An Easy Fix…

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You know how sometimes those little jobs come along that you put off as you think that it’s going to be a bit of a pain to do…. well this was one of them.

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On all three of the front windows the plastic insert trim for the rubber window surround was slowly pulling out of the corners. The worst was the front lower corners on the big central window. I’d ordered 15 metres of replacement from Leisureshopdirect.com (the part I ordered can be found here) for about 99p per metre. It was one of those jobs I’d been putting off for a while as I thought it was going to be a bit of a nightmare to do.

However on a recent jolly to Riverside Touring Park at Betws-y-Coed, one afternoon sat looking at it I decided I’d sat looking at it far too long and that it just had to be attacked head on.

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Tackling it from outside, releasing the window hardware on one side – marking where the screw holes were on the rubber in pencil first, was easy enough. Two cross head screws held in each window latch and window strut to the frame of the caravan. The join in the old strip was in the centre at the top and getting a small flat blade screwdriver under the edge was easy and the the strip simply pulled out across the top and down one side.

I started by checking the width. When you order there are two widths available and two colour options. I’d previously checked the existing strip and measured it to be about 23mm wide. On the web site it was listed as 23 mm or 25mm and available in grey air white.The replacement was however around 50% thicker making it a lot stiffer to insert.

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However it soon worked out that this additional thickness was to my advantage. I could now push the strip into the recess on the caravan side and simply run a small cross head screwdriver round the outer ‘flange’ (I had to get “flange” in there somewhere… silent nod in the direction of Miranda Hart) and flip it over the edge of the strip. The first corner was a bit tricky but my technique was improving all the time.

Once I’d completed the first section from the top down to the middle of the bottom of the frame, I re-attached the window hardware and removed the opposite side…

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This was all going terribly well! It didn’t take too long to remove the hardware from the other side of the window, pull out the old strip and continue around the frame fitting the new strip in.

I wasn’t sure what caused the original material to pull out of the corners but I guessed there might have been some stretching when it was originally installed and maybe  repeated heating and cooling over the last 8 years caused it to return to it’s original dimensions. With the new strip, I did try to ensure I’d not pulled it tight and used the handle of a large screwdriver to try and massage the strip into the corners as much as possible.

All that remained was to re-install the window hardware on this side and check for fit and finish. Everything seemed OK and Granville was summoned with his cloth…

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A light squirt of silicone designed for rubber window seals and a quick polish with a microfibre cloth finished the job off nicely.

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All totalled the main centre window took about 30 minutes to complete start to finish.  Next trip out up to Barnard Castle in a couple of weeks time…. I’ll get the other two smaller windows done.

Finally, before anyone asks, yes I did choose to do this on the warmest day in North Wales so far this year!

How’ve We Been Getting On With Our Catch Can?

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Back in June 2018 I fitted a Man Hummel ProVent oil catch can to our Amarok. Since then I’ve had a few people asking me how we have been getting on with it and has it actually ‘caught’ anything.

If you haven’t a clue what I’m on about here’s a link to the original two posts…. Catch Me If You Can… and Catch Me If You Can Pt 2

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I fitted the ProVent to our VW Amarok when it had done about 8000 miles (12,800Km) and we have now done just over 13,000 miles (21,000Km) a great deal of it towing. I opted initially to drain the ProVent every 600 Miles (1000Km) and the first three each time I got about half a cup of slightly oily water. It was clear like water but when rubbed between your fingers it felt ‘slippy’ a bit like baby oil. I did notice that one    draining that covered two long tows up to the Lake District what came out was slightly darker, still about the same quantity though. However I did notice on the last draining I had more of a dark oil content as a separate layer in the lighter clear ‘oily water’. Watching the video below I did find out that this is normal. The filter that is in the ProVent takes a few hundred Km to start working properly, first catching the condensate and then once the filter is saturated does it start to catch and drain the heavy oil.

I did recently remove the hoses on the intercooler (inlet and outlet) just out of curiosity and the interior from what I could see was still clean, with only a light covering deposited from the first 8000 miles (13,000Km) of running without a catch can fitted.

So how much have I got out?

