Newmerella – A Turning Point in Towing Safety

Drivers being directed into the inspection area.

On the 4th and 5th of January, 2017, a police officer from the small town of Orbost in Victoria fired a massive salvo across the bow of the caravanning, camper and boating communities. With the help of a small team from Vic Roads, Victoria Police and a group of media and industry representatives, Acting Sergeant Graeme Shenton ran a standard roadside police stop during “Operation Roadwise”, a Victorian state-wide blitz over the Christmas holiday period. What made this unique was that he added the capacity to weigh caravans and other trailers by utilising Vic Roads personnel and portable roadside scales. Up until this day, this sort of operation, where caravanners were subjected to weight safety checks, was a myth of epic proportions. Graeme’s salvo may have crossed the bows of the general towing communities, but it scored a direct hit on the myth, making the possibility of being subjected to weight safety checks a reality for RVers across the country.

Officers from Vic Roads were on hand to assist with the inspections

The event was widely publicised on social media. The details of the operation reached literally hundreds of thousands of people across Australia in a matter of weeks. The general reaction was overwhelmingly positive with the vast majority of posts on social media pretty much saying the same thing. There should be more of it. More importantly, those same people who were praising the operation were more than likely starting to question their own compliance with the law regarding their individual rigs. I know Kylie and I were. It prompted us to take our caravan up to a weighbridge and check out our weights. Like the many who were weighed at Newmerella, we were quite surprised by the results.

To put this into perspective, you have to look at the results from the Newmerella operation itself:

• 71 caravans were weighed across 2 days.
• 2 drivers knew all their ratings.
• Most had an idea of what their maximum allowable weight was (ATM) but were confused about how to manage weights.
• 3 knew what they actually weighed.
• 41 were overweight in one or more ratings (ATM, GTM, Ball weight).
• 5 were overweight by more than 20%.
• The majority of those spoken with were surprised at how heavy they were and had under estimated their actual weight.

It is worth noting that due to the time constraints of the day, no tow vehicles were weighed, however it is well known that many of the popular dual cab tow vehicles have some issues with GVM and GCM. Several were noted on the day with advise given to some who were obviously pushing their limits. If these had been weighed, then the percentage of overweight vehicles would likely have been much larger.

The owners of many dual cab utes appeared to push the limits of their vehicles capacity

In many respects these figures were entirely expected but when you see them written down like that and understand they have come from a factual source, it is very confronting. Recognising that the sample from the weekend is not huge, if we were to apply a simple extrapolation of those figures to the wider RV community of over 600,000 registered vehicles across Australia, only 25,000 will actually know what they weigh. More troubling, out of the remaining 575,000 drivers who have little to no idea about what they weigh, nearly 350,000 are likely overweight in at least one category. Worse is that around 42,000 are, in all likelihood, overweight by more than 20%. Remember that is just RV’s. Consider drivers towing boats and other heavy loads and you can start to appreciate the magnitude of the problem.

Now there will be those out there who do not agree that this is a significant issue. In fact, many accuse law enforcement agencies conducting similar operations as nothing more than revenue raising. I saw one particular comment on social media where it was stated that the police should be patrolling caravan parks and camp sites to counter thieves and stop wasting time targeting a minority. To me, this shows that many people have absolutely no idea about the way law enforcement works and how agencies like Victoria Police have to spread their resources across many areas in order to meet public law enforcement expectations.

Individual scales were placed under each wheel and all weights were added together to get a total figure

I have actually known of Graeme for about 4 years, but only met him in person very recently. Over the Christmas period, Kylie and I were holidaying in Bemm River, about 70ks from Orbost, and Graeme turned up at our caravan site at about 10.30pm on New Year’s eve, just to say gday. He had been on general patrol with his offsider checking caravan parks and camp sites in the area to ensure the safety of campers during festive celebrations. He is a fairly typical country cop. Extremely friendly. Loves a chat but you also get a sense that if the situation called for it, he would be a force to be reckoned with, as his towering frame would suggest.

