Caravan advice: technical questions and answers
Got a caravan problem and don't know what to do? Don't worry – our caravan DIY guru, Lee Davey, has loads of technical experience and is on hand with bags of practical advice.
Take a look at the latest caravan-related questions Lee has answered...
Caravan lock issues
Q I’ve got a Unicorn Cadiz Series 3 and the lock has fallen apart on the side locker. Can I buy a new part or put a different catch on it?
A Unless something has broken inside the lock the unit should be rebuildable. It can be a fiddly process, especially if the insides ‘ping’ apart when released, but its possible to gently peer inside the accompanying lock for points of reference. If a new unit is required, primaleisure.com sell OE Bailey parts with a VIN or model-specific search facility.
Q I’m thinking of purchasing a twin-axle caravan. Do I need motor movers fitted to one axle, or both?
A A quad mover – a motor on each wheel – allows the caravan to pivot around an axis, making it easier to take tight turns when required. It also gives greater traction on slippery surfaces.
However, these extra motors will eat into your caravan’s payload. When fitted with a twin-axle control panel, motors powering just one axle take a wider arc, and you may need to go forwards and backwards to take a tight turn. We have a twin-axle Bailey Phoenix with a Truma mover fitted to just one axle.
Q I’ve just had a new tow bar fitted. Some people say I need to remove the black paint on the tow ball, while others say I should leave it. Who’s correct?
A They’re both correct, it just depends on the type of hitch fitted to your caravan. The majority of caravans are fitted with an anti-sway hitch from ALKO or Winterhoff. These hitches have small pads which push on the tow ball itself when the lever is pushed down.
Paint contaminates these pads, so the ball should be cleaned back to bare metal with 400 wet & dry sandpaper, or similar. If you have brake cleaner or panel wipe to hand, a final clean removes any contaminants.
Older caravans with a single lever hitch aren’t fitted with these anti-sway pads, so the paint can stay, but this type of hitch does need a smear of grease before attachment.
Carver heater in need of repair
Q I wonder if you know if anyone does a repair service for Carver heaters? Ours failed recently tripping the site EHU – it is a Carver Turbo Fanmaster model 5500. Or alternatively do you know where I could buy a secondhand or reconditioned unit?
A A&R Electronic Developments (arelectronics.co.uk) are Carver repair specialists and operate a postal service for certain parts. I’ve spoken to them before and they are incredibly knowledgeable. Or, KTG Caravans (ktgcaravansandcampers.com) specialise in secondhand parts and they may have a replacement in stock.
Fridge door not closing
Q My fridge door keeps opening when we are travelling, even though it’s meant to be fitted with a travel lock. The instruction manual says I should push the outside of the handle to engage it, but it still opens. Help!
A Fear not, I’ve been here myself and once I’d returned the fridge contents to their rightful positions in the Eurotunnel car park, I found the solution. Push-to-lock systems need to be adjusted correctly and this is easy to do with a screwdriver.
The catch fitted to the main body of the fridge needs to move in or out a few millimetres at a time (depending if the door is tight or loose) until a push to the handle results in a faint click from the mechanism.
Tyre tread maintenance
Q The tyres on my caravan have plenty of tread left, but a friend says I need to replace them when they reach a certain age. Is this correct, and if so, when should I change them?
A Tyres degrade over time and even though they may look like new, the carcass can suffer. It’s recommended that tyres should be changed every five years and if you’re unsure when they were last changed, a date of manufacture can be found stamped on the sidewall in a four-digit format, e.g. 1120 would be November 2020.
What gas for a tour of Europe?
Q We’ve bought a caravan and would like to do an extended tour of Europe in 2021, or beyond. I understand that gas bottles can differ between countries and we wondered if there’s a simple solution?
A There is indeed. Gaslow (gaslowdirect.com) make a refillable gas system with one, or two, of their bottles fitting neatly into your gas locker. These bottles can then be filled from the LPG pump at service stations, with nozzle adaptors available for specific countries. I was part of a team that towed Bailey caravans through 21 countries in 21 days and the Gaslow system worked incredibly well.
No heating or hot water in our Bessacar
Q We bought a 2001 Bessacar Cameo 535sl. When we got it back and managed to try it out, we had no hot water or heating. Not sure if we are missing something, we have tried with both electric and gas but no luck.
We are new to touring so don't know if we are doing something wrong. Have seen something about a red switch to reset the tank but can't find it, I'm not even sure how you fill it. We get cold water through the tap from an Aquaroll. Attached are pics of the panel and there is a switch under the fixed bed which says water heater on.
A First, check the RCD board to make sure that nothing has ‘tripped’. This board is similar to the one in your house, with switches marked ‘on’ and ‘off’. Make sure all are on. There’s a reset button on the rear of the heating unit itself, which may be red, or could be under a black screw-in cap.
Push the reset button in. While at the back of the unit, check the fuse (model specific). Open hot and cold taps until you have a steady steam of water from both. Turn the heating/hot water on, making sure the timer isn’t set for later in the day. If the temperature remains the same 30-minutes later, it may be worth contacting Graham Cutmore (grahamcutmoreengineering.co.uk) who specialises in repairs to this type of system.
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 you scratch your head, we are on hand to help.
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