Well in the first 5000 miles (8000Km) I have now filled an old 500ml  2 stroke oil container and just started on my second. I’ll continue to drain at the 600 mile mark. Although I must admit I now drain it before a long towing trip and again when I return home. It only takes about a minute and doesn’t require any tools so really is one of those tasks that is easily accomplished with the minimal of effort. Hopefully this will keep our engine in tip-top condition and not start to suffer from the oily carbon build up that saps power and is prevalent in all diesel engines.

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Here’s an excellent video from the guy’s at 4WD Action with probably the best explanation I’ve seen so far on the net… (Video (c) 4WDAction.AU)

Setting Up the Garmin Camper 770 LMT-D…

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Following on from my issues with our TomTom (Why I’m ditching TomTom and moving to Garmin… ) our new Sat Nav arrived a few days ago. I did look a the Snooper option, but there were a few limitations that I personally wasn’t comfortable with, but overall it looked a good product. I have had some great feedback from users of the Snooper and the company seems to have a really good customer service department.

I ordered our Garmin Camper 770LMT-D from Amazon ( https://amzn.to/2Vca1j4 ) for £256 and opted to add a SanDisk Extream 32GB microSDHC Memory Card (https://amzn.to/2Jem1JK ) for £10 which should give me flexibility in the future. That said, the internal memory on the 770 is already quite big at 15Gb.

Before the unit arrived, I downloaded Garmin Basecamp – there are downloads available for both Windows and Mac platforms. I also downloaded Garmin Express. Installing on a Mac was straight forward as usual. I can’t comment on the Windows version as we have not owned a Microsoft platformed device for over 13 years.

While writing this I found out what the LMT-D stands for… LMT is Lifetime Maps & Traffic and the D is DAB Radio reception.. it receives traffic updated via the inbuilt DAB radio receiver. No it can’t play DAB radio stations before you ask.

Garmin Basecamp

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When you first install Basecamp is comes with a default Global Map….

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It is not until you connect your GPS and download the updated map from it does it have all the fine detail and pre installed POI’s.

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I have zoomed in to Holyhead here….

All the pre installed POI’s from the GPS show up and it makes it easy to have a mooch round the area from your desk when planning a route. I’m not going to go into too much detail about setting up your own POI’s (although they are really waypoints in Garmin’s world) or setting up Routs, tracks etc. I did find it really easy to follow Garmin’s on line video tutorial. However it took me a couple of go’s to get the information I wanted in the right fields.

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Here I set up a waypoint for Southport C & M Club. Really easy and only took less than a minute. By installing Garmin Basecamp before actually receiving the 770, it gave me a chance to sit and play about with the software before getting too distracted by the new gadget. I set up about 50 waypoints, sorting them into various categories – C & M Club, Museums, Ports, Friends etc. As I was unsure what actually came pre-installed I thought it might be best to get a head start on the most common ones.

What’s installed on the Camper 770?

Really I need not have bothered too much. The Garmin Camper 770 comes with ASCI, MHF, Campercontact as well as Trip Advisor & Foursquare databases already pre-installed. As it connects to WiFi and via a phone App to the internet, you can pretty much search for any location or attraction. I’ve set ours up so it connects to the Amarok’s WiFi system for permanent internet access. You can also install Archie’s database too if you think that you need all the bases covering.

First Job – Update the 770

First job was to update the Garmin 770 with the latest maps and databases. To do this you need to install Garmin Express. Once installed, simply connect the GPS with the supplied USB lead and follow the on screen prompts. To get to the point where it starts to update only took a minute or two… inputting an email address really and naming the unit so if you have multiple Garmin products you can easily identify which GPS you have connected. It estimated that it would take around 2 hours to perform the download and all the updates, in reality it took less than 30 minutes.

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Setting up the vehicle and vehicle options came next. Again really simple to do. I found the menu system is quite simple to navigate through, and it didn’t take too long to set up our rig…

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You may notice the “80” Kmh sign in the top right corner. As you can input the weights of the vehicle, caravan, motorhome into the unit. It will keep an eye on the speed limits on roads. In europe where a lot of countries have lower limits for vehicles or towing combinations above certain weights…. France for example has a 3.5t cut off, above this weight and you have a lower speed limit that say a car and caravan under 3.5t on the same road. I’m sure motorhome owners who regularly travel in Europe will be more aware of these rules.

