Bongo Archives 5

This is where you can find responses to all the enquiries that nurse has received over the years here at the Bongo Clinic. We have broken the information down into categories.

Please select the category you require.

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Q: My headlights are turning a horrible yellow. What do you recommend? (Andy from Leicester).

A: Different people recommend different products. Persoally we use Autoglym, but others have used Autosol, T-Cut, Xperol or even (for the thrifty), toothpaste!

Q: I’m going to change the Automatic Transmission Fluid. How much do I need to put in? (Richard from South Shields)

A: It takes between 4.5 and 7 litres. Measure how much you drain out.

Q: I’ts me again. While I’m at it, I’m going to change the Differential Oil. How much does it take? (Richard from South Shields)

A: 1.2 litres for the front, and 1.4 litres for the rear

Q: Does anyone know what the fill capacity for a Bongo 4WD front Diff and LSD rear diff are so I can buy the correct amount of oil? (Ronaldo from Wilmslow)

A: Front: just over 1 litre. Rear: just under 2 litres.

Q: Where is the oil filter situated on the V6 Bongo? And how much oil does it take? (Tim from Epsom)

A: The oil filter is on the passenger side, easiest to reach from underneath, you can just do it without removing the lower engine cover. It’s quite small and can get quite tight. It takes 4.5 litres with a new filter.

Q: Can you tell me how to change the air filter? There’s no fact sheet as I suspect it’s such an easy job. (Davy from Birmingham)

A: Yes, it is very straightforward. It’s on the driver’s side. Lift up the seat, and there’s a big black cylinder below. Undo the clips, and there it is!

Q: My sediment warning light has come on. What causes this? (Andy from Canterbury)

A: This can be caused by 1 of 4 things. You should check these in the order shown. 1) Sediment tank (small plastic container at base of fuel filter) is full of water, if so drain the water out. 2) Fuel filter itself is clogged. 3) Contaminated fuel in tank. 4) Alternator not charging correctly (sediment light acts as warning light for this particular fault).

Q: I see that K&N Filters have released a performance filter for the Bongo part number E-9280). But will they make any difference to the performance of my vehicle? (Baz from Basildon)

A: These filters cost around £40 to £45 and are available from niche suppliers. Their main attraction is that they can be removed and cleaned, and will last for the lifetime of the vehicle. Early reports indicate an improvement in mid-range power and increased pick up speeds. There is no affect on MPG.

Q: I’m going to change the oil myself. But I need to buy the right spanner. What size is the oil sump bolt? (Otto from Manningham)

A: 19mm

Q: How much transmission oil does the gearbox take? (Steve from Newcastle)

A: 4 litres.

Q: What do you recommend for flushing through the fresh water tank as it will be unused over the winter? I tried “Milton”, which is the stuff used to sterilise baby bottles, but it left a taste and a smell that reminded me of vomit. (Tom from Edinburgh)

A: You could try Aqua Tabs, which are dissolvable sterilising tablets, or Towsure Puriclean, which is powder based.

Q: We changed the oil over the weekend. The engine is running smoother, but it makes a rattling noise, which turns to a more muffled normal engine note, when the oil light goes out in 1 – 1.5 secs. The noise is absent first thing in the morning, also if left for 10 mins, but after 15 – 20 mins. it makes this noise. Could it be something sticking? The oil used was Halfords turbo diesel 10-40. (Helen & Tony from Milton Keynes)

A: I’ve used Halfords oil myself in the past and found that they go a bit thin when hot. What’s happening is that the hydraulic tappets are probably a bit worn and when the oil is hot they deflate, causing the rattle. I would suggest using better quality oil next time… in the meantime an additive (such as Wynn’s) might help. Ensure you buy the right additive (petrol or diesel) for your engine.

