AUTO-TRAIL Owners' Club, Levin Rally Report and Technical Q&A

Levin rally report, Labour Weekend 23 - 25 October 2015

By David Buxton

 

A great weekend (26 vans) so well organised by Derek and Dot Canvin, with lots of interesting and entertaining activities. They negotiated a very reasonable price for an excellent venue including toilets and hot showers. This will be the venue for the next NZMCA Easter Rally.

 

Friday 23rd - weather not the best - showers in morning but cleared in afternoon for a while then rained from happy hour into the evening.

A few early bird arrivals on Friday morning wondered what they were coming to with the venue packed with cars, buses and vans, tents and lots of grass skirted and tattooed children running around! The reason: a regional Kapahaka competition was in progress.

On a arrival we received a 'goodie bag' containing a programme for the weekend, dinner menus, registration form, our new club bumper sticker generously designed and produced by Geraldine Signs (Leicester and Sue Fifield), a wee bag of liquorice all sorts, and a local map and brochure, all professionally prepared by Dot and Derek.

Some of us paid a visit to nearby RJs Liquorice Factory and bought up large at factory prices.

We all gathered at 3pm, once the Kapahaka group left and we had access to the hall, for registrations and afternoon tea and bikkies. This was soon followed by happy hour and more socialising, catch ups and 'van talk'.

After dinner in our own vans, we met in the hall for a most entertaining game of 'centre, keep, left, right' (it didn't seem to have a name) using the 3 x 20c coins we were asked to bring. Ultimately the winner gets all the coins - this lucky person was Alistair Kinniburgh who promptly spilled them onto the floor and sat a yellow toy duck beside them that sang 'Singing in the rain' - very appropriate with the wet weather outside.

Rudi was worried about  all the back bending Derek had to do to pick up the dice while running the game, that decided his back required a rub with Voltaren; this was accomplished with great hilarity.

The 'Early Bird' prize was drawn as promised - a $50 voucher from Levin's iconic Silverdale Woollen Mills - won by Audrey and Trevor Coleman.

 

Saturday 24th - woke to a beautiful sunny day.

After morning tea in the hall, time was free until 2.30pm. A few visited friends and relatives, others stayed in camp, while others walked to town to visit sponsors' Swazi and Silverdale factory shops. There was also the inevitable discussions and inspecting of fixes and modifications to vans. (See report on Tech Session and log into the Club's website forum) At 2.30 local historian, Tom Hayes, talked to us about some of Horowhenua history - a most interesting presentation. Horowhenua's means horo = to slide, whenua = land, a strip of land between mountain and sea formed from alluvial soil washed off the Tararuas.

Moaupopo was the local tribe however in the 1830's Te Rauparaha came down from the Waikato and conquered the area including Kapiti Is nearly all of the Moauopo were wiped out.

Before roads and rail were built by early European settlement the Tasman Sea and beach were the main access to the area, even for the Europeans. Government gave permission for a private railway to be built between Wellington and Palmerston North but it had to have a stop every 10 miles so many small settlements were established and most of these still remain today. Two other significant events were the "Hyderabad" ship wreck in 1878 and a massive earthquake in 1880 that destroyed many grain mills, buildings and bridges.

Dairy farming became dominant followed by horticulture so rural properties are traditionally small holdings rather than large runs. The flax industry was also an important part of the early economy, making ropes and wool packs and later carpet backing (NZ Felt and Textile became Feltex).

Tom said "Papers Past" is a wonderful web site to find historical facts and events. He took us outside to visit a nearby building that houses old floor mill relics saved from one built in 1850, claimed to be the first European mill built in NZ.

 

This most interesting session from Tom Hayes was followed by afternoon tea then a little later, happy hour outside in front of our vans.

 

Our rally dinner was at 6.30 and what a delicious meal it was. Catered by local caterer the food was superbly presented with plenty of variety and quantity. This was followed by the raffle draw, the BBQ kindly donated by Auckland Motorhomes being won by Audry and Trevor. They already had a similar BBQ, so generously offered it back to be raffled again at our Club meeting on Sunday night. There were 6 consolation raffle draws, some of the prizes also donated by Auckland Motorhomes.  Winners were: Clive Rogers, Lyn Buxton, Colin Collett, Gale Smith, Rudi Benkert and DavidBowker.

 

One of the prizes, a beautifully turned wooden bowl, was made by a member of the Levin Menz Shed; this prompted a question, “what is the Menz Shed” to which Derek, also a keen member, gave an impromptu talk about it – a well-equipped workshop for wood and metal work and hobby making.  Not only do they make things for themselves but they also do ‘community fix-ups’.

 

Then Rudi had us all laughing with his rendition of how the English language uses the word ’up’, followed by ’20 reasons why chocolate is better than sex’!

 

The evening finished with some interesting anecdotes on ‘how to start a fight with your wife’.

