Tech Talk Q&A

Scott Heiman and Malcolm Street — 12 July 2018
Expert advice for all your questions


Q: When you’re not using your van do you leave the water in your tanks empty and refill before next trip or empty out afterwards?

- Jay Nilsson, via facebook

A: This is a conversation that will outlive cockroaches. What you are actually looking at here is bacteria growth.

So the real question is—how often do you use your rig? The chlorine in normal town water will kill off most bugs. So if you regularly filling up your tank from town water and driving around (which will dislodge and treat nasties) it will mostly self-clean. But, left to their own devices, a lack of use of your rig will allow bacteria to grow after the chlorine has gassed off (24hrs is all it takes).

If you use your rig frequently (monthly or every other week) leave her filled up—if in doubt, water the garden with it the day you leave and fill up on new water. If you only use it during the caravan season (Christmas, for example) store her bone dry, clean the tank and treat the first fill of water before use.

That said, you can never certify your tank is actually completely full or dry so a good water treatment  regimen for your tank will help keep you off the thunderbox. But before even worrying about that you need to look at having a clean slate in the first place. There are tank sanitiser products out there to clean your tank so you’re off to a good start, after that consider fitting a quality inline filter or even pre-filter your water as you fill.

- Scott Heiman


Q: Hello Caravan World folks, I didn't even know I needed an offroad caravan until I read your review of the 12 best offroad caravans. I guess my question is:

1. Do any of the manufacturers export to the United States?

2. If not, do you know of any manufacturers in the US that produce caravans similar to those in Australia?

- Robert Theiler, RMS Metrology

A: As far as I know, no mainstream Australian caravan manufacturer exports to the USA. There have been a couple of smaller manufacturers who have done that in the past but I think neither does that now. I know that some of the offroad manufacturers get queries from the US from time to time but really don’t want to get into that market.

Not quite sure what “similar to Australia” means. However, if we are talking about general layouts then you are going to get the US equivalent in looks and fittings but a quick look at the Jayco (US) website for instance suggests that something might be available. If you’re talking offroad caravans, then it’s a different matter entirely. I know of many US caravan/5th wheelers imported into Australia that have had major suspension rebuilds even for on-road use. There are US camper trailer manufacturers like Conqueror or Turtleback that do a serious offroad camper trailer but as for offroad caravans, I can’t really help.

Something else to consider here is do you need an offroad caravan? Just like Australia, there are plenty of places in the USA, even out of the way ones, where you can get to quite easily with an on-road caravan.

- Malcolm Street


Q: My wife and I are new to caravanning. Our total weight is 7000kg, our van is 3500kg and our truck is 3500kg. When I attach the van the tow ball weight is 350kg, so the truck is now 3850kg and the van is 3150kg. My question is, do I take 350kgs out of the truck and put it in the van?

- M Thomas, via Facebook

A: Without knowing either the type of tow vehicle you have or the caravan, I’d have to advise a bit of caution here, because you may be operating right on your vehicles' limits. For a start, do check on the Gross Combined Mass (GCM) of your tow vehicle. If it’s any less than 7000kg, then you have a problem and you’ll have to offload some gear. Secondly, offloading gear for the weight you suggest from the tow vehicle to the caravan, may simply bring some of it back again via the tow hitch and since you say your tow ball mass is already at 350kg, then you risk exceeding the tow vehicle’s specifi ed limit there as well.

Since you say you are new to caravanning, then my recommendation would either be to carry less weight to start with or get a heavier tow vehicle with a higher maximum tow rating. It’s a bit outside the scope of this question but this is a situation where a fifth wheeler offers a better towing advantage than a caravan, given it shifts the ball/pin mass into the back of the tow vehicle, not behind it.

 - Malcolm Street


Q: We have an imported British caravan and need to replace the battery charger. However, the original part seems to only be available in the UK. Would an alternative be available in Australia?

- Ted Mulgrave, via Facebook

A: You might find that the original is available locally or failing that, freight time from the UK is generally quite fast. That said, unless there are physical location issues in your caravan, battery chargers are a bit like batteries in that you don’t have to stay with the original manufacturer. You should be able to get a correctly rated multi- stage charger from the likes of BMPRO, REDARC or Ctek for example without too much trouble.

- Malcolm Street


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