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BOC BLOG: A day in the life of a technical officer...

Do you hook up your Bessacarr to the mains when it is stored?

Posted Saturday, February 20, 2016

Not everyone is in the fortunate position of being able to plug into the mains electrics while their caravan or motorhome is being stored/parked up.  There are advantages to being able to do this: 
    Setting the heating to provide a minimum temperature, so not having to drain
     down in mild frost conditions, and keeping everything 'aired'.
    Keeping the leisure (and automotive) batteries charged up.
    Having an extra room ready if you need it.
    Having an extra 'fridge (eg. over Christmas!)

But there are a few things to watch out for if you do this.
    It puts up your electricity bills.
    Don't have the Truma (or Cascade...) water heater switched on if it has been
     drained down - you will burn out the element.
    Don't leave the battery charger on all the time.  To maintain the battery in prime
     condition when the caravan/motorhome is not in use it should be on for one
     24 hour period every week.  This 'works' the battery and avoids any risk of
     'cooking' it.
    If you suffer a mains power 'outage', switch off the mains power connection to
     the caravan/motorhome.  When the power comes back on, it can surge and blow
     circuit boards.  A BOC member from Lancashire experienced this recently and it
     cost him £260 for an Alde boiler PCB...plus fitting!  
    And, finally, don't drive away without disconnecting the electric cable! 

Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Electrical


Tow-Car Recovery

Posted Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Hopefully it's something we'll never need, but it's wise to have it all the same - towcar recovery services.  If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a breakdown when towing your caravan it's comforting to have checked that your breakdown policy includes the recovery of any caravan being towed at the time.  When a colleague broke down recently on the way home from a rally, he was relieved to see that the recovery vehicle which turned up was fitted with a 50mm towball at the right height for his caravan.  He was less impressed to see that the electrical socket was the older 7 pin roadlight one and there was no way of connecting to the 13 pin plug on his caravan.  It was late afternoon and so by the time the towcar was loaded onto the back of the transporter and the caravan was hitched up, the daylight was starting to fade.  He was fortunate indeed that the recovery driver was prepared to drive the 10 miles or so without roadlights on the caravan to the repair garage.  Otherwise he could have had an unserviceable car sitting in a garage and his caravan 10 miles away in a lay-by.  And him still 50 miles from home!  He has now acquired a very neat little adaptor which plugs into a 7 pin roadlight socket and offers the 13 pin socket to the caravan plug.  They are available for under £10 from places like Halfords, and if you have a caravan with a 13 pin plug I would suggest it is well worth carrying, at least until all recovery vehicles are equipped with a 13 pin electrical socket.  Halfords also sell an adaptor which works the other way.  It allows a standard 7 pin trailer roadlight plug to connect up with the 13 pin socket on your towcar - handy for when you tow a trailer on occasion, or want to tow a caravan with the older style 7 pin plugs.  (Also useful for those with 7 pin plugs on the caravan and the recovery vehicle which turns up is new or has been converted to a 13 pin socket!)  Be very careful when you buy one of these adaptors because it is all too easy to end up with one which does the opposite of what you want! 

Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Miscellaneous


Caravan Movers - a Personal View

Posted Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Having caravanned for many years now and become reasonably adept at reversing an outfit, I didn't feel any need for the new-fangled caravan movers when they were first introduced to market.  They were expensive, used up precious payload, reduced ground clearance and, if you were 12 Volting, used up equally precious battery power.  My first experience of seeing one in action was on a BOC Rally at Moreton-in Marsh when an outfit drove past my pitch, then a couple of minutes later the caravan rolled back on its own, seemingly out of control, which was immediately refuted by it executing a perfect turn into position onto the pitch next to me.

I soldiered on for years with the 'I can manage without one of those things' mentality, right up to the point when we changed our 9 year old Bessacarr for a new one in 2010.  Whilst we were reviewing what we should have fitted to the new 'van, my other half suggested I might want a caravan mover.  I queried why I would want 'one of those' to be told that a 10½ stone bloke with a bus pass shouldn't still be pushing 1½  ton caravans around.  I had to admit she had a point and so checked them all out at the NEC Show.  We had one fitted to our new 'van by Couplands...(and 2 out of 3 Bessacarr tourers supplied by Couplands now have motor movers fitted).

