Sometimes It Pays To Call In The Experts

Max Taylor — 3 March 2015

Whether it’s proper hitching-up procedure, the best way to load your van, or how to avoid overloading, there’s no shame in asking for advice.

My 4WD, Ruby, for instance, decided to blow the indicator fuse. Over and over again. I checked all the obvious things – trailer plug wiring, the contacts for the bulbs, etc, to no avail. My mechanic was just as stumped.

So I called in – reluctantly – a mobile auto electrician at a cost of around $90 an hour. Now, the first 30 minutes were spent with him just trying to get the bloody fuse to blow. Just like when you go to the dentist, your tooth stops hurting. Well, we finally got there and he went about tracing the fault.

Four hours later, my wallet considerably lighter and my wife not a bit happy, and he had isolated the short to a wire running across the back of the vehicle, between the two rear indicators. The wiring loom had been pushed in tight between two pieces of bodywork, and though on visual inspection the wiring looked fine, the auto sparky is convinced that was the cause of the problem.

Or perhaps he just wanted to go home: by that stage, it was 10pm on a Friday night, and my garage was freezing.

My point is this: even though it might cost some dollars, it’s worth getting professional advice when you lack the expertise or confidence to tackle a job. We can all spout clichés about ‘having a crack’ and ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’, but sometimes the risks are simply not worth it. It’s about knowing your limits.

When it comes to caravanning, it’s never a case of just dropping the coupling onto the towball, whacking in the plug, and securing a safety chain or two.

So if you’re new to vanning, the best thing you can do is leave the ‘it’ll be right’ attitude at the dealership. Do your research. Understand the limitations, from the overall towing capacity to the towball maximum and Gross Combined Mass, of your vehicle. Understand, too, the maximum load capacity of your van.

Once you’ve hitched up, is your vehicle level, or is it sagging in the bum? You might need a weight distribution hitch to counteract the see-saw effect. Your towball is a fulcrom and any weight imposed on it will lever weight off the front wheels – a potentially disastrous scenario if not properly addressed. Remember: just because your vehicle is in every respect legally capable of towing your fully-laden van doesn’t automatically make it a safe setup.

If in doubt, see a specialist. If I hadn’t, I’d still be in my garage, tracing wires and scratching my head.


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