But Graeme has another side to his life. He is a fellow caravanner and he, like many of us, is passionate about the lifestyle. He is quite active on many forums and Facebook groups, although he keeps his identity on Facebook, well…let’s just say low profile. He is very knowledgeable about the subject having gained a lot of experience from his own travels as well as from his police duties in Orbost. You see, Orbost sits right at the critical point between the major summer holiday destinations of Lakes Entrance in Victoria and the southern NSW coast along the busy and treacherous Princes Highway. Motor vehicle crashes involving caravans and boats are, unfortunately, a normal part of life in this area and Graeme has seen his fair share. In fact, the day we were heading up to Bemm River, there was a rollover involving a large caravan towed by a 4WD that Graeme attended. All were safe but it could so easily have been another tragic start to the holiday period for one family.

A small number of motorhomes were put on the scales as well

This puts Graeme right in the middle of the debate. He has a unique perspective where he can actually see the situation from both sides. It was this insight that gave Graeme the wisdom to run the operation, not as an enforcement exercise, but more as an education with the aim to raise awareness of the safety issues with drivers. Judging by the social media responses, he definitely achieved that. Thousands of RVers around the country took notice of what went on and have started to question their own status.

Evidence of this can be seen in the reaction on social media to posts, one by myself and the other by Mr Matt Sutton, who manages the very popular Caravanning and Camping Facebook group with in excess of 120,000 members. The posts showed ourselves weighing our rigs at public weighbridges. At last count, both posts had been viewed in excess of 270,000 times. Another subsequent post showing a link to our website where people can download a list of public weighbridges in each state received over 3,000 hits in 2 days.

A large number of boats were weighed as the area is popular with the fishing community

I was present at the Newmerella operation and watched how the weight checks were conducted and how Graeme and his team interacted with drivers during the checks. They were patient, methodical, friendly, and willing to discuss the issues in a helpful and constructive manner. Others present included representatives from the Australian Caravanning Club who were also on hand to talk to drivers and assist with the overall goal of education. It was very impressive. Drivers were given advice on how to reduce weight and the effects of weight distribution on stability. All drivers were given printed information detailing a step by step process to assist them to establish their empty and loaded weights and how to use a weighbridge. All drivers were spoken to in regards to fatigue and taking rest stops. A TAC handout was given to drivers describing the effects of fatigue. I spoke to many drivers as well and everyone I spoke to said they were pleased with the approach and valued the advice given to them.

One area of concern that was addressed in a sterner manner was the lack of towing mirrors fitted to a number of vehicles. Many drivers who pulled up without towing mirrors defended their lack of compliance but found themselves loosing that argument very quickly. This is a subject for another day but one worth keeping in mind.

The outcomes from this operation are many but some stand out, in particular in relation to the overall desire of caravanners to become more knowledge about the safety aspect of their activity. In this respect, it is now up to the authorities, the media and industry associations to start to develop and publicise this information on a broader scale.

Representatives from the Australian Caravan Club were on hand to lend assistance and advice to drivers

There is another outcome from Newmerella that I believe needs even greater promotion and follow up, and it relates to the manufacturing sector of the RV industry. The issues surrounding the accuracy (or lack thereof) of compliance plates on new caravans and campers are well known and have recently received a lot of main stream media attention through the activities of Ms Tracey Leigh and her Lemon Caravans and RVs facebook group. Others like Phil Sanchez of the Shonky Caravan Builders/Dealers facebook group have also been challenging the industry by publically naming and shaming builders and dealers who are allegedly involved in some decidedly dodgy practices. Industry experts like Mr Colin Young from the Caravan Council of Australia have also been extremely vocal in their condemnation of the industry and its severe lack of regulation. Newmerella should be a signal to the RV manufacturing industry that law enforcement agencies are now starting to look very carefully at the issue and realise that it will be only a matter of time before they become the focus of investigations.

