Caravan build quality

Nov 30, 2022
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Hmm, none of the mainstream manufacturers have much to cheer about in that video do they?
Purely personal experience my 2019 Bailey is as dry as a bone. I regularly (like once a month) go around it with my trusty damp meter both inside and out, especially the corners.
So far so good.
 
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Nov 16, 2015
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My 2013 Coachman is still dry, max 15% I check it around October / November.
A lucky one but it did go back in 2016 to Coachman in Hull, for a new rear panel, and I noticed that all seams had been resealed.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Caravans were introduced in the UK about 100 years ago. Some of the problems with panel joints today are basically the same as the earliest mass produced caravans, despite some fairly fundamental changes to the panel construction 10 to 15 years ago, we are still seeing so many water ingress related issues, clearly the industry has not understood the problem or taken adequate steps to prevent these recurring issues. By any standard of product development systems this shows a gross and totally inadequate response by the manufacturers. There are other issues which could be viewed in the same light. Why haven't these issues been sorted 100%.

We have seen from successive independent customer surveys that on average 20% of new caravans require warranty work . Granted not all of these are necessarily major issues that prevent the caravan from being used, but each one regardless of how small the issue is, is an indicator of how poorly these manufacturers regard customer satisfaction and product reliability.

Most industries would regard this rate of attrition to be entirely unacceptable, and would invest in R&D to resolve these matters to prevent ongoing and future reoccurrence's.

To show how poorly UK caravan manufacturers regard these warranty issues, you should investigate the company's published accounts which should show how much funding they set aside to cover warranty costs, and understand that each customer is paying more for the caravan simply to put warranty funds in place.

Due to the way the UK consumer rights work, the true cost and impact of caravans that go faulty is not borne by the manufacturer. It's the dealers that are legally exposed, and in many cases small warranty repairs are often handled by the dealer and not passed onto the manufacturer. In some cases dealers are prevented from getting reimbursement from the manufacturer s by onerous contractual arrangements as part of their dealership agreements with manufacturers. Dealers are often stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to some customer issues.

Because manufacturers are effectively insulated from the customer by the dealer they don't feel the pain their poor design and manufacturing processes cause customers. As long as the majority of caravans don't produce significant warranty costs, they seem to be content to produce what we have come to expect.

This is where I cannot be as generous towards the manufactures sincerity and integrity as the in the video. he calls it a cottage industry... well financially as a whole its classed a medium sized industry, and the fact there are so few players in the market means each of their market shares makes then individually look like medium large organisations. Thay have become so large and they are entirely driven by short term profit, they resist warranty payouts putting dealers and customer at financial loss and inconvenience with regards what should be warranty work at the manufacture's liability.

Manufacture's are putting profit before customer satisfaction. Don't get me wrong, making a profit is essential for a business to survive, but they can't seem to grasp, that if they made far more reliable products, their warranty costs would fall which would transfer directly to the profit account, and leave a much happier band of caravanners.
 
Nov 30, 2022
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A caravan is basically a box joined at the corners and longitudinal joints. It's nothing like a rigid structure so it flexes as it's being towed down the road. That causes leaks at the joints (along with insufficient sealant of course) As for the issue of sidewall to floor then basic mechanics say its much easier to have the weight of the walls and roof sitting on the floor, rather than fixing through the sidewall and into the side of a plywood and foam sandwich. Thats why all caravans are made with the walls on the floor.

To makethe "wobbly box" more rigid would require a lot of bracing. That introduces more weight, and more cost! Both of which are the enemy of caravans.

My suspicion is that warranty repair costs are a much smaller amount than would be required to be spent improving/altering the materials and construction methods used.

As for composite floors I recall reading somewhere that the cost, and more importantly, the weight, penalty of using composite rather than ply sandwich floors made it unacceptable to both the manufacturer due to weight, and additional cost to the customer.

All of the above are my personal opinions of course.

