Andrew McPheeSee other Advice articles filed in ‘Running a motorhome’ written by Andrew McPhee
In the third part of our series, Practical Motorhome's Gentleman Jack has carried out a full mechanical safety check, and refitted the towbar and rear step.
The first thing to do with any ‘fixer-upper’ like Peanuts, as our 33-year-old Sherpa is affectionately known, is to check safety-related items. A good approach is to buy a second-hand manual (Haynes or similar) from eBay and follow the maintenance and/or service schedule. We bought ours in very good condition from ‘Handymanuals’, a seller on eBay – it cost just £5.96, which even included the postage and packing.
Change all fluids if you’ve no proof that it has recently been done, starting with the most important – the hydraulic brake fluid. Always remove all wheels and drums to check both sides of the tyres for damage, signs of ageing and for hydraulic leaks. Do not work under any raised vehicle without at least two methods of safe support and never rely on the manufacturer’s jack, which is only fit for changing a wheel – nothing else.
The story so far...
So far, so good. We’ve found a few nightmarish features on the habitation side of things… more on this later.
Mechanically, with the exception of the overdrive, Peanuts is running well, although it’s still a bit incontinent. We’ve switched to the best, highest-octane fuel we can find locally (BP Ultimate), and since then it has stopped pinking and the engine is feeling a lot more spirited than before.
The bodywork is better than feared and should last another decade or two at least – mainly because the last owner spent an eye-watering £1861.09 having the underneath professionally rebuilt with lots of new metal!
The tyres will need replacing soon. The MoT is next month, so fingers crossed!
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Here are a few very important areas to check on any ancient Sherpa
Older ’vans have loads of grease nipples on the suspension and steering. It’s essential to grease every one, or the heavy steering becomes unmanageable and the kingpins may seize up.
There’s none of your fancy rack-and-pinion steering here – it’s an old-fashioned steering box. Check the fluid level every three months, because most aren’t completely oil-tight.
The good old SU carburettor. These are generally reliable, but the motor will run like a pig if the dashpot is dry. Undo the plastic cap on top and pull out the plunger to check.
The only thing missing was the offside rear bump stop. Fortunately, the nearside one was still present, so it'll serve as a pattern when we start looking for a replacement (shouldn't be too hard to find).
A step up...
Pictures of Peanuts at a rally (www.streetsafari.com/content/view/259/9) showed her towing a folding caravan, but when I first saw her, she was minus towbar and towstep. We managed to get the seller to include them as part of the deal and it was straightforward to refit – using good safety supports.
Oops! That wasn’t supposed to happen!
The power lead to the overdrive actuating solenoid looked insecure, so I waggled it and it came off in my hand. The picture shows the coil removed as I tried to re-solder a wire to it. The end is between the jaws of the pliers. I connected it, refitted it and… it blew the fuse. We were out of time, so it can wait until next weekend...
For part one of this feature, click here.
For part two of this feature, click here.