Catch Me If You Can…

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I’m installing a “Catch Can” can on our VW Amarok and this little posting is all about it, but first a bit of history on why I’m installing one.

If you look at modern high performance diesel engines one of the things that they do to reduce emissions is have a number of systems to reduce the harmful emissions. EGR or Exhaust Gas Re-circulation wich is feeding part of the engines exhaust back into the intake but probably the most widely known is the DPF… or Diesel Particulate Filter which captures fine soot particles from exiting the exhaust. The DPF needs to be cleaned regularly, through a process called regeneration. Either active, passive or forced, the accumulated soot is burnt off at high temperature (around 600°c) to leave only a residue of ash, effectively renewing or regenerating the filter, ready to take on more pollution from the engine. To regenerate, the vehicle electronics adjust the timing of the engine to increase the exhaust gas temperatures or commonly it can be achieved by passive regeneration usually on the motorway when exhaust gasses are generally hotter. Continue reading

‘Put big light on will yer…’

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I get sent lots of bits by all sorts of people to test and hopefully write about on the blog… and I think you can guess that I don’t write about too many by the lack of ‘reviews’ on here. Basically if it’s not up to scratch I don’t write about it. I don’t want to knock back a product or company because I have a problem with it or them… so I just keep quiet.

However a couple of weeks ago Erin reached out to me (as the Americans are so fond of saying) asking me if I’d like to review a couple of products… they would send them free of charge in exchange for a review. I agreed.

Unbeknown to Erin I already had been using a couple of their products for a while. So what’s the company?…. Olight… ‘who the heck are they?’… I hear you ask.

Olight have been producing torches (or flashlights if you are west of the pond) for a while and I first came across them in a couple of YouTube videos reviewing flashlights of all things. The one that impressed me at the time was the Olight R40 rechargeable (I think this has been replaced by the R50 Seeker now) which I purchased, and a bit later I acquired a Olight R20 Javelot. (replaced by the M20SX Javelot) The R40 is my ‘go to’ vehicle torch and the R20 is always in the pocket of my Hi-Vis vest while on the ramp at night. They seem to be manufactured to a high standard and are quite robust.

IMG_1413Erin wanted to send me two of the smaller units to check out. The H2R Nova and the S1R Baton.

I know that my R20 Javelot is only small but it packs enough punch for me to light up the tail of an Airbus 320 on a dark ramp. I was looking forward to giving these two new torches a try out.

My R40 uses a micro USB lead to charge but with the H2R and S1R they use Olight’s, I think unique, magnetic charging base. It’s a magnetic disk that holds itself onto the base of the torch. The other end simply plugs into a USB socket. Really neat and simple in my opinion.

The S1R Baton comes complete with a small bag, a charging base and a padded wrist lanyard.  The torch is really tiny just 21mm in diameter and 61 mm long but don’t let it’s size put you off! Here’s a few key points…

  • Cree XM-L2 LED
  • Powered by a 550mAh RCR123 customized battery of five times discharging rate, giving a maximum output up to 900 lumens
  • The flashlight can be charged through the magnetic contact charging port (other batteries may also be used in S1R, but cannot be charged)
  • New 750mA portable USB charging cable
  • Brightness increases or decreases gradually: when the flashlight is switched on/off,
  • Flat magnetic tailcap that allows it to be secured to ferrous metal surfaces as a hands-free option
  • Lockout mode can be activated on the side switch for accidental triggering protection, along with a low-voltage indicator underneath
  • Reverse polarity protection circuits
  • Timer Setting: Short (3 minutes) and long (9 minutes)
  • The standby current is below 30uA

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The charging base is really tiny too… and it’s magnetic attachment is really cool.

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The other torch – the H2R Nova is slightly different….

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It’s angles 90 degrees so when you clip it on your pocket or belt it shines forward. The pocket clip is a ‘s’ shape  too so you can slide it over something either way… so wearing a rucksack it will easily sip over the shoulder strap and you can twist it to point on the ground just in font of you. In the box you also get a charging base (identical to the S1R Baton – handy!) and a strap to turn it into a head torch…. not having a spare head I fitted it over the box…

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The H2R Nova uses a 18650 battery and has an amazing 2300 ANSI rated lumens output from a CREE XHP50 LED .

