Here’s Another Thing….

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Following on from my last post – Never Admit to Being a Caravan Designer (Well Not to Caravaners!) I was floored by the number of emails I received on the subject of design. So after our trip out to the Manchester Caravan & Motorhome show at Event City a few days ago, I thought I’d sit down and pen a few more thoughts on the subject.

I believe that if you store something where you use it, it will make your life easier. One of the big items that almost every caravan wrestles with is the Aquarol. its bulky, fairly lightweight when empty, often wet from the liquid sunshine we enjoy in the UK and  sometimes muddy. Where do you put it when travelling? OK, so you buy a bag to sort out the wet and muddy bit and maybe just put it in the doorway… or in the shower tray. That seems like a good place. Just carry it through your nice clean van and put it in the shower tray. Sorted…. unless you have a mid bathroom shower that has the shower ‘conveniently” located over a wheel so the floor has a step in it. The designers sell it as a feature… “You can rest your feet on it when showering” they say. However don’t stick your Aquarol in there if you have bi fold doors!

A fellow caravan enthusiast who shall be nameless – I’ll call him George… decided that this would be perfect for storing the Aquarol. He put it in the shower of his previous rear bathroom outfit for years without incident so no need to change anything. Upon arrival at site in with the first outing of the shiny new caravan all was going well until Mrs George popped her head out of the door and exclaimed to George that she could not get the Aquarol out. “It’s in the shower dear” exclaimed George. Irritatedly “I know that I can see it but I can get it out” came the rather louder reply. On examination of the problem George discovered that the carefully placed Aquarol had somehow shifted and was now preventing the bi-fold door from opening therefore stopping it’s extraction and subsequent deployment and use for brewing that much-needed cup of tea.

What’s the moral of this story? Well if you store something where you use it it will make your life easier. So as nearly all caravan users possess possibly one of the best inventions ever for transporting the splashy stuff about with ease why haven’t caravan designers thought about this? I was thinking of George when I was pondering the uses of this cupboard…..

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There is a matching one on the other side funnily enough… but what did the designer have in mind for these cupboards… shoes (who would want to put wet shoes away in there?) Handbags…. maybe but I prefer to hang mine on a hook. It looks great… on a computer mock-up but as for use, well maybe I have a better idea. As they are right at the back of the caravan you really would not want to store your collection of beach pebbles in them.

Instead of a cupboard, just block it off and instead create a wet locker across the back of the caravan and stick a door like this in it……

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… it may need a bit of adjusting size wise but imagine a wet locker accessed from the side that you use the Aquarol and wastehog on that you can simply throw these two bulky but relatively light items in… and there would be room for your wet and muddy mains cable too! All right where you need them.

Now here is an idea…. put the water inlet in there along with the mains inlet and a small hatch in the floor…. save on cutting holes in the side of the caravan and it means we all might just get away with using shorter mains cables!

Caution Vehicle Reversing

In a galaxy far far away… oops wrong blog…. I recently watched a chap valiantly trying to manoeuvre his caravan onto an awkward pitch using his motor mover. Stone walled raised bed one side, overhanging branches, awkward access angle all on a short pitch with a stone wall at the back of the pitch. Normally I’d postulate that the chap in question would have been able to perform this manoeuvre on a sunny afternoon with remote control in one hand, a mug of tea in the other while carrying on a conversation with the couple two pitches down. However at eight o’clock on a winters eve in near wartime blackout conditions required the use of a head torch (flashlight for my US readers) and a lantern held aloft by his partner and much wandering side to side and swivelling of the head to direct the head torch in the desired direction.

We don’t have a motor mover… for some reason Sue seems to take enjoyment from me sweating like a traction engine driver at a summer steam rally when reversing on to a pitch… but if we did, the question I’d have to ask is why don’t they have a 13 pin socket wired in so that you could simply plug-in the caravan’s road lights and turn on the reversing lights, hazard lights… heck even get the marker lights and brake lights to work. I’m sure there are people out there that have to detach their caravans on the road and reverse them into their drive and having simple flashing hazard lights and operational marker lights would be a good safety feature.

