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.
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 ( https://www.classiccarleds.co.uk ). 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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”
Something that caught my eye a couple of days ago really got me excited…. no not a new caravan ( I wish) but a Kickstarter project that I think is one of those simple ideas that has countless applications in all sorts of areas. In fact I keep thinking of more uses for it… and it’s not even my idea!
OK, so what has got me all worked up then? Well imagine getting messages direct to your email or phone telling you the voltage of your leisure battery, motorhome starter battery, canal boat battery, ATV battery, bike battery, solar powered shed battery, aircraft battery, golf cart battery, horse box battery or trailer winch battery. All from a little device that can simply be clipped on or permanently installed. Got you curious?
The company has recently been at the Scottish Caravan and Motorhome Show where they received lots of interest and loads of positive feedback. Still curious?
OK here the disclaimer thingy bit for Caravan Chronicles: I have no connection to these guys except I decided to back the project on Kickstarter. I have taken all the text and images below from IonOT’s kickstarter project page…
If you want to see the full project, follow the link toBatbot and see what you think.
Invented in Scotland by David Richie, Batbot came about from wearing two hats – one, from a career working in the technology sector, and the other, as a livery yard owner. With horse lorries stored on site in between use, he noticed a regular problem occurring. On the day of an outing, more often than not, there would be an early morning knock at the door from liveries needing help… their vehicle battery was indeed… flat.
They had walked past their lorry every day, but had no idea that the battery was running low. This sparked an idea. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a device that could avoid this problem?! Batbot was born. After many hours, days, weeks and months developing the concept and prototypes, here we are today, with a brand new product that will ensure flat batteries (and early morning wake up calls) are a thing of the past.
Batbot is a device that every equestrian, marine enthusiast, motorhome or vehicle owner has missed… until now.
This clever product monitors your vehicle’s battery and sends alerts to your mobile device or email when the battery requires charging.
How it works
Batbot simply hooks up via two croc clips (provided) to the battery points under your vehicles bonet and can be secured in place with a cable tie.
Once installed the device then sends your battery’s data to the cloud where alerts are generated and then sent to your mobile device or email address. Unlike other products, Batbot uses the Sigfox or LoRaWAN radio networks to send this data, so no bluetooth connection is required.
Key Benefits of Batbot:
Quick and easy to use
Keeps track of your battery state
Alerts you when action is required
Saves destroying batteries with deep discharge
Regular daily “All Ok” status for peace of mind
No monthly SIM contract
First year subscription included
Low further yearly subscription (£7 ~ £10)
Chose Sigfox or LoRaWAN version of product
LoRaWAN has Home Gateway option to provide cover in remote areas
Helps identify when your battery or vehicle has an electrical fault.
Avoids the vehicle not starting when needed for emergency or planned use
Save’s garage call out charges to jump start your vehicle
24V lorries can be difficult to find a suitable jump start source for, or require a garage call out. Batbot helps you avoid this problem
For all the details and to see the full project go and visit the Batbot Kickstarter page and maybe you too might want to invest a few beer tokens.
My email box tends to get a wide variety of questions covering all sorts of subjects. The most frequent one is to do with wiring and electrically related problems. Sometimes trying to diagnose issues via email and a few photos is a bit of a challenge, but hey who doesn’t like a challenge! One thing that I do see a lot of is electrical work that is…. well, quite frankly not up to scratch in my opinion. So here is my attempt at a basic guide.
You have to have a plan.
So many projects start by adding one or two things… extra 12 volt outlet here… maybe another light and then something else comes along that needs adding in. Before you know it you have a mess of spaghetti that the local Italian restaurant would be ashamed of. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of adding circuits to existing fuses…. or installing a new fuse and a few weeks later adding another circuit to it as it’s easier than installing another fuse.
You can download these and other drawings from the Electrical Drawings page in the drop down menu under “Document Library”
You need to draw out how the major elements are going to connect together – leisure batteries, solar charger, DC to DC charger, inverter and include all the big fuses, buss bars and fuse box. Don’t think about where any of this goes for the moment just get the basic layout and how everything interconnects worked out. It might take a few goes but paper is usually cheaper and less frustrating than sorting out the mess afterwards.
Once you have all that figured out you can start working on the details… just how many fuses will be needed… and what ever number you come up with add half as many again as a minimum. Having a few spare fuse positions that maybe never used is way cheaper than in twelve months time having to install an additional fuse box. A this point you can start adding details…. what size cable is needed for each link, what sort of fuse box do you need.
