Q and A

Use this page to post questions and queries about anything relating to caravans, whether it is about information contained on this blog or questions about your caravan. I will get around to answering as many as I can and each question will receive a detailed response.


For now, here are some frequently asked questions:

Q: Whilst towing, my caravan is very unstable. What can I do to improve this?
A: There are a number of things you can do. Firstly, check how the caravan is loaded. Heavy items should be located near the axle with lighter items distributed evenly - see the Towing Code page. Also, check that the caravan tyres are up to the correct pressure and the wheel nuts are tightened accordingly. Also check the tow car's rear tyres. Tyres with weak sidewalls are not suitable for towing and will encourage instability. Change low quality rear tyres for better ones. Finally, check your stability device to ensure is is in working condition. If you don't have one, consider investing in a stabiliser bar or stabiliser hitch. 

Q: When I draw water from the taps in the caravan, it is discoloured and contains black bits in it. What is happening?
A: The water pipes and system need a clean. Purchase a water system purifying solution and use accordingly. The black bits come from a filter within the water system. When filters aren't replaced, they sometimes break, allowing the tiny bits of charcoal to escape and come out of the taps. Replace the filter and flush the system through. 

Q: When I connect the caravan to the car, some of the roadlights don't work on the caravan. How can I solve this?
A: Start by checking the 12N socket (black). Check all the pins that they are free from corrosion. Give them a light sanding with a mild grade of sandpaper and clean out the tubes with pipe cleaners. If this doesn't solve it, then the chances are a bulb has blown. Open up the light casing on the caravan and check the bulbs to see if they are working or not. Failing this, it is likely that a fuse for the lights has blown inside the caravan. Locate the fusebox and change the broken fuse. 

Q: What can I do to prevent my leisure battery discharging when the caravan is not in use?
A: There is a chance that all 12v systems have a slight draw of power. Check that everything in the caravan is switched off and the circuit breaker activated (switched in the off position). You can disconnect the battery and store it at room temperature at home when the caravan is not in use. If you leave the battery in the caravan over long periods of time, try charging it once every few weeks to keep the battery topped up. Once if discharges fully it will never regain a full charge. 

Q: Is it compulsory to insure your caravan to take it on the road?
A: No, it is not a legal requirement to insure your caravan to take it on the road, but it is common sense to insure your caravan. You'll benefit from peace of mind and can claim on your insurance to replace defective parts on your caravan. Insurance policies for caravans are much cheaper than cars, especially for vintage caravans. The Caravan Club have offered caravan insurance since the 1950's and offer some of the best caravan insurance around. See the Credits page for links. 

Q: I've heard something about an 85% rule for towing a caravan. What is this?
A: The 85% rule is a very sensible rule designed to match cars and caravans. You work out 85% of the cars maximum kerbweight and this is the maximum weight which you can tow. It is not a legal requirement, but is sensible for car and caravan matching. If you are confident at towing, then is is manageable to tow up to 100% of the car's weight, but you should never exceed the kerbweight of the car. The 85% rule has been used for nearly 50 years now and is proven to match cars and caravans well. Here is a worked example:
Car's Kerbweight: 1000kgs -> 85% = 850kgs. 850kgs is the figure you would use for this particular example for finding a caravan. 

Q: I've noticed the sealant on my caravan has started to fall out in patches and want to reseal it. How can I go about this? 
A: Firstly, you need to determine where your caravan needs resealing. Ideally, on every joint there should be sealant. This includes the two awning rails, the front panel and back panel and any side trims that hide joints. You should also find it around any roof fittings on your caravan (rooflights etc) and caravans with a 'boated' or 'lantern' roof will have extra areas on the roof to reseal. General household sealant MUST NOT be used as it is not designed for outdoor use and will allow water to pour into the woodwork of the caravan. A caravan grade 'mastic' type sealant should be used (very sticky stuff!) and you can buy this in a tube or in ready cut rolls. I'd personally recommend using the tube as it is easier to apply. 
Firstly, start with the awning rails. Remove any rubber inserts as these hide screws to attach the awning rail to the caravan. The awning rail should remove (possibly in one or in sections) and will reveal the old sealant. Take care not to bend the awning rail in any way. This old sealant needs to be removed using solvents such as Turps. You can then apply the new sealant in lieu of the old. Apply it thoroughly but not excessively as this is more to have to clean up. You can then re-attach the awning rail using new screws and re-insert the rubber trim (you can replace it for a few £'s to freshen the exterior up). If your caravan has a GRP front or rear panel, this will need resealing but the awning rail may have actually covered the joint. You then should re-seal roof mounted fixtures such as rooflights and TV aerials. These items can be removed easily and the sealant applied just as you did for the awning rail joints. I would recommend tightening the screws of any part of the caravan that you decide to reseal (awning rail, rooflight etc...) and allow the sealant to ooze out. Clean this off and repeat the process again after 24-48 hours as the sealant settles. It is advisory to reseal your caravan every 5 years for maximum protection against water ingress.

