Great design and build tour 

There are many good van build videos on YouTube. But this is an exceptional one. It’s comprehensive (close to one hour long), and Lee, the van designer and builder, has clearly thought deeply about so many aspects of the design.

It’s a great watch; he seems like a lovely guy, and his design philosophy, which is one half spontaneous (build it, use it, iterate, don’t worry about perfection), one half attention to detail (material choice, usage, interaction design, maintenance) is such a good primer for anyone thinking about deisgn approaches.

A one-week trial of vanlife. The good, the bad and the ugly.

This Easter, Amy and I hired a camper van to get a taste of vanlife. We recorded our throughts about what worked and what didn’t, and I’m sharing them here. I should stress that this focuses on the bad and the ugly (we were trying to learn lessons), but the trip was good.


Continue reading “A one-week trial of vanlife. The good, the bad and the ugly.”

What to look for when buying a Sprinter

Some useful advice on common failings of the Mercedes Sprinter:

One of the Sprinter’s most common faults is problems with the diesel engine’s high pressure injection system. It’s called the ‘black death’ though it’s not as bad as is sounds if it’s caught early enough. The seals around the injectors go, causing a chuffing from under the bonnet.

Put the heater and fan on in the cab and if there’s a faint smell of what should be coming out of the tailpipe then they’ll need looking at. A black build up around the injectors also highlights the issue. Depending on how bad it is, you could be looking at anywhere from £150 to £500 fix.

Check the propshaft on any prospective purchase, they tend to fail at about 100,000 miles though they’re not too expensive provided you don’t source it from a dealer where they’ll charge around £800. For all other parts we’d suggest genuine only, particularly brakes.

The oil filter within the engine of 2007 Sprinters can become blocked and this causes the engine oil to be expelled through the dipstick hole (even though the dipstick is in place) leaving the engine to seize.

As with any vehicle though they’re not perfect, one of the most visible problems being their tendency to rust. Bear puts this down to abuse, and the amount of operators running them without ply linings inside, though lots also attribute the Sprinter’s pockmarks to thin, water-based paints. Best advice regarding the bodywork is if it’s scratched or dinged, get some touch-up on it quickly, Mercedes-Benz’s warranty very particular in its cover regarding surface rust.



Bed ideas

Common formats include two facing bench seats with a removable table in between, or a permanent raised bed in the back of the van with lots of storage underneath. I’m more interested in a slide out bed design that only needs one bench to work (plenty of seating for 2 people) and lets you maintain a walk through floor plan.

Planning the gas system

I phoned up Gaslow to ask for advice on building out a gas locker. They advised that a refillable bottle would likely be overkill for our needs, so here, I’m planning a locker and fittings for a returnable bottle such as Calorgas or Campingaz.