When you are starting out in the world of caravanning, there is a great deal of new knowledge that needs to be acquired and put into practice, and occasionally, mistakes can be made. Personally, I prefer to see these mistakes as something of a learning curve!
So, without further ado, let's take a look at some of the most common errors.
The tyres are your only contact with the road and if they are not in good condition, or serviced regularly, you could end up anywhere but on the road.
Checking the tyres' condition is often overlooked, so if your caravan has been left stationary for a few months, do a visual check of the tyres (and the spare tyre). Are there cracks in the side wall? Has any bubbling occurred?
If there are any signs of degradation, then change the tyres immediately.
Before setting off on any journey, check the tyre pressure to ensure that the caravan is safe and stable. Bear in mind that the tyres must be cold before checking the pressure. Incorrect tyre pressure could cause a number of serious problems, such as affecting the handling of the caravan and the fuel consumption, reducing the longevity of the tyres and potentially causing a tyre to fail.
In caravanning, hitching up is one of the most important stages, and if you get it wrong, this could be catastrophic. Don't ever rush this task - you could end up becoming separated from your caravan.
Make sure that the breakaway cable is in good condition and the correct length. The cable's job is to deploy the handbrake and (hopefully) stop the caravan in its tracks, thus preventing it from becoming a runaway van on the road. Finally, don't forget to take the handbrake off before moving away.
To engage the motor mover, there are various steps to complete. First, turn on the power source; second, engage the roller and finally, take off the handbrake (obviously, do this in reverse once finished with it).
Before starting your journey, check that the roller has been released from the tyre. Forgetting to do this could damage not only your tyre, but the roller, too.
Some people believe they can simply chuck all their belongings into a caravan and hit the road. But this is not the case, and there can be some serious consequences f the van is not loaded properly.
Too much weight at the rear will cause the caravan to snake and in the worst case scenario, tip over. Ideally, the weight should be low and located over the central axle.
Avoid packing the overhead lockers with items - following a bumpy journey, these can become dislodged in transit. A can of beans is quite painful falling from a height!
It might seem like stating the obvious, but remember to lift the corner steadies fully before driving away. Also, it is not advisable to step into a caravan without the corner steadies down - this creates a see-saw effect that can damage the axle.
Waste and water
Drain down your caravan before storing, particularly in winter. Water expands on freezing and can split the pipes.
When bringing a caravan out of storage, take the time to give the pipes a good clean.
It is a common mistake to use Milton sterilising fluid for this. Although it's often used to disinfect baby bottles, it can leave a bit of a taste in a van's water system. Use products designed for leisure vehicles.
When returning from holiday, it's an easy mistake to empty the fridge of its contents and just shut the door. But once the fridge has been turned off, it is recommended to leave the door ajar, to prevent the build-up of mildew or mould.
However, if you forget to do this and need to give the fridge a good clean, avoid using any household products - they can damage the interior lining.
Instead, dissolve one heaped teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda in a litre of warm water. Alternatively, try Thetford Bathroom Cleaner.
Toilet cassettes can often be overlooked after returning from a trip. There is nothing worse than going on your next holiday to find that you have forgotten to empty the toilet cassette.
I give the cassette a deep clean every couple of months, using products such as Dometic Tank Cleaner. Not only does it tackle the scale, it also freshens everything up.
Following a good clean, don't forget to treat the rubber seal with silicone spray, to prevent the rubber from drying out. It will also maintain the smooth operation of the valve blades.
The flush water tank is often neglected and never emptied. This is a particular problem during winter, because residual water might freeze, potentially causing damage. Some toilet systems have a drain-down tube to aid the emptying process. Alternatively, just keep flushing the water through into the toilet cassette until nothing more comes out.
Windows and skylights
A costly mistake to make, and yet one that you see happening a lot, it to leave a window or skylight open on leaving a site.
The last thing you want is for your window or skylight to be ripped from its hinges and turned into a projectile.
Caravanners who regularly forget to close their windows and skylights might want to consider using Smart-Trailer's E-Switch module.
One of the system's many security functions is a warning to alert you to an open window, skylight or door in your caravan, which is communicated via your smartphone. The modules are wireless and fit to any type of door, window or skylight.
No matter how experienced you are, it can be easy to forget just how tall or wide your caravan is.
We nearly made a drastic error when towing around Paris. Anyone who has towed there will know that there are quite a few low tunnels. Luckily, we were able to avert disaster and find an alternative route. My advice is to keep your van dimensions close to hand, for example, in the sun visor.
These are just a few of the most common errors I have come across, but there are many more tales of woe out there.
Don't let this put you off touring, though - just use it as a checklist of what to avoid and perhaps share your views with other caravanners, so they do not make the same mistakes.
Remember, accidents can and do happen, even to the most experienced tourer!
Areas to double check before setting off:
- Hitching up
- Motor movers
- Corner steadies
- Waste and water
- Windows and skylights