Clara goes to Staffordshire

posted in: Clara Holdsworth Villa, Travel | 1

With ‘Clara goes to Spain’ looming large on the horizon, last weekend gave us one final opportunity to put Clara through her paces. The weather looked a wee bit unpredictable, but we didn’t really care. We’d planned a weekend away with friends and we needed to iron out any potential Clara problems before we hit the French autoroutes. So our destination for the weekend was to be a rather lovely looking campsite in the Staffordshire moorlands; White Lee Farm. Their website could certainly do with a modern makeover, however the campsite itself was lovely. But I’m leaping ahead rather…

On the Friday our plan was simple (most of our plans seem to start off this way!!!). I would spend the morning packing Clara, Tracy would escape work a little early and Sawyer & I would collect her on route to our Staffordshire campsite. There wasn’t really too much that could possibly go wrong, although to be honest the omens had reared up earlier in the week, so we really should have known better. Some of our friends had to cancel suddenly due to a car crash and hospital visit 😯 Our internet & phone had died for 3 days, so we’d not heard the news straight away. It had been one of those weeks…

On the Friday I meticulously ploughed through our Clara list and began to pack. Sawyer helped, slightly 🙄 After about 2 hours Clara was pretty much packed apart from the chilled food. I’d load that up at the last minute. I did however decide to start Clara up just before lunch, as it had been a few weeks since we’d last used her… Clara refused to start!!! Oh poo. Now, as is the custom with all of my Clara related posts, I do need to point out that I don’t do car mechanics. I may need to alter that statement slightly after the events that followed, but generally I’m a bit shite when it comes to engines…

Apparently this is an engine!Without wanting to bamboozle you all with highly technical information (oh to be able to!!!), Clara’s ignition was turning over fine, but the engine was simply refusing to spark into life. I stopped trying after a while, not wanting to flatten the battery. This was not looking good at all 🙁 I relayed the good news to Tracy. It went down predictably well. It was now time to give our friend Adam a call; aka Mr Mechanic/Campervan…

Hi mate, Clara won’t start…’

‘Oh dear. How’s the battery? Is the ignition turning over ok?’

‘Yep, it just won’t spark into life.’

Mmmm… Sounds like you’re not getting fuel into the engine. Silly question, but have you got fuel in Clara?’ Knowing me, this wasn’t remotely a silly question!!! Clara did indeed have fuel inside. Precisely how much was anyone’s guess, as the gauge had a mind of it’s own.

When did you last use Clara?’

‘About three weeks ago I think…’

And that was all the information Mr Mechanic/Campervan needed to workout what the problem was. Over the three weeks that Clara had sat idle outside our house, the summer temperatures had reached unprecedented heights. The fuel in the pipes that fed the engine from the fuel-tank had simply evaporated and the little pump (as I now know what it is & how it works 🙂 ) just didn’t have enough power to suck the fuel all the way down the pipes from the tank.

You need to disconnect the fuel pipe and test to see if any fuel is being sucked into the engine. If it isn’t then you can actually suck the petrol through yourself, but it’s not a very pleasant job. Is there anyone to give you a hand, as it’s a two person job (engine in the back, ignition up the front)?’ 

I thanked Mr Mechanic/Campervan and went to see if our neighbour was around. He was and much like Adam, also possessed a font of mechanical knowledge. I was feeling slightly inadequate.

Yep no probs Steve. I’ll just get my lad too; he’s the real mechanic…’

There was no bluffing it, my lack of mechanical know-how was spotted instantly, when I was asked where the spark-plugs were!!! I do now know 🙂 What followed was talk of plugs, carburettors, fuel pumps, air filters, combustion, fuel lines and batteries. I nodded and scratched my chin in all the appropriate places. I did end up sucking petrol from a 30 year old fuel hose, which was as unpleasant as I imagined it would be, but alas Clara still wouldn’t start. And by now her poor battery was dying 🙁 My lovely neighbours loaned me a battery-charger and reassured me that after about an hour Clara would leap into life… Lots of thumb twiddling followed, but alas, an hour passed and Clara still wasn’t starting!!! Mr Mechanic/Campervan had now finished work and like a true superhero, he was winging his way through the rush-hour traffic to sort it out… Which he did, almost instantly!!! A tiny drop of petrol was syringed down into the carburettor and Clara leapt into life 🙂 Mr Mechanic/Campervan wished us luck, downed his beer (it was the least we could offer) and sped off into the sunset…

So we did finally arrive at our Staffordshire campsite, but only after stopping off at a nearby Sainsburys to re-buy all of the chilled food I’d forgotten to pack!!! Our site, as I said earlier was rather lovely and a good time was had by all. The monsoon weather did hit us pretty hard on the Saturday evening/night, but we had an awning, chocolate and alcohol, so all was fine. Our friends who’d inadvertently left one of their tent windows open were less fine. With their tent minus one dry bedroom we offered to cram all of the kids up into Clara’s pop-top, which seemed to please all concerned, and surprisingly three kids actually fit in quite nicely…

It would be lovely to end this tale by saying that, apart from the initial hic-up Clara performed beautifully for our weekend away, thus putting our minds at ease about our impending European adventure. Alas we did have another rather bizarre issue which I’m still trying to research. At about 4.30AM on the Sunday morning, with the rain lashing down and our camper crammed with bodies, Clara’s radiator-fan sprang noisily into life 😯 Engine was naturally off and the keys weren’t even in the ignition!!! I’m not hugely ‘aware’ at the best of times. You can image what 4.30AM does to me!!! I think more by luck than judgement, after randomly unplugging & turning switches the fan did stop. Only to leap back into life an hour later, and this time the only cure was to actually start the engine up. God only knows what our fellow campers thought was going on???

So there you have it. Another eventful outing in Clara and my shite mechanical knowledge is expanding rapidly. ‘Clara goes to Spain’ will happen next week, and hopefully, ‘Clara returns to the UK’ will happen two weeks later?