You can also now start to think about specific facilities you might need. For example, many overlander vehicles will have a button on the dash that when pressed and held down activates a high current relay that links the house batteries to the engine cranking battery. Very handy to have… jump leads are not much use if you are 200Km from the nearest vehicle. If your only trip ‘off road’ however is the muddy car park at the local car boot sale than maybe not a priority.
Don’t use the vehicle chassis as a ground.
Modern vehicles are constructed using different materials and quite often panels and sub frames are glued together. Back when virtually all the panels were spot or seam welded steel, using the body and chassis as a ‘ground’…. which really isn’t a ground but the neutral return path… this was acceptable. However now, sections can be glued together and are often sub assemblies of aluminium and other light weight materials bonded together. Just because you see a neutral bonding point (earth terminal) don’t assume this is is capable of being a suitable point to bond the neutral side of a circuit or accessory you are installing. Modern vehicles often have small bonding straps between sections that can carry the current that the vehicle manufacturer rated the bonding point for. Adding additional equipment and accessories might exceed the original design spec.
I did see a spectacular failure due to a 3000W inverter having it’s neutral lead ‘grounded’ in the rear of a vehicle. Running at about 2000W the neutral side was trying to ‘return’ a current of about 170 amps through the body of the vehicle, which lead to serious damage to some of the vehicles wiring and a number of vehicle components… and a ‘repair’ bill of nearly £1500.Putting a riv-nut in a body panel that is mastic bonded to the body is not a suitable negative bonding point!
Additionally a number of vehicle circuits are now negative switching or operation and installing additional equipment or accessories could have unforeseen issues. Always from any accessory or piece of equipment you install, add the neutral return path back to a suitable single common point or buss bar you install for the purpose and connect this directly back to the leisure battery.
Ideally all the ancillary leisure circuits should never rely on any of the vehicle wiring and the negative side of the leisure wiring should only ever connect to the negative side of the leisure battery.
Don’t use battery terminals as a junction post.
Both the leisure battery and engine battery should only have connections that lead to either in the case of the positive terminal a master fuse /circuit breaker and isolator switch. The negative terminal should only have the connection to a master negative terminal point or buss bar.
If you want to install any sort of battery monitoring, it is convention to install the shunt on the negative return to the battery between the negative buss bar and the negative battery terminal. If you have multiple circuits terminated on the battery terminal it makes future changes and upgrades, including installing a battery monitor very difficult.
Using the battery terminals as connection points for multiple services also makes fault finding very difficult. Each circuit may or may not have it’s own fuse and it’s difficult to isolate circuits….. plus I’ve had enough sparks flying round when trying to disconnect a battery because someone did not install an isolator to know that it’s only a matter of time before one goes ‘pop’.
Please, just don’t do it.
Have a think on this. If you had to go to an auto electrician to get a fault traced and corrected, they would immediately put at least an hours time on the invoice just to figure out what was going on with all the cables on the battery. Also, If you don’t have a battery master isolator installed, get one installed now. It’s a safety item that must not be missed out. Having the ability to quickly turn off all the leisure circuits in an emergency might just save you from the unthinkable happening.
Every cable should be terminated. Period. There shouldn’t be any cables in an installation that don’t have a crimped (or soldered) termination. Even if it’s a screw terminal such as those found in joining blocks or 13 pin plugs.
If you are embarking on a wiring project, its always best to start building up your stock of terminals. I usually buy selection boxes of terminals on line and supplement these with bags of single type connectors for the more commonly used ones. To keep everything organised tote organiser boxes are my preferred option.
There is nothing more annoying than running out of the something and its always just as you want to finish a project off so you end up cutting corners.
For some of the larger cables, if you don’t feel up to making your own terminations there is usually a local auto electrician available that will terminate them for you for a small charge. However, a crimping tool that will terminate up to 50mm cable is not that expensive – around £27 and will probably work out cheaper in the long run. I’ve a link to the one I bought via Amazon and regularly use in the SHOP page.
Get the size right…
Selecting the right size or gauge of cable is critical. There are two factors that determine what gauge of cable to use for a installing any particular circuit. The maximum current that’s going to be drawn and the length of the cable. Once you have selected the right size cable then means you can select the right size fuse for the circuit. Never fuse a circuit greater than the current capacity of the cable.
You can download these and other drawings from the Electrical Drawings page in the drop down menu under “Document Library”
I generally tend to list what is going to be installed, then work out all the gauge for the cables for the circuits. From there it’s easy to see which is going to be the most popular gauge and rather than buy several different gauges of cable try to select a limited selection of gauges.
Always go for the safe option of over specifying the gauge of cable for any particular circuit. If it’s a 10 amp circuit and you have used cable suitable for a 16 amp circuit, it doesn’t mean however you need to use a fuse greater than the 10 Amp circuit requires.
