaken by Lucy’s dad, and the more problems we tried to fix the more we seemed to uncover.

It started off with a simple radiator change, as ours had been leaking a little during our last trip and we didn’t want anything letting us down. It would’ve been straightforward had we not been given the wrong size radiator, which left the van sitting in the driveway for two days with no water and no radiator while they tried to source the right one.

While we were under the bonnet we also set about changing the brake master cylinder and the fan belt, and discovered our alternator was also on its way out; the battery light had been flickering on intermittently for the past few months, a clear indicator of a faulty alternator. All in all it was an expensive weekend, including six new tires, an oil change and getting the tracking realigned.

We paid our local friendly garage to change our starter motor for us, because we couldn’t get the van above the pit in our garage at home. He only charged us £15.

 

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 Brake master cylinder 

Our brake master cylinder broke last year during a Bank Holiday weekend when we couldn’t get parts. This was most likely owing to its past as a minibus. When the shops and scrapyards reopened it turned out it was going to be far more complicated than we’d ever imagined. We simply wanted to find a replacement seal kit for the master cylinder as one of the seals had blown. Well they didn’t make seal repair kits and there was actually no way of getting into the master cylinder. On top of all this, when we went to buy a new one, there turned out to be 89 different types. 89! Depending on whether you wanted ABS or non-ABS and how many outlet pipes you needed, and finding a brand new one? Forget it. We ended up with a three pipe outlet master cylinder we’d picked up from the scrapyard for £20, and blocked one of the holes off.

Now this worked great, apart from a bit of slack in the pedal there was really no issue with our brakes. But when MOT #2 came along a year later their computer wasn’t satisfied with our amount of braking power.

There was a lot of researching and referencing but we eventually managed to find the correct part, at a whopping £219. We found out that the minibus model of LDV requires a bigger internal piston bore diameter than the regular models and this is why we’d been having so much difficulty (PBU1541 is our particular master cylinder, in case anyone has the same LDV as us and needs help). We found a secondhand one online for £40 which we used to get us through the MOT, while we waited for two months for DAF to get the new part from their supplier.

Update (5/8/18): Just before we went away in September 2017 we finally managed to order a brand new master cylinder from DAF, for the full value of £219, which we fitted as a precaution, not wanting to start our travels with questionable secondhand parts. It wasn't until we got to Montenegro and we had to slam on the brakes going down a steep mountain road that our brakes suddenly started feeling funny again. In fact, they just got worse and worse as we drove the distance to Spain, where we replaced the vacuum pump, which didn't fix the problem, and then all the way back to the UK where we returned the master cylinder to DAF within its year warranty. After a couple of months of investigating DAF found the new master cylinder to be faulty (the seals inside it had gone, which they shouldn't do for some years after purchase), and replaced it with another new one, which also turned out to be faulty. Currently we're driving around with the £40 secondhand one and it all seems to be working moderately well.

 

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Chipped windscreen

That moment when you’re cruising down the road, tunes blaring, and suddenly a lorry drives by, flicks up a stone and it smacks into your windscreen. Trip ruined, you’re forced to pull over into the nearest car park and assess the situation.

This is what happened to us in the Czech Republic, and to avoid bumpy roads worsening the chip any more we pulled over in a nearby woods to crash for the night. We got lucky in that the crack on our windscreen was not in the driver’s view and it wasn’t too close to the wiper blade area, so we were able to get it fixed by the Czech Republic’s answer to AutoGlass for £48, organised by our insurance company.

 

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Vacuum pump

 

For the first 8 countries of our second trip nothing went wrong. Apart from a couple of flat batteries, that is. Until we got to Bulgaria, and pulled into a supermarket car park where we suddenly noticed oil on the ground underneath our engine, and an oddly-behaving brake pedal. We did our best to investigate the problem while simultaneously trying to fend off approaching windscreen wiper salesmen.

The problem turned out to be our vacuum pump. The last remaining element of the van’s braking system that had not yet failed had now failed. Cursing our van’s history as a minibus, we ended up driving it with about half the braking capacity into Greece, where a mechanic kindly popped on his bike to buy us a replacement gasket, jet-washed our engine and threw in a bottle of home-brewed ouzo all for the price of €50.

 

This seemed to be the end of our problems, but a month of driving around Albania, slamming on our brakes at every roundabout, junction and street to avoid its crazy drivers took its toll on our brakes. Once again the vacuum pump burst its seal and started leaking oil not long after we arrived in Montenegro.

Thinking ahead, we got a new vacuum pump ordered out to Croatia (£34.95 on eBay) in anticipation of our arrival, but our van had other ideas and our border crossing was a bit delayed (see Third breakdown).