I have a small cunning device waiting to be fitted…. it consists of a remote key fob and a couple of solid state relays to be mounted in the caravan. On selecting reverse while seated in the vehicle I can simply push a button on the key fob and it will turn on the awning lights and can be made to turn on under floor LED flood lights to light up either side of the caravan. It stays on for a pre-determined time that can be adjusted so if you have to pull forward for a second attempt (highly likely) the lights stay on. Just waiting for a suitable time to mosey off down to the caravan storage site to do a test fit.

The Perfect Caravan

For those go you that have been following the blog for a while will know we have been flip-flopping like a stroppy teenager over getting a new caravan. Well we were…. then we weren’t than we were, then we changed our minds about what we wanted. Then we couldn’t;t find one and we changed our minds again… anyhoo we managed to tick more boxes off our list with one of these than any other…..

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So the question is….. will we or won’t we? Will there be a deal at the NEC in February to tempt us…. or will we wait until the August price slashing begins?

By the way if you wanted to know how George managed to retrieve the Aquarol…. it required a wire coat hanger and a length of paracord…. and about four hours of fishing to raise the Aquarol up above the step in the shower tray.

Never Admit to Being a Caravan Designer (Well Not to Caravaners!)

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It’s that time of year again, a few days before the opening of the North’s biggest caravan and motorhome show and the first of the New Year at Manchester’s Event City and again we are sat thinking about changing the van this year. Mind you we were convinced last year… and the year before we were going to change the caravan.

In 2017 we went to the shows, round dealers and almost did the deal. However a few things just kept us from signing on the dotted line. We also came close last year, but again there were design elements that just didn’t sit right with me.. or t least would make me compromise more than I wanted to.

So here is my guide to any caravan designers out there working on the 2020 design that they hope is going to be the next winner.

Looks and sounds good…

A locker containing a TV swing out arm…. OK stop watching American RV shows right now. What were you thinking guys… We don’t sit round campfires watching TV in the middle of the Mohave… honestly we don’t. If people want to watch TV in their awning I’m pretty sure they will have come up with a way by now that suits them. It’s not even like you designed the thing so that you could leave a 24 inch TV permanently mounted and closed away securely in the locker.

While we are on the subject of TV’s…. stop putting the radio in a cupboard in the front of the caravan… put it near where you provide a TV mount. A lot of thin screen TV’s have poor speakers and a great solution that many caravaners opt for is connecting the TV sound to the radio AUX input… but a lot don’t because it becomes a major challenge routing a pair of screened wires round and through all the cabinets. Make it easy, put the radio near the TV, install a AUX jack and sell it as a feature!

Own Up….

Right, which designer is going to own up to designing a storage space in the wardrobe in the rear bathroom of a van to store the table. Did you design the van and at some point while you were stood at the coffee machine someone say to you “Dude I didn’t see where you stored the table in your design” and you immediately rush back to your workstation and in a panic put in the wardrobe in the rear washroom.

Have you ever had to get a table out, and set it up with a caravan full of people balancing drinks when some one is shooting “PLEASE SET THE TABLE UP NOW… DINNERS READY”

It’s on the other side…. or end!

Right I want all designers to go and stand on empty pitches at five caravan sites and look round. What do you see?  Bollards…. you read that right Bollards… at the rear of the pitch. Why there you may ask? Well designing a site or upgrading a site if you can avoid digging across a pitch to install services it tends to be cheaper and easier to reinstate the ground afterwards, so most are laid out that way for cost and convenience. Is been like that for quite a few years. So why do you insist in keep designing the power, water connections at the front of the caravan… and some of you just for good measure put one on each side. If you take the common size pitch and park your caravan in the middle throw up a mahoosive flappy tent thing on one side and connect up your Aquarol (other water containers are available) then try to squeeze your tow car down the other side – that is if you have the room with an 8 foot wide van – avoiding parking so that vehicle door can actually open without bashing the water container or the passenger can actually squeeze past.

