The Technical Team at the Club holds a wealth of information and much of it is distilled in these pages.
If you’re looking for the right tyre for your motorhome or need to find a gas cylinder to use on the Continent, the chances are you will find the answer here.
Team members Ian Hewlett and Iain Geddes have both been active campers and caravanners since childhood. Now they regularly test cars and are involved in the Club’s annual Tow Car Awards. They also try out tents, trailer tents, caravans and motorhomes for the magazine’s On Test section and in their own time enjoy their own camping holidays.
Whether your question is about matching a tow car and caravan, how to use an electric hook-up or finding spares to repair your tent, you are likely to find the answer in these pages. But if not, you can ask the team by clicking below.
Is UK bottled gas available in the rest of Europe?
Only Campingaz offers the end user anything approaching a pan-European exchange service. Other bottled gas products are generally national or regional products and exchanging outside these areas can be difficult.
Campingaz has a store finder web page but it does not highlight which gas cylinders - bottled or cartridge type - the retailer stocks.
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What’s the difference between a ‘wet head’ and ‘dry head’ trailer coupling?
A ‘wet head’ is essentially a grease-lubricated coupling, such as a traditional ball and socket connection. A ‘dry head’ is a stabiliser type that has friction pads built in. This requires a clean and dry towball.
Neither type of coupling is maintenance free. The dry head requires a clean towball free from oil or grease. Paint or other coatings should be removed for optimum operation and if the ball gets rusty the rust must be scoured off before use or there’s a risk of noisy operation.
The grease on the ball and coupling of a wet head needs to be cleaned off occasionally and replaced because it will pick up dirt particles over time. How often this needs to be done is dependent on the frequency of use and the type of environment you drive in, but it should be done at least annually.
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I occasionally get condensation between the plastic windows on my caravan. My dealer says this is normal. Is it?
It’s not unusual to get some droplets of water inside the windows of a caravan in certain atmospheric conditions. This is because the acrylic material in the panes is gas permeable at a microscopic level.
If there are high levels of humidity, water vapour can pass into the void between the panes, if there’s a sufficient temperature difference the moisture will simply condense out. This should clear on its own in due course and be nothing more than an occasional and minor irritation.
If you find one window section has considerably more condensation than the neighbouring windows and it persists even in strong sunlight then this suggests there’s a fault with the window and it should be investigated by your dealer.Read more »
What is a 'camper tyre'?
A camper tyre looks similar to its commercial van counterpart and may have the same tread pattern, load and speed ratings but there are differences within its construction, making the camper tyre better suited to camping units.
Two notable points are that a camper tyre will have been designed to be used at close to the base vehicle’s maximum weight for its entire life, as in a motorhome conversion. It should also cope better with longer periods of inactivity. These are two scenarios a normal van will not normally be subject to. Read more »
I am about to make my first camping trip abroad. Do I need anything special to use an electric hook-up?
The large blue socket we’re used to in the UK is an international standard connection that has been adopted throughout much of Europe.
However in France and Spain you may find old-style sockets, such as a standard Euro two-pin or ‘Shucko’ socket.
It is advisable to take a continental adaptor in case you need it. All good camping and caravan accessory shops should stock them.
For more information about hook-ups abroad see our travel abroad guide.Read more »
Is it right that the Channel Tunnel operators forbid LPG-powered vehicles, even if the tank is empty or the system disabled?
Tunnel operator Eurotunnel is quite clear that any vehicle using liquid petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) or another compressed flammable gas is not permitted through the tunnel, even if the system is empty or has been turned off.
It does, however, allow LPG cylinders for habitation use within caravans or motorhomes, whether in fixed tanks or the more typical exchange-type cylinders. Eurotunnel has a comprehensive breakdown of what’s permitted on its website.
None of the ferry operators that you can book through the Club’s Travel Service has a restriction on LPG-powered vehicles.Read more »
I'm going camping in Europe this summer and hope to have an electric hook-up. Do I take to have any special equipment?
The blue plug and socket that we use in the UK is the European standard, but many sites in parts of Continental Europe still use a two-pin connection, with either contacts at the side or a central third pin on the supply side for the earth connection, sometimes called a Shuko plug.