 

Sunday 25th – cool, cloudy morning (the morning the AB’s won against the Springboks), then hot and sunny in the afternoon.

 

At 11am the bus arrived to take us to the Foxton ‘Spring Fling’, an annual market day and celebration in nearby Foxton.  As we approached Foxton, Derek talked about the river area and some of its history.  Leonie recalled her Foxton days as a little girl and going out with her father who drove a flax transporting truck.

 

There were lots to see, eat and be entertained during the 3 hours we were at the Fling. Returning to our rally venue for afternoon tea and the Tech Session to follow, there was much lively discussion about problems, technical hints and ideas with our vans. (see report below).

 

Following dinner in our vans we met again for a Club meeting (see report below) BBQ raffle re-draw and fond farewells for those leaving early next morning.

 

Monday 26th – warm sunny morning to pack up and depart.

 

Morning tea, then many hands making light work of cleaning our meeting room and toilets, followed by farewells and thank yous to Derek and Dot for a most enjoyable rally.

 

 

Technical Discussion, Levin Rally - 25/10/15

 

Compiled from notes taken by Sandy Doherty and edited by David Buxton.

(Disclaimer - the reporters have tried their best to correctly report this session, however they do not guarantee complete accuracy)

 

Warning alarms when braking - David and Lyn having endless problems with warning alarms (EPS and Hill Holder) when braking and either a gearbox symbol or hill holder symbol appears. Sometimes engine power is lost and when engine switched off it may take a while before it can be started again. Problem has been with van since new and 18 months later it is still not fixed. A new break switch has been fitted, the wiring harness from the break switch to one of the computers has been unravelled and checked and a new computer has been installed. The problem still continues. 

It seems this problem is more likely to be with models with the 180 engine and auto transmission. 

Possible causes: 1. Vans that have had driving LED lights retrofitted and not wired correctly. 2. There are 6 computers in the auto vans and they "talk to each other". If, say the break switch is not working then one computer detects breaking and another doesn't detect break lights going on, so warning signals occur and if serious enough, the engine is powered down. This can also arise if the brake pedal has to be depressed a long way before the break switch is activated. 3. The engine should always be started and stopped in manual mode according to one owner (the only one present with a 180 auto that has never experienced this problem. 4. Driving with one foot on the accelerator and one on the break is a "no-no". 


 

Problem with getting parts quickly to NZ - with a Fiat international warranty, often parts have to come from Italy and Fiat insists sending them via Sydney and then Auckland, this often taking 4-5 weeks. 

 

One member asked, "why should owners who purchase from a NZ agent be dealing with warranty issues directly with a Fiat garage? The agent should be dealing with the problem?” Answer: often more efficient or convenient to deal with the garage directly. 

 

Les commented that many faults have been caused by windscreen wiper arms under bonnet rubbing and damaging wiring and also by water ingress into wiring and electrical components under bonnet causing corrosion. (soon after the rally Les posted on our website forum a very informative item and UK forum link - Comfortmatic Gearbox Failure 3 litre)

 

Dave Smith - problem with warning light saying bonnet was open. Then more problems with analyser saying it was driver error?? Problem traced to excess voltage to accelerator mechanism. Fixed by some readjustment.  Also has had a brake switch causing warning problems similar to above. Engine cut out on steep windy bit on Desert Road - seemed to be fixed by not switching off and kicking the brakes hard 3 times. 

 

One member suggested that at the next rally we could invite Fiat along and have discussions with them. However Fiat NZ do not want to deal with international warranty issues. Another suggestion - if you're out of warranty an excellent Fiat dealer is Italian Auto in Auckland. 

 

Seems owners of manual Fiats not having as many issues. 

 

Turbo problems were noted by three members - one had it 'fixed' three times without success. Eventually found a sensor was faulty. 

 

Robin - had a warning light problem always coming on - this was fixed with a recall - also had the cruise control reprogrammed; now operates far more accurately. 

 

Les - has put on the forum chassis numbers for recall. 

 

David - often warning lights come on and go off - if this just a temporary fault it won’t show on the analyzer. 

 

The Forum on our web site (www.autotrailusers.nz)  has lots of useful notes recorded and helpful discussions available. Also overseas forums can be most informative.. 

 

Remember that software updates can fix many problems. 

  

Denis - 'remapped' the computer - now has more power and torque and better economy, (see superchip.com) Cost $1000. 

 

Derek - polishing roof and back is very advisable to prevent UV damage, especially to fibre glass. First use rubbing compound then Carnauba wax, 2-3 times a year - has had the roof done for $400. 

 

Can you stand on the roof?  Yes, but don't stand on the plastic roof of the luton as it has no support underneath. 

 

Sometimes the motor needs a 'good blow out', especially if it only does short runs or is driven at slow speeds - lock it down into a lower gear and run it at high revs. 


 

Fuel - it's essential to keep the fuel filter clean; replace annually - if motorhome is not used then a bug will grow in diesel, especially if tank not left full. Keep the tank full at all times to avoid condensation that encourages the bug to grow. There are additives available that prevent bug growth.