Something else to consider too. Most 12 volt cables are copper, however if you are installing them in a less than ideal environment, such as a boat, you may want to opt for tinned copper cables. These are far less susceptible to cable corrosion. Even in the best marine installations I’ve seen copper cables corrode through in less than a couple of years.
Cardinal Sin! – Never ever use two smaller cables to make up the equivalent of one larger capacity cable. You would be surprised how many times I’ve seen this… sometimes done by “professional” tow-bar installers when reported poor leisure battery charing or poor fridge performance is reported and the voltage drop is too great.
Wiring Looms – wrapping it up properly!
Dressing cables into looms is not difficult nowadays. There are many options available on the market to help you produce a professional looking finished product. I personally like for looms within the vehicle using a felt finished looming tape. You don’t wrap it so it overlaps but at a sharp enough angle so as it spirals round the cable bunch it leaves some of the cables exposed.
Felt is good as not only does it keep the loom together, it allows quite a bit of flexibility and prevents cables from rubbing or banging on flat surfaces making a noise.
For any cables outside the vehicle body there are two options depending on use. In the main I’d go for split tube conduit. It’s available in various sizes and can be bought in either cut lengths or rolls. The other option is to use self amalgamating tape. It looks like ordinary PVC tape but as you wrap it round you stretch it and it releases a chemical which when overlapped onto its self becomes a permanent bond, effectively making a sealed tube. It is generally however fairly inflexible. Both have their place.
Anything in the engine bay or underneath the vehicle I use split tube and generally only resort to self amalgamating tape to seal inline joints.
Relays….. yes or no?
For me its Yes. I much prefer locating all the relays in one place therefore minimising the amount of heavy cable. By using relays to do the heavy switching you can use smaller and sometimes more attractive switches. I have in the past used 7 core trailer cable to connect 4 switches including LED indicators back to a relay bank rather than make up a custom wrapped loom.
You can download these and other drawings from the Electrical Drawings page in the drop down menu under “Document Library”
It also makes tracing faults easier, as it’s simple to test if a switch is working, you can hear or sometimes feel the relay operating as you operate the switch. Its unusual to have a fault with a relay but quite simple to test… just unplug and swop over with a known working relay. If all the relays are located together it makes this task and testing the feed to the relays so much simpler. From that point all you need to check are the two wires going out to the device and the device itself.
Obviously some circuits don’t require a relay or if it’s designed to be turned on for a long period… such as a diesel heater, then adding a relay will just increase current draw, albeit small, on the leisure battery. A bit of common sense can easily determine if you should opt for a relay or not.
Grommet?…(no not Wallace’s friend!)
Whenever a cable or cables pass through anything solid you should use a grommet. You would be surprised at the amount of damage I’ve seen to cables due to either not installing a grommet to an insufficiently sized (too small usually) grommet.
When ever I pass either a cable or loom through a bulkhead for example I like to supplement a grommet with a bit of heat shrink sleeving over the cable as well. Even passing a cable through an existing grommet from the engine compartment to the interior, adding a length of heat shrink sleeve won’t do any harm.
Having a handy selection of grommets available before you start threading wires through is far better than trying to install protection afterwards. You’d also be surprised at how many cables I come across that have been damaged while pulling through holes in metal and wood panels. Always better to start with a grommet or two! Where a cable or loom passes through a grommet, it’s aways best practice to try and anchor the cable or loom either side of the grommet to something solid using “P” clips. This will reduce the chances of ‘fretting’ with the movement of the vehicle.
While we are on grommets…. a quick note about cable-ties (zip-ties). Stop doing them up so tight! I’ve come across cables cable-tied to a chassis rail so tight that the cable-tie has cut into the insulation and is fretting the conductor inside. Cable-ties are generally made out of a harder plastic than the cable insulation so will over time wear away at the insulation.
Get yourself a cable-tie tool that not only allows you to precisely control how much tension you put on the tie but also cut the end off so that there isn’t a wrist slashing booby trap lying in wait for some unsuspecting person. I use a fairly cheap pair (left). I think they were around £8. So not really expensive. But they make a nice neat job of installing multiple cable ties with the correct tension and the ends cut cleanly off level with the lock tab. You can buy ones that have a tension dial built in so you can set them to a pre-tension, but I find after a bit you know just how much to squeeze the handles to get the correct tension.
So what is the correct tension… well if you are doing them up so tight an elephant could dangle on the cables then that is too tight. They should be tight enough so as not to slip but you should be able to spin them round the cable(s).
