Category Archives: Product Review

Fox shocks - fully adjustable-1

Fox shocks & Gowesty Springs – a few months in…

Background

I have fairly recently fitted a set of Gowesty Camper Products progressive springs and Fox 2.0 shocks to my van. It took a lot research before i decided on a shock and spring set up due to a few reasons which i will explain.

Jargon (Techy stuff)

My main reason for looking for a new set of springs was that for sometime i had been running spring spacers to lift my van. This is a very common way of gaining some ground clearance on a syncro, It’s a great cheap way of gaining some ground clearance, but it has its compromises.

By adding spacers you are moving the position of the spring which gains you ground clearance, however the range of movement in the spring does not change, it is just moved in relation to the other suspension components.

I wanted to fit a set of springs that would give me the ground clearance i required  without any/bare minimum of spacers The Gowesty progressive springs seemed to fit the bill. I have fitted the 2″ lift version on the rear of my van and zero lift to the front (i’ll explain why in a minute).

Gowesty-springs-Als

A knock on effect from fitting spacers or longer springs is that the shock absorber stays in it’s original position making the shock operate within a range that it was not designed for, most often resulting in ‘topping out’ (shock reaching the end of it’s downward stroke). Not only does this cause irritating noise but means that the damping characteristics of your shock absorber will be working incorrectly, you could also be causing damage to the shock itself.

More Jargon…

So you might now ask how is it possible to lift your van for extra ground clearance without encountering this shock absorber problem. Put plainly If you fit longer springs then you should really install shock absorbers with longer travel and damping characteristics to match.

The shock absorbers that were on my van were a standard set of 14″ Syncro Boge of unknown age. I had fitted a set of extensions to both the front and rear shocks to try and eliminate the topping out i experienced after lifting my van, this worked ok and kept the shocks relatively quiet, but long term it could well have played a factor in the demise of my shock absorbers.

As part of my upgrades i had also fitted larger wheels and tyres, this helps gain ground clearance but also adds in another factor to the suspension set up. A larger wheel and tyre weighs much more and as such requires different damping to keep the additional weight under control.

TyresSizesWebThose are my tyres on the right.

Shock absorbers have to work much harder than normal to try and keep control of the extra weight bouncing around,  as a result the oil inside the shock gets very hot. This heat is eventually transferred to the seals and over time the seals degrade and oil starts to leak from the shock body and the damping characteristics are severely affected.

This is exactly what happened to my front shock absorbers whilst in Morocco. The corrugated and potholed roads required a great deal from the suspension and my tired shocks trying to keep control of my heavy wheels resulted in over heated seals and losing all of the oil from both of them. This wasn’t much fun believe me, although the T3 performs remarkably well with no shock absorbers, it still meant that hours on end driving the bad roads was uncomfortable to say the least.

I decided to fit the Fox 2.0 fully adjustable shocks as they have the widest range of compression and rebound damping available on the market. Rebound damping being a very important factor here.

IMG_2276
When a wheel hits a bump and is forced upwards towards the vehicle, this is called ‘compression’ and when it starts it’s downward movement after the bump, this is called ‘rebound’. Rebound damping is what controls the speed at which the wheel and tyre travels back to its original position. Everyone has experienced the pogo stick bouncing sensation in a T3 after a bump in the road and this is caused amongst other factors by inadequate rebound damping. This effect is made even worse when larger, heavier wheels have been fitted.

The front Fox shocks also have adjustable spring platforms enabling the ride height to be set to exactly where you want it, this is the reason for fitting the zero lift springs on the front. If i had fitted 2″ lift springs then the minimum ride height achievable would be 2″ higher than normal, whereas with the zero lift versions i have a much more useable range of adjustment. The Gowesty springs are a ‘progressive’ spring, this means that the ‘rate’ of the spring changes as it is compressed through its range, the more it is compressed the more the spring rate increases.

IMG_2280 rear-shock-spring-als

The adjustable versions of the Fox shocks have 8 different damping settings ranging from very hard for road use to very soft for off-road, this enables fine tuning of the suspension in a way not possible with other systems, additionally the adjustable versions have remote oil reservoirs that vastly increase the volume of oil in the shock absorber giving much better resilience to overheating.

 

There is also 1″ of extra down travel available with the true monotube design of the Fox shocks without losing any upward travel which eliminates the need for any extensions to try and deal with topping/bottoming out of the suspension system.

Hopefully you can now see how i ended up settling on the Gowesty/Fox set up, It just ticked every box.

Enough of the jargon, how do they ride?

