Standards of Workmanship in new caravans

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 07, 2012 at 23:58
ThreadID: 98423 Views:2880 Replies:8 FollowUps:11
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I have been taking a good look under our new caravan trying to figure out what goes where, because the documentation we received with our van was almost totally inadequate. Reviewing the quality of the wiring, plumbing and carpentry made me even more disappointed.
1. Plumbing (underneath the van) between tanks secured by flimsy cable ties which wont last through too many West Australian summers or survive flying stones. Galvanised saddles, with sleeves to protect the plastic tubing would be a much better solution.
2. Stretching plastic tubing across chassis members so the pipes are squashed, resulting in flow restrictions. A few extra elbows would be an inexpensive good idea
3. 12 volt electrical connections under the van gathered together like a ball of wool and cable tied in an untidy bunch behind a flimsy bit of galvanised sheet metal, offering the connections little protection from dust and road spray. Whats wrong with a decent sealed junction box?
4. Our pantry collapsed, revealing brackets with two screws rather that the required four screws holding them on.
5. The microwave fell inwards due to the same shortcoming. All of this happened on good bitumen roads. Once again, missing screws in brackets.

The components in our van are really good quality and we really like it, but it seems like it was put together in a tearing hurry, with no regard to pride of workmanship and little quality control.

Reviews of caravans in magazines seem to concentrate on the inside layouts, towing performance etc. I have not seen any where the reviewer actually looks under the van and reviews the quality of the installation of the various components. Or has a look at the installation of the cabinetry.
I have never heard of any reviewer putting a caravan over an inspection pit, but why not?

I would like to see caravan reviews quoting separate star ratings for things like documentation, plumbing, electrical installations, and cabinet installations.

I guess that this forum is read by magazine editors and journalists. If they don’t read it, they should! Maybe someone will pick up my suggestions
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Reply By: Ross M - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 00:22

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 00:22
G'day Keith Q

I didn't know they had standards. It seems as though anything goes, or more to the point doesn't go.

If the manufacturers also read this they will now know how to build a caravan as it seems they don't know or care too much at present.

With a review, by a reviewer, it can't be negative, everything in today's society has to be positive, so due criticism which used to "pull up socks" can't be entered into anymore.

Most caravans are built by unskilled piece workers who it seems, miss out bits of the pieces.

I do agree, you shouldn't have to disassemble your new van to check if it was made properly and has integrity built in. What is usually unseen should be A1 in quality and construction, purely because you can't see it. Eg the frame and wiring.

Like the innards of a tow vehicle, you would like the engine and all working bits to be at least put together well.
AnswerID: 496281

Follow Up By: Geoff in SA - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:10

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:10
Keith Q

You do make very valid points and are a man after my own heart.
It seems there are really no standards or rules:
We went away for the long weekend and on the trip to the site had a door "pop" open and spill the contents on the floor.
During construction I asked for an extra latch on the 2 doors and was advised it was unnecessary.
Never had a door pop open on a van before so no need to add the extra catch.
In the process of adding upgraded catches (x2) to both doors.

On the trip home a small bucket of the princesses cleaning sprays etc must have moved and this left this door with just one hinge and due to fall off.
Now doing a hinge upgrade bigger screws. bolts etc etc

Had just completed a tank plumbing exercise to allow all 3 tanks to fill as the manufacturer still thinks water will run uphill, even though I discussed this situation.

And the list continues

Geoff
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FollowupID: 771967

Reply By: member - mazcan - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:10

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:10
hi
like ross m stated i dont think there is any regulatory body that governs officially the standard build of vans and controlls whats exceptable and whats not
and also for camper trailers except for maybe weights gas and electrical ??
it seems anyone who has a bit of trade skills or has worked in the industry and has a bit of carpentry/cabinet skill and insight can set up a caravan construction business
and employ anyone to put them together
when i go to caravan sales yards and shows i spend a lot of time looking inside the vans internal areas like pulling draws right out and removing the seat cushions and looking under beds and inside there storage areas so i can see how the draw runners are fitted etc and up under the sink cupboards to look at the plumbing etc and wood work fixings there are some terrible low quality attachments
i have slipped underneath several vans and taken a good look at how the wiring/plumbing etc is attached and believe me
i have seen some real shoddy and el-cheapo aplications
i use that term because some of what i have seen could not be classed as workmanship like the op stated and i have seen some very sound and good workmanship
i have been chided by sales staff while doing my inspections they all claim there products are quality built
and my reply to them is
if they are so good why are they annoyed at me having a close up and detailed look
one van i was looking at which had just been sold for 120 grand was one of the worst it was flash and plushing looking on the inside but under and in all the hidden nooks was where the problems showed to an experienced eye
i called the new owner aside away from the sales staff and quietly pointed out several things that i had noticed and advised him not to take delivery of it until they were rectified
he hadnt noticed any of them this was his first van purchase as a new retired traveller
he was gratefull and also disgusted at the same time i gave him a written list so he could follow up on the things i had seen
the generator and storage hatches had sqare openings the doors for them were made with rounded corners that didnt cover they had big thick cushy rubber seals but
i could put my index finger in the holes at each corner you can imagine how much dust was going to pour in there and the generator slide -out track was attached to the van floor with a few lite duty wood screws that would vibrate out with-in the first half hour from start-up letting it crash to the ground these vans have only come on the market in last 18-24 months
the above is a sprinkle of what the unwary finish up shelling out their hard earned dollars for and head off into the sunsets only to find km's away from the dealer that the fittings /fixings are no where near capable of sustaining the vigours of australian rds and tracks that the makers claim
the the quick rd tests that they do in caravan /camper trailer mags are all smoke and glossed over mirrors for sales purposes
only a few will allow vans to be tested for strenght as the results would destroy their sales but that would be a very good safe gard imho for the unsuspecting countless buyers who have found out the hard way cheers
cheers








