Is This A Growing Trend..?

First things first… Happy New Year to you all. Ok so I’m a bit late but there you go, that’s what retirement does for you… no sense of time.

Right, I seem to be receiving a LOT and by a lot I mean 3 or 4 emails a week offering to provide content for my blog. Anything from selecting a new BBQ and the top ten best BBQ’s all the way to Best Hiking Trails in the US. They all start in a similar way…. “We love your blog and think that we have some really super articles that would fit right in with your readers“…. or something similar…. you get the idea.

Now most enquire what my rates are for publishing articles and a few offer a flat fee right up front. One outfit in California offered to pay $800 US per article. (Hmmm I could be rich!) However I decided to do a little delving into the articles and followed some links provided. It seems that most of the articles were designed to lead readers to YouTube creators channels by recommendation and direct link, or were just plain advertising for product sponsors of one form or another. I know the YouTube rules are getting silly forcing creators to produce more and more, which is actually having the effect of reducing quality of content IMHO. (Except Graham… see below… shameless plug warning)

I have never accepted advertising on the blog, I’m not here for that and I don’t like adverts popping up when I’m trying to read something and I guess you don’t either. So I’m not going to start now after ten plus years of Caravan Chronicles accepting paid promotion stuff.

Talking Of Paid Promotion…

I have received a rash of invites to review solar power stations for either free products, percentage of sales generated or cash payment after review is published.

Having seen the number of reviews by others I decided to respond to the requests slightly differently. I agreed to do a review of their products or product line on the understanding that return shipping was paid for for all products that were sent for review. Any review may or may not involve disassembly of the product and component verification and would be covered in any article I wrote about the product and testing would be real world and not based on the advertised performance of any product.

Needles to say you won’t be seeing me review and solar power stations. I would actually like one, but all the companies and importers that initially contacted me have strangely gone silent…. I think the modern parlance is I’ve been ghosted.

Graham, the internationally renowned caravan vlogger hit the nail on the head with his video… (shameless promotion of a fellow blogger ) Hi Graham… will that do?

What’s In Store For 2023?

Well Sue retired last year and we managed to get 46 nights away at 10 sites… It was great not thinking about how long we had before having to return home. Hopefully we will be doing much of the same, finding new places to explore on our eBikes. So look out we are on our way somewhere soon… well when I can stop fuming about the new C & M Club booking web site!

I’m also going to stop answering question/problem posts on social media. Someone asks a question, I post a reply which is then followed by dozen other posts telling me I’m wrong but not answering the original poster’s question or solving their problem is not helpful really. hey ho… if they want to change the laws of physics or rewrite a new section on thermo dynamics I’m not going to argue anymore… I’ll just point them in the direction of that amiable “hauuustralian” John Cadogan.

Oh Another Thing…

Caravan Chronicles is designed in WORDPRESS and hosted on WordPress’ own servers and has done from day one (11 years now I think) It costs about £100 per year and that seemed fair…. I just had an email though telling me that as our super super government had changed the tax rules, as from the 31st January 2023 they had to charge me VAT! so that’s £20 more going to our governments pockets.

See you on the road… or on site, TTFN.

P.S. I set up a coffee buying thing a while ago… that thing on the left…. I thought it was a bit of a fad thing….. well blow me two people bought me a coffee… cheers!

Adapting Our Bike Rack for e-Bikes


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Getting to that certain age brings on some restrictions…. My left knee is a bit suspect and Sue’s hip is not as ‘hop’ as it was anymore, This meant of we haven’t been using our bikes as much and as Sue has now officially retired and Henry has settled in to caravanning we are getting out and about more in the caravan.

We had been mulling over e-bikes for a while and after being influenced by John & Mandy who used to live in the next “village” to us, watching Neil and Emma from Urban Vanlife and having a long conversation with a gentleman who was also staying at Wirral Country Park who had bought two MiRider One bikes for himself and his wife lead us to paying a visit to the MiRider factory in Wigan.

We had a try… and liked them almost immediately. One big question for me was would they mount OK on our existing rack above the bed of the Amarok. The guys there were great and allowed me to fit one of their test bikes and take some photos. It only needed a few tweaks here and there to accept the MiRider bikes without any issues.

Two days later we went back to pick our new bikes up. In the realities of todays internet, full disclosure – we paid full price for these two bikes, no discount, no “freebie’s” etc. so what I will say about them when it comes to a review will be honest comments.

The bikes fitted onto the racks easily, however I did want to move them forward as the existing setup was for two full size cross bikes which required some rear overhang. Moving to the MiRider e-bikes gave me the opportunity to move the bike mounts forward.

