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I’d got a few little jobs still outstanding from our big clean a week or so ago. The big one was to repair the front window. When we were cleaning the caravan I noticed that the bottom edge of the central window was starting to separate. After some lengthy procrastination I’d have preferred to replace it but given the hefty price tag and the “It will be January next year at the earliest before we can get you one” type answers from suppliers and removing the window and shipping to off to a company for repair would cost almost the same as a replacement.

It can’t be beyond a diy task to repair. I did a bit of searching for information relating to repairs and one name kept popping up as the manufacturer of the product used to bond the two sheets together…Bondrite Adhesives Ltd.

After reading through Bondrite Adhesives Ltd website a couple of times to work out exactly with adhesive I’d need I ordered their WC112 acrylic adhesive. The 50ml size was £12.10 plus shipping and VAT bringing the total to £20.52. It arrived within 24 hours of ordering, was really well packaged and came with a detailed technical sheet and guidance notes.

I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of how to repair a delaminated window… as I don’t know if this is even going to work, but my first step was to support the window as flat as I could. The standard recommendation is to remove the window lay it on a flat surface and go from there. I didn’t want to remove the window as all I had to repair was the lower edge.

Improvising I used two stands with a cross beam clamped between them to hold the window horizontal. This should take any flexing stress caused by the window stays out of the equation…. Hopefully!

To hold the gap between he two sheets I used three long needles from syringes… this allowed me just enough wiggle room to slide some blotting paper with a bit of isopropanol alcohol to clean out any contaminates. I’d already tested this to make sure it was safe and it does evaporate very quickly.

You are advised to lay down a 5mm bead of glue… as this was going to be difficult between the two sheets of partially bonded plastic I opted to use a wide bore syringe needle on the glue bottle which allowed me to squeeze glue into the gap… it was a bit fiddly but I managed to achieve what I thought would be the right amount. Sliding the three previous inserted needles out to allow the sheets to come together I used some fairly light clamps to hold the pieces together while they cured. Bondrite do caution about NOT using an excessive clamping force as it can lead to crazing of the sheets.

The data sheet advice is that handling strength is achieved after about 3 hours at 20 deg C. I covered up the glued area with microfibre cloths to protect it from the sun and had a sit down with an iced coffee and a sammich.

Next Job…

If you read my previous post “Put Your Lights On Mate…” then you might have picked up on my request at the end for any recommendations for a UK supplier of good quality replacement LED bulbs. Well Peter Farnham posted in the comments section and recommended Classic Car LEDS Ltd ( https://www.classiccarleds.co.uk ). A couple of days later I dropped them an email with a few questions and Duncan replied back with some details. A few more exchanges of emails ended up with me ordering replacement LED bulbs for the new fog lights, indicator lights and stop/tail lights. This is not a sponsored post and I paid the required number of beer tokens for these.

Not much to say on changing the bulbs over… what was noticeable was though they did have a bit heft to them… they seem really really well made. No flexing, solid and just had that feel about them that made me go “Mmmm” while nodding slowly…. almost in a Joey Tribbiani moment.

I did try to do before and after photos to compare the light output…. even tried a short video with one side changed over and the other side on conventional filament bulbs… all failed…. not as easy as it looks in strong sunlight even though the caravan rear was in shade. However the photo above is one side converted over. This is showing the indicator, tail light and fog light lit. The indicators are really bright. Having the LEDS the same colour as the lens works well. The tail light is a strong red and bright while the fog light looks washed out and white… it’s down to the fact that it is so bright its over exposed…. the exposure is correct for the indicator and tail light but the fog light is amazingly bright.. and red.

On the VW Amarok I haven’t had any canbus warnings… I even plugged in my reader to check… all good and no strobing or hyper flash.

To say I’m chuffed with these LED bulbs is a bit of an understatement… if you suffer from rear light envy as you follow one of those gloriously illuminated trucks down the motorway, drop Duncan an email at sales@classiccarleds.co.uk and tell him I sent you. Sort out your rear lights and never again have someone with four megawatts of light bars and spots flashing you and shouting “Put Your Lights On Mate” as they simulate a starship going into warp drive passing you.

Another small job next…

I’d had this gadget for a while and I can’t remember where I got it from. I think it was from a caravan shop at a dealer near York that we visited a while ago.

Simply it’s a security head bolt with a hardened shroud that replaces the normal jockey wheel clamp handle. When it’s installed it is flush with the A frame cover and pretty difficult to get to. It comes with a short handle and socket that fits the security bolt head. I did try with a couple of sockets but the shroud makes it almost impossible to even knock a socket on with a hammer. So if anyone want’s to nick the caravan they now also have to contend with the hassle of getting round my jockey wheel clamp. As I always leave the caravan nose high in storage you can’t even pick it up and drop it on to a tow ball. Hey if it makes them try elsewhere… it works for me.

Thinking about the next step…

This is going to be a big one. I’ve been planning this for a few weeks now and it involves two or three drawings… some detailed planning and I’ve been checking equipment specs in detail. The last stage was to sit and stare at the space available in the caravan and work out Tetris style how it is all physically going to fit in and how much of the existing kit will be removed. More to come soon!