Everyone involved in the RV lifestyle, from beginning to the end, has now been put on notice that the authorities are aware of the situation and are now prepared to do something about it.

So what happens now?

Well, that will depend on many things, not least will be the value placed on further activities of this nature by the authorities involved on the day. I know the recommendation in the follow up of Newmerella include conducting more weighing operations around the state of Victoria and to continue along the path of focusing on education before enforcement…for now. A closer examination of dual cab utes towing big loads is something that is being considered.

At times, there was a bit of a wait to be checked

However, for Newmerella to be truly successful will require more than just further police operations. Those involved in the RV media and its representative bodies need to stand up and show their support for greater awareness, better adherence to the law and a genuine effort to further educate and prepare RVers of all types to ensure they are compliant with regulations and not overweight.

More importantly we need the RV manufacturing and retail industry to get their heads out of the sand and take responsibility for their part in the issue.

Mr Gary Moreland, who writes for Caravan and Motorhome magazine, who was also present at Newmerella, said something on the day that resonated with me. He described how the trucking industry introduced a chain of responsibility when it came to safety. In essence it means that everyone in the chain from industry regulators, RV Manufacturers, dealer companies and the drivers share varying degrees of responsibility for safety and, likewise, share the accountability when safety is compromised.

A large percentage of camper trailers were overweight

Gary believes the RV industry in this country needs to adopt a similar approach. Rather than working in isolated silos, everyone needs to take ownership of their part in the problem and work together to find solutions. As is the case of a regular motor vehicle, the compliance plate on an RV, be it a caravan, a camper trailer, a boat or a motorhome, is a legal document and it should be treated as one and enforced as one.

Graeme’s operation at Newmerella is an enormous step forward in the path to safer RV motoring and will likely have already saved lives. But for this to be truly successful requires others in the industry, including those who are active on social media, to carry the momentum forward, but they must work together in order to achieve this common goal. As for the rest of us, the average motorist who just happens to tow a caravan, a camper or a large boat, we need to step up and take some responsibility for our own actions. We will not be able to plead innocence for ever or go on blaming the manufacturer of our RV for our situation.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse and right at this moment, the onus is on us to comply with the law.

I urge everyone who reads this to get your rig down to a weighbridge and get your weights checked. Even if you spend the effort to ensure you have not exceeded your tow vehicle’s gross combined mass (GCM), you will have achieved something and taken one big step forward towards ensuring your own safety and that of others on the road around you.

Safe travels

Let’s hope this this becomes a common sight at a weighbridge near you…!

Weighbridges in Australia to download.

Putting Olaf and Sven on the public weighbridge in Broadford, on the Hume Highway, Victoria. This is open 24hrs a day and is fully automated with a large digital display. Very convenient and free of charge.
Following on from the Police operation in Newmerella where caravans, campers and boat trailers were weighed and drivers advised of their result against their vehicle's rating, there has been a flurry of activity on the various Facebook groups and caravanning forums with many drivers wanting to know where to go and get their rigs weighed.

Well, thanks to our friends at Victoria Police and Vic Roads, we have a list of all available public weighbridges in Australia. So if all the talk of police weighing operations has got you a bit concerned about your rig's weight, now you can find the public weighbridge closest to you.

You can view the list or download it for yourself using the links below.  There's a couple of other links may be of interest as well.

Safe Travels

Police Caravan Weight Safety Checks at Newmerella Victoria

Aerial view of the rest stop in Newmerella where the operation was conducted showing a number of trailers lined up ready for inspection.

Here’s a very brief update on the Police Operation at Newmerella where caravan, campers and other larger trailers were checked for compliance with weight restrictions and other general requirements.

Victoria Police worked together with Vic Roads and the Sheriff’s department to conduct a major road safety operation that included blood alcohol checks, licence and registration checks, outstanding fines or registration payments and, in particular, safety checks of larger trailers including caravans, camper trailers and boat trailers.  This was conducted on the 4th and 5th January, 2017, at the rest stop in Newmerella Victoria on the busy Princess Highway.

