Caravan FAQ for new owners

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO CONSIDER MOST WHEN BUYING A NEW OR USED CARAVAN?

Your first priority with any new or used caravan should always be safety. Always ensure that the tow car has enough power to tow the caravan safely in whatever conditions you’re likely to encounter on the road. If you’re unsure, simply ask your nearest dealer who will have a computer program called Tow Safe to provide the answer.

How do you learn to tow a caravan?

Anyone new to caravanning will be concerned about towing a caravan safely. It really isn’t as difficult as some people assume and you can pick it up quite quickly with a little practice on your own. If you’re still a bit nervous, you can always book yourself onto one of the Caravan Club’s Practical Caravanning Courses for beginners. They are held at various locations up and down the country and will give you all the experience and confidence you need.

What is noseweight when towing?

A noseweight is the maximum caravan hitch weight permitted on the car towball for any given car model. This can be found in the car manufacturer’s handbook and should not be exceeded. It is also worth remembering that the caravan noseweight should be heavy enough for towing stability. A general rule of thumb for any car/caravan outfit is for the caravan noseweight to be approximately 5% to 7% of the caravan’s ALW (generally between 50 and 90kg) for optimum stability.

Do you need an MOT for a caravan?

No you don't need an MOT on a caravan.

Does a caravan need road tax?

No, you don’t need to tax or MOT a touring caravan. However, to keep your caravan in good towing and habitation order, we recommended that you have it serviced annually.

How much is a caravan service?

It depends on the caravan and it’s service requirements. Contact Davan Caravans and we’ll provide you with a fixed quote for your caravan. Davan also provide very cost-effective Service Plans, providing an easy and convenient way to budget for your scheduled servicing with monthly instalments.

What do you need for a caravan?

For any caravan first-time buyer, a good starter pack will set you back around £350 and contain basic items you will definitely need. These include things like an Aqua Roll, Waste Master, leisure battery, caravan step, mains cable, gas bottle wheel clamp and a hitch lock. If you buy from a knowledgeable dealer like Davan, they’ll get you kitted out with the essentials.

Are caravan tyres the same as car tyres?

Most caravans use high rated tyres as used with light vans. Caravan wheels however, are different to car wheels because of the extra weight they have to carry. You should therefore always carry a spare wheel that meets the caravan manufacturer’s specification, with a suitable tyre. Correct caravan tyre pressure will be indicated in the handbook. It is sometimes marked on the wheel arch as well.

Always check your caravan tyres in the same way you check your car tyres, visually inspecting for signs of wear and tear and tread depth (legal minimum is 1.6mm across the central three quarters of the tyre width). Even a small variation in tread depth across the tyre width is a possible sign of overloading. It is also worth noting that although caravan tyres won’t be doing the same mileage as a car, they will deteriorate with age. Even if they look okay, caravan tyres should be replaced every 5 years from new.

What type of gas should I use, butane or propane?

Most caravan appliances can use either. So, what is the difference?

The main difference to caravan owners is the temperature that each can be used at. Propane can be used at much lower temperatures, even at minus 42˚C, making it the best choice in colder weather. Propane burns a bit hotter too, meaning it will take less time to cook with or heat water. It’s also a bit lighter than butane which means your caravan will be carrying less weight and it’s easier to lift.

Butane however, is less toxic and it burns cleaner. It’s also worth mentioning that propane is stored at a higher pressure, so could be considered more dangerous and it’s illegal to store it indoors.

For our money, we would recommend using propane. You’ll spend less, can carry more nose weight and be able to enjoy your caravan all year round.

Caravan leisure battery or a car battery?

Caravan or leisure batteries are very different to car batteries, so you should learn how to charge and maintain them so that they provide sufficient power for each trip and you extend their life as much as possible. 

Car batteries are built to deliver a surge of power that is needed to start the engine and the engine’s alternator replenishes that power while the engine is running. Leisure batteries, on the other hand, are built to provide a lower, steady power output over prolonged periods of time,

until a recharge is provided. To keep a leisure battery in tip-top condition, manufacturers recommend recharging as soon as it reaches 50% of full charge.

Leisure batteries are designed to withstand a life of heavy discharge and recharge cycles and are essential for touring caravans, especially when there is no electric hook-up available. If maintained correctly, they will run the caravan’s various electrical appliances for a good week or more (depending on usage).

How to get UK tv abroad?

When travelling abroad, it is worth remembering that a broadcast aerial will only provide access to local TV channels. If you want to receive English-language broadcasts, you’ll need to have a multi-standard digital TV capable of receiving a digital signal from a satellite dish.

What is the best caravan TV aerial for my caravan?

There are two basic types of TV aerial for a caravan – omnidirectional and directional. Omnidirectional aerials can pick up a signal from any direction but as a consequence are more prone to interference. This generally means poor quality TV watching and some channels may not be picked up at all. Directional aerials on the other hand can be rotated to point directly at a transmission tower and adjusted for best-quality reception. However, reception can be impeded when line of sight is blocked by hills, trees or large buildings.

