Caravan advice: technical queries and answers
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If you have a caravan problem and need advice, read on. There's not a lot our regular caravan DIY guru, Lee Davey, doesn't know about caravans and, as always, he's been on hand to answer all your technical queries.
Take a look at the latest caravan-related questions Lee has answered...
Carrying bikes on a caravan
Q I have a towball bike carrier for my three bikes that I have had for a few years and have been very pleased with. I am now looking at buying a caravan and the issue of where to put the bikes has arisen.
Jim Blackstock’s excellent article in a previous issue of Caravan magazine showing the Thule A-frame bike rack could be the solution as it enables me to keep using my roof box, too, when towing. My question is if I was to get a carrier with the option for a third bike what size A-frame would I need please?
I presume the three-bike set-up is only compatible with certain caravans. Are you aware of which manufacturers would support this carrier? I will be looking at purchasing new this year.
A Carrying a third bike creates issues with both size and weight, especially when trying to fit them on the A-frame of a UK caravan. However, Bailey (baileyofbristol.co.uk) designed the Discovery’s A-frame as a load carrier with a storage box or cycle rack available from primaleisure.com, or your local Bailey retailer.
This Thule rack has an optional third rail attachment. The weight of bikes and rack would need to be factored into your caravan’s payload, etc, but with bathroom scales to hand and some careful planning regarding additional caravanning kit, it could be a handy way to let you take bicycles with you on each trip.
Caravan toilet care in the winter
Q I won’t be using my caravan until 2021 and I’m preparing it for winter. I’ve drained water from the boiler, etc, but do I need to do anything with the pink liquid in the toilet flush?
A Yes, the flush will also require draining, but it’s a straightforward job. Most caravans will have a black pipe located inside the edge of the toilet cassette door frame. This pipe is usually clipped out of the way and isn’t always obvious. Unhook the pipe, remove the stopper, and drain until empty.
First time caravan tips
Q We’ve just bought a caravan and we’re in the process of planning our very first trip. Are there any dos or don’ts that you would recommend?
A Our first trip was a wintry 200-mile round trip to Dartmoor with two young children. My towing experience was limited, and I had little idea of what kit to bring. Learning from this, I’d suggest a site close to home that will allow you to get to grips with the caravan, where you can pop home if you forget something (like we did).
Caravan sites are full of people who are only too happy to lend a hand, so don’t be afraid to ask. Caravan produced a beginner’s guide in the October issue which might be worth a read.
Best caravan layouts for families
Q We have two children aged eight and six. We’ve looked at caravans with fixed beds, single beds, and bunk beds – which layout would you recommend?
A I’d suggest a bunk bed layout as they have always worked incredibly well for us. With a bunk, the children’s beds are always ready, they have their own space, and they can jump in the minute you arrive on site, no matter where you are in the world. Secondhand caravans with bunk layouts are popular, meaning that they tend to hold onto their residual values well.
Do I need to clean and grease the caravan towball?
Q Do I need to grease the tow ball? Some people say I do, while others say it should be clean and free from grease of any kind. Help!
A Both answers are correct, although it depends on which type of hitch you have. The vast majority of caravans are fitted with a stabiliser hitch which has two levers – one for coupling the hitch to the towball, and the other that presses brake-type pads to the towball.
This type needs the ball to be free of paint, grease, or any other contaminants. Older caravans may be fitted with a more traditional hitch, one that requires a greased ball to work correctly. These are easy to identify as they have a single, relatively short lever.
Caravan awning recommendations
Q I’m looking for an awning that’s quick and easy to put up. Preferably, something that doesn’t weigh a huge amount and can be left under the seats until it’s needed. We’d probably only use it for shade on a sunny day and wouldn’t need something enclosed on all sides. Can you think of anything suitable?
A Sun canopies are incredibly popular on the Continent and could be just the thing you’re looking for. Within 10 minutes, they slide into the awning rail and poles/ropes secure them in place. We use an Isabella sun canopy and the only photo I can find shows it with the ‘flying’ caravan we made for Bognor Birdman.
I’d suggest taking a sun canopy down before going to bed because the wind can play havoc with them. There’s nothing worse than taking one down at 3am in your pyjamas.
Wheel damage after a caravan tour of Europe
Q We have a 2008 Elddis Odyssey caravan. This (after a few modifications) is ideal for us as we are both old and one of is disabled. We have had a few structural problems such as rot and floating floor at the front (caused by Croatian roads a couple of years ago).
Last year we travelled Europe to Greece and stayed there for two months in a Covid-free area. We encountered Italian roads on the way there and back! The front floor to side fixing has again broken. I also managed to damage the jockey wheel and removed the A-frame cover to fix it.
I have noticed from the camera I have on the back of my towing vehicle, that, when travelling, the caravan front moves up and down relative to the A-frame chassis (now visible) on rough roads. I do not see how this can happen unless the chassis is actually bending, presumably at the wheel axle? Is this possible, is it fixable and have I done anything wrong?
A First, congratulations on your European tour. Road conditions can be ‘challenging’ when country-hopping and Romania would be a good test when your Elddis is shipshape once again. A caravan chassis is delivered as a single unit and relies, partly, on the floor for strength when the main chassis rails are bolted in place during construction of the caravan.
However, there seems to be a lot of variables here with broken fixings, rotting floor and vertical movement. This makes it incredibly difficult for a remote diagnosis and it may be worth asking for an independent inspection.
I would visit approvedworkshops.co.uk and search for a local engineer. I have used Approved Workshop technicians before, and they’ve been helpful and incredibly knowledgeable. Please let me know what they find.
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