You can see the rear overhang in the photo above and the available space at the front. Sliding the rails forward and relocating the wheel mounts allowed the bikes to easily position forward of the rear tail gate.

The thing that now had me thinking was the weight distribution. The rear wheel is obviously heavier than the front, as it contains the electric motor and the battery is held in the frame forward of the pedal crank so weight across the two wheels is pretty much even. However, the overhang of the mounting rails meant the front wheel was well forward of the main cross bar.

This really could do with a support. So after putting my thinking cat on…. nope Henry wasn’t;t very helpful… In the best Baldrick fashion I came up with a cunning plan. The front of the pickup bed frame is quite strong and the strength was increased by the aluminium box that the Roll-N-Lok cover fits into.

I cut two pieces of 1.5mm steel sheet and bent them so as to fit under the lip of the Roll-N-Lok cover resting on the frame of the pickup bed and bent them to form a support under the bike mount rails. I made a couple of stop blocks out of recycled plastic to hold the supports to the mount rails.

The design means I can still remove the cover for the Roll-N-Lok to service it and I don’t need to use any tools to remove the brackets if I want to remove the whole thing from the pickup bed… just the 4 Thule key locks to release the whole bike rack from he mounting pads.

I gave the two brackets three coats of spray-on truck bed liner and let them harden for a couple of days before installing. Hopefully this should be enough.

All in, I think it looks OK and the functionality of everything still works. The bikes are secure with no flexing in the mount. We still have room for a narrow roof box or mesh cargo tray between the two bikes if we need more room. I always have the option of moving the bikes to one side and mounting a standard Thule roof box if we really get pushed for space.

Another little thing we can do is plug the bikes in to charge while travelling. I’m not sure how handy this will be, but its there just in case.

I hope this gives you some ideas for e-bike mounting options of your own. For us, it’s next stop Bridlington for a few days to do a bit of testing.

Has Bailey Built Our Perfect Caravan?…


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You know by now I don’t do caravan reviews. I leave it to people far better at it than myself. I have however over the years written a few articles about caravan design ( Never admit to being a caravan designer ) and waffled on as we looked around pondering the merits of changing our caravan. We kept ticking boxes…. but never enough boxes to actually go for it and buy a new caravan. Well a few months ago I received the marketing info from Bailey about it’s 2022 caravans and to be honest I only gave them a cursory look through. While we were away recently I started looking at what they’d sent out. I also had a link to a video done by the excellent Lee Davey (Twitter: @TinTent ) Bailey’s brand ambassador about the Bailey Alicanto Grande Porto

A full link to the Bailey of Bristol website with details is here:

A few things that tick our boxes straight away are the centre wash room and larger bed (more room for our cat!) and the generous wardrobe space. One of our (Err… Sue’s) comparisons is always how much hanging rail space has a caravan got when compared to our current Swift caravan… and the Alicanto Grande Porto has three wardrobes which add up to slightly more rail space we currently enjoy.

Image (c) Bailey of Bristol

A key box ticker for me though is the great through locker at the rear of the caravan. There are very few caravans that offer external lockers on the off side, which is really where you need your ‘stuff’… be it mains hook up lead, waste water pipe, waste hog, fresh water hook up kit etc.etc. When setting up I find I’m always having to walk between the off side and front gas locker or near side lockers to get all my bits out. I can see that with the Alicante Grande range being able to store all that stuff in a locker on the off side will be a great feature. The only thing that you would have to be careful of is putting too much stuff in at the rear of the caravan, but Bailey have you covered to a large extent by having the gas locker close to the axle centre line and not at the front which always requires some counterbalancing by the designers you will have greater flexibility when loading.

So what else is ticking the boxes for me?

Well, you see the small lockers either side of the bed… Bailey show them with books in…

Image (c) Bailey of Bristol

Well to me these are shoe lockers… for some reason we always seem to have a collection of shoes by our caravan door and nowhere to store them without the usual routing through dozens (I may exaggerate here) of shoes that don’t belong to you to find one pair that is actually yours. That is a box ticker right there!

Another tick is where the powered roof vent is installed…

Image (c) Bailey of Bristol

….right above the stove top and above the microwave. It would have been ascetically pleasing I guess to install it on the centre line of the caravan, but for efficiency as close to above where all the steam and smells are created is as good as it gets (an extracting cooker hood would have earned a gold star not a tick… but they are getting close!)

