After reading the letters on this forum I was really worried. This is the list of blunders and changes I made to my caravan. Maybe it will help someone. I tow a Sprite Solar with a Nissan Terrano 2.7 turbo diesel.
1. Trapezium chain was hooked incorrectly. I hooked the chain over the ball instead of underneath it. The result was that the chain was damaged and the trapezium bushes were shot. Called it stupid or innocence. The best part was that the trapezium was overhauled and upgraded to the new version at a cost of R400. It feels better than before.
2. Trusting my dealer was a mistake. Please check on the work that they do. Just recently they changed my axial bearings and when I checked the brakes at home, the right wheel was not adjusted correctly. It was tight.
3. The first modification that was done was to raise the caravan by inserting a spacer of 32 mm between axial and caravan chassis.
4. The axial alignment was checked via a nylon string and a weight from the centre of the ball to the left and right outer of the axial. An adjustment was needed to correct a 2 mm difference in length. The caravan is now stable and it handles better on a rough road. The steadies are clearing the driveway. The caravan is nose down to the vehicle. The effect is quite remarkable. This modification had an effect on the brakes; please check they are adjusted correctly afterwards. The brakes do go tighter.
5. The original wheel diameter was 576 mm (175/70R13). This is now upgraded to 165/80R13C (GT2 Good Year commercial). A test run on a bad road revealed good results and I am glad I made this change. The load capacity went from 475 kg/wheel to 615 kg/wheel.
6. The new caravan tires were then filled with Nitrogen. The tires are running cooler. The tire pressures are also more stable. It feels like a softer ride. Tire pressure recommended by the caravan manufacturer stated as 235 Kpa. We have changed this to 250 kpa with the new tire.
7. The effect of this new tires and the spacer is that the steadies at the back lifted with 78 mm. More than ample to clear obstacles. From behind it can clearly be seen that the caravan was modified. It is higher than the normal caravan. Some guys can’t believe that the higher standing caravan is more stable than before. One guy even asked me to drive behind me.
8. I loaded my TV, tent, etc at the back of the caravan. During a test run with the modified height and new tires I played around with the equipment to get more stability. At the end of the day everything is now above the axial on the floor. The heavy full tent was moved to the loading space inside the Terrano. We use an anti-slip mat and crates with a sketch to show the exact location of all items. For the first time the caravan is steady as a rock, even at 120 km/hr it stays stable. The spacer, different storing area, corrected axial, new tires, changed tire pressure and nitrogen made a massive difference in handling. It now leaves me with the question, why was this not done in the first place?
9. I have learned not to take chances the hard way. If there is a choice between arriving late or early for your funeral, then the choice is obvious. I tow at 100 km/hr. During the start of my caravanning experiences I went down a steep hill and as I was descending a truck was standing dead still in the road. I was only doing 90 km/hr but it took a lot of nerves to stop the rig in time. Only the ABS, EBD and trapezium prevented a disaster. I can still remember how people ran in all directions because they could anticipate a massive crash. To travel at 120 plus is really stupid; there is no control above 100 km/hr in an emergency. Only your luck versus the angel of death. Your choice, bet your life on it.
10. I use a cruise control and I focus on the caravan, the car and on the road ahead. During side winds and rain I disengage the cruise control and I lower the speed to 90 km/hr. Bad weather will be dealt with at 80 km/hr tops.
11. At 100 km/hr the revolutions are running below 3000 rpm and the peak value is at 2000 rpm, so I tow in 5th gear.
12. I never drive in the yellow lane. But as soon as a person passes me I do go to the left to clear his line of vision. Sometimes you do get the funny guys that swerve in front of you. At that time you are already to the left and he have no influence except egg on his face.
13. With every fuel stop I do check the tires and do place my hand on the inside of the wheel to check if the bearings are ok. Long trips of 800 km also warrant a check on the wheel nuts while filling up.
14. I always carry a tire repair kit with me as part of the off-road kit for the Terrano. I needed this twice in my life.
