Welcome to Laz and Sue's Q&A page.
The purpose of this page is to list common questions and the answers to those types of questions people who are starting out on their caravanning adventure may have. We researched for 4 years before hitting the road and found it difficult to find some of the more basic questions when you're not aware of the abundance of facebook groups.
The below answers come from our research, our experiences and our mistakes. Every caravan and nomad has its/their own way of dealing with things and may well be different from our experiences but like most things in life there are multiple ways to do everything so the below is not the golden rule..... it's a guide.
Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page if there's a question you'd like added. This list will be constantly updated as new questions and answers come to light.
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General Caravan Questions
Q: What size caravan should I buy?
A: This question actually comes down to personal circumstances along with what you can afford, what tow vehicle you have and what you plan to do when travelling. If it's your first time towing, I’d suggest not going too big first up, the bigger you go the more you have to deal with when backing and driving and also some caravan parks have limits to the size of a vehicle/caravan setup. As much as we would love to say this size will fit everyone it's not one of those questions unfortunately. Visit as many caravan yards as you can and do your research before deciding. Work out what weights your vehicle can tow that will narrow down some of the choices and then when at caravan shows sit on all the seats , lye on all the beds, get a feel for what you like. Ideally if you can rent a van for a short week/month holiday that would be a great way to see what you like and what you don't.
Q: What made you choose a caravan ?
A: We went through several stages of what should we buy, motorhome, caravan, slide on camper, 5th wheeler etc. For us our decision to go with a caravan had several factors.
Practicality - Although a motorhome would of been a good choice for us that meant if one of us had to go to work while the other didn't then it would make things difficult with only one vehicle and therefore to tow a 4wd behind the motorhome would of had to been a option and we just couldn't afford the lot.
Price - The price of a caravan was obtainable where as a 5th wheeler or a motorhome + trailing car was also out of price range
Small camper van was not a space option for our full time travel same with a slide on camper and same with a tent
5th wheeler - Now this would of been nice but price stopped us from doing it. 5th wheelers are great as they apparently tow like a dream , you get more space for your length but you do have to watch that you get one made and designed for Australian roads and not a USA one that may struggle to cope with our conditions. Also some 5th wheelers get frowned upon for size in caravan parks,
You also need to either buy something to suit your existing tow vehicle or upgrade the tow vehicle to to match what you want to buy. For us to upgrade the tow vehicle was another $20,000+ to find so it wasn't a option when we already had a $30,000 ute, therefore we matched the caravan to what we could tow.
Q: Do you stay hitched to the car if only staying overnight.
A: Sometimes yes but sometimes no. When free camping if you don't feel it’s the safest area in the world or you're only going to be there for a few hours then we just stay hitched and in some cases even leave the stabiliser legs up. On other occasions if we are in a free camp that feels good and we choose to stay for a couple of days we un hook then go exploring, go for coffee or to the pub etc. Despite living a low income lifestyle it’s still good to spend in the community you’re in to show your appreciation for providing free camps and helps keep the economy alive.
Q: Our Jayco door handles keep falling apart
A: In our 2016 model the cupboard door handles are notorious for the little pins that hold the handles in place to work their way loose. What we done is put a small blob of blue tack on the bottom of each handle and the pins no longer fall out, its tidy, cheap and effective. The handles themselves are plastic as well and prone to breaking. If you ever feel a cupboard is tight to open have a go at adjusting it before the handle breaks. I believe the 2017 models now come out with metal versions.
Q: What upgrades do you recommend when we order our van?
A: Extended draw bar helps with reversing and gives you the opportunity to fit a stone guard etc. if required. Reverse and rear view cameras are super handy if you have them. Extra water tanks and a grey water tank if you can fit them in, the grey water tank puts you in the category of self-sufficient (depending on who you ask) which allows you into a lot more places than those that aren't. Certainly as much solar as you can fit and batteries to suit. Check out the spreadsheet page for a solar calculator to help you work out what will work for you. Inline water filters for a drinking water tap and for the hose that fills the tanks. Suggest getting them from other shops rather than the dealers, price is a lot cheaper. If you can persuade the dealer to throw in a couple of Sirrocco fans for free then you’re on a winner there 🙂
Q: Do you turn off the battery switch when on 240v mains power ?