 

Step  coming in and out part way.  Can be caused by water getting into the motor - also try using CRC on the moving joints. Can also be caused by a faulty thermo switch triggering when it shouldn't.  This fixed by exchanging the E500 panel (expensive option) or fitting a new thermo switch in the E500 panelfor $3. Sometimes problem caused by people standing on your step and twisting it back and forth as they chat. 

 

Water coming in the fan skylight - don't use the fan until this is fixed as it may burn the motor out. 

 

Kitchen sink leaking - hot water can soften the pipe and joints come apart - often pipes aren’t sealed just pushed on - joints need gluing. Water drains away better if a standard S trap is fitted. 

 

Seat belts - 4 berth vans should have 4 seatbelts - if there's a problem with getting a COF or WOF put a screw in the spare bed so it can't be used for sleeping!

 

Fridge rating – most motorhomes imported from Europe including the UK have fridges with a low climate rating (S/L). These do not work at all well when outside temperatures are above 300C. AutoTrails now imported into NZ by Auckland Motorhomes have tropical fridges installed.

 

Getting onto the roof - could use the skylight above the bed in a Delaware.

 

One suggestion for cleaning roof - general purpose 30 seconds can be used – some felt this this stuff could be damaging?

 

Dropdown monitor - quoted $1500 for Autotrail one - cost only $230 through Hong Kong contact and better quality (Derek Canvin)

 

Toilet filter - can make your own - instructions on the forum

 

Grey water 100% full alarm going off when tank not full - fixed by modification to grey water tank sensor (one member suggested to use cheap lemonade poured into grey water tank to keep it clean!

 

Pins in side door hinge - can be sourced from Dometic - an  allen key tightens the hinge when door fully open – can make own plastic/nylon washers that go in between hinge parts. 

  

Ideas for cleaning mould off awning - wet'n'forget or 30 seconds but wash off after using. 

 

One for the ladies!!!  - damp washing - put on rack under the bed when hot water is being heated (wait until your man is out of bed before raising the bed!) This is a great tip!!

 

 Other interesting tips or ideas talked about during the weekend at the rally:

 

Running boards - a couple of Taranaki members had running boards made to fit under their cab doors. They provided a place for wider than normal mud flaps to be attached. 

 

Protection for plastic skirt at rear, especially for those vans with long overhang – several members had different steel fabrications attached to the extended chassis. 

 

Larger swivel table than standard small round table - two members had adapted the existing table for a small cost while one member adopted a more expensive option by purchasing a new bracket with a swivel mechanism and fitted a larger oblong table to it. 

 

Use a plastic hearth shovel with handle cut off fitted under bonnet to stop water leaking down onto turbo controller. 

 

In the NZMCA  "Motorhomer" there was an article saying that the gas bottle locker must be opened from the outside. This is not correct - the door must be able to be opened without the use of tools ie it can’t be screwed closed.

 

Instrument lights – a member asked a question on our forum ‘how do you turn on the instrument lights without the headlights on, just the led running lights?’ No one could answer this. One member at the rally commented that when he turned on his headlights his instrument lights went off!

 

AutoTrail Owners Club meeting, Levin Rally

Sunday evening 25/10/15

 

Next Rally - two offers have been made:

1. From Glen and Sharon Newman to hold one in February in Whangarei at the Tikipunga Tavern.

2. From Trevor and Audry Coleman and Rudi and Lisette Benkert to hold one in October in Taranaki at the Swiss Clubrooms in Kaponga and dinner possibly at  nearby hotel.

Discussions that followed indicated that few wanted a rally in February as other destinations including the South Island were already planned. There was general agreement that two rallies a year maybe too many and perhaps once a year is enough. There is nothing stopping a member from organising a small local rally for members in their area, eg perhaps a summer rally near a Northland beach with a BBQ pot luck dinner for Saturday night.

There was full agreement for the next rally to be in Taranaki late October or early November, sometime near Taranaki's Rhododendron week. The Colemans and Benkerts will do some more investigations and report back.

The idea of our rally being held on a long weekend so long distance travellers who still worked had more holiday time, didn't really work as many members had family and other commitments.

 

Sharing of personal contact and other information on the database:

David said one member was upset their information went out to all members when he emailed an updated membership list, saying it breached the Privacy Act. (That member has since resigned). Everyone present agreed to share their information with other members and didn't see it a problem. It was suggested that when new members are registering they should be asked if they do not want their personal information shared with other members.

 

Club funding:

A suggestion was made to make a charge at registration time to give the club some funds for administration and website costs rather than having to cover these with a rally surplus. David said this is not possible unless we become an official club, hold an AGM and open a bank account. There was agreement to keep the club informal for as long as possible so administration is kept to a minimum.

CHANGE OF DATE 

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SUNDAY 12th NOVEMBER

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