AnswerID: 496285

Follow Up By: Geoff in SA - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:41

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:41
Mazcam

So very very true

Regards

Geoff
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Reply By: Member - Joe F (WA) - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:31

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:31
G'day Keith Q.

You don't mention brand names of the caravan(s), but it sure sounds like my caravan which I purchased brand new, like most caravan buyers time and circumstance don't allow for crawling around under the "new" van, so one only finds these foibles once you live with the new purchace.

Its sad really, simply because most people learn to live with the imperfections.

As I say, you don't mention brand names, but it sounds like my Coromal.

Safe travels.
AnswerID: 496288

Follow Up By: Geoff in SA - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:39

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:39
Hi Joe F

Like most people on here we do not mention brand names but if you wish to know more then all that is required is to ask

Ask me who made my van and I will tell you

I will not say directly when making comments about the shoddy build, and all the crap stuff done to it who the builder was or what brand it is.

Look at the pic and you will see I have removed all manufacturers branding from the van

Regards

Geoff
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Follow Up By: Member - Joe F (WA) - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 15:08

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 15:08
G'day Geoff

I see by your follow up to Keith Q's post, you too have been caught out, just like me and no doubt a swag of others who at some stage believed a manufacturer or sales persons claims of product perfection regarding the product or goods they are selling.

Had I have read anything from an owner/purchaser of my brand of caravan that was negative, I would have been more wary before making my purchase.

Shame really I could have saved my self $53,000 and a heap of angst.

Safe travels :
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Reply By: Member - Rob D (NSW) - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:48

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 11:48
Have a look at this Caravanersforum.

You will see just how bad the situation is.

Good Luck.
If you relax at a faster pace you can get more relaxation in for a given time.
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AnswerID: 496290

Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 12:28

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 12:28
Beat me to it by that much...lol. There have been a heap of posts removed from that forum when it starts to get to the nitty gritty. They, and probably other forums are very mindfull of litigation issues. It seems we in Oz are not guaranteed "freedom of speech".

Pop
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Reply By: AlanTH - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 14:09

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 14:09
The Cook and I are presently pursuing our van manufacturer/retailer for replacement of a tyre ruined by a faulty shock absorber (we want them replaced as well) allowing the wheel to bounce causing bad scalloping around the outside of the tyre.
They (and the retailer) insist it's wheel alignment but a check with a laser aligner showed nothing wrong there.
Other faults have been fixed but there were so many with this van compared to a wind up camper by the same maker a few years ago, we're very disappointed.
The retailer has mainly been good but are wanting us to deal directly with the maker on the other side of the country although consumer law (WA) says they're the ones who have to fix it.
When we were looking at a new van we inspected several and others are right, they appear to be thrown together and the drawers in one was made of what can only be described as "rough sawn timer"!
I mentioned it to a salesman and he just shrugged. Must be plenty of us mugs about if they can adopt such a couldn't care less attitude.
AlanH.
AnswerID: 496297

Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 15:05

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 15:05
You're right on points about the quality of the mass produced vans, they rely on the fact that if you don't buy the next guy along probably will, and that consumer laws don't let the dealer wriggle out and pass it of to someone else. Might be an idea to let them know in no uncertain terms (in writing) that if they do not take action to remedy you will get an independent repairer to inspect and the next correspondence will be to consumer affairs. Although they can be a paper tiger at times, it depends on how much noise you make.

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Reply By: Member - Kevin S (QLD) - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 15:39

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 15:39
Like Joe, I have a Coromal off road. I have no problems with the set up under the van. All wires and hoses are well secured and run behind chassis or suspension members for protection or shielded with plastic tube. The inside is well finished visually and apart from faulty curtains that were replaced without problem my main concern is the length of screws that secure the internal fit out. A cupboard door fell off on our first serious outing and I could not believe the small screws used. Some of the seating also moved a bit.
The dealer immediately admitted that the screws used through the entire fit out were too small and replaced a great number of them with longer ones during the initial service. When we head off on out next big trip we will carry a supply of larger screws just in case.
The comment that has not yet been made in this discussion is that you get what you pay for. We all know that certain brands are at the low end of the price market. They are therefore at the low end of the quality market as well. Calls for regulation are understandable but unfortunately regulation always pushes the price up but doesn't always fix the problem.
Cheers,
Kevin
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AnswerID: 496304

