A touch of grass

Todays blogpost is all about fake grass. I love it! Years ago I covered my bedroom floor with synthetic grass, giving my city apartment room a feeling of being within nature, albeit artificial.
Nothing quite cheers up the senses like greenery, even if its industrial astroturf or faux house plants. Depressed? Go for a walk in a green forest or practice dogging!

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My campervan floor was in need of such greenery. The standard Westfalia floor vinyl is a dull grey, enough to bore away even the most adventurous of cockroaches. It had to get covered and hidden from view!

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Before and after

I was originally given some cheap plastic grass to cover my van floor, but the snob in me knew I wouldnt be happy until I bought myself the premium deluxe synthetic grass, revered highly by connoisseurs that only exist in my own imagination.

Anyways, my campervan floor now looks like a well tendered oriental garden and I giggle like a Geisha every time my toes melt into the soft fibers of premium plastic blades of grass.

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Ive also covered the front dashboard, so I can run my fingers through it whilst I drive (its very soothing lol!).

Maybe one day I will go the whole hog and astroturf my campervan like this vehicle below?

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The stuff of what wet dreams are made of!

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Zooming in from the last photo…Fran & Chemi, immortalised forever on their fathers fruit & veg business (I bet they squirm as teenagers?!?).

My mobile shower setup.

Fellow van-dwellers Melony & Armando, over at http://westfaliadigitalnomads.com , posted an article today on how they keep clean living in a van. They asked their readers for feedback and tips on how we keep clean, so I thought I would share my story using the magic of song and dance, (unfortunately budget is low, so words and photos it is, booo!).

Anyhows, heres my mobile shower setup, based on an idea that Decathlon sports shop sells for double the price!

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At a garden supplies shop I bought a simple pesticide pump action spray bottle kit for 18 euros. The supplied spray gun only sprayed mist, so I needed to purchase something with more power for showering and cleaning dishes.

At a Leroy Merlin DIY store, I bought a garden hose gun with 5 spray positions (shower, mist, soaker, flat, jet) and a hose adapter (2 euros) to connect the new gun to the pesticide bottles hose pipe.

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And voila, with a few hand pumps(!) to put pressure in the bottle, I have a mobile shower!
It can be transported wherever I want to use it, so its especially handy when I need to wash my dog Babu, who shakes water everywhere!

If left outside in the sun the water heats up pretty quickly, so I havent felt the need to paint the bottle black to attract the suns rays.

The bottle can only carry 5 litres of water, but thats more than enough for a decent shower and I generally use less than 3 litres. Along with my eco shampoo from Decathlon, my shower setup is water efficient and environmentally friendly!

In the van I keep the bottle wedged between the sink unit and the drivers seat, secured by bungee straps for easy removal. I now use this setup for washing dishes, instead of using the kitchen tap which needs the tank filling below the van (something Ive avoided as I dont want to carry unnecessary weight whilst driving).

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So thats my home shower setup. It works for me, but to be honest I generally use the free showers on the beaches, even during winter – coz thats how I roll!

DIY: Starter troubleshooting

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Body origami !!

So today I got my man-mode on and decided to have a go at mechanics.
Ive had consistent problems starting my camper since a few months now. I would get the ignition click sounds once turning the key, but the engine would not start? It would usually take 5 or 6 attempts of turning the ignition off and on again before the engine kicked in.
Being as Ive already spent over 1500€ on maintenance (I had a new distribution kit and cam-belt installed, new brake pads, new leisure battery, oil change and new filter), I was determined to try fixing the problem myself, to learn about van mechanics and save money.
After a couple of months monitoring the problem and reading possible fixes on various websites, I finally got my act together and got my hands dirty!

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The old starter switch on the left, the new switch, and the precision screwdriver.