Back to the window…

OK I bet you have been wondering how I got on. Well after nearly five hours of curing time I disassembled my contraption holding the window open and it seems to have worked OK. I can see that it has bonded all along the bottom edge. I could have put a bit more glue in at one spot and needs a light clean up all along the bottom edge to remove what has oozed out. I’ll leave that for at least another 48 hours before attempting to gently sand it off.

All in all I’m pleased with the result and hope to see that it will stand up to the test of time.

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How many of you have driven behind a vehicle in less than ideal conditions… going dark, raining or foggy… and uttered those immortal words “Put you lights on mate” in the vein hope it will do some good only to approach a bit closer to find that the lights are on and are less effective as a couple of Ikea tea lights in jam jars. That is the feeling I get with a lot of caravans. In my opinion a lot for rear lights are less than ideal. In this day and age some of the drivers out there need all the help they can get as they even struggle to notice a big white box in front of them in bright sunshine let alone in inclement weather or in the dark.

Our caravan like a lot of other Swift caravans looks great from the rear with nice big lights and reflectors. Reflectors are good if the following driver has turned his headlights on and not been too busy texting and simply relying on the DRL’s to light the way. The big reversing lights will surly let the driver and anyone else behind know you are reversing… but about as useless as the aforementioned Ikea tea light in a jam jar when reversing at an angle into a pitch at night. The rear fog light however deserves a special mention… the single rear fog light…. can you see it… the tiny Lego brick sized rear fog light… the red thing in the middle down low… difficult to spot on a stationary caravan in daylight let alone from a distance on a road in fog. Mind you when that bit of wire in the bulb warms up it will blind you… honestly it will…. eventually… when you get so close because you didn’t see it from ten metres away.

Its time for a change. An upgrade if you will… to allow me to shine a beacon of light towards all that follow. But… and here’s a the big thing… I have to keep it looking nice. Everyone likes a nice rear don’t they.

OK, I searched for all the replacement options. Swift don’t make it easy. The two panels that the lights are mounted in don’t come out, well not easily and I was cautioned about even attempting to remove them. Changing to smart round LED lights was out. Then it struck me… the reversing lights could become fog lights and I would install new reversing lights. I’d towed a trailer a while ago that had football stadium sized reversing lights and wow what a difference it made. One of the first things I did with the Amarok when we got it was to install LED work lights under the rear bumper as reversing lights and that was a huge improvement so I ordered another set from the same company as I’d fitted to the Amarok.

A bit more searching I found the exact lenses for the existing lights in red to turn the reversing lights into fog lights.. it was actually cheaper to order a pair of complete lights than it was to order two replacement red lenses… I’ll never work that one out.

Ok how was I going to wire this lot up. I made a couple of brackets that fitted under the caravan allowing me to mount the reversing lights up close just inboard of the rear steady jacks. This would offer a modicum of protection from road debris thrown up by the tyres. These could be wired to run off the old fog light which would now become a junction box and the reverse lights would become the fog lights, so simply switching the reverse light and fog light cables over at the road light fuse box in the front of the caravan would have everything working correctly.

I also angled the reversing lights out slightly. I wanted the centre of their light pool to be along an extended side line of the caravan so that looking through my mirrors down each side of the caravan would be the centre of the lit area. This hopefully would provide the best angle of illumination when reversing and performing a reversing turn onto a pitch.

“Hang on lads… I’ve got an idea”

Cue the music… no, no doors were blown off during this mod. Right what if the new rear fog lights could be my brake lights when they weren’t being used as fog lights?

A simple diode blocking bridge using two diodes could do this quite easily. Routing through my electronics spares I found a bag of 10 Amp diodes which would easily cope with the task.

For a quick solution I used two strips of terminal block and built a quick blocking bridge. What happens now is applying the brakes powers up the brake light circuit and the fog lights. The diode in the fog light circuit stops me back feeding current to the tow vehicle fog light circuit.

Turning on the fog lights powers up the fog lights and the diode in the bridge stops it powering the brake lights in either the caravan or back feeding to the tow vehicle. Really simple and when testing I didn’t have any canbus or other errors thrown up by the VW Amarok’s management system. The existing (and original) brake and tail lights work as normal.

I’ll have a look at coming up with a better solution than using two lengths of terminal strip and probably build something in a small electrical project box so it can be mounted securely.

As far as I can tell the changes I’ve made all fall in line with the lighting regs for trailers. While I’m 99% sure, there is always the possibility that I could be corrected and shown the error of my ways and point out I have missed something in my reading of the regs. I’ll let you know.

The next thing…

I’m trying to find some good quality bright LED replacement bulbs for all the rear road lights. I have some, but I suspect they are not correctly marked. If anyone has any recommendations for replacement 25W and 5/25W bulbs that they deem are good options to look at, especially if they are correctly marked, please let me know in the comments. If you are a company that sells LED replacement bulbs and think they are the good enough to pass the Caravan Chronicles testing department (we don’t actually have a testing department… its just me) then challenge me to break them!

Safe travels everyone… and “PUT YOUR LIGHTS ON MATE”

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Our first visit to the caravan storage site in quite a while to check on the caravan was undertaken with some apprehension. It had been over twelve months since we had checked on it and we expected that we were going to be in for a shock.

