The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Importing A Motorhome From Europe – The Detailed Notes

Note: This is a very long, detailed blog post which will only be of interest to someone who is seriously thinking of importing a new motorhome from Europe. I’ve also written a short version, in the form of an annotated checklist, which you will find by clicking here. For anyone not interested in importing such a vehicle, I suggest you go and find something more interesting to read! I’ll be back to talking about hills next week.

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On 9 January we signed up to buy a new Hymer motorhome from a dealer in Belgium. On 27 January we took delivery. On 16 February, we received our UK registration documents. As it’s quite an involved process, I thought I’d pen some notes as to what we had to do to achieve the import, certification and registration. Note that this relates specifically to importing a new motorhome from Europe. Note also that my research proved that the process does change over time, so whilst this process is what worked for us in early 2017, it would be wise to check that nothing has changed before deciding to import at a later date.

Choosing and Buying

The obvious place to start when looking to buy a new motorhome (and I’m assuming that you’ve chosen your make and model before thinking of buying abroad) is on the ‘Find a Dealer’ page of manufacturer’s website. I went a slightly more circuitous route, starting out with poking around on mobile.de (the German equivalent of Autotrader) and then doing a bit of Google searching.

We located two potential dealers with our model in stock: Dürrwang in Dortmund, Germany, and Campirama in Kjortrik, Belgium. The German dealer was cheaper, but Belgium is nearer (78 miles from Calais vs 270 miles), making any return for warranty work easier and cheaper, plus Campirama offered to drive the vehicle to Calais for us, on their trade plates, which significantly reduced the insurance headache (see below). Moreover, having spoken to both dealers, Campirama was much more friendly and forthcoming over the phone and was more responsive to our follow-up email.

Having had a list of questions answered (including the very key confirmation that our vehicle would be supplied with the original manufactuer Certificate of Conformity, as this document is needed to obtain UK Registration), we were happy with everything Campirama had told us; so we arranged a day-trip, by car, to visit their showroom, and within a couple of hours of arrival, a deal had been done.

The Import Process

1. Get the Forms Together

At least a week before you’re going to take delivery of your motorhome, order a ‘New Vehicle Import Pack’ from the Department for Transport. There’s one form in this pack (the V55/4) which is carbonated, so can’t be downloaded. The other forms/help sheets you will need can be found online and printed at home. Also download a copy of the ‘Application for Mutual Recognition – Motorhomes’ form and the VCA Payment Form.

2. HMRC Log In

If you don’t have a HMRC log-in, then apply for one. If you complete Self Certification Tax Returns online, then the same log-on will work for declaring the vehicle and paying VAT when the time comes. As it takes at least a week to set up an account, if you don’t already have one, register at the earliest opportunity.

3. Arrange Insurance

In the absence of a registration number, you’ll need to insure against the VIN. We had no problem doing this with our existing insurer (Safeguard), who issued a 30-day cover note, but not all companies will insure an unregistered vehicle. Note that UK insurers will only cover an unregistered vehicle once it is on UK soil. We didn’t look into the possibility of obtaining Belgian export plates/third party insurance, as our agreed delivery arrangements negated the need. I know such plates/insurance are readily available if buying from Germany, but I didn’t fancy the risk of driving such a valuable vehicle on third party insurance. I did find a couple of reports online of a broker and the corresponding underwriter who would insure the value of an unregistered vehicle whilst abroad (the vehicle only; not third party liability), but a few phone calls told me that the underwriter had withdrawn the product and even phone calls to brokers of bespoke and unusual insurances were unable to help. As Campirama delivered the vehicle to the Channel Tunnel for us, our risk was reduced to a level we found accepable.

Note that, even with insurance, it’s not legal for a UK resident to drive an unregistered vehicle (or a vehicle registered abroad) in the UK. Possible ways around this are to have the vehicle delivered to your home by the dealer, to use a transport company, or to obtain some UK trade plates. 

3. Pay for your Vehicle

You want the best exchange rate you can get, which is usually achieved by going through a foreign exchange brokerage company. There is a small risk in doing this in that whilst your money is with the foreign exchange company it has less protection than it would in a bank. For maximum protection we opted to use UK Forex, who are FCA authorised; a big, reputable company; and who offered almost the best rate I could find. There’s some good information about using a foreign exchange company on the moneysavingexpert website, here.

Unfortunately for us, Teresa May made a tiny comment in an interview the day before we committed to buy at the moment we were signing up to our purchase the value of the pound was tumbling. With an upcoming Brexit announcement then announced, it tumbled some more. We ended up making our funds transfer moments before the exchange rate hit the bottom of the resultant dip. It was a costly lesson (helped along by hindsight) that what we should have done was to commit to a forward contract the very moment we signed up. We would have got a slightly lower rate, but nowhere near as low as where we ended up.  

4. Take Delivery of Vehicle (with Certificate of Conformity)

I got sent a copy of the Certificate of Conformity a week before we collected our vehicle, and thus had already put Google Translate through its paces (the C of C was in German), but it was still beneficial to sit down with the dealer, with both the C of C and a photocopy of the V55/4 form, to check we were putting the right information in the right places.