With regards to caravan and trailer checks component of the operation, it was largely an education and safety awareness exercise. No one was fined for being overweight. I did see one defect notice issued to a driver who’s boat trailer had incorrectly rated tyres for the weight being carried.

Officers from Vic Police and Vic Roads with their checklists ready to begin the safety check of this caravan. The scales can be seen on the side of the road ready to use.
There were fines issued for drivers who did not have towing mirrors fitted where required.
Here you can see how the scales were used to measure the load on each wheel. The total weight was derived from the sum of all individual readings from each wheel.

A full report will be issued by the police on the results of the operation but I can tell you that overall most trailers were either right on their maximum weight or were overloaded. Some vehicles were also overloaded in terms of their tow ball load and rear axel loadings. Interestingly, many camper trailers were overloaded and this was a bit of a surprise to those of us observing proceedings.

Most drivers were appreciative of the information and guidance provided with many not being aware of the critical state of their rigs. A few were not entirely pleased especially if they had recieved assurances from the manufacturer of ther caravan of its weight carrying capabilities.

A number of drivers came to Newmerella specifically to have their rigs checked as did this couple with their new Elite caravan.

The day was observed by representatives from the Australian Caravan Club Ltd, Everything Caravan and Camping Facebook Group, the Caravanners’ Forum and other organisations. All were very impressed with the operation and how it was conducted. It was agreed that further promotion of the operation and its associated safety message must continue and all agreed to collaborate on achieving this outcome.

From my perspective, it was an extremely worthwhile exercise and it was a privilege to be there to watch the dedicated members of Vic Police and Vic Roads go about their work in a professional and helpful manner. I spoke to a number of drivers who had been tested and they were all appreciative of the advice and assistance offered. Many were grateful for having the opportunity to get their rigs checked.

Surprisingly, there were a large number of overweight camper trailers. Many owners not aware of their weight restrictions and limited cargo capacity.

Of particular note was the number of drivers who had heard about the operation on social media prior to the event and came down specifically to get their rigs checked. This, to me, is an amazing outcome that just goes to show that attitudes are changing and that people are genuinely wanting to ensure their rigs are legal.

This was the first real, widely publicised, safety operation specifically aimed at caravans, boats and all large trailers. The social media campaign of this operation had, to this point, reached well over 250,000 people who are members of the RV and boating communities. It is the start of a whole new approach that could have far reaching implications, not just for folks like ourselves, but for the manufacturers, law eforcement in other states, industry regulators, and so on. This is great momentum for continued improvements in towing safety.

I’ll be publishing a more detailed report later.  Until then, safe travels…!

Caravaners the Subject of Police Safety Operation

We can now confirm that as part of the current Operation Roadwise, police in the East Gippsland area will be out in force over the holiday period to educate road users on caravan safety.

Local police, with the assistance of VicRoads and the Sheriff, will set up a site at the Newmerella Rest Stop on Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th January from 9.30am where, amongst other tasks, they will educate travellers about caravan and tow vehicle weights, general safety around towing and how to manage fatigue on long journeys.

Location for the Police Operation in Newmerella Victoria. Image curtesy Google Maps.

Acting Sergeant Graeme Shenton said the objective is not to fine every driver with a caravan that may be overweight or non-compliant with vehicle standards, rather they want to use this opportunity to educate and generate discussion around towing safety and road safety in general. Obviously, if there are any major issues with your registration, road worthiness or if you have any outstanding fines, you can expect a little more than a ‘discussion’.

We also understand representatives from various media outlets, forums, magazines, clubs, blog sites and Facebook Groups will be on site to provide first hand reporting on the operation itself. This open approach will ensure that an ongoing positive discussion about towing safety takes place in both mainstream and social media.

Again, we would encourage travellers not to avoid the area but to take advantage of the opportunity to find out whether or not they are, in fact, legal. It is rare that you can openly discuss towing safety issues with the officers who are actually tasked with enforcing the law. It will certainly be better than some of the advice and opinions shared on forums and social media.

