Oh dear. I may be going full clique. VW T5 content.

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  • Oh dear. I may be going full clique. VW T5 content.
  • I’m looking at replacing a converted Mazda Bongo with a LWB T5 so the growing family can get a good nights sleep while camping.

    I’ve got a list of ‘would likes’ (tailgate, three seats up front, among others) and some ‘must haves’ (decent conversion, pop-top, air con) but is there anything specific issues with different models/engines I should be looking for or avoiding?

    Premier Icon IdleJon

    Clique? Or clichè? 😁


    three seats up front

    Why must you punish your passengers?

    Clique? Or clichè? 😁

    Heh! What came first? The clique, or the cliché? 😉

    (Yeah, OK. I probably mean cliché.)

    Why must you punish your passengers?

    Now this is why I posted the question. Not good then?

    Premier Icon mattbee

    It’s more like 2.5 seats than 3. Handy for putting your sandwiches on or at a pinch short journoes for tiny people who like being elbowed in the stomach every time you chance into 2nd, 4th or 6th gear.

    That is good to know – thanks.

    Premier Icon bodgy

    Three seats up front is a bad idea – you’ll want swivelly captains chairs. also, being able to step/reach through to the back is really useful.


    Basically as they say ^ The bench is made for getting people to work in the morning, not long trips. Twin captains (swivel-y for a camper of course) is far, far better

    Three seats up front is the best layout. Not big enough for three full sized people to travel in comfort but fine for two plus a kid. Where it really comes in handy is if you swivel it and then get a full bench of storage inside the double.


    I hope you’ve bought the stick man family sticker ready for the back window?

    Premier Icon mattbee

    We had a double with a swivel. It’s a bit of a faff to turn round (handbrake off, open passenger door etc…) and not actually that great as a lounging seat as the angle isn’t brilliant. Good for storage though.

    Gave up on the T5 in the end though as we got sick of playing ‘campervan terris’ and having to love stuff every time we wanted to get to other stuff and that was just 2 of us with a dog.

    I’m currently sitting on on one of the two sofas in our motorhome (both just over 6’ long), waiting for some new potatoes and pork chops to cook on the stove & in the oven. May have a shower before bed too. The whole thing is only 6.2m long so easy to manoeuvre on the roads, probably cost about the same as a used T5/6 conversion too. If you don’t need it as a daily driver I’d wholeheartedly recommend a coach built motorhome or even a PCV conversion over a T5 tin tent especially with a kid thrown into the mix. We loved our T5 but wonder now how we made do with so little space.

    Premier Icon mattbee

    Bit to go back to your question, the layouts tend to be much of a muchness (3/4 r&r bed, units down drivers side.) Avoid cheap home conversions using mdf, go for decent lightweight ply.

    Top opening fridges are way easier than front ones as they can be accessed with the bed up and stay colder for longer as you don’t let as much cold air out when you open them.

    Smev combined job/sink is a good use of space although if you are intending to use electric hook up on campsites an induction hob is handy (can get a good cheap one from Ikea.)

    Solar panels on the pop top with a decent charge unit and b2b charger helps loads if you are off grid.

    A table mounted to the b pillar (with swivel leg and removable top is good as you can use inside from the swivelled seat or spin outside for use there for bbq food prep etc.

    On the subject of bbq if you are having gas think of fitting an external point to use with a gas bbq. Handy for cooking smellier/fattier stuff in a Cadac or similar to avoid the whole van stinking of sausages or steak.

    External thermal cover for the pop top makes a difference if used all year as does a decent (Taylormade or Silver Screens) windscreen cover.

    Wind deflectors on the front windows mean you can leave the front windows down a tiny bit to help reduce condensation. Flipping the heater/blower vents to recirculate also helps avoid wet inner windscreen in the morning.

    But get a motorhome.


    I do love a T5, one of the most mechanically reliable of the bus van things…..

    Stuff to look out for….

    Drivers side drive shaft has a habit of eating its own linkage teeth…. Felt as a clunk between gears as it takes up the slack.

    Rear engine mount can wear along side the above.

    100hp models are underpowered… Go 130 or 173hp 6 speed. The 173hp is pokey as f…..

    Rear slidy windows can leak

    Rear seats on the slidey rail mounts are better for camping purposes.

    Nothing to major or overly expensive to fix.

    Great vans, roomy and reliable…. Just don’t get a white one.