Q: I wish to purchase a full size awning for my caravan. How do I know what size to buy?
A: You have to measure the awning rail on one side, including the distance between the caravan and the ground. You can use a tape measure, but something like string may be easier and you can measure it afterwards. You should need around 10 meters for an average caravan. See the diagram below; the red line is the line that you measure:

Remember to follow the curve of the caravan down to the ground at the point it curves inwards (see diagram), unless it is a steep gradient in which case you can angle the measuring device slightly (see left of diagram). The size should be in centimetres and this is the size you quote when purchasing a full awning. 

Q: My caravan keeps getting heavy condensation on the windows. Does this indicate damp?
A: Not necessarily. Condensation is caused when the interior of the caravan is warm and the exterior is cold. It usually builds up on the windows. Expect condensation as a caravan is a small space and can change temperature rapidly. You can wipe it up with a towel. Should you find condensation on the wallboarding, check these areas for signs of water ingress (damp). 

Q: Do caravans have to pass an MOT like cars?
A: No they don't have any form of certificate to prove roadworthiness. It is recommended that you have your caravan serviced annually by either a caravan dealer of you can do it yourself (See Servicing page). This ensures that your caravan is safe to take on the road and use. A service is not a legal requirement or compulsory in any way (unless to satisfy a new caravan's warranty) but is highly recommended by the National Caravan Council and similar organisations. 





Please feel free to ask your own questions. 

19 comments:

  1. Hi Cameron-Great blog! I was wondering if you knew what sort of gasket was used for the skylight in a 68 Sprite 400. I need to replace mine but don't know if it had a specific brand name or description. I'm not sure if I can get one in the U.S. or if I'll have to have one posted from the U.K. Hope you don't mind this question here, but I know if anyone's going to have the answer for me you will!
    All the best,
    Theresa (p.s. didn't know what to select in the 'comment as' section sorry)

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  2. Hi Theresa, thank you for the comment, don't worry about asking questions, that's what the blog is here for! Anyway, the gasket on the skylight is a moulded plastic 'surround' that was made to fit the specific skylight that is on the caravan. For that reason, and due to the age of it, I'm afraid it may be obsolete by now. You're only chance of getting an exact replacement would be to trawl websites such as eBay for a second hand replacement. I don't think it has a specific manufacturer or brand name. Alternatively, there are various sizes of new skylights available here in the UK, you'll have no trouble finding one that will fit the existing hole for the skylight. You need to measure the hole in the roof for the skylight and then check this against the sizes available to find a suitable replacement. Luckily they're not that expensive (around 30GBP(£)) and you can buy them from most caravanning related websites. Hope this helps,
    regards,
    Cameron
    (p.s. it doesn't really matter what you select in the 'comment as' box, if you have a Google account and you're logged in then your name should appear)

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  3. I figure you are in the UK. I need to get a new window for the front of my caravan but I am in the US. Do you know of any suppliers in the US??
    Thanks, Q

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  4. Hello,
    I'm not sure, it depends on your make of caravan. Do you have an imported one from Europe or the UK? If it's an American caravan, then your best bet would be to contact the manufacturer first. If the manufacturer is out of business then you're going to have to seek out a second hand part. In the UK we have places known as 'Breakers Yards' where old caravans that have reached the end of their useful life are stripped for parts and these are sold on. You may be able to find something similar in the US. If the window is make from glass, most window manufacturers/glass specialists will be able to cut you a new window using the existing frame as a template. They should also be able to re-assemble the window including the frame ready for you to fit back onto your caravan.
    Hope this info helped, and best of luck getting it sorted.
    Regards,
    Cameron.

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  5. Hi from the USA, could you tell me when you decorate, like things on shelves, etc, do you have to stow and pack everything away every time you move it or do you have a way to tie it down so it doesn't move. Like the window shelf? i don't see the advantage of decorating every time you stop vs if i can figure out how to make it less difficult. thanks

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  6. Hi,
    It depends entirely on the object(s). Things such as the lamp will usually stay in place but more fragile things such as the teapot need stowing away. There are things you can do such as using Blu-tac (not sure of the American equivalent) to keep objects secure. I'm lucky that my caravan has two drawers at the front which I can pack items away into. Wrapping glass and china in a little bubble wrap keeps it all safe. The simple answer is to use items that are either fixed or won't break if they move. I have a bookshelf in my caravan (not pictured) which looks good and stays as it is. Use bunting, scatter cushions, signs mounted on walls, badges etc... all can be fixed in place so that you don't have to pack them away. Try looking in thrift/second hand stores for vintage items that will either mount, stay in place or not break should they fall. I think that's the best solution.
    All the best in getting it sorted,
    Regards,
    Cameron.

