Category: Technical Articles (page 1 of 6)

Motorhome bike rack ski rack conversion

Saw this recently on a van next to me in a ski resort car park – clever modification of a rear mounted bike rack to carry skis:-

It’s a set of standard, universal ‘gutter mount’ roof bars clamped to the bike carrying channels (the bars have been cut down to suit) Standard roof-bar ski carriers are then mounted to the bars, simple and cheap solution to carrying skis!

This approach could also be extended to anything designed to mount to roof bars, providing you don’t exceed the weight limit of your bike carrier………

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Fixing Vibration while Driving/Under Load – New Driveshafts

For a while we had a nasty vibration in the van (1999 Ducato Hymer B544) when climbing hills at full load around 60-70mph, this turned out to be due to a worn CV joint in one of the driveshafts. In a motorhome the driveline has a pretty tough life – pulling a vehicle that is fully loaded pretty much permanently – so I decided to replace both the driveshafts while I as at it – here’s how:-

First job was to secure the van on axle stands and drain the gearbox oil (it will all come out anyway when you remove a driveshaft, so you might as well do it now!) The drain plug is in the bottom of the gearbox underneath the inboard end of the left hand driveshaft.

I replaced the left hand driveshaft first, to release the driveshaft from the hub you need to remove the large hub nut which is staked onto the driveshaft – it will be VERY tight!

To stop the whole assembly from turning while you remove the hubnut you can put a couple of wheel bolts back in and use a large bar to brace it like this – I used a 1/2″ breaker bar for this.

To free the end of the driveshaft from the hub we need to be able to move the hub away from the gearbox. There are a couple of ways to achieve this but I find the easiest method is to unbolt the lower ball joint from the hub to allow the whole suspension strut to swing outwards.

To allow the strut to move far enough you will also need to disconnect the steering arm by removing the ball joint securing nut.

A large ball joint splitter can be used to free the ball joint from the hub. If you don’t have a splitter you could instead unscew the steering rack arm from the ball joint, but this can upset the steering geometry if you don’t screw it back in by the exact same amount when you reassemble it.

Note: you will need to lever the lower suspension arm downwards to separate the arm from the hub. Disconnecting the anti-roll back drop link from the suspension arm will make this easier.

Once the outer end of the driveshaft is free from the hub you can pull the whole thing out of the gearbox – it might need a sharp tug on the inside CV joint to free it. Here is the old driveshaft on the top, shiny new one underneath.

It is a good idea to replace the driveshaft seals in the gearbox while the driveshafts are out – here is the old seal at the gearbox output.

Use a large screwdriver or pry bar to lever the old seal out, being careful not to scratch the bore it goes in. Here is the gearbox with the seal removed.

Ensure the bore is clean and lubricate the new seal with a bit of fresh gearbox oil before carefully pushing it into the gearbox. Make sure it goes in straight and seats properly.

Here is the new driveshaft in place and everything reassembled. Be careful when inserting the driveshaft into the gearbox that the splines don’t damage the seal as it goes in as this will make the new seal leak – a helper can be handy here to take the weight of the driveshaft while you guide it into place.

The process for replacing the right hand driveshaft is essentially the same except it has an intermediate bearing to support the inboard CV joint. You will need to unbolt the bearing carrier from the back of the engine block to remove the driveshaft.

Once the driveshaft is out you can take the bearing carrier off, you will be left with something like this (new driveshaft on top, old on the bottom)

And here is the new driveshaft with the bearing carrier fitted, ready to be fitted to the van.

Once everything is back together don’t forget to refill the gearbox with fresh oil – it can be filled by removing the reversing lamp switch from the top of the gearbox and filling through the hole the switch goes in. There is no way of measuring how full the gearbox is so you will need to measure out the correct quantity of oil before filling. Some people recommend slightly over-filling the gearbox to help protect 5th gear, which can be a problem with these boxes. I use 2.7 litres, but my 5th gear had nearly 200000km on it with a 2.5 litre fill level without causing any problems!

If you found this useful you might like to read the other posts on suspension/driveline overhaul:-

Suspension struts, Engine Mounts, Brakes & Wishbones

Any questions or comments? – let me know below!

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LED Headlight Upgrade?

One of the most annoying things on our Hymer Motorhome is the barely adequate headlights – main beam is not too bad but dipped beam is terrible! I decided to try some different bulbs to see if I could improve the situation…..

The safe choice is something like these ‘Night Breaker’ bulbs from Osram, basically a better quality standard bulb that offers 10% more light and 35m better visibility than a typical bulb

I also decided to try some of the cheap LED bulbs that seem to be flooding the market, so bought a pair of these H1 LED bulbs from eBay:-

There are a bit of a fiddle to fit, as you need to modify the wiring to suit the two male spade terminals on this bulb, and the big heatsink/fan assembly sticks out of the back of the bulb holder so the rear cover no longer fits. I was also dubious as to how long they would last as they are driven pretty hard, but they’ve been in about six months now and are still going strong so far.

The light output is a reasonable amount better than standard bulbs, and is much whiter, which helps with clarity. The beam pattern seems better defined somehow as well. The cycnic in me is still expecting them to fail spectacularly at some point though, so there’s still a pair of Night Breaker bulbs in the door pocket 🙂

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Broken Grey Water Drain Valve Replacement

While up at 1350m in Montalbert in the Alps the handle that operates the grey water drain valve on our 1999 Hymer B544 decided to snap off! Fortunately, I managed to get hold of a replacement valve, unfortunately changing it meant lying underneath the van on an icy carpark at -2degC…..

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Schaudt Elektroblock – DIY replacement

The Schaudt Elektroblock is an all-in-one power distribution, control and battery charging system for Motorhomes & Caravans – predominantly fitted to German built vehicles. Our’s recently started misbehaving on a recent trip to Europe, and while it was sent away and repaired by a specialist after the trip it made me lose some faith in the 20 year old components it is made from!

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Ducato Cold Start / Flame Start system explained

The 8140.43 2.8L Diesel engine used in various Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer, Citroen Relay and other vans and MotorHomes uses a fairly unusual cold start system, here we’ll look at how it works so if you need to do any troubleshooting, you know where to start!

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Refillable gas system or standard replaceable bottles? – a guide

A lot of information on the internet would suggest that swapping out your replaceable gas bottles for a refillable system is an upgrade that would benefit everyone, but as with many things the reality is a little more complicated…..

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Is Propane/Butane a “Wet” Heat

An often touted statement on the internet is that burning Propane or Butane creates a “Wet Heat” – potentially leading to damp in your van….

While there is a lot of truth to this statement, I’ve also seen people advising use of electric heating instead of gas to combat the problem, and here things get a little more complicated (I’ll get to that shortly!)

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DIY Reversing Camera install – less than £25

Motorhomes tend to have pretty appalling rear visibility, so reversing cameras are a popular accessory. You don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds, perfectly acceptable wireless reversing cameras kits are available for less than £25 from places like eBay, and are really easy to install!

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Motorhome fridge troubleshooting – fridge not working on gas

A common issue with the absorption refrigerators fitted to most motorhomes is insufficient cooling performance when operating on gas. Absorption fridges are interesting devices that cool using no moving parts, and require only heat to drive the cooling process (which seems counter intuitive, but if you want to read more about the working principles Wikipedia has a good article here)

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