Cleaning and Insulating

My van is a 2004 Renault Trafic with about 165000 miles on the odometer. This was a bit of a risk as the mileage was pretty high and as it turned out, catastrophic failures and costly repairs were to become a frequent thing. But it was cheap and I couldn’t afford much more at the time. I also knew that Renault Trafic was and still is one of the most popular vans, sharing parts with Vauxhall Vivaro and Nissan Primastar, which meant that I would have no problems finding parts for it and most mechanics would know it well. Another thing that drew me to it was that it has a smallish engine (1.9L) and had 6 gears which would save me a lot of money on petrol.

When I first bought it, the panelling inside was soaked in diesel and smelled horrendous. I stripped everything out and cleaned all the gunk from 12 years of use. I then painted scratches and made sure there was no rust.

The next stage was insulating. It keeps the interior warm during cold winter nights and cool in hot summer days. There are many different ways of doing this but after a long time pondering on pros and cons of each method, I went with the following.

1. Glue heat reflecting bubble wraps to the body.

This bubble wrap will create a barrier between my moisture heavy breath and the cold bare metal, stopping any condensation from happening. I’ve read somewhere that we release upwards of a pint of water every day through sweating and breathing, and liquid condensation against metal will eventually cause the frame to rust.

Here’s a link to a site that explains in a simple way why condensation is bad and how to avoid it.

2. Fill the big gaps with rigid foam boards and use expanding foam to fill smaller gaps and cavities.

I soon found out that expanding foam insulation depletes quickly and worked out to be pretty expensive to use. Rigid foam was very difficult to fit around the subtle curves of the van too. A fiddly process that took far longer than I had anticipated.

I also learnt that expanding foam had to be let alone to drip and expand as it pleases. If you try and contain it, the bubbles pop and you’re left without much foam by the time it’s dry. They expand in ways you’re not expecting too, squeezing, rolling out of gaps and sticking to anything that brushes past. They are, however, very easy to cut to shape after it’s dry with a knife.

3. So running out of patience, with smaller places like the back door, I decided to use rock wool which was given to me by my neighbour for free. But I knew rock wool was really bad for you if you breath it, so I had to make sure all the holes were plugged and sealed tight. They also absorb moisture in the air and get wet and soggy. As mentioned earlier, water with metal = rust so best to avoid any moisture getting into it.

There are, however, conflicting views on this. Some say that however tight you seal it, some moisture will make itself into it and because there’s no air circulation, it’ll stay there and accumulate, resulting in rust. Having seen evidence of this in my solar panel (which I’ll get into in later posts), I’m now convinced that the best way is to bubble wrap the metal frame, as above, to prevent condensation, insulate it with natural wool and create plenty of ventilation so that it can dry off if it becomes saturated.

I say natural wool since it’s much easier to squeeze soft insulation into small spaces and although it might be a bit more expensive than rock wool or rigid foam/expanding foam, it’ll be super quick to do (maybe a day or two for the whole van instead of months it took for me) and it can be ventilated without fear of breathing in harmful dust like rock wool.

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