I’m back! It’s been a long time since I posted, and with good reason. I have been van-less since the early autumn. Without getting rant-y and blame-y (not very Zen, man!), turned out I’d been sold a van that wasn’t really “fit for the road” (hashtag understatement). Despite attempts to keep it going, a very definite MOT fail in September meant Daphne was off to the scrapyard quicker than you can say ‘broken heart and empty purse’. Sob.
However, my lovely flatmate provided wine and we worked out that it wasn’t the worst thing ever – having gotten £140 back from the scrapyard, it was kind of like I’d rented the van for the summer which made it not the financial disaster it initially felt like. I hadn’t done any of the structural work in it like insulating/lining it or putting in the bed frame, so there wasn’t loads of time wasted.
I learned some lessons too. This has really helped when buying my new van. Oh yeah… I GOT A NEW VAN!!! Here are the things I learned with the first van disaster and was able to do better the second time around:
- I knew little about cars and nothing about vans. So in order to ensure I never got d***ed around again and tricked into buying a piece of junk, I enrolled on an evening college course on basic mechanics. There I basically learned how to service a car or light van. This skill is useless seeing as I have no tools BUT it has meant that I know what questions to ask about the brake pads/disc/fluid, and where rust is a structural issue or where its okay if you keep an eye on it. Going into a buying situation and not sounding like a daft wee lassie made me feel a lot more empowered and able to trust my knowledge.
- The first van needed a lot of work which realistically I don’t have the skills or time to do well. Lining and insulating the back. The seats. The holes in the roof. The new van cost a bit more, but a lot of this stuff is already done for me, which seeing as I work full time in an office, makes a massive difference.
- I insisted on a proper test drive. Didn’t do this the first time round as I was too nervous of looking like an idiot, so I bimbled around the car park and said ‘yeah that goes’. This time, I managed to feel the engine was going as it should, and also when it didn’t sound right, ask for the appropriate checks and work to be done before I paid the full amount of money. Having experience of driving a van in between times has helped, but I just felt braver and again, more confident in my own knowledge.
- I did some measurements. In the first van, there was not enough room for my boyfriend to lie flat in the back. It was too short by about 5cm (short for him. It was fine for me). This is fine if we are simply crashing out after a few bevvies at a festival, but we are hoping to do a lot more hiking this summer and the idea of folding oneself up like origami after a long hillwalk was too much to contend with. So I measured Jordan’s height, and did some research online of the maximum load length specification of various small vans. Then I only looked for ones that were long enough to make the shortlist. I was lucky enough to find a Ford Transit Connect (one of my shortlist vans) with a higher roof, so we gained a bit of living space by accident!
- At the viewing, I went and messed with stuff. Van #1 had so many issues that had I played with it, I’d have known. The biggest one was that we couldn’t open the back doors from the inside (hilarious discovering this trying to get out for a pee in the middle of the night at Knockengorroch festival last summer…!). So this time, Jordan and I went and did all the stuff. I got in the back and closed the doors and opened them. I did planks at the side so I could look under the van (too wet to lie down!). We tested out the folding passenger seat mechanism.
Basically, I’ve actually been given a chance to change things. I’ve read so many vanlife blogs that are about ‘things I would change if I did this again’. Well, I’ve been able to start over without too much financial, labour-based or emotional waste. Soon after I got van #1, I felt like I wished I had gotten a van with a sliding side door as well as just back doors. So this time, I just added that to my list of criteria.
I’ve been able to cut my list of tasks right back to a few key things:
- Put underlay and carpet/vinyl on the floor.
- Wire brush and WD40 on the folding passenger seat mechanism so it works smoothly and properly even when we are at a festival and possibly not our most sober…
- A curtain for between the back and the front for not flashing at strangers while getting dressed in the back (I am considering some way of making this be a covering for the side sliding door too, but haven’t really thought about the logistics or design yet so…)
- The bed/storage/seat frame – I’ll still be enlisting the help of a pal who can do stuff with wood, but will make a design first.
That’s it! And then make it pretty.
Okay, so a bit of a long post this time, but long overdue! The next one will likely be shorter, but might not be for a few weeks since I’m moving flats (again) in the meantime. No rest for the wicked, eh?!