Cable-ties really should not be used to make looms or anchor cables or looms to anything solid. If you want to make a loom, wrap it in specialist loom tape. If you want to anchor cable or a loom to something solid use a “P” clip. If required… use a length of heat shrink to make the loom a tighter fit in the ‘P’ clip.
I know you are dying to ask…. when do I use cable-ties? Well generally at the installation stage to get things to stay in place before installing P clips or if I have to run a new loom along the same path as an existing loom, I generally opt for cable-ties to hold them both together (as long as the original is suitably anchored to support both)
While we are talking abut cable-ties… I have seen the worst kind of mistakes in the use of them. It is not OK to cable-tie anything to brake lines, fuel lines, vacuum lines, hydraulic hoses, coolant hoses or steering components (yep one bright spark cable-tied his front LED light bar wires to some of the steering components!)
Heat Shrink Tubing
An absolute must have in my opinion. There are two main types – plain and pre glued. The plain are the main one you would use, while the pre glued are great if you have to over sleeve a connection to make it waterproof. As you heat up the pre-glued type, the glue softens as the tube strings and bonds to the cable as everything cools. They can be a little more rigid when installed, so make a service loop in the cable. The finished covering is usually waterproof enough for brief submersion if done correctly.
Having a selection of sizes and colours is handy and assortment boxes of multiple sizes and colours can be bought on line cheaply enough. In the workshop I use an old paint stripper heat gun on low power as I find that is more controllable than a flame.
Bridging the gap… something in the future?
Although not so common in the UK, in Australia and the USA wild camping (boon docking) is probably as popular as campsites. To this end trailers and caravans usually have much larger battery capacities than anything found in Europe. It’s not uncommon to find outfits with 600 to 800Ah battery banks recharged mainly be solar, buy increasingly (especially in Australia) an additional bridge between tow vehicle and trailer is made using heavy duty “Anderson” connectors and cables capable of supplying upwards of 60 Amps from the vehicle to the leisure battery bank.
With the cost of lithium batteries reducing almost daily, I can foresee very soon that light weight lithium batteries will be installed in caravans. The down side of this currently and trying to retrofit Lithium is the existing charging setup of current European vans is not really suitable for looking after these type of batteries. We have a Sterling Power Wildside unit installed in our caravan which allows us to charge any type of battery chemistry, including lithium when connected to the tow vehicle. The draw back is the caravan’s inbuilt charger is only capable of wet lead acid or AGM. I think that a high capacity DC to DC charger installed in the vehicle and an additional cable to supply the caravans battery banks may not be too far away. It’s something you might want to keep in mind for the future. It’s something I’m looking into currently.
Well, that’s a bit longer than I anticipated and there is still a few things to cover. If you made it this far…. take a toffee out of the jar… well done! If you think I missed something or would like me to cover something specific, drop me a comment below.
This isn’t one of my usual posts, but if you use or are thinking of a TomTom device, I’d urge you to read on…
We have used TomTom sat nav products for a number of years. I think it was early 2006 when we bought our first TomTom, a TomTom 760. After we had some questionable routing while towing in France and a number of issues with the unit simply failing to respond to commands on an early morning departure from a site in France in heavy rain in the dark. In April 2013 we ‘upgraded’ to the TomTom GoLive Camper & Caravan version to take advantage of the features this offered in navigation and database. Something that at the time was not offered on any other device. I wrote a review of the device Review of the TomTom GO LIVE Camper and Caravan Sat Nav and followed that up with an update some time later when they updated their database update platform from “MyTomTom” to “MyDrive”. This change over was not without issues and resulted in me loosing my subscriptions… which involved a lot of back and forth with their support line until I eventually got my subscriptions back. I did post an update to my review with a new conclusion… UPDATE — Review of the TomTom GO LIVE Camper and Caravan Sat Nav. Creating POI’s off line to upload was not straightforward and I followed that up with a ‘how to’…. Create accurate POI’s for your Sat-Nav…
My ‘investment’ in TomTom was not only time, but I came to realise that it was quite a substantial financial investment too. Back when I did the original reviews I commented that the ongoing costs were around £100 per year for the map, traffic and speed camera updates. It wasn’t until recently It dawned on me how TomTom try to hide this cost.
When you buy the unit, you get 12 months updates free. However at some point they have an “offer” where for a slightly reduced cost you can get and extra two map updates.. or an offer that gives you an extra few months ‘free’ for your traffic updates. What this does is move the subscription dates round so instead of paying a £100 for 12 months in one lump sum you pay £20 here and £30 there over the course of a few months. In effect hiding the real annual cost of subscriptions. So if you work it on £100 per annum from my original review the unit we have currently has actually cost £600 in subscriptions. Add that to the original purchase price of £330 thats a massive £960 “investment” and I’m not including the cost of two additional vehicle mounts and hard wiring them in!
