I hope you all had a great Christmas and the big guy brought you some wonderful gadgets for the RV… yep I’ve been watching way too much stuff from across the pond.
This month Caravan Chronicles celebrates ten years of irrelevant blogging and I designed an eye catching logo… and you can see from it, that I’m not very good at designing logo’s.
I have been asked if we have any “merch” with the Caravan Chronicles logo and….. no. I really can’t see why anyone would want a mug or tee shirt or even a sticker with Caravan Chronicles emblazoned on it. I can’t see my eye catching 10 years of CC logo being any different so there won’t be any mugs, pens or stickers with that on it either. Sue and I did have a couple of shirts with a logo embroidered on for wearing at the caravan shows… but they are now used as coveralls when we are doing a bit of DIY and they are really good for that.
Well I guess I could tell you that in ten years we have had over 42.3 million page views and been read in almost every country in the world…. the one that amazes me is somone in the Marshall Islands reads it… I had to look that up on a map!
Over 2400 of you have left nearly 4000 comments and I have received over 44,000 emails of which about half weren’t trying to sell me something or asking me to help out a recently deceased Nigerian business man’s widow.
In the ten years I have stuck to my ‘no paid content’ through out and have turned down requests for paid reviews. I have been sent a few things to review… some have been returned and some given away… which reminds me the first person to say “Hi” at the next camp site can have an Eco Camel Shower Head.
I do however have an “Amazon Associates” thingy which is great, Amazon pays me and it doesn’t cost you a penny… it all comes from Big Jeff… and as he can afford to go into space I think he can afford to shell out a few pennies to allow me to pay the wonderful people at WordPress to keep this blog up and running. So if you want to encourage Big Jeff to pay me a bit more… use any of the Amazon links in the Caravan Chronicles shop… and buy anything you like.
What’s planned for the future?
Well I am thinking about some sort of smart Q & A system on the blog. I spend quite a bit of time answering technical emails and quite a few cries for help and maybe a searchable Q & A system would work. Only thing is I don’t know how to do it in WordPress so some research needed along those lines. If you have any thoughts on anything that would improve the blog or would like to see let me know in the comments.
So I’d just like to offer a genuine big thank you all for ten amazing years of support and both Sue and I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and safe travels.
Since posting this a number of people have apparently emailed the company and as a result the page has now being removed. Many thanks to everyone that took time out to email them and to Homefit Tow Bars & Roof Racks for responding so promptly.
This is a bit of a letting off steam post.
I had a ping back notification for a page I wrote a while ago. A ping back is basically a notification that someone has embedded a link to one of your pages. Normally not a problem as most are from forums or other blogs saying “go and have a look at this….” and including a link to the article.
However Greg Smith of Homefit Tow Bars & Roof Racks in Sydney, Australia, decided to copy my drawings and reword a lot of my text… (although he did manage to make the effort and add some of his own) and post it in his company web site as their own blog.
Here are the screenshots of the web page…
Now I’m getting a bit hacked off with this. I have given permission to people like Collyn Rivers, the well know Australian author of a number of books on Caravans & Motorhomes and to a couple of Australian magazines to reprint articles and they always link back and include credits to myself/Caravan Chronicles.
Normally I would contact the person or company breaching my copywrite and ask them to either the it down or add a credit or byline with a link to the original article or post. This normally takes a while as they are slow to respond and usually come back with initially “well it’s on the internet so it’s free to use” ……. NO IT’S NOT!
I’m getting tired of chasing people, so I have decided to simply post the infringement/copywrite breach. So if you want to contact them to let them know here’s their details…
Central Coast Newcastle & Hunter valley
+61 418 633 926 Monday – Friday | 8:00 am to 5.00 pm
email address removed
You might want to let them know I nicked their logo…. well everything is free on the internet isn’t it!
About 12 months ago I wrote a blog post “Is A Euro 6 Engine Killing Your Leisure Battery?” and it got a few comments and generated a number of emails. However 12 months on I’m getting a lot more questions relating to problems around smart alternators and I’ve brought forward this blog post by quite a few months from my planned posting date following a couple of long email exchanges with two readers and a few others.
Right, I think the best way to explain this is to set the stage so to speak.
Bob stores his brand new caravan at home and it is regularly plugged in to the house to run the internal battery charger and a dehumidifier. It’s got a new 110Ah AGM leisure battery and a new motor-mover fitted. The caravan is plugged in at least 24 hours before any trip to get the fridge down to temp prior to stocking it up. Bob also has a brand new car, Euro 6 diesel with a smart alternator. The car is a few months younger than the caravan and he’s never towed a caravan with this car. The tow bar and tow electrics were all fitted by the dealer (or dealers agents) prior to it being purchased. He did tow this caravan on 4 trips with his previous car, same make but 6 years older.
