Your caravan questions - answered
Got a caravan problem and don't know what to do?
Don't worry; caravan DIY guru Lee Davey is on hand to help you out, as he answers a selection of your technical and practical caravan questions.
Remember, you can buy digital issues of Caravan magazine from our online store here.
Tackling a caravan paint job safely
"I bought a beautiful caravan recently that I want to repaint. I saw some videos on YouTube where they turned old caravans into ones that looked like new and now I want to give my caravan a fresh colour.
I’ve done some research on the sort of paint I need and I think I will need to spray coach enamel. I’ve never used that sort of paint, but I assume I will need some sort of mask to protect myself from the paint fumes. Is a simple disposable respirator enough or do I need proper protection when I work with enamel paint? Have you ever renovated a caravan and do you have experience painting the outside?"
"If you’re thinking of spraying a caravan with coach enamel, you will need a respirator that’s equipped with a canister/filter that can deal with the associated fumes. Don’t be tempted to use a dust mask or similar. It’s also important to protect your eyes, so framed goggles that ‘seal’ against your face should also be added to your shopping list.
However, coach enamel can be applied in other ways and it’s worth considering a method where the paint is applied by a gloss roller and ‘laid off’ with a good quality brush. Most UK caravans were painted this way until the late 1960s and I used this method on our 1967 Bailey Maestro. There are some fantastic tutorials on YouTube and this is where I began. It’s a very user-friendly way to repaint a caravan, especially if working outdoors, where practice and patience can achieve great results."
Changing controller for my caravan
"I’m considering changing my Truma controller for a Victron controller but I really want to know if all this will be adequate for me. Any idea?"
"Am I correct in thinking that you’re looking at an MPPT Victron Solar Controller? Maximum Power Point Tracking controllers can harvest increased energy levels on cloudier days but it’s worth considering a few other points. Truma solar systems often come with a five-year warranty, so it’s worth checking your system to see if it’s within this warranty period.
Do you need more power than your current set-up can offer? If not, it may be worth sticking to your current (no pun intended) controller. Give it some more thought before you switch over entirely and consider the cost implications of making the change."
Would a reversing camera in my caravan help me?
"I have my towing mirrors but it’s a bit of a faff reversing onto the pitch, especially when I’m on my own. Could a reversing camera make life easier for me? If so, what would you recommend?"
"There's variety of reversing cameras on the market and the last system I fitted sent the signal to the head unit via a wire in the 13-pin socket, which worked rather well. Often, wireless systems require a 12V feed from the caravan, but send the picture wirelessly to the head unit. Garmin’s BC30 is a reversing camera that can wirelessly pair with a Garmin or Avtex sat-nav, reducing windscreen-mounted devices.
To see if a reversing camera would work for you, Facetime two iPhones (or similar), placing one on the rear of the caravan with a suction mount (the type you’d use on a car windscreen) and the other phone on another mount in front of you."
Do I need a wider mirror for my caravan?
"My question is, with caravans getting wider, is it possible for mirror manufacturers/designers to develop a mirror system for the wider, 8ft caravans? My wife likes to knit while we drive to sites. And although she has the seat right back, she still manages to block view in the nearside mirror on occasions. It would be nice to see a version where, while attached, the mirrors are in line with the car mirrors and not halfway down the door. Can you advise on an alternative, or alternate brackets I can purchase to achieve this?"
"That's a good question! Milenco produces a range of mirrors, arms and mounts aimed at the 8ft-wide caravan market. I’m a big fan of its Grand Aero mirror (with the standard, flat glass) and I’ve used them in temperatures ranging from -20 to +45 degrees Celsius with no issues whatsoever. The Grand Aero is a popular product that has been around for years. It gives a great field of vision and, coupled with Milenco’s longer arms (which are available separately), should give you the view you require when your wife is busy knitting."
Keeping my caravan clean during storage
"I keep my caravan on my drive (I’ve not found the right storage facility close enough to home) but unfortunately, it’s right underneath one of our biggest trees and, as such, is being used as a bird toilet! I seem to be cleaning it every other day. Any advice? I’d like my free time back!"
"I feel your pain! Birds seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to freshly cleaned vehicles, but a caravan cover could be the way forward. A multi-layered, breathable cover can be purchased in a range of sizes, or bespoke covers are also available. These covers are soft, strong and won’t trap any moisture between the cover and your caravan. Best of all, your caravan will remain as fresh as a daisy underneath."
A solar panel solution for caravans
"We have purchased a 2003 Coachman Festival 380/2 model, which has a solar panel on the roof. This seems to have worked very well during the last six weeks as there has been no other power to the caravan (parked on the drive) and the meter still shows a full charge. My question is when we use an EHU on site or at home, should I 'switch off' the solar panel.
Actually, I have no idea if you can switch it off as I have searched the caravan and can't find a switch. The answer has to be simple as I don't understand the electrics, other than I have figured out what works on 12V and what will work on 230v when we hook up."
"A roof-mounted solar panel is a great piece of fit-and-forget kit that will continually monitor your battery level, topping-up automatically when necessary. There’s no ‘off switch’ as the controller takes care of this and you don’t need to do a thing when using 230V hook-up, simply plug in and enjoy your caravan."
Got a query?
Our expert team is happy to answer your questions whether they relate to touring or towing, DIY or disasters! Whatever it is that's been causing you bother or making scratch your head, we are on hand to help.
Send your questions and any images to email@example.com
Write to Questions & Answers, Caravan Magazine, The Maltings, West Street, Bourne, Lincolnshire, PE10 9PH.
Buy digital issues of Caravan magazine from our online store here.