For the delivery day we travelled by Eurostar, arriving in Lille at lunchtime, from where Campirama picked us up. That afternoon we had a detailed handover, following which we spent the night, in the dealer’s compound, in our new acquisition. A lesson learnt here (again, with the benefit of hindsight) was that when we drove over to do the deal, we should have taken a crate of stuff (bedding, some crockery, cutlery and pans, etc) and asked the dealer to store it for us for when we collected the vehicle. As it goes, our backpacking activities came in handy and we made do that night with a backpacking quilt and our backpacking cookware, which we had carried on the train.

The following morning the dealer put right a few things we had noticed to be amiss with the van (and, annoyingly, failed to put right one of the more significant issues) and by early afternoon we were on our way back to the UK.

5. Pay Your VAT

Another advantage of buying from Belgium, rather than Germany, is that whereas it is normal in Germany to have to pay German VAT and subsequently claim it back (upon proof that UK VAT has been paid), in Belgium there is no requirement for local VAT to be paid on a vehicle bought for export. Either way, as soon as you arrive in the UK, you need to notify HMRC of the arrival of the vehicle (via the ‘Notification of Vehicle Arrival’ (NOVA) system), which will trigger the payment of VAT. Technically, you have 14 days to complete the NOVA, however, if you don’t get your application for registration off to DVLA within 14 days of the vehicle arriving in the UK, then you can’t register it as a new vehicle, and you can’t register the vehicle until VAT has been paid on it.

I completed the NOVA as soon as we got home and almost immediately received an email saying that they couldn’t process the application because more information was required (which was completely expected from the research I’d done before buying), and asking us to contact them by phone. The additional information required was a copy of the dealer’s invoice to confirm the price paid. Within a few days of providing that information (via email), the VAT bill was received and paid. About a week later, a receipt was received by registered post.

6. Arrange your ‘Mutual Recognition’ Certification

This stage can be completed in tandem with sorting out the VAT, and should be done with reference to the ‘Application for Mutual Recognition – Motorhomes’ form as the exact wording used at this stage is important (as you’ll see further down this section). 

You need a garage which is: a) a MOT station; and/or b) VAT registered; and/or c) a registered company; to provide a statement, on their letterhead (which states their Vehicle Test Station number/VAT registered address/registered company address, as applicable), confirming that they have either worked on or inspected the vehicle (stating the VIN) and that the vehicles fog lights, head lights and speedo meets UK requirements. I went to our local ATS which met all three garage requirements and also happens to be our nearest MOT test station.

In our case the vehicle came factory fitted with fog lights on both sides, and with flatbeam headlights, so we didn’t need any modification to those two items (if you only have a fog light on the left you’ll need either a second one, or to move it to the right; if you have headlights with a right-side kick-up then they’ll need adjusting/replacing to achieve left-side kick-up; it’s only acceptable to have flat-beam if they are factory-fitted, or if the new beam pattern is achieved via a lever adjustment which is a standard feature of the vehicle). The only item we therefore had to change was the speedo (see this post here for how to do that).

Unfortunately, the statement I asked the garage to provide (and I would advise arriving at the garage armed with a draft of the exact statement you want them to make) didn’t make clear that the speedo facia had been installed as a replacement to the original. My thinking was that, as the garage hadn’t done the modification to the speedo, they had no way of knowing how that speedo had been made UK compliant and, to my thinking, it wasn’t relevant how it had been made UK compliant, provided that it was. Alas, the Vehicle Certification Agency didn’t agree with my way of thinking and, even though we had included the required detail on our own signed declaration, they wouldn’t accept our application unless the garage also confirmed how the speedo had been made compliant. This is where we were greatly helped by Campirama having incorrectly placed the new facia over the top of the original one, as this error meant that we now had possession of the original facia. Showing this to the MOT tester satisfied him that the one he had seen in the vehicle was a replacement. ATS didn’t charge for the supplementary statement, so the total cost to us for having the vehcile inspected and a statement given was £20.

7. Send ‘Application for Mutual Recognition – Motorhomes’ off to VCA

This form needs to be sent to the Vehicle Certification Agency along with the Certificate of Conformity, the garage evidence (obtained per Step 6 above), and payment of £100.

I nearly used the wrong form here! Having downloaded the correct form, I somehow managed to print the ‘Passenger Cars’ (rather than the ‘Motorhomes’) version. The differences between the two are small (and only apply in the intro blurb), so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but I did catch my error in time.

This is the simplest of the forms to complete, only requiring your name and contact details, the vehicle’s make, model and VIN, plus a signed declaration as to how the vehicle has been made compliant in respect of rear fogs, headlights and speedo.

If you pay the VCA’s £100 fee via cheque, then you will incur a 10-day delay, which would cause a problem if you want to register the motorhome as new (in which case it needs to be registered within 14 days of arrival). To pay by credit or debit card, you need to fill in the VCA Payment Form – another simple one to complete.