The caravan was very dirty on the outside but it was the inside we most feared. Opening the door….. it didn’t smell musty…. we couldn’t see any mould… and nothing felt damp. In fact inside was in really good shape. Leaving all the cupboard doors open, the bed partly raised and the roof vents cracked open a touch seemed to have worked. OK, now a list of jobs that needed doing. The leisure battery is now 10 years old and given us good service. It needs replacing… more on that later. The tyres also need replacing and the outside needs a good clean and polish.

I removed the leisure battery which was showing as dead… less then 10 volts, put it in the back of the Amarok and we headed back home to come up with a plan of action. A couple of days later we returned with cleaning supplies…

We hitched up the caravan and pulled it forward out of it’s parking spot and set to work. Over the years I’ve tried all the different products for washing the caravan (and cars) ranging from mid priced to the “how bloody much” brands, but in all honesty I have found Morrisons own Wash and Wax Shampoo (It’s bright green) to be really good and it has given me really good results on our 15 year old Freelander, the Amarok and the caravan. A long handled brush for the sides and some small detail brushes for the awning rails and tight places made easy work of the sides. It was all hosed down using one of those pump up pressure washer thingy’s

To rinse I used Car Plan’s Demon Shine (the pink stuff…. also stocked in Morrisons) diluted down in the yellow pump up spray do-hicky. Which works quite effectively. The two products – Morrisons Wash and Wax shampoo and the Demon Shine seem to work together really well and I certainly found that using the two as a shampoo and then as a diluted rinse leave a good water shedding layer on the Amarok that lasts quite a while.

One thing we don’t have at our storage compound is running water. So I have three 25 litre containers that I fill up at home and throw into the back of the Amarok. To save lifting them up to fill buckets…. I fitted a hosepipe connector to one of the lids and all I need to do now is tip the container and open the tap. As there is no venting the sides collapsed inwards a little so tipping it back onto its side from time to time to let air back in means that when the tap is shut nothing can slosh out a vent while travelling.

On this trip we only cleaned and polished the sides… the roof would have to wait for a return visit. Putting the caravan back in it’s spot lead to the next task…. jack it up and remove the wheels. The caravan was fitted with Hankook 185×80 R14 and inspecting them closely revealed no cracks, bulges or damage of any kind. These tyres were now 10 years old it was defiantly time to replace them. We got 8 years use and just over a year standing out of them and I consider that a win. Realistically they should have been replaced at 5 years…. 7 max at a push, so getting 8 out of them with close inspections each trip I’ll consider we got our money’s worth out of them. After much searching on line and checking out the discount with National Tyre via the Caravan and Motorhome Club I called in to my local National Tyre could fit replacements and beat the price even that C & M Club discount gave us with National Tyres on line. As the Hankook’s had given us really good service and long life I replaced them with another set of Hankook’s. National Tyres also fitted new valve stems, valves and balanced the wheels. I know there is a lot of debate about balancing caravan wheels…. well the engineering bit of my brain thinks that anything rotating should be in balance, so I’m going to balance my wheels. We picked the newly re-shod wheels up the following day and returned to the compound to fit them. As it was raining, cleaning the roof was put off until we had better weather.

OK…. I know… you are all saying “Why did he clean the sides before the roof….. that’s bass acwards” OK here is my thinking…. the roof is going to take a few hours to do properly and when you have done that you then have no choice but to do the sides straight away as they are going to be really filthy with all the run off. It’s going to be a really long day to do everything. By doing the sides first, we could get a good layer of wax protection on them and as said earlier, the combination of products give a really good beading coat. So when it comes to washing the roof a simple rinse down would restore the sides back to their pristine finish we had a few days earlier.

As I worked round the roof scrubbing and rinsing, Sue followed me with a squirt bottle and microfibre cloths… using the Car Plan Demon Shine neat finished off the sides and gave another layer of buffed waxy finish.

A few other jobs were completed too. All the window and door rubbers were given a good coating of Sonax Silicon… this stops the windows sticking to the rubber and keeps the rubber seals soft and supple. Some of the aluminium awning rail needed cleaning. Rather than use a metal polish (Solvol-Autosol is my normal preference as a metal polish) I used a simple rubbing compound so as not to polish the aluminium too much but brighten it’s brushed finish. And finally waterproof silicone grease for the moving and interlocking parts of the 13 pin plug.

What next?…

I mentioned earlier that our leisure battery had died… well after some tender loving care in the workshop… It’s alive! Well it’s OK for light duty. So the next project is to go lithium. I have planned out a course of action and the first step is to install on the Amarok a 50 Amp feed to the rear of the vehicle and terminate in an Anderson connector. This will allow me to use the full capability of the Amarok’s large alternator to charge Lithium batteries in the caravan via a dedicated DC to DC charger. Next stage will be installing a solar regulator and panels followed up by an inverter and changing the on board charger for a dedicated lithium charger. I also want to remove the inbuilt charger to save weight and make room as I won’t be installing any lithium batteries in the existing battery box.

I’m still in the process of doing my due diligence on equipment for this so watch this space. I’ll go through my thought processes in a later post.

The other change is going to be the rear lights on the caravan. The reversing lights are not very useful when reversing on to a pitch in the dark so I’m going to install two LED wide beam lights just out board of the rear steadies. That leaves me with the existing reversing lights. A quick search on the internet led me to replacement Hella lenses for the existing reversing lights that would allow me to convert them into fog lights with a simple lens change and a wiring change at the fuse block. Swop the reversing light cable with the fog light cable and use the old fog light as a connection point for the new reversing lights… after removing the bulb of course!