A: For us … our Jayco will still run the lights and TV etc. off the 12 v batteries, so to turn off the battery switch would stop those appliances working , therefore we leave the switch on. The batteries also charge from a on board charger when plugged into 240v so turning the switch off will also stop your batteries charging.
Q: How long does gas supply last ?
A: There are a lot of variables in this question which will change the answer dramatically. If you have a 3 way fridge my understanding is by the time you cook, heat your hot water and cool your fridge using gas, then about a month on a 9kg gas bottle is normal. Whereas for us we use gas for hot water only when we need it and gas for cooking and our 9kg bottle takes about 3 months to go empty. We have a compressor fridge that runs off the batteries/Solar and 240v if plugged into the mains so we tend to last longer before re filling than those with 3 way fridges.
Q: Swap and go gas bottles or refill ?
A: For us we will only refill our existing gas bottles as we have a relatively new van the gas bottles are also new. Often with swap and go you end up with someones else's almost expired bottles. On top of that when i watch the person fill our bottles i know we are getting full bottles not 3/4 full ones.
Q: What are main expenses when fulltime on the road ?
A: For us and a few others that i've talked to the top 3 expenses are : Groceries being number 1 expence then in second place is Fuel and then it's a battle for third between accommodation and alcohol. Eating habits do change when on the road so it can take a while to get a average of your food expenses. A meal plan is a good idea to help regulate costs and also not forgetting to go for a walk during the days so the happy hour hips don't catch up with you 🙂
It also all depends on what your into on the road. If you're into doing all the tourist things like zoo's, flights over mountains and adrenaline sports then that'll chew a hole in your pocket pretty quickly also.
Q: What's the worst thing about being on the road fulltime ?
A: Flies and mosquitoes are the top two for me other than that it's all positive.
Q: Is levelling your van important ?
A: In some cases yes, your van needs to be level to allow the 3 way fridge to work properly. You'll also find that if your van is not level the sinks take longer to drain if the waste water has to travel uphill. If not level then when washing your dishes the water from the dishes may also run down the back of the bench and most importantly cooking the morning bacon and eggs is annoying when the eggs run off to the one side of the pan because you're on a lean :). Suggest a T shaped level from Bunnings be attached to the draw bar ( or somewhere you prefer) so that when setting up you can easily determine what you need to do to make the van level. We find the 3 level ramps are easy to use but do provide a home for ants and spiders so make sure you spray or shake them before storage.
Q: How much should i budget per week ?
A: As a weekly average we spend $540. That usually comprises mainly of food, fuel, social drinks and spending money in the towns we visit. On many of the FB pages the general consensus is you'll spend $1 per 1 km. Personally i don't understand that logic cause if we stayed put for a month and not travelled we still have to eat , drink and pay insurances etc. Anyway i guess it comes down to how good you are with money but for starters allow $700 - $900 a week to help cover annual expenses as well, such as insurance, rego's and the likes. I've read before one person gets their grocery bill down to $50 a week, we haven't mastered that one yet.
Q: How far to travel each day ?
A: Another personal preference question but we once had mentioned to us one day by a fellow traveller " we don't travel any more than 200km a day or you end up missing half the country" and that philosophy made sense to us so we generally follow the same structure.
Now as a added suggestion to keep in mind. If you do consider following suit and only travel for 2 or 3 hours between stops then if you are running a DCDC inverter in the back of your vehicle to charge a second battery then depending on the state of charge of the battery, 2 hours may not be enough to charge the battery back up. This is something we didn't take into account when we first started and thought we'd be travelling for hours between stops so it would be ok .... nowadays it's not, as sometimes we can free camp for days and not travel yet still use the dual battery.
In this case my suggestion is to also add a solar panel to assist charging the dual battery in your vehicle while stopped or doing less km between camps.
