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.
Is it OK to use a garden-type watering can to top up the onboard tank in my motorhome?
Filler hoses for use at motorhome service points should be made with a food-grade lining material, but it is unlikely a gardener’s watering can will be built to the same standards. Yet plenty of people use watering cans to fill up. The larger type holds around five litres and I can see it’s easier than moving the whole tourer over to a service point. So it is more your judgement, will the can taint the water to taste for example?
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I have added a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and when I’m driving the pressures sometimes exceed the maximum quoted on the sidewall of the tyre. Is this safe?
It is quite normal for tyres to warm up when you’re on the road and all the bouncing of the sidewalls and the small movement of the tread-blocks may increase the pressure significantly due to the temperature increase. This is why tyre pressures are quoted ‘cold’ – it allows for this perfectly normal process. If you find you have tyres operating close to or at their maximum pressure, for example 65 psi, don’t be surprised if the pressure goes above 70 psi while cruising at speed on a warm summer day.However if you find one tyre is suddenly warming up but there’s no increase in pressure look for a small leak or puncture, this is a useful early warning symptom.Read more »
The water pump always seems to be running in my caravan. Should it switch off?
There’s a high likelihood you have a system that’s controlled by a pressure switch. Many of these are manually adjustable and can be fine-tuned to suit both the pump’s power output and the voltage available from the battery or power supply.
You may find you need to adjust it when you go from being on an electric hook-up to green-field camping as there’s a small voltage drop once you’re totally reliant on the battery.
You can find out how to adjust the pressure switch in the handbook, I find it takes two to three goes to get it right for the conditions.
The switch is usually located close to where the water comes in from the outside of the caravan or close to the water heater. Read more »
I see red and white striped boards on the back of motorhomes where bikes are being carried. Why?
A red and white diagonally-stripped board is to warn other road users of an overhanging load.
The rules on the use of these boards vary slightly from country to country. In the UK you must display one when a load projects 1m or more from the rear structure.
However, a much shorter overhang requires a marker board in some countries on the European mainland. It seems many users are just in the habit of leaving their board on, even when it’s not really required.Read more »
Are all towing brackets the same?
The ball coupling is standardised at 50mm diameter and this has been the case for decades.
However, the bit that bolts the ball to the car is unique to each chassis type so you must make sure you have the correct part for your vehicle.
The AL-KO AKS series of stabiliser hitch heads, which are popular on caravans, require additional clearance due to the physical bulk of the coupling. This clearance is available with swan-neck style towballs but a bolted-on flange towball requires additional clearance. Such towballs are readily available if you need one.Read more »
What is meant by a ‘secondary coupling’ on a trailer?
A secondary coupling is a mechanical device, such as a chain or steel wire, that’s in addition to the main tow ball coupling. Its role is to the keep an un-braked trailer connected to the towing vehicle if the ball hitch becomes uncoupled. It should be strong enough to hold the fully-laden trailer to the vehicle and sufficiently short so the hitch doesn’t strike the floor if an under-slung skid is not used.
It is a legal requirement to have a secondary coupling on a trailer without brakes.Read more »
I want to start a small campsite. Can the Club help?
Yes we can, the Club is an organisation that’s entitled to issue exemption certificates. If you are awarded one you are allowed to develop a small campground without needing planning permission from your Local Authority. Our dedicated web page about this is
.Read more »
What’s involved in converting a campervan from butane to propane?
Besides checking the alternative cylinders will fit in the locker, the only other thing that needs to be changed is the actual fitting to the cylinder. This may be a simple adaptor or the regulator – these differ.Read more »
When I am booking a pitch on a Club Site is a roof-tent considered a tent or motorhome?
Please book saying it’s a tent. I can appreciate the logic that it’s on top of a vehicle but it remains a tent as far as the Club Site is concerned. Don’t forget the dimensions are for the fully-opened tent including any side or rear annexes. And include the vehicle if it’s longer or wider than the fully-pitched tent.Read more »
How does the AL-KO ATC system react with my new tow car’s trailer stability programme?
Your car’s vehicle trailer assist will not interact with the electronic AL-KO Automatic Trailer Control (ATC). The systems are (and have to be due to construction rules) independent. Although the ATC is less sophisticated than the car’s electronics, it’s much ‘closer to the action’ so it can be more sensitive and therefore very effective. The car’s system is more about how it reacts to stability loss without making things worse with a trailer.Read more »
Will the Club allow me to pitch on a Club Site if I’ve converted a van myself?
We normally allow self-converted campervans. In our
it says, “If planning to use a non-proprietary camping unit, please seek approval from Customer Services before camping for the first time.”