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I guess this is going to be a bit of a catch up! It’s been about 16 months since I posted anything, I kinda guessed that with everything going on my blog was not on the top of peoples reading lists. That said, I have been pleasantly surprised that the daily and weekly page hits have stayed fairly constant all the way through this and the number of comments and emails has over the last few months started to increase as more people are finding the blog and asking techie questions or trying to problem solve issues. While some you-tube channels have struggled producing the usual relevant quality content that the you-tube algorithm demands to keep them in the ratings… we seemed to have faired OK.

…And a big thanks to everyone that has used links in the Caravan Chronicles Amazon Shop page… you have covered last year and this year’s WordPress costs for hosting the blog and also allows me to increase the amount of space I have available for all the drawings and pictures… I was starting to get close to my limit!

While we are on the subject of emails… thanks to everyone just simply checking in to see if we were OK as I hadn’t posted anything. We are both fine, both had our infusion of Pfizer…. twice and have shown no symptoms of anything. We do mask up and probably will continue to do so for the moment.

On a sad note, on the first of March our chief safety officer Oscar (19/10/09-1/3/21) passed away. Oscar was a quiet cat and always happy to let his brother be the one to get into trouble first while he watched on… with those blue eyes.

Henry his brother from the same litter misses him even now. Oscar was always the one to settle down for a nap first and Henry would go and snuggle down with Oscar. Now if you open a door or cupboard Henry is there just to see if Oscar was trapped and we have found him and very vocal when he discovers Oscar isn’t there.

We decided that rather than leave Henry on his own with a cat-sitter (our usual cat sitter has retired too, so that made this decision for us really) when we are away in the caravan we are now going to bring Henry with us. This is going to be a whole new adventure for us all… the only journeys Henry has done in a car have been the usual check-up’s at the V… E… T… so getting him into a carrier for a journey is going to be interesting… along with how he’s going to react to the caravan. We tried him on a harness for the first time today and it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. At least he walked round and went outside and didn’t just collapse as an immovable furry blob on the floor.

Henry (right) and Oscar (left)… inseparable since birth.

A number of people have asked the same thing….

Over the last 12 months a number of people have had similar thoughts but more recently some friends of ours asked the same question…. “What do you know about setting up a storage site?

This has generally gone along the lines of me chipping in a bit of info that generally starts with “Not much really…..” and after passing on my 15 seconds of knowledge remembering much later that I might have missed telling them something vital. So when a friend of ours was asking, I decided to commit my vast knowledge of information on the subject to a web page and you can find it on the drop down menu link above… hover your mouse over “Help Guides” and it should appear… or you can always click on this: Storage Sites and have a read. You won’t need to put the kettle on as it won’t take long but at least now I have somewhere to point people to when they start out with ” I have been thinking of setting up a caravan storage site… what do you know about it?

So what’s next?

Well a major service on the caravan which will include new tyres and probably a new leisure battery. I’m just looking at options for going over to lithium, there are some ‘drop in’ replacements that include battery management and the price is starting to get within reach. One other thing I’d like to look at is maybe replacing the fridge for a compressor type… if we go the lithium route. Not sure if it will be 12 volt or 230 volt via a small inverter. I’m working on the options and costs.

What have I been up to?

Well answering a LOT of emails. There is obviously a lot of new people taking up caravanning, camper vanning and motor homing which is absolutely fantastic for the industry although reports of fully booked sites and on the horizon long delays on new caravans and motorhome delivery…. not so good.

I’ve also been using something called EZ Hot Spot extender from EZ WiFi. Simply calling it a hot spot extender is not doing it justice… it is much much more and allows me to have a full WiFi routing internet, TV and network storage from a simple box that connects to an existing WiFi network or as I have done via a MiFi unit. I can even connect my printer to it and have network printing all from a small box that can be powered directly from a 12 volt socket. It’s that good… you could have a zoom meeting from the back of your motorhome while someone is driving it down the road! Now that is what I call a mobile office! I’m going to do a full review in the next couple of days.

Wrapping up…

We have both been fine and getting a lot of DIY projects completed and hopefully after the school holidays have finished will be back on the road again… this time with a very loud Siamese cat…. apologies now incase you are on a pitch within earshot.

Stay safe and we’ll see you soon!

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
  • Sydney, Australia
  • +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!

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Something that caught my eye a couple of days ago really got me excited…. no not a new caravan ( I wish) but a Kickstarter project that I think is one of those simple ideas that has countless applications in all sorts of areas. In fact I keep thinking of more uses for it… and it’s not even my idea!

OK, so what has got me all worked up then? Well imagine getting messages direct to your email or phone telling you the voltage of your leisure battery, motorhome starter battery, canal boat battery, ATV battery, bike battery, solar powered shed battery, aircraft battery, golf cart battery, horse box battery or trailer winch battery. All from a little device that can simply be clipped on or permanently installed. Got you curious?

The company has recently been at the Scottish Caravan and Motorhome Show where they received lots of interest and loads of positive feedback. Still curious?

OK here the disclaimer thingy bit for Caravan Chronicles: I have no connection to these guys except I decided to back the project on Kickstarter. I have taken all the text and images below from IonOT’s kickstarter project page…

If you want to see the full project, follow the link to Batbot and see what you think.

