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.
What is a gas pigtail?
Pigtail is a term used to describe the short section of hose from the gas bottle to the regulator. In most caravans and motorhomes it’s fitted to the structure of the gas locker, and the regulator is descried as a bulkhead-mounted regulator.
The important feature of the pigtail, which makes it different from other gas hoses in camping equipment, is that it comes before the regulator. It therefore carries the gas at bottle pressure and this is considerably higher than the regulated supply elsewhere in the vehicle.
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How long should I run my motorhome if I start it up during the winter lay-up?
There’s no exact answer to this but you should do a bit more than just let the engine idle for a few minutes. Ideally, you will get the whole engine up to operating temperature so it circulates the coolant and purges other elements of the vehicle. This is likely to take somewhere in the order of a 30 minutes to an hour.
Going for a drive agitates the tyres and cleans the brake surfaces too, so why not make the most of your vehicle and go out somewhere for the day?
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When booking a pitch, is my wind-out canopy considered to be an awning?
Yes – a wind-out canopy still needs to be declared as an awning, even if you only use it for shelter and don’t add sides or other panels to create an enclosed space. It still projects into the pitchable space and we include such components when considering the distance between each tourer.
It is worth noting that on our Club Sites we don’t count guy lines, so these can project out a little further if necessary.
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What’s the benefit of a polycotton tent?
One answer is that they simply look and feel nice. Polycotton and cotton tents also normally have a natural breathability, which helps offer up a pleasant night’s sleep and also helps resist the worst of the heat of a sticky summer’s afternoon. If cared for properly they should have a much longer working life than is possible with many coated synthetic textiles. They can be a little quieter on a windy day too.
The primary downsides are the cost and weight when compared with their synthetic equivalents. We go into much more detail on our guide to choosing a tent material.
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Do gas regulators have a service life?
No regulator lasts for ever and some manufacturers recommend their regulators should be replaced after ten years of service. However, you should still do regular visual inspections of your regulator’s general condition and have an at least an annual assessment of its performance. This assessment should be covered in your annual habitation service for caravans and motorhomes.
With freestanding appliances you need to be aware of their general performance, as indicated by the flame for example. Poor burn quality and an incorrect flame colour or shape could indicate a defective jet, burner or regulator and requires investigation.
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Can I stay in a demountable unit on a Club Site?
Yes, we’re happy to have demountable tourers on site. Generally it’s best to book a hardstanding pitch to be sure the legs don’t push into the ground. As a rule, any of our sites that can accept a motorhome will also accept a demountable.
More broadly, the Club likes to accept any kind of tourer as long as it is safe to use and fit for purpose. However, you should always check on Siteseeker what types of unit can be accommodated on a particular site as there are a small number with specific restrictions. These may be in place because of access issues or to comply with planning regulations, for example.
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If I replace a gas appliance in my campervan do I have to change to the new regulator system?
This is unlikely but you must check the appliance to make sure it can work within the range of the regulator you already have installed. A suitably-qualified technician can advise on this matter in greater detail. He or she can also install and commission the appliance to make sure it will work safely. Read more »
I noticed my caravan’s tyres were marked for mud and snow (M+S). Is this necessary?
Not really, you’ll gain a marginal braking improvement in slushy or muddy conditions but the other benefits of such tyres in poor weather (such as turning control and traction) aren’t relevant for the caravan’s axle. If you’re looking for replacements, the most critical element is the tyre’s load bearing relative to the caravan’s laden weight. This shows how much weight can be carried per tyre, expressed through the load index. Speak to your tyre supplier when you order in new tyres. It may be the case that like-for-like tyres with the extra M+S features are sensibly priced, but you may find you can get cheaper ones. To gain a broader understanding of tyres we have a dedicated datasheet on them. Read more »
My camper’s heating system is noisy and ineffective, can I use a small domestic electric heater when on a hook-up?
With care a smaller domestic heater, such as a fan heater, halogen one or oil-filled radiator, can be used for this.
Always consider safety first, heaters like these are not really designed with the confines of your camper in mind and the cables can be easily snagged, for example.