Q: How do caravan toilets work ?
A: The modern toilet in a caravan is a cassette type. By cassette type I mean ours is a 17.5 litre removable but sealed container which once full you can take to a abundance of specific dump points around Australia and empty it into the sewer network. I can only vouch at this stage for the type we have which is a Thetford model and flushes using water direct from our water holding tanks it also has a high level light to let you know when to empty it. Most caravan toilets require chemicals to help breakdown the waste and decrease smells. There are plenty of commercial options to use but there is also plenty of home remedy things you can use such as the homebrand laundry soaker
. Here is a article from a chemist ( Toilet Chemicals
) on the laundry soaker option, credits for the article are in the article.
Q: Do you have to use a special toilet paper ?
A : Just the special type that prevents your finger going through when wiping 🙂 Ideally thinner is better because it breaks down quicker but in general it's no different to what you use at home. Remember to take into account the more paper you use the sooner you have to empty the toilet.
Q: Are on board washing machines worth it ?
A: Those that have them love them those that don’t will usually bad mouth them. We have a small 3kg sphere washing machine which saves us lining up to the laundry. You’ll also be surprised how much a couple of dollars in each machine you use mounts up after a year. In saying that our sphere washer does use a fair amount of water which is not ideal when your free camping in the outback but for those occasions using the washing machine only for its spin cycle ( via a 300w inverter) is likely to come in handy 🙂 . There are also a handful of alternative methods from washing clothes in the back of your car in a bucket while you drive through to foot powered machines, either way the machine has it’s time and place.
Q: How often do toilets need changed ?
A: On average for the two of us it's roughly every third day. Like everything there are variations to this for others. A few obvious things are
- Being if in remote areas males tend to go into the bush for a pee.
- When flushing if you get to trigger happy and flush a lot that will fill it pretty quickly
- If you use too much toilet paper that will also do it etc.
But in general about every 3 days for a couple.
Q: Showering tips
A: To save water when free camping and having a shower, use a 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner to save washing your hair twice.
- Get wet
- Turn off shower
- Soap and scrub up
- Turn on Shower and wash off.
You'll be surprised how much little water it really takes to have a shower when compared to how we used to do it in the city lifestyle :).
Q: What size are the main beds in a caravan, can I use Queen size sheets ?
A: This will vary depending on what caravan you buy and what floor plan it is. My understanding is that if it has a slide out like our Jayco then it's most likely a double. Ours are also a specially made mattress with corners cut off to help walking past but normal double sheets fit fine. No need to go and get especially made sheets. The double sheet does not cover the bolster cushion that caravans come with to extend the mattress length but that’s not an issue anyway as your pillows go over the top of them. My advise would be to get the bed measurements from the manufacturer for the model you are getting as they will vary.
Q: I've heard caravan mattresses are not very comfy , can you get a inner spring mattress for them ?
A: You heard correct, the standard Jayco mattress takes a bit to get used to. The latest Jayco’ s already come out with innerspring mattresses but due to weight and space they are a lot thinner than your standard household mattress therefore not as comfy. The trick here is to do what a lot of people do and invest in either some eggshell foam from Clarke rubber as a bed underlay (they also do mattresses for caravans) or a specific bed topper from a store. We opted for the bed topper and it made a big difference. Additionally we also turned our slats around so the bow in the slats pointed towards the floor. This makes the mattress less firm for that peaceful night sleep.
Q: What sort of things do you store under the bed ?
A: For us it's less commonly used items such as extra power cords, paper work and items we don't use much but need to keep. This is because lifting the bed up and down all the time to get stuff out becomes a pain so best to use it for hiding stuff you don’t always use but can't throw away. It's also a good place to put some of the heavier items if they fit due to that weight being over the wheels of the van (if that's where your bed is situated) therefore distributing the weight better.
Q: Do I need to raise the bed if moving the slide out in or out ?
A: Yes raise it or you may find, if like ours, the gas struts will hit the end board on the bed frame and break it or it will jam the slide out and put the motors out of sync.
