The Technical Team at the Club holds a wealth of information and much of it is distilled in these pages.
If you’re looking for the right tyre for your motorhome or need to find a gas cylinder to use on the Continent, the chances are you will find the answer here.
Team members Ian Hewlett and Iain Geddes have both been active campers and caravanners since childhood. Now they regularly test cars and are involved in the Club’s annual Tow Car Awards. They also try out tents, trailer tents, caravans and motorhomes for the magazine’s On Test section and in their own time enjoy their own camping holidays.
Whether your question is about matching a tow car and caravan, how to use an electric hook-up or finding spares to repair your tent, you are likely to find the answer in these pages. But if not, you can ask the team by clicking below.
Can I leave my tourer plugged in over winter to charge the battery?
We suggest you avoid this. A happy battery is a fully-charged battery but leaving one permanently attached to anything other than a charger with dedicated maintenance trickle-charge ability will do more harm than good. We’ve just published our new battery charging Data Sheet that explains things further.
Is it acceptable to use domestic cleaning agents in my tourer?
If the surfaces are enamelled, stainless steel or covered in a tough polymer such as melamine or similar then domestic cleaning agents could be an option but you must be very careful. Many of the adjacent lightweight plastic panels and fittings will not tolerate exposure to such harsh chemicals. This applies to the plastic mouldings for washrooms, shower trays and sinks too and we strongly recommend you follow the guidance in the handbook when cleaning and caring for these materials.
What are the legal considerations of using a caravan with a motor mover on the highway?
As a caravan retrofitted with a motor mover is a relatively modern innovation it doesn’t fit into current driving licence categories. Even Category K, which includes pedestrian-controlled vehicles, is not appropriate. So until there’s a clear legal status for a caravan with a motor mover it can be seen as exempt from the driving licence.
Another important aspect is insurance. Any third party risks at the point of coupling and decoupling is generally covered by your car’s third party cover, however other manoeuvring actions away from the car are not.
Most caravan insurers will cover third party risk where a motor mover is involved but they may also insist the operator is competent to use the equipment and be at least 16 years old. If you are not insured, any damage liability will be the operator’s personal responsibility.
Read more »
When should you reproof a tent?
When you start to see a significant amount of water penetration into the tent’s fabric – before it starts leaking - is the time to do it. The tent must be clean and free from loose objects to get best from a re-proofer. Make sure you get the right sort of proofer for your tent fabric.
Which is best to tow with, manual or automatic transmission?
Classically the advice was nearly always a manual. However in the last decade we’ve witnessed a considerable improvement in automatic transmissions, not just in fuel efficiency and reliability but increases in the number of gears included.
As a result automatics can now be really good for towing, both on the open road and for fine manoeuvring. It’s no accident that the bulk of our Tow Car Awards winners have been automatics over recent years.
We have a transmission datasheet if you wish to have a deeper understanding of the topic.
Read more »
Where do I find a place to park my motorhome when visiting a new location?
The Club doesn’t have a database of such parking areas, however, all Local Authorities have responsibility to maintain and manage parking within their areas and you can ask them where motorhomes may be parked.
There is a useful external web resource called motorhome parking that has gathered all the contact links into one place, which at least makes the search a little easier. Also it may be worthwhile asking the staff at the campsite as they often have good local knowledge.
Read more »
My tent and its guy lines sag a lot after the rain – should I tighten them?
Unless the tent is really sagging, avoid the temptation to change anything. When the tent eventually dries it will settle back to roughly the tension it was and be back in shape. If you tighten it up when it is wet there’s a risk it’ll be over stretched once dry and this will be stressful for the stitching.
If you’ve had an issue where water has been puddling, for example, and it was necessary to tighten guys, be prepared to ease things off a little as it dries.
Read more »
Why is tyre safety month always in October?
TyreSafe, the industry organisation behind the safety campaign, has identified October as the UK’s wettest month. Although we should check our tyre pressures and general condition before every major journey and at least once a week, the message is reinforced in October to encourage everyone to be ready for winter and the worsening conditions that are likely to happen.
Over the years TyreSafe has done some superb safety campaigns and they are definitely worth looking at.Read more »
I see motorhomes and caravans leaking water from their drain pipes when being driven down the road. Is this legal?
