Why is Gross Combined Mass (GCM) So Important?

When it comes to trying to reduce your rig’s load, finding a place to start can be very confusing. We recommend looking at your tow vehicle’s GCM and working your way from there.

Following on from the police operation at Newmerella, lots of discussions have taken place on social media and various caravanning forums.  That is an excellent outcome.  If we don’t all start talking about the issues raised, we will never be able to solve our weight issues.  One thing is obvious and that is many people do not have any idea what their vehicle’s gross combined mass is or how to calculate it.  Worse still, many drivers are unaware how this can seriously effect the amount of weight you can add to your rig when towing at your maximum towing capacity.  Hopefully the following will give you some idea of the problem.

Toyota Landcruisers manufactured prior to mid 2015, commonly referred to as pre DPF models, are unique in that their compliance plate does not state a GCM. In this case, the GCM is taken to be the Gross Vehicle Mass or GVM plus the maximum rated towing capacity, which in the case of the cruiser is 3500kgs. The standard cruiser will therefore have a GCM of 6,850kgs. In our case, we have had a GCM upgrade. This adds confusion to the issue but from what I’ve been told by a former inspector from Vic Roads, the same rule applies and the new GCM for our vehicle is 7,300kgs.

GCM or Gross Combined Mass is probably the biggest issue facing caravanners at the moment especially those who drive one of the later model dual cab utes. Every vehicle that comes into this country will have a GCM figure on its compliance plate. The only exception I am aware of if the 200 series Toyota Landcruiser (pre DPF models). That particular vehicle’s GCM is taken to be GVM (or gross vehicle mass) plus maximum towing capacity.

To get an idea of the problem, we need to look at some practical examples. The table below shows what happens when you load up the 10 of the most popular tow vehicles their maximum towing capacity.

Remember these are all weights of tow vehicles with no accessories fitted.  As you can see the Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger have less that 400kgs remaining cargo capacity before they exceed their GCM. Given the popularity of these two vehicles and the likelihood they will be towing up around these weights, knowing your all up weight compared to the tow vehicle’s rated GCM becomes extremely critical. Depending on how much stuff you have loaded in the tub of the ute, the van may not even be at max weight and you could still be over.

This is the display at the Broadford Weighbridge. It shows the load on both axels of the Landcruiser and the total weight on the caravan’s axels. The three figures combine to give the total weight of the rig in the bottom right. This is the figure you want to be below your tow vehicle’s GCM. Get this right and you’re well on the way to ensuring you’re legal on the road.

If you have any options fitted to the tow vehicle, your remaining load will be reduced even further.  In fact, if you consider that the average steel bulbar weighs around 40kg, a tow hitch with gooseneck and weight distribution bars will weigh another 50kg, a car fridge full of food might weigh another 20kgs, by the time you’ve added two adults at 90kgs each, you’ve got very little remaining capacity to play with.

This is why it is so important to take your rig down to a weighbridge and have it checked.  Even if you can just do a drive on and drive off and obtain your rigs total weight, you will know where you stand in relation to your GCM.  Its a great place to start on the road to ensuring you are not overweight.

Safe travels.

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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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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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Aussie Traveller Rafter DIY Installation.

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Aussie Traveller Rafters add much needed support to the awning, preventing flapping and ensuring water doesn’t pool when it rains.

Today I had a bit of spare time to install a set of Aussie Traveller Awning Rafters. Yes….I did it myself.

I’m reasonably handy with most DIY projects however the prospect of drilling holes into our near new caravan was not a task I was looking forward to. One stuffed up measurement and I could have ended up with a hole or two where they shouldn’t be.