Should caravans be covered?

There are two schools of thought on this. The first believe that caravans are outdoor vehicles and as such should simply require a clean-up and polish after winter storage. The other believes that covering a caravan is the most sensible and safe way to protect them from the elements.

If you do decide to cover your caravan during winter, ensure the covering material is breathable otherwise you may be promoting a build-up of condensation mould on the inside and outside. Poorly-fitted covers may also flap around in the wind causing scratching to windows and paintwork, so ensure you use one that is designed to fit.

How much does it cost to store a caravan?

That really depends on the caravan size, time needed and level of security being offered at the storage site. Typical outdoor, farm yard storage can start at around £125.00 for Winter, and increase to around £350 for ‘Gold’ standard, covered storage, that is manned 24 hours. These figures are just guidelines and you will need to contact your storage site to obtain a firm quote.

How to protect a caravan from theft?

We all know that nothing is safe from a determined thief. However, to avoid becoming just another crime statistic, and to meet most caravan insurers’ conditions, certain precautions need to be taken to minimize this risk and reduce insurance policy price increases.

There are many security devices on the market, from popular wheelclamps and hitchlocks, to sophisticated alarms and tracking systems.

What is a caravan wheelclamp?

Wheelclamps attached to a caravan wheel which, in effect, demobilises it. Not all wheel clamps are universal so ensure you buy one that is designed to fit.

What is a hitchlock?

Hitchlocks are designed to cover your hitch mechanism, so a thief can’t simply hitch it up and tow it away. This is a minimum requirement for most insurers when a caravan is left unattended.

High-pitched alarms and tracking devices represent the latest in hi-tech approaches to caravan security. A pro-active tracking device will alert a central control room if your caravan moves without your knowledge and depending on your response after contacting you, will inform the police.

Can I use normal household appliances?

Connecting to a caravan site electricity hook-up allows you to receive electrical power in much the same way as your home. This would normally be a 230V supply, which you can use directly to power 230V electrical equipment or indirectly through a power supply unit that converts to a normal 12V DC, which powers a leisure battery.

There are limitations however. A caravan site hook-up incorporates a device to prevent overloading and therefore limits the number of appliances you can use at any one given time. Most sites will provide a 16 amp supply, slightly less than a household kitchen supply of 20 amps. To prevent circuit breakers ‘tripping’ your electrical supply, you need to ensure the total wattage of appliances used at any one time is less than the power supplied to you.

 A useful calculation is to divide the wattage of your appliance by the voltage supply to determine how many amps (power supply) it will require. i.e. a typical 1000 watt toaster using a 230-volt power supply will draw 4.3 amps when in use. That’s perfectly adequate for a supply set at 16 amps. However, if you have four 1000 watt appliances in use at the same time, this would require over 17 amps and overload your supply.

What chemical fluid should I use in my portable toilet?

Different toilet chemicals work in different ways, so you need to choose carefully. Some campsites may also insist that you only use environmentally-friendly chemicals. Some kill bacteria and other use a biological action. All toilet chemicals have two basic functions, to break down human waste and reduce odours.

Most toilet chemicals contain formaldehyde, which is toxic, blue in colour and not eco-friendly. These days you’ll discover lots of formaldehyde-free chemicals on the market, which are usually coloured green.

Do I need to use caravan towing mirrors?

Absolutely. They are a legal requirement which says you must fit suitable towing mirrors if your trailer or caravan is wider than the rear of your car. You must also have an adequate view of the road, 20 metres behind you and four metres down both sides of the outfit. That aside, by using extension mirrors, you will improve your view, and thus the safety of yourself and other road users.

In 2010 a new law on towing mirrors was introduced, stating that all new cars and motorhomes registered since January 2010 must carry the ‘e-mark’ which indicates that it complies with EEC regulation 2003/97 (in the EU) or UNECE Regulation 46.01 or 46.02 (in the United Nations). 

How to check the caravan I am buying is not stolen or a write-off?

Just like buying a car, if you buy from a reputable dealer like Davan, you don’t need to worry as the responsibility lies with the dealer, and if the worst should happen you’ll get all your money back. However, the same can’t be said with private purchases, although there are some tell-tell signs to look out for and things you can check.

Firstly, look for any tampering of the CRiS number, which identifies a caravan and is displayed on at least seven windows and stamped into the chassis. You can call 020 3282 1000 and for a £15 fee they’ll confirm if the caravan is stolen, been written-off or has any outstanding finance on it.

Visually check if the towing hitch has been damaged or the overrun rubber is heat damaged, which could indicate theft. Also, check that the wheels match as odd wheels suggest that there’s something amiss.

Lastly, check that the owner has the original ownership documents with the correct make, model and 17 digit ID number plus a written purchase receipt.