Campervan Maintenance Tips Part 2

February 26, 2011 · 4 comments

This post deals with the frustrating issues that your vehicle can give you on and road and is a continuation of the previous campervan maintenance post. I will detail the 2 techniques you need from the 2 most common problems – punctured tyres, and flat batteries.

Changing a Wheel

changing wheel

This image is actually quite good

This is slightly different on every car, but fundamentally the same. Check all the tools are there before you leave. You need a way to raise the car (a jack and lever to operate it), a way of getting the wheel loose (big crank). Or if you are like me and have spend the last month window shopping for tools, then you might have the best cordless impact wrench, 2017 edition like me and this will be a breeze. To be able to take it off and correctly align a new wheel back on (should do this automatically from the alignment of wheel nuts/studs). That’s it. So make sure the tools are there and you actually have a spare wheel in the first place (some cars have space savers which can not be driven at high speed, some have a foam spray to repair your tyre through the valve – both these solutions are temporary and you will need to seek a replacement tyre or a decent fix asap). You should prioritise fixing the tyre once you are on your spare as you can not take another ruined tyre!

It’s a good idea to know how to change a wheel beforehand, so practise the routine so you know how. I was once on a bus trip in Laos (which tyre blow outs are common as the tyres and roads are poor quality) and the bus driver barely knew what he was doing so I had to help him out. The other 8 people on the bus didn’t know either. It is a basic skill you should nail early on as tyres are the only thing touching the ground after all.

Push/Jump Starting a Car

jump leads

Carry these

This is another basic skill you should master. Dead batteries is one of the most common problems and something which plagued me in the Mystery Machine in my Australian road trip.

Firstly you do need some electrical power. If you can faintly see the lights on your dash that is good enough, if the are truly dead then a push start will not work, you need a jump start.

Jump Starting is a matter of connecting your vehicles battery to another one (which is in good condition) and with their engine running and revs kept high, you start your vehicle on their battery power. Keep it running for a minute or so after and then remove the leads. Connect the negative terminals first and positive last. When removing the jump cables, remove the positive first and the negative last. If your battery dies after and continuously after this solution, then it or the alternator needs replacing.

Push Starting can only be done on manual cars, so if you have an auto, you are out of luck unless you can push the car at 30mph/50kph before attempting to force the car into gear. It IS possible to do on your own (I would know…) but it’s very difficult and consumes a lot of energy quickly.

The basic technique is to turn the ignition on (so you can see the dash lights) and out of gear (and handbrake off!!) push the car up to some speed, your running pace is fine (around 6-7mph or 11-12kmph). Next you need to jump into the car (trying not to slow it down). Push in the clutch and put the car into gear (1st or 2nd gear is fine). Quickly dump the clutch so the car is forced into gear, the speed of the car will turn the gearbox and in turn the engine so it should start. It’s not fun to do, but you should know the technique.


You shouldn’t be afraid of cars. You will likely form a bond with it on a long distance journey going through trouble together. This basic things will as I mentioned before get you through most problems you encounter. Even the most experienced mechanic will have problems dealing with broken parts as you need to carry spares and a decent tool kit, so bare that in mind too. You don’t want to spend your trip learning about car maintenance so do a bit before and you can laugh at those inevitable problems!

If you have any more tips please let them be known in the comments below.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Brooke, WhyGo Australia March 3, 2011 at 10:08 PM

Good basic tips — hopefully I don’t have to use this knowledge in the near future. Tire issues always seem to happen at the worst time ;)
Brooke, WhyGo Australia´s latest blogpost – Cheap Flights from Sydney to Singapore


AdventureRob March 6, 2011 at 10:03 AM

I’ve yet to have a convenient tire issue! I don’t think such a thing exists. But failing to prepare is preparing to fail as the saying goes. I was surprised by how big a deal a tire failing is for some people though, it should be common knowledge on how to continue in such situations but it really isn’t.


Vi March 3, 2011 at 10:55 PM

Once in rented car I had tool which didn’t fit wheel stud as it was too big. So check that tools are right for your car.

P.S. Rob, first link to previous post is broken.
Vi´s latest blogpost – Is it safe to travel to Christchurch


AdventureRob March 6, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Ahh! What a nightmare that must have been. That’s a good tip but I suspect a lot of people will forget for a short trip unfortunately (myself included).


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