Because you will be sending the original Certificate of Conformity along with this form (I wasn’t sure whether just the final vehicle C of C was required, so to be sure I sent all three, covering the engine and chassis as well), and because that document would be difficult and time-consuming to get replaced, we used Special Delivery.

Incidentally, the VCA has entered the modern age, so their requirement for additional information was received via email two days after we originally sent the form. This enabled us to have the clarification statement back in the post to them the same day as they emailed us.

8. Receive Individual Vehical Approval Certificate* from VCA

As mentioned in Step 6 above, our Mutual Recognition Application wasn’t accepted on the first attempt. Even so, it only took eight days (including the weekend and 3 x 1-day of postal time) between us putting the original application in the post and having the certificate back in our hands.

The certificate was sent back to us via Special Delivery too, as along with it the original Cs of C and the garage evdience were returned.

(* Note: I’m calling this document the Individual Vehicle Approval Certificate. The covering letter called it a Mutual Recognition Certificate, but that’s not a term used anywhere on the document itself. At the top of the document it says ‘Individual Approval Certificate’ and where it gives the reference number it says ‘Individual Vehicle Approval Number’. I suspect that where the V267 asks for ‘Type Approval’ it actually refers to this document too. I mention further below how inconsistent is the terminology is, making a process, that is already quite involved for the layperson, even more of a trial.)

9. Send Application for Registration to DVLA

You now need to send the following to DVLA:

1) Completed Form V267 (declaration that a vehicle is new);

2) Completed Form V55/4 (application for first vehicle tax and registration of a new motor vehicle);

3) Original Individual Vehicle Approval Certificate from VCA (see Steps 11 and 12 above);

4) Invoice from dealer, stating date of delivery;

5) Proof of identity of the person making application (e.g. photocopy of driving licence); and

6) A cheque for £55 for the first registration fee and one for the cost of the first year’s road tax (Form V149 states the applicable rates of vehicle tax).

It’s in filling in these forms that you start to notice how inconsistent DVLA can be with its terminology. Even the innocuous-looking 1-page V267 tested us, as it asked for the ‘Revenue Weight’ of the vehicle, a term which doesn’t appear on any other document, nor indeed on the DVLA’s own on-line guide to the different types of vehicle weight. An on-line search told us that various people had queried the meaning of this term with DVLA in the past and had received different answers. We phoned DVLA and, per their response, went for the ‘Vehicle Mass’ as stated on the C of C, which was down (incorrectly, i believe) as the ‘Mass in Running Order’ on the certificate received from the VCA. Then there was the question as to whether for ‘Type Approval Number’ they were really after the thing which was referred to as ‘Type Approval’ on other documents, or if they really meant the Individual Vehicle Approval reference number (we went for the former; the Registration Document received suggests they meant the latter).

Along with the V267 we attached a ‘Certificate of Newness’ which had been provided to us by Campirama, acting as agent for Hymer. This wasn’t a document mentioned anywhere as being required or desirable, but, feeling that it lent significant weight to our declaration of newness, we included it.

The V55/4 was the form we found by far the hardest to complete. It comes with two sets of guidance materials (document references INS234 and V355/4), which did help – particularly the V355/4 which tells you don’t need to fill in certain fields for certain vehicles. Even with the notes, and with two sets of eyes, it took us a few hours to satisfy ourselves that we understood what was being asked and to fill in a final version of this form with which we were happy.

The invoice for the vehicle is required in order to establish that the vehicle has been in the country for less than 14 days (the time limit for registering a vehicle as new), and various DVLA guidance notes make reference to the usual assumption that the invoice date is the delivery date. In our case, the invoice date was earlier than the delivery date, so I made sure that Campirama made the delivery date clear, which they did, but right at the bottom of the invoice’s second page. To make sure DVLA didn’t miss this, I highlighted it and (with belt and braces) also put a Post-It note on the front of the invoice, pointing out the correct date to them. (Note that as of 1 April 2017 the invoice will also be required to prove the price of the vehicle, as road tax changes will mean that vehicles with a value of over £40k will incur a road tax surcharge for the first five years based on its CO2 emissions. As most motorhomes don’t have a CO2 value stated on their final stage C of C, I have read that this surcharge won’t apply, but undoubtedly evidence of price paid will still be required.) 

With regard to road tax, you need to work out into which class your vehicle falls. Whilst we were pretty sure we knew that we would be taxed as Private/Light Goods (PLG), there was no information on the V149 (Rates of Vehicle Tax) document, received with the Import Pack, to confirm that. An internet search turned up DVLA document V355/1 (Notes About Tax Classes) which confirmed that, because we didn’t have a CO2 value stated on our final vehicle C of C or Individual Vehicle Approval Certificate, we did fall into the PLG category.

Because we were sending the original Individual Vehicle Approval Certificate, we sent everything off to DVLA by Special Delivery. DVLA advise that if you want to receive your documents back via Special Delivery, then you need to send a pre-paid Special Delivery Self Addressed Envelope. We didn’t know exactly what we would receive back, but just to be sure, we did send that Special Delivery SAE. As it went, the only original document that got returned was the invoice from Campirama, and I would have been willing to risk that to the standard postal service, so we could have saved £6.50 there (of course, I could have used the Special Delivery barcode to track when the documents went back into the post to us).