Victoria Police will release a small media piece on the morning of the 4th on their news website and their Facebook page with further details about the Newmerella operation.

Merry Christmas and Safe Travels.

Christmas competition time

Thanks to Redarc, the Australian manufacturer of portable, vehicular power solutions, we have 2 x Tow Pro Elite electronic brake controllers to give away.

To win, just like our Facebook page, if you haven’t done so already, and reply to the post about this compete in 20 words or less why you want or need a Tow Pro Elite brake controller.

The entry judged the most original will win one and the entry with the funniest answer will win the other.

Entries close 9pm, 1 January 2017 and the winners announced the next day.

For more information about the Redarc Tow Pro Elite, visit their website.

Good luck and Merry Christmas.

 

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

With less than a week to Christmas, are you struggling with some last minute gift ideas?  Or are you being asked for gift ideas for yourself and you’re struggling to come up with suggestions that are family budget friendly?  Well here’s a few ideas that may fit the bill especially as they are very much aimed at the caravanner or camper.

Everyone who is into camping in any way will always appreciate a good torch as a present and the Arlec 2-In-1 Utility Torch with 180 Lumen Flood Light and 3 LED Spotlight is sure to please. I got one yesterday and I am completely amazed at how good it is.  The torch light is not too bright but it’s certainly useable.  The work light however is outstanding.  It will easily flood an area of 25 square meters with useful light.   It has a convenient hook for hanging the light as well as a magnet that can attach to most metal surfaces.  Considering it uses just 3 AAA batteries, which are included for a change, it is amazing.  Bunnings sell them for less than $10.  I don’t think you can buy more light for less money.

The Arlec 2-In-1 Utility Torch is a ripper.

While on the subject of torches, how many times have you gone to get the torch from your glovebox, gone to switch it on and….nothing.  The batteries are flat.  Happens more times that we care to admit.  I once had a very expensive torch that killed the batteries and they swelled up so much, I couldn’t get them out again and had to throw the thing away.  So now I carry a couple of wind up or dynamo powered torches.  These are quite brilliant.  Wind the handle a few times and you have good emergency lighting.  There are literally hundreds available from most hardware and camping stores and they can be bought for less than $20. Some even have a radio in them making them more useful in an emergency.

If I had to name one task with the van that I hate, it would be filling up the water tanks.  The filler constantly backpressures unless you keep the flow rate so low that it take ½ hour to fill one tank.  We have 3 on the Roadstar.  Not much fun at all.  But one of these hose adaptors that fit down the neck of the filler changes all that.  No more hassles or an unwanted drenching.  You could make one yourself from a length of black irrigation hose and a few connections or you can buy one ready made from a RV accessories store.  Either way, you’ll make someone happy for less than $20.

The recent wet weather across the country has resulted in a proliferation of insects including flies.  Some of the warmer areas of the country are scourged with plagues of the sticky bugs.  If you know of someone who is about to travel to inland Australia, they may appreciate a pair of personal fly nets that fit over their hats and stop flies attaching their face.  These are very cheap and widely available from camping and outdoor stores.

A collapsible kettle. Just one of the many such items available from www.CaravanRVCamping.com.au

Caravanners are always struggling to find space to store everything as well as save weight where possible.  Well you can help that special someone with their quest by getting them one of the many collapsible camping accessories.  They are normally made from silicon and the array of available utensils and cookware is just amazing.  Kettles, food bowels, even wash up sinks can be found in a collapsible silicon product.  Most are relatively cheap and available from camping and variety stores everywhere.

A few months ago there was a big recall on portable gas cooktops that used cheap gas canisters for fuel.  Well, many of us had to destroy the ones we had and, if any of your family members are like me, they may not have replaced them with a newer safe version. They are now on the market again and a single burner unit sells for about $25 and the double burner models are anything up to about $50.  These cooktops are so convenient and very cheap to run.  They make a great Christmas present.