Oh… here’s another one…

Our current caravan has the usual three gas and one electric ring… the only problem is that the electric ring is lower than the supports for the pans on the gas ring. This severely limits the size of pan you can use on the electric ring. Hurrah… The cooker has been redesigned, OK I know it’s not Bailey that have done this… but someone somewhere had a lightbulb moment and the electric ring is now raised up and you can use a larger pan. Small things I know, but it’s the small things ticking boxes that turn something from being good to being great.

While we are in the kitchen… finally a microwave that doesn’t have the spinning plate of doom. I always have the vision of our microwave plate sliding out and landing edge on to the glass cover of the hob breaking it each time we open the microwave door after travelling.

A quick visit to the bathroom…

Most mid bathroom caravans take advantage of the ability to close off the area from the rest of the caravan by having a door that is dual function… closing off the living area or the bathroom. Not unique I know but Bailey seems to have created a huge sink and toilet area even with the door closed and a massive area when the door is used to close off the living area. Enough room to swing a cat…. not that I would ever swing our cat Henry round! With the pocket door to the bedroom closed, it makes a great changing area with plenty of ‘elbow’ room without having to close window blinds each time.

I know it’s not a ‘first’… but top marks too for installing a roof vent in the shower cubicle… an easy way to vent all the steam when using the shower. Something lacking on our current van.

So what have they missed out on for me?

As most caravans are used on pitches which are designed with EHU bollards, water taps and waste outlets to the rear of the pitch… I still think that you could save punching holes in the sides of caravans to install water and EHU connections. With the Alicanto Grande Porto‘s design, you could install the electrical and water connections in the rear locker on the off side and have an access hole in the floor for your cable and water pipe. Rather than a 25 metre electrical cable you may be able to get away with only carrying a 10 metre cable. American RV’s and travel trailers have been doing this sort of thing for years. OK I know that for the electrics there are a couple of regulations that need to be catered for, but I’m sure they are not insurmountable and I’m also sure that not having to create holes to install and seal expensive “connection boxes” for power and water could be a cost saving.

The caravan comes with two (in the case of the Porto) ALKO wheel locks. I’d much prefer the Bailey Nemesis Wheel Lock to be supplied instead… or at least an option to choose between the two as a zero cost option when buying a new caravan.

Sue would really really like a hair/makeup mirror… one that can be articulated… maybe with lights…. and a perfect place would be for us on the TV mount in the bedroom. We don’t have a TV in the bedroom and maybe one of those useful accessories could be an optional illuminated mirror and mount to fit on the TV do-hicky…. I’m sure Sue wouldn’t mind if it had “Bailey” branding on it either!

Summing up…

I’m not going to go on about the onboard water tank, built in WiFi, it’s security features, Al-Ko ATC and flashy coloured lighting… I’ll just turn it into just another magazine style review if I’m not careful, but I just wanted to point out some of the things that have been ticking our boxes and made us take notice.

Thanks for reading all this… you get a tick in the box for that!

If you own a 2022 Bailey Alicanto Grande Porto, I’d love to hear what you think about it…. and if we see you on site… can we pop in and have a nosey round…. We’ve not been able to see one in the flesh yet!

Just a quick one…


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Lithium Upgrade for a caravan

I’ve had quite a few people email me asking for more information about the Victron system for a caravan that I was planning mentioned in the previous post. As this seems to have generated a number of questions, rather than give detailed answers to each one I thought I’d post the drawings. For the moment it’s on hold but here are the drawings.

While Victron would seem the obvious choice, there are a number of recent new products from Sterling Power that have rekindled my interest in the project…. watch this space.

A Few Mods and Updates…


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After our recent trip to Meathop Fell it was time to say goodbye to an old friend. We have had our leisure battery since 2011 and for 11 years it has given us great service. For the last year or so I have thought hard about converting over to Lithium and drew up plans for a high capacity charging link between the tow vehicle and caravan and converting the caravan over to a Victron based system. However I think that for this caravan it would not be worth it.

We had bought a 120Ah Numax battery (left one above) from ABS and it had worked well, even now it still hold a charge and is sitting in my workshop on trickle charge waiting for a project to come along. I went back to Advanced Battery Supplies and opted to go for a 120Ah AGM. It wasn’t too expensive and hopefully it will give us years of service like it’s predecessor. I’ve used ABS for batteries a number of times over the past 12 or so years and can recommend them. I’m not sponsored by them and I paid for the battery but I have found that for me they give sensible advice and great service. That’s why I’m happy to mention them. You can call in personally or they do ship overnight ordering from their website –

Battery taken care of now it was time to head into the workshop for a bit of construction….