  • Huge beam spill (TIR with diffuser lens)
  • Optimal for pack strap/pocket/headlamp
  • Pocket light and headlamp in one with magnetic charging.
  • Magnetic tail fix, 90 degrees light illumination direction

There are 5 power settings, the runtime quoted on maximum power (2300 lumens) is 1h50m while down at its lowest setting (night-light) it’s 45 days.

If you look closely at the lens in the picture it is textured… this threw me at first but at night you can clearly see why. The beam spread is very even with a minimal ‘hot spot’ in the centre. This makes it particularly effective as a general lantern or for providing trail lighting at night… I also tend to think it might be excellent on a bike at night too. (you can get a bike mount – Bike Mount)

They are not discount store cheap…. but usually when you need a torch you really really need a torch at that moment that works and is up-to the job, they are not top end eye wateringly expensive either. As my grandfather always used to tell me “By cheap… buy twice” I paid retail price for my first two Olight torches and was knocked back by the difference in quality and light output compared to anything in my previous “budget end” collection.

So where are the night-time photos?

Well what’s the point? You can tweak a photo of a candle to make it look like the sun is shining… given a long enough exposure and a bit of Photoshop magic.  Well maybe not quite.

While we were on site at Blackshaw Moor recently I did have a wander round at night testing them, but to be honest using the HR2 Nova on full power was a bit embarrassing. It looked like I was pointing the torch directly at caravans rather than the path… it was just a bit too bright! I had to knock it down two levels so it matched the torch I was comparing it too. The tiny SR1 on full power out did my comparison torch but it’s slightly tighter beam gave me the distance with less embarrassing spread. (P.S. I’ve nick-named this one “the noisy cricket’ from the tiny gun in MIB)

I was soundly impressed by both these torches in terms of their excellent build quality, functionality and illumination. Like I said right at the start, if I didn’t think they weren’t up to scratch, you would not be reading about them now!

Where to buy…

From the Olight UK Store here

and on Amazon…

As reviewed…

S1R Baton – https://amzn.to/2sfzckd

H2R Nova – https://amzn.to/2ktdeG2

My other Olight torches…

R40 Rechargable – https://amzn.to/2kuBF65

R20 Javelot – https://amzn.to/2IQ1E6x

(P.S. If you do buy from Amazon through these links or any Amazon links on the blog, it won’t cost you a single penny more but Caravan Chronicles will receive a few pence from the sale paid by Amazon.)

 

E-Trailer….Smart or what!

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A few weeks ago Andy Harris (yes that Andy… him off the TV) and of Road Pro fame called me to tell me about a new gadget that Dutch caravanners were getting all excited about. Now not one to turn down the chance to test a gadget or two, when Andy asked if I’d like one of the units to test I of course said in true reserved fashion said “Well I suppose I can take a look at it”. Who wouldn’t pass the chance to check out the latest piece of tech gadgetry being made by those clever Dutch people at e-Trailer. A few days later a large brown box arrived.

On a recent trip to the C & M Club’s site at Blackshaw Moore I took the opportunity to not only put my feet up for a couple of days with Sue but install and play around… er… seriously test… one of the units..

Blackshaw Moor C & M Club

Opening up the box I found five smaller boxes, containing the main unit and four of the modules.

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Ok, so what is e-Trailer? The simple explanation is there is a black box that sends all kinds of information about your caravan to an app on your phone. It works with both Android and iPhones and there are various ‘modules’ you can add-on to get additional info.

IMG_1403The actual unit is about 120mm long by 80mm wide and 40mm high with a good quality power connector at one end.

In the box is the main unit, 1.5 metre long power lead, instruction manual and a card with a QR Code on it.

You get a QR code with each of the modules, and set of instructions, don’t lose the cars with the QR codes on them! (more about these later)

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Installing the unit is serious easy. You just hook up the power lead to a 12 volt supply. I opted to connected to a switched supply sort came on whenever the caravan master switch was on. This would mean it would be active when towing.