Road driving on the new system has possibly been the biggest surprise since fitting the new suspension. I always assumed that i would notice the biggest difference whilst driving off-road over lumps and bumps but in actual fact road driving has been dramatically changed.

vanVsyncro

My van is quite heavy and lifted quite high and before the upgrade to experience a fair bit of body roll when cornering. This has been almost completely eliminated, i am now able to keep my speed up through corners in a way that would have felt a bit twitchy previously. The van feels ‘planted’ through corners and generally far more stable.

Bumps in the road are also far less of a worry now too, especially speed humps. Where i would have had to slow down to a very slow speed to prevent everything on the dash board being flung into the air and the pogo stick bouncing after the bump would have me holding on for dear life, i can now approach harsh bumps without this worry.
Hitting the bump itself feels far more comfortable but the most noticeable difference is what happens afterwards. Just after the bump where you would normally expect to start being bounced around the rebound damping kicks in and the van just settles straight back to its normal ride.

Off-road i cant fault the ride at all, the system feels supple enough to soak up all the little bumps from rocks and tree roots etc, whilst still being able to quickly react to larger hits also. Higher speeds off-road are a more pleasurable experience as those unexpected gullies or potholes that can sneak up on you don’t have you clinging to the steering wheel bracing for impact anymore.

Even at times when you can feel yourself wince as you really think you’ve pushed it too far the Fox and Go Westy spring combination just seems to suck it all up.

Interior Festoon Bulb Upgrade [VW T2 T3 T25 T4 LT and many more]

The standard interior light bulbs are not very bright at best and have usually deteriorated over time meaning that its pretty hard to see inside your van when you open a door. They are certainly not bright enough to read under without straining your eyes and if left on too long they can easily run down your battery.

We have soured these new type of LED (COB) as they give a uniform light output meaning that they give almost no glare, unlike normal LED’s which always produce a strong brightness/glare from the individual diodes.
This means they are more well suited to the interior of a T3/T25/Vanagon where occupants are always quite near the lights whether map reading, cooking etc etc.

They give off virtually no heat so the risk of fire is minimised and the power consumption is around 90% less than a standard bulb. This means you can leave them on all night and your battery will not be flat in the morning, even after a few nights of stationary camping. Ideal if you have small kids that like that bit of comfort to get them off to sleep.

No tools are required for fitting, simply remove your old bulb and fit the LED festoon bulb in its place.
These bulbs will fit any T3/T25/Vanagon, any Bay window 72 onwards or any festoon type light fitting with contact dimensions of 41-42mm.

They are one of our own products and make an excellent add on when ordering shirts or other heavier gear and can be bought via the web shop here.

Here is a short video so you can see how much better these make your camper van living,

interior LED from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

Westfalia T3/T25 lift up roof/pop top bed guards for all Jokers, Club Jokers, California’s and Atlantic’s

Really happy to share with you guys how to fit our new bed guards for Euro spec Westfalia Jokers etc. We have been field testing this design over the last two years and we are happy to say we have got there. Using the original factory pegs you can fit our bed guards in a few minutes without any extra drilling for that factory feel just how Westfalia would have wanted it. We have them for sale on our web shop for about half of the price other vendors who are selling a similar product that requires loads of extra messing about and drilling. Ours are available in Grey, and unique to CampervanCulture.com they are also available in Brown that only take a few minutes to fit.

We use these ourselves as they are a CampervanCulture.com product.

Find them in the Campervan culture webshop here

Westfalia pillow guards from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

Amazing weekend in Surrey with birthday celebrations and Heathrow Campervan Hire.

This time we stayed quite near London and hooked up with good friends H, Ringo, Rob and youngsters Fern and Jules. Jed Louise and Isaac were in their Westfalia Syncro and Ringo and H were in their usual ride, the mighty VW LT Westfalia Florida. Rob left his Westfalia Syncro behind on this trip and turned up in the new high roof rental campervan that his company www.HeathrowCampervanHire.com have just got ready for you to hire and have an amazing time in. I have to say being a Westfalia nerd I was a bit taken back and slightly envious of the massive fridge, grill and this van even has an oven as well as Propex heating, extractor fan and get this…

It’s only done 60,000 miles!

As you can guess by the name Heathrow Campervan Hire is based right next to the UK’s main international airport and when you rent from them you have the option of picking up your fully kitted out campervan from the airport arrivals lounge. This is a great chance for all you guys in the USA, Canada, Australia, and the rest of the world to visit the places we like to go in the UK without the hassles and expense of importing your own vehicle. It’s also handy for all you guys in the UK and Ireland to just grab a cheap flight, pick the camper up and be off on your adventure.