We tried garages from Croatia to France to Spain but nobody would fit our part for us, or the ones that did wouldn’t give us a fair price or couldn’t fit us in. Our brakes got worse and worse, leaking oil into the engine and making it smoke and cough. Pretty soon we were relying on only mechanical brakes with no servo assistance, and we were beginning to get worried as we still had so many miles to do…

Unfortunately to date we have still not managed to replace the vacuum pump. We’ll update this section as soon as we are able to.

 

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Third breakdown

 

Breaking down is never fun, it’s never convenient and it’s never next to a garage.

We were surprised we had done so many miles and got away so far with only a minor chip in the windscreen and a couple of flat tires, so we were due another breakdown soon.

Parked several miles out of the nearest town on top of a very long and steep mountain road in Montenegro, we started the van one night only for it to stall. We tried it again, but the engine stalled as soon as you took your foot off the accelerator.

The 'water in fuel' light came on so we decided to figure out how to empty our fuel filter- it was full of water, undoubtedly from the famously watered-down fuel sold in Albania, We started the van again but nothing. On top of this the immobiliser light had come in a few days prior, indicating there was a fault, but we didn’t make the connection between the two.

In the morning we loosened off each fuel injector one by one to let out any remaining water in the system (you can view this procedure on our Youtube channel), but still the van wouldn’t run. As a last resort we phoned the RAC, but we were outside their 90 day trip limit and they wouldn’t help us. We were stranded in the middle of nowhere with a van that wouldn’t run and almost no brakes (see Vacuum pump).

We ended up driving the van slowly, very slowly, down the steep sharp hill, keeping one foot on the gas at all times to prevent the van stalling. We crawled our way up to a garage, or what may well have been three men tinkering with a car, and they had a look, once again emptying water from the diesel filter and removing the air. Still nothing. They directed us to a nearby garage but they didn’t have time and wouldn’t work on Fords- it turned out we’d broken down in the only country in Europe that didn’t know what a Ford Transit was!

 

To make matters worse it was the weekend, so all the other garages had closed and we now had to wait until Monday. We’re not town-dwellers, we like to get as far away from people as possible, so spending two night outside an abandoned hotel in the city of Kotor wasn’t our ideal weekend. But luckily there was a loud carnival on Sunday that decided to set up right outside our van to keep us entertained. Once that died down, we were just sat shivering in the dark in our van, as we were relying on our engine running for power and heating.

 

Monday rolled around and we were able to call a garage to come rescue us, as our van battery had also died from underuse. The mechanics that arrived immediately assumed we were having a problem starting the van, not running it, so once they’d attempted to jump start us and failed with a smoking car, they towed us back to their garage with their Audi, where they immediately began ripping the starter motor out. The starter motor we’d just replaced a few months ago.

Things got really frustrating when the mechanics refused to listen to us, and the language barrier frustrated things even more. In bypassing the starter motor and essentially hot wiring the van they’d managed to fully immobilise it, and spent the next 5 hours trying to figure out how to unimmobilise it before they could even find the real problem.

They finally listened to us and removed the water and air from the diesel system, but this wasn’t the problem after all. After 7 hours of work, someone finally thought to take the ECU apart and have a look, and it was absolutely full of water. It was a wonder the van was even working at all, and seemed like we could be getting repatriated back to England. But they dried it out with an air compressor gun, wired it back in and by some miracle the van was running! This was a direct result of our LDV’s many leaks and holes, as we’d had some heavy rain the previous nights.

The only slight annoyance was they’d bypassed the immobiliser relay by running a wire from it to the fuel solenoid on the starter motor, which meant that technically the van was immobilised, but it also still worked. It was a pretty poorly bodged job as our new starter motor now makes a horrible grinding noise when we start the van and that will probably fail too eventually (and it did, see below), but they sent us away with our wallets €200 lighter.

 

Brake shoes + wheel cylinders

After driving approximately 3000km from Montenegro to Spain and then back to the UK, it was about time we investigated our frankly dangerous lack of braking power. We’d replaced the vacuum pump in Spain which had been leaking engine oil; the main issue it caused was not a lack of vacuum pressure in the servo, but the oil that was leaking into the engine and causing our exhaust to spew white smoke (this could’ve eventually lead to a major engine failure, we were warned, where the ignition would be turned off but the van engine would continue running by itself consuming oil until there was none left and the engine went kaput, so this fear was hanging over our heads the entire time).

Despite having issues in the past we had ruled out the possibility of it being the master cylinder causing the issue, and dismissed the Spanish mechanic when he told us his suspicions. However once we returned to the UK, and we’d investigated what seemed like every other avenue, we decided to replace our new master cylinder with an old one we knew to be previously working (see master cylinder saga above).