Here’s an idea….

Here’s an idea…. put the water inlet and power inlet on the rear off side corner and while you are at it check out how American RV’s have a locker with all the connections inside and a convenient opening in the floor to pass the connections through. That would save cutting holes and installing expensive fittings. While you are at it moving the water  about, here’s an idea, install a simple Hozelock fitting with a check valve and pressure regulator so when on a device pitch, rather than expecting customers to buy expensive adaptor fittings, they can just buy a cheap food grade hose to hook up. Could this be the next USP I wonder?

To off grid or not to off grid?.. that is the question.

I applaud the designer that moved the leisure battery from a side locker to under floor mounting and moved the gas bottle from the front to the side. Heavy items, get them low and in the centre I say.

However, next year go one step further… make the battery locker bigger to accommodate two batteries and ready for Lithium… which may mean insulating them. Nearly all caravans are sold now with solar panels, but it would be nice to be able to choose to install an additional battery to take advantage of the solar without having to start installing aftermarket sealed and externally vented battery boxes.

It’s behind you…

…. well it might be but I can’t see it. It’s time to offer a rear view camera option on all caravans now I think for safety’s sake. A lot of motorhomes are offering it as an option or a standard fit. While it is fairly easy on a motorhome as the display choice is dictated by the designer. For a caravan it’s slightly more complicated as some vehicles have rear view systems built-in, some have nothing so how do you decide what to install? Simple really.. most systems use composite 1 volt peat to peak video and there are dozens of components out there on the internet that allow this to be digitised, scrambled, flipped and sent vis radio, bluetooth, over power feeds and via IR so it can’t be that difficult or expensive to install a system with a remote screen at a sensible price point. The biggest hurdle for anyone contemplating installing a rear view camera system is actually mounting the camera on the caravan body and running all the cables.

Electronic Brakes…

Unless you have towed a trailer with electronic brakes you will never know how horse and cart our current over-run hitch brake system is. In the land of the… that lot over the pond, have been using electrical braking systems for a while and in the land down under (Straylia… YESSSS…..  for John Cadogan fans) ALKO have been offering a system for a number of years that is really just an extension of their caravan chassis ‘kit of components’ and could easily be adopted for European component chassis. 

Now a lot of you know from my past volumes of scribblings I kind of enjoy delving into caravan dynamics and I really want a caravan with electronic brakes. OK before the comments come stating that under current regulations you are required to have over-run braking system etc etc…. yep I know. However from my poking around this subject for over 18 months now, it seems that you can fit electronic brakes as long as the existing over-run setup is retained.

If you are still reading this go and check this out from seven years ago about a system that was going to be produced….. if I was setting this cones out I think I’d be going changing my undergarments…. www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIB7Rmhll9s\

Right, I wanted to keep this down to a short 1000 words, and I failed as it’s over 1300 now. I hope you have all had a great Christmas and may 2019 bring you new touring adventures and memories. We’ll see you on Thursday 17th at:

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A Request…

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Ok, not one of my usual blog posts. I get a lot of email asking about various electrical items related to caravans and motorhomes and a few things seem to keep cropping up on a regular basis. One is to do with 12 volt relays… what types are there and what are the pin connections.

Another is to do with cable size relating to load and its relation to the length of cable…. “I have a 40 Amp load and its 3 metres from the battery… what size cable do I need?” type questions.

In the past I’ve emailed back with answers, but one caravan engineer asked me if I know of any information sheets that had this type of info that he could put above his workbench.

So I’ve produced a couple of A3 size PDF information sheets (they will print A4) that can be downloaded printed out and pinned up, shoved in your notebook, glued to the lid of your tool box or used to wrap that must have tool present for your beloved caravan or motorhome DIY enthusiast in your life (seasonal eh!)