The Final Straw…
A few weeks ago, just before we were off to Meathop Fell Caravan & Motorhome Club site near Grange-over-Sands, I went through my normal routine of firing up MyDrive to check on the number of updates pending, connecting the TomTom and performing the updates. The MyDrive (and previously MyTomTom) have never been particularly fast on either downloading updates from TomTom and in particular pushing the updates to the device. At home I’m on about a 80Mbps broadband connection and generally never have issues moving large files about either on my own network (1Gbps switched Ethernet) or to and from the internet. We have not had a Microsoft driven PC in the house for over 14 years now, but I do have a number of Mac devices to hand. I digress.
I had a new map update pending and the usual cameras and other bits. The map update used to take about 20 minutes to download and around 45 to 50 to push to the device. I left it all connected and waited patently. No more updates pending, I checked the GPS unit and all seemed well, disconnected the Mac (yes I did do it correctly) and all still seemed well. Check the entry for Meathop Fell to get an idea of expected travel time and it worked fine. So I switched it off.
Couple of days later Sue was going somewhere and telephone me to say the GPS isn’t working. When she returned home I fired up the TomTom… got the usual splash screen picture of the motorhome on the road….… And waited…… and waited a bit more….. Finally….. black screen with the TomTom logo up the left hand side. “Ah” I thought “It has done a full shutdown” so I waited… and behold the splash screen with the motorhome appeared. “Sorted!” thought I. Wrong was I! Back to the black screen with TomTom up the left hand side followed a few seconds later with the splash screen… and it just kept on with this cycle. Oh bugger.
There is a way of doing a hard reset… turn on the unit and continue holding the power button down and clicking it three times, wait for the spinning cog and connect to a computer running logged in MyDrive… did that too. Best ‘consult’ Google at this point.
Googling “TomTom keeps resetting” brought up the usual links. However one caught my eye…. On the TomTom help forum dated a few days ago… clicked on it. Yo… other people having the same issues with the camper version after the last map update. Now for copyright reasons I can’t post any screen shots from the forum (I do have them) but there were a number of people with a similar issue to me. There were the usual “Try taking it to the southern hemisphere and turning it on there that cured my problem” type replies and a couple that basically said try the same as I’d already tried.
Initial contact with ‘Help Desk’ was…. “you need a new one” which kind of pee’d me off somewhat and so I tweeted and got a reply…..
Now that reply from TomTom is intriguing. They must have known there was an issue as ‘HelpDesk’ first response was “You need to buy a new one” and that means they must have been primed with that answer. A point that might indicate this is the fact in the tweeted reply they say serial numbers starting ST are supported but others are not. Also the final bit “…. which is why support offered a new one.” is wrong…. they said I have to BUY a new one.
At this point TomTom asked me to DM them with a serial number. Which I did.
… and here is their reply (obviously rating forth bottom tweet upwards)…
It was at this point TomTom went quiet on the Twitter front. So I Asked a Question on their web site…. here is the exchange in full. (click on the image to open in a new window if you can’t zoom in to read).
All the way through this there was no hint of “We acknowledge there may be a problem and are looking into it”. I suspect they know there is an issue and are seeing it as an opportunity to sell some more units and make money from continued subscriptions for their services. It is painfully obvious that I’ll not see a refund for the residual of my pre-paid subscriptions (around £70 or £80 in my estimation) or much hope for any other user that has been affected. I counted around ten people on one post in the forum that were reporting issues. Also at no point was any indication of how much the “discount” on a new unit would be. Plus as the discount would probably be applied to their list price, not the price the unit was generally available for from some on-line stores I suspect it would not be a good deal anyhow.
Basically as i understand it there are two other players in this market, Snooper and Garmin. Avetex have a rebadged Garmin. The Snooper I discounted a while ago as back then you could not upload your own POI’s and they didn’t have an update service via a Mac, only a Microsoft PC. This may have changed, but I decided to go for Garmin.
My association with Garmin goes back several years… intact to around 1996 when I bought a hugely expensive (for the time) Garmin 92. The 92 was one of the first hand held aviation GPS units you could clamp to the aircrafts yoke and it came with a database of all the VOR’s, NDB’s, TACAN’s and ground obstacles along with restricted airspace. all displayed on a 2 wide by 3 inch high monochrome LCD display. From that point I’ve always had Garmin GPS in every aircraft I flew and relied on them for RNAV approaches into airports in minimal weather conditions.