I have no idea what the answer is as I dont make caravans. I am sure a totally watertight caravan that never suffered from damp could be made, but at what weight, and more importahtly at what cost? If you are one of the owners who regularly change your caravan before the expiry of the water ingress warranty woukd you be prepared to pay the additional costs involved in such a caravan when it was of no benefit to you?
 

JTQ

May 7, 2005
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Caravans can’t but flex, so their integrity should not be compromised by the reality that they do just that.
Stupidly, so often here it is.

Being generous in accrediting a reason for this, possibly "a lack of engineering understanding"? A less generous and possibly nearer the mark take, is they simply don’t care as long as “we” queue up to buy them. The former of these two reasons is easily cured by employing the services of people who do, the second is even easier cured, its our choice.

As the video presenter rightly states, relying on a sealant, rather than an inherent design feature brings a big risk. It’s way better, for example that a roof overlaps the sides so there is effectively no need for a seal other than to stop draughts.
Same underlying logic as with a tiled house roof, it can flex as the sun and wind move it about, and there is no need for sealant. And with lead roof joints, designed simply by knowing water flows downhill. *

Adding to the challenges is how this industry uses the sealants they rely on, they squeeze it out.
It physically needs a gap wide enough to create a thickness of elastomer that is able to accommodate the flexing, without shearing or tearing. In engineering speak design in adequate compliance.

* Edit: Overlapping, a technique Gobur for example so skillfully exploited in their carefully designed folders, where many joints simply could not be joined by sealants. Here achieved with the added challenges of keeping watertight in both the erected and folded states.
 
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Jul 18, 2017
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Many years ago way back in the sixties I can remember seeing a caravan where the whole body was one complete fibreglass shell with no panels and the interior was fitted probably piece by piece. I have no idea whether it was damp free for the duration of its life.
 
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Many years ago way back in the sixties I can remember seeing a caravan where the whole body was one complete fibreglass shell with no panels and the interior was fitted probably piece by piece. I have no idea whether it was damp free for the duration of its life.
Autosleeper did exactly the same with their motorhomes. No joints equaled no leaks. Just a shame what they were bolted onto rusted away :rolleyes:
 
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Many years ago way back in the sixties I can remember seeing a caravan where the whole body was one complete fibreglass shell with no panels and the interior was fitted probably piece by piece. I have no idea whether it was damp free for the duration of its life.
The Freedom and Barefoot caravans are one-piece GRP - and presently available.
 
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Many years ago way back in the sixties I can remember seeing a caravan where the whole body was one complete fibreglass shell with no panels and the interior was fitted probably piece by piece. I have no idea whether it was damp free for the duration of its life.
Viking Fibreline, there's one sitting in a front garden not far from here.
 
Jul 18, 2017
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Viking Fibreline, there's one sitting in a front garden not far from here.
I was living in South Africa at the time and damp was probably unheard of even in the flimsy caravans.

In the eighties we bought a 20 year old trailer tent and it never had a hint of damp and still had the original canvas. I cannot remember any of our friends complaining of damp and one of them owned a caravan repair shop. His main job was accident repair and modifications.
 

Sam Vimes

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Even with the string and sealing wax approach to caravan builds I still don't understand why after all these years the sealant still accumulates a build up a black stuff which is almost impossible to get rid of.
 
Jul 18, 2017
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Even with the string and sealing wax approach to caravan builds I still don't understand why after all these years the sealant still accumulates a build up a black stuff which is almost impossible to get rid of.
Easy answer. Over the years they have learnt better ways of corner and cost cutting.

Use Fenwicks neat and a stiff toothbrush to clean sealant.
 
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In the immortal words of the Simpsons

Oh it just gets worse and worse!​

In the 21st century this cannot be an acceptable set of circumstances.
Swift sun roofs leaking and leaking causing internal furniture damage
Elddis wide bodies suffering from roof collapse and sunshine roof Cracks
Bailey creating ponds on their floors.