10. Receive V5 from DVLA

Exactly one week after putting our application in the post, we received two envelopes back from DVLA: one was the V5 ‘Log Book’, the other was our Special Delivery SAE containing the returned documents (see above) plus a Certificate of Entitlement to our allocated registration number. Because we received the V5 in the same post, we didn’t need the Certificate of Entitlement (if the V5 had been delayed, we could have used it to get number plates made up).

I may be wrong, but I suspect that two weeks before the new year’s registration plates are issued is probably quite a quiet time at DVLA, thus the time taken to receive our registration may have been longer if it had been a different time of year. DVLA advises that registration takes 4-6 weeks, but other accounts I’ve read suggest that our one-week timescale is more normal.

11. Get Your Number Plates Made and Applied

We were so relieved and excited to receive our registration that within half an hour of Postie’s arrival, Mick was on his way into town to get our registration plates made. Legally, this has to be done by an authorised number plate maker (you can search on the Government website to find one, but I did find the list to be out of date), and because we are law abiding citizens, we did exactly that (cheaper plates can be had online, but many sellers supply ‘show plates’, not road-legal plates).

12. Inform Your Insurer

Because we only had a 30-day cover note, and because we had already received a stern letter chasing us for our registration number, Mick actually completed this step before heading off to pick up number plates. We received a new insurance certificate the next day.

13. Hit the Road!

That’s why you’ve just been through this process. If, like us, you sold your previous van the moment you signed up for the new one, then you may well have cabin fever after all of these weeks of being at home. It’s time to go out and enjoy your acquisition!

A Few Other Notes

1. Warranty Both of the foreign dealers we spoke to forewarned us that whilst the Hymer warranty is Europe-wide, we would find great difficulty in getting a UK dealer to honour any warranty claims. Campirama was slightly more optimistic, advising us to talk to them first if we need something fixing so that they could get Hymer head office to instruct the UK dealer. Apparently, there are even issues with getting the UK dealers to do the annual damp check (which is a service for which the owner pays each year) required to keep the water ingress warranty valid. In weighing up whether to import we acknowledged that: a) there will be warranty issues that need fixing; and b) we would likely have to return to Belgium to get them fixed. The fact that we intend to spend a lot of time in Europe over the next few years, and the relative proximity of Campirama to Calais, helped us to be comfortable with this position.

2. Govt Website Infoclick here for the Government website about importing a vehicle. I don’t think I found anything useful on that website that I wasn’t already aware of from other sources (including the import pack), but I’ve included it here for completeness.

3. VAT on Second Hand Vehicles I didn’t look in any detail at the process for importing a second hand vehicle from Europe, but I’ll just mention that if you do go down the second hand route then the vehicle needs to be more than 6 months old and have more than 6000km on its clock and have been subject to VAT in its original country in order if you don’t want to be liable for VAT in the UK too.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Importing a Motorhome from Belgium – A Process Checklist

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to read that as part of our decision-making process to import a motorhome, I did a large amount of internet research and created a few spreadsheets. One of the things I put together was a checklist of what I understood we needed to do to get an EU-sourced motorhome registered in the UK. I will write a more detailed narrative account of what was involved, but for starters here is a version of the original checklist, which I have updated after the fact, including a number of ‘post experience notes’, and to which I have added the actual dates upon which we completed each stage.

 

Stage No

Detail

Date completed

1

Order Import Pack from the Department for Transport

7/1

2

Choose motorhome, find a suitable dealer and do deal, including agreeing with dealer that they will provide original Certificates of Conformity and will either a) arrange export plates; or b) deliver

9/1

3

Sort out insurance for value of van whilst in transit (Post experience note: I wasn’t able to do this (although the need went away with Campirama offered to deliver). The one underwriter who used to offer this insurance no longer does and not even brokers who specialise in bespoke requirements could help)

N/A

4

Insure van with UK insurer based on VIN

(Post experience note: Not all insurers offer this. We were already insured with Safeguard, who do. They require registration within 30 days, but did indicate that they would extend that period if DVLA caused delays.)

10/1

5

Transfer money to dealer via foreign exchange broker

(Post experience note: We used UK Forex. This page on the MSE website provides helpful information on this subject.)

16/1

6

Take delivery of van. Get dealer to assist with filling in V55/4 (info is required from C of C, which, in our case, was in German)

27/1

7

Within 14 days of arrival, complete HMRC Notification of Vehicle Arrival (NOVA) form online, which will trigger the VAT bill. HMRC will apply a fixed exchange rate which is set month-by-month (see here for 2017 rates). (NB VAT is payable on base cost + extras)

(Post experience note: Following NOVA submission we received an auto-response saying more information was required and were requested to phone a stated number. It was the weekend, so we couldn’t do that until 30/1. As expected, the information required was proof of purchase price. We emailed a copy of the dealer’s invoice.)

