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.
I have a short wheelbase campervan. Would this need a motorhome satnav?
Probably not, because the footprint of your van is not significantly larger than a large car. The only concern may be its height. For a fixed high-top roof perhaps with an accessory such as a satellite dome or air-conditioning you may fall foul of very low bridges.
How do I find my caravan or trailer’s noseweight?
Both the towing vehicle and the trailer have a limit at the coupling device. A typical caravan for example will be 100kg but a typical front-wheel drive car may only be able to take 75kg. In this case it will be necessary to trim the caravan’s load to bring the noseweight to 75kg as this is the lower limit. The numbers given are typical examples only so check your vehicle handbooks for actual values.
Can I use an external gas bottle at a Club Site or meet?
We allow external gas bottles on Club Sites and at meets, but we have some simple rules governing their use. Please keep the gas cylinder as close to the unit as possible and secure it, if practical. Keep the hose strain-free and as short as you can. Do not use the barbecue outlet as an inlet. There is also a size limit of 13kg (propane) or 15kg (butane). And for safety reasons we ask that all cylinders are transported and stored in an upright position.
Can I use ordinary pump petrol in camping petrol stoves and lamps?
Though you can buy fuel specifically designed for these stoves, premium unleaded petrol is fit for this purpose. Like any fuel burning appliances, they’re for outdoor use only. Please follow the operation instructions fully for maintenance and safe use.
I have an on-board fresh water tank. Should this be emptied before I move off site?
It’s not necessarily a good thing to haul a large quantity of water around. Each litre of water is one kilo added to your payload and having it sloshing around could adversely affect your vehicle’s handling.
If the journey is short, say a drive to a beauty spot with a campervan for the day, you may be happy to leave the water in the tank but if it’s a long haul then the payload may be better placed elsewhere and emptying the tank could be more sensible.
If you decide to empty your tank, always do so before joining the highway. You must never discharge water on to the road. Read more »
I’m struggling to source a new door seal for my campervan. Where should I look?
Seal Direct is one place worth checking. Not only does it stock door seals for a range of cars and campervans, it has a range of caravan window seals too. You can browse its catalogue online.
My tent’s zips are stiff to use. Can they be made easier to open and close?
There’s no harm in trying a little lubrication on the zip. Most good camping and caravanning accessory stores will have in stock an awning channel and zip lubricant. There are many to choose from but they do broadly the same thing. Check the label first to be sure they’re safe to use on the various fabrics of your tent.
My camper has a diesel engine for which I carry a spare fuel can. I don’t want to carry an additional can of petrol to power my generator. If I have my generator converted to run on Liquid Petroleum Gas (LGP) can I connect it to my barbecue outlet?
In principal this can be done, as long as the generator is designed to run from a regulated, free-standing bottled gas. In which case the barbecue outlet will work if the LPG installation is designed to run at the same regulated level. You should check this with the converter.
However, you must be mindful of the trailing gas line for both a trip and fire hazard and consider where the generator’s exhaust gas goes. Even though LPG is cleaner than petrol there’s still a risk of carbon monoxide (CO) being present in the exhaust gas and the subsequent dangers. So never run your generator in an enclosed area such as an awning – it could be fatal.
It’s also worth noting that although internal combustion engines are a little quieter with LPG, the campsite’s rules on generator running times must still be respected.
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Where do I find the correct tyre pressure for my caravan?
If you cannot find it in your handbook or for whatever reason the tyres fitted are not the same as the original specification then the best place to go is TyreSafe’s caravan pressure calculator.
You’ll need to know the tyre’s exact specification as marked on its sidewall, the number of caravan axles and the MTPLM (maximum technically permissible laden mass) of the caravan.Read more »
Why is there such a big difference in price between a cotton tent and the synthetic equivalent?
In the simplest terms the cost of the material is higher. It is also generally heavier and more bulky to store and ship and all these costs compound.
The advantage of a cotton tent is that if cared for correctly it should have a longer working life, so if the tent is going to be used a great deal over many years the extra expenditure on the cotton may well be worthwhile.
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Is there a standard size and place for the water and waste hoses for super pitches?
I’m afraid not. Each campsite is laid out differently as many operators have their own idea of the best layout for a pitch. Caravans and motorhomes also have varying locations for the connections. You need to contact the site directly to find out the connection points and from this information look at your tourer and work out how long your fresh- and waste-water hoses need to be.
Can I use a 600W microwave oven with a campsite’s electric hook-up?
In principle you can but the 600W specified on the microwave is the normal cooking power. The peak power it uses will be marked on the back of the appliance and may be 1kW (1,000W) or more. 1kW equates to a current draw of a little over 4A. This rating needs to be considered alongside any other appliances switched on to make sure you don’t go over the bollard’s limit.
If you want to know more about using a hook-up, check out our datasheet.Read more »
What’s the difference between cool and warm white with LED lamps?