This must not be done because it is unlawful. All grey wastewater must be discharged correctly at the site, where you’re permitted to do so, or taken home.
We appreciate this can be tricky when a motorhome is being used on a wild camping trip in Scotland, for example. However many campsites offer a motorhome service point for a modest fee where grey and black water can be safely discharged and fresh water taken on board.
Read more »
Can I tow with a hitchlock in place?
Historically the Club’s advice was not to tow with a hitchlock on, based on discussions with the emergency services. In the unlikely event of an incident on the road it’s just one more thing inhibiting recovery. More recent conversations have revealed that the fire and rescue services carry equipment that can deal with such locks as necessary.
Not all hitchlocks are designed in a way that makes towing feasible so you must satisfy yourself the security device does not interfere with the correct function of the hitch and overrun, which could reduce the effectiveness of the brakes. Also make sure the lock does not touch the handbrake lever when the overrun is compressed. If you have any doubts leave the hitchlock off when towing your trailer.
Read more »
What does ‘camping outfit’ mean?
Camping outfit or unit is a bit of jargon we’re guilty of using sometimes.
It simply means the primary piece of equipment you take camping. It could be a basic tent and a few bits that you bundle into the boot of your car. Alternatively it could be a car and caravan combination, a large American recreation vehicle (RV) or any other mobile dwelling in between.
Read more »
Is there a benefit to the extra cost of a wireless reversing camera for my motorhome?
The major benefit is that you don’t need to a run a cable from the rear of the motorhome to the front, which can be quite a chore. This doesn’t mean the installation is completely free of wires. The camera still needs power, for example, and this is typically taken from the reversing lamp. The display needs power too, though there are usually power sockets set in the dashboard. Depending on the layout and construction of your motorhome, such installations can still be difficult so are often best left to skilled technicians.
My new car has tyre pressure monitoring as standard. Can I add sensors to my caravan so the car can monitor these too?
At this time we’re not aware of any car system that can monitor trailer tyre pressures, even if the trailer sensors are factory fitted. You need a dedicated receiver for the trailer that’s generally fitted on the car’s dashboard.
It’s worth noting that not all car systems truly monitor the car’s tyre pressure. One common system monitors the effective wheel diameter through the anti-lock brake sensors. When a wheel appears to run consistently at a higher speed than the others, the on-board computer concludes its tyre pressure is reduced and flags a warning.
Read more »
How should you clean a tent?
There are dedicated tent cleaning products available from good camping stores. Make sure the one you choose is appropriate for the type of fabric in your tent. Follow the instructions carefully and pay attention to any guidelines about reproofing your tent afterwards as this is likely to be necessary.
See our dedicated tent care webpage for further information.Read more »
Does adding a luggage box to the back of my camper change its shipping length?
Yes, whenever the box is fitted it must be included in the shipping length. This applies for both campsites and booking a ferry.
Why are electric hook-up cables so long?
The wiring regulations dictate how a campsite’s pitch should be supplied with power and how the electrical system should be installed in a caravan. The same regulations also specify a lead of 25m length.
Though 25m may seem excessive, as this is the standard there will be pitches where you’ll need such a length.
We’ve seen some self-contained tent hook-up units with a lead considerably shorter than 25m. This could be a problem and it may be necessary to use an extension. We don’t recommend joining leads like this and if the weather turns bad you may have to unplug them. See our fact sheet for more simple guidance about electricity in tents.
Read more »
If I use a bigger bottle of gas is the pressure higher?
As long as you are changing like for like, such as a small butane bottle for a larger butane bottle, then the pressure of the gas given off remains the same, only the volume stored has increased so as long as the fitting on the top of the bottle is the same the cylinders will be interchangeable.
The advantage of a larger bottle is the gas price per kilo should be lower. However the downside is you’ll need to be able to carry it, transport it (upright) and store it.
Read more »
I’ve seen fans to assist fridges, why would I need one?
Assister fans are used with the absorption fridges used in almost all caravans and many motorhomes. If your fridge can run on gas then it’s probably an absorption one. The heat exchanger in the back of such fridges can struggle to work in the high temperatures you may experience in the South of France or Spain in the summer. Fans are fitted to aid airflow and keep the fridge working effectively.
In the UK and the northern portion of the Continental mainland you will probably not need one.