Q: How do I remove the door lining in order to access the interior of the drivers door for maintenance? (Brendan from Winchester)

A: Thanks to Mick from Portishead for this. “First remove the little grommets that conceal the Philips screws around the sides (they simply pop off), and undo the screws. Next, undo the screws that are slightly concealed in the door release lever and the door recess (the plastic oblong recessed square bit you pull to shut the door). Then take a wide bladed screwdriver (cover the end in a bit of fabric to protect paintwork), and lever the panel away from the frame. Once you have created a little gap, you can get your fingers between panel and door and prise the panel free. However, the top edge of the panel is recessed into the door frame, and needs lifting out of its groove, whilst pulling backwards and upwards. Once the panel is off, it is still connected to the door by the door release handle and some push fit connectors. At this point I had some difficulty in continuing with removal, as the clear plastic sheet lining was impeding easy access. Life was too short to work my way round this problem, so I ripped off the plastic and put it in the bin. Maybe my door will now rot to pieces, but I don’t care, and anyway, everything seemed bone dry either side of the plastic membrane. The door release lever needs to be unhooked (there is a little clip which needs to be lifted from the release lever bar.) The connectors can simply be pulled apart. Reassembly is obviously all of the above in reverse, but connecting bar and clip was a bit tricky. Although it sounds difficult, the whole operation took about 15 minutes. Have fun.”

Q: Our oil light stays on for a few seconds after starting and the engine is noisy until the oil pressure comes up. I’ve checked the oil level and change it regularly. It never used to happen, but now it happens whenever it has sat for a few hours or more, so when all the oil has drained back into the pan. Does this mean a new oil pump, or is it more likely to be a bearing or other problem? If it is the pump, where can I get a pump from (Mazda quoted £280) and is it easy to change? (Helen & Dean from Wickford)

A: A faulty oil light is commonly caused by either low oil pressure due to a problem with bearings, faulty oil pump, a faulty sender unit or a faulty switch. If a new pump is required, we are not aware of any alternatives to Mazda parts, but it is just possible that the Ford Ranger oil pump may be the same. But nobody knows for sure. It could also be due to the make of oil being used in the engine. If the problem persists, the only way to be sure it’s not the oil pump is to get the pressure measured. But would think it’s fairly unlikely if the oil light stays off when idling. The correct oil is 5W-30 Diesel Extra.

Q: I tried to service the van on Saturday, and although the oil change and oil filter renewal went swimmingly…where’s the air filter gone? It’s big enough, but I’ll be damned if I can see where it goes. Or the fuel filter? And while we’re on the subject, where do the glow plugs go? Why aren’t they readily visible either in the top or top/side of the engine block? (Mark from Devon)

A: I do believe you have folded back the passenger seat and found the oil filter and dip stick BUT you have not folded back the drivers seat where you will find the air filter and the very neat glow plug installation. We all do it!

Q: I have a V6 2.5 petrol engine Bongo. It goes like the clappers. But what happens when it goes wrong? Do you stock spare parts for these Bongos? (Malcolm from New Milton)

A: We stock some parts and they are increasingly commonly available from many outlets. (15/11/04 Paul Creaney adds although Mazda has a 2-3 day delay on parts (unless you are lucky) Ford has a 5 day wait (Dagenham Ford) but the parts are somewhat cheaper if you can wait – sometimes cheaper enough to warrant a hire car in the delay!). When looking for parts, remember that the Mazda Bongo Friendee V6 engine is not the same as the Ford Probe or the Mazda 626, which used the “KL” 2.5 v6 engine, The bongo used the “J5-DE” 2.5 L v6 engine (DOHC 4 valves per cylinder), or the 2.0 litre v6 SOHC “JF” engine (12v). (Thanks to BigDaddyCain).

Q: Do you know how to change the fuel filter? It looks like it screws out/in but any advice or top tips would be appreciated. (Johnny from the Forum)

A: It’s refreshingly simple. Put your hand underneath the filter body and follow the wire to its nearby connector, disconnect it. Get a good hold of the old filter and unscrew it from its mount, it’s similar to an oil filter. When it’s loose keep it vertical as you withdraw it as it is full of diesel which you need to decant. Unscrew the plastic water sensor from the domed end of the filter and clean it up a bit. Discard the old rubber seal and replace with new small one which should be with new filter. Refit the sensor and screw it in tight. Make sure the mating face on the filter mount is clean and the big seal is seated properly on the new filter. Give it a thin coat of clean diesel and refit. It will need to be tight but not overtight, about 1.5 turns after contact. Refit the electrical connector, run engine and check for leaks, no bleeding required. Finally, dispose of old filter sensibly, eg, give to local children or bury discreetly in neighbours garden.