27/1

8

Receive VAT bill (within a couple of days) and pay it

2/2

9

Obtain new speedo facia from Lockwood International in Leeds and fit

(Post experience note: Campirama did this for us, however, they erred by not removing the old facia first and thus the new facia didn’t light up correctly, so we ended up having to take the instrument panel apart to rectify)

N/A

10

Take vehicle to a garage which is: a) a MOT station; and/or b) VAT registered; and/or c) a registered company. Obtain a letter on letter head, stating MOT station number and registered address, stating that vehicle’s headlights, fog lights and speedo meet UK requirements.

(Post experience note: It’s important to use the wording on Page 4 of the ‘Application for Mutual Recognition – Motorhomes’ form. Our original statement from the garage didn’t make clear whether the speedo facia was retrofitted or factory fitted, so we had to obtain a further clarifying statement from the garage. This incurred a 3-day delay to the certification process).

28/1

11

Send the following to Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) via Special Delivery:

1) Original European Certificate(s) of Conformity for the vehicle

2) Garage evidence (per Point 10 above) that the vehicle meets the UK requirements in respect of headlights, speedometer and rear fog-light(s)

3) Completed ‘Application for Mutual Recognition – Motorhomes

4) Completed VCA Payment Form, authorising credit/debit card payment of £100

31/1

12

When the VCA has processed the application, they will send an Individual Vehicle Approval certificate. This is required for completion of the V267 (see Step 13 below).

8/2

13

Within 14 days of arrival of the vehicle in the UK, send the following to DVLA:

1) Completed Form V267 (declaration that a vehicle is new);

2) Completed Form V55/4 (application for first vehicle tax and registration of a new motor vehicle);

3) Original Individual Vehicle Approval Certificate from VCA (see Steps 11 and 12 above)

4) Invoice from dealer, stating date of delivery

5) Proof of identity of the person making application (e.g. photocopy of driving licence)

6) A cheque for £55 for the first registration fee and one for the cost of the first year’s road tax (Form V149 states the applicable rates of vehicle tax).

8/2

14

Receive V5 log book

16/2

15

Have number plates made up by a Government authorised number plate maker, and fit them to vehicle

16/2

16 Advise insurance company of registration number 16/2

 

Note that if you don’t already have a Government Gateway account with HMRC, then obtaining one should be point 1 or 2 on the checklist. I didn’t put this step on the list because both Mick and I already have accounts (it’s the same log-in as is used for Self Assessment Tax Returns).

Disclaimer: the import process is not immune from change and my research suggested there has been change over the last few years. Whilst this process worked well for us in January/February 2017, any part of it may change at any time and I won’t be keeping it up to date. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Opening the Instrument Panel/Changing the Speedo Overlay on a Fiat Ducato

Any new vehicle being registered in the UK has to (amongst other requirements) have a speedometer which is capable of displaying the speed in both MPH and KM/H. Vehicles supplied in Europe usually only give speed in KM/H. Therefore, if importing a European vehicle into the UK will likely be necessary to change the overlay on the speedo dial.

The main supplier of the overlays is Lockwoods International and I understand that if you buy a new overlay from them then they provide fitting instructions. However, I wanted to know how easy or difficult the job before buying the overlay (and, indeed, before we committed to going down the import route) and I whilst I found lots of ‘I changed the speedo overlay and it was quick and easy’ reports, I couldn’t find any details as to how to go about opening up the instrument panel.

As it happens, our dealer in Belgium offered to obtain the new overlay from Lockwoods and fit it for us, so my concern about how easy it would be to make the modification went away. Sure enough, upon delivery, in daylight, all looked good. It wasn’t until we were driving in the dark that we found that we had a problem – the speedo was not lighting up correctly. It didn’t take me long to realise that the problem was that the dealer had put the UK overlay on top of the original and thus the only places where light was getting through were where bits of the numbers happened to overlap. It clearly didn’t meet UK requirements like that.

With just a few hours to go until the vehicle inspection which was going to certify (amongst other things) that the speedo was UK-legal, I was faced with the need to redoing the job myself, without the benefit of any instructions. I’m sure I’m not the first person to have wanted to see in advance what the process is, so I’ve set out below details of what I did.

Changing speedo overlay on a Fiat Ducato

(This was on a 2016 Hymer based on a Fiat Ducato; all vehicles based on a Ducato should be the same and I doubt there is much, if any, difference from the previous Ducato model)

20170128_151522

Figure 1

20170128_151503

Figure 2

Look at the instrument panel head-on. The black plastic panel, which sits over the top of the instrument panel (Figure 1), is held on at the front by two Torx (i.e. star-shaped) screws (T25 size), one on the upper left of the instrument panel and one on the upper right (Figure 2). Start by unscrewing both of these (being careful not to fumble and drop either of them, or their washers, down behind the steering wheel!).

The black plastic panel that you have just unscrewed is now only held on by two plastic gripping lugs at the back. To unseat these, grip the very back (the side closest to the windscreen) of the plastic panel and pull it gently upwards. Once these lugs are unseated, you can pull the panel forwards and off.