Read more »
What’s the largest-screen television we can use while camping? We’re concerned about the power requirements.
Modern flat-screen televisions do not necessarily consume a great deal. If you look on the back of the set you’re considering you’ll see a maximum power consumption in watt (W). From this you can calculate the current it will draw using our electricity datasheet.
If you’re looking at a larger set, consider how you’ll carry it safely because LCD and LED screens can be quite fragile.
Read more »
Where can I get my caravan inspected? It has been repaired but I’m not sure about the quality of the work.
If you require an impartial third party inspection with a report that could - if necessary - be used as evidence, you should use a member of a professional body such as the Institute of Automotive Engineer Assessors (IAEA).
You can find a local assessor on the Institute’s website and see the ones who list motorhomes or caravans as within the scope of their expertise.
Read more »
What do I do when I put my trailer tent away wet and it is still raining when I arrive home?
You should seriously consider re-opening the trailer tent even if it is raining if you have the space at home. Though it will continue to get soaked from the rain this is better than leaving the water trapped in the folds of the packed-down trailer. The downpour will eventually stop and it will dry out, then you can pack it away and there is much less risk of mould forming.
I found the Towing Matching Service worked well but the notes about noseweight were confusing.
We have listened to comments from members who used the service and made some amendments to the noseweight advice that’s generated.
Noseweight is an important aspect to consider when coupling a car and caravan as you don’t want to overload the car’s towbar. Ideally you will want a caravan noseweight that’s seven per cent of the caravan’s laden weight.
A lower weight is permissible but we don’t recommend a noseweight less than five per cent of the caravan’s laden weight.
The Towing Matching Service is free for members to use. Or you can join the Club here.
Read more »
When I’m working out my motorhome user payload should I include my passengers?
Yes, only an allowance for a driver and some personal effects of 75kg is included in the kerbweight of most motorhomes when it’s published. So it is essential the weight of your passengers is taken into account when you are loading your motorhome for a tour.
Can my campervan have its front seats converted to swivel seats to increase the living space?
In some circumstances this is possible but seek specialist advice from a dedicated conversion workshop. Also check whether the swivel bases are crash-tested and approved.
Conversion parts suppliers such as O’Leary stock a range of such seats but fitting is best left to a competent person if you have any doubts about what’s involved.Read more »
Why does my car appear to have two towing limits?
We’re seeing this from time to time. Some handbooks give a towing limit that appears quite high but it assumes there is only a driver in the car. The limit is reduced considerably when the car is fully loaded with passengers and luggage. The only way to be sure of a car’s limit is to check its VIN plate, which is usually stamped on to the chassis of the vehicle.
What’s the problem with children blowing bubbles on a campsite?
It’s worth being a little careful with bubble-blowing mixture on a campsite. Bubbles aren’t a problem in an open space but the detergents that help form the bubbles can have an effect on the water proofing on fabrics. So it is advisable to keep the bubble blowing away from – and ideally down-wind of – any pitched tents and awnings.
What is a ‘braked’ trailer?
Literally - a trailer with its own brakes.
It is important to know whether your trailer has brakes as many vehicles have different towing limits for trailers with and without brakes. Such information should be part of the towing vehicle’s technical specification in the handbook.
The legal Maximum Allowable Mass for a trailer without brakes is 750kg, however the towing vehicles limit may be lower than this. Also the law is clear - where brakes are fitted to a trailer they must work, regardless of its weight.
Read more »
How do I switch off my satnav’s speed camera warning feature when I am driving on the Continent?
The procedure varies between satnavs, but there will be an option to do this. You may need to refer to the manual.
If your machine is kept up-to-date automatically then it should self-switch to a mode suitable for that location, switching off or toning down the camera-warning message to suit local laws.
Read more »
My carbon monoxide (CO) alarm has gone off occasionally while I’ve been away even when I’ve not been using a gas appliance. What could cause this?
This may be a false alarm for toxic CO as the alarm sensor is sensitive to other gasses, including hydrogen.
There’s a strong possibility your leisure battery is giving off hydrogen. Even a sealed battery must have some form of gas vent. This process is usually associated with over charging or a battery in poor condition.
If you get an apparent false alarm from your CO detector, check your battery. If it is hot or there’s a sulphurous odour then turn off the charger and allow the battery to cool.
