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Q. How often does my caravan/motorhome/horsebox need servicing?
A. Most vehicles should be checked annually. If your vehicle is not used a lot, brakes, damp and tyres may be more prone to give problems; checking these regularly will prevent problems developing and in the long term, keep repair and maintenance bills down.
If you use your vehicle more frequently then parts will be subject to more wear-and-tear and should be checked and serviced more frequently. Ultimately it’s your decision as to how often you service your vehicle but you should weigh extent of use against in-activity and decide what suits you best.
Q. How often should I change my tyres?
A. Manufacturers recommend at least every 7(seven) years. Ultra-violet degradation is cited as the main reason for this outside of the normal tread wear and cracking or perished rubber. Unfortunately there is no simple way to check the ultra-violet degradation of a tyre so I will always recommend the replacement of tyres nearing or beyond their 7 years since manufacture. N.B. It is worth noting that should a blow-out occur and your insurance company discovers that the tyre was “out-of-date” they may refuse to honour any insurance claim.
Q. What sort of tyres should I put on my caravan?
A. The short answer is the best quality caravan or commercial tyre you can afford. Like everything else in life, you generally get what you pay for. I don’t recommend any particular make of tyre but there are a couple of pointers as to the standard:-
· The tyres should have a load bearing capacity in excess of half (or quarter if your caravan is a twin axle) the MTPLM(see below) i.e. if your caravan has an MTPLM of 1500kg, your tyres should have a maximum load rating in excess of 750kg each if it’s a single axle caravan, or in excess of 375kg each if it’s a twin.
· Tyres should be the same i.e. DON’T mix radial and cross-ply tyres.
· Commercial grade tyres sometimes called “LT” (Light Truck) are recommended as they have more layers or ply. LT & C tyres used to be 6 or 8 ply but I believe the 6’s are no longer available so 8 ply is what you need. You may find that these tyres are actually cheaper then the equivalent size of car tyres which are usually 4 ply and are NOT acceptable.
Q. What are MiRO and MTPLM?
A.MiRO - Mass in Running Order; this is the weight of your caravan EMPTY with only the fixtures and fittings it came with from the factory.
MTPLM - Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass; this is the total permissible weight with all your equipment, TV, clothes, chairs, bikes, awning, etc. including additions like solar panels, ladders, bike racks and the like.
There is normally a specification plate riveted to the side of the caravan (mostly beside your door) which tells you the MiRO and MTPLM:- the maximum load you can add to the basic weight of the caravan is the MTPLM minus the MiRO.
Q. What should my caravan tyre pressure be?
A. Normally tyre pressures are between 45 and 60 psi (3.1 to 4.5 bar) but you can work it out using the following calculation:-
Caravan Tyre Pressure Calculator
Max Tyre Pressure On Tyre Wall
Max Tyre Load in Kg On Tyre Wall
MTPLM of Caravan On Van Plate
a) Number of tyres = 2
b)Max Tyre Load =600kg
c) Max Tyre Pressure = 65psi
d)MTPLM Of Van = 850kg
a x b = 2 x 600 = 1200
c÷(a x b) = 65 ÷ 1200 = 0.0542*
d x [c÷(a x b)] = 0.0542 x 850 = 46.07
Round up or down = 46psi for each tyre.
*Rounded to 4 decimal places
Q. Can I leave my gas bottle connected and the isolation valve open?
A. In most cases NO! Always close the isolation valve: Depending on your system this could be the switch on the Cylinder regulator or the Cylinder’s own screw-shut type valve.
The exceptions to this rule are the newer type bulkhead regulators (Drive-Safe, Secumotion or Use-Whilst-You-Drive LPG Gas regulator (NOT the standard ones) which can be fitted to your motorhome (I don’t think they are approved for caravans and maybe never will be as they’re intended to allow you to heat a motorhome whilst travelling – not much use in a caravan!). These regulator have a special device incorporated which works on the same principle as your inertia-reel seatbelts. If you decelerate too fast (you and I know it as an emergency stop or crash!!) the valve will automatically cut the gas supply. These also have to be connected with special connection pipes which are much more resilient than standard ones – and more expensive.
Q. How do I drain the water system for winter?
· Try to complete this procedure prior to departure from your last excursion of the year – with everything open to drain, the movement of the vehicle will greatly assist the full draining of the system.
· Switch off the water heater – gas and electric.
· Switch off the pump(s) and disconnect from the outside of the caravan.
· Open all the taps (mixer taps should be set in the middle to open both hot and cold).
· Remove the drain plug (Carver Water Heaters) and open any drain valves – these are usually blue with a yellow lever on the top; if the lever is down the valve is shut and will not let water drain; if the lever is up, the valve is open and water will escape.
· If you have an on-board tank, open this drain valve too.
· As above but normally without the water barrel outside.
Q. I don’t think my battery is charging – how can I check?
A. Disconnect one lead from the battery, plug in the mains lead and switch the charger on. You should still be able to switch the 12v lights on inside the vehicle if the charger is working.
Q. When I pitch my caravan my fridge to will not cool or freeze when I switch it onto the 12v setting – is it broken?
A. No it’s not broken. Your fridge will only work on 12v when the grey (12S) plug is connected to your car – if it ran off your leisure battery it’d be flat in a couple of hours. Modern caravans and motorhomes will only allow the fridge to function on 12v when there is sufficient power i.e. actually in excess of 12v which is only when the engine is running and the alternator produces enough to run the car, charge the battery and have a wee bit power left over for your fridge to cool. If your fridge has an automatic setting, when the engine stops it will search for the most economical power source; if your gas is on it’ll use that and if you’re plugged into a mains electrical supply it will normally switch to that. With these fridges it is usually quite safe to leave the 12S plug connected and it won’t drain your car or leisure battery – on older models and systems it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether it’s draining your battery or not; if you’re nipping into the supermarket or somewhere to have a meal disconnect the grey 12S plug from the car and leave the fridge door closed – it’ll keep your beer, wine, milk and sausages cool for a good few hours.
