Caravan Maintenance Tips from Newcastle’s Experts
Before Moving Off
- Jockey wheel removed or secured
- Lights operating correctly
- Gas turned off
- Tyres inflated correctly
- Doors closed and locked
- Jacks raised and safety stands removed
- Wheel chocks removed
- Hand brake released
- Electrical connection between car and van secured
- Steps raised
- Towing aid correctly fitted
- Safety chains secured
By constantly monitoring the rear vision mirrors, a faster travelling vehicle can be readily spotted. If road and traffic conditions permit, slow down and move as far to the left as possible.
The greater the difference in speeds of the two vehicles, and the further they are apart while passing, the safer the situation becomes. When the other vehicle starts to pass, apply some power to the towing vehicle. There is less change of sway occurring if the caravan is being pulled rather that it pushing on to the car. In other words, do not brake or allow the outfit to be on the over-run.
When due to road conditions traffic builds up behind you, periodically move off the road to allow other motorists to pass safely.
To ensure that an outfit can be safely and quickly stopped, all caravans and camper trailers should have brakes fitted.
For many years, caravan manufacturers have been fitting electrically operated brakes to their products. Electric brakes are generally considered to be the most suitable type for caravans and camper trailers.
As on any vehicle, regular checks and adjustment of the caravan or trailer brakes area a must. This applies whether the unit is used constantly or only a couple of times per year.
- Fuel tank(s) full
- Oil level in engine and transmission
- Water or coolant level
- Condition of all hoses
- Fan belt tension and condition
- Brake fluid level
- Tyre pressures, including spare
- Operation of lights
- Mirrors secured and adjusted
- Air shockers inflated (if fitted)
- Insect screen in front of radiator
- Gas bottle fitted and secured
- Water tank filled
- Brakes checked and adjusted
- Wheel bearings adjusted
- Wheel nut tight and condition of tyres
Note: It is advisable to have the caravan serviced by a specialist prior to the journey.
- Cupboards and drawers closed and table secured
- Refrigerator door locked – check that containers with liquids are sealed
- Hatches and windows closed
- No loose items in cupboards or on shelves
- Fire extinguisher fitted
Newcomers to caravanning are sometimes concerned with the prospect of manoeuvring a car and caravan combination. The problems that are sometimes encountered may be due to:
- An incompatible car and caravan combination
- Incorrect loading
- Lack of proper towing equipment
- Towing equipment not adjusted correctly
- Not familiar with the correct techniques
Once these points have been sorted out, towing a caravan or camper trailer need not be any more difficult than driving a car by itself.
Driving Tips - Outback Driving
When planning a route through isolated outback areas, make sure you carry plenty of water (at least 5 litres of water per person per day) and adequate food and fuel supplies. Advise someone of your route, destination and expected arrival time. If you have a breakdown do not leave the vehicle under any circumstances.
As many roads throughout Western Australia are unfenced, wildlife can be a hazard to drivers, particularly around dawn and dusk. Road trains (ie large trucks towing up to three trailers) can be over 50 metres long and 2.5 metres wide so extra care should be taken when overtaken’ allow for at least one kilometre of clear road ahead.
Dust on unsealed country roads can obscure vision; it is advisable to stop and wait for the dust to settle.
Spares which may be useful
- Fan belt
- Radiator hoses
- Engine oil
- Spare wheel and tyre to suit caravan
- Tube to suit car and caravan tyre
- Insulating tape
- Electrical wire
Tools and Equipment
- Assortment of tools to suit sizes on car and caravan
- Tyre levers
- Wheel brace to suit wheel nuts on car and caravan
- Jack to suit car and caravan
- Tyre gauge
- Wheel chocks
- Blocks for placing under corner stabilisers when ground is soft or under a wheel when site not level
Make sure you have the necessary tools required to fit the spares that you may have taken for the trip.
For you own sake, and that of your passengers, it is essential that all gas lines, connections, appliances and electrical fittings be checked regularly.
It is essential an approved fire extinguisher is always on board. Extinguishers come in a multitude of sizes, price ranges and different types of operation. Make sure it is current, fully charged, is regularly checked and it is in a readily easily accessible place inside your van. Ideally, you should be able to reach the unit from outside the van. Fire fighting experts generally recommend that a fire extinguisher is checked at least every two years to ensure correct operation.
The correct towbar is extremely important. Fit the wrong towbar to a car and the caravan may not stay in place. The capabilities of a towbar are often over estimated. Generally the only part that is visible is the tongue or lug. Sometimes this appears to be quite strong. However the actual mountings or strength of that part of the bar that is under the vehicle may leave much to be desired.
In relation to towbars, there should be no comparison. Sure the cost may be little more than you had budgeted for, but compared to the investment you have in the towing vehicle and caravan, it is cheap insurance. Always purchase a recognised product from a towbar specialist. A plate, which displays the manufacturer’s name, the vehicle for which it is designed and the bar’s maximum towing load can identify a quality tow bar.
If you purchase a new vehicle with a towbar already fitted, do not assume that it matches the towing capabilities of the vehicle. Many towbars are only designed to tow small trailers and not heavily loaded caravans. Before selecting a towbar, firstly determine the loaded weight of the caravan or camper trailer. This can only be done by placing the unit on a weighbridge. Then purchase a towbar that can adequately cope with the load you intend to pull.