    So much sense said above, especially by mattbee ( apart from the gas BBQ nonsense obvs)

    So I won’t go into it again. I’ll just say….

    DON’T DO IT.

    we’ve had a great LWB T5 for the last 13 years since boy1 was born. It was great but the simple fact is that it’s too small for two kids and two adults unless the kids are small and get along very, very well.

    We did great till about 2 years ago when the younger one hit 10 years and now it’s just not possible to camp in it any more. The upstairs coffin just doesn’t have enough room for two preteens

    Unless your kid’s are very very young, or you can guarantee that neither of them is about to turn into a bawbag then get something bigger.

    I’ve just re-read the OP and the bongo… growing family bit.

    Don’t do it unless you love changing cars frequently. Think about what you’ll need in two years time and buy that now.

    If you do insist on getting one then buy mine so I can buy something bigger 😁

    Got a SWB converted camper in the usual format. The pros and cons of the bench seat up front vs two seats are valid and depends on how often you need to have 5 people in the van. Personally for me as a family of 4 I think I’d Prefer to swap out for two normal swivel captain seats as accessing the back with the bench seat is PITA, it doesn’t recline so not particularly comfy, the occupants slide all over when you go around roundabouts as it’s nit contoured so no lateral support and nothing for them to hold onto. And when there is only 2 up front the passenger seems miles away. But handy for under seat storage as has been said, but that is the only upside. Also having a rear seat that is on rails so it can be slid forward would be a far better feature than a fixed seat/bed and make it a much more convenient day to day or daily drive vehicle. Other than that it’s brilliant and I love it.

    But more worrying then that a T5 camper is not a roomy thing inside and the additional 40cm of length of the LWB won’t change that and just makes it more inconvenient to park and get in tight car parks and multi-story car parks. If it’s not a daily drive then less of an issue, but mine is and a SWB can go in a normal sized space so height becomes the only restriction.

    I think our family camping days are numbered. The kids are growing up fast and when 4 are confined in the van it really is quite claustrophobic and the extra length of the LWB won’t really help. It’s width you need also. We use an awning now on our main holidays and really only use the van for sleeping. It’s of most use for me personally when on biking weekends with mates so a bit of an extravagance to have just for that. As much as I like it I think i’ll Be getting rid next year. We’ve had some great holidays in it, but camper vans of this size are a massive compromise for families. And the dream of off grid camping adventures out in the middle of nowhere never really materialised for us.

    I would rent one for a weekend and give one a try. Not cheap to rent for a weekend for sure, but a lot cheaper than ‘investing’ in a van and it not working out for you, so could be money well spent in the long run. Kids have a habit of growing and you will run out of space really really quickly.

    Picking up our T6 at the weekend, this thread sure is getting me excited……🙄

    Premier Icon mattbee

    Nah, they are great as long as you accept that they are basically a metal tent you can drive around in.

    Its just when you want to take bikes etc and be away for a length of time or are away in continual wet weather they can be a bit wearing.

    Ours was at its best when we did lots of 1 or 2 night trips to the Purbecks climbing, spend all day out and about, evenings in the Square and Compass then back to crawl into bed.

    But  now we tend to go for a bit longer, move around a bit  and take both the dogs and bikes we’d not be able to cope  with the lack of space.

    Loss of people love them and never get anything bigger. Some of us decide to upsize. Horses for courses.


    We’re sitting in ours now in the North of Scotland. It’s ace, I love it but wouldn’t want to be in it with more than the 2 of us and our pint sized dog.

    We’re talking about something bigger, along the lines of a Ducato. You can stand up in it and we’d be able to squeeze in a permanent bed across the back.

    BUT we don’t drive it every day, and I wouldn’t want anything bigger than a medium Ducato/sprinter etc.


    I have a T6 Kombi which is used for work 95% of the time but is used for the odd weekend away and kipping in. I wanted to keep it simple so got one of those Infinity Customs https://infinitycustoms.co.uk ply beds which are dead easy to put in and out when needed, plus one of those hubi solar chargers for phone and lights, really good – https://www.maplin.co.uk/hubi-10k-kit-5060043532970. Plus a cheap Decathlon tarp to put on the side if very sunny or raining, wind deflectors, stick on thermal blinds and I insulated behind the panels. So pretty well sorted for 2 of us on short trips. Current van has captains seats which I prefer to the previous bench in our old one. Passenger one obviously comfier and easy to step through but yes you lose the storage but I got ply boxes made over the wheel arches with lifting lids for this, oh and some of those IKEA shoe hanger things.
    So overall the VW does the job well for general work/life but if we still had our kids with us and were going for longer stays I would get something bigger for sure as others have said, and if it isn’t your main form of transport, why not just hire a proper motorhome when needed? We’ve hired a really big Peugeot thing when more of us going, with all mod cons, was £60 + vat a day last summer.

