Newbie caravan questions

Submitted: Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 00:00
ThreadID: 54526 Views:4920 Replies:7 FollowUps:3
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We have recently bought a second hand van (18ft Jayco Expanda) and as we have never owned a caravan have a few questions. It was already set up with a couple of solar panels, battery isolator, Waeco compressor fridge & separate freezer, tool box fitted to rear bumper, DVD/MP3/CD player, LCD TV and it has the pipes & tap set up for a washing machine under the awning (I'm looking at getting a Lemair). We are yet to do our shakedown trip (although have slept in it a couple of times) & are looking forward to the Caravan & Camping Show here in Adelaide this weekend. Anyway here are my questions, if anyone can give us some advice that would be great.

Do you prefer a portable clothes line or one attached to the van (& which side of the van would you suggest - awning side or not)? Clothes line recommendations?

How do you keep the van clean inside? That is, do you feel a portable vacuum to keep the couch, seating & beds clean worthwhile? I'm a bit worried about the "red dust" we keep hearing will be hard to get out the van.

As we are travelling through SA, NT & WA, to start with, is satelite TV worth the extra money? There is already an ariel with booster on the caravan so would this need to be removed if we got satelite?

This may be a stupid newbie question but do we need to switch the "battery isolator" switch off when we connect up to the mains power or can it be left on?

When free/bush camping what, generally, does & doesn't work in the caravan? I know the airconditioner won't work without mains power and in our van the microwave also doesn't work. Is this "normal"? Also we tried to plug a regular kettle in while on solar/battery power & it didn't work. Does this mean most things we plug into the sockets won't work unless on mains power? You hear all the time how people love to stop on the side of the road and have a cuppa so do they boil the water on the gas stove? Our stove has the 3 gas & 1 electric elements & the electric element also didn't work on solar. Again, is this normal?

Lastly (for now!) we know about two different towing courses. One through the RAA which is about $300 for both of us & goes for approx 2 hrs - theory & practical. The other is through, is approx $425 for both of us & goes for over 4 hrs. As we are newbies is it worthwhile for us to spend the extra money or will the 2 hr course be enough? If anyone has actually done these courses or recommend another we would love to hear about it.

Sorry for all the questions at once & if anyone has any other advice they would like to share we would be more than willing to hear it.

Leanne & Ronnie
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Reply By: Member - barbara M (NSW) - Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 00:45

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 00:45
Just a suggestion for keeping your seats clean, I bought t shirt ribbind which comes in a tube (colour to go with van) cut the length of the seat sewed one end then slid seat inside sewed cotton tape to the ends and tied. This shrinks back to the size of the seat and stays firm protects seats etc. when dirty just take off and throw in the washing machine. In our van we covered the back of the seats with same ribbing looks fine and when you take off to sell the van it looks like new. If you want more instructions just member message me and ill try to be more clearer.
As for using 240 volt off solar the only way it will work is if you have an inverter. This we use for charging phones batteries, powering computer. We mainly bush camp and rarely are attached to mains power, even when we are in a caravan park as sometimes there is up to $8.00 difference between a powered site and a non powered site and we function well with just solar. I bpil the kettle on the gase stovr have not used the electric hotplate ever. A suggestion when travelling when you boil the kettle for your morning cuppa fill the kettle up and fill a thermos makes life easy through the day. Someone passed this hint onto me get a packet of pine o clean wipes and wipe the van out in the morning with that and throw it in the bin when finished is really good on the red dust and saves on water, havent tried it too much yet. I use a pegless clothes line stretched out under the awning if I want to dry clothes light ones ten it wont matter if it rains and we have went sightseeing etc.
Hope this helps
AnswerID: 287183

Follow Up By: leeb1973 - Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 at 19:15

Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 at 19:15
Thanks for the tips Barb it's great to hear ideas from people "in the know" :)

FollowupID: 552746

Reply By: Member Boroma 604 - Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 01:51

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 01:51
We have always (as suggested), strung a line under the awning, simplest an most efficient. Mounted outside easy to forget or walk into, portable free standing ones blow over. We bought a litttle rechargeable Vacuum cleaner & find it very good for getting anything off the floor each day, just mounted it on wall beside power point out of the way.
Shouldn't have to switch anything over when plugging into Mains, should do it automatically. Would ensure you have a relay fitted to isolate fridge from draining your battery on 12 volt when stopped if you do not already have one, will flatten your tow vehicle battery VERY quickly.
AnswerID: 287185