(I have been told that Office World can print and laminate A3 PDF’s cheaply…. I never knew that!)

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Click here to download the  Relay Wall Chart

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Click here to download the   Wire Size Wall Chart

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Click here to download the Fuse Voltage Drop Table

 

I have stylised them as technical drawings and I’ve had to watermark them and some of the icons as I found a lot of my drawings were ending up “as is” or edited on various sites and forums without any credit or link back to Caravan Chronicles. You are free to print out and use them for your own personal use, but if you wish to use them (or any of my drawings) for commercial use, inclusion in blog posts or forums please include a credit line back to CaravanChronicles.com and drop me a line to let me know.

We are just back from Chester Fairoaks after doing the Chester Christmas market and a bit of shopping at Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet Village and will be adding off to York for a bit more Christmas Market action.

I have a couple of more information ‘posters’ in development but if you have any ideas for future offerings, drop a line in the comments below. Of course my legal advisor – Henry has asked me to point out E & OE

(Everything on the internet is improved by a cat apparently… so here’s Henry)

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A Quick Fault Finding Tip…

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Sometimes things you take for granted and have in your toolbox of fault-finding tricks are a dark art to others.

I was talking someone through a bit of fault-finding on their vehicle and asked if they had measured the current in the circuit. “No” came back the answer. I asked what type of fuse and rating it was and asked the person to just put their voltmeter across the fuse and tell me the voltage across the fuse. “Ah… that’s about 3.2 amps then” I said.

“How do you know that?”

Simple really – all fuses have a resistance and if you know that you can work out the current from the voltage drop. Even simpler really – there are tables for various fuses that have it all worked out for you. I have a selection collected over the years stuffed into the lid of my tool box, along with a lot of other junk paperwork!

I created a volt drop table based on PEC (Pacific Engineering Corporation) fuses that are supplied as OEM fuses in most Japanese, Korean and European vehicles however it is pretty accurate for almost all other makes of the same type of fuse. I printed mine out, laminated them and added them to the collection in the top of my toolbox.

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It’s quite easy to use. Just set your multimeter to read DC mV and read the voltage displayed. Now select the fuse type, in this case an ATO fuse – the most common used in vehicles, caravans and motorhomes and from the chart look down the left column until you see the voltage measurement that matches the one on your multimeter… lets say 0.011 volts (11mV)

The fuse is a red 10 Amp fuse so follow the 0.011 volt line across until you get to the 10 Amp fuse column and read the current figure… in this case 1.3547 or 1.3 Amps. It’s as easy as that, no need to break the circuit to put your multimeter in as an Ammeter.

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I have a couple of these cheap handy plug-in ammeter’s…  although they do have limitations and only work up to 20 Amps.

Although the table is based on PEC ATO/ATC and MINI fuses (download info below) it is pretty close with most manufacturers fuses and as a general reference for fault-finding will be good enough to 0.1 amp.

If you need to know the actual current through a circuit, you need to use an ammeter and not rely on tables but for general work they are close enough.

These tables also come in handy if you are trying to find out why a battery is draining. Without turning anything on it is easy to run through a fusebox checking to see if any circuits have a current drain on them without having to constantly pull fuses and insert an ammeter, which sometimes can upset or reset the circuit you are working on.

One thing to remember with this test if you’re tracing a fault, is you are only measuring the volt drop across the fuse to determine current. You really need to know how much current you should be drawing. For example, If I was testing the 12 volt fridge circuit fuse and I only got a voltage drop across the fuse that calculates to 6 Amps then I’d know there was an issue somewhere along the circuit as I’d be expecting around 10 Amps or more.

A word from our Safety Officer…

"Oscar" our senior safety cat.

Oscar would like to remind you that working on a live circuit has risks and never attempt to undertake volt drop measurements on mains circuits. Most cheap multimeters do not have the internal protection or fused test leads. Be safe. Be like Oscar.