Most caravans will have a hot water system and the majority will have a sacrificial anode in the tank.  I reckon these are the worst design things ever as the anode’s don’t seem to last very long.  With us all going on holidays after Christmas, one of the items that needs to be checked is the anode and bets are it will need replacing.  Fortunately they are extremely cheap and can be purchased from just about any caravan accessory store for less than about $20.  May seem like a strange gift but I’ll bet its appreciated when the time comes.

A good selection of spare parts and tools to handle most emergencies.

There are some items that everyone should store in the caravan or camper for dealing with emergency repairs.  Things like fuses, wire ties, gaffer tape, hose clamps and assorted electrical connectors are always needed so why not put together a small emergency kit as a gift.  You can get most of the items from places like the the Reject shop.  You should be able to make a pretty comprehensive kit for less than $20.

One of the best things we ever bought for our Webber BBQ is a set of silicon BBQ mats.  They transformed the Baby Q for us and they are pretty cheaply available from specialist BBQ outlets or online.   If you know someone who has one of these, they will thank you for ever if you get them a set of these mats.

If none of these gift ideas appeal in any way, you can always resort to a gift card.  I know I would appreciate one for stores like BCF or Bunnings.  Even one for iTunes or Google Play Store will be appreciated by the caravanner or camper in your family.

Hopefully these gift ideas have helped solved some of your gift buying dilemmas this Christmas.

Safe Travels…!


Police Operation on Caravan Safety

Rumours have started to circulate that Vic Police will be running a blitz targeting caravanners with even the popular Caravan and Motorhome On Tour magazine running an article on the subject. Well, while nothing can be confirmed, we have been told there is definitely substance to the rumour.

Photo from the Police/Vic Roads operation in May 2016
Last May you will recall there was a specific operation in Cann River, Victoria that targeted (amongst others) caravanners where rigs were weighed on set of portable scales. The pictures we were able to obtain and share (with appropriate permission) showed in no uncertain detail what was happening, busting a national rumour that had persisted for many years.

Well, the word I have from the same source is that a similar operation is in the planning but, this time, it is part of an overall strategy to 'educate travellers about caravan and tow vehicle weights, general safety around towing and how to manage fatigue on long journeys'.

During holiday periods, police have found 'there is an increase in the number of motorists towing caravans and boat trailers, with many being first time towers' or lacking experience towing long heavy loads. Recent media stories and videos of incidents showing caravan rollovers has also raised police concerns.

Some people will need more 'educating' than others...!
Police are also very aware that the public perception can be that these operations are just an exercise in revenue raising. I know this is not the case as the costs associated with such an exercise, especially over the holiday period, would greatly surpass the total of any fines issued. So this time there is a real focus on the need to 'educate and generate discussion around towing safety and road safety in general'.

We have maintained that caravanners who do the right thing have nothing to fear from being asked to pull in for an inspection and we would encourage travellers to take advantage of the opportunity to find out whether or not they are in fact legal. Safety should be everyone’s number one priority on the roads especially when towing big loads.

Stay tuned for more details.

Police Operation. Cann River. May 2016

Original Article Caravan and Motorhome on Tour

Christmas Holiday To-Do List

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by and we are fast approaching the holiday season. Like many others, we’ve planned to take the van away for a quick trip to the coast and our thoughts have turned to getting the van and car ready for the trip. It has reminded me that we have quite a few handy hints ant tips on this site that are extremely useful at this time of year. 

I thought it would be a good idea to put them all together in one post so that they can be used as a sort of To-Do list before you head off. 

We hope you find this useful. Safe travels.

Avoid Buying a Lemon Caravan..!

The internet is littered with stories of people who have bought a new caravan or camper that is so riddled with faults, that their dream RV is best described as an utter nightmare.  Its very sad reading these stories and they do make you wonder why there is not more regulation in the RV industry in this country.  I have often wondered what prospective buyers could look out for when shopping around for a new caravan or camper that may help them spot a potential lemon.