IMG_0029

Figure 3

You now have access to two more T25 Torx screws that hold the instrument panel in place (see Figure 3). Undo both of these (being careful not to fumble them and drop them down inside the dashboard!).

The whole of the instrument panel unit will now lift out.

The Perspex front of the unit doesn’t come off separately. You need to remove the whole of the front casing of the unit. This is done via six plastic clips located around the outside of the instrument panel unit (sorry, didn’t take a photo of this bit). There are two on the top, two on the bottom and one on each side. Release each of these clips, one by one, and lift off the front casing.

IMG_0026

Figure 4

There’s now just a black plastic frame denying you access to the speedo overlay (see Figure 4). This simply pulls off. There are locating lugs which don’t provide any resistance in removing the plastic.

In the middle of the speedo, where the speedo needle connects to the unit, there is a round black plastic cap. Pull it gently and it will come off (you can see it in place in Figure 4 and missing in Figure 5).

I didn’t investigate whether the needle itself comes off, because with the black plastic cap off, it’s now possible to snip through the small piece of plastic which connects the existing speedo overlay to the rest of the instrument panel overlay (see Figure 5 below), and to slide that overlay off over the length of the speedo needle.

Reversing the process, you can then slide the new overlay on, over the length of the needle.

All that then needs to be done is to reverse the whole of the process above to put everything back together:

1 Press the round black plastic cap back over the speedo needle, in the middle of the speedo (there’s only one way it will fit).

2 Put the thin black plastic surround, which frames each of the instruments on the panel, back into place and gently press all around the edges so that it is fully relocated.

3 Put the front casing of the instrument panel back into place and press all around the edges to make sure all six of the clips have clicked back into place.

4 On the bottom of the instrument panel there are two round rubber locating lugs (see Figure 5, below). Replace the panel, locate those lugs into the corresponding holes on the dashboard.

5 The screw holes on the top of the unit should now be lined up with the corresponding holes on the dashboard. Replace the screws which hold the instrument panel onto the dashboard (being careful not to fumble and drop…).

6 The only part you should now have left to relocate is the black plastic dashboard panel. There are two gripping lugs at the back of this panel and two corresponding holes on the dashboard. Put the front of the panel in place, then press down on the back so that you feel/hear the lugs click into place. The holes at the front, where the screws go, should now be lined up with the holes behind. Replace these screws (cursing the steering wheel for being in the way, and being careful not to fumble and drop them…).

7 Sit back and admire your handy work, whilst thinking, ‘Gosh, that was easy’!

I didn’t time how long it took, but even going in and out of the house for various items and working it out as I went along, it can’t have taken more than 20 minutes.

IMG_0025

Figure 5.

Key to parts shown in Figure 5:

· A = black plastic dashboard panel, which comes off first.

· B = front casing of the Instrument Panel, which comes off next.

· C = instrument surround, which comes off third.

· D = inside of the instrument panel.

You can see in this photo that the round plastic cap has been taken off the middle of the speedo needle.

(Incidentally, I didn’t fumble or drop any of the screws, but I know from past experience that if there’s the smallest hole where they can fall and be lost forever, then if you drop them, that’s where they will go.)

Quiet For Ages, Then I Go Off-Topic

All has been quiet on this blog for a while. That’s because we didn’t go back out to France/Spain/Portugal straight after Christmas, as we had planned. Instead, we decided to buy a new motorhome. To make it even more of an adventure, we decided to self-import one from Belgium. To make it yet more of an adventure, Mick fell back into short-term employment the moment we signed up to our purchase, leaving me without any transport*, as Colin was sold and went off to his new home almost the moment I put him up for sale.

Mick soon finished his contract, and our new motorhome (Bertie) was collected at the end of January, but the combination of Mick catching a nasty, long-lasting lurgi, together with a desire to wait in for the post every day whilst we went through the process of getting Bertie UK certified and registered* kept us at home.

I still haven’t got anything to write about that’s relevant to this blog, although having received Bertie’s registration documents today, we will be back out and about next week. However, I do want to record somewhere on t’internet a few things about the process of importing a motorhome, and as I believe this blog (rather than our ‘Travels in Colin Bertie’ blog) is more likely to feature in Google search results, I’m going to put those off-topic posts here too. I can’t believe they will be of any interest to the people who usually read this blog, so apologies for the distraction.

The first post will be all about opening up the instrument panel. Thrilling stuff!

(*I’m not counting public transport as being a particularly viable option in this neck of the woods these days, as I had to cancel a planned outing a couple of weeks ago when I discovered that our public transport network is so joined up that our once-per-hour bus arrives at the train station four minutes after the once-per-hour train has left. The result would have been a three-hour journey to travel 35 miles. I didn’t even look at the viability of the return journey.

** getting a foreign motorhome certified and registered involves the use of registered post, so missing Postie would have incurred a day’s delay, which wouldn’t be ideal given the limited time allowed for the registration process.)

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Making a Ray Jardine Double Backpacking Quilt

Back in February 2009, I made a Ray Jardine (one-person) quilt for a chap called Darren, and I wrote about it here, including a YouTube ‘movie’ I made out of the still photos I took of the making process.