Q : What sort of items should I take from home to put in the van kitchen ?
A: Use your best judgement and put all the items you think you'll need onto the kitchen table.... then half it and potentially half that again :). Remember weight is something you'll constantly think about when hitting the road so try and aim for most items having a dual purpose in life, if not then you don't need it :). How many people living in your van? Only two? Then you'll only need 3 or 4 of each cutlery as you're less likely to now be catering for family and friends Christmas dinners when living on the road. You'll find most people you sit down to have a beer and nibbles with are also campers with weight limits so each person will bring their own chairs, glasses and plate over as trying to cater for a group by storing 15 glasses , 20 cutlery sets and 10 bowls is just not normal. Bowls and pots need to have multi purposes, there is no need to have a family of casserole dishes as an example.
Q: Cooking in a caravan
A: Cooking in a caravan is really no different to cooking at home, most touring caravans will have a gas cooker where you can boil peas through to cook a roast in the oven. Alternatively getting out the weber BBQ and cooking outside is one of the many blessings to being on the road. Groceries and stock levels can be similar to being at home dependant on weight and space so all in all there’s no real surprises when cooking for the first time in a caravan and just like home it’s reliant on either your imagination or favourite cook book. Remember to leave windows open when cooking in a caravan though as you need ventilation when using a gas appliance.
Q: How long does water in the tanks last for ?
A: That's a fairly "how long is a piece of string" sort of question but let me have a go at answering it..... Living in the city where water just turns up when you operate a tap we have a tendency to be extremely wasteful society. Habits change dramatically when caravanning and it soon dawns on you just how much water we used to waste brushing our teeth, washing our hands, having a shower etc. So once your habits change from the city lifestyle you could expect to see 160 litres of water lasting almost two weeks for two people. You'll find ways of conserving water from turning water off in the shower until all soaped up to using paper plates to save washing up.
Q: Can i use a microwave when free camping ?
A: Not without assistance is the short answer.
You need 240v power supply (mains power) to run a microwave so to do that you will need either a Inverter ( see below inverter explanations under Appliances heading ) or a generator.
Q: How do i clean my potable water tanks if i need to ?
A: There are a few home remedies for this one like baking soda and vinegar etc. but when we have had to clean ours due to a bad batch of rain water from a farm stay, we used a couple of bottles of Milton ( baby bottle cleaner ) from the supermarket at $6 a bottle and put that through our tanks then left it for a few hours and flushed out the tanks with clean town water, worked well.
Q: What are some space saving tips ?
A: A lot of things in the caravanning scene come down to weight and space. Because you have the space doesn't mean you need to fill it. What you always have to keep in mind is for every item you add to a caravan that brings you closer to your maximum safe towing limit. Therefore sometimes it's good to have regular clean outs. One tip i read recently was if you use something put a coloured sticker on it. If in 3 or 6 months’ time there's something in the cupboard without a sticker then chances are you don't need it.
Use your microwave as a breadbox, use the square containers rather than round ones as they stack better and take up less room. Un pack the groceries and store in zip lock or freezer bags. The amount of wasted space the shop packaging takes up is considerable. Use tick tack containers for spices.
Q: What items should I store differently when travelling ?
A: There are items that one person may have issues with that a second person doesn’t so I guess there are a few factors to take into account for this question to, such as what type of road are you driving on , is it tandem or single axle is it a early van or a later model van etc. What it boils down to if it can move and break then there’s a chance while driving that it will. For us we travel on the bitumen and gravel and don’t have too much that has given us grief although we do tie down the coffee machine and bubble wrap our favourite drinking glasses, bottles and put the tv under the sheets, but for some they do extra’s such as put the shower head in a stubby cooler, tie up the toilet roll, tie down all cupboard doors.
Q: Storing clothes
A: Use vacuum sealed bags to store your out of season clothes this will help compress them and keep the air limited so they are fresh when you go to use them next.
Q: Storing rubbish bags
A: All those bags you get with your groceries roll up and fit into a tissue box nicely for a clean, compact and convenient way of storing rubbish bags for later use.