There’s a golden rule in any DIY project; measure twice, drill once. It’s a good mantra to have especially with this install.

img_5560Step 1: Measure out the rafter positions. Depending on the number of rafters you need to install, you need to measure out where they will go. I was installing 2 rafters so I needed two equal distant spaces. I measured from the edge of the awning material itself as this correlates back to the roller perfectly ensuring both ends line up.

img_5559Step 2: Screw in the bracket. The instructions say that you need to ensure the bracket is about 2.5cm lower than the awning itself. I found that this was not so critical and I just screwed my brackets into the metal strip that secures the awning itself. I figured the panel behind it had already been drilled into so it was a safe bet that I could drill in line with the rivets without hitting any wires. If you’re not sure, drill your holes very slowly so as to control the drill when it reaches the inside edge of the panel. The kit came with wood screws but given I was screwing into metal, I used my own self drilling sheet metal screws. I drilled pilot holes first just to be sure.

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Make sure the drill bit is just big enough for the rafter to fit into. You want a snug fit as any movement will expand the hole and risk it rattling in the wind.

Step 3: Drill the holes in the roller. Before drilling the holes, install the rafter at the van wall end and check to see the place you’ve market for the hole in the roller lines up. Again, the instructions show the holes being drilled above the grove where the shade slips in. This was not going to work for us so I just ensured the awning was completely unrolled and drilled the hole in the same approximate position.

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I could have probably mounted the bracket a bit higher but this is fine. There’s plenty of metal in there for the screws to get a good bite and a secure fitting.
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The roller end of the awning.

That’s it. Job done. It really is a simple install anyone can do. We’re expecting some rain and wind tonight so it will be interesting to see how it holds up. So far it feels very solid and with the assistance of ratchet strap tie downs, I expect it will survive pretty severe conditions.

Safe travels

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Why I Love Caravan Parks…!

I just know there are going to be a great many caravaners and campers out there who are going to be mortified by this, but I have to admit it, I really do love Caravan Parks. To pinch a line from Forest Gump, they are just like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

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The caravan park at Cresent Head NSW is in an ideal location but like many parks, it can be a bit cramped at times.

Take the park we are at right know. It’s at a place called Cresent Head, NSW. It is right on banks of an estuary and beach and is an ideal location to get away from the city and enjoy a seaside getaway. It’s also a fairly big park and the layout ensures you have only just enough space for yourself. That said, some sites are quite cosy so you will have little choice but to say hi to your neighbors. I don’t really mind this as more often than not, fellow RVers tend to be kindred spirits and we generally really like the people we meet.  There are times when that’s not the case but you make the best of the situation. Right now, our current neighbors are lovely and we have shared a couple of happy hours and afternoon teas with them. We had a very windy night a couple of nights ago and I made sure they were OK in their roof top tent. They were appreciative of my concern. I really get a lot out of this sharing and caring attitude that seems to exist in caravan parks.

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When this is your view from your site, there’s little to complain about…!

Caravan parks are also a great opportunity for a sticky-beak at a plethora of other caravans and RVs of every size, shape and age.  Most RVers are only too happy to show off their rigs and share the modifications they’ve made and the accessories they have had success using. We have learnt so much from talking to other park residents over the years.

Theres so much you can learn just by introducing yourself to others at the caravan park.  Where to go to get a good meal, where the fish are biting, what are to better attractions around the area and, most importantly, where else they have been on their travels that might be included on your next itinerary…!

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The sheer variety of rigs at caravan parks is a great source of information if you’re prepared to go say hi to your neighbors.

Of course, there is always the regular entertainment of watching people packing up and leaving and, more importantly, the new arrivals as they attempt to park their massive rigs into the smallest of spots. Kylie and I just love Witching Hour…!

As I said at the beginning, there’s a lot of travellers out there who don’t like caravan parks. Yes they can be expensive, amenity blocks can vary greatly in quality and cleanliness, park rules can be a bit restrictive and, sometimes they can be occupied by undesirable tennents. But these days there is so much information available online to give you a good idea of what a caravan park is like and, using applications like WikiCamps, you can see what parks are available in a set location, compare prices and even read comments from past tennents. There really is no excuse to not find a great caravan park in any location these days.

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Some parks are just awesome like this one in Halls Gap near the Gramians National Park. Nice big grassy sites, plenty of shady trees, great amenities and wildlife all around.