I could have got away with just the standard CAR setup for the Amarok when not towing, but as the Amarok has a body width of  1954mm (6’5″) and maximum of mirror to mirror with of 2228mm (7’3.5″) (5321mm or 17’5.5″ long if you are playing top trumps!) sometimes on a couple of width restricted roads I have had to really squeeze through, so I thought I’d set up a motorhome setting with the Amarok’s size just so I wouldn’t get caught out. And yes… that weight is correct. The MTPLM of the caravan and MPM of the  Amarok totals 4770 Kgs and there are a couple of  bridges in the UK I can’t legally tow over!

The Installation…

I’m a bit of a…. well I don’t know, when it comes to getting things right. I sat in the truck and moved the 770 around… placing it almost everywhere. I wanted it so it could be reached from either the driver or passenger seats, but not too close as it might fall into that focal length area where it’s just outside the range of either part of my bi-focal’s. I wasn’t happy with all the options available. So I thought tomorrow might bring inspiration. However all tomorrow brought was the same ‘Umm….” and “Nope…..”. The third day however did bring fourth a result….

I still wanted access to the top tray, but placing the GPS on the windscreen with the suppled mount was not an option. One, I hate things stuck to the windscreen and two, neither Sue or I could reach the screen from our normal seating position. So off to the bat cave to come up with a cunning contrivance. Half an hour later after shaping and bending some 1.5mm thick aircraft aluminium and a quick application of anti glare black… (I also followed that up with some anti glare cloth tape we used in aircraft cockpits)

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It still uses the Garmin quick release mount and has the flexibility to adjust fully either way and tilt down to minimise glare if the sun is reflecting directly on it (the screen is super bright though max and hopefully this won’t be a problem). We can both still reach it and the tray in front as well as being fully accessible is a convenient place to wrest your wrist while inputting info into the GPS. I have found though the Voice Command understands a “Manc” accent really well and i haven’t had any issues using voice command.

What I like…

I do like Basecamp. I’ve found out that I can overlay OS Landranger maps which makes plotting very accurate walking routes and printing them out easy. I can also create accurate Green Lane routes for off road 4 x 4 treks and import them into the 770. You can also convert Google Map routing and import it into Basecamp and your GPS. Now this is really useful. For example… setting off from Manchester about 04:00 going to Dover to catch the 10:00 ferry sailing, however I need to fill with LPG en route. I set my departure point, arrival point and search for LPG closest to my route. I can then pick one see the estimated arrival time at that point (check that the LPG station is open) and adjust my route to take in the LPG waypoint or choose the next LPG station if I am going to arrive too early.  This can then be uploaded to the 770 as a route and will adjust around traffic still directing you first to the LPG station then to your destination.

Within Basecamp you have an option to upload your waypoints to either the 770’s internal memory or the Memory Card. You can also update the memory card by removing it from the 770 and connecting it directly to your desktop device. I’ve chosen to install all my info on to the memory card rather than the 770’s internal memory… did I really need a memory card? At this point probably not but it has allowed me a bit more flexibility and when I ordered the 770 I didn’t know just how much space I’d be left with, at the moment I’ve used about 10Gb of the 15Gb internal memory. You do have the option to install additional maps on to the memory card, so for example if I wanted North America I could install it onto the removable card. There is security built in to stop maps downloaded on one device being transferred to another device.

I found the updating of the 770 using Garmin Express to be really easy too. I have been checking it every day so far just to get a fell of how often the updates come through. So far I’ve had three updates after my initial first download. I tend to suspect that maybe Garmin have a more frequent update policy, which could be a reflection of the aviation side of the business where updates are tightly scheduled and frequent to reflect any airspace and NOTAM updates. I did note that one or two things and functions in route planning within Basecamp seemed strangely familiar… until it clicked…. I’d seen and used them before in flight planning applications.