Q: I’m considering changing the automatic gearbox oil/fluid but I can’t find a drain plug or the fluid specified in the manual. Do I have to remove the whole transmission oil pan to change the transmision fluid? (Dean from Wickford)

A: You can use an automatic vacuum pump for this. (£60 from Sealey) You can also use this to drain your oil. (Update 15/8/04: You can do it yourself if you are brave. There is a factsheet in the members-only area of the site).

Q: Where do I find the Sediment tank in order to drain any water build up in my oil? (David from Long Eaton)

A: It’s under the driver’s side hatch, towards the rear of the engine, near the auto gearbox dipstick.

Q: I’ve figured out the service intervals from the owners manual, but can you tell me how often to replace axle oil, transmission oil and air filter? (Sean from Cheam)

A: Good question! All I can give you are the recommended service intervals for a Ford Ranger pick-up, which has a very similar engine.
Axle oil replacement: Regreased every 24,000 miles. Replaced every 2 years.
Transmission Oil Replacement: 24,000 miles or 2 years, whichever first.
Air Filter: 30,000 miles or 30 months whichever first.

Q: Although it is high summer here in Yorkshire, it won’t be long before the nights turn colder and the permafrost sets in again for another 10 months. Although I change my glow plugs on an annual basis, I am still a bit concerned that my Bongo will have difficulty starting in the morning. Is there anything else I can try? (Bessy from Greenhill)

A: Try spraying Bradex Easy-Start on the Air Filter, but do so at your own risk.

Q: And what about synthetic v non-synthetic oils? Which ones are recommended for the Bongo (John from Skelmersdale)

A: It makes no difference. The oil needs changing every 6,000 miles anyway. Use the best quality oil you can afford and change it regularly.

Q: I only get 18 MPG out of my Bongo. Which is rubbish. What can I do to improve things? (Robert from Bodmin)

A: There are generally 7 main causes of excessive fuel consumption, I’d eliminate them one by one if I was you:

1) Heavy right foot!
2) Vehicle loaded with heavy accessories
3) Fault in the emissions system
4)Dirty or clogged air filter
5)Incorrect tyre pressures or sizes
6)Faulty fuel pump
7) Faulty fuel injection system

NB: Fact sheets on the following related subjects are available in the members-only area of the site. 

Aircon & Alternator Belts (2 litre)


Black Smoke


Fuel Filter

Fuel Strainer


MPG Improvement

Oil (finding the dipstick: an idiot’s guide)

Service Schedule

Servicing (petrol Bongos)


Winter Preparations


Q: How many Bongos are left on the road in the UK? (Phil from Melton Mowbray)

A: According to the excellent website as at 23/04/23 there were 9,673 Mazda Bongos (all variations) legally registered in the UK. This compares with an estimated 28,000 in April 2009.

Q: We have a year 1997 Ford Freda 2WD diesel in for service at our garage. All is well, filters changed, new brakepads fitted etc. But there is a really annoying “whining” sound coming from behind the dash whenever the engine is running. Have you come across this before? (Brenda from Redhill)

A: Way back at the dawn of Bongo Fury, even before we had a Forum, this issue was raised at one of the early meetings. I recall that it was caused by the button on the trip meter sticking following a reset. Wiggling it from side to side cured the problem.

Q: Oh no! I went to order a new rear propshaft for my 4WD diesel Bongo only to find that they are no longer available. Other than a Bongo breaker, any idea if I can get the old one reconditioned? (Dave from Cullompton)

A: Leeds based Dunning & Fairbank should be able to sort you out. You can phone them on 0113-2499-788. Or visit their website at

Q: I have driven my Bongo a few times recently and at the end of the journey I have realised that the front passenger seat floor is wet. Does anyone know why this might be? And how to fix it?  (Ben from Cwmbran)

A: Assuming it’s not the wife, you need to establish whether it is water or coolant. The rear heater return pipes are under the near side footwell and have been known to leak. But if it’s water check the door seals and maybe the windscreen seal. If still no obvious leak, then maybe get it dried out and then run a garden water hose carefully over the various external areas and see if you can spot where its coming in.