Fan heaters and halogen types are great for almost instant heat in a small space but the fan’s noisy and halogen heaters give off light, neither of which is good at night. The small oil-filled radiators are almost silent in operation and have no open elements, making them a good choice for camper use as a top-up heater.
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I have a small tear in my tent’s flysheet. Can I fix it easily?
Some tents come with a patch of matching material to bond or sew on, if you don’t have this you can buy a self-adhesive patch of material for such repairs. It should hold well enough that the repair can be considered permanent in most case. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully to make sure these repair patches are effective. Surface preparation is a critical part of the process. They are readily available from good camping suppliers. Read more »
Can I have my gas tanks fitted under my campervan?
Many campers can have this feature added as long as there’s sufficient space around the chassis structure and ground clearance can be maintained. These tanks may have considerably larger capacity than the traditional removeable bottles, though they will also take away a little of the usable payload.
Most systems installed under the chassis in the UK have been supplied by Gas-It. There is a network of installers on the company’s website.
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My plastic windows have scratches from low hanging branches. Do I have to replace them to fix this?
You shouldn’t need to replace the windows if they’re light rubbing marks rather than a deeply gouged scratch. The marks can often be polished out, as you might get rid of a light scratch on a car panel.
Fenwick’s produce Windowize – a polishing compound specially formulated for caravan and motorhome acrylic windows – that can be used to remove such scratches. Deeper ones may need a greater level of processing to polish out. Depending on your skill and patience it may be better to leave more involved work to a caravan repair technician or workshop.Read more »
My caravan’s spare wheel is steel but the normal wheels are a cast alloy. Does it matter?
The steel rim should have the same fundamental dimensions as the cast alloy wheels and in principal you should be able to swap them without a problem.
However, you may need to check the handbook for information on the retaining bolts. Some caravan makers supply a different bolt set for the spare wheel. This is not necessarily because there’s a need for a different length, it is due to a different bolt seat profile on the wheel materials.Read more »
Is it worth getting a cover for my tourer in storage?
Covers are great for longer term storage where you really want to keep the worst of the weather off your prized caravan or motorhome. Even a smaller tourer such as a trailer tent will benefit from a cover, especially if stored near trees, for example. It is worth noting, if the tourer’s a good size then the cover will be too, making it a heavy job especially on a windy day.Read more »
Is it possible to fit more than one small solar panel on the roof of my small motorhome? There’s not enough room for one large panel.
If you intend to spend long periods away from an electric hook-up then larger panels are beneficial. It isn’t necessary to have one large panel, there’s nothing to stop you building the required capacity from two or more as necessary. As long as the panels are correctly installed and the charge controller can accept the additional inputs then building a modular solar array is possibly the more sensible solution where space is at a premium. Read more »
Is the 13-pin towing socket a legal requirement?
No, you’re welcome to use either the more traditional seven-pin (so-called 12N plug and socket) or the 13-pin one. The UK caravan industry has been using the 13-pin system for some time now but many other trailers will be supplied with a seven-pin connector. Where trailers have a reversing light the 13-pin becomes necessary as there are not enough pins on the other for the extra lighting.Read more »
My old caravan has a black circular ‘60’ sticker on the back, referring to its speed limit. Is it still necessary?
It’s not a requirement. Other drivers will know the caravan is a trailer, as indicated by the triangle reflectors at the rear, so should know you’ll be subject to lower speed limits in many instances. However, you can still buy these stickers and if you wish to be in keeping with the age of your caravan you’re allowed to replace it if it’s faded or damaged.Read more »
I have added a tyre pressure monitor to my vehicle, should the temperature of the tyre rise significantly, as mine suggests?
Any vehicle once in motion puts work into the wheels and tyres raising their temperature and this is quite normal.
You’ll see a more pronounced rise on any highly-worked axle, such as a front-wheel-drive car’s front wheels where there’s drive, cornering and braking all happening on the same wheels, for example. Caravan axles and rear axles on motorhomes will also see a pronounced increase in temperature as they’re used.
If you see a situation where the temperature continues to climb to a point that sets off the warning alarm you could be under-inflated or potentially dangerously overloaded.
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Why don’t all tents have Hydrostatic Head (HH) ratings to show their water resistance?