Henry’s Conveyance Contrivance…

If you have read any of my posts over the last few years you will know that we have Siamese cats…. well sadly Oscar our health and safety officer passed away a while ago leaving us with just his brother Henry. Up to this point we have always had a cat sitter whenever we were away but June has now retired and honestly we could not face the thought of leaving Henry in a cattery or on his own with another cat sitter. So, a couple of exploratory trips up to the caravan for an hour just to let him sit in it and explore round lead us to a two night stay at Burrs Country Park…. only about thirty minutes away from home, that went well and so did the next trip to Meathop Fell. It was now time to build Henry a suitable transport platform for the vehicle.

Henry keeping an eye on the goings on at Meathop Fell

After a bit of head scratching I came up with this….

I built it out of 12mm Ply and painted it grey. I used an off cut of black car carpet to cover the top and sides and a couple of lengths of pipe insulation on the edges where it comes into contact with the car seat and door. To secure it I used the ISO FIX points and it takes less than 30 seconds to remove or install. Without Henrys carrying cage it’s a handy place to put things and the space underneath come in super handy for all my bits that I normally have rolling around on the floor behind the drivers seat. It’s high enough for Henry to be able to see out around in all directions and there is still enough space for two people to sit on the back seat and use the seatbelts if required.

We have used it for two trips now and Henry seems to like it. The rear windows are heavily tinted in our Amarok which will cut the heat from the sun and we can open the rear window for fresh air as required. We are looking round for one of the stick on baby sun screen thingy’s if we think the sun is going to be too strong. Of course we would never leave Henry in the vehicle unattended for more than a couple of minutes… the only time we have done this is while we were hitching up the caravan. If you know Siamese then you know they can be noisy talkative beings…. so far he’s not had anything to say about it. Is that a good sign?

Tempting Fate…

In the eleven years we have been at our storage site we have never had any break-ins but it’s aways in the back of your mind…. and couple that with us sometimes leaving Henry in the caravan while on site I decided a little security upgrade was required (there are others but I’m not going to tell you about them!) I’d looked at the various offerings of additional door locks and after some thinking… and several coffee’s decided to go for the Milenco Door Frame Lock Version 2 offering that allowed us to operate it from inside as well.

I ordered it via Amazon ( )and it arrived within two days. It was easy enough to install but I ‘upgraded’ the interior fitting with a custom stainless steel strengthening plate…

The stainless I used was 1.4mm tooled finish, cut to size and drilled using the template provided with the Milenco lock. After measuring the location, I bent the stainless on my sheet bender in the workshop. I chose the location as this was the strongest part of the door frame where the existing door lock was located and would help protect the original lock so a small extent. Ideally I would have liked the arm to have been a bit longer so it covered up the keyhole for the original lock. But I’m happy with it.

Down the drain…

Long time readers will remember that several years ago I wrote a post about how we solved our connection to the drain while on serviced pitches. After ten years of use It was time for an upgrade and I had seen the COLAPZ products and thought it was a rather nifty idea. Having a mooch round the web I ordered directly from the website and opted for the Flexi waste pipe kit – 8 pipes for £55.

The first use was great and easy to set up. No modification was needed to my original manifold that connects to the caravan and it seems to drain OK….

However you can alway improve on things…. and if you have ever watched any Youtube videos about American RV’s then you will know that for their ‘stinky slinky’s’ they have a few upgrades…. I ordered one from Amazon….

Camco 43041 15′ Sidewinder Plastic Sewer Hose Support it cost £44 and came all the way from the great state of New Jersey. It comes with a carrying handle and honestly is really easy to use. I just stretched it out and lifted the pipe on to it. It is designed for a 4 inch sewer pipe… but as I was using basically a 2 inch version it would allow the hose support to stretch even further… I bought the 15 feet version and I recon it would stretch to 20 feet without any problems.

When we were packing up, I ran all the remaining hot water down the sink to flush the pipework out… including the Colapz pipework and honestly when disconnecting everything it really wasn’t that dirty, but breaking it down into individual lengths makes it easy if it does need a brush through it (which you get by the way in the kit).

Again we are not sponsored by either of these two companies but the links above will earn us a few pennies that will help provide biscuits for Henry. You wouldn’t want Henry to mis out on biscuit treats would you….

After all he can’t survive on just belly rubs…. I know it’s blackmail but EVERYONE said you need a cute kitty to get more views!

A Bit of a Milestone…


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Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a great Christmas and the big guy brought you some wonderful gadgets for the RV… yep I’ve been watching way too much stuff from across the pond.