Q: My Bongo is a second vehicle and doesn’t get used much from October to March. I’ve assumed that I should start it up once a week, move it to avoid flat spots on the tyres, and put the aircon on full blast to stop the O rings from drying out. But is there are any definitive answer to the question; How Often Should I Take My Bongo Out?  (Duncan from Cardiff)

A: I would take the Bongo out on their birthday, wedding anniversaries and other special occasions. You may also wish to take them down the pub for quiz night to break up the log winter evenings. Maybe Sunday lunch once in a while?

Q: I’m off to France and am a bit confused about the Critair Intiative. Also, I can’t find any headlamp deflectors that fit. I have a 2001 diesel Bongo (John from Neath)

A: The situation with the emissions criteria in France is changing all the time. At the moment (June 2018) if you want to travel in to Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Lille, Strasbourg or Toulouse (Bordeaux and Rouen will join shortly) you must display a sticker that shows your diesel engine emissions. But because Bongos are not on their database you can’t get a sticker! So the advice is: use park and ride facilities. As for the deflectors, we understand that the ones for a mark 7 Ford Transit (2007) will fit.

Q: Before I buy a Bongo, I would like to hire one for a week to see if it suits my requirements. Any idea who provides this service? (Brian from Rotherham)

A: There’s one not too far from you in Sheffield called Simply Cool Campers. We are also aware of the following firms: GoBongo (South Wales), Campers Scotland in Grangemouth, Midland Camper Hire (West Mids), Campervans4Fun in Stockport, JAL in Worcestershire, Bongo Experience (Shropshire), Bongo Holidays (Peterborough), Rent-a-Bongo (Derbyshire), Direct Campers (Ayrshire), and Little Movers in Norfolk

Q: We are driving down to Portugal in our 1996 Ford Freda but we are having difficulty obtaining breakdown insurance through the insurance companies on the Bongo Fury website. Do you have any suggestions (Harry from Chippenham)

A: Carol, here at Bongo Mission Control, has done some research on this and has found that the insurance brokers 2Gether will no longer cover vehicles over 10 years old, Lifesure will not cover vehicles over 15 years, and Greenflag have a 16 year limit. Which leaves, as far as we can make out, only the AA, RAC and the Caravan & Camping Club. Safeguard will also give cover if you are insured with them and their limit is 20 years. One of our members has also obtained insurance through the German motoring organisation ADAC.

Q: Can we use our electric hook-up in France? (Jon from Dymchurch)

A: The mains lead used here in the UK is a blue 3-pin plug & socket. Many sites in France, Germany & Spain use different plugs. To use your lead at these sites you will need to connect it to a lead with a 2-pin continental plug at one end and a blue socket at the other. You can buy these adaptors from good camping accessory shops for under a tenner.

Q: Can you recommend a particular type of cruise control system for a Bongo? (Bryn from Essex)

A: Try a Waeco MS50. But make sure you fit the vacuum pipes correctly, and install the control box in a sensible place.

Q: Foolishly I went camping on Anglesey in August and my awning was demolished by high winds in the night. I think it’s repairable, but the elastic in one of the flexi-poles has snapped. Do you know where I can get a new pole? Is it possible to repair the elastic? (Nevile from Birkenhead)

A: Most of the large tent/awning manufacturers have a pole replacement service available through their respective websites, but once postage is factored in this can be very expensive. A better alternative is to repair the elastic. See the rather excellent website for further information.

Q: If my Bongo breaks down, is it OK for the recovery man to tow me home? I have a 4WD automatic. (Alex from Bristol)

A: A vehicle with an auto box can be flat towed a short distance (no more than 2 miles to get you off the motorway ) whilst in neutral as long as you don’t exceed 15 mph. For full recovery home you’ll need a total lift flatbed truck. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s a 2 or 4 wheel drive.

Q: I’ve received a letter from Boris telling me that my Bongo is non-compliant for the Low Emission Zone and I will have to pay a £100 daily charge. Help! (Ken from Tottenham)

A: All Bongos are exempt from the charge, but if your vehicle is registered as a Motorcaravan on your log book, but no weight is shown, Transport for London will deem you to be over 2.5 tonnes and therefore non-compliant. You have to inform TfL that you are under the weight limit; there is a LEZ fact sheet about this in the members area of the website.