Having taken the plunge, I immediately started to reap the benefits.  Although quite capable of reversing the caravan into most places, I had to agree that it was more controlled and safer to do it with the mover, particularly when doing it without an assistant.  But gradually it dawned on me that the mover really was a game changer. 

Unhitching.  If you accept that the best way to fit the Al-ko Secure wheel-lock is to line it up by fine adjustment using the mover, then the first thing you do when you arrive at your pitch is to engage the mover (don't go near the handbrake yet).  If the overrun gaiter is compressed, then use the mover to de-compress it, so that the hitch head doesn't try and bury itself in the rear bumper when you unhitch!  Unclamp and drop the jockey wheel and then raise the nose to uncouple the 'van.  Complete all the disconnections then 'move' the 'van into position on the pitch (saves cutting up the grass verges with the towcar wheels).  Once clear of the towcar, drop the nose, but ensure the jockey wheel still has sufficient clearance to swivel the whole 3600.    If necessary, use the mover to climb up a ramp until the 'van is level side-to-side.  Finally, use the mover to line up the wheel- lock holes perfectly so that the bolt slides in easily, and assemble the rest of the lock.  Level the 'van front-to-back and drop the legs.  Chock the wheels if necessary.  Now apply the handbrake.  Disengage the mover and switch it off (putting the remote where you can find it again!).  All much less effort and quicker than the traditional tugging and heaving. 

Hitching Up. It is quite possible to hitch up 'manually', indeed most of us have done this over the years.  But again, it is much easier with a mover.  Just reverse the unhitching procedure (above) and you can be connected without any physical effort, without any near misses on that expensive rear bumper and your 'other half' can remain dry and unflustered!  Just remember to warn anyone still in the 'van before you start moving it.  Once again lower the nose (as described above) to reduce any shock to the A-Frame caused by the jockey wheel running into an obstacle.

And a Thought for Motorhomers.  What is there to stop manufacturers fitting a mover to the rear axle to give you temporary 4 wheel drive to be able to creep the few yards off a wet pitch onto the track?

(The above was originally posted February 2013 but is as relevant today as it was then.)

Update September 2015.  Truma rationalised their caravan mover range for 2015 with the Trumove S for single-axle caravans and the Trumove T for twin-axle caravans.  I had the 'S' model fitted to my 2015 495SL and it works well but breaks no new ground over the mover I had fitted to my 2010 495SL.  But the 'T' model does offer advantages to twin-axle owners.  It relies on single motor units fitted in front of the leading axle and while the 'outer' motor runs continuously, the 'inner' motor is 'pulsed' to effect the turn.  It will move a 2250kg 'van up a 10% slope or a lighter 'van up a steeper slope (eg a 1900kg 'van up a 15% slope).  The disadvantage is that it turns the 'van in quite a wide arc, so sharper corners require a bit of 'to-ing' and 'fro-ing'.  But the advantages are that it only takes 33kg away from the caravan payload (the amount of stuff you can put in the 'van without risking overloading it) rather than a typical 60kg for a 'twin motor each side' system.  It doesn't obscure the fitted Al-ko jacking points (or require them to be removed).  And it costs a fair bit less than a system that requires a motor and roller for each wheel.  So if you don't need to tackle unduly challenging manoeuvres with your twin-axle 'van, you might find you are better off with the new Trumove T system.         



Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Mechanical


'Plastic' Windows on Caravans and Motorhomes

Posted Sunday, January 18, 2015

When considering replacement of damaged caravan and motorhome (habitation) windows, there are several factors to consider.

Scratches.  If there are only light scratches, they can usually be polished out.  But if they are too deep and you can't live with them, replacement is the only option.

Firstly, measure the size accurately.

Secondly, check the colour.  There are pink and grey tints fitted - which is yours?  And the colour tint does change with time, so if you are thinking of replacing the existing window with a new one, the sooner you do it the better.

Second-hand windows might be available from a caravan breaker.  If so, are you sure they are in better condition than the one you wish to replace?  If the window has been taken from a 'van the same age as yours you are likely to get a very good colour match.

