Techenders - a very different VW event.
Bowling through France on our way to a Mediterranean campsite last summer, I noticed that my indicator stalk seemed to be blinking at double time when I turned left and at normal time when I turned right. I pulled over, walked round the van and saw that my rear roof mounted indicator light was not working. (Roof mounted because my Bay is an ex-ambulance). Having checked that the bulb was fine I then located the earth connection and found that the holding screw had come loose thus breaking the circuit and so leaving us without a working indicator. I cleaned up the contact points, tightened up the screw and we were on our way again.
My wife was flabbergasted. Not only had I fixed what appeared to be a pretty serious problem, but I had done so calmly, logically and with an air of knowing what I was doing. Joy had always known that my technical expertise extended no further than putting in the petrol and turning the ignition key – where had this newfound expertise and confidence come from?
Basking in the rare glow of Joy’s admiration, I had to come clean. At the previous Techenders meeting I had watched as another ‘newbie’ with a similar issue had been guided through a successful repair. But what had stuck in my mind was that the guy doing the guiding then took the trouble to explain the basic principle - every electrical unit is on a circuit and needs to be properly earthed. Months later I was able to apply that principle to my non-functioning indicator and resolve the problem. No need to go to a garage or to trouble my breakdown service.
So what is Techenders? In some ways it is easier to explain by describing what it is not. It is not an official VW event, it is not owned by anybody, it does not have a timetable, there is no organised entertainment, nothing for sale, no admission fee, (only your campsite fee), and no pressure to conform with the ‘VW scene’.
Techenders is something that has evolved over many years and has been driven by different people in different ways but always underpinned by an ethos of mutual help and support. It’s for people who want to understand how their pride and joy works, and are prepared to get their hands dirty in the process. At Techenders they will find someone who knows that bit more than they do, and who is prepared to share that knowledge. It’s a throwback to a time when people recognised and valued the concept of ‘community’. A time when people maintained and repaired their own vehicles. When vehicles and engines were simple enough for people to learn to work on their own cars. And, crucially, there were friends and family who were happy to teach them. Those days are long gone and the bond between a modern car owner and his vehicle has been broken forever. Not so at Techenders where the almost emotional attachment that people feel for their old vehicle drives a desire to take personal charge of its well-being and its future.
Don’t get the idea that the activity is confined to basic repairs and maintenance like fixing my broken indicator. In the few years that I have been going I have seen just about every job from changing the oil to changing the engine. I have helped with taking out windows, putting in gearbox seals and adjusting suspensions. My very first job was to put in new fuel lines in my very smelly, and dangerous, engine bay. Eddie, the campsite owner and fellow enthusiast, let me use his hydraulic ramp which made the job much easier but I still got covered in petrol. I learned a lot – and ended up with a much safer van.
What gives me, and people like me, the confidence to have a go at these jobs is the reassurance that you are not on your own. There is always someone who is prepared to give guidance if things go wrong. In all the time I have been going to Techenders every van has been driven off the campsite at the end of the weekend, albeit sometimes quite late in the day!
Sounds idyllic - but it must be said, Techenders is not for everyone. There is no point going if you want others to do the job for you; they won’t. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty then take it to a specialist VW garage and pay them to do it. Likewise, you will need to do your homework. Get a manual and read it. I f you want to do a certain job it is best to check with the experts on TLB what tools and parts you will need to bring before you come to Techenders. You will need to take the initiative when you get there – nobody will come and ask you what jobs you want to do, or what you want to learn. You need to find out what’s going on, who can help you – and maybe even, who you can help. It is a self help group and everybody is expected to contribute, even if it is just providing an extra hand or making a cup of tea.
It goes without saying that if you want your entertainment laid on or if you want a selection of bars, food stalls or VW tat then you would be better advised to go to one of the many VW shows. You get none of that at Techenders. That said, when the day’s work and learning is done, people like to have fun. You are with like minded folk, you’ve shared the work, the tribulations and the successes. It’s just that, like vehicle maintenance and repair, when it comes to having fun the emphasis is very much ‘Do It Yourself.’
Techenders is normally held twice a year, in April and September. If you think it is for you why not join The Late Bay Forum where it is very popular.