We may ask you to send us some photographs and we may need to see a copy of the sign-off of any gas or electrical installation. Read more »
We now often use a Super Pitch. How do you recommend we clean our hoses? Is it similar to cleaning our water barrels?
If you regularly use fully serviced or super-pitches that have their own stand-alone water supply or have a seasonal pitch it may be worthwhile cleaning your fresh water hose occasionally.
It will not take much to make a bucket full of you preferred water system cleaner. Use a funnel and jug to fill the fully unwound hose carefully, until the liquid runs from the end. After the prescribed waiting time, the hose can be connected to a water supply to purge the cleaning liquid. Read more »
Do compressor fridges need winter vent covers like my old motorhome fridge?
No not normally, a compressor fridge runs rather like a domestic fridge as it compresses a contained gas and needs only a modest amount of airflow that can be internal depending on design.
Your previous fridge was probably a three-way (gas, hook-up 230v AC and 12 volt DC powered) and this absorption process is driven by heat hence there can be some quite large external vents including a gas flue, in the winter or very windy days they benefit from having temporary winter vent covers fitted. Read more »
My vehicle’s due a service but it has hardly been used this year can I not postpone it?
This is a conversation to have with the supplying dealer, especially if there’s a warranty to support, may not have any choice but stick to their schedule.
This may not necessarily seem so bad but vehicles just sitting about may deteriorate faster than one in active use and some elements such as brake fluid for example simply ages and may need changing by a calendar date not distance.
With modern vehicles there could also be software updates for safety or efficiency too.Read more »
I store my caravan at home. Can I leave its heater on?
You could, but you’ll be surprised just how much your electricity bill will go up through the winter. It is generally better to allow tourers to normalise to the current atmospheric conditions. They are designed to cope with this.
You could lift the cushions (or even store them elsewhere) and leave a few cupboard doors open to allow enhanced airflow. Don’t allow vents to get blocked as it is these that facilitate a change of air. During even a cold winter’s day it should warm up enough for a gentle movement of air.
We have a Data Sheet for winter care for caravans and a separate one for motorhomes. .Read more »
I want to add an external locker door. Is this something I can do myself?
Practical people can undertake tasks such as this with care. However, if your caravan or motorhome has a current body integrity warranty then seek advice from your dealer. You may find only a trained workshop from the particular manufacturer can undertake such work if you are to maintain the warranty. This is not a concern for older vehicles, but you must always check for cable and pipe routes as well as structural members concealed in the wall before starting. Make sure any door is securely fixed and the surrounding structure fully sealed from the elements.Read more »
Why are the gas spanners sold in camping shops so short?
Thankfully most gas fittings for domestic use are clip-on. However the popular propane bottles found in camping retailers have a left-hand screw thread. This assembly seals without being done up tightly. As a result, it’s best to use a short spanner to help prevent over tightening. If you feel you need a larger spanner or you find yourself using a mallet to tighten this (and you’re not infirm) then you are probably over tightening the joint, potentially damaging the valve on the bottle.
It should seal hand-tight with the short spanner readily if all the surfaces are in good clean condition. Read more »
Is a fixed towbar a problem with reversing sensors?
A fixed tow bar can cause problems with reversing sensors, depending on the location of the sensors and the type of tow bar. It’s quite easy to test whether you might have an issue by making a model of a tow bar out of balls of newspaper and some tape. Attach this to the car where the new tow bar would be and put the car into reverse. If the alarms on the sensors sound, you’ll probably need a detachable tow bar and only fit it when you have the caravan’s electrics plugged in, so the sensors are deactivated.Read more »
I have an old campervan and it seems I can’t get a Crit’Air (air quality certificate) window sticker for driving in France. Can I still drive it over there?
You can still go to France, even if you do not have a Crit’Air window sticker. However, older vehicles that do not qualify for one also do not meet any newer clean air standards. This means when the air quality is poor in a designated area and restrictions are activated you won’t be allowed to drive in that area. As a result, you may get stuck somewhere longer than planned or you may need to take a different route when you are travelling to avoid such clean air zones.Read more »
Do I have to pass an extra driving test to tow a caravan?
Once you’ve passed your normal driving test you’re also entitled to tow a caravan or any other trailer, but with restrictions. Since 1997 there have been limits on what you can tow (based on weight) on a standard driving licence, known as a category B licence. This entitles you to drive any vehicle with a maximum mass up to 3,500kg with any trailer weighing up to 750kg. Caravans are normally a bit heavier than this so a different rule applies. Those with only a B-class driving licence can tow a caravan with a car but the sum of the maximum mass of them both must not exceed 3,500kg. Please check out our driving licence datasheet, which goes into more detail on this.Read more »
Is it OK to retro-fit LED lights to my vehicle?
