Motorhome advice: jammed awnings, door locks and sticking windows
In every issue of MMM, the magazine's team of technical experts answer your troublesome queries about motorhomes and campervans.
If you have a difficult problem that you need assistance with, our team can help – they have an extensive knowledge of motorhomes, inside and out.
You can read the latest technical questions from MMM readers below, with answers from the team. If you have a technical question of your own, please get in touch – by emailing our experts at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll take it from there.
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Meet the MMM Tech Help Team:
Nick Fisher – Tech Help Editor and Base vehicle expert
Peter Rosenthal – General advice
Clive Mott – Electrical expert
Mike Hill – Bodywork expert
Barry Norris – Technical & legal advice
Brian Kirby – All round expert
Andy Harris – TV & 12V expert
Q Where can I source a new gasket for my water tank?
I have recently purchased our first motorhome, a 2013 Fiat Ducato (2.3-litre engine) Swift Escape 664 and would much appreciate your expert advice.
Under the fixed bed there is a large water tank, on top of which there are two inlet pipes with a rubber gasket creating the seal to prevent water splashing out.
Unfortunately, this gasket is damaged, possibly due to the removal/refixing of these two pipes for whatever reason.
I have contacted Swift to try and buy a replacement gasket and also tried Swift dealers and motorhome parts sellers, but without success. The water system is Truma, but I don’t know if the tank was supplied by it and believe it is the original equipment.
You can waste a lot of time and money tracking down the original gasket (I think it’s a combined water fill/sender gasket) but it might be far easier to pop down to your local plumbing merchant and ask for an EPDM rubber seal for potable water – they’re available in various sizes so you need to measure the diameter of the one on your vehicle.
You might need to punch a couple of new holes in it with a bradawl (unless you’re lucky and yours uses a common hole pattern), but it will work fine. If you get stuck, I found a firm jtmplumbing.co.uk 01325 488588 that can supply 3mm versions online. Prices ranged from 60p to around £5 depending on the diameter.
They all need to be WRAS-approved items, which are approved for use in water supply systems.
Q Why is the awning jammed on my motorhome?
On servicing my motorhome (2008 Dethleffs Esprit) in preparation for its first outing following the lockdown easing, the Omnistor 8000 awning jammed at the end near the front of the motorhome (furthermost from the winder), and would only extend by some 30mm. Unfortunately, it was not possible to see the cause of the jamming due to this minimal opening.
Has any member of the technical team had any experience of such a situation and, if so, what rectification methodology was used?
A: The first thing to try is to spray the ends of the exposed mechanism with a silicone spray. Then try gently winding the mechanism in and out to see if that eases its movement.
If you’re lucky, it’s just a dry mechanism and it may then wind out (the leading edge of the awning is more exposed to road debris and airflow). You may also need to stand on a platform and tap the casing (with your hand – don’t use any tools) while someone winds out the awning.
Once you have managed to get it out, lubricate all the joints on the arms with silicone spray (not a wet grease or oil as this causes dirt to stick to it) and, if there is any muck or debris on the awning shade itself, clean this off with fresh water. Do not use any detergent on it, only Thule PVC cleaner.
If this doesn’t work, it could be that an internal part of the end cap mechanism has failed – you’ll need to remove the awning to investigate further. Given the size and weight of these awnings, it would be wise to entrust this to a motorhome dealer. This is a two-man job to tackle.
Q Can I fix my habitation door lock?
The lower bolt on the habitation door lock is loose on my 2017 Benimar Mileo 231.
I’ve dismantled the lock and there appears to be no way of fixing the bolt in place. The lock has HH marked on it.
A: This is a Horustech lock that is commonly used on various brands of motorhome.
First the bad news: a replacement lock is around £128. Various firms sell them including grasshopperleisure.co.uk that lists part no 73510 – check the sticker or part number on your OE lock to see if it is the same before ordering.
So, worst case scenario, you’ll be £128 out of pocket. I’d suggest contacting Grasshopper as a first step just to check on availability (it had stock at the time of press, but supply of many motorhome parts is currently a bit erratic).
Armed with this information, you’ve got nothing to lose in dismantling the lock further to gain access to the place that locking pin secures into. Take photos at every stage of dismantling to give you reference photos for reassembly.
I’d start by undoing the Torx screws around the handle to see if that releases the steel cover plate.
Hopefully you should then be able to see how that pin is attached.
If it is attached to a steel plate, it should be possible to have it MIG welded (you’ll need to sand off all the plating on both the pin and around the lock plate). Any local garage will be able to weld this for beer money.
