Living in a van full time is awesome. We would not change it for the world but sometimes disasters strike. It isn’t all beach views and mountain roads. In fact sometimes, it’s garage yard sleepovers or complete homelessness for a bit. Van life disasters guys, are real and often not talked about so much! So we are going to change that and let you know the many van life disasters we have experienced so far. And it’s only been a year!
Our van is 2003 Ford Transit Jumbo, we got it with only 87,000 miles on clock and it was a complete bargain. We were stoked. But having an old van, does come with it’s quirks. And most of the time, we don’t mind them. But sometimes, those quirks act up. So without further or do, here are out top van life disasters we’ve had so far.
Spending the First Night of Van Life in a Garage Yard.
Saying goodbye, we were on our way to Wales to begin our full time van life adventure. When we were close to getting to our destination, the van started to shake and shoot out black exhaust. We pulled over, called breakdown cover and got a mechanic out. Our cool air intake pipe had disconnected, so he thought it would be a quick fix. As did we. Unfortunately it was not. After he fixed it, we drove to the next roundabout and the mechanic followed us. The van was driving better, the mechanic said the exhaust looked better and so we carried on.
About five minutes later, we tried to get the van up a slight incline and it lost power completely. We were so close to our destination it was painful! But we had to call a recovery truck to take us to the garage. And this is where we spent the first two nights of full time van life. Crazy right?! So this was our first van life disaster. Thankfully, the guys at the garage were great and really helped us out. Once the van was fixed, they drove it down to us and charged us less for paying in cash, what a relief!
Now we can look back and laugh at this. So much! It’ll be one of these stories we will tell for years to come and laugh about.
Running out of fuel on a country road at night.
For someone who listens to a lot of true crime podcasts, running out of fuel on a dark country road is not a great scenario. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried guys. But the whole situation is pretty ironic and laughable when you think about it. We left work, low on fuel, on our way to get more fuel we ran out and came to a halt on an S bend. Brilliant right?
But straight away this van life disaster was turning into such a beautiful story of selflessness. First a women in a while BMW stopped and offered to take Callum to get fuel from the petrol station nearby. She not only took him there, but also brought him back! This saved us an hour (at least) round trip in the dark. Much to my thanks. As I was the one left in the van, alone, in the dark! We thanked her a lot and filled up the tank. The van still didn’t start.
So turn to google! We probably needed a mechanic to help us, or a tow start. We called our breakdown cover, only to be told it had expired. Damn. But not only that, it was going to cost us £150 to get them to come to us. For a lack of fuel, we were laughing and crying at how ridiculous this was. So we hung up. After this bit of bad news. A guy in a massive 4×4 stopped. Told us we must be stupid or broken down, thankfully in our case broken down. And he offered to tow us to a lay-by. When telling the guy our problems he told us to try and start it as we were being towed. It was a success!
After the third try of the engine, it worked! Hurrah, van life disaster averted! We were cheering with happiness and relief swept over us. But more than anything we were overcome with emotion due to the gratitude we had. These people had selflessly helped us, complete strangers.
All our Insulation getting wet in the rain while building it.
When converting our Ford Transit Jumbo we were on a teeny tiny time limit. We had a month after we purchased the van to get it ready to live in. Who doesn’t love a challenge right? This was crazy and fun but stressful. When we were building the weather plays a big part. Especially, when you are doing the basics and living in the UK. So of course the weather was crazy temperamental when we were building. One minute it would be sunny and the next, rain. Which would mean a lot of running around grabbing stuff and either throwing it in the van, the garage or the house to save it.
On the day we had decided to do the insulation the weather was stunning. All of a sudden half way through it started to rain. We were so focused on the insulation board we forgot about the loft insulation. Oops! It got rained on and a little wet. As we were on a budget we were pretty stressed, thankfully though it did dry out and we could still use most of it. But honestly guys, we were close to breaking at this point.
As you can see, van life disasters can happen even before you move in, ha! Oh well, we can laugh at it now.
Breaking down in Scotland and Getting Towed to Wales.
We spent the whole Christmas period driving around Scotland and catching up with Janey’s family and some of Callum’s closer to New Year. It was incredible. This was the first time we got to take the van for a real explore and wow! We drove some incredible places and were so happy to be on the road, with our puppy, exploring. The trip to Scotland was amazing and the best bit has to be driving through the Glencoe Valley. But we will do more on that another time.
So what is the big van life disaster or mishap you ask? Well this is probably the biggest one we have experienced. And yes, one of the most stressful ones. I hope you guys are ready for a story!