A Continental two-pin adapter lead can be bought from camping stores to connect from your existing lead to the old-style connections.Read more »
I've broken one of my tent poles - how do I go about fixing it?
Contact your local camping shop as they may have what you need off-the-shelf. Online retailers such as Tentspares will be able to sell you a section of the correct diameter. You can then thread off the damaged section, cut the new one to the same length, and re-thread it on to your pole. Read more »
My new car doesn’t have a buzzer for the trailer indicator. The dealer says they’re no longer a legal requirement but I’m not so sure.
The dealer’s incorrect, there must be some form of tell-tale for a trailer indicator, which can be visible or audible and function with the trailer indicator (as a traditional buzzer) or offer a warning of failure.
What’s important is that there must be a marked change in tell-tale frequency where there’s no trailer indicator function. Many manufacturers even have quite sophisticated display messages indicating what bulb’s not working.
For further in-depth reading on this subject visit the Right Connections website.
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I’m looking into getting a motor mover fitted to my caravan. The fitter recommended I change my jockey wheel for a weighing-scale type. Why is this?
A standard solid wheel jockey wheel is fine for normal use but when it strikes something hard (a crack or pebble for example) the impact goes straight through to the caravan chassis. Under normal conditions this is of no concern, however, a motor mover is a heavy fixed device that can make this jarring worse and may cause damage in the long term.A jockey wheel with a weighing scale, that’s usually used to establish the noseweight, will act as a cushion thanks to it being sprung. To an extent it will follow the sudden changes in the surface, keeping jarring to a minimum. A pneumatic jockey wheel can also help in this regard too.
You can find out more about choosing a motor mover on our dedicated web page.Read more »
What is a piercable gas canister?
If you visit a good camping shop you’ll see a varied selection of compact and disposable gas canisters. Many of these have some sort of valve fitting and can be removed from the appliance when not in use.
The piercable type has no valve and as you install them a sharp hollow tip on the appliance pierces the can allowing gas through to the valve. Once punctured that’s it, any attempt to remove the canister will allow the contents to escape. This could be potentially hazardous if there’s a source of ignition.
Visit our dedicated web page about gas for campers for more advice.Read more »
I’ve been trying to source a towbar for my car and the supplier has advised there’s not one available. Why is this?
Since 1998 all towbars for cars must be approved for use on the vehicle they’re to be fitted to. This is known in the trade as 'type approval'. In some instances a car manufacturer may not get a car type-approved to tow. Sometimes there may be a particular model of car that's not approved. Where there’s no approval, a towbar for towing a trailer must not be fitted. This can be very frustrating if you want to tow a caravan or other trailer and you already own the car, especially for those locked into a lease agreement. The only advice we can give is that if you think you may end up towing, check your chosen car has this ability in the technical details or handbook before you enter any agreement to lease or purchase.
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I am concerned that several cars I'm considering for towing have either a temporary slim spare tyre or run-flat tyres. Are these compatible with towing?
The slim tyre is normally acceptable but check the car’s handbook for limitations or exact instructions for use when towing.
Slim tyres are subject to a maximum speed of 50mph and a distance limitation set by the manufacturer. The tyre will have a load index at least equivalent to the full size road tyres, hence the loading will be acceptable. But because of the great difference in road contact, caution is needed when braking and manoeuvring, whether towing or not.Run-flat tyres are different. The additional flexibility of the deflated tyre may seriously affect the stability of the towing outfit. The car manufacturer should give guidance in the handbook, but be aware they may forbid towing at all or have a very low speed limit and a minimum distance may be imposed.
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Where can I get a pitch marker for when I leave the site for the day in my camper?
You can buy some quite elaborate pitch markers at many of the motorhome and caravan shows that take place throughout the year across the country.
A more simple one is to fashion up a simple stake and attach a copy of your registration plate, this can then be knocked into the ground as you drive off, letting the site staff know at a glance you’re out but intend to come back.
Also, if you leave your hook-up lead on the pitch, please remember to disconnect it from the power bollard too. It is not good practice to leave a live trailing lead on the ground.
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Some tents claim to be treated to resist fire. Does this mean it is safe to cook in my tent?