You can down load the table in PDF format (4 pages) and either print them out or save them to your device from the following link: Fuse Voltage Drop Table

Unfortunately due to a lot of my drawings and text being used elsewhere without credit back to CaravanChronicles.com  I’ve had to start putting watermarks on a lot of things. I hope this doesn’t make the table too difficult to read.

P.S. Someone told me that everything on the internet can be improved by cats and my “likes” would go through the roof!

 

A Grande Day Out…

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Right, I’m not known for caravan reviews… why?  Well those YouTube types always beat me to it… and how the heck they can shoot, edit and publish so quickly is a skill that I still consider voo doo, mind you, pilots aren’t required to have the knowledge of joined up writing let alone mastery of a keyboard. (A cursory nod to Dave Gunson… one of the finest controllers to ever say “Descend and maintain….”)

Onwards…

04:30… alarm chirps…. I had been invited by Bailey of Bristol to their launch of the Pegasus Grande and this meant a bit of an early start. By 05:15 the Amarok was idling warming up and the Sat Nav silently contemplating my route down to Swindon, while I  finished making a coffee in the Camelback insulated mug, cleaned the heavy dew off the windows and threw my day bag into the truck. Unfortunately it was going to be a solo trip. Continue reading

TPMS Revisited…

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Its been quite a while since I did my first review of a TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) back in September 2015 in fact, on a Tyre Pal system sent to me for review. I did like it but it did give me a few things to think about. Later on I got to test out the Fit2Go TPMS and I ran with that for about 12 months. However I still wasn’t convinced this was the one for me.

With the Tyre Pal I did like the information, but on a screen that size I would have liked to be able to see all the pressures and temps altogether rather than scrolling through each wheel. Although it did cross my mind at the time “do I really need all this info” and that’s why I liked the Fit2Go unit. It sat there quietly monitoring the wheels and just occasionally flashed at me to say everything was OK…. or beeped if there was something wrong. I did eventually miss not being able to see the pressure and temp of each wheel and started to think my earlier statement was flawed.

I had an issue with the Fit2Go unit at around nine months of using it. The batteries in one of the wheel sensors failed… and a couple of weeks later a second battery went down. This was a bit of an issue as the sensors on this unit were sealed and the batteries weren’t replaceable (a plus point for the TyrePal here!) Credit to guys at Fit2Go… now re-branded as Michelin – they sent me out a complete new unit and four sensors. I installed the replacement unit and sensors and ran with that for a while.

Going into work at around 04:45 in the morning, I pulled off our drive the unit started beeping, indicating a low pressure tyre. I pulled over and checked the small LED on each sensor… no flashing red indication.  Tyres looked good, checked the pressure with the  Fit2Go hand-held unit and all as they should be. I  carried on. The beeping stopped. A few days later as I had just got onto the motorway it went off again, pulled onto the hard shoulder, checked each sensor and wheel… no flashing LED and all wheels looked OK. I also took the time to check the pressures again, all OK. On the fourth or fifth time this happened I gave up checking. It only seemed to happen with an early morning start and I started to doubt the info I was getting from the unit.

I started looking around for alternatives… mainly in the US for RV TPMS systems as they seemed to have a greater number of options. It wasn’t long after this that I got the e-Trailer unit to test. Which as well as checking the leisure battery voltage, monitoring the fridge temp and a host of other things had TPMS monitoring for your caravan wheels and sent alerts directly to your phone. With this fitted I had at least covered off the important wheels when towing. I just needed something for the truck. Looking around at  what was available on Amazon.Com in the USA made me realise how much we are actually paying in the UK for this stuff. There were units branded for the American market that were identical to those in the UK for a lot less even with the poor exchange rate.

This set me thinking… could a cheap TPMS available in the UK be as good… were we paying too much? I found a unit on Amazon.co.uk for £50 and ordered one. https://amzn.to/2wv49TS

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The unit had a couple of options for mounting. The sensors had replaceable batteries and were pre-coded to the unit. Each was marked with the correct location… FL, FR, RL and RR.