Hydrostatic Head is a good way for suppliers of tents and awnings to offer an indication of the water resistance of a textile by using a standardised water-column test. Some tent makers choose to use other measures that are not recognised by the tent standard making direct comparisons tricky. It is also worth noting that cotton canvas and polycotton fabrics will not have a meaningful HH rating as they keep water out in a different way from nylons and polyester. We have lots of information about tents and their materials here. Read more »
Is it normal for my tourer’s fridge freezer not to keep things cool properly in very hot weather?
If you have a three-way fridge freezer, the kind that runs on either gas or electricity and known as an absorption fridge, then in very hot weather (where the ambient day temperature exceeds around 35C or more) there will be a fall-off in efficiency, impacting on the ability to cool. This can be mitigated somewhat by adding 12V fans to improve the airflow. Various kits are available for different types of fridges. Read more »
Do modern hybrid vehicles tow well when they are running on electrical power?
The electric motor element of a hybrid car has huge torque available at very low speed and this makes some of them very good at manoeuvring on site. Where the battery and fuel burning elements are augmented they can get going on the highway well too. The downside is towing will deplete the battery quickly at cruising speeds and the already-modest battery range in current vehicles can be halved when towing. Read more »
Does the Club allow generators?
The Club permits generator use, though on our main Club Site network the electric hook-up provision is so good you’ll probably not need one. On our Temporary Holiday Sites (THS) and at meets or rallies there’s often no electric hook-up option and some campers chose a generator to top up their batteries. The meet’s steward team will advise you of permitted times you can use a generator. Two-stroke-, diesel- or open-frame- (building site) type generators may not be permitted due to noise and fumes so always ask. Read more »
I know I can’t tow my automatic car behind my motorhome with all four wheels on the ground as it could damage the gearbox. It is OK to use a dolly?
I can understand why you’d want to use a dolly, as you can keep the drive-wheels off the ground preventing harm to the automatic transmission. However dollies are a recovery device with strict rules governing their use. In particular, a broken-down vehicle is exempt from normal braking regulations. If the vehicle is roadworthy then the exemptions allowing a dolly to be used do not apply. Where brakes are fitted they must work so you cannot use a dolly to tow the car. Read more »
Will the SiteSeeker app use up my mobile data allowance?
Updates and certain functionality such as live maps require a data connection of some sort, but you don’t have to update every time you use SiteSeeker. If you’re on a non-metered connection, such as a free WiFi access point, then you can update and use the connected facilities without eating into your mobile phone’s data allowance so that’s a good time to do updates and broader browsing. You phone or tablet’s device settings will allow you to turn off the various data connection options to minimise data use when you are on a metered connection such as your mobile contract or a pay-as-you-go connection. Read more »
Do I need a vehicle emission sticker if I’m travelling to Europe?
More countries on the European mainland are adopting forms of vehicle control. One method is a requirement to display a sticker that shows the exhaust emission levels of your vehicle. This has been in operation in parts of Germany for some time but more recently cities in France and Belgium have started to roll out schemes too. Older diesel vehicles in particular are being targeted. There is a lot of good information online. There’s a broad European overview and our Travel Service team has summarised much of this. Read more »
Do I have to get a proper registration plate made for my trailer?
Yes, a registration plate on the back of the trailer has the same legal status as the one on the back of a car. It must therefore meet the required standards of colour, construction, font and reflectivity as prescribed in the standard BS AU 145d. It must also be illuminated at night. Read more »
Is a storage cover necessary for a folding camper? Mine comes with a cover from the factory.
The supplied cover will generally offer very good protection to the stowed habitation equipment, whether in storage or on the highway. Yet it is worth noting that the paintwork, the elastic retainers and similar are still exposed to the weather. A full storage cover only leaves the hitch assembly and the wheels exposed. If you are leaving your camper for a long time, particularly at a remote storage location, then you may want to consider the additional protection of an extra storage cover. Read more »
Years ago we used to add extra fans and coolers to our cars for towing, especially if we had an automatic. Is this still necessary?