It depends on the quality of the new LED lamp and the fitting it’s going into. It’s well established now that modern cars may not be compatible with some low-cost LED bulbs. This is because they draw so little current the car’s diagnostic system can interpret it as a blown bulb. To avoid this, use bulbs marked as CAN-bus compatible.
Bulbs in a caravan or motorhome’s interior can have different issues. Low quality products can run surprisingly hot and have very short service lives, making them less cost effective than they first appear. Use a reputable retailer and if you have dimmer switches, make sure a new bulb is compatible with them.Read more »
Is it necessary to have a rolling water carrier?
Products like FL Hitchman’s Aquaroll may seem almost de-rigueur on a campsite. It’s so well designed and made it’s difficult to consider alternatives. The benefit of something that rolls, or that’s at least on wheels, is you don’t have to carry it to and from the filling point.
Some water carriers hold 50 litres. That’s 50kg of water plus the plastic – or nearly 8 stone in old money. If you need less than this, a classic jerry can style or collapsible water holder could suffice.Read more »
Is it really necessary to use plastic crockery on a campsite?
Not really, this is very much personal choice. The main reason for using a plastic such as melamine for your plates, bowls and mugs is its inherent robustness and very low weight, compared with most domestic crockery. This makes it ideal for travel use.
Other options include enamelled steel tableware or robust heat-treated glass. These broaden your choice, but are still generally heavier than melamine equivalents. Some people prefer tea in a ‘proper’ ceramic mug or bone china cup and there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy such things on the campsite too.Read more »
Can I use a roof tent on Club Sites?
We have no issues with roof tents. When you tell us the dimensions of your unit, online or by phone, you will need to include the width and length when the tent is opened as well as the length of the car, as this will be the total footprint. When booking say you have roof tent. You can request a hardstanding if you prefer. Read more »
I’m looking for a hose to fill my onboard water tanks with fresh water. How long should it be?
There’s no magic number I’m afraid. Compact fold-flat-type hoses are available in food grade so they are suitable for your caravan or motorhome’s fresh water. They’re lightweight and can be 20m meters long, but the downside is you must unwind them fully from the spool before you use them. If you’re at a service point you may only need 4-5m but at greenfield locations the tap could be awkward to access and a longer one’s needed. You could get a long hose but cut it into two, one shorter length and the other quite a bit longer. Add some coupling fittings and you’ll have some flexibility. Read more »
Why does Campingaz seem so expensive?
All bottled gas seems more expensive per kilogramme in smaller containers. This is because of the costs of handling, filling and redistribution, which remain pretty much the same for all sizes.
Campingaz has a unique feature that once your cylinder is returned to France for refilling it could be redistributed almost anywhere in western Europe. This is a real boon for the tourist as other bottled gasses are generally national products that cannot be exchanged in another country.
Read more »
Where do I find the noseweight limit for my car?
This is generally in the handbook among the technical specifications or with the guide notes for towing. On some cars we have seen a label stuck to the body in the tailgate closure. Don’t assume what’s on the towbar bracket itself is correct for your car – the tow bar’s limit could be higher than your car’s as it has been tested for many markets and different vehicles. Read more »
How often should I clean out my water containers?
You’ll get a variety of answers to this question. You could, of course, clean them before every trip if you wished. Care advice for the fresh water containers from Aquaroll, for example, is to do a deep clean at the end and the start of every season. For those of us who don’t stop camping for the winter it is a good habit to clean your fresh water container properly at least a couple of times a year. Read more »
Can I use my caravan (or motorhome) gas bottle for my garden barbecue?
Yes you can. It is the same gas and the appliances are made to work safely within a pressure range of 28-37mb. Modern tourers are set to 30mb on a fixed regulator, but the bottle top regulators differ. They are typically set to 28mb for butane and 37mb for propane.
You can find more information in our data sheet – Gas for caravans and motorhomes.
Read more »
Does my motorhome’s hook-up-powered charger top-up both of its batteries?
Not all chargers are equipped with the ability to take care of both the auxiliary (leisure) battery and the starter battery.
Check the owner’s manual, in the 12V section, to see how your motorhome has been configured. The feature may be available but you may have to switch it on.
If you also have a solar charging system you may find this has the ability to maintain both batteries. If so, there’s no need to use the hook-up.