Our first night was spent in a very nice country pub then a short but very steep drive up a gravel track in the VW LT to one of our favorite wild camping spots. After a really nice nights sleep it was off for a quick walk then off to find a random campsite we booked into from the internet. Osney Lodge Farm Campsite was only £45 per night for the eight of us in three campervans and it is a great place to camp with kids. Off the ground open fires are allowed and they have a basic toilet block and a place you can empty your chemical toilet if required. They have a farm shop that does loads of local produce and BBQ items as well as beers and veg. We all had a great time and celebrated H’s birthday in style.

Surrey camping weekend with www.HeathrowCampervanHire.com from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

Gelert pop up kettle review.

It has been an interesting process reviewing the Gelert pop up kettle.

As many of you know we are planning a North Africa trip and I personally thought it might be good to find a good supplier of some of the things we need and buy things from one place. We tried a seller via Ebay and we got disgusting service from www.camping-online.co.uk that was so bad the owner told us to f*** off when calmly voicing our concerns over the product they sell. One thing is certain, the owner is a moron….

www.gelert.com have some good products and I have used some bits and pieces by them and thought they are as good place as any to find a good pop up kettle. Their customer services were spot on when I had to contact them about the moron at Camping-online LTD and they advised me on my rights as a consumer. They were sympathetic about my concerns about the 2L kettle I had bought and were interested to share them with their development team, so here goes.

Gelert pop up kettle review from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.

ARB Cargo Gear lk01 load securing kit V CampervanCulture.com cargo system.

Like anything from ARB the quality of this product is very high and from the CARGO GEAR aluminium track & load range. It’s the LK01 set and contains 45mm aluminium track & load rings and lends itself to a multitude of uses but mainly to hold your stuff in place while you’re on the road. This set was bought through 4x4overlander.com at their impressive stall at one of the overlanding shows back at the end of summer which had just about everything you could want to kit your vehicle out for that trip of a lifetime.

Now Christmas is done and dusted my mind is wondering to where the CampervanCulture team will be this time next year (Morocco, North Africa) and although the three of us have made a token start on a few jobs on the Syncro’s already this new year should see us concentrating harder to kit each van out to it’s owners requirements for the trip ahead. Storage is obviously a key issue on any trip and while lots of things can be packed away safely in cupboards and under seats the one bit of kit I seem to have needed to get to and fix simple issues with the van, bikes, kit etc is my trusty tool kit. In the past it has been stored under the back seat but I was wanting it to be in a place I could get to it quickly without having to get my young son Isaac out of his seat and out of the vehicle. This would also free up more space for spare parts under the back seat and things we won’t need on a daily basis.

Jeds basic everyday tool kit that can get most things fixed with the addition of a roll of spanners.

After a good think about positioning so it isn’t going to eat up too much living space while on a bigger trip and the space under the rear seat and where the tool kit needs to be easy to get to, a suitable position was found and the aluminium track was fixed to the rear facing buddy seat.

Aluminium track fitted so the quick relise load rings and tool kit can be removed any time.

It was an easy job and all the fixings and rear spreader plates are supplied with the LK01 kit. The beauty of this system is that when I don’t require the tool kit in this position the tracking on it’s own is not offensive to look at and I can use the load rings on another part of the van where extra tracking is fitted. Some cord was fitted to the two load rings in the kit and when not in use can be stored in a draw or hung up out of the way.

Load rings.

Next to store the tool case in front of the seat you just put it in position and just slide the load rings with the cord fixed to them in place and the tool case isn’t going any place soon and is in a safe position.

Here is a shot of the Cargo Gear in place without the tool case to give you a better idea of how it works.

And here is a video clip to show how easy and quick it is to release the tool case from its fixed position. It’s very easy to use and until you pull on that blue part at the base of the loop, the loop is locked into position. I personally really like this product and if Jake or Alan deicide to use it too then they will add their installations here.

We have now added our own range of cargo tracking like the ARB stuff only cheaper and with a lot more extra via the CampervanCulture web shop

Muddy Action Packed Weekend filmed using Varavon Slidecam & Crane

Wet again but what the hell…

A few of us met from all over Europe in Wales for a spot of wild camping and off road driving. It was wet the whole weekend again but this didn’t dampen the spirits of anyone who visited our camp. Lots of the venue couldn’t be driven safely and winches were deployed on more than one occasion then play had to come to a halt for safety reasons. It was a perfect opportunity to take our new friends from France, Denmark, and The Netherlands down the pub in a nearby village and we had a right old laugh.

We get a few questions about what we use for filming and to be honest our camera stuff is pretty basic and low tec but this time we used our first bit of grown up camera equipment for a good part of this video. The Varavon Slidecam & Crane details can be found here for those interested,

http://www.varavon.com/product/slid_detail_crane.html

It really is very good and we had a practice with the kit filming one of the most exiting VW T3, T25, Vanagon Syncos out there at the moment. Its owner Dai is a friend of ours we got to know through the Syncro scene and although his background is in custom motorcycles he has built this one off (for now) vehicles using his flair for custom vehicle builds to take his wife Debs and there new dog on wild camping trips both in the UK and Europe.