This month Caravan Chronicles celebrates ten years of irrelevant blogging and I designed an eye catching logo… and you can see from it, that I’m not very good at designing logo’s.

I have been asked if we have any “merch” with the Caravan Chronicles logo and….. no. I really can’t see why anyone would want a mug or tee shirt or even a sticker with Caravan Chronicles emblazoned on it. I can’t see my eye catching 10 years of CC logo being any different so there won’t be any mugs, pens or stickers with that on it either. Sue and I did have a couple of shirts with a logo embroidered on for wearing at the caravan shows… but they are now used as coveralls when we are doing a bit of DIY and they are really good for that.


Well I guess I could tell you that in ten years we have had over 42.3 million page views and been read in almost every country in the world…. the one that amazes me is somone in the Marshall Islands reads it… I had to look that up on a map!

Over 2400 of you have left nearly 4000 comments and I have received over 44,000 emails of which about half weren’t trying to sell me something or asking me to help out a recently deceased Nigerian business man’s widow.

In the ten years I have stuck to my ‘no paid content’ through out and have turned down requests for paid reviews. I have been sent a few things to review… some have been returned and some given away… which reminds me the first person to say “Hi” at the next camp site can have an Eco Camel Shower Head.

I do however have an “Amazon Associates” thingy which is great, Amazon pays me and it doesn’t cost you a penny… it all comes from Big Jeff… and as he can afford to go into space I think he can afford to shell out a few pennies to allow me to pay the wonderful people at WordPress to keep this blog up and running. So if you want to encourage Big Jeff to pay me a bit more… use any of the Amazon links in the Caravan Chronicles shop… and buy anything you like.

What’s planned for the future?

Well I am thinking about some sort of smart Q & A system on the blog. I spend quite a bit of time answering technical emails and quite a few cries for help and maybe a searchable Q & A system would work. Only thing is I don’t know how to do it in WordPress so some research needed along those lines. If you have any thoughts on anything that would improve the blog or would like to see let me know in the comments.

So I’d just like to offer a genuine big thank you all for ten amazing years of support and both Sue and I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and safe travels.

Finishing Off A Few Jobs…


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I’d got a few little jobs still outstanding from our big clean a week or so ago. The big one was to repair the front window. When we were cleaning the caravan I noticed that the bottom edge of the central window was starting to separate. After some lengthy procrastination I’d have preferred to replace it but given the hefty price tag and the “It will be January next year at the earliest before we can get you one” type answers from suppliers and removing the window and shipping to off to a company for repair would cost almost the same as a replacement.

It can’t be beyond a diy task to repair. I did a bit of searching for information relating to repairs and one name kept popping up as the manufacturer of the product used to bond the two sheets together…Bondrite Adhesives Ltd.

After reading through Bondrite Adhesives Ltd website a couple of times to work out exactly with adhesive I’d need I ordered their WC112 acrylic adhesive. The 50ml size was £12.10 plus shipping and VAT bringing the total to £20.52. It arrived within 24 hours of ordering, was really well packaged and came with a detailed technical sheet and guidance notes.

I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of how to repair a delaminated window… as I don’t know if this is even going to work, but my first step was to support the window as flat as I could. The standard recommendation is to remove the window lay it on a flat surface and go from there. I didn’t want to remove the window as all I had to repair was the lower edge.

Improvising I used two stands with a cross beam clamped between them to hold the window horizontal. This should take any flexing stress caused by the window stays out of the equation…. Hopefully!

To hold the gap between he two sheets I used three long needles from syringes… this allowed me just enough wiggle room to slide some blotting paper with a bit of isopropanol alcohol to clean out any contaminates. I’d already tested this to make sure it was safe and it does evaporate very quickly.

You are advised to lay down a 5mm bead of glue… as this was going to be difficult between the two sheets of partially bonded plastic I opted to use a wide bore syringe needle on the glue bottle which allowed me to squeeze glue into the gap… it was a bit fiddly but I managed to achieve what I thought would be the right amount. Sliding the three previous inserted needles out to allow the sheets to come together I used some fairly light clamps to hold the pieces together while they cured. Bondrite do caution about NOT using an excessive clamping force as it can lead to crazing of the sheets.

The data sheet advice is that handling strength is achieved after about 3 hours at 20 deg C. I covered up the glued area with microfibre cloths to protect it from the sun and had a sit down with an iced coffee and a sammich.

