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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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Can the 12V DC part of my three-way fridge run on a battery?
In theory it could, but it will drain a typical auxiliary or leisure battery very quickly.
This mode is designed to be used when the engine is running so the starter battery is being charged by the vehicle’s alternator. Some of this output is directed to the fridge via an automatic relay, keeping the fridge cool while driving. This applies to motorhomes as it does to cars and caravans too.
Once on site you then choose whether to use gas or a 230V mains hook-up, depending on what’s available.
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I increase the pressure in my car tyres for towing. Should I reduce it again when I’m on site?
In theory you should adjust the pressure to suit the task at hand. Realistically this is often not practical and leaving tyres with a few extra pounds in them for a few days while on holiday normally shouldn’t be an issue. The ride may be a little harsher and there could be a change in the car’s handling, particularly if it’s wet. Read more »
Do you have to use every guy line when pitching a tent?
The answer to this question is very much weather dependent but if you’re camping in the UK, with its fickle weather, I’m inclined to use most – if not all – of the guys supplied when I pitch a tent. It only adds a few more minutes to the process. Read more »
Why is it so difficult to slide the fabric of my awning through the awning rail?
It shouldn’t be. If your caravan or motorhome is new you may need to do a little work as some adhesive may having found its way into the channel from the factory. It will need cleaning out.
Normally an awning will slide through easily. If not, you can add a little lubrication, such as a silicone spray that’s used as a waterproofer for awnings. This can help ease things through the channel.
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Can I use any water repellent spray on my camping and outdoor gear?
The short answer is no. Although reproofing sprays, coatings or durable water repellents (DWR) generally do broadly the same thing, there are different formulations for different materials. Some off-the-shelf products may not be suitable for garments at all as they’re made for structural care.
Always read the label and follow the instructions closely to get the best from such products.
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I would like to fit alloy wheels on my motorhome. Is there anything I should consider before I buy?
Besides the basic question of whether such wheels will fit, there some more nuanced details to consider.
A motorhome is usually based on a van and is often at the top end of the weight the normal van would carry. You need to be sure the new wheels will carry the weight of your motorhome as wheels – like tyres – have a maximum working load limit. Also check with the supplier if you need different lug-nuts or bolts. If you have tyre pressure monitoring valves you will also need to know whether they can be transferred.
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Does the Club have a list of recommended security products?
We don’t keep a list of equipment as we don’t see ourselves as the experts in this matter.
However, Sold Secure is a scheme that tests a large number of security products, overseen by the Master Locksmiths Association.
The scheme tests products with a range of attack methods and rates how resistant they are. The products are then given ratings from bronze and silver to gold, to illustrate how well they withstand the attacks. There’s also a special caravan wheel lock category called diamond.
You may find your insurance provider will recommend a product that has a particular Sold Secure rating.
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How much gas does a three-way fridge use?
It depends on the size of the fridge, the ambient temperature and whether or not it has a pilot-light or electronic ignition. However, when on gas a fridge is generally surprisingly frugal. Around 15g an hour is a good average figure to work from if you don’t have any specifications or performance figures to hand. Read more »
Which is better, solar panel (photo-electric) or a petrol generator?
Solar panels make a lot of sense on the campsite. They work quietly, using daylight to charge your leisure battery system which in turn can be used at night. For most campers this is sufficient.
Others may require short bursts of higher power for some reason, or longer periods of power on-demand that a solar array, cannot meet, even with a big battery (or batteries). In this context a petrol generator is great.
We ask campers to check with site owners or stewards to find out when you can run a generator. If you have an emergency medical need and this could require a time period extension, let them know.
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My motorhome has a gas tank fitted underneath it. Where can I fill this?
Bulk tanks such as those fitted to motorhomes use the same liquified petroleum gas (LPG) as cars. This is propane in the UK, the same gas you’ll find in a red Calor bottle for example, and is normally found at Autogas filling stations.
Autogas stations are spread throughout the UK found in a mixture of normal fuel forecourts and small independent suppliers.
The UK’s LPG industry keeps an online map, but we strongly recommend you contact a supplier before making a special journey as sometimes the pumps are out of action.
Read more »
What air pressure should be in my motorhome tyres?
This is a very challenging question to answer as it depends on the load carrying capacity of the tyre and the weight you’re actually putting on it.
Our partner Tyresafe has created a web tool to help you. You will need to know the exact size and specification of the tyres on your motorhome and ideally the axle weights. If you don’t know the axle weights then you can work off the maximum weights on the VIN plate. Either way, once you have this data you can enter it on the web page and find the suggested pressure for most common tyre sizes used.
Read more »
Can I use domestic drain cleaner in my caravan or motorhome?
You must be very careful how you use chemical cleaners around a tourer, particularly if you have lightweight moulded plastic sinks and other non-domestic-style surfaces. If you check the handbook there should be notes about care and cleaning. The manufacturer may even may suggest a product. However, the drainpipes are tough plastic, similar to those used in the home but with a smaller diameter, so you could use domestic products here. Take great care to guide anything down the plughole and not get any on the more sensitive plastic basins and bowls. A cardboard toilet roll centre could be used as a guide and splash control for example. If you have any doubts, don’t use such cleaners. Read more »
How long can I stay on a Club Site?
All UK campsites that are designated for touring and leisure use in their planning permission are limited to a maximum 28-day stay, so these rules apply to Club Sites too. If you wish to stay longer you must vacate the pitch for at least one night before returning. Read more »
Do I need a tent footprint?
A tent footprint is an extra groundsheet-style piece of fabric to go under your standard tent groundsheet. It can be helpful in some circumstances, offering a little extra protection to fixed or sewn-in ground sheets (SIGs) from sharp objects concealed in the grass for example. It can also be handy as a sheet to fold or roll-up a struck tent on when the underlying ground is particularly wet or muddy. However, if water puddles between the tent and groundsheet then some of this extra benefit is lost. Read more »
Do I need a special driving licence to drive a motorhome?
A standard B-class åcar licence permits you to drive any vehicle up to a maximum gross weight of 3,500kg if you passed your test after 1 January 1997, which will cover many campervans and motorhomes.
However, if the motorhome is heavier than 3,500kg you’ll need licence category C1 and depending on when you passed your test you may or may not have this on your licence. As you get older you will also need to pass a medical to retain this option. Our datasheet #40 covers many aspects of driving licences including their limitations and medical requirements.
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Are all campsite electric hook-ups 16A?
The blue plug used on campsites and fitted to motorhomes, caravans and other camping kit is rated to a maximum of 16A but the site supply may vary. In some cases it may be little more than 6A. The Club Site network is largely 16A but we still have some at 10A hook-up points, for example. If you have any doubt ask the site when you book or arrive. To understand hook-ups better take a look at our dedicated datasheet. Read more »
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 »
BARRY NORRIS looks at how to keep your camping cassette toilet in tip top condition and maximise your convenience
In the market for a new motorhome? IAN HEWLETT explains all you need to know about motorhome VED (Road Tax) increases
Ian Hewlett gives us an update on Calor Lite plus the growing demand for refillable LPG cylinders
Technical Manager Ian Hewlett takes part in the Highways England campaign trial to see how tailgating affects drivers