Invented in Scotland by David Richie, Batbot came about from wearing two hats – one, from a career working in the technology sector, and the other, as a livery yard owner. With horse lorries stored on site in between use, he noticed a regular problem occurring. On the day of an outing, more often than not, there would be an early morning knock at the door from liveries needing help… their vehicle battery was indeed… flat. 

They had walked past their lorry every day, but had no idea that the battery was running low. This sparked an idea. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a device that could avoid this problem?! Batbot was born. After many hours, days, weeks and months  developing the concept and prototypes, here we are today, with a brand new product that will ensure flat batteries (and early morning wake up calls) are a thing of the past. 

Batbot is a device that every equestrian, marine enthusiast, motorhome or vehicle owner has missed… until now. 

This clever product monitors your vehicle’s battery and sends alerts to your mobile device or email when the battery requires charging.

How it works

Batbot simply hooks up via two croc clips (provided) to the battery points under your vehicles bonet and can be secured in place with a cable tie. 

Once installed the device then sends your battery’s data to the cloud where alerts are generated and then sent to your mobile device or email address. Unlike other products, Batbot uses the Sigfox or LoRaWAN radio networks to send this data, so no bluetooth connection is required.

Key Benefits of Batbot:

  • Quick and easy to use
  • Keeps track of your battery state
  • Alerts you when action is required
  • Saves destroying batteries with deep discharge
  • Regular daily “All Ok” status for peace of mind
  • No monthly SIM contract
  • First year subscription included
  • Low further yearly subscription (£7 ~ £10)
  • Chose Sigfox or LoRaWAN version of product
  • LoRaWAN has Home Gateway option to provide cover in remote areas
  • Helps identify when your battery or vehicle has an electrical fault. 
  • Avoids the vehicle not starting when needed for emergency or planned use
  • Save’s garage call out charges to jump start your vehicle
  •  24V lorries can be difficult to find a suitable jump start source for, or require a garage call out. Batbot helps you avoid this problem

For all the details and to see the full project go and visit the Batbot Kickstarter page and maybe you too might want to invest a few beer tokens.

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A few days ago we were at the Manchester Caravan & Motorhome show and we think that finally we may have found our next caravan. I posted on Twitter couple of photos and said something along the lines of “Now anyone that reads the blog will know we have been looking for a new caravan for the last couple of years and finally the @CoachmanCaravan Laser 665 ticks nearly all the boxes…

A follower on Twitter – Venomator  @Venomator tweeted back “I would be very interested to know what box/es remain unticked then?…” so this is a bit of a reply really.

My “Lithium Ready” sticker…note the ticked box!

One of the biggest things I have been looking out for on any caravan or motorhome is a sticker announcing that the charging systems installed are suitable for Lithium chemistry batteries. So many people have been asking me recently about changing over to Lithium and what’s involved… well quite a lot actually. There is not that much difference between a motorhome or a caravan when it comes to changing over to Lithium.

The existing shore power charger built in to most motorhomes and caravans is not lithium friendly and will probably result in either damaged lithium cells or a battery that is never really charged. So the inbuilt charger will need to be swopped out.

The solar chargers on most (not all) leisure vehicles can’t be programmed for lithium, so that will need to be replaced. And finally the vehicle charging system, which currently on most production leisure vehicles be it motorhome or caravan is not suitable for lithium batteries so a DC to DC charger will need to be installed.

All this adds up to a bit of a job and a fair chunk of beer (or wine) tokens on top of the price of a Lithium battery. I have seen lithium batteries that are advertised as direct replacements and can be dropped in place of an existing Lead acid wet cell or AGM battery but this would imply that they have charging circuits built into the battery and careful research shows the same battery and part number offered by a different vendor with no such claim to be ‘drop in’ replacements. So beware.

As I really wanted to start off a new van with a lithium set up (I can get around 360Ah of lithium for the same weight as 110Ah of good quality lead acid) but the down side is I’d have to virtually rewire the charing side of a new caravan. I eagerly await one of the big caravan manufactures to offer a “Lithium Ready” product and maybe they would like to use my label!

I don’t think it would be that difficult to achieve and due to production volumes, the additional cost would only be marginal. I expect that (or hope!) that one of the aftermarket companies such as Sterling Power or RedArc would offer something that might be a cost effective ‘box’ to achieve a changeover.

So what else was on our unticked list?

Coachman Laser 665 – Twin Axle, mid bath, twin beds. The chosen one!

I still would like caravan manufacturers to actually go out and look at a site full of caravans being used. I can’t understand why they don’t move the electrical hook up and water at least behind the axle so it would be closer to where the EHU post is. One thing I find is having a VW Amarok which is one of the widest pickups on the UK market, on some pitches if we are using the Aquarol it’s damn near impossible to squeeze down the side. Moving everything to the rear would make it so much easier… well for us it would.

While I’m on the subject of EHU’s & water connections…. Instead of cutting lots of small holes in the sides of our vans for water and 16 amp connections… do what our American cousins do… locate everything in one locker and save on the routing out holes in the sides and adding plastic doohickeys with sliding or hinged covers. I do like the fact that some caravans now have the battery stored in a floor compartment.

240 volt connection, water inlet and valves to switch between internal and external water all neatly located on one locker with access panel for hose and cable through the floor. All located to the rear of the caravan… and in a European caravan too!