Re-reading that post now, I see that I was unconvinced about the concept of a quilt for backpacking purposes. Fast forward five years, and my view had changed. I duly ordered a two-person kit from Ray Jardine, and in February 2014 I made that quilt (spookily, I now see that construction started three years ago today).

As the YouTube video of the original quilt-making had proved so popular (over 16000 views, as I type), I thought I’d take more photos of the making of the double size, and make a more detailed video-compilation-thingy.

For three years, those photos have languished on my hard drive. Then, yesterday, I received a phone call from someone who was interested in hearing about our experience with a backpacking quilt, which finally gave me the kick I needed to do something with those photos. As with almost all jobs that get put off for years at a time, once started it proved much quicker and easier than expected to produce this:

This is not an instructional video; it’s simply an illustration of the stages of the process (or, at least, those that we remembered to capture).

As for our experience of the quilt, I originally opted for a synthetic fill on the basis that it was the cheapest way that we could test out whether a quilt was for us. If it worked out well, I had intended to make a down version. It turned out that not only has the quilt worked out very well indeed, but we also quickly saw the benefits of the synthetic fill. Principally, with two of us in the tent, in the UK climate (whether cold, still nights, or multiple damp days), we often suffer with condensation, causing the loft of our down bags to dwindle, and would end up spending a night in a B&B to get them properly aired. With the synthetic fill, we worried not a jot when we woke up to dampness.

The only problem I found was that the head section of the quilt (which is the bigger section, and the one that I carry) was very bulky and took up so much room in my pack that it was a struggle if I also needed to fit in five or more days of food. We also found that the original model was very warm. So, in 2015 I made a new head section in lighter-weight fabrics, and in 2016 I made a matching foot section. Details of the weights are given at the end of the YouTube thingy (but, hey, I may as well repeat them here: 1.35kg between us for the original; 932g between us for the lighter-weight version).

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica

In the couple of weeks since my last post, we’ve been performing a bit of a touring circuit of the far north east corner of Spain, bottoming out at Barcelona. Much walking was done in Barcelona (around 30 miles in three days), but only incidental to our sightseeing activities (and some of that was only because I got confused between two Metro stops, adding a couple of miles to the start of our second day in the city).

A desire for a night with mains power, coupled with the lack of campsites open at this time of year, led us to a place just to the SE of the town of Olot yesterday afternoon, and as that landed us within the Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica (which I’m sure I don’t need to translate), where there is a good selection of signed walking trails, this morning out we went for a 10km circuit taking in the crater of Volcan de Margarida.

Considering the scenery around here, I was a tiny bit disappointed by the route, in that so much of it was fully enclosed in woods, with no views to be had. There were plenty of smells in the first mile or so, but not good ones. I’m sure at one point we must have passed a pig farm. That said, the walk did most definitely have some redeeming features.

After we finally started climbing, initially up a rather eroded path:

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Straight into the sunlight. A lot of the first third of the walk was into the the bright, low sunlight, robbing us of vision to see what lay before us)

We came out at the church of Sant Miguel, where our arrival was impeccably timed. The church, which is only used half a dozen times per year, is kept locked, but there are a couple of grids on the doors, so that you can see inside. Next to the one grid is a coin slot and, if you feed in a €1 coin, the lights come on inside and an audio-guide starts speaking, first in Catalan, then in Spanish, then English. Having not seen a single other person in the previous half an hour, we managed to arrive just a minute or so after a couple had fed the meter and listened to the Catalan spiel. They had just walked off when we arrived, and after listening to the second half of the Spanish guide, we got the English version for free.

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And, as the lights stayed on through the whole thing, we got to see inside. It’s a very well maintained place considering it’s used so seldom:

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Onwards and downwards we went, before our final ascent to the rim of the volcano, from where no view was to be had at all. At that point, I didn’t realise that the path dropped down into the crater, and was feeling a bit fleeced that a route advertised as having this volcano as its main point of interest didn’t even give a vantage point of that main feature. All was soon forgiven, as we dropped down, on heavily frozen soil (steaming gently in the sunshine, as you can make out behind us in the snap below), right into the crater, where sits another chapel.

Finally being out in the open, and in the sunshine, a pause for elevenses was called, whereupon I realised that it was actually 12.30. That explained the level of my hunger and also told me that the small chunk of bread I’d brought along, slathered in marmalade, was nowhere near enough. Carelessly, when our start time got put back an hour, so that we could extend our stay at Camping La Fageda, I’d failed to think about the need to extra food.

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Making our way back out of the crater, we finally found a viewpoint to where we had just been:

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Our return leg could have included a detour onto route 15, for a close look at the half-collapsed cone of another nearby volcano, but aside from my hunger pushing me towards a more direct route back, we reached the turn-off just as a couple of coachloads of school kids made their way noisily up there, which was even more offputting.