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Once you have powered up the main unit, go to the website e-trailer.nl/app and follow the link for your phone. In the case of my iPhone it took me to the App Store were I could download the app. Once downloaded launch the app and follow the on-screen instructions to register. I was a bit surprised it asked for my postcode and house number, but I guess this is how they register the unit to you for warranty etc.

Once you have created your account in the app and logged in… well remember that card with the QR code on it, simply scan the code and it pairs the app with the unit you have just installed.IMG_0861

You are done! It’s that easy. Now to add the modules. The first one I added was the temperature module. You get a small puck shaped device and following the on-screen prompt, scanned the QR code.

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Done… a quick scan and now I have the temperature reading. For each module you can set lower and upper limits and the type of alarm… visual notification, vibrate, sound. From reading the instructions you could put this sensor in the fridge so when you are driving along you can keep an eye on the fridge temperature to make sure your wine or beer is perfectly chilled when you arrive. From what I understand you can add additional temperature sensors so you can check what the temperature is in the caravan at the same time.

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Next was the voltage sensor so you can keep an eye on the battery voltage. Again it was a quick scan of the QR code and I could see instantly what the battery voltage is and its relative state of charge. (I have yet to check how accurate this is).

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Again, it is easy to set the limits, just tap the two cogs in the bottom left corner….

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… And you can adjust the upper and lower alarm voltages. This is really useful as you can correctly set it for flooded call, AGM or lithium batteries.

Want to know if you have left your roof light open or TV aerial up… or even if your fridge door is open? There’s a module for that… The E Switch.

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In the E-switch module you get two magnetic contact switches that come with 3M pads so you can stick them almost anywhere. Again adding them is a simple scan of the QR code and follow the instructions on-screen. I edited the text for the first switch so I know it is the TV Aerial.

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If one of the switches is open, on the home screen you see that the padlock is orange, close the switch and the padlock closes and the icon turns green.

So what else can it do? Well I also have the tyre pressure monitor module. You get two pressure sensors to attach to the tyre valve stems. The sensors are the type that you can change the battery, which I much prefer, as opposed to the sealed type. I’ve not installed the TPMS module yet as I’m still testing out other TPMS systems on the Amarok and caravan but no doubt it will be an easy install… by just scanning the QR code!

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The last little trick that is has is it is an extreme accurate caravan levelling aid. Again a quick scan of the QR code gets this up and running and follow the on-screen instructions to determine your level point and it becomes easy to level next time you pitch.

OK so what did I think about it?

Well it was super easy to install. It was also super easy to add each module. I like the fact that when you hit up to set off you can check the battery voltage and see if it is charging. You can make sure what ever you have attached the magnetic contacts to you can see if they are in the correct position (i.e. closed, lowered etc.) and you can check the fridge or caravan temperature and tyre pressure.

While driving you can keep an eye on things like your caravan’s tyres, battery charge and fridge temperature. when you arrive on site, reversing into your pitch you can easily see if the caravan needs levelling side to side using ramps or blocks and when you un-hitch you can adjust the jockey wheel to get perfect levelling front to back.

“We have a problem Huston…..”

Now I do have a problem with it. Come what may I cannot get it to vibrate, notify me or play a sound when  anything goes out of the parameters (switch open, battery voltage low etc. I made sure I had the latest version of the app, I have double checked all the settings within my iPhone but I cannot get a single ‘vurrrrrr’ or ‘ding’ out of it. Admittedly my iPhone is now 2 versions behind the times but if the app installed I’d have expected it to work ok. I’ll continue to work on this one.

Finally…

I think the idea and technology is great behind the product and I really do like it and can see lots of additional applications could be added on in the future.

Why though is it an after market accessory? When you can be paying the best part of £30k for a top end caravan should not this sort of information system be standard? When I hitch up and set off, I’d love to be able to check the battery voltage (and charging current) check the fridge was working, tyre pressures, doors and hatches closed… and it is not beyond the engineering skills of man to be able to have a bulb out detection system for the road lights even…. all fed directly to your phone.

