The additions to the Wolf continue, despite the recent news from Glossop Caravans at our last service, that we have damp in the caravan. Hopefully we will hear soon whether or not its covered by the warranty. So, moving on, a couple of additions to the VW Amarok. After installing the sliding bed, I noticed that there was some space available between the end of the bed and the truck bed at the cab end. It was only 70 mm, but I thought with a bit of creative construction, I could come up with a contrivance to hold some of the stuff and tools that we normally schlep about with us. Using 18mm birch ply phenol finished board I came up with a storage box that is fitted to the bed and projects forward right up to the truck bed front wall… Continue reading
So after all the spreadsheets, test drives, sorting insurance and towing electrics, emails and telephone calls, the end was in sight. We had a collection date, the 28th July. Apart from our very first brand new car… a racing red MG Metro back in the early 80’s, Sue had always been the one to collect our cars from the showroom, however this time, it was Sue that was working so I was on my own. It took around half an hour to go through all the paperwork and sign on the dotted line several times. Despite the Manchester drizzle the walk round was in-depth and covered all sorts. Inside, Jessica went through all the systems and paired my iPhone to the audio system, even storing some of my most often used radio stations in the memory.
Handover done, everything explained I said goodbye to Jessica who had been so helpful through the whole process, I turned the key, slipped it into drive and pulled out of the forecourt. The odometer showed exactly 48 miles as I turned “Project Wolf” on to Village Way.
My experience with a Commercial Vehicle Dealer
I have mentioned this before, one of the things a few people expressed concern about was actually dealing with a commercial vehicle dealer. Well having dealt with Manchester Van Centre VW I can only comment on my experience. The customer service on first contact was excellent. The whole buying process was handled by one person, Jessica, who did everything. We weren’t passed off from one person to another through different stages of the buying process. I know we are not (well me actually) easy customers… I like to know the in’s-and-out’s of everything and do like getting into the details and asking awkward questions. Through our initial contact with Manchester Van Centre VW to driving out of the forecourt with our new vehicle took a total of 10 days and I either spoke to Jessica or exchanged emails nearly every day over that period and we were kept fully informed throughout the process. My dealings over a few months with VW UK while doing all the research was not as good, emails often going unanswered. Dealing with VW GmbH in Germany was excellent however and they went the extra mile (or kilometre!) to provide information requested.
Are all VW Commercial Dealers the same? I can’t answer that one. Can I recommend Manchester Van Centre VW? Based on my dealings with them, yes. I’ll let you know how it all goes at the first service and if I need to change my views.
On the way back home I had to call in to the North West Towbar Centre in Stockport. When they originally fitted the tow bar, they were two terminals missing and needed to order them from Westfailia. They did contact me directly to let me know before I picked up the Amarok and I arranged to drop in.
While they were fitting the missing terminals, I had another chat with the guys there. I had already had a look underneath at the tow bar and the standard of fitting… you can tell a lot by the way cables are routed and fixed into place, and these guys had done a good job. Everything was routed away from anything that could chafe the loom, the loom was enclosed in a flexible PVC conduit and secured firmly to the vehicle.
While I was there I also checked out the fittings I’d need for the bike racks. They have a full display of Thule products and I was able to check exactly what bits I’d need. Heading home, I called in to fill up with diesel… 52 miles on the clock and 65.74 litres to fill up. I can now start another spread sheet to record mileage and fuel.
So What’s Next?
Well we have a few bits to fit:-
- Roll N Lock cover for the pickup bed.
- Antec Sliding Bed Tray.
- Thule Bike Racks.
- Charging station for the two-way radios.
- Fire Extinguisher.
- Additional truck bed lighting.
… and of course I need to get the thing weighed on a VOSA weigh-bridge.
The figures given on the V5C are a Mass In Service of 2197 Kgs and a Maximum Permissible Mass of 3170 Kgs. On paper, based on a MIS of 2197 Kgs, the 85% ratio is a trailer MTPLM of 1867 Kgs. Our current caravan calculates at 68%. All that is subject to what it weighs on the scales though.