You can only imagine what has led this owner to physically label their caravan a lemon.
There are some very basic things you can do as part of your research.  Searching internet forums, product review sites and social media groups is one way to educate yourself about what brands have good reputations and what brands don’t. Be careful about believing everything you read.  Some people will sing the praises of their purchase all day despite having experienced many issues while others will rant and rave about the smallest problems that could have been resolved with a little diplomacy.  What will become clear is that some brands are over represented and we would advise you to steer clear of them.

Strong underpinnings are key to a caravan's longevity especially in Australia. Vans made for the European or US markets may not necessarily stand up to these conditions over the longer term unless they have been specifically modified. Water stains on plywood flooring as well as exposed plumbing/wiring are further concerns in this case.
In addition to the internet, you can get a pretty good idea about a caravan manufacturer’s quality by having a real close look at what they have on display in their showrooms and sales yards.

We live in an area that could literally be described as Australia's Caravan Central. The northern suburbs of Melbourne, especially around the Campbelfield area, are home to a majority of the Australian caravan manufacturers and, given their close proximity to where we live, it is all too convenient for us to waste an hour or two checking out the latest vans on display. On occasion, friends may ask us to checkout a particular van they may be interested in which we are more than happy to do. It gives us a unique insight into the current state of caravan manufacturing in the area and we get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s on offer.

What astounds me is that, with the level of technology available to manufacturers today, some really don’t seem to have kept pace with customer demands and continue to produce what I would regard as a very average product. What’s more, their display vans seem to showcase a general lack of attention to detail, poor design and shoddy workmanship.  If prospective customers could see past all the glitter and fancy interiors and start to look for the telltale signs of poor workmanship, they may be able to save themselves a world of heartache after parting with their hard earned cash.

With this in mind, I went around to a couple of caravan retailers in the area and had a look at what was on offer.  Here’s is a selection of photos that I took when visiting the ‘showrooms’ of three quite popular brands of caravans.  What I found was really shocking.  Some of the issues I saw would be classes as simple design faults that could have been rectified with a little more thought. Others issues, like those shown below, were clearly poor quality workmanship.  They are real world examples of the sort of things that prospective buyers should be looking out for when shopping around for a new caravan.

Poorly Designed Storage

img_3740
Tunnel boots should be capable of carrying all your dirty outdoor gear.
While the tunnel boot in this particular van is quite large, its use is somewhat restricted in that it is clearly not water resistant or fully sealed. Further there are electrical components and exposed wiring that could be damaged by the movement of stored items like the rafters in this example. Personally I like to see a tunnel boot that is fully sealed and lined with galvanised steel sheeting and no electrical fittings except perhaps some lighting. It is much more practical for this type of storage given the sort of stuff that will be packed in here.  It would also help prevent moisture getting into the caravan's frame.

 Sloppy Application of Sealant

img_4897
Gone a bit heavy with the silicon sealant.
There are some things that just look terrible on a brand new van and this picture of overuse of silicon sealant on the roof join is a prime example. Apart from looking absolutely horrible, it just shows a lack of care and attention to detail during the manufacturing process. Not a good look on a showroom floor. However, with water leaks being the biggest issue with new caravans these days, you definitely want the manufacturer to take extreme care in this part of the build process. In this case, you would have to question whether or not the sealant had been properly applied throughout the entire build of this particular van.

Poor Quality Control

img_4890
Please don't open the drawers...!
I found this drawer half fallen off its rails and no amount of adjustment would make it fit back properly. I tried to fix it but this is as good as I could get it without dismantling it completely. Granted this is easily fixed but for it to be like this on the showroom floor is pretty ordinary. Again, you would have to question the integrity and strength of all the internal cabinetry.

