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.
Do I really need to use every guyline?
Tents and awnings should have sufficient guying points to secure them in all but the worst storms. In less severe conditions it may not be necessary to use every attachment point, but due to the fickle nature of UK weather it’s wise to use most of them regardless of the conditions at the time.
Should my motorhome’s fuel tank be empty or full when in storage?
It’s always wise to check the handbook for the base vehicle’s guidance but the normal advice is to store with the fuel tank full to minimise condensation. Put simply, the less air space there is the better.
What are winter wheels?
The items known as ‘winter wheels’ are not really wheels at all. They’re simply a steel fabricated structure fitted in the place of road wheels. They are often used on trailers and caravans when there’s no plan to move them for a period of time. The normal wheels and tyres can then be stored under cover.
It’s worth noting that winter wheels don’t constitute an immobiliser in insurance policy terms. They mustn’t be used as an alternative to a wheel clamp. Your insurance provider will be able to advise on its security requirements.
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How do I find out if my campervan can go into London?
London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) has been in place for some years now and impacts most motorhomes, depending on the year of registration and gross weight (maximum authorised mass). The minimum emissions requirement is Euro 3 and this is for campervans with a gross weight from 2,500 to 3,500kg. You can do a vehicle check here.
Why aren’t hydrostatic head figures given for cotton tents?
Hydrostatic head testing relies on a column of water that applies a load to a textile. Testers then measure the resistance to the water permeating through. This doesn’t work with cotton as it will get pushed through very easily. As cotton gets wet in a shower it swells slightly, closing the gaps in the weave and it becomes naturally waterproof, hence the need to weather a new cotton tent, and therefore making the water column test an unsuitable method to use.
Can tinted glass interfere with a satnav’s reception?
Normal dark glass tint shouldn’t affect the weak signal from a global positioning satellite (GPS). However, if the tint agent is metallic or the main screen has heating elements built in (sometimes called a quick-clear screen) then the metal within these components could block the signal.
Does an electric hook-up lead have to be orange?
It’s not a requirement to have an orange lead. However it’s sensible to have one that’s easily visible against the ground to help minimise any trip hazard. Darker leads may blend in, especially at night, so a light coloured cable is considered better.
My on-board electric heater is struggling to get my campervan warm. Is it faulty?
Not necessarily. In winter the electrical system with a maximum 2kW output may struggle to give sufficient output to warm the tourer properly. In some instances you may need to run it on gas, as this is often twice the power. Once a comfortable temperature is achieved you can switch to electricity to maintain this.
I’m struggling to find the correct tyre pressures for my car when towing.
All modern cars should have a tyre pressure guide printed on them, sometimes inside the fuel filler cap or within a door closure. It will give two, or sometimes three, pressure ranges. Where no specific towing pressures are recommended then it is best to go to the high-load and high-speed pressures. It may also be beneficial to increase the rear axle pressure further by another 4-7psi (do not exceed the stated maximum on the tyre’s sidewall) if you have a high luggage load at the rear of the car as well as the weight from the towing coupling. Read more »
Which insurance covers a trailer when it’s being towed?
All the third party risks are passed to the towing vehicle when any trailer is coupled up to it. That is why it’s so important to check the car’s policy covers towing. When un-hitched, all risks revert back the trailer or caravan’s own policy.
Do I need a driving licence to ride an electric bike?
If you mean an ‘electrically-assisted pedal cycle’, which has strict constraints on its maximum speed and power then no, the rules are the same as for a self-powered bicycle.
If your bike is a high-powered electric cycle that continues to provide power over 25kph (15.5mph), then strictly speaking it is defined as a moped and you must have the appropriate licence. Depending on when you passed your test this could be category p or AM and these are given when you pass a standard car driving test. Read more »
Do I need winter tyres in mainland Europe?
The answer varies from country to country and in some countries even by region. Winter tyres (marked with a snowflake motif) are preferred in colder areas but mud and snow tyres (marked M+S) are an acceptable alternative and the minimum tread depth varies too.