If the voltage drops quickly in this state the battery is damaged and will need to be replaced.
Read more »
Is it possible to link hook-up cables?
It shouldn’t be necessary to link hook-up cables in the UK. The wiring regulations effectively stipulate the distance between a pitch and the connection bollard so a 25m cable should service any pitch.
We recognise that in some cases, particularly on mainland Europe, it may be necessary to link cables. The 16A ‘blue plug’ connection is weather-resistant and is designed to withstand splashing rain but not immersion, so don’t let a join lie on the ground. Also avoid the temptation to wrap the join in a plastic bag as condensation is likely to find a way through the joins.
Read more »
I’m considering a seasonal pitch and putting an awning on my caravan for the duration. What should I take into account?
Assuming you’ve checked the site operator permits this, there’s an element of ‘you get what you pay for’ here. As is often the case, the most robust awnings are among the most expensive.
Many awning makers produce a range designed for seasonal pitching. They will be of a more resilient fabric to withstand the rigours of the weather, not just rain but ultra violet radiation from the sun too.
They’ll probably have more pegging points and personally I would choose steel poles over GRP for a seasonal pitch. They are heavy and not popular for touring, but robust when the weather’s inclement. Take advice from the retailer about storm tethering. Is it a temporary kit or can it be left permanently attached?
You should also think carefully about the peg type for the ground, the ones supplied may not be ideal for long-term use.Read more »
Is it wise to buy a new tourer at a show or exhibition?
A large show or exhibition can be an excellent time to buy, especially if there are extras being thrown in to encourage you to sign on the day.
However, remain mindful that a salesperson is a likely to be a skilled practitioner and he or she may steer you towards something that suits his or her targets more than your needs, though a good salesperson will listen to you and guide accordingly.
Also consider aftersales service. Who is it you’re buying from? Ideally you should purchase from a dealer that’s near your home or place of storage, in case of any warranty work.
You can read more about buying a caravan in our New to Caravans section.
Read more »
Can you use ordinary car petrol in a dual-fuel camping stove or lantern?
In a nutshell yes. Such kit will always work at its best with the manufacturer’s fuel, which has been blended for this purpose, but ordinary unleaded petrol is adequate. You may even be surprised how cleanly such stoves or lanterns will run when they’re well maintained and correctly pressurised. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Read more »
How can I heat my tent?
It is always challenging to consider bringing a heat source into a small textile structure. Some tents have been designed to have heating, for example some bell tents and tepees have been made to hold a dedicated solid fuel stove, with a route for the flue. If there’s no dedicated flue then do not use a combustion appliance – or even a take cooling barbecue inside – as the consequences could be fatal due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Most modern tents, even those made for all-season use, have not been designed for use with a heater. As a result, you should equip yourself appropriately for the climate and time of year you’re away. Proper thermal gear and high performance sleeping bags are readily available from good outdoor retailers.
We recognise some people use electric heaters when in a tent if the pitch has a hook-up point. We don’t want to stop this but we cannot stress enough that water and electricity are a dangerous combination and a tent can become very humid. You must consider turning off the heat in such circumstances. We have datasheets about electricity for tent users.
Read more »
Is it worth using a caravan or motorhome cover?
Caravan and motorhome covers certainly have a place and when any tourer goes into deep storage it’s worth considering one. A cover keeps the elements at bay (whether it strong sunshine or foul weather), and even barn storage benefits from a cover of sorts to reduce dust and stop birds soiling the exterior.
Tailored covers are generally the best as they can fit like a glove. If you prefer a cheaper generic cover then take great care when fitting all the tethers to make sure it cannot move when buffeted by the wind. Excess movement can cause premature wear. Also the tourer needs to be scrupulously clean before fitting your cover as dirt can act as an abrasive with any slight movement.
Read more »
I’ve had a new clutch and dual mass flywheel assembly fitted, should I run it in?
Modern vehicles are built to such fine tolerances that the historical sense of ‘running in’ a vehicle or a new major part is not the task it used to be. However you will find many car makers put advice in their handbooks about how to use the vehicle and there may be comments suggesting the vehicle is not used to tow until it has covered a prescribed distance. It would be prudent to check this advice and apply it to your vehicle with the new clutch assembly.