White light comes in different ‘colour temperatures’ (quoted in Kelvin or K) and the higher the colour temperature then, perhaps confusingly, the cooler the white looks.
Pure white daylight bulbs with a high Kelvin temperature (about 5,000K) have cool blu-ish tinge to them that can feel cold or clinical. Lower Kelvin bulbs (2,700K) are often called ‘warm white’. This is because their white hue is more similar to an old-fashioned incandescent filament bulb or even candlelight giving a warmer, more cosy feel.
In practical terms, cold or daylight LED lamps are good for cooking areas, washrooms and reading lights. The warm glow lamps are better for mood lighting and for creating a welcoming glow in a living area.
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Last year my children were told to stop blowing bubbles around the tents on a campsite. Is it normal to stop children having fun like this?
It’s amazing how children can create a great game out of something as simple as a few bubbles and it’s a mean spirited person that doesn’t want children to have fun. However making the bubbles requires an amount of detergent added to water and it’s the detergent that’s the concern.
For those with caravans and motorhomes it’s not much of a problem, unless they have a fabric awning, but for tents and folding campers the detergent could impact on the performance of any water proofing treatment on their holiday home. This could lead to leaks, which could spoil someone’s holiday. So we ask children to blow bubbles away from – and ideally down-wind from – any tents and awnings.
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Can I tow if I use an emergency tyre sealant in a tyre on my tow car?
We’ve not come across many cars where towing is forbidden when the emergency tyre sealant kit has had to be used. We recommend you check your car’s handbook, though, as there could be specific advice on this. When we’ve asked car manufacturers about this for our Tow Car Awards practicality judging, the most frequent advice is they don’t recommend it.
The best puncture provision will always be a full-size replacement spare wheel – if there’s room to carry one.Read more »
My awning leaks but the dealer says it is condensation. Who’s right?
If there’s heavy rain and you’re getting a consistent leak from one point, probably near a seam, then it may well have a leak. However, awnings are often pitched over ground that has plenty of moisture in it. When damp-laden air rises from the ground and lands on a cool surface, such as the inside of an awning, then the water vapour will condense out and form droplets of water that may seem like a leak. Another way to look at this is if you find it drips or pools water over time and it hasn’t been raining then it almost certainly will be condensation.
Can I use domestic detergents in my motorhome?
Be careful where you use strong domestic detergents and other cleaning chemicals. Some of the lightweight materials, especially plastics, are easily damaged by harsh chemicals and repeated use may result in cracks.
There are cleaning products specifically designed for motorhome and caravan use. Always check the advice in your unit’s handbook before starting any cleaning regime.Read more »
Is it legal for a trailer to have non-auto reverse brakes?
All trailers from 1989 are required to have an auto-reverse-brake-type mechanism, where brakes are fitted.
Trailers older than this may have been supplied without auto-reverse. Such trailers are still legal to use on the road as long as they are in a good and serviceable condition.
It’s worth adding that if a trailer has brakes, to remain legal the brakes must be in good working order.
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Can I use a three-way fridge on gas in my tent?
The primary area of concern here is from carbon monoxide poisoning. Such appliances are not designed for use on gas indoors, though they must also be protected from the ravages of the weather so they will need some form of cover. Some tents have dedicated kitchen areas with enhanced ventilation for a fridge while utility tents can be left in a well-ventilated state to allow exhaust gases to escape. If the tent has a sewn-in ground sheet and can be fully closed then you must only use the fridge or other gas appliance in an open porch area (also consider fire risks).
For additional peace of mind, we recommend you also use a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm in the vicinity of the appliance. If you get a CO warning when using the fridge or find it difficult to light you should stop using it immediately and get it checked out. For more information about the hazards of carbon monoxide visit our Help & Advice pages on the Club's website.
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I have a compact spare wheel, is it safe (or legal) to use when towing?
There are a few car makers that are quite clear you must not tow on the compact or slim spare wheel provided with the car. The information will be given in the handbook and in this case you must not do so.
That said, most cars with a compact spare wheel remain fit for purpose even with the additional loads and forces associated with towing larger trailers and caravans.
However, these spare wheels are for temporary use only with a limited range, rarely more than 100 miles. This could be restrictive for touring when you could be further away from a tyre service centre so we recommend you have a full-size spare wheel if there’s space to carry one.
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Does the Club insure self-build conversions during the conversion process?
Yes, Club Care Insurance will insure a self-build project but specifies criteria and timetable that need to be met. You can read more about these and find the contact details at our Club Care self-build page.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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For her first towing experience, VICKY SARTAIN takes a Raclet Solena trailer tent to a local Certificated Site
BARRY NORRIS looks at toilets and their accessories
BARRY NORRIS looks at options available to campers and caravanners for keeping food fresh and cool
The humble tent peg is often overlooked. IAIN GEDDES takes a closer look at this key piece of kit