Reply By: DIO - Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 10:02

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 10:02
Others have addressed some of your concerns regarding electrical power etc. No one has bought into the question of 'training'. Yes if you feel that you don't have complete confidence in your ability to coneect your van correctly including understanding weight distribution etc, tow ball weight - and why, loading your van for weight distribution, knowing how and when to check things like brakes, wheel bearing temeratures, wheel nuts and how to torque them to correct tension - and why, driving and how/why to select an appropriate/correct gear, capability of your towing vehicle and any short comings, THE BIGGIE - reversing - whilst you can drive through to many sites, you must know how to reverse particularly if you have to to get out of 'trouble', mirrors and the importance of and how to set them up etc.
These are a few of the more important points that should be covered in an appropriate course. having said that, there's nothing quite like experience as a teacher. Believe me, you will learn by your mistakes - so long as they aren't fatal. Good luck with your undertaking and I hope that you get as much satisfaction and enjoyment out of it as I have.
You could also think about joining a Caravan Club. there are many in Sth Aust. Have a look at this Link for some contact details etc.
Just remember though, keep a sense of humour at all times (there WILL be some trying /testing times), try to be patient with each other (partners) and stop frequently and enjoy the scenery.
Finally, don't get too 'hung-up' about the price of petrol/diesel/gas. You will use more and it will cost you more in some parts of the country. Use shopper dockets where possible, buy at the low point of the discount cycle and keep a light right foot BUT (a BIG BUT) don't unecessarily hold up traffic travelling behind you (hence the tip on suitable mirrors and how to use them), if possible pull over and let them pass. Helps to keep road rage to a minnimum and you will probably get some rude gestures at some stage in your travels particularly if someone thought you were holding them up.
AnswerID: 287221

Reply By: Nav 8 - Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 10:42

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 10:42
With regard to your question about 12V solar power, unless you have a 240V inverter fitted your 12V system will only run the lights and your caravan fridge. If you do have an inverter fitted, you will need to know the wattage output of it as this will entirely depend on what you can run with it. Generally speaking, with inverter power you can only run appliances that do not have an element in them eg your electric hob on your stove would not be able to run by an inverter as the current draw would be too high and drain the batteries in no time. The size and type of batteries that your solar is connected to will also dictate what you can run from them. With solar you have to remember the efficiency of the system all depends on the sun, how clear the sky is and you only get full efficiency from around 10am to 3pm on a clear day but your appliances could be running 24hrs. If you intend to do a lot of free camping away from 240V power regardless of the "haters" of generators, you will find a generator is an essential backup and will provide full 240V power at any time of the day and will also be able to charge your batteries via a battery charter should you need to. If you do purchase a generator I would recommend either a 2KVA Honda or Yamaha. Steer clear of the cheaper brands as the power fluctuations can cause serious damage to your caravan electrics and appliances. A 2KVA generator should also be suitable to run your van's airconditioner.
With regards to satellite TV, again if you are spending a lot of time away from towns your telestrial aerial will be of little use even with the booster. A sat system is reasonably priced these days at around $500 and are relatively easy to set up with a portable dish. We find a portable dish is an advantage over a fixed dish as you have to have a clear view to the north-east at all times and this is not always possible from where your van is parked. This system can also be run via a 240V inverter or generator.
Hope this is of some help to you

Regards Nav
AnswerID: 287224

Follow Up By: Member - DAZA (QLD) - Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 18:24

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 18:24
Hi Nav

What everybody has said is right, regarding the Sat TV, think about
getting an AUSTAR set up. with the Sat dish on a tripod, works
realy good.

FollowupID: 552488

Reply By: RovingOz (QLD) - Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 11:48

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008 at 11:48
you might also like to ask your questions on here

Caravanners Forum
AnswerID: 287242

Reply By: leeb1973 - Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 at 20:20

Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 at 20:20
Thank you everyone for your replies, they were all very informative and have helped answer some questions, especially in regards to the solar and power situation. We went to the Caravan & Camping Show today and that was a good source of information, not necessarily from the stalls but from the other patrons!! :)

Thanks again.
AnswerID: 287511

Reply By: Ozboc - Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 at 20:27

Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 at 20:27
HI there , congrads on your purchase , i am sure you will be happy with it - I will tel you what we do with ours in regards to keeping it clean ........(jayco Flamingo)

when we go bush - we basically try to put down a large tarp in front of the door the the van( we have an annex but only set up the canopy) - that way most of the mud / dirt will be walked off on the tarp -- we also have a door mat that we put down - But the floor will always get dirty with kids - so for that we have an old towel we keep at the top of the stairs and once a day we basically wipe the floor down with it then give it a wash in a bucket of water ( no soap- don't need to pollute the rivers and bush )

when at the beach -( we camp on the sand with our jayco) considering sand gets everywhere - we just try to get most of it off on the front door mat -- then maybe a small broom ( for a dust pan and broom set) - then before bed - just give the floor a once over ...

you cant keep them clean like your home , and trying to do so will just cause you stress -- just enjoy the outdoors - and clean as needed and not to a spotless state - you can do that when you get home---- enjoy your purchase don't let it become a burden ( if that makes sense )_


AnswerID: 287514

Follow Up By: Ozboc - Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 at 20:28

Thursday, Feb 14, 2008 at 20:28
correct linkhere
FollowupID: 552771

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