The other one that missed the tick box was the lack of being able to sit in front of a mirror…

Not a deal breaker for me… but Sue thought that if they had made the mirror so it could swing round either way to face each bed that would have been ideal. Some of Swifts offerings have got it spot on with a mini dressing table. Coachman however have conveniently located a socket for hair dryer/straightners. I did wonder about having a small stool or seat spanning across the two beds… but think the mirror swivel is a much better idea. Maybe it’s something that could be added as an after market item using a swivel TV bracket maybe”

Now… anyone know where I can buy some cheap lottery tickets…. hello… anyone….

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My email box tends to get a wide variety of questions covering all sorts of subjects. The most frequent one is to do with wiring and electrically related problems. Sometimes trying to diagnose issues via email and a few photos is a bit of a challenge, but hey who doesn’t like a challenge! One thing that I do see a lot of is electrical work that is…. well, quite frankly not up to scratch in my opinion. So here is my attempt at a basic guide.

You have to have a plan.

So many projects start by adding one or two things… extra 12 volt outlet here… maybe another light and then something else comes along that needs adding in. Before you know it you have a mess of spaghetti that the local Italian restaurant would be ashamed of. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of adding circuits to existing fuses…. or installing a new fuse and a few weeks later adding another circuit to it as it’s easier than installing another fuse.

Start with a plan…

You can download these and other drawings from the Electrical Drawings page in the drop down menu under “Document Library”

You need to draw out how the major elements are going to connect together – leisure batteries, solar charger, DC to DC charger, inverter and include all the big fuses, buss bars and fuse box. Don’t think about where any of this goes for the moment just get the basic layout and how everything interconnects worked out. It might take a few goes but paper is usually cheaper and less frustrating than sorting out the mess afterwards.

Once you have all that figured out you can start working on the details… just how many fuses will be needed… and what ever number you come up with add half as many again as a minimum. Having a few spare fuse positions that maybe never used is way cheaper than in twelve months time having to install an additional fuse box. A this point you can start adding details…. what size cable is needed for each link, what sort of fuse box do you need.

You can also now start to think about specific facilities you might need. For example, many overlander vehicles will have a button on the dash that when pressed and held down activates a high current relay that links the house batteries to the engine cranking battery. Very handy to have… jump leads are not much use if you are 200Km from the nearest vehicle. If your only trip ‘off road’ however is the muddy car park at the local car boot sale than maybe not a priority.

Don’t use the vehicle chassis as a ground.

Modern vehicles are constructed using different materials and quite often panels and sub frames are glued together. Back when virtually all the panels were spot or seam welded steel, using the body and chassis as a ‘ground’…. which really isn’t a ground but the neutral return path… this was acceptable. However now, sections can be glued together and are often sub assemblies of aluminium and other light weight materials bonded together. Just because you see a neutral bonding point (earth terminal) don’t assume this is is capable of being a suitable point to bond the neutral side of a circuit or accessory you are installing. Modern vehicles often have small bonding straps between sections that can carry the current that the vehicle manufacturer rated the bonding point for. Adding additional equipment and accessories might exceed the original design spec.

I did see a spectacular failure due to a 3000W inverter having it’s neutral lead ‘grounded’ in the rear of a vehicle. Running at about 2000W the neutral side was trying to ‘return’ a current of about 170 amps through the body of the vehicle, which lead to serious damage to some of the vehicles wiring and a number of vehicle components… and a ‘repair’ bill of nearly £1500. Putting a riv-nut in a body panel that is mastic bonded to the body is not a suitable negative bonding point!

Additionally a number of vehicle circuits are now negative switching or operation and installing additional equipment or accessories could have unforeseen issues. Always from any accessory or piece of equipment you install, add the neutral return path back to a suitable single common point or buss bar you install for the purpose and connect this directly back to the leisure battery.

Ideally all the ancillary leisure circuits should never rely on any of the vehicle wiring and the negative side of the leisure wiring should only ever connect to the negative side of the leisure battery.

Don’t use battery terminals as a junction post.

Both the leisure battery and engine battery should only have connections that lead to either in the case of the positive terminal a master fuse /circuit breaker and isolator switch. The negative terminal should only have the connection to a master negative terminal point or buss bar.

Nope…..Not OK…. it’s a terminal not a junction post
(image from the Internet)

If you want to install any sort of battery monitoring, it is convention to install the shunt on the negative return to the battery between the negative buss bar and the negative battery terminal. If you have multiple circuits terminated on the battery terminal it makes future changes and upgrades, including installing a battery monitor very difficult.

Just NO!
(image from the Internet)

Using the battery terminals as connection points for multiple services also makes fault finding very difficult. Each circuit may or may not have it’s own fuse and it’s difficult to isolate circuits….. plus I’ve had enough sparks flying round when trying to disconnect a battery because someone did not install an isolator to know that it’s only a matter of time before one goes ‘pop’.

Just because it’s shiny…. NO!!! Not OK
(image from the Internet)

Please, just don’t do it.

Have a think on this. If you had to go to an auto electrician to get a fault traced and corrected, they would immediately put at least an hours time on the invoice just to figure out what was going on with all the cables on the battery. Also, If you don’t have a battery master isolator installed, get one installed now. It’s a safety item that must not be missed out. Having the ability to quickly turn off all the leisure circuits in an emergency might just save you from the unthinkable happening.