After spending a lovely Christmas and New Year with our family and friends we were beginning to drive back down to Wales. On our way we stopped in to see our friends who recently opened an amazing cafe just outside of Edinburgh. The Fix Fife. They let us spend the night, cooked us amazing food and in the morning we had breakfast at The Fix. Which was awesome! Getting back to the van we loaded it up with our stuff, got Kali ready and hopped in the front seats.
It wasn’t until we hopped in and looked down that we realised something wasn’t quite right. Our snacks on the front passenger flood were covered in pink liquid. As were some of Kali’s toys and our water bottles. This was strange. Rain had happened recently but not so recently that our shoes would have left so much water on the ground. So we called our breakdown cover and while on hold did some googling. It looked like coolant. And it was!
So what did this mean? Well once we had checked the engine and realised the whole coolant tank had drained we knew we had a big problem. Thankfully we have nationwide cover which means they will tow us to our chosen destination from anywhere… You guessed it, we decided to get the van towed from Edinburgh to North Wales.
It took 4 days to get our van back to North Wales. Talk about van life disasters right.
Once we got to Dumfries, 7 hours after first calling the breakdown cover. Thankfully we were given a courtesy car and we stuffed it full of what we and the puppy would need until we got the van. We drove down to Wales and waited to hear what happened. We were essentially homeless, but thanks to some incredible friends we had a place to stay.
Once the van got to Wales, days later. We had to give the car back, hire our own car and pray the garage could fix the problem. And what was the problem? A broken heater matrix – I’ll link what this is so I don’t have to explain it, ha!
The van was dropped off Monday evening and it took them basically a week to fix it. Thanks so much to our good friends and the Riverside Garage for getting it done! That week was really stressful for us and Kali. We thankfully didn’t really have work which made it easy but we were so glad to have our home back in the end.
This has to be the biggest van life disaster we have had (so far! ).
Grey Water Tank Overflowing
Probably one of the most hilarious and disgusting thing to happen. And it has happened more than once, whoops! If you have seen pictures of our van and kitchen area you have probably seen our awesome water set up. When building the van we went back and fourth about what to do with the grey water. A lot of people just drill a hole through the floor and stuff a pipe through it and let it drain out. Others have a grey water tank attached under the van and others have a separate grey water tank you have to empty often. The last option is what we went with.
It works really well, as long as you don’t forget to empty it! We didn’t want to just drain our gross water out the bottom of the van because that just ruins the place where we are. So we went with the separate tank. But we are forgetful people and should really set a calendar reminder to empty the tank.
So a few times the grey water has overflowed, or we’ve spilt it when trying to empty it. This creates a lot of mess which can sometimes be tricky to clean up. It’s not the worst van life disaster in the world it is more of a mishap. It does happen though and we find it pretty funny when it happens. Because we are really just laughing at ourselves.
We have no plans to change it right now, maybe in the future but we shall see.
Running out of Cooking Gas at the worst times.
This ALWAYS happens. But it is weird guys, you start to get thoughts running through your head which literally say, hmm this gas has lasted a while. I wonder when it will run out. Really we should have learnt by now that when we start silently questioning this, it probably means while cooking dinner tonight the gas will stop working.
As van life disasters go, this is very small. It is actually just a bit funny, unless you’re hangry, then not so much.
One time our gas ran out in the middle of making Thai curry. I was hangry and so yeah, it was pretty bad at this point. Thankfully we live onsite where we work. Callum ran to the kitchen to see if they were open and the lovely guy let us use the stove even though he was leaving. Probably the biggest stove I’ve ever used our tiny pots on to finish cooking our curry. Happy doesn’t begin to describe how this made us! The people around us make these hilarious mishap moments so good to look back on!
Batteries Constantly Going Flat and Needing a Jump Start.
You guys remember how old our van is right? And how I said it has some adorable quirks that sometimes play up? Well this started to be one.
The year 2003 is almost 20 years ago now, how crazy is that!? So when we bought our van and started to do it up we lived in a city. We only drove the van small distances to pick up wood and pack it full of building supplies. Once it was up and ready to go, we often needed a jump start to get the batteries going. As the summer went on this got worse. Soon we could predict it was more likely not to start than actually start. Not good right? No.
So we finally bit the bullet, took it to the garage to have a look. Worried it might be something to do with the alternator we were biting our nails as they had a look. Thankfully, it was one of the batteries that wasn’t holding power and so draining the other. Ford Transits have two batteries in the engine (under the front seat) so we changed them. For a small cost of £140 they gave us new batteries and changed them for us.
Van life disasters like this meant we were limited. While the batteries weren’t working properly we didn’t feel comfortable going off grid. Camping off the beaten track where not many cars passed was out the question. So getting this fixed meant we had the freedom to roam. And damn, it felt good to be able to get out and about!