I get lots of condensation in my new awning, surely it is faulty?
Not necessarily. If you get the right (or perhaps wrong) combination of conditions including a lot of moisture in the ground (even if it seems dry at the surface) along with a significant difference in the air and temperatures it is possible for a large amount of condensation to form. So much that it seems as if the tent or awning is leaking even though it isn’t raining.
Tents and awnings should have been designed with sufficient fixed ventilation to minimise this, however in more temperate climates it may be necessary to leave some of the secondary ventilation open slightly to further aid airflow. The more sealed you make your awning the worse the condensation can become.
This is much less of an issue where breathable cotton-type tent materials are used but coated synthetic textiles will not allow the moisture through in the same way.
Read more »
I thought driving licences expired on your 70th birthday, but my new photocard licence has a ten year life even though I’m 68. How does this work?
Since its introduction the photocard licence has had a finite life, with a maximum of ten years, so it is important you check your licence to ensure it is in date and renew it as necessary.
The changes that occur on your 70th birthday still stand and it is important you read the documentation the DVLA sends carefully when you are nearing this age. We have a dedicated datasheet on driving licences for further reading.For licence holders of heavy goods or public service vehicles (HGVs and PSVs) the rules are different so you will need to check these requirement separately.
Read more »
At a recent service the technician told me the tyres on my caravan are five years old and I may wish to consider replacing them soon, how can this be when the caravan’s only three years old?
Due to the supply and demand, the length of the supply chain and batch manufacturing of tyres it's not unusual to find a caravan tyre that’s two years old before being fitted. Caravan tyres are generally light commercial van tyres and tend to be of a less common size so turnover can be slow.
Along with the tyre industry, the Club strongly recommends that tyres on all caravans, motorhomes and trailers are replaced at a maximum of seven years of age regardless of mileage or wear.
Some insurers have a cover term for caravans that will not pay out for tyre-related claims on tyres over five years old, unless you have proof they have had an annual inspection by a competent person.
For further reading on tyre age, see our new datasheet.
Read more »
Can I use a dehumidifier through the winter to stop condensation in a caravan or motorhome?
Dehumidifiers have a place where there’s a large build-up of water inside a caravan or motorhome, perhaps from condensation after you’ve been sleeping inside. It may, therefore, be useful to run such an appliance in a tourer immediately after a trip for up to 48 hours or so.
Once the interior has been brought to the same level of humidity as the outside, a dehumidifier cannot do anymore. In fact all you’ll be doing, if you leave it running, is attempting to dehumidify your garden or storage yard.
Double check against any storage advice from your caravan or motorhome manufacturer, but where none’s given consider a gentle amount of heat periodically if possible. Leave cupboard doors open. The heat will encourage air movement by convection and with the cupboard doors open airflow will be maximised, reducing cold spots, thus reducing how much moisture will condense out.
See our webpage about winter care for more tips.
Read more »
I hear Calor is recalling gas cylinders. How do I know if I need to return mine?
Calor has advised it is recalling 170,000 6kg propane Calorlite cylinders due to a potential material defect that could lead to gas escaping over time. Consumers are requested to check whether their cylinders were manufactured between 2008-2011 as they may need to be returned to their local Calor stockist.
A free replacement will be issued if the cylinder is part of the recall. Full details of the recall are on the Calor website. Further details can be obtained on their dedicated phone line 0800 783 4141.Read more »
When you ask about the size of our tent or trailer tent when booking a pitch do I have to include the guy-lines?
No, when booking a Club pitch we want all structures including pup tents, gazebos, utility tents, awnings and extensions to be included within the pitch dimensions but the guy-lines are kept separate.
Follow this link to our Club Sites policy page to find out more.Read more »
How do people find out what sort of motorhome or camper layout will suit them?
With such a huge array of motorhome layouts available it can be almost overwhelming for the first timer.
Rather than risking an expensive mistake in buying a camper that doesn’t quite fit your needs, it may be worth hiring one first. This way you get a real-world experience. If the motorhome doesn’t work out you’ve still had a holiday and gained knowledge that can be put to use when you are ready to buy.
Read more »
Is it possible to match a caravan to a panel van or another commercial vehicle?
It is possible to work out whether any vehicle has the capacity to tow a caravan or another trailer. Unfortunately, however, we cannot use Towsafe when matching to a commercial vehicle.
