You could reason, as many do, that water ingress would not be an issue on a panel van. Correct? No, actually.
Anywhere that the metal shell of the van’s body is cut becomes a potential entry point for water – that includes the side windows, the roof vents, the aerial and, of course, the services along the side of the body.
Manufacturers also specify that the annual service must be carried out to prevent the warranty becoming void.
In fact, early detection of any fault – particularly safety-critical features such as mains-electric problems or a gas leak – is beneficial to both parties.
The same applies to water ingress: any damage discovered after 12 months would be far less than had it been left for another three years – not to mention the rectification cost!
A habitation check will ensure that the underfloor gas and water tanks, pipes, wiring and so on are all in order. They’re out of sight, but all could potentially be damaged on site or from road debris.
What will be checked?
Before booking a service, you should first check what is (and what is not) going to be examined – the costs and complexity of the services do vary.
The service department or sales dealership should fully explain to the customer what will be done before the work is started.
For this article, I shadowed a technician from Auto-Sleepers’ Service Centre, who was carrying out a service to National Caravan Council guidelines.
After he checked that there was fresh water onboard, the camper van was raised on a workshop ramp for an inspection of its underside.
First, all services here were visually checked, before both the water tanks’ and step-retaining nuts were tightened slightly.
Next, all bolt threads were spray-greased, then the underfloor LPG tank’s cover was removed. Gas couplings were tested for leakage, and Truma air pump test equipment fitted.
Attention to detail
Back on the floor, all of the base vehicle door hinges were spray-lubricated, and all cassette blinds, roof vents, drawers and cupboards were checked for correct function, before they received the same attention with the lubricant. Both cab seat runners and swivel plates got identical treatment.
Externally, the upper and lower refrigerator vent covers were removed, and the fridge burner was inspected through the lower aperture.
With the mains cable coupled, the camper’s 230V systems were checked and load tested – that included all mains and multi-function equipment, and individual sockets.
Next, the Sargent power-management unit had five tests on its trip functions.
Electrical checks and damp testing
Attention then turned to the ’van’s 12V system.
All lighting and the information panel were switched on, before the technician ventured under the lounge settee where the leisure battery lives. With the engine running, the split charge was measured with a multimeter and noted.
The leisure battery is a sealed unit, so there was no need for further action here, other than a visual inspection of the adjacent Truma boiler, fuses and wiring. One benefit of the latest appliances is that they mostly self-monitor and report faults using codes.
Fresh water taps were operated and the pump pressures checked. The shower and toilet blade were also looked at.
The gas was lit on all of the hob burners and oven, before the safety taps were turned off, enabling the thermocouple to be checked before reignition. Operation of the fridge on all three power sources followed.
Then came the damp testing: the Auto-Sleepers Service Centre took countless internal meter readings with a hydrometer, around the roof vents, the floor area adjacent to all base vehicle doors (possible poor fit on seals can allow water penetration), and within the fridge apertures while the covers were removed.
Worth its weight
Finally, after more than two hours (a coachbuilt service takes longer), the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, as well as the fire extinguisher, were tested.
The vehicle was raised again, and the level of gas pressure noted, before it was lowered and all of the test equipment removed.
The overall cost was £189 including VAT. Good value?
Well, the warranty had been complied with for another year, and tiny faults rectified.
The book was also stamped to prove the service history at trade-in time… so I think so!
Thanks to Paul and Mark at Auto-Sleeper Service Centre
Check what is (and what is not) going to be examined – the costs and complexity of services do vary