Follow Up By: Keith Q - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 18:50

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 18:50
Kevin
First of all, we paid $40,000.00 for our van. How much should we have paid to expect a decent standard of workmanship?
To make a parallel with the automotive industry, one can expect the same standard of workmanship in critical areas whether one buys a Ford Falcon or a Ford Fairmont. Maybe you don’t get Bluetooth or a heated front seat, but you can expect that the Falcon is put together properly.
I would like the caravan press to place a better emphasis on build quality issues when reviewing caravans. I would also like good manufacturers to highlight their good standards of workmanship and engineering when promoting their products. I would like to encourage prospective buyers to look beyond the fit outs and accessories and take a look underneath the van, so that manufacturers know that they are on notice. The good manufacturers would be proud to show off and promote their workmanship and good engineering standards. The bad manufacturers will either lift their game or go out of business, because their customers will be a lot better informed and a lot more discerning.
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Follow Up By: AlanTH - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 19:42

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 19:42
I think the caravan press is much the same as the 4 wheel drive mags so getting a real objective critique of a van depends on how much advertising revenue the writers bosses are getting.
It appears that low level workmanship then denial that there's a problem is what most of us have to put up with. We bought an upmarket camper a few years ago and when the nearside wheel nearly fell off after a "complimentary" bearing and brake service the owner complained he couldn't decent workers as they'd all gone to the mines!
Bollocks. He employed the cheapest he could get and hoped for the best.
Here's hoping we all get reasonable satisfaction in after sales service and much enjoyment out of what we do buy.
AlanH.
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Follow Up By: Member - Kevin S (QLD) - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 21:33

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 21:33
Keith, I paid $47,000 for my van. Perhaps that is why I got a better job underneath than you did.
Cheers,
Kevin
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Reply By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 19:03

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 19:03
I raised a similar question around standards in thread 92801

Think description and reality are on a different level.
AnswerID: 496316

Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 19:22

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 19:22
Hi Keith,
I have recently finished fixing some those items you described under my van, namely clipping up wires and hoses. Only because I was down there anyway clipping up hoses and wires for the new diesel heater. Luckily for us Jayco have punched crossmembers so there are service access holes through them.

Those vans without such access holes are in a worse situation as everything has to dive under each cross member where they are prone to gravel abrasion and being snagged on sticks etc. So for us it is not all bad news.

I think I spent about $25 getting clips and screws from the hardware for the job and about an afternoons work.

Jayco builds to a price so it is much worse for some other brandss that cost more than a Jayco but have no better quality.
At least you expect a few cut corners in a Jayco.

Talking to retired bank manager at Dubbo who was out in his new retirement purchase, a Jayco offroader, he said his mates bagged him for buying Jayco.
I said "You will find some silly little problems along the way and when you iron them out you will have a pretty good caravan for the money". I still believe that.

Cheers, Bruce.
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AnswerID: 496318

Follow Up By: Keith Q - Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 22:53

Monday, Oct 08, 2012 at 22:53
Hello again Bruce

Like you, I am "chipping away" and I am confident that I will get all the bugs ironed out and like you $25.00 worth of bits and pieces will do it. I will also get the electrical connections into some kind of a terminal box where they will be protected from dust water and stones. I had a close look at the tank venting system and the pipes do a bit of a roller coaster ride from the tanks to the exit point, with water trapped in the valleys of the "roller coaster". Air will not exit through the vents without a bit of pressure behind it so we can forget about filling the tanks without some kind of water pressure in the filling hose.
I am nearly finished mapping out the plumbing. Your sketch was an excellent start! Thanks a ton.
We're off again next week and are looking forward to a great time.
Cheers, Keith
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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012 at 09:28

Tuesday, Oct 09, 2012 at 09:28
I have the same roller coaster problem and I imagine it is impossible to overcome that unless we go to a much larger diameter pipe for the vents. This would allow water to lay beneath the airflow.

I fill at home before leaving and it is gravity fed from my tank. I just have it running at a steady pace through a 1/2" copper pipe adapter I made for the end of my hose and it will fill OK while gurgling away. It just takes time and patience. I set it up and duck off and do a couple of other jobs while it does its thing. I don't mind it taking its time as I know we are about to hit the road so there is a major positive at the other side. A bloody huge carrot, so to speak. LOL

The only time I fill under pressure is when at a van park and then I turn it down to a pretty low rate and, likewise, duck off and do a couple of other things. It is not a perfect world so I adapt to it.

As other posters have said many vans have a much higher price tag but the quality of the finish is no better.

Re the electrical bits I have a similar deal but there are no connections at that point but in my case a nest of wires tucked up behind that plate. Some of it is stuffed back down the chassis rail so I put it back the way I found it as there is plenty of cable for repairs if something bad happens.

You could go to the trouble of puting gal sheeting all along the length of the van where the cables etc are to protect them but then it becomes a collecting point for all the stones and rubbish in creation and may cause shorting through abrasion later on. At least the way it is set up it is self cleaning.

Catch you on the road some time.
Cheers, Bruce.
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