CAMPING - OWNER REVIEWS
This couple placed an order at a 2021 caravan show and finally took delivery in March 2022. A few months later they were still happy with their purchase decision, but they were not at all impressed with the ex-factory fit and finish.
Here’s their story:
We purchased through an official Windsor dealership, where the people have been friendly and always tried to help. Unfortunately, the hand-over was very rushed. The guy doing it was lovely, but he was clearly stressed about having to make another eight hand-overs on that day and we were only number two. This was frustrating, as we were first time motor homers.
We did own a Jayco pop-top camper for close to 20 years and did many trips in that, so we weren’t new to camping, just new to big rigs!
The lack of hand-over detail resulted in some frustrations on our first trip. It took ages to work out how to fold away and relocate the support legs for the Dometic awning: this should have been demo’d or explained.
Also, in our first weeks of ownership we spent about 30 hours removing excess silicone and silicone smears from inside and outside the unit, from one end to the other.
We also found the kitchen sink drain hose was kinked about half-closed, because it was simply about 50mm too long. We were able to fix that easily by shortening the hose and refitting it.
Likewise, the overflow hose for the Truma instant-heat hot water service was completely kinked closed, as it was also about 50mm too long and that also was easily fixed.
How could the unit leave the factory and the dealership with such issues?
We also noticed damage to the floor covering, a tear in a vinyl panel and a hole in the table laminated surface at time of delivery. The floor problem we could overlook and, at the time of writing, somewhere months after delivery, we were awaiting arrival of a replacement table-top panel and the dealer was planning to repair the vinyl tear invisibly.
On the day after we took delivery, we experienced very heavy rain overnight and when we inspected our new pride and joy, we found around 75mm of water in the compartment under the double passenger seat, behind the table.
Inspection of the roof showed that the rear edge of the fibreglass luton (nose cone) moulding is about 15mm higher than the roof it mates to, thus creating a nice little weir. Our driveway tilts about five degrees to one side, meaning that the resulting river of water poured over the side and ran down the outside wall.
This would have not been an issue if the two vent panels at the rear of the Dometic fridge weren’t smack in the middle of this river!
Of course, the dealer said they had never had this happen before and did not have a solution, simply saying it must have been how I had it parked!
Our solution was quite simple: sheet aluminium bent into the shape of two small awnings for these panels – problem solved!
Our first trip down to Tathra was great, but as you would expect, uncovered some initial teething problems. The biggest issue was that the shower stall would not drain, so after short showers we were left standing ankle-deep in water. We had to scoop and sponge out the water.
We took the motorhome back to the dealer and after three days they called to say it was ready for pick up. When we arrived they said that it was better, but still not great: it’s the best they could do.
We asked if they had contacted the factory, to ask how best to fix it, to which they repeated that they had done their best.
Back home, we decided to look into this ourselves. A brief inspection showed that the drain hose ran like a roller coaster from the shower sump to the grey tank: down-up-down-up. There were four points where the drain hose was bracketed to the underside of the floor, in a wave pattern, ensuring it could not possibly drain!
We re-attached the drain hose in a constant, straight fall and it drains perfectly.
Another thing we noticed when under the vehicle was that the four bolts retaining each water tank (fresh and grey) were fitted so that around 50mm of excess thread on each bolt were the lowest points under the vehicle – not ideal we thought. It was a simple matter to invert each of these bolts so that the excess thread went up into the cavity beside each tank, leaving the heads of the bolts tucked out of harm’s way.
The Truma A/C unit didn’t work from day one and that was rectified more than three months after delivery. Also, on our first trip, the impressive Dometic fridge stopped working on 12volt power and that also needed auto-electrical attention. It turned out to be finger-tight terminals at the 12V fuse block that had never been tightened correctly.
So as you can see, it has not been smooth cruising!
Another frustration was to find out that the options we had ordered 12 months earlier, when ordering the rig, had not been fitted at the factory – maybe not ordered by the dealer – awfully bloody annoying! We had ordered a second solar panel, an East Coast alloy bull bar, dual rear cameras and a power awning.
We ordered these options and agreed to their high pricing, thinking they would be fitted at the factory.
The dealer retro-fitted a non-matching solar panel and advised that the factory had fitted a second house battery that we hadn’t ordered. We finally agreed to pay for the second battery.
The bull bar had not been ordered and we were still waiting for it three months later.
While waiting for a delivery date for the power awning we found out that Dometic had discontinued this power awning, so we weren’t going to get it anyway! Why the dealer didn’t tell us is a mystery!
Interestingly, the dual rear view cameras – a $990 for this option – apparently couldn’t be fitted, because there was only a single wire from the front of the vehicle to the rear camera location. We found out that the factory option was a Safety Dave camera, so we called Safety Dave in Melbourne and explained the problem. They were unfussed and sold us two Y-cables and the dual cameras.
So, $350 later and around three hours of our labour to wire up the Y-cables, the dual camera mounting was done. Our opinion is that a dual rear camera arrangement should be standard anyway.
Why the Simpson
We chose the Windsor Simpson because of its layout – especially the island double bed that’s much easier to make up and allows us to visit the bathroom in the night without disturbing each other.
Spaciousness and storage space were also big plusses for us. However, as we now know, all this storage is internal, in cupboards and drawers. There are only two external lockers and one is filled with two 9kg gas bottles.
The second, larger, external locker is just behind the main access door and this is where the house batteries are located. The factory put these batteries pretty much in the middle of this compartment, so our next project is to move the house batteries forward, so we can fit the BBQ in as well.
The way the unit was delivered was extremely disappointing, but with about 50-60 hours of handyman labour we are getting there.
We’re very impressed with the Fiat Ducato. The nine-speed ZF transmission works beautifully with the power of the Ducato. We have done only 3500km thus far but are very happy with the on-road performance: it goes and stops really well.
The Alko chassis is also impressive, as the rear track is a wheel-width each side wider than the front track, meaning it is wonderfully stable in corners and on windy roads.
However, one frustration with the Ducato came on our last trip to Lightning Ridge. We were heading into Dubbo from Sydney and the AdBlue – diesel emissions exhaust fluid – light came on. We had prepared for this and had packed a one-litre emergency bottle of AdBlue. So we pulled over and added the one-litre, still having about another 100km to Dubbo, where the light came on once more.
At an auto parts store we purchased a four-litre AdBlue drum and a funnel, as the Ducato’s orifice is only about 20mm in diameter. Our take-away has been that truck stops with AdBlue bowsers are ideal to top up the AdBlue tank.
The AdBlue tank in the Ducato holds 19.5 litres – not listed anywhere we could find in the owners manual – so thank you professor Google! AdBlue consumption obviously varies, due to many different factors, including speed, wind, load and topography, but a rule of thumb from our calculations and experience thus far is allow about 100km/litre, if driving at the speed limit.
Our main concerns with driving the Windsor Simpson are the overall height and the length of body beyond the rear axle, meaning you have to watch for overhanging awnings and trees, and be very careful not to turn too soon and risk trashing the rear corner of your body work when exiting a gateway!
The three-metre height hasn’t been an issue thus far, but the overhang means a risk of bottoming the fibreglass rear bumper bar if going up a steep driveway. We’re planning a tow bar with steel bump stops at each end, to protect the fibreglass.
One thing we did find at the recent Sydney show was the EnviroPro alternative toilet treatment. The better half has a sensitive nose and didn’t enjoy the smell of the Thetford blue chemical. We switched to this new additive and can highly recommend it – virtually no smell and it seems to make a meaningful difference to waste breakdown.
We will do an update of our experiences at about the 12-month mark.