If thinking of buying a new window through a dealer, it is much cheaper if it is a window from a current model rather than a superseded model (£140 rather than £600) so again, don't delay in replacing a window once you decide it is needed.

If you only have some of the pieces of a broken window there are firms who will build a perfect match from the bits you have left.  They will also repair a delaminated window.  

If you notice any crazing and cracks during the summer - not unknown and you might want to make a warranty claim - make a note of which window and exactly where the cracks/crazes are.  One member of the Club reported they were very difficult to find again in the colder weather when his 'van was due to go in for repair.

Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Mechanical


Roadlight Checks

Posted Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Now the nights are drawing in, we need to pay more attention to the roadlights on our outfits.  We spend more time in poor light and in darkness when we drive to and from sites at this time of year.  We are quite used to checking the towcar and motorhome lights on a regular basis.  But only usually give the towed vehicle (be it caravan or trailed car) a cursory check as we hitch up.  And how many check the little high up 'elephant ear' lights at the back of the caravan?  Towing back home on Sunday night(just gone) I noticed when I'd pulled up in a lay-by (to feed the cat...) that the nearside 'elephant ear' light - red to the rear, white to the front - was still working (just) but as dim as a Toc-H lamp!  A gentle thump gave no improvement so on investigation at home I found the bulb had blackened to the extent that almost no light was escaping.  It was the work of moments (with a step-ladder...) to fit a new 5W festoon bulb and all was then well again.  The moral of this story is: don't just check the usual roadlights on the back panel when you hitch up - make a point of regularly checking all the roadlights on the outfit.  And motorhomes have more of these 'extra' lights than trailed caravans!



Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Electrical


Recall of Calor Lite 6kg Cylinders

Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Calor have recalled their 6kg Calor Lite gas cylinders for a safety check.  If you check out the News and Comment on this website or Google Calor Lite Recall you will see their safety notice, which years are affected, and how to tell if your cylinder has already been checked.  If you have a partially full cylinder which is subject to the recall, Calor will exchange it for a full one at no charge!

Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Miscellaneous


Summer is here at last!!!

Posted Friday, June 07, 2013

June 2013.  I have not fitted one to my 'van yet, but several friends are reporting great success with the new Ecocamel Jetstorm shower head.  Long hot Summer days call for relaxing showers without them running out of water when you are only just soaped up.  You can now have a long relaxing shower without using more than half of the hot water, leaving enough for him to have a shower as well...!!  It works by mixing air in with the flow and the resulting frothy water delivers the luxury shower effect, but uses considerably less water to achieve it.  There is a special offer for this shower head (with money back guarantee) on Page 64 of June 2013 Caravan Club magazine if you want to check out their claims for an 'exhilarating shower experience'.  You will need the Jetstorm E model - the low pressure variant suitable for caravan systems. 

Update September 2015.  My 2015 495SL came with the Ecocamel fitted as standard.  I can confirm that I find it every bit as good as people told me it would be.  One tip though: when you have the continuous water supply set up using the Ultraflow system connected to a mains supply, you must also have the caravan internal pump switched on to get proper pressure to the shower.

Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Miscellaneous


Motorhome Radio Reception

Posted Wednesday, May 08, 2013

February 2013.  I have had a report from a Bessacarr motorhome owner that radio reception when on the move is very poor.  He has done some research and would attribute it to the aerial having been moved from the roof of the base van (which is no longer an option for a motorhome as that piece of the cab is removed during conversion!) to inside a door mirror.  This is only satisfactory in areas with strong radio signals, but the joy of a motorhome is that you can explore the more remote regions of Britain and beyond. 

The obvious 'fix' is to mount an aerial on the wing, but quite understandably, some are reluctant to drill holes in their new multi-thousand pound purchases - and why should they have to?  Apparently, this has been an issue for some years now.  The supplying dealer has tried fixing a standard automotive aerial within the body, but, if anything, this makes it worse, picking up stray electical signals from the engine ancillaries and even the lights.  A likely solution is to fit a windscreen mounted aerial with an FM booster (the Blaupunkt tax disc model is available on the internet for £29.99 and gets good reviews) but if this is the solution, why don't Swift do that?  I will try raising this with them at the NEC Show next week.