Read more »
Is my vehicle insured if I make a statutory off road notification (SORN) for it?
If you use the SORN option and are not using a vehicle it will remain fully covered by insurance unless you take it on the highway. The moment the wheels touch the road without the relevant vehicle excise duty (VED) being paid it is instantly uninsured, unless it is on its way to a pre-booked MOT test. Read more »
Is it better to jack up a tourer, so it’s not resting on its tyres, when it’s in storage?
It may be. Taking some strain off the rubber suspension bushes and tyres doesn’t do them any harm. However lifting a vehicle is potentially hazardous and as an exercise it is not to be done lightly. Firstly, check the user manual for specific instructions about lifting, including axle stand points, then apply some sensible safety measures such as chocks and other blocks to control motion while lifting. To a trained mechanic or a roadside assistance technician it’ll all seem very straight forward but the rest of us need to be very careful. Read more »
Is there an easy way to top up my built-in cassette toilet’s flush tank?
I carry a small plastic watering can that holds around 1 litre of water, I fill this up when I get fresh water and top up the flush in this manner. Such watering cans don’t weigh very much and I keep mine in the front gas locker of my caravan. It has no measurable impact on the noseweight. Read more »
Is it best to leave my fresh water tank full or empty when I store my campervan?
As a rule, if your motorhome will be stored for longer than two or three days it is better to empty the fresh water system and then refill it when you arrive at your next destination.
Water weighs 1kg per litre so keeping it onboard is not simply extra weight to increase your fuel consumption, you must factor it in your payload to make sure your vehicle is not overloaded.
Read more »
Why aren’t towbar heights standardised?
They are to a restricted range. The centre of a towball from the ground should measure between 350–420mm, however this is when in a laden condition, this could be the vehicle at full load. If you have a vehicle with just two occupants and only modest luggage the ball could be considerably higher and this can be an issue with smaller and older trailers. Especially when lightly loading a vehicle with self-levelling suspension. Read more »
I site my caravan for a season, does tow car matching still count?
Yes because you must make sure the car can legally and safely tow the caravan, this is the crux of matching. However when siting you have a little more lee-way as you can move the empty or largely empty caravan to its pitch and then on the next trip load the car with all the gear to set up. However lightly loaded caravans can be quite bouncy, though not necessarily unsafe, it can be quite unpleasant when going down the road. Read more »
Since Calor Lite is no longer readily available, is there an alternative gas cylinder to keep the weight down?
The composite cylinders supplied by Flogas are a lightweight alternative. They used to be known as BP Light but are now Gaslight. They’re less common on campsites but some retailers carry them and Flogas will deliver to you.
The cylinders are available in two sizes, 5kg and 10kg. Check their physical sizes against your tourer as they’re a little fatter, by approximately 5cm (2in), than the equivalent Calor Lite bottle. The other thing to factor in is the fitting to the bottle. A Flogas Gaslight cylinder uses a clip-on 27mm adaptor, so you’ll need to buy one of these, but at least you won’t need a spanner. The composite cylinder doesn’t need a gauge to tell you how much gas is inside as you can see the level of the liquid through the translucent cylinder wall.
We have a data sheet that goes into greater detail about the differences between common gas cylinders.
Read more »
How can I use cassette toilet flush aid fluid when my motorhome’s flush water comes from the normal fresh water tank?
The flush aid can help matter slide down the bowl once the trap door is open. You could buy a small atomiser, the kind you may have for tending plants that require humidity, and put a blend of flush aid and water into this at the recommended ratio. Simply spray the bowl with this before use. Don’t forget to label what’s contained in the bottle. Read more »
Is it better to reverse my motorhome up ramps or drive forwards on to them?
There’s no right or wrong way to get on to ramps. One school of thought is that when you back up on to them you get a clean down-hill run off again. This could be useful on grass, for example. On hardstanding pitches and all-season ones this is less critical and you can just choose what suits you on the day. Some ramps are quite steep and if the campervan’s reverse gears’ ratio is quite high, this can generate a lot of vibration. Read more »
I would like to get a small camping trailer, but how do I find what my car can tow?
Most small trailers don’t have brakes, so they’re often called unbraked trailers. You need to check your car’s handbook. In the towing or technical data section there should be an unbraked towing limit. It will never be greater than 750kg, but with smaller cars the limit is 50 per cent of the unladen weight of the car. This is what you should find in the documents. Read more »
Why do so many tent hook-up cable have a shorter flex than those you buy for caravans?
The lead supplied with a caravan or camper (motor-caravan) is governed in length and gauge by the wiring regulations. Tent hook-ups are not controlled in the same way so designers have greater scope in how long the cable is and other details.
