Where is the dipstick?

Today, I spent a LOT of time searching for the lever to pop the bonnet of Frankie open, so I could check the oil and, most importantly, fill the windscreen wiper water up again. To ease my frustration and humour myself, I imagined making a little book for a new car owner’s entertainment.

I’m sure many of you mums and dads out there are familiar with the great children’s book Where is the green sheep?

  • Where is the bonnet popper? (What’s the actual name?)
  • Where is the dipstick? (This would have to be the title, right?)
  • Where is the spare tyre? And the jack?

And so on … this got me thinking…

Frankie Dean is the new FD19-1 Jayco van-based campervan. It’s a Jayco conversion on a Fiat Professional Ducato van. So having a camper van/motorhome is really like a 2 in 1 – a new vehicle to drive at one end and a conversion at the other.

When I picked up Frankie Dean, the handover at Jayco was fab. The Jayco guys went through all the details about the conversion side of things super well, with loads of detail, explaining things in a variety of ways and showing me how to do things, then letting me have a turn etc. I couldn’t fault the experience. Jayco do this so well, ensuring you feel confident operating all of the conversion side of things.

However the Fiat side of things has been different, and I had thought at times that I needed a Fiat handover too.

There is a learning curve with both these areas. I realised that although I had got comfortable driving Frankie, there were some questions I had and some things I wanted to understand better.

So I  put on my big girl pants (while imagining they were mechanic’s overalls) and rang Fiat Australia. They popped me through to a place in Richmond Adelaide (after a diversion where they tried to send me to Salisbury) and I spoke to the owner Bruce. It was like a match made in heaven …  I had some questions and he suggested I come on in and he would run me through the Fiat side of things, and teach me how to check all my levels etc. He told me he likes to do this to help people develop good preventative maintenance habits when they purchase a new van/motorhome etc. How cool is this guy, I thought!

So I booked me and Frankie in to see Bruce to get some serious answers to all of my ‘where the hell is the …’ scenarios.

The day arrived and what a day it was. Whoever would have thought I’d have fun learning about car maintenance and the technical details of how a car works … but as they say… never say never! I actually had fun!

When we arrived at Manta Automotive Services at Richmond Adelaide – a small workshop bursting at the seams with vans, campervans, motorhomes and vintage cars – we were welcomed with a warm smile from the lovely receptionist on the front desk. (I say ‘we’ because I took my friend Dean who is a retired mechanic, in the hope that he would be able to remind me of all the bits I was likely to forget, plus, I like his company – thanks Dean!)

Bruce arrived in the office shortly thereafter, and, with a warm handshake, we all introduced ourselves and into his office we went. Bruce is one of those men who clearly is passionate about his field and wants to share his knowledge. Bruce has been in the automotive industry his whole life and is an engineer. Bruce was prepared and has done this handover many times; he covered  topics such as the battery, braking, the automated manual gear system, oils, fuel, tyres, servicing, warranty, checks etc. He showed us photos and car parts to explain how things worked and what damage could be done if the vehicle wasn’t cared for correctly.

Here is my list of the top tips I have taken away from my time with Bruce. I recommend anyone who gets a new campervan/motorhome visits a dealer and gets to know the car side of things really well too. My time with Bruce has made me feel so much more prepared and confident with Frankie.

Top tips from my time with Bruce

– Always open and close the driver’s door before you start the engine (sounds weird I know, but if you get in from side door for example, you may forget to open the driver’s door, but the action of opening it actually engages a ‘thing’ in the engine that has an effect on the battery).

– There are checks that need to be done every 1000 km. These are important and need to be done.

– Carry some Selenia oil and Motul brake fluid with you if you’re doing a long distance trip.

– Read your driver’s handbook.

– The first service needs to be done at 24,000 km or 12 months, whatever comes first (not 40,000 km as the sticker may say – that’s a European guide; it’s 24,000 for Australia).

– Although the battery is under the floor and tricky to get to, if a jumpstart is needed, there are little positive and negative points under the bonnet that you can use (no need to access the battery directly). One of these jumpstart points requires your key to open the little door.

– The FD19-1 Fiat is actually a manual van. It’s an automated manual with very clever technology that changes the gears (I like to imagine a little car man in there changing the gears when needed). Although this system is great, being able to use the van in manual mode is important to learn, as it will assist in conditions such as driving up and down steep hills etc.

– Practice driving the van in manual somewhere quiet and learn at which revs the van wants to change gears (I’m getting the hang of it now and like it).

– NEVER use the brake and accelerator at the same time! It’s a one foot van.

– Always use the handbrake on a big hill start; do NOT ride the brake.

– Always check oil levels with the van cooled down and on level ground. Don’t overfill the oil.

– When filling with diesel, don’t fill to the tippy-top; leave some room (this has to do with fuel pump and heat from road and expansion stuff).

– When driving, turn the water pump off in the camper and drain water from taps; this is a preventative measure around not getting leaks.

– Toyos tyres are great and conform to Australian standards; they can even offer a service where they weigh your van and decide on what tyre pressure needs to be in each tyre (how cool is that).

– Check tyres and rotate at servicing to maintain evenness; this is very important for safety.

– When choosing where to fuel up, bear in mind BP  ultimate/ Caltex premium diesel have a great reputation.

– Tyre pressure should be at 73 PSI.

– The tool box is kept under the front passenger seat.

– There is a drawer for storage under the driver’s seat.

– There is a phone/device holder that pulls up and out on the dash!

– There is a box , like a glove box but different, at the top of the dash that is linked to the aircon, so you can pop your snack or drink in there and keep it cool up the front.


So there you have it!

Fiat car care in layman’s terms.

Although all Bruce’s car care information was amazing, the thing that stands out above all is that kindness prevails. There are so many people who want to help and share their knowledge, and it is this – along with knowing how to do the 1000km checks – that makes me excited to hit the road and have some AdVANtures!

Oh – and, by the way, the bonnet popper is on the passenger side by the door …

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