• Niklas Kääb

The Vanlife Chronicles Pt1.: Problems And Problem Solving

It's been a month since I bought my first car. And that is a somewhat unusual vehicle. A Ford Transit converted into a campervan. This blog serves to put the experiences of the first month on paper. And with every additional month that I spend with my van, I want to write another small collection. The stories I want to tell here are more of a brief account of a van owner's life than a full tour of my car. It will come at a later date and hopefully in video form. But for now, I would like to tell a few little stories.

1st: electrics and a sawn-through socket

The search for a suitable van for my conversion project took a long time. Almost twenty different cars came into my shortlist. And then I decided on the vehicle that had already been converted. That didn't mean there was nothing more for me to do. The renovation, carried out by a private individual, was far from what one would call perfect. And I had enough changes to keep me busy.

The most important thing for me was the electrics. To make the van suitable for my purposes, I would need a socket, a camping power connection and a refrigerator. Better said than done. The previous owner had installed the electrics in a somewhat amateurish way. With two clamps and without any fuse, the battery power was fed directly to the respective consumers via a long series of different plug connections. The electrician friend, whom I had hired to help, almost hit the blow. Even if only the proverbial. Without further ado, he advised me to redo everything.

And so we met a few days later in a friendly car repair shop to completely replace the electrical system in the van. The first step of our campaign: Drill a hole in my car and cut out a piece of sheet metal to make space for the camping power connection. Even the template for the opening presented us with a challenge in terms of improvisation. Since we had distributed our tools, spare parts and everything else in just a few minutes when we arrived at the workshop, some parts were no longer found right from the start. This is also the case with the supplied template for the socket. We only realized that there was such a thing in the afternoon's packing up operation on the second day. Then we had just found it during the clean-up at the end of our work. But making a stencil out of cardboard wasn't the only challenge of the whole project. We also quickly cut the corresponding hole in the van. Maybe too quickly.

While the primer slowly dried on the cut edges, let's deal with the remaining tangled cables. We wouldn't install the food socket until the next day. And then we realized our mistake. Behind our hole was one of the wooden supports to which the bed was attached. It would not have been possible to move them, but luckily only about a centimetre was missing until our socket would rest on the car's sheet metal with an acceptable fit.

After a little experimentation, we were able to find that our socket housing was two centimetres longer than it really should have been for the plug. And so, the solution was logical and straightforward. I cut through the housing with a flex and sanded off the corresponding two centimetres from the plastic. Then we glued the housing together with lots of Sikaflex and were finally able to attach it successfully.

2nd: curtains and a carpenter stapler

The previous owner of my car had developed an interesting technique for his curtains. Heavy, grey Ikea curtains were simply attached to the metal frames of the windows with strong magnets. An extremely simple and very straightforward solution. During the time of my life, when I worked on cruise ships, I often heard a saying from the machinists, which is appropriate here: "Not nice, but rare."

Well, I don't want to portray the previous owner any worse than he is because my solution was more of a rarity than really beautiful. But first to my problem: It took too long to open the curtains because I always had to remove each magnet individually. In particular, this concerned the curtains at the rear, which I wanted to open more often to use a rearview mirror. The solution was simple. I would simply fix the curtains much lower, hang them on magnetic hooks instead of holding them directly to the car's sheet metal with magnets, and I can now quickly push the fabric aside.

Curtains a la Niklas

But that, in turn, led to a new problem: The curtains were now too long. They ran the risk of getting caught in the seal each time the doors were closed and thus drawing water into the vehicle's interior. A solution had to be found, and preferably quickly. I cannot see the trunk of my car after closing the rear doors. So when I parked the car for the first time after visiting the workshop, I could run the risk of running into precisely this problem. I couldn't control that not a piece of the curtain had landed in the seal in the trunk. At the same time, I didn't want to do without the curtains, which give the car a little more inconspicuousness. An equally important criterion if the vehicle is to be parked in an unguarded public parking lot for several weeks.

So my gaze wandered through the workshop, looking for the first possible solution. And that came in the form of an electronic carpenter's stapler and a few scraps of wood. The curtains were folded by me to half the width and 1/3 length, and then I put small scraps of wood behind the overlaps of the fabric. Three staple guns later, and the curtains were made to the dimensions I wanted. Not particularly beautiful, but quite unique.

3 .: A roof box and a lashing strap

The day after my visit to the workshop, my little brother and I installed a roof rack on my car. A roof box in which my ski equipment is stored also belonged to the support structure. So far, so good, at least for a start. Because when I drove my van correctly for the first time a few days later and went kayaking with Clemens on the Loisach, I discovered my mistake.

A lashing can replace a friend. At least sometimes.

The box was too close to the middle on my roof rack to allow the loading of more than two kayaks. A mistake that I didn't want to correct until some time later due to the icy temperatures. But when I was ready a few days later, nobody could help me with moving the box, and I was faced with a problem: if I held the clamps, I would not be able to get the screws to tighten the clamps. But if the screws were within my reach and I were accordingly on the roof, the brackets would simply fall out of the box because I couldn't hold them.

Fortunately, the solution was found quickly. I secured the brackets on the roof rack myself with a tension belt, tightened the nuts slightly, and then removed the tension belt. Now it was just a matter of tightening the nuts, and the next problem was solved.

4th: A door handle and an unruly nut

Another problem arose from the aforementioned kayak-excursion to the Loisach. Suddenly, the sliding door of my van couldn't be opened with the outer door handle. It was already cold, late and dark on that particular evening, and we couldn't solve the problem on the spot. Instead, two days later, after carefully studying a Ford Transit online forum, I got into the car.

Even removing the door trim was not easy because I couldn't reach all of the mounting pins due to the cupboards. After removing the panelling, I was able to quickly find the fault. And to fix it, all I had to do was remove and reinstall the entire door handle once.

That, too, went smoothly by hand until I got to the last nut with whom the handle was now attached to the door. I put it on the thread with half a turn and then finally adjusted the door handle. And that's exactly where a little misfortune happened to me. The nut came loose and fell into the space between the door. After fishing for a while using various magnets, I eventually had to give up and use a new nut to fasten it. And even if it wasn't wholly successful, it was the first repair I did on my first own car. And that must mean something.

The black plastic thingey is supposed to be infront of the metal plate, not behind it

So much for my first edition of the Vanlife diary. If you liked these little stories, please follow on Facebook or sign up for our website's newsletter in an old-fashioned way. There will be new editions about once a month.

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