The caravan suitably prepped, fridge down to temperature and stocked. An early morning departure and six hour journey with a couple of stops to catch the Euro Shuttle over to France followed by a couple of hours driving in France to their first destination. On arriving, Bob sited the caravan on to the pitch not using the motor-mover and went about setting up. Mrs Bob knowing a request for a cup of tea was imminent went inside to put the kettle on where she discovered everything in the freezer had defrosted. Bob checked the fridge, it was still set for travelling. For what ever reason he also checked the leisure battery on the caravan’s system… 12.1 volts.
Over the next few days there was a couple of phone calls to their caravan dealer along with a number of emails. For the next three weeks and 2 other camp sites the fridge worked perfectly. On the return trip a similar distance and travelling time to the outward journey ended up when Bob returned home he only managed to get the caravan part way up the drive using the motor mover. He had to plug the caravan into his house overnight to charge the leisure battery enough to allow him to use the motor mover to finally put the caravan into its ‘home’ at the rear of the house.
Within a couple of weeks the caravan was returned to the dealer for extensive checking and the dealer could not find any issues with it or the fridge. They put forward the idea it must be an issue with the car. Bob tended to agree with this as he had taken this caravan on four trips towing with is old car and never had any issues. Three relatively short trips, the other a longer two week trip from the North East down to Cornwall, a similar 8 or 9 hour journey and everything seemed fine.
After a conversation with the main dealer who agreed to have the vehicle towing electrics checked over the next couple of days. The verdict from the main dealer was they could find nothing wrong with the vehicle, everything was working as expected.
Now, this is where I got involved. The above is actually an amalgamation of two very similar emails asking for thoughts and advice. The people involved had vehicles from different manufacturers and the caravans were also from different manufacturers. The only common element was the vehicles were new and had Euro 6 engines with smart alternators. I am not going to mention the vehicle or caravan manufacturers for a couple of reasons…. one, I don’t want to end up on the wrong end of a legal letter and two, I don’t actually think the manufacturer of either is relevant.
What’s Going On?
Luckily for me Bob is recently retired but knows his way round an AVO 8 being an apprentice TV repair man for Redifusion back in the day when valves were king. (Just as an aside, I bought my first AVO 8 back in 1976 and paid £8 for it. It was Ex REME in a leather case. I purchased it from MAZEL RADIO on London Rd in Manchester. Anyone from Manchester of a certain age will know Mazel Radio).
To cut a long story short over a period of a couple of weeks we proved that when hitched up, as soon as the smart alternator went into eco mode, there was a current flow up to about 4.5 to 5 amps FROM the leisure battery TO the car. This only stopped and reversed when the electrical load in the car caused the vehicles ECU to turn on the alternator’s output. Furthermore we determined that with the caravan hitched up, the period the alternator was in eco mode was also longer than when unhitched. Although we could not prove this with definitive evidence, this would also support the reverse current flow from the caravan to the vehicle that we were seeing as the caravan leisure battery was now supporting the vehicle battery.
Now there were a few questions that were buzzing round my brain….
Why didn’t the caravan habitation relay drop out when the smart alternator went into eco mode to stop this reverse flow?
Why didn’t the dedicated tow electrics strop this reverse flow?
Why didn’t the vehicle ECU knowing a trailer was hitched stop the alternator going into ECO mode?
If the ECU put the alternator into eco mode why didn’t it drop the fridge supply and by default release the habitation relay?
Why did the fridge defrost/not work even though in theory there was a voltage supplied to it?
Was this the reason I had seen an increase in emails relating to motor mover issues and batteries not holding their charge?
I don’t really know. I don’t know how wide spread an issue it is or its going to become. I also don’t know the details of how specific manufacturers implement eco modes in the ECU programming or how the tow bar electrical interface manufacturers could work round the potential issues while still being able to get their products certified by vehicle manufacturers.
I think it might be down to the caravan manufacturers to come up with a solution. I know that there are a couple of after-market products available that provide a solution – We have one I installed in our caravan and in the short term I think this will be the quickest route. Caravan manufacturers may have a reluctance to respond and they can legitimately say “Well it is designed to work correctly to the relevant standards.” I think that maybe it will require the two main caravan clubs to look further into this and if what I have outlined above is proven by them to be the case, bring pressure to bear on all the parties concerned to come up with a way forward to resolve the issue.
For my part, I have contacted a few manufacturers asking for information and clarification or even acknowledgement of an issue. Unfortunately no one seems to want to talk about it. I do know individuals have emails details of their own problem to manufacturers and have received less than helpful responses.
Let me know in the comments below if you have had anything that might be related to this. I’d like to find out more.
The thought just crossed my mind…. what affect, if any, will this have on AL-KO ATC (if fitted) when the vehicle is in eco mode and the alternator shut down? Does is mean that there is a possibility that the AK-KO ATC may not work correctly in all circumstances?