Most cars with automatic gearboxes have integrated cooling as standard now so it may not be necessary to perform any modifications. However, it may be beneficial to increase the frequency of servicing, such as oil changes. Check with a dealer’s technician to see if there’s any further information for those who are towing that’s not covered in the standard service manual. Read more »
I have a new motorhome and recently it has been draining water from a small pipe (not the main drain) as I try to fill it. Do you know why?
Assuming nothing is broken, then your standard drain cock may be open. This is usually a small yellow lever close to the hot water system. It’s more likely, however, that you have a frost protection release valve. This opens when it gets cold to drain water from the system to prevent frozen water splitting pipes. It needs to be reset manually, so check your handbook for further instructions and its location. Read more »
How much gas can I carry on a ferry?
We would always recommend you check with your crossing operator as ferry companies reserve the right to amend their policies. Normally, though, you will be restricted to no more than 47kg in a maximum of three bottles. This is both a lot of gas and a great deal of weight if you take the full load. It would take up over half the user payload on some tourers. Read more »
Do I need an adaptor to use a Continental electric hook-up point?
You may do. Though much of the network of campsites throughout mainland Europe has adapted the same plug as the UK there are some older legacy hook-up bollards using a domestic Continental plug, the sort with two round pins. Adaptors are readily available from good camping shops. Read more »
How can I find the profile size on my trailer’s tyres?
You should be able to see the tyre size on the side of the tyre. If yours says 175/80 R 13C on the sidewall this means it is 175mm wide, radial in design (R), has a 13in rim diameter and is a commercial tyre (C). The nominal profile is 80, thus if you were filling out a form to order tyres, you’d put 175 80 R 13C.
Don’t forget the speed rating and load index figures too, the full set of markings and what they mean is explained in our tyre datasheet. Read more »
What is the best type of security devices for my tourer?
Always check with your insurer as it may have a specific list of approved security devices, however if it just specifies a wheel clamp and some other device such as a barrier post or a hitchlock for a trailer, we suggest you look at the Sold Secure tested products catalogue. These products are given ratings on how well they resisted attack testing. Read more »
Do caravan wheels have inner tubes?
No, for many years now most caravans have been equipped with tubeless radial tyres. Classic and vintage caravans may have inner tubes, as might some wheels on compact pod caravans that are based on standard small trailers.Read more »
Can I use a wind generator when camping?
In principle you can but there are some caveats.
Most small wind generators can give a meaningful charge with a wind speed over 10knots (6m/s), however when you look at the Met Office’s wind speed map for the UK, most such places are coastal or high up.
Campsites are often quite sheltered, for the comfort of campers, and the turbine will need to be mounted over 4m high. Consideration needs to be given to how this tall structure will be stabilised and tethered safely.Read more »
I’m struggling to add coordinates into my satnav. How do I work out what’s east and west or plus or minus (+ or -)?
Assuming you’re travelling in the northern hemisphere and the numbers are in decimal (rather than degrees, minutes and seconds), all coordinates east and west (longitude) are measured from the Prime Meridian. This is a line, effectively through Greenwich, which is nominated as 0 degrees, neither east or west.
Where longitude is denoted with a minus it means west of the Prime Meridian and a plus symbol denotes an east direction.Read more »
What are the UK speed limits for a motorhome?
A motorhome or, more correctly, a ‘motorised caravan’ has the same speed limits as a car with one exception. Larger conversions with an unladen weight exceeding 3,050kg are restricted to 60mph on dual carriageways. A full breakdown of the regulations can found here.Read more »
Is it normal for a modern engine to consume oil? As far as I can tell, it doesn’t leak.
There will always be a small loss of oil in any engine. Under modern emission regulations this should be burnt off through the combustion chambers. Check your vehicle handbook, as it should suggest a nominal range of oil consumption, you may find up to 500ml per 1,000km is considered normal. Under heavy loads this may increase slightly, so when on a long tour check your oil level and carry a small bottle of the correct type of oil to top it up, if required.Read more »
The tyre size and pressure plate on my motorhome doesn’t match the details on the tyre sidewalls. Is this OK?
This can happen when the tyres have been changed from the original van specification during conversion or by a previous owner. When the size or load index changes then you may need to keep the tyres at a different inflation pressure from that given on the plate. The two most important points are that the tyres can carry the maximum axle weight with capacity to spare and they’re not under inflated.