The Garmin system in the Bonanza….. and below the same system showing us flying East (090) from Magadan in Russia to Nome, Alaska approaching the international date line…
So, I’ve got around 23 years experience of Garmin’s aviation navigation products, time to try their earth based stuff!
I ordered a Garmin Camper 770LMT-D 6.95 inch sat nav with Full Europe Lifetime Maps, Free Lifetime Digital Traffic, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for £255.27 from Amazon yesterday. Todays Saturday and it’s due to arrive Monday morning. I look forward to testing it out and giving it a bit of a review. I have already downloaded Garmin Basecamp and got the hang of creating way points… really easy in fact. DOn’t quite know the upload to the device process yet!
For those that follow @CaravanChron on Twitter… you may remember that I was offered a Garmin unit by a company to try. Well, I declined. One of the reasons being is I don’t generally like doing reviews or recommendations based on a loaned bit of kit. If I say “yea.. I like it I’d recommend it” and it subsequently turned out to be not as promised, then I’d feel like I’d done you a disservice. If I buy something and say I like it and would recommend it and it turns out to be crap, well I’m in the same boat as you… we both paid for it and we both got stung.
Just as a final ending to this, if perchance TomTom do sacrifice some small fluffy animal and decide the Gods will smile on them again if they sort out my GPS or even offer a refund, as it is now a point of principle with me about failed customer service, Sue and I agreed any refund will be donated to our local Cat Charity.
I’m sure Oscar and Henry would approve….
What do I think is wrong. Well I guess in either the map database update or in some additional packet of code that was uploaded designed to update the operating system (OS) of the device [firmware] there was a corruption or error. What is happening with my device (and I can only speak for my device as I’ve not had hands on with any other) is during boot up it is failing some internal OS checksum… which results in a reboot. However it’s now in a loop. This happens before any port is enabled the would allow data transfer. Most system designers build in right at the start of the boot up process a piece of code that states if some ‘condition’ (I.E if this button is held down on start up, boot from external port only) is met. This allows a device to be accessed if it falls into the startup loop. Maybe TomTom have a way of directly connecting at a board level or a number of key presses that allow this interruption to the boot process, but alas I don’t know them. So now it is caught in a loop before any eternal communication from MyDrive can take place and stopped any chance of downloading new firmware or firmware patch.
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.
This was slightly different. The PR department simply said “We’d like to send you a Bosch Fontus for review” No requests for editorial control, previews before publishing, promises of ‘it’s yours to keep’ if we like the review. What made me say “Yes” to this particular request?
Well, for a while I’d been procrastinating on coming up with a contrivance of my own that did a similar job. I’d bought one of those bright yellow overgrown pump up spray things when they were on offer for rinsing down the caravan after cleaning… we have no water or electricity at the storage site we use. I’d already got three of those 25 litre water containers that I’d throw in the trailer along with the buckets, brushes, ladders… everything for a cleaning mission down at the caravan storage yard… and I thought it wasn’t beyond the realms of reality (and my awesomeness) to throw a 12 volt pump…. some hose…. a couple of hose connectors…. length of cable…. fuse & fuse holder…… suction pipe… board or box to hold it all… you see where this is going? By the time I’d assembled all the bits found I’d got half of them wrong and moved the goal posts half a dozen times. Apathy set in and I resigned myself to keep pumping the big yellow spray thing. The nice Lady from Bosch PR hit me in a weak moment and I thought “Hmmmmm.”
OK why “Fontus” and not “Rechargeable Battery Powered Portable Water Reservoir and Spray“? Fontus, I had to Google it – In ancient Roman religion, Fontus or Fons (plural Fontes, “Font” or “Source”) was a god of wells and springs. So that answers that question. Now you know why I don’t work in product marketing! The box arrived and I was surprised at the heft of the box. The actual unit itself weighs in at just under 10 Kgs…. and has a water reservoir capacity of 15 litres.
So what is it… well basically it’s a Rechargeable Battery Powered Portable Water Reservoir and Spray Unit. You fill it up with water, insert the rechargeable battery, connect the included hose and spray head, push the ON button and squeeze the trigger. Is it a jet wash? No, it runs at a max of around 1.5 MPa that’s 15 Bar or 217 PSI to you or me or if you are really old 14.8 Atmospheres. So it’s not a jet washer.
Now here is the thing that has me fascinated. On the top there is a three position power switch. While testing (read playing around) I could tell it changed the power… but also it seemed to change the amount of water without affecting the spray pattern or distance it should spray the jet of water I could do the same width ‘fan’ of water on each of the three power settings but with three volumes of water. (OK I know the physics behind it… no need to comment.)