Our first trip towing will be in a few days and I’ll let you know how we get on and my thoughts. I’ll also show you some of the bit’s that we have added.
If you haven’t read “Choosing A New Tow Vehicle Pt 1…” you might want to start there first.
So what happened to scupper all my spreadsheet deliberations in the early hours of the morning while driving to work?
I was on the M60 heading towards the airport thinking about what aircraft were due out… as you do, when a large pickup passed me. Not with one of these truck tops on the rear but a hard cover over the pickup bed and 4 bikes mounted on a rack above the bed. I hadn’t a clue as to what make it was as I wasn’t into pickup’s really but it did look really neat and by the time my brain got into gear to see if I could identify the make, it was gone.
All that morning I was thinking about pickup’s…. maybe I was missing a trick here and a SUV type vehicle wasn’t the way forward, but a pickup was. They seem to be one of the vehicles of choice in the USA for people towing travel trailers, but that’s a whole different market. There are a lot of caravaners in the UK using them too. What was I missing?
A couple of days later I saw what I thought was the same vehicle again on the M60, this time with no bikes on the back. It had a VW badge on the tailgate. I thought VW didn’t make pickup’s. But this got me thinking again, was a pickup the way to go… lots of people use 4 x 4 pickups to tow with, they seem to have plenty of room, be practical, have seating for five and are generally built tough as they are usually designed for commercial use.
A chance conversation about caravans at work with someone who had recently changed his Discovery for a pickup… a VW pickup.
A few days later I started searching on the internet for information about pickups… there is more out there than I thought. My original spreadsheet got a bit of a re-write over the course of a weekend.
A day or so later we were staying down at Plough Lane Caravan Site and we saw another Amarok on the road which was the first time Sue had seen one and it renewed our interest again, and as luck would have it we were near to a VW Commercial Dealership (have a read here https://caravanchronicles.com/2015/09/20/wiltshire-wanderings/) so we dropped in. It was ticking all the boxes, but more research was still required about 4 x 4 pickup’s. My spreadsheet grew.
Now, I’m not going to give you a long list of the ones we looked at and the reasons for dismissing them in our particular case, some people might have chosen them and for them, they tick all the boxes which is great. The others didn’t tick enough of our (well my) boxes and the Amarok did. So “Project Wolf” was born.
I did not know what to call this series of blog posts when I was making my notes, I read that an amarok, or amaroq, is a gigantic gray wolf in Inuit mythology, said to stalk and devour any person foolish enough to hunt alone at night. Unlike real wolves who hunt in packs, amaroks hunt alone. This kind of stuck in my brain and I started scribbling “Project Wolf” at the top of the pages I had in my note-book where I’d written about stuff for the Amarok.
After my first conversation with the dealer in Swindon, I needed lots of questions answering and fired off an email to VW UK. And got a quick reply telling me nothing of what I really wanted to know. So I tried again, this time to VW in Germany. Not telling me much more… but in lots of detail of course. Thankfully the Australians came to the rescue, although the specs are a little different, it helped fill in the blanks.
Searching on the internet it seems that the Amarok is going down a storm down under in Australia and there are lots of videos and information on Australian 4 x 4 forums about the Amarok… as well as quite a bit of stuff from southern Africa and south America. I spent the next couple of months gathering information and adding even more columns to my spread sheet, then going back visiting other manufacturers web sites filling in blank bits for their particular 4 x 4 pickup’s to keep things on a level playing field.
OK… So why choose a pickup?
Glad you asked. Well these are OUR reasons and thoughts. They may not coincide with your particular circumstances, but here’s why… for us.