Q: I got fined by the Severn River Crossing plc for not paying the van rate of £11.50. I have always paid the car rate of £5.70 to cross in to Wales. The fine was £118.80 reduced to £38.80 for early settlement. I can’t afford to go to Wales any more, which is a bit of a shame as it’s where I live. Can anything be done? (Jenkins from Porthcawl)

A: You were stiched up. Bongos should only pay the car rate because they have under 9 seats, and windows along the sides. I’d appeal if I was you.

Q: Is it possible to take a 12 year old diesel Bongo in to Munich? I have heard that because the engine is not on their database, it is not allowed. Is this correct? (Derek from Ryde)

A: Yes, absolutely correct. It’s the same in many German cities, and there are no exceptions. Use the Park and Ride instead.

Q: I have been told that I might have to pay £540 next year on my road tax as I drive a four wheel drive Bongo. Is this true? (David from Lewisham)

A: We have had lots of queries about this over the last few months, and although the situation is extremely confusing, we finally think we have got to grips with it all. Things have not been helped by campaigns of misinformation in the popular press, and poorly worded legislation from the government. But this is the way we understand it. The band that your vehicle falls in to is based on the date it was first registered in the UK, NOT the date it was manufactured. The emissions test at your MOT has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with your CO2 rating for road tax purposes. Look at your V5 document. In Part 4, Vehicle Details, if your “Taxation Class” is shown as “Motor Caravan”, then you will pay £185 up to 31 March 2009, and £200 from 30 April 2009. It does not matter if you have a CO2 figure on your V5 or not. The exception to this rule is where your vehicle was originally registered in the UK as a Car or Light Goods Vehicle, and the vehicle has been re-registered as a Motor Caravan, then you will pay duty as if you are still a car (see below).
If you are not registered as a Motor Caravan, or your vehicle has been re-registered as a campervan, and a CO2 figure is shown in Part 4 of the V5, you will pay £400 up to 31 March 2009, and £440 from 30 April 2009. This is based on a CO2 figure of 302 gm/km. Different rates may apply for later model petrol Bongos. If you are not registered as a Motor Caravan, and no CO2 figure is shown in Part 4 of the V5, you will pay £185 up to 31 March 2009, and £200 from 30 April 2009. And that’s it.

Q: I’m thinking of travelling to Poland next year, but as my vehicle is over 10 years old, I am having difficulty getting breakdown cover.

A: Lifesure (0870-366-1235) can arrange comprehensive UK and European cover for vehicles up to 15 years old. They act as brokers for Europ Assist, and will cover you for one year in the whole of the EU, plus Andorra, Croatia, Morocco, Switzerland & Turkey. It costs £70 for vehicles up to 10 years old, and £92 for vehicles between 11 and 15 years old.

Q: Last year, after a huge amount of hassle, I managed to get a Bongo (actually a Freda) registered in Spain. But… while they put me through the Spanish equivalent of the MOT to get my plates, they said I would have to change the lights in a permanent way before I do the Spanish ‘MOT’ again next year. The modification has to be permanent: putting the kind of stick-on light deflectors UK drivers normally use to drive on the continent will not be good enough. If anyone knows how to solve the problem I will be very grateful. (Declan from Barcelona)

A: You are not the first person to raise this issue, and a couple of fellow Bongonauts who live in France have come across the same problem regarding the French equivalent of the MOT test. In both cases they have had to abandon ownership of their Bongos. In France, the Bongo fails the test on 2 counts. Firstly that a sliding door is not allowed as the only exit from the rear as it is not “pavement” side, and secondly the headlights are pointing the wrong way.
On this second point, it would appear that the lamps are set in position and are unable to be easily adjusted in any way. But having said that, one of our members who is based in the armed forces in Germany has managed to get a local mechanic to remove the lights altogether, and then get them refitted and pointing straight ahead (in the American style). This was not an easy job apparently. Also, it would still not meet the legal requirements for even Spain or France (or Denmark for that matter, where we also have a member with the same problem).
So it looks like the only way you can retain your vehicle is by registering it in the UK, or driving up to Germany! UPDATE: Mark Lycett has come up with a partial solution to the problem of finding headlamps that would be acceptable for use on the “other” side of the road. It’s not ideal, but it does the trick: “I have had Seat Ibiza lights fitted and then I trimmed the grille down by about 3cm. Hopefully it will pass our local German equivalent of the MOT over next week. It cost 40 euros for the lights from a scrapyard and 60 euros to be fitted by the local garage. Grille trimmed with a hacksaw free!”