REMEMBER to reconnect the 12S plug to the car before you drive off or you could be phoning me to supply and fit a new one!
Q. How often should I change my water filter?
A. Water filters are designed for up to 30 days of use so your summer fortnight and another 8 weekends will be fine. Manufacturers recommend the replacement of filters at least annually.
Q. I am looking at a second-hand caravan which doesn’t smell damp, will it be OK?
A. The only way to tell for sure is with a damp meter assessment. The internal walls of most caravans – and motorhomes - are covered with a vinyl which traps the moisture and smell inside. Look for tell-tale signs like “blown” or peeling wall coverings, mould spots or areas and be particular about areas where there are holes seams in the outer shell of the caravan – joints between roof and wall, wall and floor, door, windows, lockers, water inlet connections and so on.
In general when buying a pre-loved vehicle ask to see any service schedules – INCLUDING damp reports – and remember it’s previous owners may not have been as “loving” as you might wish.
Beware of …… Air Fresheners; de-humidifiers; lockers you’re told are difficult to open so it’s too much hassle to show you; anyone who’s not keen to show you the waterpump, gas fire, blown heating, taps, battery charger, etc. working. All these things could indicate problems.
Q. How should I care for my battery?
A. Check the electrolyte level twice a year; the battery should be charged for 24 hours every month; don’t store your battery on a concrete floor - the lead in the concrete will drain the power more quickly so place it on a piece of plywood or workbench.
Q. My Cascade 2 water heater will not heat the water on electric, why?
A. This type of water heater has a re-set button on the cover of the electric element - the RED button in the middle at the bottom.
Pushing this button should re-set the thermal cut-out on the electric element; you can only re-set this 3 or 4 times thereafter I'm afraid it's a new element and/or thermal cut-out. Make sure you switch the electric water heater OFF ... BEFORE you start to drain down the water system.
Q. Why does my Fanmaster fan only blow cold air?
A.There is a re-set button on the rear of the unit, accessed from behind the fire, it is on the left hand edge of the black plastic casing; it doesn't feel like a button as it's a flexible cut-out of the casing which, when depressed, contacts the re-set button on the heater element.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
What ARE The Symptoms?
You can’t see it, taste it or smell it but it can kill quickly and with no warning.
Unsafe gas appliances produce a highly poisonous gas called carbon monoxide (CO). It can cause death as well as serious long term health problems such as brain damage.
Remember the six main symptoms to look out for:
6. loss of consciousness
Being aware of the symptoms could save your life.
Carbon monoxide symptoms are similar to flu, food poisoning, viral infections and simply tiredness. That’s why it’s quite common for people to mistake this very dangerous poisoning for something else.
Other signs that could point to carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Your symptoms only occur when you are away in your vehicle and using gas (no for cooking though as a cooker has no flue and is therefore not "room sealed")
- Your symptoms disappear or get better when you leave your vehicle and come back when you return
- Others in your vehicle are experiencing symptoms (including your pets) and they appear at a similar time
What should I do if I experience any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the vehicle
- See your doctor immediately or go to hospital - let them know that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. They can do a blood or breath test to check
- If you think there is immediate danger, call the Gas Emergency Helpline
- Get a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect your gas appliances and flues to see if there is a dangerous problem
Don’t assume your gas appliances are safe: get a Gas Safe registered gas engineer to do a check. This is the only safe way to prevent yourself and those around you from incurring serious illness or death due to carbon monoxide exposure.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous substance produced by the incomplete burning of gas and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG).
This happens when a gas appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.
Oil and solid fuels such as coal, wood and petrol can also produce carbon monoxide.
What is carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when you breathe in even small amounts of the gas.
When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it gets into your blood stream and prevents your red blood cells from carrying oxygen. Without oxygen, your body tissue and cells die.
Levels that do not kill can cause serious harm to health when breathed in over a long period of time. Long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning include Paralysis and brain damage. Such long term effects occur because many people are unaware of unsafe gas appliances and subsequent gas leaks.
How do I avoid a carbon monoxide leak in my vehicle?
Your vehicle may show signs of carbon monoxide. Any one of the following could be a sign that there is carbon monoxide in your vehicle.
- The flame on your cooker should be crisp and blue. Lazy yellow or orange flames mean you need to get your cooker checked
- Dark staining around or on appliances
- Pilot lights that frequently blow out
- Increased condensation inside windows
If you have a faulty appliance in your home, it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Get your gas appliances checked to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Why should I get a carbon monoxide alarm?
Because carbon monoxide has no taste, smell or colour. Gas Safe Register strongly recommends you fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your home.
While an alarm will alert you to carbon monoxide,, it is no substitute for having an annual gas safety check and regular servicing by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
A carbon monoxide alarm looks similar to a smoke alarm and is very easy to fit by following the manufacturer’s instructions. You can purchase a carbon monoxide alarm from £15 at your local DIY store, supermarket or from your energy supplier. You may also wish to consider an audible alarm that also has a digital display; this allows you to regularly monitor any level of CO is in your vehicle and pre-empt any dangerous levels by getting a check done.
Before purchasing a carbon monoxide alarm, always make sure it is marked to EN 50291. It should also have the British Standards' Kitemark or another European approval organisation's mark on it. Follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions on siting, testing and replacing the alarm.
You are particularly at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping, as you may not be aware of early carbon monoxide symptoms until it’s too late. Do not use the ‘black spot’ detectors that change colour when carbon monoxide is present. These will not make a sound to wake you up if the poisonous gas is present while you are sleeping.