If a manufacturer decided to install such a unit the price point would drop dramatically.. and that’s one of my other niggles. The technology and ease of installation is great, however there is a bit of an ‘ouch’ in the wallet as currently the comfort pack is priced around £380. That’s a lot of nights on site. You can build up the unit by just buying the individual modules though.

Do I want one… “Yes”…. would I buy one…. I’ll just go and have a word with Sue.

The e-Trailer is currently available from Road Pro here.. www.roadpro.co.uk/catalogue/01m-smart-trailer

 

 

Getting All Charged Up – Update 2…

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I guess this really is the update to an update (Getting All Charged Up – Update…). We have been living with the Sterling Wildside unit now for about 6 months and a LOT of people have been emailing me asking how we are getting on with it and is it worth it?

IMG_1194Well I have done quite a bit of testing with my leisure battery in various states of discharge. With it at about 50% I have recorded a charging current of 15.9 Amps which is far greater than I could manage before and due to the fact that the Wildside unit uses the correct charging profile for my battery I’m not concerned that I will be reducing or damaging my leisure batteries life expectancy.

Earlier this month I had an email from David Dent who had successfully installed a Wildside unit in his Bailey Unicorn 3 Cadiz and he seemed pleased with the results so far. Although installing it in a Bailey was a bit more of a challenge. I’m looking forward to checking back with David to see how he is getting on with his unit.

A couple of other people have also emailed me reporting that after installing a Wildside unit that it had solved their problem of having enough stored energy to operate their motor movers. I still wonder if people who have been experiencing problems with their motor movers caused by supposedly bad batteries and have had to replace them is possibly down to the fact their battery was never really receiving a correct or full charge before causing its early demise.

New Tool…

One of the things I want to get to add to my ‘tool box’ in the near future is one of the computerised digital battery testers. At the moment I’m basing a lot of my work on the voltage of the battery and chemistry type. I’d like to be able to improve on this.

Watch This Space…

The other thing I’d also like to be able to do is get a voltage and charge current reading for the leisure battery while we are actually driving. I have been looking at a few – mainly American options for bluetooth remote voltage and current sensors that you can connect up to with your phone. There are a couple of devices that offer a separate display to fit in your vehicle.

However, there is a rather exciting unit that will shortly be coming on the market in this area that might be a bit of a game changer. If you want to know what it is well go and see Andy Harris or one of the guys on the Road Pro stand at the NEC in a couple of weeks time as they, along with the manufacturer will be launching and demonstrating a new product that might just be bringing caravan technology bang up-to-date. I hope to be bringing you a bit more about this soon and maybe an install too!

Final Thoughts….

Is the Wildside unit worth it?  Before I answer this let me just say I am not being paid by anyone for any endorsements of this unit. I was supplied one of the first (pre production?) units as a test and to provide feedback to Sterling Power on how easy it was to install and it’s performance in the real world, which I did. As a result a couple of things were ‘tweaked’ hence mine had to be returned, reprogrammed and reinstalled.

Well I’d say if you have a Euro 6 or even a 5 engine and you want to make sure your battery is looked after then yes. If you want to upgrade to a more advanced battery chemistry, again yes.  If I had to return mine would I go out and buy one? Yes I would.

Is there anything I’d like to see changed? Well if they ever did a Wildside 2.0 I’d like to be able to move the caravan’s own charging system so it was routed through the Wildside unit when on mains hook up to take advantage of the Wildside’s smart charging facility and to allow you to move to more advanced battery chemistry. I guess also adding a solar panel input with built-in MPPT would be a big hit too.

In The Future…

I’m starting to wonder if the way we charge and power caravans needs to take a leap forward. I have had an idea that you could basically split an inverter. One half in the vehicle and the other in the caravan. Imagine a small unit that takes the 12 volt DC from the vehicle and inverts it to 48 volts AC. You then have a lead that connects this across to the caravan and there it is converted back into 12 volts DC.

So whats the difference… all you are doing is what’s already happening? Well using a 2.5 mm cable rated for 25 amps at 48 volts gives you 1200 watts of power. To transfer that much power at 12 volts you would need 100 Amps. Keeping it at 48 volts will mean the system is still in the ELV range for safety. (Use 4mm cable and this could be 1680 watts of power which would be equivalent to 140 Amps at 12 volts)

Being able to transfer that sort of energy would allow you to forget LPG cylinders and put 1000 Ah of lithium cells in the caravan with a 240 volt inverter and power everything. Just a thought that I’m throwing out there.