Q: What should I do with my TV when travelling ?
A: Always remove your TV and put it under the bed when travelling. It's not so much that the TV will jump out of the bracket when travelling its more to do with the weight of the TV putting excess stress on the wall bracket when moving that causes the TV bracket to let go from the wall and then everything ends up smashed on the floor.
Q: Do i need a inverter to run a TV ?
A : If you intend on bringing your 240v house TV with you then yes you will need a inverter and suggest a 300w inverter to do that job as well as have enough power to charge your laptops etc as well. However you can get 12volt TV's that specifically run off your caravan batteries and consume less power than a regular house TV on 240volts, they are potentially also considerably lighter.
Q: I love my big screen TV that I have at home will it fit in a caravan ?
A : You could yes, but is it worth the extra space , weight and power consumption ? We all love big screen TV's especially when we get older and more blind as a bat:) but coming from someone who cringed at the thought of downsizing to a 19 inch or 17 inch TV from a 54 inch, it really won't bother you as much as you thought. For starters you'll spend more time outdoors anyway and you’re in a smaller room than a normal house so it's a trade-off that's very easy to get over.
Q: If I'm going to be free camping how do I power a toaster or coffee machine ?
A : These are luxury items that some people sacrifice and some don't. Personally we are the ones that don't sacrifice on an early morning coffee made by a power hungry espresso machine. To do that we run our larger appliances off a 2000 watt inverter from the dual battery in the back of the ute. Yes they suck some power but in reality they only operate for a short period of around 5 minutes each morning so that's not as demanding on the batteries as some folks make out. Certainly a good battery and solar supply takes the worry out of these types of daily luxuries.
Q: I could do with some fans in the van, any recommendations?
A: At first you may cringe at the price of them but there's a fan originally made for the marine industry which is very popular with the caravanning world, us included. They are called the Caframo Sirrocco 12v fan, they're about $140 but worth every penny. We have two of them and they swivel in multiple directions, have three speed settings, have a timer function and only draw a tiny amount of current. They keep you cool when air con is not available and we find them quiet enough to sleep with them on. Only downside to them is they are little bit fiddly to clean.
Q: Three way fridge or compressor fridge
A: We can really only comment based on our experience here and that is compressor fridge. We have a 218 litre Waeco fridge and love it. Uses only 4 amps when running, big enough to store enough food for easily a couple of weeks free camping , quiet enough we barely hear it and doesn't consume gas because it runs on 12 volts. I believe if you have a three way fridge they require the van to always be level, they increase your gas usage a lot and depending on what type you buy it may not be suited for tropical climates such as in the NT and QLD. Also if you want to put a full annexe up you can't do that legally if the 3 way fridge vent is on the same side as the annexe
Q: How much water does a van washing machine use?
A: This varies obviously with what washing cycle you’re doing, Pretty sure our 3kg machine itself takes about 15 – 20 litres of water to fill the tub and on a light cycle without rinse that’s roughly the usage, but on a full cycle with all the options ticked such as rinse then we managed to drain two 82 litre tanks one day just doing a load of washing. Using a wool wash helps to not need to rinse and therefore save water.
Q: Do i have to always tune my TV ?
A: There are fancy aerials out there that will auto find the tv signals and adjust accordingly but for those with a standard winguard aerial such as the ones on our Jayco then yes, each destination will normally mean re tuning your TV. A good idea is to look at local houses for their TV aerial direction before setting up camp so you can point yours in the same direction, alternatively download a antenna locator app of the app store and point the aerial in the direction the app indicates.
Q: Best way to cool my fridge before i leave without a 15amp power supply ?
A: There are three main ways to do this, i'll start with the cheapest idea to the more expensive.
- Unplug the fridge from the power point and run a extension lead to your house. Job done. DO NOT use a 10amp power lead with a fitted 15amp plug on it to power up your van as this can cause fires and other issues.
