I’m sure that anyone that is a four season caravanner will recognise this… in winter you arrive on site around six in the evening in the dark, in the pouring rain. You get to your pitch and it’s a tight reverse manoeuvre on to it. Your partner gets out with a torch to guide you back. In the rain it’s hard to see out of the side windows and mirrors and you partner disappears into the blackness with only a point of light from their torch to give you any idea where they are. You put the vehicle into reverse and the reversing lights on the rear of the tow vehicle light up the front of the caravan like a National Trust stately home but not much else. You now struggle to see the corners and edge of the pitch in the contrast of the brightness of the floodlight front of the caravan. The darkness down each side caravan and the illumination from the reversing lights of the caravan just seem so far away the little orange side marker lights are not much help in lighting up the area around the van.
This has happened a few times to us and I’ve been pondering over it for a while. What I’d like is not only the normal LED awning light but one on the off side of the caravan and on the rear too with the ability to be able to switch on all three to give a general illumination around the caravan when manoeuvring at night. The LED awning light on our Swift caravan is quite effective at providing enough illumination on one side so what about two more being fitted? Or giving the side marker lights the option to be changed from orange to bright white? They could be controlled from just inside the main door and a simple electronic circuit to turn them off after a few minutes or when the caravan is disconnected from the tow vehicle could be incorporated or even off the key fob remote so you could turn them on when returning back to the caravan in the dark.
Off side and rear illumination would be handy too when it comes to the late night “Oh God it needs emptying/filling” moment just as the full moon disappears behind a cloud and the batteries are a bit run down in your torch (or flashlight for our American cousins) and you just happen to be next to the EHU bollard that the light doesn’t work.
Now while we are on the subject….un-hitching or hitching in the dark is also a bit of a black hole, pun intended. Hitching or un-hitching using a torch becomes a bit of a pain and if you wear vari-focal or bi-focal glasses, using a head torch means constantly adjusting it to get it in the right focus area to see. So, while the additional awning lights are being installed, what about a similar light above the front locker that can be turned on to light up the hitch head allowing easier coupling and un-coupling?
It doesn’t have to be standard on all caravans, but what about an “All Seasons Touring” option pack that could include the above and other things… like mud flaps on the caravan? I’m sure you can think of other things as well. So manufacturers….It’s too late for 2016 caravans but what about considering it for the 2017 range?
I think I can feel a couple of projects coming on…
Steve Law said:
Understand the problem and agree the need for a solution.
My own workaround doesn’t involve any mods at all but simply use the motormover. I appreciate not everyone has such a device, but if you do it solves all the issues – Removes the towcar and its associated light pollution, removes the engine noise so communications between driver and assistant become easier and allows much more accurate positioning of the van (and I’ve been manoeuvering aircraft for 40 years so have gained some experience with towbars and articulations as well as caravans – use the KISS principle and so much other grief simply goes away. The motor mover was the best invention since the caravan, imho, and worth every penny)
As a side benefit, by forcing the driver out into the rain along with the assistant, any bad weather is shared and this helps domestic harmony – a problem shared is a blame halved, and all that…. 🙂
Simon Barlow said:
Hi Steve, Unfortunately not everyone has the spare weight capacity for a motor mover…. and of course there is always the “I’ll sit in the car as its raining while you use the mover to pitch the caravan”
David Whitter said:
Surely it would be simple to turn off the vehicle reverse lights with a relay when the caravan reverse lights are connected with the aux. circuits then using the hazard lights plus caravan reverse lights this gives better visibility. With regards to illuminating the hitch my 2001 abbey spectrum had one fitted as standard with a weatherproof switch incorporated.
Simon Barlow said:
On some vehicles, when the towing pack is installed, the software update disables both the vehicle rear fog light and reversing lights when a trailer is detected.
One thing that always has to be considered is making alterations such as the ability to disable lights on the vehicle other than as intended by the manufacturer has to be treated with caution. As the MOT tests functionality of 13 pin sockets it could potentially constitute a failure if the lights don’t work as intended by the vehicle manufacturer. I don’t know the criteria for the test or how the testers equipment functions and what would constitute a pass of fail.
A couple of years ago I did actually seen a caravan with a light fitted in the front for lighting up the ‘A’ frame when we were staying at Manor House Caravan Park near Blackpool and thought it was a great idea and I’ve been looking for one as an accessory since. I don’t know what caravan it was on though. I believe some of the Coachman caravans have an awning light on both sides too.
David Whitter said:
I appreciate your concern on the disabling the vehicle reverse light regarding mot testing but the old seven pin set up is not electrically tested also as reverse lights are not obligitory on a vehicle they are not subject to testing in the euro 13.pin setup. as stated in section 1.9 of the vosa MoT inspection manual.
Simon Barlow said:
I’m not up to speed on the current MOT regulations so can’t comment.
I do know however from practical experience that simply installing a relay is not always possible on some vehicles as a number of lights are now CANBUS controlled, it can lead to other issues. For a project I was asked to help with involving a 5th wheel setup, it ended up installing a CANBUS to relay interface to overcome this which involved some programming.
But for an older vehicle with the old 7 pin electrics it should not be a problem.
Like many other people, we suffer from night blindness due to light pollution. Try switching off all your lights and only using the torch being held by other half to guide you in.
Our biggest issue with winter caravan is that there are not enough fully serviced pitches around as filling up water container or emptying waste water is a hassle in the cold and wet.
Simon Barlow said:
Switching off the lights doesn’t really help as the front of the caravan would be lit up with the reversing lights even with the lights off, coupled to the fact that then you would be in darkness at the front if having to pull forward but I do see what you mean.
I agree on the number of fully serviced pitches available… or not. I think it’s about time that the major clubs follow the top independent sites and convert over to fully serviced pitches. I know it’s a major factor when we choose a site.
Maybe fully serviced pitches is another topic for reviews or the blog. LOL!