As many of you know I don’t really do reviews… I occasionally buy things and put my thoughts on the product in a post. Companies do contact me and ask if I’d review their ‘Do-Hicky Mark 4’ on the blog and most of the time I decline. Why? Well a lot of them stipulate that they want to see anything I write before it’s posted, we’ll sorry no. If I think it’s crap, I want to be able to say so. There are a couple of companies that I deal with that say “We are thinking of importing/manufacturing/marketing the ‘Functionvardle Mark 9’ we would like to send one for your feedback and not for reviewing on your blog.” They do get an honest feedback and I never mention the company or the product in my blog…. Even if the “Functionvardle Mark 9” makes it to market. Continue reading
I seem to have had an increase over the last few weeks of emails from people involved in building, modifying or upgrading Overland Expedition type vehicles. I think some of my posts must have been quoted or referenced in related forums. A lot of questions are related to roughly the same group of topics so I thought I’d produce three drawings to help answer the bulk of the questions. If you read down the comments on some posts I have answered a lot of specifics that might help. I’ve merged a lot of the questions into a paraphrased ones…
“How can I get my LED light bar and spotlights to come on when I use my main beam switch but I want to disable them when on the highway?”
Link to A3 PDF – Auto Switch Driving Lights
The questions were from a number of 4 x 4 Off Road enthusiasts and Overland vehicle people. Simplest way I could come up with was using a couple of diodes (details on the drawing) Three switches… one for LED Light Bar, One for Driving Lights and one that allows you to sync the LED Light Bar and Driving Lights to the operation of the main beam in the vehicle. Flash the main beam and with the Sink Switch ON… all the lights will flash. Note… this may be illegal in some countries, so having the option to turn off the facility when on the roads ‘should’ keep you within the law…. don’t quote me on it!!!
“Whats the best layout for connecting a solar controller / inverter / isolation switch to my battery bank?”
Link to A3 PDF – Overlander Wiring Diagram – 01
The best schematic I could come up with that is flexible for most situations. I’ve put a few notes on the drawing. The various components I’ve drawn generically…. all can be found at your preferred supplier.
“What’s the basic layout of the vehicle fridge and leisure battery charing circuit?
Link to A3 PDF – Basic 13 Pin Power Loom 1
This I think has come from a few on-line discussions relating to poor performance of the fridge and leisure battery charing in older 4 x 4 vehicles. I was receiving for a while a number of questions related to upgrading older installations. I also receive a number of emails asking how to add the facility of fridge and leisure battery charging to older vehicles and upgrade the 7 pin tow socket or old military lights socket.
You can download the PDF’s and are free to use for personal use. If you post them on other forums I’d appreciate a link back to this page and/or an acknowledgement.
I’d appreciate any feed back in the comments below.
A couple of eagle-eyed mirror aficionados have spotted that we use Milenco Grand Aero 3 towing mirrors… but they also spotted that there was something different about the mounts. OK I’ll have to admit you are an eagle eyed bunch!
On the Amarok, the mirrors are quite big and if I get them adjusted about right I can just see down both sides of the caravan… we’re not 8 foot wide. However, driving without mirrors is more likely to attract attention and it’s easier and safer just to fit a pair. I first went for a brand that I’d used on the Land Rover Freelander, however the Amarok’s mirrors are quite deep and it wasn’t till I tried them that I realised how much of an issue that was….
The other issue I had… I didn’t particularly like the fitting….. it was about on the limits of extension and about 25% of the mirror was obscured by the Amarok’s door mirror… just at the point the would allow you to see the wheels of the caravan. Not ideal.
So I looked round for a mirror that would move the face of the mirror rearwards in about the same plane as the normal Amarok mirror. The added depth of the Milenco Grand Aero looked as though it would do the job perfectly.
Actually it was a little too much. As the mounting for the mirror was now on the door mirror plane, not as the previous mirror the back of the mirror housing it shifted the face of the Grand Aero too far rearwards. I liked the vision the Grand Aero gave and the mounting.