After weeks of frustration and a failed MOT due to underpowered braking (a strange deja vu of last year’s MOT), we took the van to the DAF garage to return the master cylinder, and there the mechanics recommended doing a thorough bleed of the braking system, not just from the brake lines connected to the ABS, but from all four wheel cylinders too.

So that’s exactly what we did, although snapping the bleed nipple of one of the rear wheel cylinders in the process, which then meant it needed replacing.

It turned out that the most unlikely scenario we could’ve imagined had actually been causing our problem: driving down steep mountain roads, particularly in Montenegro where our brakes had initially failed and previously in Austria and Albania where we’d had to stop multiple times to allow our brakes to cool, had caused the brake shoes to heat up so much that they had literally boiled our brake fluid, turning it black and creating air bubbles in the system, which as anyone knows is a big no no for working brakes. Not only this, but our brake shoes were completely fried and cracked- no wonder they hadn’t been working.

We replaced the entire lot, bled the system, and lo and behold our brakes were back to working at enough capacity to pass our MOT! Lesson learned: LDV minibuses were not made to drive over mountains. Will that stop us in the future? Probably not.

MOT Number Three: Welding + starter motor

It comes once a year and it’s always a source of dread and imminent draining of funds: the MOT.

Of course it would be unrealistic for almost any LDV owner to hope for a pass; all we could hope for was not too bad a fail.

The damage amounted to two badly rusted rear wheel arches, a spongy brake pedal, insufficient braking power, and a floppy handbrake (which had been working fine until we got into the garage, we swear).

We’d been unable to do anything about our underpowered brakes before the MOT and warned the garage about this, so essentially our fail was more of a pre-MOT to find and sort any other existing problems (see brake master cylinder and brake shoes).

Luckily our garage guy knew a mate who lived around the corner who did welding. He didn’t have a phone, so we drove to his farm under some vague directions, doubtfully in search of a welder among the old rusted cars and caravans.

We found him in a barn and he agreed to weld our wheel arches up for £80 for a half days’ work, a pretty reasonable price. Once we’d extensively investigated and repaired our brakes, we took the van back to our favourite little back-end garage and she proudly received her MOT pass certificate. And then promptly broke down.

We’d had issues with our starter motor ever since Montenegro (see starter motor); it would take three or four attempts to start the van in the morning, and it sounded like a bag of rusty nails. And it decided that outside the garage would be the perfect place to finally give up. Despite the garage being possibly the most convenient place to break down they were simply too busy to help us, so the mechanic grabbed a Ford Transit he was working on, attached a tow rope, gave us a little bump start down the road and waved us on our way. Keep reading below to find out how we fixed it…

Starter motor

Before departing on our second trip we decided it would be prudent to change our old starter motor over for a new one, as it was sounding a bit clunky and grinding when the van started. We bought a replacement one from eBay, not a genuine Ford model, and from the first day we fitted it something wasn’t right.

Once every week or two when we turned the key in the ignition nothing would happen, we would simply hear a whirring noise or possibly a horrible crunching noise where the flywheel was not engaging properly with the motor. This occurrence was gradually increasing in frequency over time, but it wasn’t until we took our van to a garage in Montenegro when she broke down that the problem got much worse.

As our van battery was dead when we arrived they immediately assumed it was the starter motor causing an issue, and had taken it off before we’d had a chance to explain it was brand new and was not the issue. They reattached it and proceeded to bypass it, essentially hot-wiring the van, to see if they could get it to start despite our protests. The noises it was making were clearly not beneficial to our van in any way, and all they did was in fact further damage the clutch on the starter motor (you can hear and see exactly what they did in our eighth Youtube vlog).

After this, the van would have issues starting almost daily, and by the time we returned to the UK it was becoming a serious concern.

Finally it gave up altogether, conveniently outside the garage where our van had just passed its MOT. We got a bump start and managed to get the van home, where we removed the damaged starter motor and replaced it with the old one after servicing it with a little oil. There was nothing really wrong with the old starter motor, which was a genuine Ford engine one, but the clutch had failed and would no longer engage on the new one, which appeared to not be as well-made as the genuine one.

Since then we have had no issues; the van starts first time and sounds sweeter than ever.

[Update December 2018]

One morning we woke up and went to start the van. Click. Nothing. The starter motor had given up overnight, something we’d been anticipating seeing as we had replaced our “new” starter with a 16 year old one as a temporary measure. After a few tries it did eventually engage and we managed to drive it to somewhere we could work on it, ordered another new one from eBay (again not a genuine Ford, as they were just too expensive for our budget) and a couple days later we had it fitted, something we were becoming quite used to doing by now. Not that working upside down underneath the engine ever gets any easier.

