Packed full and ready to go. Our van Hugo was ready for adventures and Van Life was about to begin! The long days meant we delayed our move to Wales to the following morning. Up bright and early it was time to head off. With a smooth journey and 30 minutes left to go we were excited. But then the exhaust shot out black smoke and our hopes on making it in time faded slightly. It looked as though we were going to be spending our first night of Van Life in a mechanics yard!
Van Life has always been a dream of ours, and one that we worked ridiculously hard to achieve. Trust me, when you have a dream you’re ready to hustle for, that hustle comes naturally. So when it was ready for us to set off, we were stoked! The van is going to be our home for the next wee while as we work epic seasonal jobs in North Wales. So you can imagine the disappointment when the first long journey ended with us sleeping in the mechanics yard instead of a classic Instagram backdrop. But this is the reality of Van Life and we think it is super important to share with you guys!
So what happened?
Over 100 miles into our journey and with just 30 minutes to go. We were on track to be at the center where we would be working with plenty of time to have a nap and breakfast. But then, a funny noise came from the engine, the gear stick started shaking and the exhaust was spitting out black fumes. What was going on!
Callum kept driving onward for 10 minutes until we got to a service station so we could check out the engine. No lights were on the dashboard to indicate something was wrong. The oil was fine, the coolant was at top level and there was no smoke from the engine. We called Callums parents and gave the engine a chance to cool down. No one could point us in the best direction and so bit the bullet and called our insurance. The breakdown guys were excellent and although they told us it could take up to 90 minutes they came in only 10 minutes!
The cool inlet pipe was disconnected from the engine. Result! I (Janey) was so sure this was the cause of the problem and now they found it, the solution. We were so happy! After a few minutes the mechanic had fixed it up and checked out the rest of the engine. He couldn’t see anything wrong and so told us to drive to the next service station and he would follow us. Driving along the motorway the van sounded better but when we hit the accelerator the black smoke still puffed out. Pulling over at the next stop we felt happy that this was all fixed, as did the engineer. So we signed the paper work and off we went.
Then the Van lost power. Van Life breakdown number 2.
15 minutes away from work and our van, Hugo, lost power. We couldn’t get up a hill and when I say hill, I mean a slight incline after a roundabout. We were gutted. Pulling over safely, we called our breakdown insurance again but this time, for a recovery. Honestly I (Janey) was gutted because this was going to be a slow fix and we were now definitely going to be late to work on our first day. But we tried to stay positive and upbeat the whole time. It took a bit longer for someone to get to us which gave us enough time to research mechanics near by.
We found a guy in Colwyn Bay who could do the fix in a day and we were stoked! Riverside Garage in Glan Conway were so good to us and we are super thankful. When the recovery arrived he hopped our van on the truck and gave us a lift down the to mechanics. Normally insurance breakdown will only take you to the mechanics but thankfully, he took us all the way to Dolgarrog which was amazing! This guy waited for us while we sorted out paper work with the mechanics and then dropped us at work. We were 2 hours late but thankfully our van was safe and we could sleep there overnight if we needed.
Getting the Van Fixed and back to classic Van Life.
Our van was fixed in just two days which was epic! Worried it was going to cost us an arm and a leg, it actually ended up being cheaper than we thought! The cause of our van life breakdown you ask? We have a Ford Transit and in them they have an EGR Valve. They can often fail and problems can occur which result in them blowing the cool inlet pipe our and the blocking the exhaust filter. This is exactly what happened.
Once the guys at Riverside Garage found what it was they got it fixed in just a few days. Thankfully it wasn’t a fuel injector that failed! This cost us only £200 to fix which was awesome! The happiness was oozing from us!
Now Hugo is back up on the road we are back and enjoying Van Life as it should be, in our work’s parking lot and beside mountains on our days off.
We wanted to share this story so you guys have a reality of what Van Life involves. The beautiful scenes of van life on instagram are true, but as we found out it can often be a breakdown on day one of the adventure. This was a stressful few days but looking back on it now, we can definitely laugh! It was hilariously ironic and the opposite of what we expecting but we wouldn’t change our journey so far!