There is a subtle difference between fire-resistant and fireproof fabric. In the case of tents, fire-resistant means that when an ignition source is placed in contact with the fabric it may burn. But when the ignition source is removed from the fabric it will self-extinguish. Thus if your stove flares up and the tent catches light it will burn until the ignition source is removed.
Some tents have dedicated areas that could be used for cooking, with considerably more ventilation than normal and often with near vertical walls too.
However, as a general rule we don’t recommend you cook in a tent, nor place hot items such as lights or barbecues in tents or awnings – not just for fire safety but to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning too.
Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas produced from the combustion of fuels – please see our dedicated webpage on this topic.
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My car handbook specifies a maximum towing weight far higher than the 85 per cent recommendation. Surely the 85 per cent figure is unrealistic?
The 85 per cent recommendation is based on achieving a safe and stable match and is therefore often, but not always, less than the manufacturer’s towing limit.
The car’s towing limit has nothing to do with high speed stability. It’s simply based on the car’s mechanical capability and is tested with a series of 1-in-8 hill starts. The towing limit may not even be set by the traction or pulling power of a car and it may be constrained by some other limitation such as the clutch or handbrake performance.
If all conditions were perfect, with a smooth road, no hills, no wind and no other road users, the towing limit would be more meaningful but in the real world you should ideally keep a caravan lighter than the kerbweight of the towing vehicle hence the Club’s 85 per cent guide.
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I’m new to camping and have read on some web forums about SIGs. What does this mean?
A SIG is a sewn-in groundsheet. This means that either the flysheet, or living area of your tent, will have a groundsheet permanently sewn into it. This helps create a draught- and insect-free environment inside your tent. Read more »
Do I need extension mirrors when towing?
Regulations say that you should have mirrors to provide an adequate view to the rear and along both sides of your trailer.
With a small camping trailer or a narrow trailer such as some horseboxes it’s unlikely you’ll need extension mirrors. However, with many car and caravan combinations, including folding tourers, the view through your normal car mirrors will be obstructed, hence you will need to fit additional exterior mirrors.
The mirrors should be ‘e-marked’ to show they meet current standards. Don’t forget the regulations state your mirrors must not extend beyond your car or trailer by more than 200mm (250mm for cars registered from 2010) so once you go back to driving solo the extension mirrors need to be removed.
Here’s some more advice about extension mirrors.Read more »
Why is it so difficult to match a car to a caravan?
For some years now the Club has offered free use of the Towsafe matching system to members. It’s a good system with an excellent depth of data but we’re aware it’s not always been that easy to use. However, this will soon change.
Working with the new owners of Towsafe, we’re making some improvements, which means members should see a much easier-to-use interface.
Read more »
Can I use some sort of thermal wrap to stop butane freezing in winter?
It may seem paradoxical but you can’t do this. As butane approaches zero degrees it stops gassing off but the process of expanding the liquid from the cylinder to create a gas absorbs energy, making the temperature drop further. Therefore some form of insulation would only make the situation worse. In reality the only realistic option for LPG when you know the temperature drops below 10C is to use propane. Traditionally all-season campers would switch between propane and butane as the season progressed because butane worked out considerably cheaper. The price difference these days is quite small so many people choose to stick to propane throughout the year.
If you have a refillable system and use Autogas, this is predominantly propane so should be useable at lower temperatures.
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What’s the best way to care for my leisure battery in winter?
If you stand your tourer down for the winter, whether it’s a caravan or motorhome the onboard batteries will need to be kept charged to maintain them.
Ideally you’d remove them, store them somewhere and connect them to what’s often called a ‘smart charger’ that will push the necessary charge in.
However, this is not an option for everyone and why would you want to lift out a heavy battery when your caravan or motorhome has an onboard charger?
We know that not all onboard chargers are equal and that they have a primary role as a power supply. Therefore there’s a very real risk some of these will overcharge a battery, damaging it. If you intend to do this it’s important to monitor the battery.
See our advice for a better understanding of a leisure battery.
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CANDY EVANS looks at the differences between styles of heating control for your caravan or motorhome
IAN HEWLETT visits Specialised Covers to see what goes into making a tailored cover for your trailer or caravan
CLIVE MOTT looks at fuel cells for campers and caravanners
IAN HEWLETT visits Tow-Trust Towbars in Warwickshire to see what goes into making a modern towbar