Caravan advice: tips for first time tourers, going off grid and more
If you need help with your caravan – perhaps there's a pesky problem you can't fix yourself – we're always here with practical advice and technical tips.
Lee Davey is a DIY expert when it comes to caravans. Every month in Caravan magazine, he answers your queries. Here, in his latest Q&A session, he takes a look at winter touring, tips for first time touring, caravanning off the grid, and more.
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Your caravan questions
Pneumatic jockey wheels
How do I find out if pneumatic jockey wheels are rated for the noseweight of my caravan?
There are two types of jockey wheel tyre generally available – solid or pneumatic – both of which have positives and negatives. A solid jockey wheel tyre can be noisy over gravelled surfaces but the positive is it will not suffer from punctures, whereas a pneumatic tyre is both quieter and easier to manoeuvre over rougher ground.
However, it is susceptible to punctures and the tyre can also be pushed from the rim.
The Kartt jockey wheel may be worth looking at. Because I have yet to use one myself, I asked the Caravan & Motorhome Club’s Technical Department for clarification. It said that Kartt uses a solid rubber tyre, which will not puncture and will be quieter than a solid plastic unit over gravelled pitches.
It’s also has a maximum load of 250kg. Caravan & Motorhome Club members also receive a 10% discount if bought via the Club's online shop.
We really like the idea of caravanning off-grid (especially at the moment) but we’ve never done it before. What kit do we need and what do we need to do ahead of time? We are thinking of a short break – maybe just five nights. Any advice appreciated!
Generally, caravans are already equipped for off-grid living thanks to 12V lighting and gas-powered appliances such as hob, cooker and fridge. If your leisure battery is 110Ah (or larger), fully charged and in good order, it should be enough for a five-night break.
In our Bailey Phoenix, we managed seven days with a 110Ah battery and still had enough oomph to power the motor mover. You’ll also need enough gas for the duration, so a spare canister would be a good idea. If those five nights leave you wanting more, a solar panel, such as a 100/150W unit, will be a worthwhile investment as it will recharge your battery during the day.
Tips for first time touring
I’m new to Caravan magazine and wondered if you could recommend a sort of dummies' guide – we love reading the magazine, but we would also benefit from some sort of manual. We are hoping to go out as soon as the lockdown is lifted and just want to arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible! Any recommendations?
Caravan magazine has produced its own comprehensive guide called Your First Caravan and the latest issue can be purchased here: caravan.ma/firstcara20
You'll find it packed full of information from how to go about choosing your own caravan to pitching it and even hooking up.
I've been caravanning for years now and also recently wrote a beginners' guide to caravanning for Bailey of Bristol, which can be found on its website: baileyofbristol.co.uk/owners-beginners-guides
It’s written in plain English with each step being an easy-to-follow, bite-sized chunk. I hope it helps.
As soon as you start heading out on the campsites you'll soon discover that people are more than happy to help you out – after all, everyone was a beginner caravanner once!
I wish you the best of luck with your exciting new hobby and hope to see you on a site someday in the future.
Do I need to take a B+E Test to tow?
I’m really confused about towing and hope you can help. We’re looking at buying our first family caravan (a four-berth) and people have told us we need to do a B+E test. Is this true? If so, how much is it and how do I go about doing a course? I feel quite nervous about the thought of taking another driving test as it's been years since I did my original driving test.
There’s a lot of confusion surrounding B+E entitlement and whether caravanners who passed their driving test after January 1997 need that additional E qualification. The B category allows drivers to tow a combined maximum weight of 3,500kg (3.5 tonnes). This figure is the gross, or maximum weight, of both car and caravan.
You didn’t mention what car you’d like to tow with but, as a lot of modern four-berth caravans are surprisingly light, there’s every chance that the overall weight will be at or below 3,500kg, allowing you to tow with your B licence. Should you need B+E, lots of centres around the country offer training, with fees ranging from around £500 to £750, depending upon your level of towing experience.
Both the Caravan and Motorhome Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club can recommend suitable courses and are a good place to start. Taking your B+E will give the option to tow much heavier units and can give you added confidence when towing, as you'll learn lots of techniques that will help you be a better driver.
Of course, we can't do much about those other drivers who see a caravan and decide to start driving in an erratic fashion. If you decide to do the course, there should be a good centre that's close to where you live. Good luck finding the caravan of your dreams and be sure to relax – towing is easy once you know.
Keeping warm in the cold
All being well, we would like to tour during the winter (we are both retired and have the time), hopefully in Europe, but worry about bad weather. How can you prepare your caravan/car for winter touring? I’ve heard something about making sure you have the right gas, but it’s lost on me! Please help!
Winter touring is highly recommended and is something everyone should try at least once. Depending upon the country chosen and the conditions you’re likely to face, your caravan may require winter tyres, snow chains, etc, and it’s worth checking things like antifreeze and screen wash.
Winter tyres are legal requirements in some countries at certain times of the year so do your research beforehand. Caravans don’t require a huge amount of preparation and a Grade III insulated caravan with a relatively modern heating system can cope with surprisingly low temperatures.
I took a Bailey equipped with a standard Truma Combi heating unit 300km inside the Arctic Circle during the Finnish winter and it performed perfectly well. If you’re planning to use an Aquaroll, temperatures a few degrees below zero can be dealt with by covering both the inlet hose and the Aquaroll with a tailor-made cover or a normal padded coat with the hose running through the arm!
Arctic temperatures mean keeping water inside the caravan and not emptying it down the sink. Gas usage is easily sorted thanks to refillable systems and we used a Gaslow set-up, which allowed us to fill via the LPG nozzle at service stations. Have a fantastic time and keep warm!
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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Write to: Questions & Answers, Caravan Magazine, The Maltings, West Street, Bourne, Lincolnshire, PE10 9PH.