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.

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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.

 

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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…!


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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

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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.

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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

img_4896
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

img_4891
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

img_4884
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

Protect your rights buying or selling 2nd hand

Police conduct caravan weight checks

Essential Caravan Features

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