To the Bat Cave…
I just happened to have some lengths of 12mm steel tubing and a bending tool. Maybe I could solve the problem without searching round for other products.
I used a welding rod to hand bend a profile that seemed to put the mirror into the right position. I worked out I’d only need two bends to get the mirror in the right position.
I installed the two mounting brackets on the door mirror in the final position I wanted them and slid a length of tube into them. Marking where I wanted the first bend to be and using an angle finder to approximate the angle that would move the mirror far enough forward so the face was in line with the door mirror face… this then gave me the point to start the bend upwards to get the mirror at the correct height.
Ok before I get a lot of comments asking why installed the mounts on the lower edge of the mirror… two reasons…. if they do move about or squish down on a bit of grit any scratches won’t be seen in the painted area of the door mirrors and from the driving position they don’t obscure my view if I have to look past the top of the door mirrors. I’ve also noticed when its raining I don’t get nearly as much water running down the face of the door mirror. And another reason…. the bottom of the door mirror on the Amarok is not quite as curved and the clamps fitted more securely. I’ve got everything dialed in now to the point where I don’t actually need to adjust the mirrors each time I fit them.
At this point I hadn’t cut the tube to length on the vertical section so I had the chance to adjust the height of the Grand Aero. After a bit of trial and error that involved a clamp and running round to the driver’s seat… and back again to adjust I got what I thought was the right height for me.
As you can see in the photo above, the reflective face of both mirrors is in near perfect alignment… and for me that makes it easy when driving as I don’t have any perceived shift in focus. The picture below is from the drivers position… I put the camera as close as I could to where my eyes are and I get a great view rearwards. Note that installing the mounting clamps on the bottom edge of the door mirror does not block the forward side view over the door mirror.
The driver’s side was bent the same… just opposite ‘handed’ and the length worked out right for the height too.
When seen from the front… even though I’m not quite ‘square on’ to the caravan, I’m angled slightly to the left when sat in the drivers seat, the mirror is fully outside the extended side line of the caravan giving me a great view.
I gave the now bent and drilled tubes a light emery and de-grease followed by couple of coats of grey acid etch primer. This was topped off a few days later with a fine bed liner spray. This game the arms a durable coating plus the bed liner finish is quite ‘grippy’ and allowed the clamps the hold fast without too much yanking on the knobs.
We have been using these now for about two years and for me they work out just fine.
I had all this stuff in the Bat Cave as it was purchased for other projects, so the mirror arms didn’t really cost me anything. Both arms were made out of one 1 metre length of 12mm steel tube.
The tube bender I paid less than £30 for it about 12 months ago from Amazon. The 12mm Steel tube, again from Amazon was around £4 for a 1 metre length and the Truck Bed Liner paint was around £8.
You can find links to these and other bits I use in the Caravan Chronicles Shop
Just for comparison…. the original supplied arm against my contrivance…. and yes… I have now sorted that bit of surface rust out! (I missed a bit when spraying)
A few weeks ago I posted a blog post called “A Quick Fault Finding Tip…” and that generated quite a few emails regarding electrical testing and how to trace faults. In fact a lot of the other electrical posts I’ve done over the years still generate emails and comments (it’s always worth checkingback on some of th eolder posts to read the comments) I’m going to try to explain a technique that’s really handy to have in your tool box for general fault-finding.
Earth Side Testing
Most people who perform general maintenance on their vehicle, motor home or caravan will be familiar with checking the voltage of the vehicle or leisure battery using a multimeter. Great little things to have and personally I think everyone should be able to do the basics with one. So as a bit of a refresher I’ll go through this scenario with you. Checking the lights on your tow vehicle you notice one of the brake lights is a lot dimmer than the other. Let’s find out why. I’m going to simplify the circuit a bit it should give you the idea behind the principle.
Depending on the device you re reading this on the drawings might be small. If you want to see the drawing full size just click on it to open it up full size.
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…..
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……
… 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…..
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.
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!
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.
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:
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!)
Click here to download the Relay Wall Chart
Click here to download the Wire Size Wall Chart
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)
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.
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.
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 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!
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….”)
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