Q: Are Bongos still manufactured? (Kal from Leicester).

A: Production was discontinued in December 2005.

Q: How do I safely remove a steering wheel that has an airbag fitted? (Dan from Dundee)

A: First, ensure your wheels are aligned in a straight line and then lock the steering column. Secondly disconnect the negative battery cable, then the postive battery cable, and wait at least 2 minutes. You can now remove the steering wheel without any danger.

Q: Are there any technical plans available for building a kitchen unit to fit in the rear of the Bongo? (Colin from Padstow)

A: Indeed there are. Member Iain Sharp has built the following and has been kind enough to post the plans at

Q: My horn has stopped working. When I press the horn, I can hear a clicking noise, but nothing else works. All the fuses seem to be OK. (Frank from Tilbury)

A: You have to establish whether it is an electrical problem, or whether it is the horn itself. Disconnect the electrical connector from the horn and then connect a jumper wire between the battery and the horn. Then test horn. If the horn works, it is a problem with the switch, the relay or the wiring. If it does not work, you will need to replace the horn.

Q: We are planning to drive across Spain, ferry to Morocco, and the a drive along the coast to Agidir in August. What precautions should we take beforehand and what should we take with us? (The Mitchells from Romford)

A: I would take it in for a full service before you go. Get your your local Bongo friendly garage to replace all filters, and especially check that the coolant system and manifold gaskets including bolts are all sound. Get the aircon system serviced by a suitably qualified person. For your trip, take with you a full set of belts (aircon, 2 x fan belts, cambelt), bulb kit and spare fuses. You also need a warning triangle, and a reflective vest for the driver and each of your passengers. I would also seriously consider buying some insulated screens if you have not done so already. You may also wish to consider taking some knotted handkerchiefs.

Q: Is there any particular dog guard that fits in the Bongo? I am a bit worried that in a heavy braking situation, Tyson, who sits on the back seat, will hit me in the back of the head. (Barbara from Woodhouse)

A: (“Three Collies” from Chippenham responds): The guard that we have is called the Jumbo Dog Guard. Distributed by PetBrands and sold at Jollyes for £39.99. I’ve lashed it behind the front seats with a bungee, where it prevents the dogs disturbing the driver. It extends to fit right across the bongo, from the floor to the roof – but the Bongo roof is not firm enough to keep it in place. I have to remove the dog guard completely to gain access to the engine. It’s made of fairly robust metallic tubes, though, and is therefore the first dog guard that hasn’t been chewed through by the Border bitch (Tasha).

Q: Why is it called a Bongo? (Lindsey from Buckingham)

A: Believe it or not the inventor of the Mazda Bongo, Takeashita Inamoto, named it after his favourite biscuit. As he said in an interview for “Grey Import Monthly” (October 1998), he was looking for a name that was easy to pronounce in any language in any part of the world, and accidently stumbled on the name Bongo by spelling the name of Japan’s favourite biscuit (Og-Nob) backwards.

Q: I bought some Glowplugs through the club, but they were the wrong size. I thought all pre-99 Bongos had standard size Glowplugs? (Eddie from Cedar Avenue)

A: All Bongos up to VIN 300306 were manufactured to use 83 mm plugs. Vehicles after this VIN were manufactured to use 65mm plugs. Both of these are stocked by the club. However, there is a third (and possibly a fourth) type of plug that has been fitted to some Bongos, especially late 95 through to mid 96 models. This plug is 102mm long. These were used because of a scarcity of the 83mm plugs in Japan for a while, so modifications were made to the glowplug rail, usually through a series of bolts to raise the rail higher. Which is why some Bongos require longer plugs. I now stock these. It is advisable to check the length of your Glowplugs before ordering.