The loading and storage capacity are huge when compared to most SUV 4 x 4’s. The weight capacity is around 1000 Kg’s and most can take a standard Euro-pallet footprint. That’s a lot of caravanning extras. A lot of pickups can be fitted with a van style top that will allow wet dogs, bikes and other stuff that you wouldn’t put inside a vehicle. Although we don’t particularly want a cab style top but would prefer a flat lid with a bike rack on top. And we don’t have a wet dog. We may have a wet awning though. The tailgate can apparently support 250 Kgs… handy for tailgate BBQ’s! It also makes it easy for me to throw in a big snap-on tool chest and use it as a work bench when tinkering with aircraft electrics.
A lot of pickups are still built on a ladder chassis (like the old Land Rovers) for strength and generally have a longer wheelbase which for towing increases stability. The hitch nose weight limit is generally higher – 150 Kg upwards and generally they are heavier so a lower towing weight ratio can be achieved.
Comparing our Freelander to the Amarok I got:-
Freelander Mass In Service=1723 Kgs, Caravan MTPLM=1490 Kgs, giving a towing ratio of 86.5%
Amarok Mass In Service=2093 Kgs, Caravan MTPLM=1490 Kgs, giving a towing ratio of 71.1%
The Amarok 85% figure is a caravan with a MTPLM of 1779 Kgs and 90% comes in at 1884 Kg’s. The maximum rated towing capacity for a braked trailer is 3200 Kgs.
The other factor for me is the build. Most pick-up’s are built for commercial use and things tend to be a bit beefier. The seats are a bit tougher, the springs, brakes, switches…. everything is designed and made with heavy use in mind. OK this can make them a bit more utilitarian in their design and look inside, but I wanted something that would still look good after 100,000 miles.
The mechanics too tend to be a bit more industrial. The vehicles are not built to a minimum weight just to get good MPG or performance. They are designed for a working life with minimal down time and servicing costs. With all this In mind and much more we (well I) settled on the VW Amarok as the main contender.
OK… so what’s hot about the Amarok?
Here’s a few things I like… mainly taken from the VW literature and I guess is similar to other offerings.
ABS and EBD – Anti-lock Brakes and Electronic Brake Distribution. ABS is pretty standard now but the Amarok ABS also has Off Road ABS as well and is linked to something called EBD which essentially helps prevent lockup of the rear wheels when under less load (i.e. lightly loaded in the back) or when the vehicle’s weight is transferred to the front wheels when braking. Handy for those wet grass campsites.
Hill Hold Assist – handy for hill starts when towing and Hill Descent Control – Available on a lot of 4 x 4’s but the big one for me was unlike the Land Rover version (which is great by the way!) it operates in off-road mode at any speed below 18 MPH when the vehicles ABS is being used. It controls the braking automatically to prevent unintentional acceleration going down hill even in slippery conditions.
Brake Assist – senses how fast you apply the brakes and if it senses you are doing an emergency stop automatically applies the maximum braking effort available.
The 2.0 Litre BiTDI Engine produces 180 PS (132Kw) or 180 Hp in old money which is similar to some larger engines in other makes. The two turbos help the engine give a huge 420 Nm of torque when mated to the 8 speed automatic gearbox, which has first gear optimised for off-road and pulling away when towing heavy trailers. 8th gear is designed as an overdrive to reduce revs and maximise fuel efficiency.
Here’s one from the F1 world…. regenerative braking. When you brake the energy recuperation system uses momentum to turn the alternator and charge the battery, making the most of the energy when you brake.
Permanent “4 motion” four-wheel drive. All wheel drive is permanent on the automatic no matter if you are in on or off-road mode. The Torsen differential splits the power 40:60 between front and rear wheels, but when off-road the system automatically distributes power to the wheels with most grip… and works with hill start and hill descent control.
There were a few other things that I liked… for example you can put a 32Gb SD card in the radio with all your music from your iPod on and the hands free system seemed quite easy to use too. There were more 12 volt power points than you could shake a stick at, including one in the pickup bed, handy for your cool box!
It has all the usual stuff too, leather interior, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, cup holders everywhere, storage draws under the front seats, inbuilt sat-nav.
It’s not small – 5254 mm long (excluding tow bar) and 2228 wide at the mirrors. With our caravan hitched it will be a total length of around 12.54 metres or about 41′ 2″ in real money.