 

The Caravan and Motorhome Show 2018

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New Year and the first show of the year!

logo_2016The North’s largest outdoor leisure show for campers, caravan and motorhome owners, will be pitching up at Manchester’s EventCity from 18th – 21st January 2018 offering a huge range of inspiring ideas for lovers of the great outdoors.

This is our “local” show and hopefully it will continue its record each year of increasing the attendance figures over the previous year. With leading manufacturers and dealers in attendance, a range of celebrity speakers, including television presenter Matt Allwright and The Camping and Caravanning Club President Julia Bradbury.

Rob Debenham, Show Manager, says: “We’re hoping to build on the success of last year which saw 36,102 visitors attend over four days and we are really excited about the 2018 show. With some exciting new attractions in store for our guests I’m confident we’re on track to deliver our best show yet. It offers something for everyone, and with kids under 16 going free, it’s a great value day out for the whole family and of course the perfect chance to find your ideal caravan or motorhome.”

With over 200 exhibitors, visitors are sure to leave feeling inspired at the four-day event to start planning the trip of a lifetime.

Tickets to the show also include a free show guide and free entry into the co-located Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show with live cookery demonstrations on the Food & Travel stage. Featuring hundreds of travel companies such as Trailfinders, VIA Rail Canada, and Great Rail Journeys, as well as tourist boards including Morocco, Cuba, Malta, Massachusetts, Barbados and more, visitors are sure to find something to suit all travel interests.

The box office is now open and tickets are available at www.caravanshows.com or by calling 0844 873 7349 or of course you can buy on the day in the foyer.

We will be there on Thursday for the opening, so hope to see you there!

 

End of Year Catch Up…

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Wow… it’s been quite a while since our last posting, and many thanks to all those of you who have emailed asking if we are OK. We are both fine, thanks.

Back in October we were due to go to the Caravan & Motorhome show and we had  booked in to the campsite at the NEC for 4 days. However, the day before, we actually wondered why we were going. Plenty of other bloggers and video bloggers would be going and posting on YouTube. I guess the plethora of video bloggers filming each other meeting other video bloggers wasn’t what we were about…. so we went to the C & M Club site at Southport instead.

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Is A Euro 6 Engine Killing Your Leisure Battery?…

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OK… so that title was a bit dramatic! However here’s the thing… I don’t think everything is peachy with Euro 6 engines and charging leisure batteries.

If you are a regular reader, you know I have recently installed one of Sterling Power’s Wildside units (and so far I’m super happy with it!) but I did get an email from someone who had read all my postings about it and asked me if it might cure his problem. Here’s the gist of his email….

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Getting All Charged Up – Update

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The best laid plans….

We had originally intended to spend a week down at Glastonbury which would have meant the 5 hour drive down would have been an excellent test for the Sterling Power Wildside unit’s first outing. However we had to cancel the trip literally the day before we were due to set off. In the few days between installing the Wildside unit and our planned trip to Glastonbury I had been exchanging emails and phone calls with Charles Sterling talking about some of the aspects of the Wildside unit and the direction that caravan electrics was heading in.

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A Step In The Right Direction…

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OK, so if you read about the bike rack install I guess you might have seen the video of me getting onto the tailgate of the VW Amarok…. akin to a whale wearing a tutu and trying to get on points. I needed something better… well my knees were telling me I better do something about it at least. In the USA, the land of the pickup or Australia the home of the Ute there were plenty of options. The downside was the Amarok has not been released in the USA and shipping charges from Australia are insane. I had to find something closer to home. Doing the usual google searches always ended up with products on sale in different continents so I ended up searching for images that contained the word ‘tailgate’, ‘step’ and ‘Amarok’ and after clicking on various pictures discovered Pegasus 4 x 4 in Bristol. (Note to all the companies out there… spending time correctly tagging and key wording all the photos on your websites pays off!) Continue reading