    Wouldn’t want anything bigger, there’s just us two and a 6yo but we’re generally away in it ten or twelve weeks a year around Spain, France and sometimes up to the UK. It’s a 7 seater multivan t5, we’ll sleep in it for a stopover (fold seats flat and chuck mats over them), put up the old Force Ten MK4 for longer stays or the big tent for a week or more. Cook under the tailgate, van gives us dry space to hang out in when we’re in the little tent and the weather comes in. For what we need, I can’t see much point in a bigger van or a California type thing. I’ve thought about it loads, a friend is selling his T4 Cali and I’m sorely tempted, but sure I’d regret it. The T5 is our only motor, not a daily driver but gets used every other weekend or so.
    It’ll scrape under a 1.8m car park barrier too, handy sometimes.

    Premier Icon steveh

    I have a fair bit of experience with transporters 2004 to present and do a few vans on the side to sell on, not campers but general upgraded vans or kombis. Happy to answer any specific questions or advise if you PM.

    Engine wise on older vans 1.9 over 2.5 – on average more reliable and cheaper to repair when it goes wrong. On newer t5.1 vans anything but 180 bitdi as this has a major flaw which needs a new engine to resolve. 84,102 and 140 are identical engine bar map and 140 has 6 speed box. 102 bhp is most fuel efficient and for most people fine to drive as torque is good. 2.0tdi is 2010 on in all vans.

    Genuine kombi opening windows in the sliding door and other side can leak but are generally easy to sort. Aftermarket windows are fine. There are a few things to look out for but what depends on engine.

    Genuine kombi opening windows in the sliding door and other side can leak but are generally easy to sort.

    Oooh. Not anywhere near Manc are you?

    So I’ve got a 12 year old T5 with leaky side windows. How do i fix them?

    PS. It’s not the drain hole. The metal in the slider mechanism is rusted to **** and so the plastic bits don’t fit together any more.

    £425 + car per side fully fitted at vw.



    Leaky Windows are easy to sort by going to a windscreen fitter and asking them to swap them for some aftermarket ones.

    We took ours to a guy in Kendal that was doing them for about £300 the pair a couple of years ago.

    Premier Icon hot_fiat

    anything but 180 bitdi as this has a major flaw

    Will second that. Avoid. Lovely engine if it’s been replaced though – far better than the 173ax lump.
    Beware that VW make 2 versions of the t5: the impeccably reliable T5 and the hideously crap T5. There’s nothing in between.

    Ours has 70k on the clock, it’s a 2011 caravelle 180bitdi with full VWCVSH and clean MOTs. This is the list so far since July: failed sliding door deadlock, electrical fire #1 (heater control pack), drop links, ARB bushes, diff leak (x3), diff lock failure, haldex pump failure, failed sliding door runners, top mounts, electrical fire #2 (Air con loom) and now its consuming oil so probably needs a new engine. Still adore the useless teutonic heap. Waiting on a new build.

    I hope you’ve bought the stick man family sticker ready for the back window?

    😆 Yeah. No.

    If you don’t need it as a daily driver…

    At this point in time it would be an occasional/daily driver, otherwise I agree.

    Thanks all for above advice. Some very good stuff. I should add – there’s three of us (two adults, one six year old who is gaining height daily and the main reason for looking bigger).

    Because we already have the Bongo I have an idea of what we want (top entry fridges are awesome, and as for sliding seats – oh yes! One of the reasons I love the current van. But everything with a pop-top seems to come with a fixed rock and roll…)

    We do want to do some more touring (we’ve previously been to Croatia and have sights set on other parts of Europe), but realistically we’re after a glorified day/weekend van that isn’t too uncomfortable for a few weeks away, which has got me thinking a little more about looking at a Kombi instead. It would make more sense as a daily driver and be better for lugging bikes/boards around, as well as costing less. Food for thought.