What can we do? Stop buying caravans?
We know the Trade Body is incestuous. The press magazines including PCv turn a blind eye.
The Clubs seem to distance themselves from issues on construction.
The Manufacturers show no apparent effort or intention to improve.

Ironically the older caravans now seem to be fairing better than today’s . Why is that I wonder?
The Prof succinctly laid out most of the problems.
Are the makers Owners totally deaf to what is being said about them and their deficient products ?
 
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For me both Swift and Bailey have found a construction method that SHOULD solve a lot of structural problems but both need to hone in on the QA associated with the builds.
 
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For me both Swift and Bailey have found a construction method that SHOULD solve a lot of structural problems but both need to hone in on the QA associated with the builds.
Is this very recent perhaps in the past few months as Alutech never worked for Bailey and neither did it work for Swift with their Smart construction as both still leak?
 
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Is this very recent perhaps in the past few months as Alutech never worked for Bailey and neither did it work for Swift with their Smart construction as both still leak?

The Swift approach doesn't cure leaks but it prevents any leaks migrating (through wet rot) and causing further issues, the only "wood" is any internal furniture and the upper layer of the composite floor. Other bits still fall off and fail though so a decent QA system to prevent caravans actually leaving the factory with build-faults really would give a fantastic product.
 
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The Swift approach doesn't cure leaks but it prevents any leaks migrating (through wet rot) and causing further issues, the only "wood" is any internal furniture and the upper layer of the composite floor. Other bits still fall off and fail though so a decent QA system to prevent caravans actually leaving the factory with build-faults really would give a fantastic product.
Watching the videos on the Swift Smart indicate the latest problem is far worse than when using timber. It seems they still leak but now damage the furniture fittings which are very hard to remove and replace. Note most caravans have the fittings installed before the sides top back and front are added!
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Watching the videos on the Swift Smart indicate the latest problem is far worse than when using timber. It seems they still leak but now damage the furniture fittings which are very hard to remove and replace. Note most caravans have the fittings installed before the sides top back and front are added!
I wonder how much thought was given by Eldiss to the repairability of their SOLID bonded caravans in the event body defects (including damp ingress) occur. I’ve read several owners threads on forums where tackling a defect by a dealership is a significant piece of work. Great of its done under warranty. Not so great downstream.
 
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I wonder how much thought was given by Eldiss to the repairability of their SOLID bonded caravans in the event body defects (including damp ingress) occur. I’ve read several owners threads on forums where tackling a defect by a dealership is a significant piece of work. Great of its done under warranty. Not so great downstream.
I am not aware of any issues repairing the SOLID bonded caravans, but may have happened at some point?
 
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Ironically the older caravans now seem to be fairing better than today’s . Why is that I wonder?
My previous caravan was Bailey 2000 Ranger the joins were very simple and watertight, passed damp test after 18months outside. New van is 2009 Adria which uses same construction and joins, no signs of water ingress. The 2009 Baileys I looked had different construction and joins, both had rotten floors around edges and water on inside corners.

Why did Bailey change and Adria didn't?.

Strangely older versions of same van are quite a bit lighter, 2005 Altea 432 1100kg MTPLM with 220kg payload, 2024 1209kg with 169kg payload, can be upplated to 1300kg. Fittings were much same ie gas cook top no stove.
New one has front window but not likely to account for 150kg difference.
 
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Many years ago way back in the sixties I can remember seeing a caravan where the whole body was one complete fibreglass shell with no panels and the interior was fitted probably piece by piece. I have no idea whether it was damp free for the duration of its life.
My brother had one to tow behind his classic VW beetle until a couple of years ago. it was a Biod Bambi, and was bone dry in 2022 (built 1965)
 
Jun 20, 2005
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A chap I know locally bought a new Bailey 9 months ago . Month 5 water ingress. This last few weeks more leaks.
Initially the Dealer said the side gas locker door had been left open. It hadn’t.
More investigation now under way.
I wonder 🤔
 
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