There is a couple of other features that I’ve not had before. The Garmin 770 records all your tracks… now this is really handy so when Sue say’s “Do you remember we passed such and such the other day… can we go back?” Well, I can usually remember the vague details… but being able to bring up the route we drove and doing a bit of investigation using Garmin Basecamps opens up the possibility of being able to find it again without having to resort to a darkened room, angle poise light and an impression of Herr Flick.

The other is the ability take a snapshot of the screen. I used it for a few screen shots ( like the one above showing the vehicle set up) and a few I’ve taken for a full review. I don’t know if this is a ‘feature’ that is not really a feature as it’s noever gets used…. or if it’s something I might use in the future. Might be handy for quick maps of trips or places, there again it might not. Jury’s out on that one.

I’m not able to give a full review… as we haven’t been anywhere with it yet so I can’t comment on traffic updates, turn by turn instructions, general usability or function. we are off in the next few days for five days so I’ll let you know how we get on.

… and for all those pilots out there the classic ATC…. “Resume own navigation”

Why I’m ditching TomTom and moving to Garmin…

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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…..

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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.

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At this point TomTom asked me to DM them with a serial number. Which I did.

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… and here is their reply (obviously rating forth bottom tweet upwards)…

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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).

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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.

Why Garmin?

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.

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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…

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So, I’ve got around 23 years experience of Garmin’s aviation navigation products, time to try their earth based stuff!

Looking forward…

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.

Epilogue

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….

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Foot Note

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.

Testing the Bosch Fontus…

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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.”

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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).

Anything Else?

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.

Final thoughts…

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.

Overland Vehicle Electrics and Other Stuff…

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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…

Question 1

“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?”

Auto Switch Driving Lights

Link to A3 PDF – Auto Switch Driving Lights

The questions were from a number of 4 x 4 Off Road enthusiasts and Overland vehicle people. Simplest way I could come up with was using a couple of diodes (details on the drawing) Three switches… one for LED Light Bar, One for Driving Lights and one that allows you to sync the LED Light Bar and Driving Lights to the operation of the main beam in the vehicle. Flash the main beam and with the Sink Switch ON… all the lights will flash. Note… this may be illegal in some countries, so having the option to turn off the facility when on the roads ‘should’ keep you within the law…. don’t quote me on it!!!

Question 2

“Whats the best layout for connecting a solar controller / inverter / isolation switch to my battery bank?”

Overlander Wiring Diagram - 01

Link to A3 PDF – Overlander Wiring Diagram – 01

The best schematic I could come up with that is flexible for most situations. I’ve put a few notes on the drawing. The various components I’ve drawn generically…. all can be found at your preferred supplier.

Question 3

“What’s the basic layout of the vehicle fridge and leisure battery charing circuit?

Basic 13 Pin Power Loom 1

Link to A3 PDF – Basic 13 Pin Power Loom 1

This I think has come from a few on-line discussions relating to poor performance of the fridge and leisure battery charing in older 4 x 4 vehicles. I was receiving for a while a number of questions related to upgrading older installations. I also receive a number of emails asking how to add the facility of fridge and leisure battery charging to older vehicles and upgrade the 7 pin tow socket or old military lights socket.

You can download the PDF’s and are free to use for personal use. If you post them on other forums I’d appreciate a link back to this page and/or an acknowledgement.

I’d appreciate any feed back in the comments below.

Mirror Mirror…

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The driver’s side was bent the same… just opposite ‘handed’ and the length worked out right for the height too.

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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.

To finish…

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.

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We have been using these now for about two years and for me they work out just fine.

Shopping…

I had all this stuff in the Bat Cave as it was purchased for other projects, so the mirror arms didn’t really cost me anything. Both arms were made out of one 1 metre length of 12mm steel tube.

The tube bender I paid less than £30 for it about 12 months ago from Amazon. The 12mm Steel tube, again from Amazon was around £4 for a 1 metre length and the Truck Bed Liner paint was around £8.

