Last week I posted a story about my latest garage visit with Vin Diesel (Garage Saga). It reminded me of my car body and painting nightmare in Portugal last year. What happened and what's next? Recently the endless rain showers in Portugal caused another nightmare, although waking up from water dripping on my face sounds like some kind of wet dream. What happened after buying my first second hand camper van? Was it a dream come true or a rollercoaster of frustrations? Not only the water went through the roof...also the costs and my emotions. We are still a happy couple traveling and sharing adventures together.
In June 2021 I bought a second hand camper van. I fell in love with the colors (green black on the outside, wooden interior on the inside). I did a little test drive, but didn't really know if it was good. I got my drivers license just a few years ago, so I am not a professional car technician yet. I am only allowed to drive an automatic (Yes, in the Netherlands this is an option when you learn to drive), so options were limited. Automatic camper vans a harder to get and cost a bit more. 18.500 euro's was the deal. I was happy with my new home. My old home made of stones, cost 10 times more. After the first weekend experiences with the van, the garage saga started...
First time out, I couldn't get out of the grass. The tires under the van were more like slicks. So, I ordered 'BF GOODRICH KO2' tires. All terrain tires, that could also be used during winter conditions. Around 750,00 euro's.
I also noticed a lot of vibrations between shifting gears and it were no good vibrations. After visiting several expert, the conclusions were unanimous: getting an overhauled/rebuilt gearbox. This was probably the most expensive cost, around 3.330,00 euro's. Because of that, I told the company to paint the rebuild gearbox gold. They loved it and they did. Vin Diesel actually runs on gold.
I was cruising around during an average summer day. The interior of the van looks like a sauna. The thing was, the temperature inside was also like being in a sauna. Outside the temperature was 24 degrees celsius, inside I was dripping wet behind the wheel. The airconditioning did no do a proper job. Just blowing hot air inside. Let's go to a garage again. Filling the condenser normally costs 120,00 euro's. Normally...the damn thing was broken. Putting dishwashing liquid on the condenser a saw 3 holes in it. Including labor, the damage was 675,00 euro's.
The electric window was broken. During that time, no second hand parts were available for my model. I had to buy it new at Mercedes. Costs 200,00 euro's*.
Before the first big trip to the south of Europe, I wanted a full car service. Quite a few things were broken and also the on-board battery was almost dead. Costs 800,00 euro's (including a 90Ah semi-traction battery).
Are we there yet? No, we just started. The multimedia device in the car was the cheapest AliExpress device they could probably find. After pushing the screen, it just disappeared somewhere in the dashboard. The reverse camera on the van was mounted on the bumper and it was cheap shit as well. I could only the the license plate of the car behind me. The cable was too short, so they had laid it loose and slanted across the floor. I went to a car installation specialist. We discovered that the last owner cut all the original wiring behind the dashboard and all the other electronic wiring was done pretty bad. It all had to be replaced. The new multi media screen is much better. The wiring behind the dashboard has been fixed. The reverse camera didn't fit, a new one was ordered and I replaced all the screws by stainless steel afterwards. Total costs 820,00 euro's.
Within one week, my van didn't start anymore. I went to several garages and the all told be the starter battery was fine after measuring it. But, the forgot to disconnect the on-board battery before measuring the starter battery... It was the starter battery that was almost dead. New starter battery costs 340,00 euro's.
The roadtrip could finally start...
The Motherf#cking Saga Continues
Portugal was great. Spending month along the coast with Vin Diesel. After 2 littles accidents and a lot of salt sea water, the van was ready for recovery. During circumstances I cancelled a scheduled repair at one garage and had to go to a new one. For removing rust, fixing all the dents and replacing some parts, we agreed a period of 2 weeks. Some of you maybe remind the story from last year (The Nightmare). I even started to help them with all the work after a few weeks. More damage was discovered from an old accident from former owners. After more than 13 weeks I wanted my van back. The garage managed to let me leave with new issues. Total costs 2.800,00 euro's. This was the second biggest spend on Vin Diesel so far, so I decided to paint the brake calipers Silver.
A recent post (The Spray Paint Post) from @xsasj reminded me of a horrific car painting adventure in a foreign country. The Portuguese garage that held Vin Diesel hostage for 13 weeks, arranged an official car painter. Because they were not able to fix the paint job anymore. It was hilarious. I had to drive my van through the mountain range to another town without lights, mirrors and lot's of other parts. It was a challenge to squeeze my van through narrow old streets without seeing anything. It started raining, and I didn't had wipers on my car anymore. When I arrived at the car painter shop, I saw them cleaning another van that they had painted. I ignored a big 'red flag'. The painted van had drips of paint coming from the roof and it was already dry. We discussed several times that my van was painted by hand with a 1 component paint. That means they had to remove the old paint properly to avoid issues. I also told them to do a proper seam sealing at the doors, because the garage used bathroom sealant to fix the doors 🙈 We agreed a price of 1.000, euro's for the full car (except the roof). The job took a bit longer like they said, I already told them it would never be possible to paint inside and outside within 3 days. The result was another episode of Nightmares in Portugal. Paint was falling of the doors (they didn't replace the bathroom sealant by proper seam sealing), paint was falling from the hinges (the didn't sandpaper the hinges before painting), window rubbers were full of paint (they didn't dry the inside of the doors long enough, they were full of sticky stuff and damage), several parts were already damaged. The van had to go back. After another week it was 'ready'. They fixed a few things, but it was still bad. I know Vin Diesel is a bad boy, but he wants to be good looking. I was so done with waiting and officially my van was not allowed on the road anymore. I just wanted to take it away and go back to the Netherlands and fix it. Total costs 1.850,00 euro's. They said the point was not included in the agreed price. Seriously?! I saw the invoice of the paint and they didn't even get any company discount at the paint supplier. This was a retail price.