It it’s attached into some form of plastic housing, then I doubt this will be fixable. From the photos, it looks like it’s a pressed-in interference fit into steel, so fingers crossed.
The other alternative would be to see if the pin can be replaced with an allen bolt and a couple of locking nuts – you’d have to redrill the pin hole and there would need to be clearance for an extra nut behind the steel plate.
With the pin reattached (or a new lock fitted...), it is worth checking the door shut area for any witness marks. Has the pin been scraping the door jamb or latch claw mechanism? If the door has dropped slightly, been dented or the lock isn’t correctly aligned, it will cause the pin to have extra load on it which might be the reason for the failure in the first place.
This is an unusual fault so it’s worth investigating the cause to avoid a repeat performance. Welding the pin should make it a lot stronger, though.
There’s always a way around these issues, so good luck!
Top Tip: Washing your motorhome roof
Standing on the roof of my motorhome to clean it is scary! It’s easy to slip on the smooth wet surface.
I prefer to prop a ladder up to each side and use a long-handled soft brush that reaches halfway across. However, an aluminium ladder in contact with relatively flimsy trim at the edge of the roof can easily cause damage.
I have seen strips of cloth wrapped around the ladder legs at the point of contact used, but this tip is quick to fit and easily adjustable. You need a fairly rigid cushioning pad a little wider than the ladder. I have used an old foam garden kneeler.
Make two holes and thread some string, which will be tied to one of the ladder rungs so that the ladder contact is cushioned at the edge of the roof. Warning, don’t lean too far off the ladder with your brush!
Q How is it possible to unstick my motorhome’s windows?
The windows of my motorhome (bought secondhand) stick closed. The rubber window seal is stuck to the window. When I open the window some of the rubber is stuck to the window.
How can I clean it off and what can I put on the seal to prevent it from sticking?
A: Rubber seals often can stick, especially if the windows or doors haven’t been opened for some time.
Hot soapy water would probably help ease off the broken seal from a window unit. However, the seal left on the body will need to be replaced.
These can be purchased quite easily from many suppliers but, before ordering, you need to measure the wall thickness and let your retailer know this so it can supply the correct size.
Q Will a spare wheel carrier affect my axle loading?
I’m considering buying an Auto-Trail Imala 615, which doesn’t have a spare wheel. Therefore, I want to fit a towbar so I can attach a spare wheel carrier plus a full-sized spare wheel and lighting board. All this comes to approximately 129kg.
Auto-Trail has given me some additional information as follows, “These are the front and rear axle weights of a completely empty Imala 615 Lo-Line with the optional Media Pack fitted, the vehicle was weighed at the end of the line with minimal fuel, no water, gas or driver). Front axle: 1,402kg. Rear axle: 1,490kg”.
The current max weights for an Imala 615 are: front axle 1,850kg, rear axle 2,000kg, gross weight 3,500kg.
I’ve done a calculation for this additional weight of 129kg based on an overhang of 1,300mm from the centre of the rear wheel (including spare wheel and attachment), and a 3,450mm wheelbase.
I believe I’m adding 204kg (best estimation only) to the rear axle and reducing 75kg from the front axle, which reduces my payload from 450kg to 306kg. Do you feel this figure is somewhere near as I don’t want to add a towbar to only find out that it was a wasted purchase?
There’re other options like replating, but I don’t want to do this, and just carrying a spare tyre rather than a wheel, but I’d much prefer to have a full wheel.
A: If you’re only adding a towbar so you can carry a spare wheel and don’t intend to tow anything, then it’s an overly complicated way to do it and pointlessly adds weight.
I notice that the Auto-Trail Imala 615 comes with bike rack fittings predrilled into the bodywork, so it should be possible to add a rear panel-mounted spare tyre bracket (the weight of a couple of bikes on a rack, plus the rack weight
A motorhome tyre and wheel typically weigh around 26kg, so plus the weight of the bracket (let’s say 10kg), it won’t reduce payload as significantly. A local engineering fabrication firm will be able to make you a simple bolt-on bracket and you can buy an elasticated vinyl tyre cover cheaply online to protect it from UV ageing and road debris.
If you’re adding a towbar to tow things, then the obvious answer is to add the weight of the spare wheel to whatever you’re towing – car or trailer. If you are going to tow, then you can decant some more weight onto the trailer, too, so the weight of the towbar, frame, brackets and wiring can be offset to a degree.
For any motorhome, if it was first registered on or after 1 April 2012 it must be fitted with a type-approved towbar.
Q Can I fit a bull bar?
I have a 2011 Fiat Ducato 130 Chausson Flash 06 and would like to fit a bull bar. I have been told that the van bars do not fit. Can you shed any light on this?