You can find links to these and other bits I use in the Caravan Chronicles Shop

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Just for comparison…. the original supplied arm against my contrivance…. and yes… I have now sorted that bit of surface rust out! (I missed a bit when spraying)

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Something For Your Toolbox…

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A few weeks ago I posted a blog post called “A Quick Fault Finding Tip…” and that  generated quite a few emails regarding electrical testing and how to trace faults.  In fact a lot of the other electrical posts I’ve done over the years still generate emails and comments (it’s always worth checkingback on some of th eolder posts to read the comments) I’m going to try to explain a technique that’s really handy to have in your tool box for general fault-finding.

Earth Side Testing

Most people who perform general maintenance on their vehicle, motor home or caravan will be familiar with checking the voltage of the vehicle or leisure battery using a multimeter. Great little things to have and personally I think everyone should be able to do the basics with one.  So as a bit of a refresher I’ll go through this scenario with you. Checking the lights on your tow vehicle you notice one of the brake lights is a lot dimmer than the other. Let’s find out why. I’m going to simplify the circuit a bit it should give you the idea behind the principle.

Depending on the device you re reading this on the drawings might be small. If you want to see the drawing full size just click on it to open it up full size.

Earth Side Testing 1-0

In the drawing above you can see the basic circuit. The positive lead from the battery goes through the ignition switch and on to a fuse. From there through a connector to the brake pedal switch and on to another wiring loom connector to the back of the vehicle. It passes through another connector before arriving at the brake bulb holder. The holder is connected to the vehicle chassis via another wiring loom connector. The vehicle chassis is connected back to the battery in the engine bay. You can see we’ve checked the battery voltage with out meter and it reads 12.68 volts… so not a flat battery. We’ll make a note of the battery voltage.

OK… so the problem is this bulb  is not at full brightness.. so it’s got to be a loss of voltage supplying it somewhere in the circuit. We need to check the voltage along the circuit with the bulb lit (circuit live) and the black negative lead of our multimeter attached the battery negative terminal. (I’ll explain how to do this later).

Earth Side Testing 1-1

Probably the next place to check it would be the fuse… 12.66 volts, not too bad only 0.02 or 20 mV loss… lets keep going….

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..next is a wiring loom connector, back probing it gives a 10 Mv drop (loss) normally these modern connectors are pretty good.

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Brake light switch… Hmm a bit more of a drop… maybe a quick spritz with contact cleaner will sort that…

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Back probing the next connector gives a bit more of a loss… I’ll come back and check the brake light switch connector.

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OK, now at the back of the vehicle and a bit more of a drop at that connector but nothing too much…

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Well 12.13 volts on the bulb contact… so between the battery and bulb positive tip a total loss of 0.55 V or 550 mV…. that’s about within limits as I would not expect to see much more than a 500 mV… half a volt drop on a typical circuit like that. So what’s going on? A 500 mV drop can’t account for the dim bulb?

However, if we keep going and measure the voltage on the earth side of the bulb holder….

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Hang on we see a reading of 2.67 volts. How can that be? We are connected to ground at both ends of the meters test leads? A circuit has two sides, the positive side to the load – in this case the bulb and the return or negative side back to the battery.

Just because the negative wire on the bulb holder is only short and goes to a bolt securing it and maybe many others to the chassis doesn’t mean we can assume it is the same as being clamped to the negative battery terminal.

A few things to ponder…. vehicles are made of steel… steel is not as good conductor of electricity as copper… nether is aluminium that some vehicles have in their construction. At one time steel panels were all spot welded together… now a lot are bonded on with specialist adhesives. The earth point may well be in the boot or under the floor and will be subject to corrosion as will the main battery neutral cable in the engine bay. All this can compromise an electrical path back to the battery.

If we look at the voltage drop on both sides of the circuit we have 0.55 volts on the supply added to 2.67 volts on the neutral side…. 3.22 volts in total, so we are trying to light our bulb with only 9.46 volts.

Could we have got there quicker?

One of the checks I always do first with the ignition on is the battery voltage check to get a reference to work with and then simply move my red positive test lead over to some main point on the engine block….

Earth Side Testing 1-8

If I get a reading of more than 0.4 volts (400 mV) obviously my negative return path from the vehicle chassis is compromised. Time to turn everything off and undo the main earth cables to the chassis and engine and give them and the mounting points a good clean with scotch bright or fine emery and a dab of specialist grease (see “Shopping” below) to protect them from further corrosion.