- If your planning on long term travel or travel to random spots other than caravan parks then suggest buying the amphibian from bunnings. This is Australian standard legal device with protection in it to allow you to connect your 15amp Caravan to a 10amp power point ( bare in mind however you will only be able to draw 10 amps through it). By buying the Amphibian you can not only plug into your house 10amp point to cool your fridge but any future 10amp plug without issue.
- Get a electrician to wire up a 15amp GPO to your house. this legally needs to be on a seperate circuitso becomes perhaps a more expensive option.
Q: Can you explain inverters for me in layman’s terms ?
A : Batteries can't run household 240v appliances on their own. A inverter is a unit wired to your batteries that takes power from the battery and ramps it up to power that your household appliances can use. You can then plug a normal three pin plug into the inverter to run what you need. (Please see next question for more in depth answer)
Q: What size inverter do i need ?
A: There's no single answer for this unfortunately as it depends on what you want to run off it. As a general rule of thumb a 300 watt inverter is adequate to run laptop chargers, battery chargers and the 3kg caravan washing machine that some vanners have , although not necessarily all at the same time. Whereas if you intend to run more hungry appliances such as those that have a element or produce heat then you're going to have to have a bigger inverter as well. A microwave could use 800 watts or more, or a jug could use well over 1300 watts on start up so you'll need to account for that and therefore a 2000w inverter will do most the bigger consumers but bare in mind that the bigger you go the more the inverter sucks from your batteries quicker therefore it's not advisable to run a 60 watt laptop off a 2000w inverter. Suggest working out what appliances you intend to use, read the labels to find out what watts they are then double it to account for start-up current.
Q: Pure sine wave inverter or modified sine wave ?
A: If your planning on powering electronics such as your TV, Phone, Laptops etc. then you need pure sine wave, if your powering toasters, hair dryers etc. then modified is fine but you can also use pure sine wave. Overall in my opinion if you get pure sine wave you can use it for everything, just costs a bit more to buy a sinewave model.
Q: Inverter purchasing
A: In the world of inverters we have found that buying the cheap brands is not the best idea. It would appear that lots of places make cheap inverters but some either don't meet AU standards and potentially be a risk to you or someone else or they are not designed for long term use. Would pay to do some research on inverters before purchasing as i havent found one yet that is worthy of mention that does it's job but not cost me selling a body part to pay for it :). When i do find one i'll be sure to post it here.
Q: I don't understand how solar works ?
A: Solar charging is where the sun shines on your solar panels which then charges your batteries. The solar panels once they see sunlight then turn the suns rays into usable electricity. That electricity then travels from the solar panels to a solar regulator. The solar regulator then regulates how much electricity goes back into your batteries so that the batteries don't boil and get over charged. Running appliance direct from solar panels with built in regulators is possible but has its downsides such as fluctuating power depending on sun and/or clouds along with other draw backs. Most commonly solar panels are used to charge batteries and it's the batteries that you get the power from to run your electrical requirements.
Q: Any tricks to solar panel placement ?
A: The idea is to point your solar panel directly to the sun. If you have portable panels that's easily done just by shifting them every hour or so to face the sun. However if your panels are mounted flat on the roof of the van like many are then they lose efficiency like this but that's one of the joys of limited space.
Periodically aim to get on the roof via a ladder or in some cases a sky light and wash the panels with water as they get dusty or covered in leaves etc. and start to be less efficient. Don't use anything abrasive and try not to use chemicals or you'll damage the surfaces. Also keep in mind that depending how your panels are mounted on the roof you may get shade from your AC unit or roof hatches so try and park so this doesn't happen IE: park north - south
Q: What size generator do I need to run a AC unit on my van ?
A: Our air con unit draws 5 amps when running and can be between 1300 - 1600watts. As a general rule of thumb taking into account start up current draw also, a 2kva generator should do the job in most vans.
Q: Why install a Anderson plug on the back of my vehicle ?
A: The Anderson plug is used to help charge your caravan batteries while driving. You can also plug in portable solar panels to the vans anderson plug to help charge the batteries when parked. In addition you can use the vans Anderson plug as a 12v battery source if you want to power something externally like a spot lamp or what ever
Q: Is it worth getting a slide out in a caravan / Motorhome ?