Update - May 2013.  The motorhome owner has since been in touch and said he had great success when he contacted a FIAT Professional agent.  After an extended road test, the engineer identified the problem as poor earth bonding between the aerial in the left door mirror and the main chassis of the vehicle.  The mirror is mounted on a painted panel (hence poor earth) and the path to the main chassis is via the (painted & greased) door hinges.  He rectified this by fitting a new earth cable from the mirror mount to a good earth on the door frame and another from the door frame (via the door harness grommet) to a clean chassis earth behind the glove box.  FIAT had been aware of this earthing problem and I have now passed the information on to Swift.

Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Electrical


Logging in to the BOC Website

Posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Process 

Open your ‘internet browser’ – Windows Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, whichever you use, and type in www.bessacarr-owners-club.org.

What you will see on the Home page is of interest to Members and non-Members alike and gives you an overview of Bessacarr Owners Club information and activity. However, to get the full benefit of BOC Membership, you should ‘log in’ to the Members' area and browse what is available.

You should have a username and password from when you first joined the Club, but if you don't have a record of it, or it does not seem to work, e-mail the Webmaster to check, and if necessary reset it. If you have just forgotten your password, you can click the 'Forgot password?' link under the login box, and the system will send you an e-mail with a reminder of it.

On the left hand panel of the Home page is a column and the fifth choice is ‘MEMBERS AREA’.  Click this box and you will be offered several more choices.  The first one is ‘LOGIN & PREVIEW’.  Click on this and at the top right hand side of the page will appear the ‘Username’ and ‘Password’ boxes.

Log in to the MEMBERS AREA and while you are there you may wish to click on ‘Update my profile’ and check that the information there is correct.

Other options are: registering for rallies, seeing which rallies you have already registered for, uploading photographs or advertising any item you have for sale.

Posted by: Reia Jones    Category: Logging in


Solar Panels

Posted Sunday, February 17, 2013

Solar  Panel - Initial Report - Nov 2011

Despite being fitted out with the latest low-energy LED lighting, the modern caravan or motorhome has a lot of 12V electrical equipment running constantly or for long periods in the background, such as relays, monitoring devices and 'wet' central heating systems.  If most of your caravanning is done with an EHU (Electric Hook Up) then read no further.  But if, like me, you also enjoy the freedom of less formal campsites, you will find that you just cannot carry enough 12V leisure batteries to keep everything you want operating for more than a few nights.  In the various caravan equipment catalogues you will find several ways of replacing the charge you take out of the batteries, each with their advantages and disadvantages.  I have tried all of them over the years, except the fuel cell.

The most satisfactory solution for me at the moment is the Solar Panel and as industry experts advise, you have to work out your daily power requirements and select one with an appropriately rated power output.  But then there is the decision to be made between a free-standing panel or a permanently (usually roof) mounted one.  The free-standing ones are cheaper, lighter and more efficient but need to be repositioned regularly (keeping them pointing towards the sun) be secured to the 'van and suffer from trailing cables.  The roof mounted ones are 'fit & forget' devices, more secure against theft, keep the battery charged up whilst in store, but eat into the precious payload allowance, are only half as efficient (so need to be twice the size) and so are more expensive.  At the 2011 Motorhome & Caravan Show, RoadPro announced a new type of Solar Panel – the 100W ApolloFLEX - which overcomes most of the disadvantages of conventional roof mounted panels.  It is a lightweight (3.6kg) flexible panel which is stuck directly onto the roof, virtually eliminating wind drag and 'whistle'.  It is less sensitive to the angle of the sun and designed to be more 'shade tolerant', so runs at a higher efficiency.

I had been quite happy with a 45W mono-crystalline folding panel throughout the summer months, which didn't quite replace everything I took out of the battery each day, but significantly extended (at least doubled) its life.  But the shorter days and lower light levels at the end of the year (8 hour days and 16 hour nights instead of 16 hour days and 8 hour nights) meant there was more being taken out of the battery and not enough going back in, so I needed a bigger and better panel.  I was reluctant to leave a more expensive item sitting beside the caravan, just chained to it.  I didn't have enough spare payload to have a sufficiently large conventional panel mounted on the roof.  So I asked RoadPro to fit the ApolloFLEX to my caravan. 