When washing the car when it comes to rinsing off I normally have my hosepipe rose set on ‘rain’ so its a constant rain shower and proceed to go round the whole vehicle rinsing off the shampoo (yes I shampoo my vehicles… get over it) Now with the Fontus I used the horizontal fan setting not he trigger and could literal have a line of water that I just moved down the body panel pushing the shampoo suds down as it went. I was amazed I could do the whole of the VW Amarok.. Which isn’t small… on less than 15 litres on the lowest power setting. That is some serious water saving there.
The battery duration is unknown at the moment. It comes complete with a 18 volt 2.5 Ah battery and charger, that are as far as I know the same Bosch fitting as used on many of their power tools. SO if you already have Bosch power tools it’s Billy Bonus time… another charger and battery for your tools and spare batteries for your Fontus. (Curse my early lifestyle choices for going with Makita and DeWalt.) I believe there are also 4.0Ah and 6.0Ah batteries available in the range.
Toy or Tool?
After first thinking what a great idea…. I had a look at the price… an eye watering mahhosive amount… list price. However as everyone knows “Google is you friend” a quick Google later and John Lewis & Partners have it down to £209* (*at the time of writing) Now that is not a small amount so the question is… expensive toy or tool? Well, After my initial “testing [read playing about again] I’d been jet washing in the front garden over Easter… around five hours worth of jet washing in fact and the front door and windows were to say the least showing the dried on signs of mud splattering. Now Sue is understanding, but waiting for the window cleaner to deal with it was not an excuse I was going to get away with! Not wanting to drag the hosepipe round to the front of the house again, I had a “Ha.. I have just the tool for that” moment and having already recharged the battery and topped off the water tank I wheeled the Bosch Fontus out of the garage and round to the front of the house. A quick light spray to wet each window and door, wipe down with a soapy sponge and rinse off with the Fontus. Done in ten minutes. It’s also completed several other little tasks around the home now too.
Would I take it with me on a caravan trip?…. If we were taking the bikes, yes. I have used a dog wash station in the past (I know I wasn’t supposed to) and as long as I don’t use a chemical on the bikes, just rely on pure water and the included brush I should be OK washing the bikes on the grass. I wouldn’t use the brush on a vehicle’s bodywork (but I’m a bit OCD about things like that) nor would I wash the vehicle or caravan for that matter, on a pitch.
A few Q and A’s…
Can it be carried full of water? – Yep, I also tried it on its back, the filler cap seems to have an air admittance valve that stops water from leaking out. I wouldn’t do it for long periods though on it’s back… just the ten minute trip to the caravan storage yard. Upright shouldn’t be a problem I would have thought.
Can you spray anything else? – Nope… fresh water only.
Can you see how much water is in the tank?– Yes the tank has a site gauge in each side.
Can you store it full of water? – I did for few days, however it cautions you not to do so in the instructions.
How big is the filler cap?– It’s about the same size as an Aquarol filler cap and has a removable mesh filter trap… I could get a Hoselock fitting on the end of my hosepipe to fit through the opening and wedge in the filter when filling it. It’s also easy to poor water in from a container.
How heavy is it full? – 9.8 Kgs empty and 24.8 Kg’s full… so about two bags of sugar heavier than your airline baggage allowance.
How long does the battery last? – well I certainly got through 30 litres of water (2 tanks) on the low power setting (which was all I needed for rinsing off) and looking at the battery indicator maybe I could have made inroads to a third tank. I don’t know if the battery indicator is liner or not.
How long does it take the battery to recharge? – From battery empty indicator to full with the supplied AL1830 CV charger 60 minutes… or about 1 cup of tea, two digestives and a quick catchup with your neighbour.
Is it easy to move? – When full it trundles around just like one of the wheeled over head locker type pieces of luggage. If you can drive one of those… you can handle this.
Will 15 litres be enough to rinse a caravan? – Yes I could do it with 15 litres. But it’s easy just to have a container with a bit more water.
What fittings connect the hose, can I use a garden hose? – The fittings are a twist lock type.. not seen them before but I did like the fit and function of them. They seem quite suitable for the task. Why would you want to use a garden hose… just wheel it to where you need it.
What else can it be used for? – Washing off salt water from wet suits, boat trailer, outboard engines, muddy dogs, muddy bikes, wellies, washing windows, washing the beach off anything…. making sure your BBQ is properly extinguished (as I write this I keep getting the smell of burning moorland wafting in through the open windows into the office).
Only two things… do they make a 12 volt ‘in car’ charger for that battery? That would be really cool and…. nope I got nothing else. That will be one thing then.
If I already had a couple of Bosh power tools that used the same battery pattern and was thinking about an additional battery and charger… then the price makes it a good deal. An extra tool that gives you an extra battery and charger into your Bosch ensemble of kit.