With the trend in free camping growing exponentially, the days of viable caravan parks may be on the slide and I admit, we are making more of an effort to free camp these days, but I think for convenience and social interaction, caravan parks will always feature on our itineraries in one way or another.

Safe travels

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New additions to Olaf

With our impending trip to Stradbroke Island rapidly approaching, I thought it was about time I got busy with some additions to our Landcruiser, Olaf.

First off was the installation of a ScanGuage to monitor Olaf’s vital information like transmission temperature and fuel use.

13775476_1047165028701492_3516954095091178221_nNext was to put some 12v power outlets in the rear storage area so we can run our fridge and other accessories.

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As with anything we do to Olaf, Kylie doesn’t want it to look like the DeLorean from the movie Back to the Future.  She wants everything to look stock and no holes drilled in the trim.  Fortunately I managed to do this with both which made my life a lot easier.

I’m pretty happy with the results.  More detailed notes on the installations can be found at the links below.

Safe travels.

ScanGauge Installation and Review

12v Power Board for Rear Storage System

 

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Kylie’s Lego Caravan

You probably saw in the news how someone had built a full size working caravan out of Lego? Well this must have inspired something in Kylie. One thing she never played with when she was a child, but recently we saw a Lego caravan and 4wd on one of the caravan Facebook groups and she thought she would give it a go.

So after 2 nights of coming to terms with the intricacies of assembling Lego with long fingernails and the patience only someone of our age can understand, here’s the result.

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As you can imagine she is quite pleased with her efforts.

Since completing this project and sharing her experience online, many more caravan obsessed people have shared similar experiences with the same kit.  Good to know Kylie’s not the only one…!

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Safe Travels everyone…!

 

 

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RV Pre Holiday Checklist

christmas-caravan-desertIt’s that time of the year again when all the cobwebs are dusted off the caravan or camper in preparation for that annual family Christmas holiday. Unfortunately, with everyone’s busy lifestyle, it’s quite likely that the van hasn’t been used since last Christmas and, for many people, the only pre-trip preparation they will do is to literally dust off the cobwebs.

If this sounds familiar, we would strongly recommend that you get your RV checked and serviced by a professional, especially for items like the brakes and wheel bearings, before you leave.

Here is our Pre Holiday Checklist with some useful tasks you can perform yourself that could avert a disaster and ensure you have an enjoyable and relaxing holiday.

Merry Christmas and Very Happy New Year…..!

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My encounter with Brutus the Crocodile

imageIf you have a spare moment, do a Google search for pictures of Brutus the Crocodile.  He’s a 80 year old, 5.5 metre long one armed giant that lurks in the waters of the Adelaide river and stars in the Jumping Crocodile show, thrilling tourist with his amazing display.  He was recently seen (and reported in the local press) taking on a wild bull shark and winning…!  This is one bad arse crocodile.

Anyway, while on a recent trip to Darwin, we went of the Jumping Crocodile tour on the Adelaide river and its here that I had my close encounter with Brutus.

I was happily enjoying the tour and had my camera at the ready when Brutus appeared.  The tour guide made him jump a few times at the back of the boat which was fine.  Then he swung the bait towards the middle of the boat where I was sitting.  It was pretty close but I couldn’t tell too much, looking through the camera lenses.  Then Brutus decided it was time to make a lunge for the bait.  As you can see from the picture I took, he got extremely close to me.

31b02364-1729-5e87At the time I wasn’t immediately aware how close he was but the commotion that ensued sure changed that.  Everyone on the boat went nuts.  There was screaming, Kylie was going absolutely off her head, the girl sitting behind me was catatonic.  It was incredible.  I had no idea what had just happened.  The guy sitting in front of me got the best view.  He said the Croc’s chin was right against the bottom of the camera lens.  He missed my face by mere centimetres.

Anyway….all I know is I got a fantastic photo of the event and an awesome story to tell.

You can read the full trip report here.
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