If we had made that detour, then it almost certainly wouldn’t have been us that, only a couple of minutes later, a stray dog adopted as its new owners of choice. It was a lovely, very friendly thing, but: a) we’re not in the market for a dog; and b) it kept jumping up everyone it met, and I’m sure they all thought it was our dog and that we were failing to control it. We tried all sorts of things (speeding up, slowing down, stopping for a few minutes) to try to shake it off, and a few times we thought we had succeeded as it apparently went along with other people. But no, just as we thought we’d lost it, it would come bounding up from behind, wagging at us. With visions of arriving back at Colin with it still in tow, along came a dog walker and, whilst the stray was busy playing with her dog, we made good our final escape.

All that was left for us then was the couple of hundred metres down the road with a good view of the snowy Pyrenees, and back up to the campsite.

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7.6 miles had been walked, with around 1200’ of ascent. The extra distance versus the advertised 10km was in part because we took in the optional extra of the visit to the crater, in part because we walked to the start from the campsite and in further part because (as we often find to be the case) the advertised 10km was an undermeasurement.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Friday 25 November – Port Vendres Circular, via Cap Béar

There has been walking over the course of the last three weeks, but nothing to write home about. Until yesterday it’s mainly been touristic wanderings, although we did take to the GR4f for a couple or three miles when we were in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc a couple of weeks back. That was a bit of an ill-timed outing, in that we set out on a 10km route with only about 2 hours before sundown, resulting in a fast march back along the road when the light started fading rapidly out of the day. We did get to see the spectacle of the natural arch of Pont d’Arc, though:

The small print is that this photo wasn’t taken when we walked there, as the light was a bit dull by then. This snap was taken the following morning when we returned in Colin.

We’ve moved on further south since then, finally hitting the Mediterranean coast about a week ago (and thinking about it, we did also take a 5.5 mile walk when we hit the Med at the Carmargue. Impressively, not a single foot of ascent featured in that outing. Flamingoes did feature; lots and lots of them).

The significant factor which led to there being trail walking both yesterday and today (and, indeed, the very reason why we are currently in Port Vendres at all) is mapping. On my phone I have IGN 1:25k mapping for the Pyrenees, which extends far enough north along the Med coast to cover Port Vendres, thus I knew in coming here that there were multiple walking routes from the town, some of which looked particularly good.

Yesterday we took a stroll up to the fort that you should just be able to make out on the rightmost lump, above the town, in the snap below, before dropping down to the picturesque harbour in Collioure, and picking up another trail which led us back to Port Vendres.

Today we went coastal, starting out with the good view above, over the port and town of Port Vendres. Undulating along, it only took us half an hour to catch up with the group of ramblers who had set off just as we were getting out of bed. They took a short cut at the military base, whilst we followed the path around two sides of it. I’m sure in the UK you wouldn’t get razorwire at head height immediately adjacent to a narrow path:

There then followed a succession of little bays and inlets. From the first we had a good view back to the lighthouse at Cap Béar:


Bonus better snap of the lighthouse from further along the way

In the direction we were headed pictures weren’t as good, due to the sun being in our eyes:

Can’t complain though, as for the first half of the outing we were in our shirt-sleeves, enjoying the warmth.

It appears that Mick was after dipping his toes in the sea as we crossed the cove shown below. The continuation of the path was up the concrete steps set into the rock, not far behind Mick:

At Plage de Bernadi it was time for elevenses and a bit of fun with a few selfies. Mick has vetoed me showing the silly ones, so here’s a sensible one of us sharing a flask of coffee, having already polished off our croissant/chocolatine:

Away from the coast was then our direction, and into the vineyards:

Where, just after crossing a road, we missed a turn, finding ourselves ten minutes later back on the same road, but slightly further up. Throwing in a loop, we returned to the original point of departure from the road, and wondered how on earth we’d missed the ‘you need to turn here’ indications the first time around:

Twisting and turning, occasionally heading up washes, we marvelled at the gnarled nature of the old vines,and at the neatness of the terraces:

Until suddenly we were dropping back down from Col de Migt, with Port Vendres only a short way in front of us. The path and the waymarkers suddenly disappeared as we hit the road, but no bother – the most obvious route back to Colin was on roads anyway.

Having forgotten to take the Garmin Gadget, I don’t have an exact distance, but I reckon it was arounnd 7, maybe 7.25 miles, with 1500’ of ascent (I’m going with my Fitbit’s assessment of the ascent; it feels about accurate). A fine outing!

Friday, 11 November 2016

En France

We're in France at the moment, mainly doing touristy things rather than walking things, so my daily witterings are over at our other blog at thegateposts.blogspot.com. If we do any walking of any significance then I'll mention it here too.

Although today started with a 5km stroll on a locally waymarked path around the village of Peyres...

...and often within sight of the Millau Viaduct...

...the real highlight of today was our drive up Gorges du Tarn. What spectacular scenery, particularly with the multi-coloured leaves of autumn.

This snap's of Gorges de la Jontes. Gorges du Tarn was far more impressive but also impossible for me to capture within a photo

(Conrad - tell me something about your French Gorges walk, such as which gorges did it visit, how long was it and was it primarily following a GR or a route of your own making?)