OK a bit of a rhetorical question really. Caravan Chronicles now has a bit of a shop. Well I call it a shop, it’s really just one page of links to stuff I have bought and used throughout the blog from Amazon.
I started a while ago adding a few links here and there at the end of my posts for bit’s and bob’s I’d used in any particular post. I got a few emails asking where I’d got so and so from and it seemed the best place would be a single page to list everything. So here it is… Caravan Chronicles Shop.
It’s not a real shop, I’m an “Amazon Associate” (fancy title!) but all that really means is I get a small… and I mean small percentage if you buy anything via Amazon by clicking on the link. So far this year I think it has paid for a couple of Grande Latte with Extra Shot from Costa.
Fear not, don’t think I’m going to load it up with “Merch” (I think that’s the term) it’s only going to be stuff we have bought and used so no teddy bears wearing tee shirts with the Caravan Chronicles logo emblazoned across their furry chests.
That’s it for now. Off in a few days to meet up with Travelling K (yep all the way from NZ!) for a super secret event… Schhhh.
As usual Henry and Oscar would like to thank you for following along. Here they are checking out their new cat shelf I made from some of the 12mm tube and bending tool left over from the “Mirror Mirror” project. (Links to both can be found in the shop!)
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.
I seem to have had an increase over the last few weeks of emails from people involved in building, modifying or upgrading Overland Expedition type vehicles. I think some of my posts must have been quoted or referenced in related forums. A lot of questions are related to roughly the same group of topics so I thought I’d produce three drawings to help answer the bulk of the questions. If you read down the comments on some posts I have answered a lot of specifics that might help. I’ve merged a lot of the questions into a paraphrased ones…
“How can I get my LED light bar and spotlights to come on when I use my main beam switch but I want to disable them when on the highway?”
The questions were from a number of 4 x 4 Off Road enthusiasts and Overland vehicle people. Simplest way I could come up with was using a couple of diodes (details on the drawing) Three switches… one for LED Light Bar, One for Driving Lights and one that allows you to sync the LED Light Bar and Driving Lights to the operation of the main beam in the vehicle. Flash the main beam and with the Sink Switch ON… all the lights will flash. Note… this may be illegal in some countries, so having the option to turn off the facility when on the roads ‘should’ keep you within the law…. don’t quote me on it!!!
“Whats the best layout for connecting a solar controller / inverter / isolation switch to my battery bank?”
The best schematic I could come up with that is flexible for most situations. I’ve put a few notes on the drawing. The various components I’ve drawn generically…. all can be found at your preferred supplier.
“What’s the basic layout of the vehicle fridge and leisure battery charing circuit?
This I think has come from a few on-line discussions relating to poor performance of the fridge and leisure battery charing in older 4 x 4 vehicles. I was receiving for a while a number of questions related to upgrading older installations. I also receive a number of emails asking how to add the facility of fridge and leisure battery charging to older vehicles and upgrade the 7 pin tow socket or old military lights socket.
You can download the PDF’s and are free to use for personal use. If you post them on other forums I’d appreciate a link back to this page and/or an acknowledgement.
I’d appreciate any feed back in the comments below.
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.
It’s that time of year again, a few days before the opening of the North’s biggest caravan and motorhome show and the first of the New Year at Manchester’s Event City and again we are sat thinking about changing the van this year. Mind you we were convinced last year… and the year before we were going to change the caravan.
In 2017 we went to the shows, round dealers and almost did the deal. However a few things just kept us from signing on the dotted line. We also came close last year, but again there were design elements that just didn’t sit right with me.. or t least would make me compromise more than I wanted to.
So here is my guide to any caravan designers out there working on the 2020 design that they hope is going to be the next winner.
Looks and sounds good…
A locker containing a TV swing out arm…. OK stop watching American RV shows right now. What were you thinking guys… We don’t sit round campfires watching TV in the middle of the Mohave… honestly we don’t. If people want to watch TV in their awning I’m pretty sure they will have come up with a way by now that suits them. It’s not even like you designed the thing so that you could leave a 24 inch TV permanently mounted and closed away securely in the locker.
While we are on the subject of TV’s…. stop putting the radio in a cupboard in the front of the caravan… put it near where you provide a TV mount. A lot of thin screen TV’s have poor speakers and a great solution that many caravaners opt for is connecting the TV sound to the radio AUX input… but a lot don’t because it becomes a major challenge routing a pair of screened wires round and through all the cabinets. Make it easy, put the radio near the TV, install a AUX jack and sell it as a feature!
Right, which designer is going to own up to designing a storage space in the wardrobe in the rear bathroom of a van to store the table. Did you design the van and at some point while you were stood at the coffee machine someone say to you “Dude I didn’t see where you stored the table in your design” and you immediately rush back to your workstation and in a panic put in the wardrobe in the rear washroom.