After much procrastination about where to put the display (it’s a man thing) I could not make my mind up so for the time being it sits on top of the steering column….

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IMG_1482IMG_1481In the few weeks since I installed it.. which was really easy,  it’s worked well. I can set the upper and lower limits for pressure and temp for each wheel and it is fairly accurate on pressure. To test it I used my digital tyre gauge fitted to my compressor in the work shop and checked with a standalone digital check gauge I used to use for aircraft tyres. It always matched the same PSI as both my digital gauges showed and as it didn’t decimal point readings on the PSI setting (you can change it to BAR, as well as from C to F for temp) it seemed to round-up from about .6 which seems acceptable to me. (32.4 PSI would be displayed as 32 and 32.6PSI  would be shown as 33)

It comes complete with a small spanner for the lock nuts, a do-hicky for replacing the battery in the sensors and for £50 it seems like reasonable quality. It does what it states on the box, it’s small enough to put almost anywhere (and that’s my problem… where!) and if you have amazing eyesight… it even has a vehicle battery voltage display right in the centre! And if that didn’t clinch the deal… it even alarms when the batteries are low in the sensors.

So was my £50 well spent? Well at the moment I think so. (I reserve the right to change my mind in the future) You know me by now and if I thought it was a jockey wheel with out a handle…. I’d tell you!

So if you don’t yet have TPMS and don’t want to spend a fortune on one this might be a suitable option.  If you want one… go on you know you do, here’s my affiliate* link on Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2PX6a3a

*It won’t cost you any more but you will get that warm fuzzy feeling knowing Amazon are going to give Caravan Chronicles some of their profit.

Bike Rack Needs a Home…

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Long time readers may recall I customised a bike rack for our Land Rover Freelander 1 to allow us to carry two full frame mountain bikes on the back of our Freelander while towing a caravan and have enough clearance for ferry ramps while towing as well. Big advantage being it didn’t affect our MPG as the bike were effectively out of the airflow both solo and towing.

Well since we bought the VW Amarok the rack hasn’t been used and it has just been hung from the roof of the bat cave since then.

So its time to find it a new home, If you have a Freelander 1 and are looking for a fold up bike rack for two bikes complete with 13 pin fitted trailer board and all the web straps…. make me a silly… but not stupid offer.

I’m based in Manchester but would be happy to meet up part way… I ain’t going to wrap this thing up that’s for sure!

Drop me an email with a silly (not stupid) offer.

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The Green Vally Spare Wheel Mounted 2 Bike Cycle Carrier

 

Something For The Next Caravan?

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When you are starting to look for a replacement… or even your first caravan, you collect ideas. You see something and think “that’s a good idea” and from that point you start judging all other caravans against that ‘thing’ you have in your mind that you think is a good idea. After a while you start to build up a collection of “that’s a good idea” and ‘thing’s’. What your mind builds is a perfect caravan for you and that is what you are endlessly searching for.. your perfect caravan.

Well here is a “that’s a good idea” that is one of a collection for my perfect caravan. If you have ever watched any of the American RV walk rounds one thing that is common to them all is they all have slide outs… heck even some slide outs have slide outs of their own. (I’m waiting for the next super king cab dually pickup truck to have a slide out..!) Nope it’s not a slide out I’m thinking of though.

Continue reading

Summer Catch Up…

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Although it might seem quiet here at the Caravan Chronicles pitch there have been a few things going on behind the scenes so I thought it was time for a catchup and a chat.

A lot of people have been asking why I haven’t done any YouTube videos? Well the simple fact is they are flippin’ hard work…. plus I don’t particularly like being on video. I’m not a ‘presenter’ by any means… (mind you I’m not a writer either but enough people seem to read this blog). I really don’t know how Andrew Ditton, Dan Trudgian and all the others have time to produce the amount of good quality content that they do. Hats off to you guys! Continue reading