A: Bull bars were developed for use on trucks and vans in places like Australia where the risk of vehicles being left stranded due to an animal strike is a real problem. Losing your radiator in the Outback in summer on a remote road can be life threatening.
But we don’t have these issues in the UK and older steel bull bars cause horrific pedestrian injuries if someone is unlucky enough to be hit by a vehicle fitted with one.
Since 25 May 2007, it is a legal requirement to only fit bull bars that carry an E-mark to show that they are compliant and cause less severe pedestrian injury in the event of a collision.
The Government says that it does “not recommend their fitment unless it has been shown, through compliance with specified safety standards, that they do not pose an additional risk of injury to pedestrians or other vulnerable road users.”
Unless you’re bolting a bull bar to a serious overlander conversion, designed for tackling rugged terrain, they seem pointless.
A Chausson Flash isn’t an overland vehicle so, if you’re just adding it for cosmetic reasons, it’s a job we would not recommend: it doesn’t enhance vehicle safety, can harm pedestrians, reduces your payload and may increase your insurance premium.
You do have to tell your insurers, as it’s a modification and a very obvious one to spot one at that. Some insurers may even refuse to cover you with a bull bar fitted (one forum user on outandaboutlive.co.uk was refused cover) and, if you don’t inform your insurance company, you risk invalidating your cover in the event of a claim.
Some people fit bull bars to hold additional lighting, but there are lots of other (safer) ways to add auxiliary lighting if that’s your aim.
Q Is my wheel failure a common fault?
After 40-plus years of motorhome ownership, we thought we had come across most things that can go wrong, but this summer saw a new one for us.
Parked overnight at Neuchâtel in Switzerland, we awoke to find a rear tyre had lost a lot of pressure.
We used the Fiat Ducato’s supplied pump to squeeze it up to five bar before the compressor died, and expected to find a slow puncture. The first garage we went to was no help.
Checking the pressure again, we discovered no loss in pressure but a couple of days later we were concerned to see it looked low again. A helpful garage looked at it but said it was not the tyre (almost brand-new and bristling with tread), but a leak from the wheel seam itself.
Enter the Fiat garage at Sallanches, where an amazingly helpful manager diagnosed the same thing, gleefully showing the offending bubbles from his disclosing spray.
He came out from the stores grinning, as they had just one Ducato wheel in stock. Just 40 minutes later and a little under €200 lighter, we were fixed, with all worries dispelled.
Just how common is this fault is on an eight-year-old vehicle?
A: This is a very rare event. In 21 years of running a van and truck rental business, hundreds of mainly Fiat and Iveco vehicles came through our doors, plus the hundreds of other vehicles that we serviced regularly.
I have seen this just three times. On the face of it, that is surprising actually because to look at even a brand-new wheel, the welds that join the components do not look great and I have sometimes thought that the seal is formed mostly by paint! It must be better than what can be seen, though.
The failures that I have seen on a Ford Transit, an Iveco Daily and a Fiat Ducato were not on particularly old or corroded rims. On the first occasion, I was spraying the edge of the rim with soapy water to find a suspected leak and was very surprised to see bubbles emerging from a welded joint.
It does happen. It is very rare and, therefore, I think you have just been very unlucky.
Q How is it possible to calculate the value of my motorhome?
I am in the process of rejecting our motorhome. Purchased new in September 2018 for £55,000, it is in excellent condition inside and has covered 5,000 miles. Can you advise what the dealer will deduct/how it will work out deduction for usage of the vehicle?
A: I presume you are aware of the three stages of rejection for faulty goods as detailed in the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) 2015; within 30 days where no deduction for use is permitted, within six months and after six months up to six years (five years in Scotland) where the dealer is permitted to make a deduction for fair use.
After the initial 30 days, you have to give the dealer an opportunity to repair or replace the faulty item before you can claim a refund. However, I assume from your question that your dealer is accepting your wish to reject and it is just the matter of deduction for fair use from the refund that is being queried.
I have spent some time looking for substantial guidance on the way of quantifying the reduction to a refund value which a dealer can ask for, but without a great deal of success.
The CRA 2015 provides no guidance, simply stating, “…any refund to the consumer may be reduced by a deduction for use, to take account of the use the consumer has had of the goods in the period since they were delivered.”
A Government document dated September 2015 providing guidance for business on the implementation of the CRA 2015 states, “The law does not prescribe how to calculate the deduction. But you must be able to show that it reflects the use that the consumer has had, rather than, for example reducing the refund to the current secondhand value of the goods.
You can consider all relevant information when assessing how much use the consumer has had and what level of deduction would be appropriate to reflect this. For example, in the case of a car, you will have evidence of mileage, whereas for other goods you might assess the wear and tear that the goods show.”
