John Wickersham

See other Advice articles filed in ‘General caravan advice’ written by John Wickersham
   
Don't let essential repairs or a shortage of caravan spares spoil your holiday or your touring plans, with John Wickersham's expert advice

Obtaining spare caravan parts isn’t always easy. Even the owners of recent models sometimes wait for several weeks before an important product arrives at a dealer’s workshop. For example, the front window of my two-year-old tourer started leaking last October and the problem still hasn’t been cured completely.

Not surprisingly, owners of older tourers struggle to obtain caravan spares, especially body panels – whether it’s fairings, wheel spats, moulded front and rear panels or unusually shaped windows. In contrast, spares for appliances – including heating systems, hobs, ovens and toilets – plus water-system components are usually easy to find.

When an item is needed during the height of caravanning season, obtaining a product is clearly urgent. Mindful of the fact that delays sometimes occur, the National Caravan Council published its ‘Guide to Good Practice, 2002 – Supply of Spare Parts for Warranty and After-Sales’. In this guide, the following guidance was quoted:

‘The industry has agreed the following maximum timescales from the date of notification, for the supply of replacement parts to the Dealer/customer for any Caravan/Motorhome.

  • Aluminium body panels and associated hardware – 8 weeks
  • Glassfibre/plastic body panels – 8 weeks
  • Custom-made parts – 8 weeks
  • Windows – 8 weeks
  • Upholstery – 6 weeks
  • All other current standard component parts – 3 weeks
  • Non-current standard component parts – 8 weeks’

Also of interest to caravan owners is the fact that there was an agreement that replacement parts should ‘continue to be made available for a minimum of eight years’.

Whereas the times quoted above are a maximum expected delay, it’s no secret that some owners have had to wait longer, not forgetting that there is also time required to fit complex components such as a caravan front panel. In contrast, a replacement window can often be fitted in less than an hour.

Without doubt, the prospect of a wait of around eight weeks or more can ruin plans for a full and involved season of caravanning. There’s also the fact that certain parts for caravans constructed more than eight years previously might not be available through normal suppliers at all.

In spite of these comments, it is also worth knowing that there is a number of less-known suppliers who can often get you back on the road more quickly than expected. Here are some suppliers I think are worth knowing.

Caravan dismantlers

Specialists such as the Caravan Centre at Blaenavon, south Wales, have been known to dismantle more than 1000 caravans in the course of a year. These are not necessarily desperately old models: a few may be less than a year old.

After all, a rear-end shunt can render major repairs financially unviable, while a ‘scrapped’ caravan of recent manufacture is likely to contain nearly new appliances that were not damaged. So reclaimable items are duly removed and placed into stock to sell to the public.

Surplus-stock suppliers

A specialist such as Magnum Caravan Surplus recognises that many manufacturers change their model ranges annually. In consequence, Magnum purchases new surplus components from factories that won’t be using them in subsequent models and then puts these on sale to the public.

Similarly, when Avondale ceased building touring caravans in 2009 Magnum purchased all of the spares and used a fleet of trucks to transport them back to its base in Grimsby.

Panel fabrication manufacturers

Occasionally, moulded pieces – such as caravan end panels, washbasins and shower trays – are no longer available, but specialist companies can create one-off replacements. If, for example, a rear-wall body skirt has split, skilled fabricators can repair the pieces so that a copy mould can be created in glass-reinforced plastic, also known as GRP or glassfibre. After creating a mould, they create replica mouldings for customers and store these for future orders.

There aren’t many specialist firms in this field. However, the Caravan Panel Shop at Catforth near Preston and V&G Caravans at Willersey near Peterborough have put many seemingly irreparable caravans back into service.

In summary

Without a doubt, there are occasions when the quickest way to get hold of caravan spares is to try suppliers such as the ones mentioned here. There are others that we have yet to visit and The Caravan Club can supply members with a list of breakers.

As regards creating replica GRP products, this sometimes contravenes the original designer’s copyright and that is an issue you may want to check. In practice it isn’t usually a difficulty with caravan components and, while it’s often impossible to trace obsolete ABS mouldings, a GRP replica is sometimes much stronger.

With regard to prices, they can vary a great deal and it’s worth looking at these companies’ websites. Recently I heard of an owner who had to pay over £4000 for a replacement caravan front panel. That is a lot of money and I was interested to see front mouldings listed on The Caravan Panel Shop website that cost much less than that.

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