Next Job…

If you read my previous post “Put Your Lights On Mate…” then you might have picked up on my request at the end for any recommendations for a UK supplier of good quality replacement LED bulbs. Well Peter Farnham posted in the comments section and recommended Classic Car LEDS Ltd ( ). A couple of days later I dropped them an email with a few questions and Duncan replied back with some details. A few more exchanges of emails ended up with me ordering replacement LED bulbs for the new fog lights, indicator lights and stop/tail lights. This is not a sponsored post and I paid the required number of beer tokens for these.

Not much to say on changing the bulbs over… what was noticeable was though they did have a bit heft to them… they seem really really well made. No flexing, solid and just had that feel about them that made me go “Mmmm” while nodding slowly…. almost in a Joey Tribbiani moment.

I did try to do before and after photos to compare the light output…. even tried a short video with one side changed over and the other side on conventional filament bulbs… all failed…. not as easy as it looks in strong sunlight even though the caravan rear was in shade. However the photo above is one side converted over. This is showing the indicator, tail light and fog light lit. The indicators are really bright. Having the LEDS the same colour as the lens works well. The tail light is a strong red and bright while the fog light looks washed out and white… it’s down to the fact that it is so bright its over exposed…. the exposure is correct for the indicator and tail light but the fog light is amazingly bright.. and red.

On the VW Amarok I haven’t had any canbus warnings… I even plugged in my reader to check… all good and no strobing or hyper flash.

To say I’m chuffed with these LED bulbs is a bit of an understatement… if you suffer from rear light envy as you follow one of those gloriously illuminated trucks down the motorway, drop Duncan an email at and tell him I sent you. Sort out your rear lights and never again have someone with four megawatts of light bars and spots flashing you and shouting “Put Your Lights On Mate” as they simulate a starship going into warp drive passing you.

Another small job next…

I’d had this gadget for a while and I can’t remember where I got it from. I think it was from a caravan shop at a dealer near York that we visited a while ago.

Simply it’s a security head bolt with a hardened shroud that replaces the normal jockey wheel clamp handle. When it’s installed it is flush with the A frame cover and pretty difficult to get to. It comes with a short handle and socket that fits the security bolt head. I did try with a couple of sockets but the shroud makes it almost impossible to even knock a socket on with a hammer. So if anyone want’s to nick the caravan they now also have to contend with the hassle of getting round my jockey wheel clamp. As I always leave the caravan nose high in storage you can’t even pick it up and drop it on to a tow ball. Hey if it makes them try elsewhere… it works for me.

Thinking about the next step…

This is going to be a big one. I’ve been planning this for a few weeks now and it involves two or three drawings… some detailed planning and I’ve been checking equipment specs in detail. The last stage was to sit and stare at the space available in the caravan and work out Tetris style how it is all physically going to fit in and how much of the existing kit will be removed. More to come soon!

Back to the window…

OK I bet you have been wondering how I got on. Well after nearly five hours of curing time I disassembled my contraption holding the window open and it seems to have worked OK. I can see that it has bonded all along the bottom edge. I could have put a bit more glue in at one spot and needs a light clean up all along the bottom edge to remove what has oozed out. I’ll leave that for at least another 48 hours before attempting to gently sand it off.

All in all I’m pleased with the result and hope to see that it will stand up to the test of time.

“Put your lights on mate…..”


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How many of you have driven behind a vehicle in less than ideal conditions… going dark, raining or foggy… and uttered those immortal words “Put you lights on mate” in the vein hope it will do some good only to approach a bit closer to find that the lights are on and are less effective as a couple of Ikea tea lights in jam jars. That is the feeling I get with a lot of caravans. In my opinion a lot for rear lights are less than ideal. In this day and age some of the drivers out there need all the help they can get as they even struggle to notice a big white box in front of them in bright sunshine let alone in inclement weather or in the dark.

Our caravan like a lot of other Swift caravans looks great from the rear with nice big lights and reflectors. Reflectors are good if the following driver has turned his headlights on and not been too busy texting and simply relying on the DRL’s to light the way. The big reversing lights will surly let the driver and anyone else behind know you are reversing… but about as useless as the aforementioned Ikea tea light in a jam jar when reversing at an angle into a pitch at night. The rear fog light however deserves a special mention… the single rear fog light…. can you see it… the tiny Lego brick sized rear fog light… the red thing in the middle down low… difficult to spot on a stationary caravan in daylight let alone from a distance on a road in fog. Mind you when that bit of wire in the bulb warms up it will blind you… honestly it will…. eventually… when you get so close because you didn’t see it from ten metres away.

Its time for a change. An upgrade if you will… to allow me to shine a beacon of light towards all that follow. But… and here’s a the big thing… I have to keep it looking nice. Everyone likes a nice rear don’t they.