The guidance also points out that the deduction has to take account of the periods when the goods were under repair. Furthermore, if the trader applies a deduction that the consumer believes is unfair, the trader will need to justify the calculation. If the trader and consumer cannot agree a court can decide.
Online some legal and non-legal advisors have commented (for cars) that the reduction could be based on a rate per mile, using the figure HMRC allows for claiming for the expense of using a private car for business use (45p/mile). Another way could be to consider the cost of hiring a similar vehicle for a period which could relate to the mileage travelled.
If you are unhappy with the dealer’s deduction proposal, ask for its calculations. If you are still unable to agree, see if your dealer will agree to referring the matter to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) body. Usually, a small claims court will want to see evidence that an ADR solution has been attempted before considering a case.
The issue of deduction seems so indeterminate and any rate used for calculation may possibly be set against any losses you may have suffered from deferred or abandoned travel plans. Because of the complexity of the issue, once you have the dealer’s calculation it may be worth contacting Citizens Advice for its opinion. Call 08082 231133 or use the online form. There are alternative contact details for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Q Can I make the Thule step on my Hymer C404 retract automatically?
The step on my motorhome is controlled by a switch next to the habitation door. I’m often frustrated by the lack of automatic retraction for this step, especially when I sit and start the engine, and I’m belted in.
I was inspired by an article in the July issue and had the idea of wiring a switch in parallel and mounting it on or near the ignition switch.
Anyway, I set out to buy the switch and trim plus a good length of cable and proceeded to do the modifications. Unfortunately, I find that I’m now blowing the fuse so I’m obviously missing something here. Can you offer any suggestions? The switch I’m wiring is a four-pole breaker with the step.
A: I am afraid that you cannot simply wire another switch in parallel with the existing switch as this, as you have found out, will simply blow fuses. You should remove your additional wiring.
The standard switch will apply a negative supply to both sides of the step motor and, when it is operated, will change the polarity at one side of the motor to positive, causing the motor to run.
What you have done is fit another switch, which will change the voltage at one end of the motor at the same time as the original switch maintains the original voltage. Hence the blown fuse.
What would be the better way to approach this is to fit the relay as detailed on page 116 of the July issue, so that the step will retract when the engine has started. Alternatively, you could use your new switch to provide a positive feed to the relay coil in place of the feed from the vehicle alternator so that your retract was a manual operation initiated by your extra switch.
Take care and if you are in any doubt please use a professional.
Q Where can I source a new washroom tap?
I have a 2010 Elddis Autoquest 130 motorhome, which I bought new. I am having problems sourcing a washroom sink tap as the current one is leaking.
I contacted Elddis twice, which promised to email me lists of suppliers who may be able to help, but I have received nothing. Whale then told me that the model tap is discontinued, but it cannot offer any replacement. I have also tried several suppliers and breakers’ yards on the internet without any success.
I find this situation appalling with a motorhome that is only 10 years old. I have seen online a Caraflo Turret L160 Lunar mixer tap which looks very similar to the Whale one.
Do you think it would have the same fittings, etc? If it did, is it an easy job to change the tap?
Hoping you can help me with this problem as I am unable to use the motorhome without the washroom, especially at the moment on campsites that are opening.
A: While most motorhome manufacturers will hold parts for 10 years after the vehicle was manufactured, this cannot always be relied upon and, once the stock has been used and the part discontinued, it becomes harder to source a spare.
Taps for motorhomes are generally supplied by a variety of firms and will vary from year to year, depending on price and availability and the design appearance that the motorhome manufacturers want. So, getting an exact replacement may not be possible.
However, this isn’t an issue as there are lots of taps out there that will look similar and be an easy replacement. The first task is to gain access to the underside of your existing tap to remove it. Unlike working on domestic plumbing, there’s little danger of getting very wet, but make sure your water pump is switched off!
There are two grey screw covers in your picture, which look like the way to remove the tap base to gain access to the underside of the tap and unscrew the securing nut.
The tap will either be a pressure tap (no wires) or a micro-switched tap (two small wires coming off it) so you’ll need to replace it with a similar type that has an identical-sized threaded diameter.
The water connection points will either be push-fit type (you’ll need to push the small plastic collar towards the tap to remove the hot and cold pipes) or simply held on with jubilee clips.
Make sure your replacement tap has the same connection points. Firms such as leisurelines.net sell a wide variety of suitable taps. The Caraflo Turret L160 may be suitable, but check it has similar connections to your existing tap and that the spout length will fit in place with the sink flipped up (many makers offer different spout lengths).