Towsafe is the service the Club uses to match cars and caravans. It has a comprehensive database that covers the majority of cars and dual-use vehicles (such as pickup trucks) manufactured since 1986, however there are no commercial vehicles in the database.
If you wish to tow with a van or minibus then you will need to check the VIN plate, which you should find on the vehicle. There will be several figures printed on it. Deduct the gross vehicle mass (GVM) from the gross train mass (GTM) and the result will give you a towing limit.
To establish a kerbweight you may need to get the vehicle weighed at a local weighbridge. Your local council should have a database of those that can be used by the public.
To understand the weight relationship between towing vehicle and trailer better read our datasheet on matching.
Read more »
Is UK bottled gas available in the rest of Europe?
Only Campingaz offers the end user anything approaching a pan-European exchange service. Other bottled gas products are generally national or regional products and exchanging outside these areas can be difficult.
Campingaz has a store finder web page but it does not highlight which gas cylinders - bottled or cartridge type - the retailer stocks.
Read more »
What’s the difference between a ‘wet head’ and ‘dry head’ trailer coupling?
A ‘wet head’ is essentially a grease-lubricated coupling, such as a traditional ball and socket connection. A ‘dry head’ is a stabiliser type that has friction pads built in. This requires a clean and dry towball.
Neither type of coupling is maintenance free. The dry head requires a clean towball free from oil or grease. Paint or other coatings should be removed for optimum operation and if the ball gets rusty the rust must be scoured off before use or there’s a risk of noisy operation.
The grease on the ball and coupling of a wet head needs to be cleaned off occasionally and replaced because it will pick up dirt particles over time. How often this needs to be done is dependent on the frequency of use and the type of environment you drive in, but it should be done at least annually.
Read more »
I occasionally get condensation between the plastic windows on my caravan. My dealer says this is normal. Is it?
It’s not unusual to get some droplets of water inside the windows of a caravan in certain atmospheric conditions. This is because the acrylic material in the panes is gas permeable at a microscopic level.
If there are high levels of humidity, water vapour can pass into the void between the panes, if there’s a sufficient temperature difference the moisture will simply condense out. This should clear on its own in due course and be nothing more than an occasional and minor irritation.
If you find one window section has considerably more condensation than the neighbouring windows and it persists even in strong sunlight then this suggests there’s a fault with the window and it should be investigated by your dealer.Read more »
What is a 'camper tyre'?
A camper tyre looks similar to its commercial van counterpart and may have the same tread pattern, load and speed ratings but there are differences within its construction, making the camper tyre better suited to camping units.
Two notable points are that a camper tyre will have been designed to be used at close to the base vehicle’s maximum weight for its entire life, as in a motorhome conversion. It should also cope better with longer periods of inactivity. These are two scenarios a normal van will not normally be subject to. Read more »
I am about to make my first camping trip abroad. Do I need anything special to use an electric hook-up?
The large blue socket we’re used to in the UK is an international standard connection that has been adopted throughout much of Europe.
However in France and Spain you may find old-style sockets, such as a standard Euro two-pin or ‘Shucko’ socket.
It is advisable to take a continental adaptor in case you need it. All good camping and caravan accessory shops should stock them.
For more information about hook-ups abroad see our travel abroad guide.Read more »
Is it right that the Channel Tunnel operators forbid LPG-powered vehicles, even if the tank is empty or the system disabled?
Tunnel operator Eurotunnel is quite clear that any vehicle using liquid petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) or another compressed flammable gas is not permitted through the tunnel, even if the system is empty or has been turned off.
It does, however, allow LPG cylinders for habitation use within caravans or motorhomes, whether in fixed tanks or the more typical exchange-type cylinders. Eurotunnel has a comprehensive breakdown of what’s permitted on its website.
None of the ferry operators that you can book through the Club’s Travel Service has a restriction on LPG-powered vehicles.Read more »
We look at how manufacturers test their towbars to achieve type approval and what towbar testing means at the MOT Test
BARRY NORRIS explains exactly how much you can tow with your car
CANDY EVANS looks at the different techniques used by UK caravan and motorhome manufacturers for the 2016 season
IAIN GEDDES considers changes you may make to your vehicle and the insurance implications