A: In our experience yes, the general consensus is those that have slide outs love them and those that don't hate them. They add a lot of room to an otherwise small area, it can make a lot of difference especially if it's a lounge slide out. There are some "potential" downsides to them such as the extra weight, it's mechanical and most things mechanical can break and there's potential for rain and dust to get in once parts are worn. But overall they operate a lot better than earlier wire versions and add the much needed space.
Q: How often should i get my van wheel bearings serviced ?
A: Our Jayco states they should be done every 10,000km or year whichever comes first. This is actually not a bad guideline to go by and would recommend the same.
Q: Our carefree awning doesn't close evenly
A: Ours is doing the same after only a few months of use. The remedy is yet to be determined but watch this space for when a solution is found.
Q: Any tips to keeping my grey water tank from smelling ?
A: Yes, add a cap full of laundry soaker powder to the tank every couple of days, this seems to do the trick nicely. Remember that grey water tanks aren't meant to store grey water for longer than 24 hours so regular dumping in the right areas is a good thing.
Q My water pump is noisy what do i look for ?
A: Before going to replace a water pump because it's noisy take a look at the hoses for rubbing against any of the body work. It's very common for the harder plastic pipes coming from the water pump to vibrate against the interior cupboards etc and cause things to get noisy. Some foam insulation around the pipes from Bunnings soon fixes that.
Q: My water pressure is low in my Jayco when connected to mains.
A: Under the middle of the van there is a bronze pressure reducing valve that is a bit under rated and /or can block up. It's worth pulling this valve apart and cleaning it out then re fitting to check pressure has returned before looking at everything else. In some cases the spring inside can be stretched a little or a replacement valve at a higher rating can be purchased from a plumbing store.
Q: How do you heat the water in a van ?
A: There are two standard methods. One is to heat the water by turning on the gas heat button. This will use gas from your LPG bottles to heat approximately 20 litres of water (will vary based on models). Secondly connect to mains and use the element in the bottom of the hot water cylinder to heat the water. NOTE: there is a sacrificial anode in the hot water cylinder that needs checked and replaced each year. If you don't replace the anode then you run the risk of killing your element. Alternatively solar heater system could be a option if your in a hot climate.
Q: Should i fill my water tanks before travelling or not ?
A: This depends on a couple of things. If you’re just travelling to a caravan park then you'll have access to water so best to fill when you get there as this will save you in weight and therefore fuel costs. However, if you are going bush and free camping your best to fill up before you go providing it doesn't put you over weight. Your also best to travel with full tanks not half filled tanks. A full tank is less likely to slosh around causing your caravan to sway.
Q: Do i need a special water hose to fill the tanks ?
A: Need is probably not the right word but what your best to have is a food grade hose. Food grade hoses eliminate the smells and tastes you'll introduce to the water if using just a everyday garden hose. Using a garden hose is not wrong and can be done but when talking about water you’re going to also drink your far better off getting food grade hose from your dealer or Bunnings etc.
Q: Can I let my grey water out on the ground anywhere ?
A: Short answer is No. Some sites and especially National parks do not like you emptying grey water on the ground and require you to be self sufficient whereas other sites almost rely on caravan grey water to keep their trees watered. If in doubt ask the owner or local council before dumping. A grey water tank is one way to eliminate the hassle then empty it at the next dump point, alternatively drain directly into 20 litre water containers and remove from site.
Vehicle and towing
Q : Will a extended drawbar help with reversing ?
A: Yes, a extended drawbar makes reversing a little less sensitive and therefore easier to back as you’re not having to over correct as much. on a side note : Keep in mind though that because you have more space on your drawbar piling it up with tool boxes, generators and other heavy items will add considerable amount to your tow ball weight so that needs taken into account if you plan to utilise that space. Remember safety first 🙂
Q: What should I do to prep my vehicle for towing a caravan ?