Q: Is it compulsory to get my km/h speedo converted? (Alan from the Bater Motel)

A: It is illegal not to know what speed you are doing in MPH. Some garages will convert the speedo with an electronic chip device. Or you can fit a new MPH speedo face, easily found by an internet search for ‘Mazda Bongo speedo face’.

Q: What is that little hole with a rubber flap for that’s located in the internal lifting roof just by the sliding door at front? (Simon from Dorchester)

A: We did suspect it could be used for 3 things:
1) When the kids are sleeping up top, an electric lead can be fed through the hole so they can watch TV, play X-Box etc.
2) It can be used for a spot of indoor golf.
3) When entertaining elderly relatives in the Bongo, colostomy bags can be emptied without Grandpa having to get up in the night.
We now know it allows movement of air as the roof is raised or lowered.

Q: Where is the reservoir for the rear window wash? (Neil from Kent)

A: The same reservoir is used for front and rear windows. If you lift the hood, the reservoir is on the right (ie passenger side) at the extreme front of the vehicle.

NB: Fact sheets on the following related subjects are available in the members-only area of the site. 


European Travel Guide

Figure of 8s

History of the Bongo


Low Emission Zone (seperate factsheet for Scotland)

Models (all the different types of Bongo & Freda)

MOT (the May 2018 changes)

Selling Your Bongo

Solar Panel

Speedo (how to fit one)

Speedo Conversion

SVA Test


Q: After 4 days camping in the rain, it was time to go home, but my roof wouldn’t come down. I checked all the obvious (handbrake on, engine running, connector at rear of handbrake etc) but I think something got wet, and the mechanism wouldn’t work. So I removed the motorsm and then manually shut the roof, as per the instructions in the owners manual. But how do I get the roof back up again? (Terry from Chatham)

A: “splitpin” posted this on the forum: “Raising the roof was difficult by myself and would have been much easier with with a helper, I found it could only be lifted about an inch at the front initially and after wedging with rubber blocks I could access the slider arms with a long wide screwdriver and push them back a little at a time and then support the roof with pieces of wood one side at a time. Eventually at about the half raised position it tends to stop trying to come back down by itself and gets much easier to push up.”

Q: I know that JAL in Worcester do the mushroom roof which you can put on a low top Bongo. But is there anyone out there who will install a fixed high-top roof on to a low-top Bongo? (Mick from Wigan)

A: We have heard that Keighley (West Yorks) based Drivelodge will do this for you. You can contact them on 01535-637777.

Q: My roof is stuck halfway. I have tried all the obvious checks (handbrake on, fuses, engine running etc). It sounds like the motors are working OK, and it’s making the beeping noise. Is there an electrical control unit anywhere on the vehicle? (Anna from Reading)

A: Indeed there is, but it is very difficult to access. It is situated inside the vehicle, behind the panel, just above the driver side rear wheel arch. In there you will find a small bolted-on box. This is what you need. It may be that you just need to clean the contacts….

Q: Can you raise the roof with a box on? If so, what is the maximum weight that you can carry? (Sarah from Acton)

A: It is recommended that the fully loaded weight should not exceed 60 kgs, with a raise-the-roof weight of 20 kgs.

Q: We have just purchased a mattress for our Bongo. However, the mattress design does not seem to fit the roof space so we can easily close the roof hatch. It sems that the roof hatch opens the wrong way, or the mattress design is back to front. Can anyone advise? (Daniel from Silchester)

A: The T-shape part of the bed should be places at the front of the vehicle, the U-Shape part at the rear. That way, when you are in the roof with everything in situ, to exit, you lift the flap on the bed and move it forward, and then open the hatch by pulling it towards the rear of the vehicle.

Q: On the Auto Free Top, what is the width across the roof between the threaded holes? (Jim from Mitcham)

A: Centre of hole to centre of hole is 109.2cm.

Q: What size thread should be used in the roof holes on the Auto Free Top? (Chris from Teesdale)

A: M8.

