We knew pretty much as soon as we bought a VW that we wanted to learn how to maintain it and how to carry out basic repairs. After the great start motor debacle that started on the way to Camper Jam and carried on pretty much throughout the summer, we had some idea of how to solve one of the many problems that will no doubt beset our aircooled ownership over the years to come, but if anything else was to go wrong, would we know what to do?
That’s where Type 2 Detectives come in. A garage based near Cambridge, they’re renowned for their high quality workmanship and approachability, as well as the range of workshops and help they are prepared to offer to anyone who is thinking of buying, or has just bought a type 2 VW.
We booked our places well before the summer, and by the time the cooler weather of September rolled around, our plan of camping in Custard’s grandparents’ orchard overnight before the bootcamp was starting to look a little less romantic!
After a long, but mainly uneventful drive down, we tucked ourselves up in Ruby on the driveway, with an extension cable and wifi from the grandparents, ready to be up bright and early for the next morning.
After a quick breakfast cooked on the stove (I really don’t think my grandparents were expecting us to be quite so self sufficient!) and an even quicker wander round the orchard to help ourselves to some apples, we set off for Burwell, along some of the bumpiest roads that the fenland had to offer:
We knew we’d got to the right place – but we didn’t seem to fit in with the colour coordinated parking!
We arrived to bacon butties and filter coffee, and a good chat with a few people about their buses and where they’d been this summer. After a brief introduction, we split into two groups, one to do the engines session, and one to do electrics.
We started with Paul, looking at electrics. The first piece of essential advice that he gave us was to maintain your VW at a high standard. IT may take some work to get it there in the first place, but it should then be easier to maintain, rather than constantly trying to deal with the myriad of problems that can arise due to poor maintenance. The second piece of advice he gave us was to never be without your probe!
An electrical probe allows you to test for and isolate all sorts of problems, using power from the battery. The session took us through how to read a VW wiring diagram, which was incredibly useful, and gave us key pointers about wiring colours and codes. We also looked at common electric problems and how to diagnose and fix them, including specific issues that people mentioned they had with their buses.
After this, it was time for a quick coffee break, with wonderful cakes and biscuits (including gluten free treats for me!) provided by The Pudding Bar.
This was another opportunity to talk to fellow owners, to have a look at the vehicles currently in the workshop, and to put our name on a probe to buy at the end of the day (Paul sold it well!)
After the break, it was off to see Andy, who talked all about engines. There was a Type 1 and a Type 4 engine on display, which meant that people with all ages of aircooled vans could learn the specific techniques that applied to them.
Andy gave us practical demonstrations of how the aircooled engine works, how to check and change a fanbelt, how to carry out an oil and filter change, how to check valve clearances, change sparkplugs and maintain the ignition. Again, the importance of good maintenance was stressed, especially checking fuel lines and ensuring that all tinware and rubber seals are in place.
After lunch, it was back out into the workshop again, to learn how to safely remove an engine and examine it, and the jobs that can be done whilst the engine is out. Andy then showed the split owners problems that are specific to splitscreen vans, whilst Paul did the same for the bay window owners.
We then went through the most common reasons that a van breaks down and how to fix them. After that, there was a final Q&A session, where people could get advice relating to specific situations they find themselves in with their buses. There was also an interesting discussion relating to fire suppression systems. Andy is of the belief that if you keep on top of maintenance and keep your engine and electrics in order, there is no need to have one fitted. In his words “VW didn’t let the vans leave the factory randomly bursting into flames!” But having one fitted adds an extra level of security and peace of mind – supplement it with good quality fuel hoses and clips, make sure your fuel filter is not in the engine bay, and keep on top of maintenance, performing checks before journeys and addressing any small problems before they have the chance to become big ones.
Finally, it was time to place our orders for any items we wanted for our VW first aid kit, collect our precious Bootcamp bibles and set off on the long journey home into the sunset!
I would heartily recommend the bootcamp to any aircooled VW owner. We’ve already used what we learned to help us successfully diagnose and fix an ignition problem a couple of weeks after the bootcamp. We also now have a basic tool kit with spares to carry around with us, which makes us feel better prepared for any issues which may arise. The bootcamp was a long and information-filled day, which coupled with a long drive there and back, made it fairly intense. However, the information, knowledge and skills that we gained by being there will stand us in good stead for our future years of VW ownership.
T2D also offer a follow up workshop, tailored to your individual requirements and those of your bus, as all buses are slightly different and have their own foibles and oddities. This is certainly something that we are considering for the future to help us better understand how to maintain Ruby and her personal peculiarities!