The MPG figures were OK too…. but that with VW has to be seen in perspective of course.
So with all my geeky and techie boxes ticked…. all we had to do was go and prod one in real life and take it for a wiz round the block!
Now I think VW have missed a trick here, VW Car Dealerships don’t sell Amarok’s, you have to go to a VW Commercial Dealer, and after talking to a few people, this seems to be a bit daunting as a lot have people have never stepped into a commercial dealership before. Our nearest VW Commercial Dealership is Manchester Van Centre VW in Trafford Park where we met the lovely Jessica… but more about that in Part 3.
Here is a sneaky preview of an Amarok from Down Under….
A lot of new caravans now have the ability on a ‘super pitch’ to be able to attach a mains water feed directly to the caravan without having to have an Aquarol as a water reservoir, and this seems like a good idea. I started looking at the options available and was surprised at the cost of the only suitable system for our caravan. I also wasn’t keen on the plastic regulator. This got me thinking, maybe it was time for a little Caravan Chronicles DIY project.
I wanted to come up with some sort of contrivance that was assembled from stock components that were easily available anywhere. After a brief search on Amazon I came up with my shopping list and ordered everything (see links below).
The result was a simple to use commercial pressure regulator that I could use our existing blue water hose that originally connected to the Aquarol and standard hose fittings that allow me all the options for connecting up.
As a temporary mount I used a couple of the small plastic hangars that Fiamma sell that slide into awning rails allowing you to hang things from. In this case a couple of cable ties held it in position. I’m currently in the bat cave folding a small aluminium plate to mount the regulator on that slides into the rail and has a foam padded back to protect the caravan. I opted to use brass fittings for the hose connections rather than plastic just for durability.
So how did it work out?
Well on a recent trip to Southport Caravan Club site (where the photos were taken) it worked extremely well. The initial set up was easy and to start with I reduced the pressure using the small screw on top of the unit to about 0.5 bar (7 PSI) to ensure I didn’t over-pressure the caravan plumbing. I increased this to about 1.5 bar and this gave an excellent flow rate with the added feature of not having to run the internal water pump.
Something that was in the back of my mind however was what if the regulator failed and full mains pressure was allowed through to the caravan’s internal plumbing? As I’d used a commercial unit, hopefully the chances of this would be very slim to non-existent as these units are designed to be permanently installed in commercial and domestic plumbing installations however I also added another little handy gadget at the tap end…
This ‘Y’ fitting has two small ball valves, one of each outlet. So when we go out, I simply turn off the appropriate ball valve. Having a ‘Y’ adaptor also allowed us to fill up our Brita filter jug or draw water off without having to turn the tap off and disconnect the caravan hose. All in all everything worked out perfect. (note I have since changed the blue hose adaptors shown for brass ones for durability).
One last thing…
If you are at all worried about water quality in your caravan, connecting up this way will allow you to thoroughly flush out your caravans water system and give you clean water from your caravan’s taps, (especially In summer too, when the sun has been warming up the water in your Aquarol all day) all you need to do is just run the tap for a minute or so to get cold fresh mains water.
I am often asked where to buy some of the products we use. Here are the links to the products. If you click on the links and purchase any of the items, a few pennies will go to helping the cost of running CaravanChronicles.com
Caravan Ultraflow Inlet Hose Assembly (I bought one of these so I could keep my existing one intact. You will need the correct model for your caravan water inlet).
15mm Adjustable Pressure Reducing Valve Including Gauge 1-6 Bar Reliance Water Controls The pressure regulator comes complete with a pressure gauge.
Brass Bush 1/2“ BSP Female x 3/4″ Male Reducing Bush “Converter (these were used to adapt the size of the fitting on the pressure regulator so I could fit the female quick release adaptors.
Garden Mile® Solid Brass 2-Way Double Outside Garden Tap Adaptor & Hose Connectors 3/4″ With 2 Quick Release Female Adaptors. An option, but very handy.
