Camping-van Problem-solving en France
So, it’s been an interesting fortnight at Motoroaming HQ as we took time out to see our French friends in Toulouse as we were in the area. We hoped that they could help us navigate our way through resolving an ongoing problem with our shower, buy new batteries, get a service booked and contact the local Pilote dealer where we could get our annual Habitation Check sorted. We’re due up in December and given that we’ll not be back to UK until March, we needed to sort something out in France or Spain.
Whilst Myles’ French is pretty good, when you’re on the spot trying to find the right technical vocabulary, it’s a challenge and can be stressful. So we hoped that having a Frenchman supporting us, we would nail these tricky manoeuvres with the dexterity of a slalom kayak!!
However it’s not been that easy and the ensuing chain of events has created some important learning that we wanted to share for anyone in a similar predicament whilst in France and more particularly for anyone out there having to resolve issues with their Pilote. So here’s today’s Classroom of learning!
- If you need to replace your leisure batteries find a Battery Specialist found in most reasonably large towns. Take one of your original batteries in with you so that you can be sure to get like for like. One of the most important phrases we needed to use was to ask for a Slow Release Battery for a Motorhome which in French is Décharge lent pour un camping car. The two new batteries cost €320 and although we had to order them in, it only took 48hrs.
- We have a December 2015 Pilot P740 and we had the idea from somewhere that we had a three year warranty. This is not correct. We have had it verified that we have a 2 year Mechanical Warranty and a 5 Year Body Warranty. So do check what you have so that you can make informed choices.
- If the timing of you being away means you need to get a vehicle service done in France then ask a local for a recommended Garagiste rather than using a dealer as it will be significantly more expensive. You need to ask for Une révision annuelle. The mechanic should be able to source your specific oil and filter although we bought ours from a Car Parts shop, which you will find in most large towns. Expect to pay €56 for a filter and 5 ltires of oil on top of which you will need to pay the mechanic’s labour.
- A service that includes the oil and filter change is called a Vidange in French
- If you need to get a Gas and Electric test (rather than have it done as part of your habitation), then that is a Contrôle de gaz et electrique, which you can get done at a motorhome dealer.
- To protect your Warranty you will need to have your Habitation done as close to your anniversary as possible. If this happens to fall whilst you are outside the UK then this shouldn’t be a problem. We were advised that we must go to a Pilote dealer to ensure that any future claim was not null and void and that a note of our Habitation could go onto the central Database. There are two parts to your Habitation; The Gas and Electric check (see above) and the Body Check (which is the bit you need for your 5 year warranty.) We tried phoning the local Pilote dealer in Toulouse only to be fobbed off with a ‘He’ll call you later,” and of course never does. We suggest you physically go in ask to be booked in for one. We had ours done within four days and cost us €123. It took four hours in total, partly because there were other people in front of us.
- The phrase for arranging the Body Check part of the Habitation is: J’ai besoin d’une Contrôle d’étanchéité pour mon camping car, s’il vous plaît.
- If you own a Pilote, then it is possible to arrange to have your Habitation deferred for up to three months, as long as you contact your Dealer and put this in writing. We have been co-ordinating with Martin Storey, who is a Pilote UK Agent, who has been terrific in helping us to navigate our issues. He confirmed that although it would be better to get the Habitation done around our anniversary date, if it was impossible then Pilote would be prepared to defer it until we got back to UK as long as this was within three months.
- If you are away in France and have an issue that falls within your warranty, you do have the option of sorting this out directly with your Dealership in UK, although you can also get this done in France at an appropriate dealer, if you’re with Pilote. Other brands may have different arrangements, so it’s important that you contact your dealer in the first instance.
- If it requires urgent attention and you cannot return to UK to get it repaired – as in the case of our leaking shower, which has been an ongoing issue for 12 months, then (certainly with Pilote) this can be dealt with by any Pilote dealer in Europe. Once they open up a warranty claim it goes onto the central system and even if it cannot be dealt with locally, once it’s on the system then your dealer back home can deal with the paperwork. So with our shower, we had the option of trying to get the Toulouse dealer to resolve it, do a temporary fix and open up a warranty claim so that our Dealer in UK could resolve it when we returned.
- We’re yet to see if their fix has worked, although because of the paper trail that has now been undertaken, we will have plenty of recourse when we return to the UK.
A note for Pilote owners. The issue we have with the shower is the shower base doesn’t seem to be supported efficiently to the floor and so with pressure on the base, the edges come away from the back wall leaving a gap as the silicone cannot support the weight (and we’re not heavy by any means). Apparently this is a Manufacturing Issue and is common in Pilote vans, so be aware of this and ensure that more than just a re-sealant fix is carried out for you, otherwise it will return to bite you on the backside. In the Toulouse dealership they use Sikkaflex which is the best stuff on the market. We’ll see what happens over the course of the next couple of months.
Whist our French friend was terrific, much of this saga was negotiated behind the scenes with Pilote, so if you have any difficulties and you need support as a Pilote owner, then we suggest you contact Martin Storey, who is incredibly helpful. He is a Pilote Agent for UK owners and you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 00441902 256990.