Have you ever had to get a table out, and set it up with a caravan full of people balancing drinks when some one is shooting “PLEASE SET THE TABLE UP NOW… DINNERS READY”
It’s on the other side…. or end!
Right I want all designers to go and stand on empty pitches at five caravan sites and look round. What do you see? Bollards…. you read that right Bollards… at the rear of the pitch. Why there you may ask? Well designing a site or upgrading a site if you can avoid digging across a pitch to install services it tends to be cheaper and easier to reinstate the ground afterwards, so most are laid out that way for cost and convenience. Is been like that for quite a few years. So why do you insist in keep designing the power, water connections at the front of the caravan… and some of you just for good measure put one on each side. If you take the common size pitch and park your caravan in the middle throw up a mahoosive flappy tent thing on one side and connect up your Aquarol (other water containers are available) then try to squeeze your tow car down the other side – that is if you have the room with an 8 foot wide van – avoiding parking so that vehicle door can actually open without bashing the water container or the passenger can actually squeeze past.
Here’s an idea….
Here’s an idea…. put the water inlet and power inlet on the rear off side corner and while you are at it check out how American RV’s have a locker with all the connections inside and a convenient opening in the floor to pass the connections through. That would save cutting holes and installing expensive fittings. While you are at it moving the water about, here’s an idea, install a simple Hozelock fitting with a check valve and pressure regulator so when on a device pitch, rather than expecting customers to buy expensive adaptor fittings, they can just buy a cheap food grade hose to hook up. Could this be the next USP I wonder?
To off grid or not to off grid?.. that is the question.
I applaud the designer that moved the leisure battery from a side locker to under floor mounting and moved the gas bottle from the front to the side. Heavy items, get them low and in the centre I say.
However, next year go one step further… make the battery locker bigger to accommodate two batteries and ready for Lithium… which may mean insulating them. Nearly all caravans are sold now with solar panels, but it would be nice to be able to choose to install an additional battery to take advantage of the solar without having to start installing aftermarket sealed and externally vented battery boxes.
It’s behind you…
…. well it might be but I can’t see it. It’s time to offer a rear view camera option on all caravans now I think for safety’s sake. A lot of motorhomes are offering it as an option or a standard fit. While it is fairly easy on a motorhome as the display choice is dictated by the designer. For a caravan it’s slightly more complicated as some vehicles have rear view systems built-in, some have nothing so how do you decide what to install? Simple really.. most systems use composite 1 volt peat to peak video and there are dozens of components out there on the internet that allow this to be digitised, scrambled, flipped and sent vis radio, bluetooth, over power feeds and via IR so it can’t be that difficult or expensive to install a system with a remote screen at a sensible price point. The biggest hurdle for anyone contemplating installing a rear view camera system is actually mounting the camera on the caravan body and running all the cables.
Unless you have towed a trailer with electronic brakes you will never know how horse and cart our current over-run hitch brake system is. In the land of the… that lot over the pond, have been using electrical braking systems for a while and in the land down under (Straylia… YESSSS….. for John Cadogan fans) ALKO have been offering a system for a number of years that is really just an extension of their caravan chassis ‘kit of components’ and could easily be adopted for European component chassis.
Now a lot of you know from my past volumes of scribblings I kind of enjoy delving into caravan dynamics and I really want a caravan with electronic brakes. OK before the comments come stating that under current regulations you are required to have over-run braking system etc etc…. yep I know. However from my poking around this subject for over 18 months now, it seems that you can fit electronic brakes as long as the existing over-run setup is retained.
If you are still reading this go and check this out from seven years ago about a system that was going to be produced….. if I was setting this cones out I think I’d be going changing my undergarments…. www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIB7Rmhll9s\
Right, I wanted to keep this down to a short 1000 words, and I failed as it’s over 1300 now. I hope you have all had a great Christmas and may 2019 bring you new touring adventures and memories. We’ll see you on Thursday 17th at:
Long time readers may recall I customised a bike rack for our Land Rover Freelander 1 to allow us to carry two full frame mountain bikes on the back of our Freelander while towing a caravan and have enough clearance for ferry ramps while towing as well. Big advantage being it didn’t affect our MPG as the bike were effectively out of the airflow both solo and towing.
Well since we bought the VW Amarok the rack hasn’t been used and it has just been hung from the roof of the bat cave since then.
So its time to find it a new home, If you have a Freelander 1 and are looking for a fold up bike rack for two bikes complete with 13 pin fitted trailer board and all the web straps…. make me a silly… but not stupid offer.
I’m based in Manchester but would be happy to meet up part way… I ain’t going to wrap this thing up that’s for sure!
Drop me an email with a silly (not stupid) offer.
The Green Vally Spare Wheel Mounted 2 Bike Cycle Carrier