15. My house is situated on an incline and it was hell to get the caravan into my yard. I bought a winch like the ones that is fitted on boats. I use this to pull my caravan into position. It is a back saver. My wife will steer and I do the winching.
16. I drafted a checklist, laminated it and stuck it against the fridge. I thought checklists were only for sissies. I was 250 km away from home when I realized that the keys for the caravan are at home. Bad mistake but it does happen if your planning is too quick.
17. I had trouble with my power pack. My daughter left the caravan lights on with the 220 volt unplugged. The battery was completely discharged in an estimated 20 days interval. Three days before a weekend trip I switch on the 220-volt to get the fridge ready without checking the battery. When I arrived at the campsite my power pack was blown and the battery was complete destroyed. I replaced the power pack with a heavy-duty charger fitted with an automatic cut in and cut out circuit and equipped with trickle charge. The charger cost me R399 but it is worth it. Can also be used to start the engine in an emergency. Through Archimedes I assembled a 12 volt 10 ampere dc supply, which run directly from the 220-volt. The circuit is simple. When I run on the 220-volt supply a relay will energize and it will separate the battery from the caravan light circuit. But the charger, which operates on trickle, will then slow charge the battery until fully charged. The charger will cut in and out as required. If the 220-volt should fail then the relay will drop and 12 volt from the battery will be fed into the lighting circuit.
18. A monitor circuit was fitted as a backup and to give a visual display of the battery state. The battery and power pack is hidden and you only realize there is a problem when it is too late. Archimedes is supplying a fully build unit for this problem. Installation is simple. This unit supplies a continuous readout from the battery via a led bar graph. If the bar graph shows a problem then you can get a digital readout of the battery voltage on the unit. At the same time you can also display inside and outside temperature. This is a nice little thing. I like to know how hot is hot and how cold is cold. For this unit 12 volt was needed for the backlight, and a 1.5 volt supply was designed and installed to supply the unit.
19. I also learned to have spare fuses and bulbs with me at all times. It saved me a fine once. I did check the lights before leaving but when stopped by a traffic cop Murphy’s Law kicked in. I replaced the globe immediately and I was left off the hook.
20. The yellow reflective tape on the caravan is handy. Drive in the mist on the N3 near Marian Hill or on the N1 at Cape Town with a white caravan and you will start to appreciate the yellow line on your caravan. You can actually see that the guys behind you are slowing down. They see the yellow line long before they see the red lights on the caravan.
21. I use a different engine oil filter called Stilko on my towing vehicle. It is a reusable oil filter with a cartridge that is replaced at 4000 km intervals at a cost of R30. The oil will be drained at 20 000 km and not at 7500 km. This filter is removing particles as low as 1 micron and the normal oil filter will only remove 20 or 30 micron and above. I always carry spare cartridges and seals with me. This filter will also remove water and diesel fuel from the oil. I have done a particle count oil analysis on the oil and up to date the results is acceptable. The manufacturer also claims that the oil temperature is lowered between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius due to construction of the filter. Up to date I have experienced no problem with my turbo or engine. In matter of fact the engine was quieter after fitment. I assume that this full flow oil filter is feeding more oil to the engine than before. Even with heavy towing in massive heat conditions no overheating was experienced.
22. It is a habit of mine to allow 3 minutes of idling after arrival at the camping site to cool the turbo.
23. As a precaution I fill the caravan water tank with about 12 liters of water.
24. I will always carry a Jerry can with 20 liters of diesel while traveling.
25. I try to flash or to wave at other guys towing caravans, but sometimes this is not appreciated. Sometimes I do get the middle finger treatment. This one will soon disappear from my list.
26. I bought a portable DVD player for my family. They watch this at the back of the car while I watch the road. This is handy especially on the long trips. My daughter hates long trips, but this way it is a little bit easier for her.
27. Everyone will buckle up and will stay buckled up while the rig is moving.
I hope this was not a waste of time. If you have specific questions please e-mail me. Afrikaans or English.