Poor Dust/Water Sealing

img_4889
Dust in the van is a badge of honor.
The pipes and hoses in this photo are routed inside one of the cabinets and down through the floor of the van. With no sealing around them, daylight is clearly visible through the holes. This means any dust or water thrown up while driving can easily get inside the van.  If you were driving on a dirt road, the whole inside of the van would be covered in the dust that comes through holes like this. The screw left lying in one of the holes near the water pipe is more than a bit of a concern....! When looking around at display vans, have a good look inside the cupboards and check to see the holes for routing of plumbing have been properly sealed around the pipes themselves.

Poor Weather Sealing

img_4888
Nice gap in the edging.
This door provides access to the front tunnel boot of this particular van. Apart from the latch not being adjusted to ensure the door shuts tightly (there was about 1.5cm of free play in it) there’s a nice crack at the corner where the metal trim meets that could easily result in water and dust ingress into the boot area. A little extra care during the assembly process would have avoided this.

Weak Door Latches

img_4885
Is plastic the best choice for this latch?
This outside entertainment box looks pretty good however the door latch is made from fairly light plastic. When I went to open it, it felt like the latch would easily break if I wasn’t gentle with it. Ok....it’s a small point and probably more a design issue, but if it did break it would be a fairly expensive fix as the whole cabinet would need replacing.

Slap-Stick Workmanship

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This is a display van isn't it...?
The padding above the door to this van had fallen off completely and it's little wonder why. It was held on with just 2 strips of cheap double sided tape and a few blobs of silicon sealant which is not a suitable adhesive for this purpose. As difficult as it is to believe, I can assure you this photo was taken inside a display van that was on a showroom floor.  I suppose you could say that the manufacturer was not trying to attempt to hide their poor workmanship from prospective buyers...!

Painted Chassis

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And the rust is included free of charge...!
This photo is a clear example of why I do not like a painted steel chassis. This was a brand new van and, already, rust has started to appear in several spots. The paint on this van looked to be nothing more than cheap undercoat. Its also a really shoddy paint job with chips and scratches everywhere.  What really concerns me is it looks like the whole chassis was first assembled and then painted as evidenced by the paint on the brake cable, painted nuts and bolts and the flaking paint on the safety chains.  Rust is also starting to appear in some of the welds.  The big danger with this is that there a good chance there's is no paint on the plate where the tow hitch is bolted onto.  Moisture gets trapped in between the plate and the hitch and eventually rust will weaken the metal leading to failure of the hitch itself.

Poor quality fixtures

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You wont need that table.
The folding table in the dinette of this van was very poorly made. The hinges were very loose and, when stored in the travel position, the whole structure moved about 2cms in any direction. Even over good roads, this would eventually shake itself apart.  The storage shelves underneath are also pretty useless.  You certainly couldn't store anything there while travelling on the road.

Now I purposely haven't mentioned the brands of caravan in this post.  I wouldn't want to start war of the brands on this site.  And, really, that isn't the point of this article.  What we want to do is provide potential buyers of new caravans with an idea of what to look out for regardless of which brand or brands they may favor.

Spotting a potential lemon caravan can be very difficult as the faults can often be hidden from plain sight.  While that may not be the case in these vans, it is still too easy to be distracted by all the bright lights, shiny wheels and flashy features. Buyers need to be able to look beyond a the bling and have a good look at how the van was put together.

Hopefully by seeing the faults in these pictures, potential buyers will begin to understand the sort of things to look out for and, in the process, get a better idea of what makes a quality RV.  Armed with this knowledge, buyers can increase their chances of avoiding buying a very expensive lemon.

Safe Travels

What to avoid in an off road caravan

Essential Caravan Features

Protect your rights buying or selling 2nd hand

Police conduct caravan weight checks

Latest Trip Report – Stradbroke Island and Crescent Head 2016.

imageRead all about our latest epic trip to North Stradbroke Island and Crescent Head with the new Safari Tamer and Landcruiser.

Click here for trip report.

It was a brilliant trip and one we learnt a lot from.  Both the car and caravan performed perfectly, despite the best efforts of the owners…!

Now to start planning the next big one…!

Safe travels everyone