Silverline 598438 Tap Connector Brass I bought two of these for the regulator.
I receive a lot of emails asking where people can buy some of the tools – especially some of the crimp tools and terminations I use in my posts and articles. In the past I have just emailed people back with the details and maybe links. However my last post about cable termination brought on a rather large amount of requests. So I have decided that I will include links to the products on Amazon. So from now on you will see a section at the bottom of any posts called….
Any specific items used will be listed, and by clicking on the link to the item you will be taken to the Amazon store page. If you do decide to purchase anything, it will be from Amazon (or their associates) and delivered by them. It’s just like buying from Amazon directly.
The price you pay is exactly the same as it would be by going directly to Amazon. All I receive is a few pennies from each sale that will help towards keeping the wheels of Caravan Chronicles turning.
I have also created a shopping page that lists the products under a link to the original article. There aren’t any photos, just descriptions to keep the page neat and quick to load. If you want to go back to the article, just click on its title.
I hope you don’t mind me doing this, but it will save you having to email me asking where to get things from and save me a bit of time in replying to everyone.
I’m sure that anyone that is a four season caravanner will recognise this… in winter you arrive on site around six in the evening in the dark, in the pouring rain. You get to your pitch and it’s a tight reverse manoeuvre on to it. Your partner gets out with a torch to guide you back. In the rain it’s hard to see out of the side windows and mirrors and you partner disappears into the blackness with only a point of light from their torch to give you any idea where they are. You put the vehicle into reverse and the reversing lights on the rear of the tow vehicle light up the front of the caravan like a National Trust stately home but not much else. You now struggle to see the corners and edge of the pitch in the contrast of the brightness of the floodlight front of the caravan. The darkness down each side caravan and the illumination from the reversing lights of the caravan just seem so far away the little orange side marker lights are not much help in lighting up the area around the van.
This has happened a few times to us and I’ve been pondering over it for a while. What I’d like is not only the normal LED awning light but one on the off side of the caravan and on the rear too with the ability to be able to switch on all three to give a general illumination around the caravan when manoeuvring at night. The LED awning light on our Swift caravan is quite effective at providing enough illumination on one side so what about two more being fitted? Or giving the side marker lights the option to be changed from orange to bright white? They could be controlled from just inside the main door and a simple electronic circuit to turn them off after a few minutes or when the caravan is disconnected from the tow vehicle could be incorporated or even off the key fob remote so you could turn them on when returning back to the caravan in the dark.
Off side and rear illumination would be handy too when it comes to the late night “Oh God it needs emptying/filling” moment just as the full moon disappears behind a cloud and the batteries are a bit run down in your torch (or flashlight for our American cousins) and you just happen to be next to the EHU bollard that the light doesn’t work.
Now while we are on the subject….un-hitching or hitching in the dark is also a bit of a black hole, pun intended. Hitching or un-hitching using a torch becomes a bit of a pain and if you wear vari-focal or bi-focal glasses, using a head torch means constantly adjusting it to get it in the right focus area to see. So, while the additional awning lights are being installed, what about a similar light above the front locker that can be turned on to light up the hitch head allowing easier coupling and un-coupling?
It doesn’t have to be standard on all caravans, but what about an “All Seasons Touring” option pack that could include the above and other things… like mud flaps on the caravan? I’m sure you can think of other things as well. So manufacturers….It’s too late for 2016 caravans but what about considering it for the 2017 range?