In the scenario we have just gone through, I’ll bet a wet weekend in Blackpool that cleaning both the earth terminal at the back of the vehicle and the battery earth to the chassis would have sorted the problem. I’d also have a look at the brake pedal switch as there is a bit more of a voltage drop than I’d like. Most likely it’s the connector rather than the switch itself.

For those that tow…

Nearly all tow bar wiring looms will ground to the same point in the back of the vehicle with some of the other assorted vehicle earth cables…. installers take the easy route and if there are already cables earthed there … then another couple won’t make a difference.

This can and will have an effect on the performance of your caravan electrics. Both the leisure battery charging circuit and fridge circuit will probably be earthed at that point.. So in the case of the fault above, each of those circuits will have a voltage drop of 2.67 volts. Therefore if you have leisure battery charing or fridge issues its possibly not the wiring in the caravan,  it could be the wiring in the vehicle. Check the ground path first.

One quick check is with lights and ignition turned on, do a volt drop test between the battery negative terminal and one of the cable secured under the earth point at the rear of the vehicle where the tow pack electrics are terminated. If it’s above 0.5 V (500 mV) then give the earth points a clean.

One bit of advice I’ve given to people in the past is to run a 4mm or 6mm cable directly from the negative battery terminal to the back of the vehicle and terminate it at the earth point where all the rear lights and tow electrics terminate. Makes a heck of a difference.

Back Probing…

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Right…. Franky Howard fans stop it now! Back Probing, you might have heard of it and really it’s nothing special. It’s a simple technique used when fault-finding and involves using a fine probe to get into the back of the connector where the cable enters to test the voltage without disconnecting the connector. Sometimes you can get away with a straightened paperclip wound round the tip of the multimeter test lead. You can buy test lead accessory packs that have various attachments or ‘caps’ that fit on the end of your test leads to make the task easier.

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How do I test between the battery and some other point on the vehicle or caravan?

I have made a few of these over the years… basically it’s a long length of wire, about 20 feet with a battery terminal sized crocodile clip at one end and a small crocodile clip at the other… and I don’t know how many I’ve given away to people. I have a couple, one long enough to get tot he back of the vehicle and one long enough to get to the back of the caravan when its hooked up to the vehicle. SImply clip one end to the battery negative terminal and the other to the negative lead on your multimeter. Often its an idea to tie a loose knot in the two leads to stop them coming apart. Caution though, this lead is connected to the ground side of the battery – don’t let it dangle where it might touch something… put a bit of tape for protection around the connection if required.

Shopping…

Multimeters…. a person can never have enough multimeters…. and since the demise of Maplin a couple of great places to keep an eye on is Aldi and Lidl. I got a couple of great general purpose multimeters from Aldi for £9 each. Not always available as they generally come up as special buy’s. However if you are an Amazon shopper then this https://amzn.to/2I91q91 seems like a great little multimeter with a lot of positive reviews for £12

I use Liqui Moli 3140 Battery Clamp Greasehttps://amzn.to/2Vn0qSo for battery and chassis terminals. It’s a small tube but does last a while.

If you want to make your own long test lead this box of crocodile clips https://amzn.to/2VedU32 for about £4.50 is always handy.

A dream test tool…

If you are into testing or it’s part of your job then there has been something on the market for a while called “Power Probe” Now while the original is obscenely expensive and there are a number of copies out there. The Auto Power scan PS100 is priced at about £80 and does the job in one simple instrument – https://amzn.to/2OJHYAW (Any sponsors out there… hello….hello…) This is on my “I really want one of those” list!

Finally…

"Oscar" our senior safety cat.

As always when working on anything electrical think safety. Oscar our Health & Safety Cat would like to remind you that working on vehicle electrics can be just as dangerous as working on house electrics. If you are unsure then DON’T…. get in touch with someone who is qualified. Find the right person and they will usually help you to do it safely. Be like Oscar – Be Safe.

Here’s Another Thing….

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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…..

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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……

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… 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…..

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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.