Cable Termination

Every cable should be terminated. Period. There shouldn’t be any cables in an installation that don’t have a crimped (or soldered) termination. Even if it’s a screw terminal such as those found in joining blocks or 13 pin plugs.

If you are embarking on a wiring project, its always best to start building up your stock of terminals. I usually buy selection boxes of terminals on line and supplement these with bags of single type connectors for the more commonly used ones. To keep everything organised tote organiser boxes are my preferred option.

There is nothing more annoying than running out of the something and its always just as you want to finish a project off so you end up cutting corners.

For some of the larger cables, if you don’t feel up to making your own terminations there is usually a local auto electrician available that will terminate them for you for a small charge. However, a crimping tool that will terminate up to 50mm cable is not that expensive – around £27 and will probably work out cheaper in the long run. I’ve a link to the one I bought via Amazon and regularly use in the SHOP page.

Get the size right…

Selecting the right size or gauge of cable is critical. There are two factors that determine what gauge of cable to use for a installing any particular circuit. The maximum current that’s going to be drawn and the length of the cable. Once you have selected the right size cable then means you can select the right size fuse for the circuit. Never fuse a circuit greater than the current capacity of the cable.

Handy wall chart of cable size and terminal sizes.

You can download these and other drawings from the Electrical Drawings page in the drop down menu under “Document Library”

I generally tend to list what is going to be installed, then work out all the gauge for the cables for the circuits. From there it’s easy to see which is going to be the most popular gauge and rather than buy several different gauges of cable try to select a limited selection of gauges.

Always go for the safe option of over specifying the gauge of cable for any particular circuit. If it’s a 10 amp circuit and you have used cable suitable for a 16 amp circuit, it doesn’t mean however you need to use a fuse greater than the 10 Amp circuit requires.

Something else to consider too. Most 12 volt cables are copper, however if you are installing them in a less than ideal environment, such as a boat, you may want to opt for tinned copper cables. These are far less susceptible to cable corrosion. Even in the best marine installations I’ve seen copper cables corrode through in less than a couple of years.

Cardinal Sin! – Never ever use two smaller cables to make up the equivalent of one larger capacity cable. You would be surprised how many times I’ve seen this… sometimes done by “professional” tow-bar installers when reported poor leisure battery charing or poor fridge performance is reported and the voltage drop is too great.

Wiring Looms – wrapping it up properly!

Dressing cables into looms is not difficult nowadays. There are many options available on the market to help you produce a professional looking finished product. I personally like for looms within the vehicle using a felt finished looming tape. You don’t wrap it so it overlaps but at a sharp enough angle so as it spirals round the cable bunch it leaves some of the cables exposed.

Felt is good as not only does it keep the loom together, it allows quite a bit of flexibility and prevents cables from rubbing or banging on flat surfaces making a noise.

For any cables outside the vehicle body there are two options depending on use. In the main I’d go for split tube conduit. It’s available in various sizes and can be bought in either cut lengths or rolls. The other option is to use self amalgamating tape. It looks like ordinary PVC tape but as you wrap it round you stretch it and it releases a chemical which when overlapped onto its self becomes a permanent bond, effectively making a sealed tube. It is generally however fairly inflexible. Both have their place.

Anything in the engine bay or underneath the vehicle I use split tube and generally only resort to self amalgamating tape to seal inline joints.

Relays….. yes or no?

For me its Yes. I much prefer locating all the relays in one place therefore minimising the amount of heavy cable. By using relays to do the heavy switching you can use smaller and sometimes more attractive switches. I have in the past used 7 core trailer cable to connect 4 switches including LED indicators back to a relay bank rather than make up a custom wrapped loom.

Handy wall chart of relay types

You can download these and other drawings from the Electrical Drawings page in the drop down menu under “Document Library”

It also makes tracing faults easier, as it’s simple to test if a switch is working, you can hear or sometimes feel the relay operating as you operate the switch. Its unusual to have a fault with a relay but quite simple to test… just unplug and swop over with a known working relay. If all the relays are located together it makes this task and testing the feed to the relays so much simpler. From that point all you need to check are the two wires going out to the device and the device itself.

Obviously some circuits don’t require a relay or if it’s designed to be turned on for a long period… such as a diesel heater, then adding a relay will just increase current draw, albeit small, on the leisure battery. A bit of common sense can easily determine if you should opt for a relay or not.

Grommet?…(no not Wallace’s friend!)

Whenever a cable or cables pass through anything solid you should use a grommet. You would be surprised at the amount of damage I’ve seen to cables due to either not installing a grommet to an insufficiently sized (too small usually) grommet.

When ever I pass either a cable or loom through a bulkhead for example I like to supplement a grommet with a bit of heat shrink sleeving over the cable as well. Even passing a cable through an existing grommet from the engine compartment to the interior, adding a length of heat shrink sleeve won’t do any harm.

There’s a link to these in the SHOP… only about £7 for the full box.

Having a handy selection of grommets available before you start threading wires through is far better than trying to install protection afterwards. You’d also be surprised at how many cables I come across that have been damaged while pulling through holes in metal and wood panels. Always better to start with a grommet or two! Where a cable or loom passes through a grommet, it’s aways best practice to try and anchor the cable or loom either side of the grommet to something solid using “P” clips. This will reduce the chances of ‘fretting’ with the movement of the vehicle.