OK, I searched for all the replacement options. Swift don’t make it easy. The two panels that the lights are mounted in don’t come out, well not easily and I was cautioned about even attempting to remove them. Changing to smart round LED lights was out. Then it struck me… the reversing lights could become fog lights and I would install new reversing lights. I’d towed a trailer a while ago that had football stadium sized reversing lights and wow what a difference it made. One of the first things I did with the Amarok when we got it was to install LED work lights under the rear bumper as reversing lights and that was a huge improvement so I ordered another set from the same company as I’d fitted to the Amarok.

A bit more searching I found the exact lenses for the existing lights in red to turn the reversing lights into fog lights.. it was actually cheaper to order a pair of complete lights than it was to order two replacement red lenses… I’ll never work that one out.

Ok how was I going to wire this lot up. I made a couple of brackets that fitted under the caravan allowing me to mount the reversing lights up close just inboard of the rear steady jacks. This would offer a modicum of protection from road debris thrown up by the tyres. These could be wired to run off the old fog light which would now become a junction box and the reverse lights would become the fog lights, so simply switching the reverse light and fog light cables over at the road light fuse box in the front of the caravan would have everything working correctly.

I also angled the reversing lights out slightly. I wanted the centre of their light pool to be along an extended side line of the caravan so that looking through my mirrors down each side of the caravan would be the centre of the lit area. This hopefully would provide the best angle of illumination when reversing and performing a reversing turn onto a pitch.

“Hang on lads… I’ve got an idea”

Cue the music… no, no doors were blown off during this mod. Right what if the new rear fog lights could be my brake lights when they weren’t being used as fog lights?

A simple diode blocking bridge using two diodes could do this quite easily. Routing through my electronics spares I found a bag of 10 Amp diodes which would easily cope with the task.

For a quick solution I used two strips of terminal block and built a quick blocking bridge. What happens now is applying the brakes powers up the brake light circuit and the fog lights. The diode in the fog light circuit stops me back feeding current to the tow vehicle fog light circuit.

Turning on the fog lights powers up the fog lights and the diode in the bridge stops it powering the brake lights in either the caravan or back feeding to the tow vehicle. Really simple and when testing I didn’t have any canbus or other errors thrown up by the VW Amarok’s management system. The existing (and original) brake and tail lights work as normal.

I’ll have a look at coming up with a better solution than using two lengths of terminal strip and probably build something in a small electrical project box so it can be mounted securely.

As far as I can tell the changes I’ve made all fall in line with the lighting regs for trailers. While I’m 99% sure, there is always the possibility that I could be corrected and shown the error of my ways and point out I have missed something in my reading of the regs. I’ll let you know.

The next thing…

I’m trying to find some good quality bright LED replacement bulbs for all the rear road lights. I have some, but I suspect they are not correctly marked. If anyone has any recommendations for replacement 25W and 5/25W bulbs that they deem are good options to look at, especially if they are correctly marked, please let me know in the comments. If you are a company that sells LED replacement bulbs and think they are the good enough to pass the Caravan Chronicles testing department (we don’t actually have a testing department… its just me) then challenge me to break them!

Safe travels everyone… and “PUT YOUR LIGHTS ON MATE”

Well that took some cleaning…


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Our first visit to the caravan storage site in quite a while to check on the caravan was undertaken with some apprehension. It had been over twelve months since we had checked on it and we expected that we were going to be in for a shock.

The caravan was very dirty on the outside but it was the inside we most feared. Opening the door….. it didn’t smell musty…. we couldn’t see any mould… and nothing felt damp. In fact inside was in really good shape. Leaving all the cupboard doors open, the bed partly raised and the roof vents cracked open a touch seemed to have worked. OK, now a list of jobs that needed doing. The leisure battery is now 10 years old and given us good service. It needs replacing… more on that later. The tyres also need replacing and the outside needs a good clean and polish.

I removed the leisure battery which was showing as dead… less then 10 volts, put it in the back of the Amarok and we headed back home to come up with a plan of action. A couple of days later we returned with cleaning supplies…

We hitched up the caravan and pulled it forward out of it’s parking spot and set to work. Over the years I’ve tried all the different products for washing the caravan (and cars) ranging from mid priced to the “how bloody much” brands, but in all honesty I have found Morrisons own Wash and Wax Shampoo (It’s bright green) to be really good and it has given me really good results on our 15 year old Freelander, the Amarok and the caravan. A long handled brush for the sides and some small detail brushes for the awning rails and tight places made easy work of the sides. It was all hosed down using one of those pump up pressure washer thingy’s

To rinse I used Car Plan’s Demon Shine (the pink stuff…. also stocked in Morrisons) diluted down in the yellow pump up spray do-hicky. Which works quite effectively. The two products – Morrisons Wash and Wax shampoo and the Demon Shine seem to work together really well and I certainly found that using the two as a shampoo and then as a diluted rinse leave a good water shedding layer on the Amarok that lasts quite a while.