 

Fuel filter (van losing power)

Since returning the UK for the second time many different problems had begun to manifest themselves, not least of which our van’s sudden loss of power when driving, dipping by as much as 15mph at full throttle, as well as the engine shuddering badly when setting off first thing in the morning. Unable to explain this sudden random occurrence, we decided it could well be caused by our fuel filter, which in over 30,000 miles of driving had not been changed once. Unlike our first ever service however, where we got an airlock in the fuel line and subsequently spent the night camped outside the garage, this one went a lot smoother.

We first bought a hand priming pump, as the built-in pump on top of our fuel filter housing is quite frankly useless, and made sure we had a spare jerry can of diesel. Then it was simply a case of removing the water in fuel sensor from underneath by pulling it off, unscrewing the fuel filter (which only then did we realise had been fitted with the wrong size), and screwing back in the new correctly sized filter, making sure to fill it with diesel first to prevent any airlocks. We poured out the diesel from the old filter for good measure, just to inspect for any contaminants, but it was remarkably clean. Then, using the hand primping pump, we pumped any excess air and a good amount of diesel out into a plastic tray until there were no more bubbles, making sure to close the bleed nipple in between to avoid sucking any more air back into the system.

We were anticipating a problem, some air still trapped in the system, but the van started and ran without hesitation, leaving us relieved at finally having undertaken a simple job on the van.

Unfortunately this did not cure the sudden loss of power issue, nor the engine shuddering, which we turned out to be a faulty EGR valve and a clutch issue, which you can read on to find out how we fixed…

Welding a new step

The very foundations of our home on wheels are built on rust, but eventually it was bound to catch up with us and start causing some real problems. So when Ben went to get out of the van and the step beneath his foot gave way with a crunch we knew it was time to rebuild it.

We removed the plastic LDV-emblazoned step cover to reveal a whole mess of rust and holes. The issue wasn’t the thin steel of the van’s body, it was the actual steel bar of the chassis, the main support of the step, that had crumbled and given way.

 

We bought a sheet of 1mm steel and a 2” x 1” steel bar, cut out the old rusty support, ground away all the excess rust and then welding the new bar in place. Then we bent the sheet of flexible steel around the shape of the step well using a hammer and a blowtorch to mould it into the corners. We sprayed the whole thing black with stone guard paint to prevent further rust and neaten the area up, and it was a good enough job to pass the MOT.

Suspension: drop link arm + shock absorbers

They say the roads in Eastern Europe are bad… And they’re right. In fact, we can single-handedly attribute the complete knackering of our suspension to the roads in Ukraine and the roads in Albania. The way we see it the Ukranian government owes us some money toward the entirely new suspension we had to install on our van, but the chances of that happening are about as likely as us ever returning to Ukraine, so we digress.

Our van had been getting progressively wobblier, squeakier and clunkier as the months went on, with a strange knocking noise beneath our feet whenever we passed over a bump. It was clear to see our shock absorbers needed replacing, as they were leaking badly and not doing a very good job. £180 odd later we’d replaced them all ourselves, but the van was still clunking and bumping its way down Cornish roads.

After a thorough inspection by ATS as they changed our tires it was clear we would also need to replace the anti roll bar drop link arm, which we had previously replaced once before and back then it had been a nightmare to get hold of. Time had passed, but nothing had changed- these drop link arms seemed to be as rare as LDV wiper linkages. But we managed to track a brand new one down for around £63 (ouch). Off the old one came, which was bent and warped due to the loose bolt that was supposed to be holding it in place; had we noticed and tightened the bolt earlier there wouldn’t have been an issue, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. On went the new one, and although our van’s suspension was in better shape than ever, we still experience a periodic knocking beneath our feet which we can only attribute to [?]

 

Total Cost and materials used:

Wiper linkage: £20

New exhaust: £50

MOTs: £175

Rear brake shoes: £40

Service (labour + parts): £128

New radiator from Millauto: £132

New alternator from Euro Car Parts: £130

New fan belt: £20

New starter motor + fitting: £70

Brake master cylinder (new) from DAF: £219

2 x secondhand brake master cylinders: £60

2 x new kingpins from Euro Car Parts - £35 each

Grease gun from eBay - £6.27

6T Hydraulic press from eBay - £47.95

New oil: £72

Tires: £746

Breakdowns & repairs: £580

Cracked windscreen repair: £48

Vacuum pump gasket replacement: £44 (€50)

New vacuum pump: £34.95 (+ £9.99 postage to Croatia)

Third breakdown: £175 (€200)

New start motor £219.36

Drop link arm £63.77

Four new shock absorbers £182.76

New fuel filter £21.05

Oil change £26.54

Rear wheel cylinder £26.71 

Rear brake shoes £39.98

New starter battery £70.94

Two new front tires: £113.72

Tracking (ATS) £30

MOT + welding £130

Step rebuild (cost of materials) £29.86

Roof sill rebuild (cost of materials) £11.05

Total cost:

 

£3,835.90

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