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  7. Hi,

    I see that you have an extract from a 1964 Car cruiser carousel brochure. We are trying to get hold of a brochure for a 1963 version as we have just bought one to renovate and desperately need to work out a) tne configuration of the seats and sizes of the cushions so that we can get some made and b)to identify what the original colour schemes were so that we can be true to the original.

    If anyone out there has a brochure for sale or that they could photocopy/scan and email to us that would be fantastic! Or if you can suggest anywhere else that we might be able to source some more info?

    many thanks

    Sue and Nigel X

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    Replies
    1. Hello, sorry for the delay in replying, I've been away for a short time.

      Unfortunately the picture is the only extract I have of a Car Cruiser brochure. I've had a look through the various magazines I have and the only thing I can find is the odd advert and short article.

      However, are you on Facebook? I know of someone who knows an awful lot about Car Cruisers and he's restored 4 or 5 of them himself. Ho would undoubtably be able to help you out.

      Alternatively, Caravan expert and historian, Andrew Jenkinson, has written three books about the history of caravans and regularly publishes articles in various UK caravan magazines. He's a real expert and will be able to help you. You can send him an email at andrew@ajenkinson.fsnet.co.uk

      Hope this was of some help, and thanks for the inquiry.

      Best of luck!
      Regards, Cameron.

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    2. Hi Cameron,

      Many thanks for the info - I will definitely email Andrew. I am on facebook but am not a regular user so struggle a bit but if you can give me some info I'll try and get in touch with your other contact (the restorer) as he sounds like he could be a great help to us.

      Many thanks for your time

      Sue & Nigel

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    3. Hi Sue & Nigel,

      You're welcome, Andrew will almost certainly be able to help you with the intreor questions. If you log onto Facebook and join the following group My Cool Caravan: http://www.facebook.com/groups/mycoolclassiccar/ you'll find that this is group for the book of the same name (if you don't have the book, it's certainly worth buying. It's full of some beautiful and inspiring vintage caravans). Post any questions you wish there and there are a few people with knowledge of Car Cruisers who will certainly be able to help you more than I can.

      Best regards, Cameron.

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  8. Hi Cameron,

    I just discovered your site, and have now read every bit of it. Thank you for your efforts. I am Canadian, and have spent the last month refurbishing a 1970 Bailey Mikado. Apparently they were exported here for a very short time. I was wondering if you have any access to any original advertisements or brochures, for this vintage of Bailey. My chances of finding anything like that here in Canada, are slim.

    I would like to learn about the braking system, my first instinct was to remove it, lest it seize up on me somewhere. I have never seen a trailer ( Caravan ) with anything like it here .

    Thanks

    Jeff V

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    Replies
    1. Hello Jeff,

      Thank you for the compliments! Amazed to hear that you have a Bailey Mikado in Canada! I knew that they exported these there briefly (we're talking one year, maybe 18 months) but I have only ever seen an exported model once. I'm currently on holiday in France until Sunday 4th November, but I will certainly trawl my archives when I get home and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find you something. Even if it's for the British Bailey Mikado of 1970 (they were very similar). Drop me an email to my address: cameron.39@hotmail.co.uk then I can forward you on anything I find.

      Now, about the braking system. Do not remove it! These braking systems are excellent and require very little maintenance. What happens is thus: as you brake in the car, the tow hitch on the caravan compresses (you'll spot the rubber bit behind the tow hitch, this is what compresses) and this pushes a rod back which applies the brakes to the caravan exactly as the handbrake would. The great thing about this system is that it applies the brakes in proportion to how hard you brake in the car. If you brake a tiny bit, the caravan brakes barely apply; if you do an emergency stop, the caravan brakes apply with all their force. This system is called Automatic Brake Over-run. It's an excellent system and we've had it in Europe since the early 1900's! And I can tell you that in all that time, the system has barely changed.
      In America and Canada I've seen that you have fixed tow hitches, which means that the car has to take the entire weight of the caravan under braking. This European braking system is much safer and it allows you to use a smaller car to tow your caravan with - hence why European versions of American cars have much higher towing limits. The only drawback of this Automatic Braking System is that the wheels lock up as soon as you try to reverse. You should spot a small lever on the tow hitch to lock the tow hitch in it's extended position, and this must be applied before reversing. This system was changed in the mid 1970's so that the hitch could detect the difference between reverse and harsh braking (it may be that your model has this feature anyway). Having said that, it's still a very safe system, and I've never heard of them seizing up. All that's required is routine maintenance to the brakes and a little grease to the hitch system (as prescribed on my 'Servicing' page of this blog).