One thing we don’t have at our storage compound is running water. So I have three 25 litre containers that I fill up at home and throw into the back of the Amarok. To save lifting them up to fill buckets…. I fitted a hosepipe connector to one of the lids and all I need to do now is tip the container and open the tap. As there is no venting the sides collapsed inwards a little so tipping it back onto its side from time to time to let air back in means that when the tap is shut nothing can slosh out a vent while travelling.

On this trip we only cleaned and polished the sides… the roof would have to wait for a return visit. Putting the caravan back in it’s spot lead to the next task…. jack it up and remove the wheels. The caravan was fitted with Hankook 185×80 R14 and inspecting them closely revealed no cracks, bulges or damage of any kind. These tyres were now 10 years old it was defiantly time to replace them. We got 8 years use and just over a year standing out of them and I consider that a win. Realistically they should have been replaced at 5 years…. 7 max at a push, so getting 8 out of them with close inspections each trip I’ll consider we got our money’s worth out of them. After much searching on line and checking out the discount with National Tyre via the Caravan and Motorhome Club I called in to my local National Tyre could fit replacements and beat the price even that C & M Club discount gave us with National Tyres on line. As the Hankook’s had given us really good service and long life I replaced them with another set of Hankook’s. National Tyres also fitted new valve stems, valves and balanced the wheels. I know there is a lot of debate about balancing caravan wheels…. well the engineering bit of my brain thinks that anything rotating should be in balance, so I’m going to balance my wheels. We picked the newly re-shod wheels up the following day and returned to the compound to fit them. As it was raining, cleaning the roof was put off until we had better weather.

OK…. I know… you are all saying “Why did he clean the sides before the roof….. that’s bass acwards” OK here is my thinking…. the roof is going to take a few hours to do properly and when you have done that you then have no choice but to do the sides straight away as they are going to be really filthy with all the run off. It’s going to be a really long day to do everything. By doing the sides first, we could get a good layer of wax protection on them and as said earlier, the combination of products give a really good beading coat. So when it comes to washing the roof a simple rinse down would restore the sides back to their pristine finish we had a few days earlier.

As I worked round the roof scrubbing and rinsing, Sue followed me with a squirt bottle and microfibre cloths… using the Car Plan Demon Shine neat finished off the sides and gave another layer of buffed waxy finish.

A few other jobs were completed too. All the window and door rubbers were given a good coating of Sonax Silicon… this stops the windows sticking to the rubber and keeps the rubber seals soft and supple. Some of the aluminium awning rail needed cleaning. Rather than use a metal polish (Solvol-Autosol is my normal preference as a metal polish) I used a simple rubbing compound so as not to polish the aluminium too much but brighten it’s brushed finish. And finally waterproof silicone grease for the moving and interlocking parts of the 13 pin plug.

What next?…

I mentioned earlier that our leisure battery had died… well after some tender loving care in the workshop… It’s alive! Well it’s OK for light duty. So the next project is to go lithium. I have planned out a course of action and the first step is to install on the Amarok a 50 Amp feed to the rear of the vehicle and terminate in an Anderson connector. This will allow me to use the full capability of the Amarok’s large alternator to charge Lithium batteries in the caravan via a dedicated DC to DC charger. Next stage will be installing a solar regulator and panels followed up by an inverter and changing the on board charger for a dedicated lithium charger. I also want to remove the inbuilt charger to save weight and make room as I won’t be installing any lithium batteries in the existing battery box.

I’m still in the process of doing my due diligence on equipment for this so watch this space. I’ll go through my thought processes in a later post.

The other change is going to be the rear lights on the caravan. The reversing lights are not very useful when reversing on to a pitch in the dark so I’m going to install two LED wide beam lights just out board of the rear steadies. That leaves me with the existing reversing lights. A quick search on the internet led me to replacement Hella lenses for the existing reversing lights that would allow me to convert them into fog lights with a simple lens change and a wiring change at the fuse block. Swop the reversing light cable with the fog light cable and use the old fog light as a connection point for the new reversing lights… after removing the bulb of course!