The green pictures above are from the moment I received the car back from the pain shop.
I know now, that I should have asked for the Book of Complaints. This would normally help to fix issues in Portugal. An expensive lesson.
Back To My Roots
Arrived back in The Netherlands in 2022. Try to fix my bad boy. It was a driving smoke machine. With short circuit and Vin Diesel didn't want to open up anymore. After checking turbo's and injectors, it was clear. He didn't need a new engine, but a lot of attention. New injectors, new door locking system, new filters and oil, some rewiring. Recovery costs 4.045,00 euro's.
I knew I wasn't done yet. My rebellious bad boy was still a bit unstable. Due to a design mistake of the former owners, he was way too heavy on one side. I ordered special adjustable shock absorbers for the front and back. The ball joints of the van were also worn out. The wheels had to be rebalanced. And the tuning that was done in Portugal had to be checked (it was done a bit too aggressive). Cost of rebalancing my buddy 1.700,00 euro's. I would sign up for it, if I could rebalance myself for that money.
Back To The Future
End of 2022 I went to the South of Europe again. No more car issues I said... It already started the first week. My on-board battery got sick. I didn't have enough power to charge my fridge and devices. I could not connect my new 1.238,00 euro portable battery to my solar panels yet. Although a good friend in Portugal helped my out in December to rewire my internal system. It was a mess, but Vin Diesel got rewired. Too bad that the special cable that was needed to charge the portable battery by a car charger, was broken. It took another 6 weeks to get a new one.
During an insane rain shower on the highway, Vin Diesel got hurt. His intercooler tore. After 1 week of issues with Dutch roadside assistance I went to a garage that actually wanted to help me. New intercooler and replacing all oil. I had the glow plug replaced, but the garage was so honest to mention that I had a short circuit somewhere in my system. I had to laugh loud... Vin Diesel is my twin brother, I said. Repair costs 430,00 euro's.
But it still didn't drive well. Missing power and more starting problems. More error messages popping up. I was in another area, and went to a recommended garage. This guy did a really good job. He measured everything and explained me all details about how my engine works. They fucked up with the scheduled appointment, but I know Portugal by now. The relais was burned trough (that caused the short circuit), the camshaft rotation module had to be replaced and also the brake pedal switch had to be replaced. Another 490,00 euro's can be added to the list of Vin Diesel's recovery.
Finally we come to the point, were I ended last time. The roof had old damage from welding. It was cleaned from rust, repaired and painted in a matt black finish. Now we both have a nice black haircut. The roof rack was in a very bad shape. Buying a new one is way too expensive. We decided to take it off and give it a sand blasting treatment followed by some powder coating and finished with a matt black layer of spray paint. The solar shower got a new coating. And all parts on the roof that could leak, received a new load of PU sealant. Most rusty bolts were replaced by stainless steel. The bad painted hinge was fixed smoothly. I gave the guy a big hug and managed to leave his daughter alone (referring to my recent experiences with another garage owner's daughter). The owner actually gave me a tip of 1,75 euro's, so nice. The price for one of the last treatments of Vin Diesel was 430,00 euro's. Tonight is the first test to see if the roof is waterproof. This might be the first time during this rainy trip, that I actually ask for a bit of rain.
What did it do to my, besides killing my budget? It made me stressed many times, angry and upset. It had a huge influence on experiencing my on-the-road adventures. I still managed to stay calm on the outside. The inside anger sometimes was sealed off. I think I should express my inner feelings a bit more from now on. I do miss my boxing classes these days, it was a good way to stay in balance with inner frustrations.
A little recap. Buying the van costed me 18.500,00 euro's. All kinds of maintenance costed med even more that the buying price of the van. In total I already spend 50.000,00 euro's on my van. I know inflation kicks in these days, but spending so much money on a tiny home on wheels? This was not the original plan. I didn't count the spend on diesel in the calculation above. Should I start some crowd funding?
On the heart shaped fortune cookie I received today with my coffee, it mentioned that I should love myself. I do....and I also love the mechanic version of me: my van Vin Diesel. We take care for each other. I feel some romance coming up in the near future...although that means inside the van. Some kind of threesome :)
Happy Valentines Day!
Wow what a crazy expensive journey so far I hope vin diesel treats you better from now on.
He treats me with beautiful views, a comfy bed and adventures. Never a dull moment :)
Holy sh*t! I got a headache by reading your story and can imagine how many headaches you got since you bought the van, till now. A can always mean spending money, even if it's new, but at least now you know your precious Vin Diesel inside out 😂
Sorry for my long story, it gave me a headache as well while writing it :)
Nooo, don't get me wrong, was not the story that gave me the headache, but those problems you were having with the car 😁
Oh no, how much bad luck can you have.. what else is there that can even break down? I would have gotten so depressed and done with vanlife!
Anyway, I hope the problems are over now, and you can enjoy that crazy adventure of a lifetime!