      Hope that clears it up! I'll look in my archives as soon as I get back home and see what I can find. Any more questions or queries, then do not hesitate to contact me!

      Kind regards,

      Cameron.

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  9. hi im new to caravanning iv just bought a ABI brightstar award 1996 wanting to spruce up the inside as its not to our liking just bought material to have the seating recovered new curtains we did want to paint all the cupboard doors but been told because there melamine they will not cover properly we do want to paint the rest though (roof and walls) but not sure what to paint it with have you got any advice on this please....by the way your page is full of good tips ..

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  10. Dear Cameron,

    couldn't find any other contact button, so I'll just post my enquiry :)

    For the French-German public TV channel ARTE and its young European TV show YOUROPE (broadcasted every Saturday 2pm // www.arte.tv/yourope) I am looking into the Caravan vintage scene in the UK. In our show on July 13th we are dealing with the topic "Great Holidays - low-budget" and try to report from several European countries concerning this. Why the UK and why caravans? Since years many British love to spend their holidays in the UK - that's at least what we (here in Berlin) have realised and read. And the British love caravans and camping, don't they? I came across the UK glamping and the Vintage caravan holiday trend and would like to make a report about that.

    I am interested in finding people who cruise the country in their own Vintage caravan, maybe you?

    I am looking forward to hear from you.

    Kind regards,
    Claudia

    Claudia B├Ąckmann
    Kobalt Productions GmbH
    Redaktion arte / YOUROPE
    Torstr. 105-107
    10119 Berlin
    Tel: +49-30-24089631
    Fax: +49-30-24089612
    E-Mail: claudia.baeckmann@kobalt.de

    www.arte.tv/yourope
    www.kobalt.de

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    Replies
    1. Hello Claudia,

      Thank you for your enquiry. You are correct, we do have a strong vintage caravan scene here in the UK. There's various clubs and organisations dedicated to vintage caravans and also plenty of individuals who prefer to spend their holidays in vintage caravans. There's plenty of people that would be able to help you out.

      I don't have any trips away planned over the next few weeks, but I have a fairly clear schedule so I don't mind taking my caravan somewhere if you wish to see it. My vintage caravan is fairly modern though, as it was made in 1988. I'm assuming you would like to see vintage caravans that are much older?

      Either way, let me know. As well as myself, I can put you in contact with a few people who might be interested in taking part in your project.

      Kind regards,
      Cameron Burns

      E-Mail: cameron.39@hotmail.co.uk

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  11. Hello Everyone I have just bought a 1984 Eccles Amethyst in fair condition although there is a spongy floor and evidence of some damp I spoke to 2 engineers who refused to come out to do a service on my vehicle because of its age and travel 30 minutes to get to me, I called MCEA they were no help at all agreeing with the engineers, if I cant get a service this caravan will need to be scrapped, can anyone on here please offer their advice, thank you, Anne

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  12. Hello! We've just bought a 1967 Sprite 400 and are currently in the process of tearing out the rotten wood. The rivets holding the aluminium skin to the wood seem to have a plastic head on one end and a nail on the other. Do you know if these have a particular name or where we can source some? Thank you for your help!! : ) Carina

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  13. Hi Cameron,

    I have just bought a 1984 Eccles Amethyst CK, or at least I think it is a CK, and I was wondering if you happen to have a brochure for it in your archives. The double bed to the rear has been removed and I need to put it back to original as part of a restoration. My email address is vincent.fortune@live.com if anyone has one. No spam pleeeaaase! Many thanks. :) Any dodgy bits to look out for?

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  14. Hello Cameron,

    I have just purchased an English made 1968-9 Astral Ranger 10ft. Caravan. It is in need of all new rubber seals all around all the windows. I am in Canada and have not seen anything here that looks like it would fit. My problem is that the rubber seals are so far gone, I can't even tell what they originally looked like. Also, there does not appear to be any glass glazing seals where the glass slides into the aluminum frame, is this possible? Your Caravan windows look exactly like the windows on my Astral......can you tell me what rubber seals you used and where did you purchase? Any information would be greatly appreciated.
    Kindest regards, Sandy

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