To find out more about winter tyres please see our data sheet. The RAC also has further details about winter driving abroad. Read more »
Is it possible to prevent waste, or grey, water from freezing?
If you’re camping in the UK and want to prevent the contents of a Wastemaster or similar piece of kit from freezing then you can add some salt to it. If it is very cold then ideally you need proper winterisation including heated waste tanks.
How do you dry out a rain-soaked folding camper?
The textile cover should repel a lot of water because of its durable water repellent coating but from experience we know some always remains in the folds. So when you get home, don’t leave it folded – open it up again (even if it is still raining). Eventually the rain will stop and it’ll dry out. This could take a day or two.
Can I get replacement LED lamps for the reading lights in my campervan?
Yes, there’s now a huge range available. However you’ll need to be careful of the stability of the voltage of your campervan as some LED bulbs designed for domestic use do not perform well with the variable voltage of a leisure battery. It’s best to go to a supplier of outdoor and camping equipment such as Leisurelines for LED lamps that can tolerate a wider voltage range.
Which is best for a solar panel, free standing or on the roof?
There are pros and cons. Freestanding can be aligned to the direction of the sun and moved through the day to get a maximised charge and it is easily kept clean. On the roof is secure and out of the way but the charge is less optimised, however it charges continuously every day even in storage (assuming you don’t cover it) but you still need to get up to it to keep it clean.
Can I use my caravan steady legs to take the weight off the axle?
No, they’re corner steadies and though you need a good load on them to stop the trailer from rocking they’re not designed to carry the whole weight of the tourer, the bulk of the load needs to remain with the axle.
How old can a ‘new’ tyre be?
This is quite variable. If you have a common car tyre size then when you buy a new replacement it may have been moulded a matter of weeks before purchase. However, a tyre can remain in the supply chain for two years. This is due batch manufacturing combined with low turnover, however all tyres should have been stored correctly and be fit for purpose. It is quite reasonable to ask the age of the tyre while you’re getting quotes. Our data sheet shows you how to check the tyre age.
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What’s a bulk tank on a motorhome?
Typically this will be a fitted tank for the storage of a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). It is refillable using Autogas (propane), however it is for habitation use rather than propulsion. Large bulk tanks are often installed under the body.
I was looking at the driving licence Data Sheet and I don’t have a B licence. It says simply vehicles A and E. Please can you explain?
I guess you have an older UK licence that’s all green, not the credit-card-sized pink version. Vehicle categories changed in 1986 and A was broken down into different categories, while E was for a moped and also changed. Older licence vehicle categories are documented here. View the Club's Driving Licence data sheet.Read more »
My 13-pin plug became misaligned. Is it possible to keep it in place?
Maypole has produced the MP1280B or green cap that is not only a good quality storage park for a caravan or trailer’s 13-pin plug, but also keeps it properly aligned and can be used as an aid to realigning one that is out of position. Owing to the 13-pin plug and socket locking together with a bayonet-type catch, they mustn’t be forced together or apart – a rotation through 90 degrees is all that’s required.
Does the Club have a policy for charging electric or plug-in hybrid cars on Club Site hook-ups?
At this time we have no specific policy. If you have a serviced pitch with an electric hook-up then you can use this as you see fit. However, please bear in mind that it is a maximum 16A connection so if it is cold you may end up using a lot of gas to keep warm and heat the water if you are using the hook-up for your car.
Does a motorhome need a special MOT test?
No, a motorhome – technically more correctly known as a motor caravan – has the same MOT test as a car, a class 4 test. The only issue you may have is if your touring unit is tall or very long, it may not get into some class 4 testing bays. Always check this when you book.
How do I leave a campsite review?
Our general page about campsite reviews is here or you can click on the Reviews tab on an individual site’s web page, followed by the Review button. Read more »
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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CANDY EVANS investigates some tools to help your caravan or motorhome trip run more smoothly
IAIN GEDDES has some pointers to keeping dry under canvas
IAN HEWLETT looks at how manufacturers may save weight in the caravans of tomorrow
TERRY OWEN discovers how caravan and motorhome windows are created