    If we got a conversion it’d definitely be a LWB – I looked at one earlier today and the extra space over what we have now is very noticeable. 2007 2.5 174bhp on 98k, which everything seems to suggest is when the Gates stretch belt/freewheel needs replacing.

    Finally, thanks @steveh – I may yet be in touch!

    Premier Icon a11y

    We had a T5 LWB camper conversion. Great when it was just me + Mrs a11y. Still OK with me +  Mrs a11y + mini-a11y#1. But arrival of mini-a11y#2 was the end of ownership for us. Too small to accommodate the 4 of us plus bikes plus biking stuff plus baby stuff etc. We managed a few weekends away plus a 3-week Alps trip during which I’m sure we were bordering being overladen despite being a 3000kg model…

    We started 2 x single front seats. Swapped to double-on-a-swivel to have the 3 of us up front but was a PITA with mini-a11y’s baby seat. Swapped back to single passenger seat but then meant kids travelled at other end of van from us which wasn’t easy (road noise made conversation difficult).

    LWB over SWB every single time.

    Seat/bed on rails – if we do a conversion again this is a definite. Forward for travelling then move back for living.

    Replaced it with a caravan plus a dual-cab (Kombi-style) Transit which works better for us, although I really miss not having it for family daytrips etc.

    Premier Icon hot_fiat

    everything with a pop-top seems to come with a fixed rock and roll

    Do you want a california beach then? Basically a caravelle with a pop top and one SLD. Rear bench/bed and the seat rail system is genius. You can then get modular units to go on the passenger side for camping.

    Mister P

    I have nothing to add but I look forward to seeing pics on instagram PMJ.

    Do you want a california beach then? Basically a caravelle with a pop top and one SLD. Rear bench/bed and the seat rail system is genius. You can then get modular units to go on the passenger side for camping.

    This sounds like it could be another wormhole to explore.
    Back in a bit… 😉

    I looked at one earlier today and the extra space over what we have now is very noticeable. 2007 2.5 174bhp on 98k,

    Can I ask how much they were asking for it? Vaguely trying to see how much more cash I’d need to upgrade mine to a WildAX


    Premier Icon hot_fiat

    You definitely don’t want to look at slide pods either.


    Gates stretch belt/freewheel needs replacing.

    The gates couplings aren’t the end of the world to replace but get genuine freewheels. I had 2 fail in quick succession, genuine one has been fine since.

    There’s a few issues the 2.5 has, if you’re thinking of getting one I can give you an idea of what to look out for.

    You definitely don’t want to look at slide pods either.

    They are naughty. That’s all.


    Slide pods look great if you spend most of your time a lot further South where it never rains but rubbish for the UK (unless you put a tailgate awning over it). We spend a lot of time inside ours hiding from wind & rain, mostly in Scotland.

    Premier Icon Spud

    Avoid the 180 BiTDi!!!! Ours goes in today for a new engine following the manifestation of a known issue with it, VW (dealer and UK) would offer a derisory 10% towards the ‘repair’. Needless to say we’re going independent. Shame as we love the van and don’t want rid any time soon.

    Premier Icon brassneck

    Have a T4 Caravelle and treat it much like bob_summers above. We have two tents (one big one with rooms for the 2 weks of summer, little one for weekenders). With 5 of us and dog, a camper was never going to work, but I can rig up reasonable overnight or two sleeping space for me and the eldest boy if we can’t be arsed to pitch.

    It’s tatty but it rocks. Back seat out saves 30Kg and adds a bit more load space. Throw it all in, head for France. Back home it just swallows greenery for tip runs, or bikes – 5 people and bikes in decent comfort. 2.4 L no turbo takes a geological age to get up to speed, but has been reliable so far, and not too bad with fuel.

    If you really can’t be bothered with camping I guess the camper has an appeal, but we’re waiting on that for retirement and the boys leaving home (so likely never then).


    I’ve just bought a T6 Kombi 140ps TDi to use a daily driver and a family wagon at the weekend.

    It’s been insulated and carpeted inside and so far I’ve spent one night in it sleeping on a canvas camp bed and it was far better than a tent, just need some of those blackout / insulating blinds and I’ll be set.

    Haven’t got any intention of converting it to a camper at the moment, but probably will do in a few years.

    Currently I’m overly excited about getting it lowered on Monday – apparently I’m having a mid-life crisis, but hey I dress up in lycra a few times a week and ride bikes round in circles and loops for fun, so I’m not too bothered about that 😉

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