While we are on grommets…. a quick note about cable-ties (zip-ties). Stop doing them up so tight! I’ve come across cables cable-tied to a chassis rail so tight that the cable-tie has cut into the insulation and is fretting the conductor inside. Cable-ties are generally made out of a harder plastic than the cable insulation so will over time wear away at the insulation.

Get yourself a cable-tie tool that not only allows you to precisely control how much tension you put on the tie but also cut the end off so that there isn’t a wrist slashing booby trap lying in wait for some unsuspecting person. I use a fairly cheap pair (left). I think they were around £8. So not really expensive. But they make a nice neat job of installing multiple cable ties with the correct tension and the ends cut cleanly off level with the lock tab. You can buy ones that have a tension dial built in so you can set them to a pre-tension, but I find after a bit you know just how much to squeeze the handles to get the correct tension.

So what is the correct tension… well if you are doing them up so tight an elephant could dangle on the cables then that is too tight. They should be tight enough so as not to slip but you should be able to spin them round the cable(s).

Cable-ties really should not be used to make looms or anchor cables or looms to anything solid. If you want to make a loom, wrap it in specialist loom tape. If you want to anchor cable or a loom to something solid use a “P” clip. If required… use a length of heat shrink to make the loom a tighter fit in the ‘P’ clip.

I know you are dying to ask…. when do I use cable-ties? Well generally at the installation stage to get things to stay in place before installing P clips or if I have to run a new loom along the same path as an existing loom, I generally opt for cable-ties to hold them both together (as long as the original is suitably anchored to support both)

While we are talking abut cable-ties… I have seen the worst kind of mistakes in the use of them. It is not OK to cable-tie anything to brake lines, fuel lines, vacuum lines, hydraulic hoses, coolant hoses or steering components (yep one bright spark cable-tied his front LED light bar wires to some of the steering components!)

Heat Shrink Tubing

An absolute must have in my opinion. There are two main types – plain and pre glued. The plain are the main one you would use, while the pre glued are great if you have to over sleeve a connection to make it waterproof. As you heat up the pre-glued type, the glue softens as the tube strings and bonds to the cable as everything cools. They can be a little more rigid when installed, so make a service loop in the cable. The finished covering is usually waterproof enough for brief submersion if done correctly.

Having a selection of sizes and colours is handy and assortment boxes of multiple sizes and colours can be bought on line cheaply enough. In the workshop I use an old paint stripper heat gun on low power as I find that is more controllable than a flame.

Bridging the gap… something in the future?

Although not so common in the UK, in Australia and the USA wild camping (boon docking) is probably as popular as campsites. To this end trailers and caravans usually have much larger battery capacities than anything found in Europe. It’s not uncommon to find outfits with 600 to 800Ah battery banks recharged mainly be solar, buy increasingly (especially in Australia) an additional bridge between tow vehicle and trailer is made using heavy duty “Anderson” connectors and cables capable of supplying upwards of 60 Amps from the vehicle to the leisure battery bank.

With the cost of lithium batteries reducing almost daily, I can foresee very soon that light weight lithium batteries will be installed in caravans. The down side of this currently and trying to retrofit Lithium is the existing charging setup of current European vans is not really suitable for looking after these type of batteries. We have a Sterling Power Wildside unit installed in our caravan which allows us to charge any type of battery chemistry, including lithium when connected to the tow vehicle. The draw back is the caravan’s inbuilt charger is only capable of wet lead acid or AGM. I think that a high capacity DC to DC charger installed in the vehicle and an additional cable to supply the caravans battery banks may not be too far away. It’s something you might want to keep in mind for the future. It’s something I’m looking into currently.

Well, that’s a bit longer than I anticipated and there is still a few things to cover. If you made it this far…. take a toffee out of the jar… well done! If you think I missed something or would like me to cover something specific, drop me a comment below.

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No, not promoting me but for the 2020 Caravan & Motorhome Show at Event City next to the Trafford Centre in Manchester. It’s the first show of the year and features all the main caravan dealers in the North West.

It starts on Thursday 16th January and runs through to Sunday 19th. Since it’s move from the city centre the show has seen a constant year on year growth attracting more and more visitors and a wider number of exhibitors. It’s also become the first place you can not only see some of the caravan & motorhome manufacturers mid life updates to the 2020 range launched last year but you have the opportunity to be in early to buy one ready for this years season.

You really get great value as at the same time you can visit Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show. With travel companies such as Trailfinders, Ramblers Worldwide, Viking Cruises and Royal Caribbean, as well as tourist boards including Thailand, Malta, Taiwan, India and more, you are sure to find something to suit your travel interests. 

Tickets…

You can get book your tickets Fj¿llr¿ven Unisex Abisko Summer Hat

A great day out at a great show

OK, so I’m biased… it’s my ‘home’ show being from Manchester. However where else could you go and visit a caravan show, do some shopping in one of the UK’s biggest shopping malls, dine out in the Orient and then see a movie all without having to use your car!

I’ll be there on opening day so come and say “Hi” if you see me and I suspect some of the “Northern Posse” of Bloggers and Vloggers will be there also. Honestly it’s a great show and a great way to start off the 2020 Season!