Fitting my new VW T3 T25 Vanagon Syncro-Nutz Side Rail ‘Rock Sliders’

This is a product from Syncro-Nutz, Scottish based VW specialists.

I have wanted some decent ‘rock sliders’ for my Westy ever since I bought it, I used to have some aluminium ones that just bolted through the jacking points – they were weak, poor designed and bent when using them to jack the van up. When I heard Syncro-Nutz hade made a set I decided to indulge and splash out on a set.

These are very nicely made, really well designed and most importantly – easy to fit! They come powdercoated and also have the aluminium chequer plating which is fitted to the shape of the van. For the ultimate finish I am going to fill in the slight gap between the body and the aluminium with some Sikaflex or Tigerseal to prevent any road muck (salt!) getting up anywhere above where the sliders are…

Despite being called rock sliders, it is unlikely I will be sliding over rocks with them, a full kitted out campervan is hardly a rock crawling vehicle, but the piece of mind they provide for basic protection for the offroading I do is a bonus on top of looking awesome. They also make great steps for loading things onto and off the roof AND protecting against those careless drivers who swing there car door open against you in the car park – much better they hit your sill bars then your paintwork!

These would be equally at home on a 2wd van as well as a syncro. You can either use a bottle jack or switch to a hi-lift / Jackall for jacking after fitment. They have have tabs for using with the farm jack to stop it slipping around. A nice improvement would be somewhere circular for a jack adapter to fit through.

Fitting was quick and easy – watch for yourself. Contact Syncro-Nutz directly for further info.. Maybe put them on your christmas list!!

L Shape Wind Deflector Review…

Here is a product we got from www.dubflecta.co.uk

This summer Jed and his family were plagued by aggressive wasps on the tour they did of europe. With temperatures logged above 45*c driving around with the windows wound up was to prove a bloody pain in the backside so we have tried these nifty wind deflectors out. This way you can drive around without sucking the nasty wasps in or letting loads of rain in when driving in the rain with the windows down kind of a poor mans air con system. They are a good price and if you are in the UK you can buy them here, or if your from outside the UK do like it says in the Video and email JP mentioning Campervanculture and they will get back to you with a reasonable world wide shipping cost.

Personally I would have been chuffed if they were bought for me for my birthday or at Xmas and at only £30 per set what self respecting camper van owner wouldn’t? They do them for a wide range of other vehicles too as well as acrylic head light protectors, T4 and T5 bumper protectors, rear spoilers….

Adding Additional Gearbox and Prop Protection on my Syncro Westy

For some time now I have worried about the cover plate which hangs down on my syncro gearbox. It it the lowest part of the box, and almost the lowest part of the van. One slight catch when passing over a rock and we are talking nasty damage! Has been on my list for ages to make something up however I found that Syncro-Services in Germany made a special custom aluminium protection plate which covers this vulnerable area along with additional protection plates for the prop.

I ordered a set from Germany so I thought I’d film the fitting. To make it easy to see, and also much easier to drill I removed the bash plate from the van, however you could quite easily mark up and drill and fit this without removing (even easier if you have a lift or ramp to work on and not the floor!)

All in all, an excellent quality item, well thought out, easy in to install (make sure you have a nice fresh drill bit). Also love the additional wings on the side of the rear plate for extra inner CV joint protection.

If you want a set, get in touch with Dina at Syncro-Services, located in Germany but ship worldwide!


(Excuse the traffic noise in the video, only had a driveway to work on!)

iPhone dock in your camper, with a twist…

Looking for a good way to mount / charge your iPhone in your Camper, Jake took an ordinary ebay special and adapted it to fit a Westfalia T25 Vanagon.

Jake got his on ebay, similar to these ones:

[UK]

[US]

Fitting Rear Shock Extensions and Front Ball Joint Spacers to the Westfalia Syncro

If you have raised the suspension on your van, you may well find the knock effect is the you require rear shock extensions and front ball joint spacers.

Here we have the rear shock extenders, which attach to the campers rear swing arm, and lift the syncro lower shock mount – which avoids the syncro rear shock topping out. Available from www.futbus.com.

Also, up front we have fitted syncro specific upper ball joint spacers, there several different suppliers out there, these ones also came from futbus.com, they are the same as available at gowesty.com

Both of these have been on the Westfalia for a few thousand miles now, and have been no problem at all. Don’t forget, if you have raised the suspension on your Syncro to get the alignment / geometry checked over!

VW T3 Syncro wishbone spacer & rear shock extender fitting.. from CampervanCulture.com on Vimeo.