Tyresafe has created a pressure calculator for motorhomes but you must know your axle weight to get the best from it.Read more »
Do you allow dogs on your campsites?
Yes we do and there’s no charge on our Club Sites but we do have a few simple rules, which you can find here. Other site operators, even those in our main SiteSeeker directory, may operate different policies so it’s worth checking before you book.Read more »
Can the AL-KO Diamond wheel lock be retro-fitted to any caravan?
With certain limitations, yes. The caravan will need to have a post-2001 AL-KO axle with the correct style of alloy wheels (for which AL-KO has made a lock yolk) and the caravan needs to have a dedicated receiver fitted. You can check whether you already have a receiver by peering through the wheel’s spaces on the left-hand side of the caravan. If there’s no receiver then you can order the necessary parts, in the AL-KO Plus Kit, and have them fitted by a trained AL-KO chassis technician.
For chassis dated between 2001 and 2005 the Premium Kit is required, with a replacement back-plate.Read more »
Can I get internal tyre pressure sensors for my motorhome, the valve-cap type seems so vulnerable to theft?
Most of the valve-cap kits come with some means of theft prevention, whether a grub-screw or a secondary lock nut. Some manufacturers offer the internal type but these can only be installed by a tyre fitter. Ask about battery life, ideally you’ll want the sensor’s battery to last around five to seven years, the typical life of a tyre. Read more »
My awning zips are a bit stiff, can they be lubricated?
Products such as Aquatex from Isabella are sold as a waterproofing product but also act as a light lubricant for zips without harming surrounding materials. It can also be used as a lubricant to help draw an awning through the channel. Read more »
Can I carry bikes on the towbar and tow a trailer too?
There are systems that allow you to fit a cycle carrier but still leave the towball free to allow the coupling of a trailer, Maxxraxx and Witter are two manufacturers of these.
Most such systems are designed to fit behind the flange of a fixed towball, there must be sufficient clearance and the capacity to carry the weight of the rack, bikes and the load from the trailer. Large 4x4 vehicles often have high noseweight limits and have the necessary spare capacity but this can be an issue with a more conventional car.
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Does my caravan (or motorhome habitation) service cover the fridge?
In routine servicing the fridge, whether two or three-way, will be checked for general function and basic safe operation. You can ask for a fridge service at extra cost, this can be particularly important for the gas-powered fridges. Read more »
Is it worth using a caravan or motorhome cover?
The simple answer is yes, a good quality cover will protect a tourer when in storage. However, you must follow the instructions for use and make sure the vehicle is clean and reasonably dry before the cover goes on. Any dirt will act like a fine abrasive, damaging the finish, as the cover moves over the surface. Read more »
Is there an easy way of finding an Approved Workshop for my caravan or motorhome service?
The Approved Workshop’s website has a search function and you can also download an app. If you have a suitable iPhone or Android smartphone you can download and install the free app from the appropriate app store. This allows you to search using your handheld device. Remember, as the network grows you’ll need to update the app. Read more »
Can you replace fluorescent tube lights for LEDs in the same housing?
In principal you can but it is not a direct swap. The fluorescent tubes require a circuit to get them started and this is not required for the LED replacements. Your supplier should be able to advise but if you have any doubts ask a caravan technician to do the work for you. Read more »
How often should I re-proof an item such as a coat or rucksack?
There’s no hard and fast rule about this. Most treatments sit on a surface and change the surface tension, making it hydrophobic – water doesn’t want to stay on it. Watch out for areas where water begins to soak in rather than run off. Areas that get rubbed tend to fail first, so for example a coat may be compromised first where rucksack straps press and rub against it. Don’t wait for something to leak before re-treatment. Read more »
Do I need to use a lighting board when I’m carrying bikes on the back of my car?
If any of the bikes interfere with the clear view of the lights or registration plate at the back of the vehicle then you must rectify this and a lighting board is the ideal low-cost solution. You can have a socket for this fitted under or behind your bumper. This is effectively just the electrics pack of a normal towbar. You don’t actually have to have the towbar itself fitted if the car offers some other structure where a socket can be attached. Read more »
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