First up was checking the cables and wires from the battery terminals. I found no loose connections, nor rust, so skipped to the next cheapest solution: the starter switch.
I have read heaps of stories of guys trying to replace the starter switch and although it would appear a simple fix, its actually a titan job worthy of an award if you succeed!
Basically, there is one tiny little screw behind the ignition barrel that is so freakin hard to get to, that you have to contort your whole body underneath the steering column and then have the nimblest of fingers to use the tinniest of screwdrivers to get that ‘Devil Screw’ out!
Luckily I have a set of precision screwdrivers (god knows why??), that just fit into the recess and into the screw. Obviously the owner before me has tried having a go at it too, as the thread was slightly worn so it wouldn’t budge. So after 20 minutes trying, I hammered at the screw, and it loosened enough for me to get it out!
So I popped in the new starter switch that I bought from the VW shop for 40 euros, put all the wiring back together, turned the key in the ignition and…..nothing?!?

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The tinniest little screw in the most awkward of places!

My last hope of sorting out the starter issue (before resorting to changing the very expensive starter motor!), was change the starter battery. Fortunately I bought an extra battery a month ago with the intention of doubling up my solar power storage, which was still sitting idly in the boot of my van (I need more tools for that job and Im waiting on a friend for help, look out Kurt!).

The new battery is a little bit more potent than the existing 2 year old starter battery, so after checking online if that was OK, in it went and….my van started in nano seconds, repeatedly!!!

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New battery installed.

Its not over yet though. Now I have to keep an eye on the battery performance, incase theres a wiring problem somewhere that may be draining juice?
I have a leisure battery that is charged by the running motor AND the solar panel, with a regulator thats supposed to stop juice being sucked out from the starter battery (in theory). The leisure battery powers the fridge, my iGadgets and interior LED lights, but maybe somewhere there is a wiring fault thats screwing things up? Time will tell?

Anyways, this was my first venture getting into the mechanics of my van (my only other experiences were changing tires on past motors!).
Im really hoping this is the fix I needed, as I have far more important things to do, like chilling on the beach!

Van Hack: Spice rack & Odds n Sods basket.

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 21.14.51For some time now, I have had to rummage through my two food cupboards to get at my salt and spices. Anyone who has experience with campers, knows its a small expedition getting to whatever you need out of the kitchen cupboards, moving whatever may be on the floor, maybe having to raise the sofa bed, blindly feeling for the right object unless you get on your knees with a torch to hunt inside at eye level. You get the picture, exhausting! It comes as no surprise that I regularly eat bland food.

I also need my vitamins at hand, otherwise I forget to take them. And my tooth brush, as I am guilty at times forgetting to brush before bed (although I am regularly told that my teeth are so white!).

Anyhows, a quick search online and Ikea has the perfect sized hanging basket/rack for a camper. Its the Bygel wire basket, and it only cost 2.99€!

The basket is steel wire, length 33cm, width 10cm, and height 10cm. Once installed, it hangs far away enough from the window (so no smashing glass when it swings during driving), and its hung high enough that the kitchen worktop can be opened without hitting it.

In a crude McGyver manner, I tied a shoelace around each end of the steel hanging handle. Each shoelace was then secured to the net I have upstairs to stop drunks falling out of bed (I know, told you it was crude!). When I open the poptop roof and raise the ceiling to stand (which is very rare), my basket will go up with it (albeit at a weird diagonal angle!).

Im guessing anyone with the right tools could drill small holes into the bottom of the upstairs bed frame (the lower ceiling), and put a couple of screw eye hooks into it to secure the basket? I dont happen to own a drill, but my method worked a treat without making more holes.

To stop the steel handle clanging the side of the interior, I made little rubber stoppers to reduce the impact. To make these, I cut up 3 small pieces of rubber tubing, and sliced along their length, slipping them around the metal handle. Then I gaffer taped around the rubber tubing to secure. 

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I havent road tested it yet, but poking at it to make the rack swing didnt produce any annoying noises?

Now I have salt and spices at hand, and my toothbrush waiting to be used. I may die of high blood pressure, but at least my teeth will be sparkly clean!

Update: Road tested and road worthy. Not so off-road worthy, but thats rarely going to happen, so no probs 🙂