We’ve done close to 1000 miles since we left home 3 months ago, some short and some long journey along the way.

We’ve slept in Willow for about two thirds of the time and cooked and properly lived in her for several weeks, sometimes plugged in to hook up electricity, sometimes ‘off grid’.

Internally she is showing some signs off wear and tear from this level of use now. Little things, which can be repaired or replaced but are giving her a slightly tatty and lived in feel; stuff like edging strips coming off the worktops, the material on the seat wearing and fraying and some of the curtains missing hooks. We are all conscious of looking after her but it’s a pretty small space for four people to live in so it was inevitable that we would have an impact on the rather pristine condition she was in when we started out.

Mechanically we have had some iffy moments. We knew she dropped oil but some sealant seems to have fixed that. She is however dropping automatic transmission fluid at a rather scary rate. We did call out a mobile mechanic at one of the hosts we were at as she was really struggling with hills and seemed to not be changing gears properly (Willow is an automatic but you can hear the gear changes when they happen). He checked the ATF and it was all but empty so he filled that up and just charged us for the oil. We were quite happy to be patronised by a mechanic thinking we were idiots for £30 and a fixed van!

She has been playing up again though and although we keep topping it up it keeps coming back out so we have been debating some sort of action plan. We do have breakdown cover so will not find ourselves in trouble in an emergency situation but we don’t have huge funds for repair work and so are debating the pros and cons of just spending a fiver every hundred miles or so to top the fluid up or getting it looked at properly. Today we got some stuff which claims to seal holes so we will give that a go and try and press on. I remain hopeful that at some point along our journey we may well find someone who is knowledgable enough about engines to help us out with it in exchange for some work or help and feel that part of this adventure is seeing whether Willow can do it against all odds.

We also have a second issue of the fan not working. It is a design that works in some sort of oil filled manner and it is broken. The mechanic we called out confirmed this and said we’d need to get one from a scrapyard and could probably fit it ourselves. It means that on a normal run it is fine because the air flowing as we drive along keeps it all cool but if we hit traffic or a hill which she needs to take slowly the engine starts to overheat, so we are getting through quite a bit of coolant / anti freeze too. Again I suspect calling in the proper people to do the job (whatever the mechanic might think I suspect the changing of a fan is beyond us without supervision) may well cost more than Willow is worth and will inevitably leave us homeless for at least one night so I am keeping my fingers crossed we end up somewhere with a broken down vehicle with a compatible fan kicking about that we are able to buy cheaply or swap something for.

For me this all adds to the drama and adventure of our year, for Ady it is often the cause of sleepless nights but I figure if one of us is fretting and convinced it will go wrong any moment while the other one is airy and nochalent and remains sure it will all work out okay in the end at least one of us will be right. If it’s Ady he gets the satisfaction of ‘I told you so’ and I get to shrug and be in charge of working out what we do next. If I’m right we all win as it’s the best result.

Place your bets!

4 thoughts on “Willow”

  1. Is it possible you could get a recommendation from a host of a trustworthy garage, and get them to just look at the issues and give you quotes for the different options and an honest opinion as to how realistic it is to do the do nothing but top it up every so often approach – after all, if in the mechanic’s opinion, it is likely to fail in a couple of months anyway, doing nothing but topping it up and then having to repair it as well be more expensive than fixing the problem now, iyswim? But you’ve probably already thought of all of this already.

  2. The do nothing but top it up approach seems to be mechanic verified 🙂 We’ve asked around a bit and everyone seems to have once driven a vehicle that they had to treat the same way (and speak about with great affection ;))

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