The benefit to the consumer is greater choice but it’s worth remembering a hook-up bollard can be up to 20m from the centre of a pitch.
Read more »
Where’s the best place to get a French Crit’ Aire sticker?
The Crit’ Aire sticker is the sticker issued by the French government that shows the emissions category of your vehicle. It’s needed to travel through certain environmental control zones in the country. You can get one directly from the French authority’s website.
The website is in English so you don’t need to use a third-party service. Such services are generally fine to use but charge more than the main site and they’re little more than a go-between in this instance.
Read the instructions carefully, for example there’s a size limit of the file you are asked to upload. Also, you will be asked to give the Euro emissions standard of your vehicle. If you don’t have this, leave the space blank and an assumption will be made, based on vehicle’s age.
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I have a pre-owned motorhome with what plenty of aftermarket accessories. Is it possible to calculate its weight?
Your motorhome should have been issued with an unladen mass figure out of the factory. Any accessories fitted by the dealer at delivery or since will add to this and will need to be subtracted from the original payload figure and hence what you can carry.
The only way to be sure of a motorhome’s final weight is to get it weighed. You can do this at a weighbridge or by using special weigh pads. There are weighbridges across the UK you can use for a small fee.
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Can you tow with a car with an automatic gearbox?
Our many years of testing at The Towcar Awards has shown us that a modern automatic transmission is every bit as good for towing as a manual and often better for manoeuvring. Such transmissions have many more gears than they used to, making them more efficient, and they’re much better heat managed too. It is worth checking with a specialist whether the service schedule for the gearbox needs to be amended if you tow regularly or have a particularly heavy trailer. Read more »
Can I leave water in my cassette toilet tanks when my caravan is in storage?
Ideally, you’ll want to get all the water out of all the tanks and pipework in your caravan whenever there’s a risk of temperatures approaching freezing. This means you should pump out or drain the flush water (where you have a flush tank) and empty the waste tank too.
Summer storage is a different matter and for short periods you can leave a toilet primed and ready for use.
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How do I stop my external water tank from freezing?
If your water is stored in an external floor-standing barrel, such as an Aquaroll, then it’s often the feed pipe that freezes first. The main barrel will only do so if it gets and stays very cold. You can get a jacket for your tank and sleeves for the pipe, but sometimes it’s can be better to take the pipe in at night. On-board water tanks are less susceptible to freezing but you can add optional water heaters for extreme conditions. Read more »
When touring with my motorhome, can I stop and use Club Site facilities?
A selection of our sites have Motorhome Service Points. Club members can use them for a small fee and while on site you’re entitled to use the other facilities for up to three hours. We have a dedicated web page here. Read more »
What’s the biggest caravan I can tow with a car?
The maximum width of a caravan you can tow on UK roads with an ordinary car, rather than a commercial vehicle, is 2.55m and the maximum length is 7m, however this is body length and does not include the draw-bar (A-frame) structure. As a result, you’ll see some UK legal caravans over 7m long when the shipping length is quoted as this is measuring the extremes. Shipping length is the dimension you’ll need to specify when booking pitches and ferry crossings. Read more »
Is it better to have a bike rack on the front or the back of a caravan?
Generally we’d prefer to see cycle racks on the front A-frame structure of a caravan. This a strong part of the tourer and as you’re adding weight it is better to have it at the front (as part of the overall noseweight) rather than at the back acting like a counterweight, where it might encourage snaking on the road.
If you choose to put a bike rack on the A-frame you need to be mindful of clearances. The cycle rack must not interfere with the handbrake for example, nor be in the way of the jockey wheel’s operation.
Finally depending on the caravan design, the A-frame may not be an option and in this instance, the rear’s the only choice unless you can carry the bikes inside the caravan or on your car.
Read more »
Can I use a domestic microwave on a normal electric hook-up?
Normally you should have enough power available as most of the Club’s site network has 16A connections. Some of our legacy hardware runs at 10A and this is also usually sufficient.
As with any high-power appliance you need to balance what else is switched on. To help with this the Club’s data sheet covering electricity for camping has a guide of how much power typical appliances use.
Read more »
IAN HEWLETT looks at CO alarms for tents, caravan and motorhomes and how to position one in your camping unit
IAN HEWLETT explains what you need to you know if you plan to travel to Europe this year
Our team talks toilet fluids, plus we show you how to maintain your cassette toilet in our comprehensive video guide
A vehicle’s tyres are a critical part of safety on the road. Iain Geddes looks at how to keep yours properly inflated