Q: I’ve seen roof lowering kits advertised on ebay. They seem to be quite expensive though. Are they available anywhere else? (Lizzy from Featherstone)

A: If your roof gets stuck and won’t come down, and assuming that you have tried all the obvious things (handbrake on, ignition on, hit “lock cancel” button), then you may have to resort to the procedure laid out in the owners manual (pages 172 to 174). It actually mentions “Prepare the tools from the glovebox” and I assume this is the kit you refer to. But actually, all you need is a length of strong cord, and a 9mm allen key.

Q: I am very close to buying a Bongo and have been researching thoroughly for the last 3 months. My only remaining question is regarding the access to the roof bed and the safety of those sleeping there. I am planning on my 3 year old and 6 year old sleeping there. How do they get up there and how would I get them out in the event of an emergency? As far as I can tell they would be sleeping on the access hatch. I would be very grateful for any advice. (Jackie from Reading)

A: There’s no easy way to do this I’m afraid. Your 6 year old will be able to clamber up the seats and into the roof OK, but your youngest will require a wicker basket and a system of pullies and levers, or a good shove to get up there safely. You are right about emergency access. If they are asleep up above and blocking the hatch, you would have to push the hatch open from below. But there is another method of escape from the roof by unzipping the canopy and sliding down the windscreen to safety.

Q: Do you know if there is a maximum weight limit allowed in the upper sleeping compartment? I am 15 stone and my wife 10ish (Vince from Nuneaton)

A: The official load capacity is 150 kg. So it all depends how “ish” your wife is.

Q: I tried to raise the roof the other day, pressed the button and nothing. It appears to be stuck. The hand brake was on and the gear selector in the park position with the engine running but nothing happens when the roof button is pressed. Not even a murmur from the motor. It lowered normally the last time I used it. I’ve checked the 30amp fuse under the dash and that is ok. Are there any other checks I can make? (Mike from St Ives)

A: It could be the hand brake indicator light switch, which is situated behind the hand brake under the centre cover. It’s a crude looking device left out in the open and can easily not make contact.

Q: Although my roof goes up and down OK, the warning light stays on at all times. Where do I find the sensor? (Paul from Hampshire)

A: (Thanks to Sony TV for this) With roof open a bit (1 foot or so) get out of drivers door and look up into rail for roof (on the movable bit). The switch above your head is the one for the beeper and light. This is the one you stick a bit of fag packet into to stop it beeping when you start the engine on a camp over – from what I remember it also turns off the light on the dash. It could just want cleaning or possibly faulty – or could be that the “fin” on the jacks is broke or missing. It works by breaking the contact when the roof is closed – if faulty these switches are ten a penny at your local Maplin or if you prefer, one a tenner at your local mazda dealer.

Q: Is is possible to have the small hatch cover in the open position when the top is fully closed? This is to utilise the glass skylight.(Shane from Bedlington).

A: Yes

Q: Should I be lubricating the arms of the rising roof on a regular basis? (Richard from Bradford upon Avon)

A: Chain lube in a spray can leaves a good film and chain lube also penetrates into the nooks and cranies. Available at good hardware shops.

Q: When lowering the elevated roof is it essential to have the sides of the roof tent tied back or can the roof be safely lowered with the roof tent sides fully zipped up? (Brendan from Winchester)

A: It’s perfectly safe to have the roof-tent zipped up.

Q: The netting on my elevating roof is starting to disintegrate. Is it an expensive repair job? (Anne from Harpenden)

A: AVA can repair this by replacing the whole net at a cost of £325 inc VAT. Or you can order a whole new canvas for about £600. Some members have removed the fabric part of the roof themselves, for DIY/seamstress/tent shop repair.

Q: It looks to me as if the sleeping space in the roof is fine if you are a Pygmy, or perhaps Japanese. But no good for a tall Welshman. What are the internal dimensions? (Bruce from Tywyn)

A: With the roof fully extended height is 1.08m at the front tapering to 0.25m at the rear, 1.07m wide, and 2.1m long.

Q: I have a rising roof. How do I get it down if there is an electrical or hydraulic failure? (Jason of Greenford).

A: It can be done by tying some rope around the rear struts, and pulling it down very slowly from the front of the vehicle. Full details can be found in the Owners Manual.

NB: Fact sheets on the following related subjects are available in the members-only area of the site. 

Auto Free Top

Roof Motor Repair