The hose is not as pliable as I’d have personally liked, but then again looking at it it’s not going to get damaged easily.
It is a bit of a ‘luxury’ bit of kit… but then again once you start using it… I’ll stop there, Sue might be reading this.
Do I want one? Well I don’t really want to give this one back.
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.
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 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.
Its been quite a while since I did my first review of a TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) back in September 2015 in fact, on a Tyre Pal system sent to me for review. I did like it but it did give me a few things to think about. Later on I got to test out the Fit2Go TPMS and I ran with that for about 12 months. However I still wasn’t convinced this was the one for me.
With the Tyre Pal I did like the information, but on a screen that size I would have liked to be able to see all the pressures and temps altogether rather than scrolling through each wheel. Although it did cross my mind at the time “do I really need all this info” and that’s why I liked the Fit2Go unit. It sat there quietly monitoring the wheels and just occasionally flashed at me to say everything was OK…. or beeped if there was something wrong. I did eventually miss not being able to see the pressure and temp of each wheel and started to think my earlier statement was flawed.
I had an issue with the Fit2Go unit at around nine months of using it. The batteries in one of the wheel sensors failed… and a couple of weeks later a second battery went down. This was a bit of an issue as the sensors on this unit were sealed and the batteries weren’t replaceable (a plus point for the TyrePal here!) Credit to guys at Fit2Go… now re-branded as Michelin – they sent me out a complete new unit and four sensors. I installed the replacement unit and sensors and ran with that for a while.
Going into work at around 04:45 in the morning, I pulled off our drive the unit started beeping, indicating a low pressure tyre. I pulled over and checked the small LED on each sensor… no flashing red indication. Tyres looked good, checked the pressure with the Fit2Go hand-held unit and all as they should be. I carried on. The beeping stopped. A few days later as I had just got onto the motorway it went off again, pulled onto the hard shoulder, checked each sensor and wheel… no flashing LED and all wheels looked OK. I also took the time to check the pressures again, all OK. On the fourth or fifth time this happened I gave up checking. It only seemed to happen with an early morning start and I started to doubt the info I was getting from the unit.
I started looking around for alternatives… mainly in the US for RV TPMS systems as they seemed to have a greater number of options. It wasn’t long after this that I got the e-Trailer unit to test. Which as well as checking the leisure battery voltage, monitoring the fridge temp and a host of other things had TPMS monitoring for your caravan wheels and sent alerts directly to your phone. With this fitted I had at least covered off the important wheels when towing. I just needed something for the truck. Looking around at what was available on Amazon.Com in the USA made me realise how much we are actually paying in the UK for this stuff. There were units branded for the American market that were identical to those in the UK for a lot less even with the poor exchange rate.
This set me thinking… could a cheap TPMS available in the UK be as good… were we paying too much? I found a unit on Amazon.co.uk for £50 and ordered one. https://amzn.to/2wv49TS
The unit had a couple of options for mounting. The sensors had replaceable batteries and were pre-coded to the unit. Each was marked with the correct location… FL, FR, RL and RR.
After much procrastination about where to put the display (it’s a man thing) I could not make my mind up so for the time being it sits on top of the steering column….
In the few weeks since I installed it.. which was really easy, it’s worked well. I can set the upper and lower limits for pressure and temp for each wheel and it is fairly accurate on pressure. To test it I used my digital tyre gauge fitted to my compressor in the work shop and checked with a standalone digital check gauge I used to use for aircraft tyres. It always matched the same PSI as both my digital gauges showed and as it didn’t decimal point readings on the PSI setting (you can change it to BAR, as well as from C to F for temp) it seemed to round-up from about .6 which seems acceptable to me. (32.4 PSI would be displayed as 32 and 32.6PSI would be shown as 33)
It comes complete with a small spanner for the lock nuts, a do-hicky for replacing the battery in the sensors and for £50 it seems like reasonable quality. It does what it states on the box, it’s small enough to put almost anywhere (and that’s my problem… where!) and if you have amazing eyesight… it even has a vehicle battery voltage display right in the centre! And if that didn’t clinch the deal… it even alarms when the batteries are low in the sensors.
So was my £50 well spent? Well at the moment I think so. (I reserve the right to change my mind in the future) You know me by now and if I thought it was a jockey wheel with out a handle…. I’d tell you!
So if you don’t yet have TPMS and don’t want to spend a fortune on one this might be a suitable option. If you want one… go on you know you do, here’s my affiliate* link on Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2PX6a3a
*It won’t cost you any more but you will get that warm fuzzy feeling knowing Amazon are going to give Caravan Chronicles some of their profit.