Caravan World — 25 February 2012

I HAVE SEEN many in-depth modifications carried out on RVs by their owners.

Owners can add substantial weight to their rigs by including a second gas bottle, extra spare wheel on the rear bumper, water filters, air-conditioner, large fridge, extra water tanks, extra batteries and solar panels, and even a bathroom and toilet.

How often do you see a large toolbox on the front or rear of a van?

I often wonder if owners consider how much weight they are adding to their van, whether it is legal, and, most importantly, what effect this extra weight will have on the way the van reacts on the road.

If there is an accident, one of the first things an insurance company will do is inspect the van for any modifications that could affect the handling of the van, and then weigh it. If the weight is above the ATM stamped on the compliance plate, they may consider there are grounds for not paying out any insurance.

The ATM (maximum allowable weight of your loaded van) generally includes a 300kg load for a single-axle and 400kg for a double-axle van. Most people have trouble keeping to this limit as it includes water, full gas cylinders and all your clothing, food, kitchen equipment and other gear without adding on any modifications. Problems can also arise when items such as an awning or microwave are added by the dealer after the van has left the factory. The weight of these items must then be part of the allowable load, not included in the tare.

There are exceptions, of course. For our own van, we had an ATM of 1600kg for a 16ft van, which is normal, but as we had it built to our specifications with heavy duty offroad suspension, chassis and all running gear, we were able to raise the ATM to 1800kg to carry the gear we needed on long trips. However, we had to obtain a new compliance plate from the factory and have it re-registered by the Main Roads Dept.

It's not only the brakes, tyres and suspension that could suffer from an overloaded van. I have seen a van with its chassis cracked, due to loading far above the manufacturer's ATM.

Before carrying out modifications and adding much extra weight, I would advise checking it out with your van manufacturer or a structural engineer.

Have you seen grossly overweight vans or an accident that could be attributed to major modifications to the RV?

Written exclusively for CW online


weight modifications add-ons safety danger