Campervan Tips – Keeping Your Road Trip Vehicle Maintained On The Road

February 14, 2011 · 22 comments

This post is not just appropriate for camper vans, but any vehicle you intend to do a long distance road trip with. With things like the Mongol rally becoming popular and modern cars being reliable with just an annual service, many people are venturing off on adventures without preparation and becoming disappointed, frustrated and out of pocket when a mechanical failure stops everything. A bit of preparation will stop you claiming on your travel insurance and help you maximise your trip enjoyment.

Previously before I got into travelling, I was heavily into cars, they were my main hobby. Although that doesn’t mean much if you don’t get your head under a bonnet and just like the pretty bits. Fortunately (?) I did, and spent an entire year converting my blown engine (thanks to an ex-girlfriend) into a supercharged uprated machine capable of much more. This was on a 24 year old Toyota too, not a modern car. So now you know my credentials on the subject, I’m going to break it down into simple steps to preventing problems and covering the basics to get you over 80% of issues you’ll likely experience.

Oil, Water and Fuel

jerry can

Fuel (or Jerry) Cans are important

These are available at virtually every gas/petrol station in the world. Take spare with you. You should carry an extra 10-15 litres of fuel, 15-25L of water and 2.5-15L of oil. Note: some vehicles won’t need water (old air cooled VW Campers, and small engine motorbikes).

Learn how to check and top up your water and oil. If this is done, your engine shouldn’t overheat and will constantly remain lubricated and ready to carry on working hard for you. If these levels fall low, then just top them up. If they are regularly falling then that indicates a problem so you should get it checked over by a mechanic.

You should check your water and oil level every other day if you are doing a long road trip. Especially in changing climates. If you can feel the temperature and humidity difference, your engine is feeling it too.

Mechanical Knowledge

mechanical kit

Tool kits are handy but often poor if cheap

You honestly don’t need a lot here. If the problem isn’t caused by your lack of checking oil and water, then you probably need a mechanic and tools to fix it. Electrical problems are also common in mid 80s vehicles mostly from corrosion of old wiring. But again – if this is a problem and you have no electrical knowledge, seek a auto electrician. Note: most mechanic garages will be able to sort out electrical problems so you won’t need to seek a specialist.

I will detail the 2 most important techniques for dealing with long road trip vehicles in the next, stay tuned!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Brooke, WhyGo Australia February 16, 2011 at 1:00 AM

Good tips! I always feel cool when I get out, pop the hood and check the oil. I rarely see people actually doing that.
Brooke, WhyGo Australia´s latest blogpost – How to Get to Broken Hill from Sydney


AdventureRob February 16, 2011 at 10:49 PM

Yeah, it’s a pretty basic thing to do. It will either be fine or low (where you just top it up). I wish people wouldn’t be so scared of it. The mechanic bill for not having oil topped up is much more scary!


Jacob Paulin February 16, 2011 at 5:38 AM

Very informative blog! I must admit some of the pointers are Elementary, though we all tend to forget simple things like oil and water. These needs to be checked either by your mechanic or by you before a long drive.


AdventureRob February 16, 2011 at 10:50 PM

Yes, That’s what I’m trying to cover. No need for a mechanic to check the water and oil level, it’s a 1-2 minute job once you know what you are doing and are looking for.


Scott - Quirky Travel Guy February 16, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Good tips… I know nothing about cars and probably paid more for service on my road trip than I should have.


AdventureRob February 16, 2011 at 10:52 PM

Yeah, I’m sure I would have spent over double if I didn’t know how to do the basics keeping my old camper running :-) Fun though, it’s part of the experience.


Europe By Camper February 16, 2011 at 7:23 PM

It’s always worth carrying a toolkit with you, but also worth carrying some spares in case you find yourself with a breakdown but miles for the nearest parts garage!


AdventureRob February 16, 2011 at 10:51 PM

Yes it is, but I found my basic toolkit was lacking in event of breakdown, usually that means a car part has gone so you need things like repair tape more than spanners/screwdrivers/etc.


Wu February 17, 2011 at 9:41 AM

Among things which I religiously check before committing myself for a long drive are the fuel/water/oil levels, the battery, lights and the navigation system. What you mentioned about fuel cans also is very important, cause it can be a pain to transport fuel sometimes, especially at nights.


AdventureRob February 18, 2011 at 9:33 AM

Yep, they are worth a check too! I had a safety check of my campervan before I set off (was actually a compulsory legal thing) so most of that was done for me. Batteries are important! I suffered for a long time with a poor one.


Juan February 21, 2011 at 4:08 AM

One should be sure to check the tire pressure before a long drive. Other important factors to review are the brake fluid level, radiator bottle and the overheating conditions of the vehicle.


AdventureRob March 6, 2011 at 9:59 AM

Tire pressure is important too. I checked that, but it is easy to get inconsistent results. As driving for even a short period will affect the temperature and therefore pressure. Also if it’s a hot day and you’ve had a lay in (it happens in Oz) then the pressure will be different to a cool day.

Brake level should be checked occasionally but should usually stay consistant.

Thanks for comment!


Vi February 24, 2011 at 10:54 PM

Water and fuel probably most essential things in Australian outback.
Vi´s latest blogpost – Christchurch struck by another earthquake


AdventureRob March 6, 2011 at 10:00 AM

I would have to agree :-)


Bocas Del Toro Surfer March 3, 2011 at 7:28 AM

I just have a camper-van trip to New Zealand. From that experience you should also have to keep an eye for snow and ice on the road (depending on the location). Watch out for some unsealed, or unpaved roads too.

Thanks for the wonderful post, very useful!


AdventureRob March 6, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Thanks for comment!

Indeed you need to adjust as necessary to conditions. I live in a cold snowy area now, everyone has winter tyres but sometimes there is need to put on chains too to make progress when the snow falls heavily.


Judith M. Settles June 17, 2011 at 2:57 AM

Well, It is really a nice advice! Very educational and usable at the same time.


Camper Van August 23, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Great help tips! Every vehicle should have at least an emergency tool kit in their cars or vans. Also, when planning for a long-drive, it is necessary to check all the important things in your cars or vans before going to really feel the enjoyment of the trip.


AdventureRob August 27, 2011 at 3:29 AM

Yes, good tip. Emergency kits are compulsory in some countries anyway, I believe in Germany the cars must have such a kit by law.


Jeffery November 9, 2011 at 9:56 PM

The toolkit is just a car needs. With this toolkit, emergency car difficulties along the road can be easily fixed.


vidhan February 5, 2019 at 7:10 AM

Thank you for the informative post.


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