A: Of course you've got the basics such as making sure it's roadworthy and legal but aside from that. You’ll want to make sure your rear suspension is rated to cope with a constant load such as a caravan being put on it. In a lot of cases if a 4wd ute is being used you'll probably want to get at least 300kg constant load rated rear springs fitted and new shockies as well, bearing in mind the quantity of travel you'll be doing and that safety should be right up there on the list. Also keep in mind that fitting air shocks and pumping them up to max to reduce the sag in the rear when loaded is not the correct way to update your suspension and could result in overloading chassis components. Strongly suggest expert advice. Have a look at https://www.fulltimecaravanning.com.au/larrys-woffle/weight-distribution/ to help determine if you'll need a weight distribution hitch or not. You'll also need an Electric brake controller fitted and a Anderson plug fitted to the rear of the vehicle. I would also recommend a dual battery system in your vehicle so you can run larger appliances off a inverter when free camping so that your house batteries don't suffer and it also acts as a good jump start battery if your vehicle starter battery goes flat, alternatively use the dual battery to run a extra fridge/freezer in the back of your vehicle. Recommend also a secondary fuel filter system in your vehicle for when you're filling up in remote areas and a snorkel is a good option during the dusty road trips. Otherwise most other extras for the vehicle come down to how much weight you can carry and is it really important to you.
Q: Do I need mirrors ?
A: YES, unless you can clearly see the centre line of the road with existing mirrors while van is attached. Also highly recommend if you have the opportunity to have rear view and reversing cameras fitted then do it. I love our rear view camera which has a LCD display that attaches to our existing inside mirror, it assists in knowing what's going on around you and also helps when backing. I recommend the Milenco side mirrors, several people swear by the clearview mirrors which is fine if you have a spare $900 to spend on them. Milenco's are around $130 a pair
Q: My Anderson hitch is squeeking ***
A: The Anderson weight distribution hitch in general is designed to be quiet and not squeek like some other brands. However the odd one or two have been known to make a noise randomly which sounds like metal on metal. This happened to us and the fix is simple.
Email titan brakes in Brisbane and explain the situation and they may send you free of charge a bottle of T9 which is a product made by boeing. If they don't then i suggest you buy some your self by searching google for it.
1. Undo the circlip at the base of the towball.
2. Turn towball assembly upside down.
3. Place block of wood on the now upside down towball and hit wood with a hammer to allow towball to fall onto the ground.
4. You may find small bits of the brake lining material stuck to the metal towball tapered shaft. This is potentially causing your noise.
5. Use a wire brush and clean that all up. Wipe any the dust and moisture from the brake cone and apply some T9 product to it.
6. Rub the T9 product in to the brake lining until totally covered the wipe off any excess T9
7. This will embed T9 into the material and leave a light wax film on the surface that won't attract dust or moisture.
8. Reassemble into the housing and re fit circlip
Q: How do i keep a track of my budget on the road ?
A: This is a easy question because we've done the hard work for you. On our spreadsheet page
we have our budget tracker which will track what you spend and show you where all your money is going . Check it out
Q: What’s the best way to find free camps and caravan spots
A: The single best investment you'll make is to get the Wikicamps app for your phone/PC it's about $8 but lists spots all around Australia with user reviews and amenities it also has offline maps for those out of range moments
Q: Is there any good Facebook pages to do with caravanning ?
A: Sure are, please see the links page found in the top menu of this site.
Q: What do you do about mail when on the road full time ?
A: Change as many things as you can to your email instead of physical mail address. For any remaining mail that can't be sent via email have it sent to a family member for them to forward on, alternatively there are online businesses out there that will forward mail onto you when you specify your next destination. Have also had mail delivered directly to a post office that we will be near in the future, and Australia post will hold that mail for for you up to 30 days.
Q: Why are stairs called stairs if they are inside but steps if outside ?
A: yup ... one of life’s many mysteries.
We also have a handy hints page with some extra tips which can be found here Handy tips
Q: No question
A: This is here for internal use 🙂 Happy vanning
Updated 30/05/17 ANy updated content has a *** in the question
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