I think I can feel a couple of projects coming on…
I received an email from a gentleman who is a motor home owner and tows a car trailer that wanted a bit of help. Here’s what I received:Dear Caravan Chronicles I hope you can help. I have a motorhome which I use to pull a car trailer to classic car racing events. My trailer currently has a Warn winch to help load and unload my sports car but I have recently had a caravan motor mover fitted to help with manoeuvring the trailer with the car loaded. The trailer has one 110Ah battery fitted for the winch, which I have to charge by plugging in the trailer to a mains socket in the motorhome. I asked the company installing the mover if they could install a second 110 Ah battery for the mover and make it so I could charge both batteries while towing. Unfortunately they said it could not be done. I also asked if they could make it so I could link the two batteries if required with a switch, which they also said couldn’t be done. They did advise me to talk to the people that fitted the tow bar. To cut a long story short they also said what I wanted could not be done. Can you come up with something that would work? Many thanks XXXXXXXX
After a couple of email exchanges to confirm a few things, here’s what I came up with:
Some of the most popular articles on Caravan Chronicles are the “practical” type posts. Anything from the electrical stuff through to little modifications and projects I’ve done. A while ago I had the chance to look through some of the caravanning magazines from the late 50’s through to the late 60’s and they were full of projects. Installing a new roof light, repairing door hinges, updating handles and magnetic catches… in fact all sorts. One interesting early article was about upgrading your caravans road lights to install indicators using the ‘new’ 7 pin plug! Continue reading
One thing we had noticed using the caravan all year round was the front wall between the caravan interior and gas locker and the window shelf above it always seemed noticeably cooler than the rest of the walls of the caravan. The cupboard under the front draws also was a lot cooler even though it had a blown heating pipe running through it. I’m not sure if it’s just a perceived thing that we think its cooler or if it’s down to the fact that the insulation in the front dividing wall my be a little thinner.
In an effort to try to cure this, I had been on the look out for some sticky backed foam insulation. Searching round the web gave a few results, but it was mainly for sound insulation rather than thermal insulation. However I did eventually discover Foam Solutions UK in Nantwich, Cheshire that offered a whole range of foam for various uses. When I started looking I wanted something that was anti-static and fire-retardant as it was being installed in the gas locker. Foam Solutions UK had just the product, a fire-retardant foam sheet that was designed for use under engine bonnets. I emailed Carole at Foam Solutions UK and she kindly sent out some samples, including a piece of the under bonnet material. A quick measure up and I ordered enough for the front gas locker and to cover the wheel arches inside the wardrobe and under the fixed bed.
First task was to empty the gas locker and give it a bit of a dust out…..
I thought I’d work from both sides into the middle where most cutting would be required. I’d have to make sure non of the gas pipes would be covered so that they could be inspected when it came to the annual service. I also had to make sure that the safety labels and notices were visible, so a bit of careful peeling would be required.
Measuring the first section, the foam was cut with a straight edge and a scalpel in an Exacto knife. I’d taken a couple of large pieces of cardboard to cut on to make it easier.
It didn’t take long to get the first few straight cut pieces installed. One thing though, the sticky back is really sticky and it took a bit of manoeuvring to get the pieces into the locker without sticking them to anything they touched.
I made sure that I left enough gap to inspect the gas pipe or to get to any screw heads that might require checking for tightness in the future. Peeling the labels off in one piece was a bit of a chore… I will probably try to get new ones at some point in the future.
The completed locker….
… and the underside of the window shelf….
After a bit of a sort out and removing some stuff we haven’t used for a while (saving a couple of kilo’s in weight!), everything was replaced back in to the locker.
The next job will be to do the wheel arches inside the caravan.
Lucky or what!
When I was feeding in the second piece on the right hand side I had to take it out to curve it to get it in position. When I removed it I spotted something stuck to the bottom edge ( I did say it was really sticky!)….. it was my Wedding ring! I thought I’d lost it somewhere between our last stop in France – Camping Risle Seine and reaching home back in October 2012. It could have so easily dropped through one of the various vents in the floor in the couple of thousand miles of towing since then, but there it was, stuck to my piece of insulation.
So another little job crossed off the list. I’m not sure how effective it will be, only time and a bit of cold weather will tell. It might very well be a placebo thing…. but as the supermarket slogan say’s “Every Little Helps”.
Contact Info: Foam Solutions UK, Haymoor Hall, Wybunbury Lane, Nantwich. CW5 7HD or http://www.foamsolutionsuk.co.uk or telephone 01270 842 228 or email Carole: email@example.com
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