Are We There Yet?

It’s been a long road. Very long. Quite bumpy, too.

It was over a year ago now that we had to be rescued from just down the road.

The embarrasment.  Rescued by two T5s!

The cause? A broken valve. Of course, things can never be that simple. The valve, a fairly cheap component, fell into the cylinder and was then hit by the piston, breaking all sorts of expensive components…

Piston broke


It looked a bit of a mess and a new cylinder head was fitted along with a new piston and conrod. We took the opportunity to do a few other jobs on the engine. And then we were back on the road. It was a glorious summer.

And yet, things were not quite right.

The engine ran just fine, it got us to foreign lands and across mountain passes. We cooked on campfires and watched Lancasters fly overhead. Which was all great, apart from one little detail, the gas that was getting into the van’s coolant system. We changed this and that. Found a few other problems and fixed those too. The head gasket was replaced, twice. The new head was checked. And still, gas continued to leak into the coolant system. Betty Bus was not in a happy place. She’d lost her cool.

Autumn arrived and the engine was removed, leaving a vast empty space under her stone chipped bonnet.

Flintstones, meet the Flintstones...

Time passed. Seasons passed. The leaves on the trees turned from vibrant green to deep reds and bright yellows before finally drying up and falling to the damp ground below, brown and crinkly. Autumn turned to winter and nothing could be found wrong with the engine.

A new year began and as winter released it’s icy grip the engine was stripped and the empty crank case sent to a specialist for testing.

New shoots started appearing and in the woodland the snow drops gave way to bluebells and wild garlic. The engine shop finally reported they’d found the slightest of depressions on the face of crank case. The tiniest of skims later the case was returned and now as the weather warms and spring slowly moves towards summer the engine is being reassembled, ready to go back in the van, ready for another glorious summer of adventures.

On the case.

Are we there yet dad?
Nearly son. It’s just around the corner.


6 thoughts on “Are We There Yet?

  1. Poor old Betty. Hope at long last she is really on the mend and ready to be put back into service. I know the feeling. I really missed our caravan holidays when we couldn’t have a tow-bar on a firm’s car. xx

    • Thanks Christine. The good news is that most of the engine is back in the van now and the mechanics hope to have it finished on Friday. Hooray!

  2. Hello Betty
    sad to see you’re still struggling with that head gasket. Our garage warned us that we should be gentle when driving with a cold motor – he had his T4 (long ago) be repaired 3 times, and then gave up.. His young helpers didn’t have respect cold starting old stuff 😦
    Our bus is an early 1992 frog-coloured Cali with 387.000 km on the clock. Had a new engine some 20.000 km ago – that to say, an exchange motor with 140.000 km. She brings us where we want, no speed records broken though. But that’s what it is all about: enjoying the scenery.
    Just read the “sinking feeling” entry again and that reminded me of our trip last year from Bruges (Belgium) to Nice, via Metz and the old road to Bourg and Grenoble. First stop was a fabulous camper place at Pont-a-Mousson, parked between a 10m and a 8m house-on-wheels!
    Greetings from Belgium
    Bart & Caro

    • Hello Bart and Caro. We’ve always tried to be gentle with the old girl, as you say, these vans aren’t racing cars after all. I always give her a rest if she has to go up anything really steep 🙂

      I remember being on a camping site in Germany surrounded by maybe 100 large motorhomes. We were approached by an elderly lady who started talking to us, she and her husband had a Cali too and were hidden a few rows away – I think she was pleased that they weren’t the only little van on the site!

  3. And I thought that an alloy wheel leaking about 5lbs air per week was a problem! Ommiserations all round – hope you’re up and running again soon.

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