I travelled to Daventry and presented the caravan at the start of the day.  Their fitter confirmed I had enough clear roof space (about 2m x 0.5m) and worked methodically to attach the panel and connect it up through the appropriate regulator.  All the work was to the highest standards, taking care to conceal the cables internally.  Just after midday, the sun came out and the panel performed every bit as well as expected.  I could now look forward to a worry-free, inexhaustible 12V power supply in the future!

I went away in the caravan (at the end of November) and there was enough power to last the 4 day weekend, whereas the previous year I had to arrange to have the battery charged up halfway through the same event.  The ApolloFLEX does what I wanted and what RoadPro said it would.

Update on ApolloFLEX Solar Panel - Jan 2013

Having had the panel fitted for just over a year now, how has it performed? In the 4 summer months you cannot run out of power, no matter what you switch on. Even if you do use a 240V hook-up (to save gas on the 'fridge, or to run some mains appliance) you don’t need to bother the on-board battery charger. And that’s with a single 86Ah battery.

In the spring and autumn, you can get by without a hook-up but you have to keep an eye on how much power you are using. Sunny days are noticeably better than dull days. It is wise to carry a second 86Ah battery in case you want to watch an early morning Grand Prix when you’ve already been away a few nights.

In the 4 winter months you are very aware that instead of 16 hours of daylight and 8 hours of darkness it is the other way round. So if you are frugal, and use the second 86Ah battery you can get by without a hook-up. Over the New Year down at Wareham, there were days when not much at all was going into the battery.

To summarise. I am delighted with the panel. It has taken all the worry out of rallying without hook-ups. I can’t remember when I last took the Honda generator along, just in case, and the car smells all the better for it. And you can put the 'van back into (uncovered) storage with the battery on half charge and it is fully charged, ready to go when you collect it for the next trip out. RoadPro replaced the controller box last July when it went ‘rogue’ and started letting too much voltage through, causing the caravan 12V circuit to trip; no recurrence of the problem, but we were not troubled by an over-abundance of sun in the second half of the year! I have not detected any drop off in performance, nor did I expect to. Having it bonded to the roof with such a discreet fitting gives peace of mind when it is left unattended (ie that it is very unlikely to be stolen) and that no dirt can build up between it and the roof.


Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Electrical


The Problem of the Falling 'Fridge Shelf

Posted Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Thetford ’fridge fitted in recent (but not current) Bessacarrs has many good qualities.  But it also has a couple of bad habits!  One of its more irritating habits is that the upper shelf can come loose on tow, particularly if the ’fridge is only half filled.  This does no favours to the food on the shelf below!

I have raised this with Thetford staff on their stand at the Caravan Show in the past and they were evasive about the problem or any cure.  At the last NEC show (Oct 2012) I was unable to demonstrate the problem with the ’fridge on display.  So I took in my own shelf and compared it with the one on the stand.  It was fractionally less wide, so allowing the securing clip too much room to spin round at will.  They agreed to send me a replacement shelf.  I left details of my ’fridge (a photo of the data plate). 

 They sent me a shelf for the wrong ’fridge, which fitted perfectly but was too short front to back, so losing valuable storage space.  I rang the helpline who agreed it was the wrong shelf and said they would put the correct shelf in the post.  It arrived and had exactly the same problem as my original shelf – it wasn’t quite wide enough to keep the securing clip in place.  Having exhausted my options with Thetford, but now knowing the problem, I worked out how to cure it.

The Fix?

Bind a couple of turns of hygienic tape (Rescue Tape is ideal) around the rail at the left hand of the shelf, the rail that fits in the groove in the casing.  This will make the action of the securing clip on the right hand edge a little stiffer and it will now have an ‘over-centre’ action – just as it was always supposed to.  Use as few winds of tape as will achieve this effect – one may be enough. 

If you use too many turns, that might produce too much force on the internal ’fridge casing.  Better to ‘creep up’ on the ‘fix’ and keep adding turns until it feels right, than to over-do it and crack the casing. 

I carry some white Rescue Tape in my caravan tool box so if we meet up on a rally anytime, I would be happy to carry out this ‘fix’ for you. 



Posted by: Humph Jones    Category: Mechanical


 
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