Essential spares

Jul 29, 2019
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We are going to France and Germany for 3 weeks in July, what essential spares should we be taking with us for a touring caravan to prevent us being stranded and unable to tow? We will have red pennant cover. I was thinking spare wheel and tyre, spare jockey wheel and Alko hitch pads. I have a comprehensive tool kit and all the general repair items.
 
Nov 30, 2022
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Spare wheel and tyre are absolutely essential for caravan AND towcar. (Along with Jack's for both)
Al-ko hitch pads I certainly wouldn't bother with.
Spare jockey wheel is not necessary, they sell them in France.
A spare breakaway cable would be on my list. I once forgot to detach mine after unhitching. All of the site heard it let go as I pulled forward
If you have a submersible water pump a spare is worthwhile (especially if it's a Truma one. (Cheap pattern ones available off ebay)
Spare keys for caravan and car
Don't overthink things, most caravan things can be purchased in France, they even have electricity now!,
 
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Thanks for the reply, do you know, if the hitch pads broke and dropped out could I still tow? Also I thought if the jockey wheel broke whilst hitching or un hitching ( only time it is used) the caravan would be unmovable without hitching up to the car. Could be a problem if leaving site and would need replacing before pitching at the next site.
 
Nov 12, 2021
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I agree with Mr Plodd's suggestions and recommendations.
I think you are worrying unnecessarily though, jockey wheels don't often break and hitch pads don't normally drop out.
My advice would be to have the caravan serviced before going on the trip if it hasn't been done as this would highlight any issues with components such as the jockey wheel and hitch pads.
You mention a spare wheel, if this is in addition to the one you have for the caravan then don't bother. Why take up valuable space and payload with something you probably will never need. The Red Pennant cover adds extra peace of mind too.
I would recommend a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) for the caravan. This will alert you to any problems with the tyres. I have the TyrePal system which works well.
We've got six weeks booked in France this year and planning a trip to Germany next so, I'd be interested in your experiences there.
Enjoy your holiday.
 
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Maybe, I have read about a higher incedence of the hitch pads failing which is why I suggested them. I will look at the tyre pressure system.
Thanks both.
 
Nov 12, 2021
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Maybe, I have read about a higher incedence of the hitch pads failing which is why I suggested them. I will look at the tyre pressure system.
Thanks both.
I always carry some brake and clutch cleaner spray which I use on the tow ball and pads before hitching up to ensure they are in tip-top condition.
I spray my removable tow hitch with WD-40 to stop it from rusting when it's not on the car. The cleaner removes all traces of oily residue which will ruin the hitch-pads.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Maybe, I have read about a higher incedence of the hitch pads failing which is why I suggested them. I will look at the tyre pressure system.
Thanks both.
My first caravan with an Alko stabiliser hitch was in 2005 and after that other vans had the Alko stabiliser. Never had any problems whatsoever with the hitch friction pads. I cleaned them before each outing and once had to replace some that were worn. But that was a scheduled event not a failure. I wonder if those who have issues aren’t competent to do the job, or maybe they have bought, or inherited, a set of pattern non Alko pads.
 
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If it helps, I broke a pad (first time in just under 40 years of caravanning) in the south of Germany - the hitch was stuck onto the car and, whatever I did, I couldn't move it. Eventually it came off but with one of the pads broken. I phoned the guy who services my caravan who said that, as long as I took care, it would be alright. It was. We made it back to Wiltshire without a problem although I was conscious that my stabiliser was a bit dodgy and took care until I was happy with the way the caravan was handling with ¾ of a stabiliser.
 
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Definitely pack that spare wheel and tire, plus the jockey wheel and Alko hitch pads—can't go wrong with those. Since you've got a red pennant cover, you're already on top of visibility. If you're up for it, consider an emergency roadside kit with reflective triangles and a high-visibility vest just in case. Oh, and don't forget some extra fuses and bulbs for the caravan lights. Have an awesome trip!
These aren't a consideration they are a legal requirement when travelling in France!
You need two emergency triangles, spare bulbs and hi-viz vests for every occupant of the vehicle and they must be inside the vehicle within easy reach.
Depending on where you are going in France, you may also need a Crit’air sticker.
If you haven't got these items and you are stopped by the French police you will undoubtedly get a fine which can be hefty.

Take a look here for the definitive driving checklist from the RAC for driving in Europe
 
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JTQ

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I would find room for a small roll of "duct tape".
Plus limited tools, not a whole garage workshop set up, but a few sockets 10, 13 15, 17 & 19 and breaker bar, a couple of screw drives small and both blade and cross head types. And I have a medium sized piece of "chocolate block" electrical connector and small reel of 5Amp car cable. Then a budget multimeter.
Most things that break an d would have to be repaired are available on the continent, indeed the brands are from there.

Resist over doing this spare issue, its not a too uninhabited wilderness over there, plus a fellow camper, usually a friendly Dutchman on site will likely have just the emergency bit you need and he and his mates will promptly be over to help.
 
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If the OP has the infamous Alko spare wheel carrier I would remove the spare and carry it within the caravan. In the event of a puncture having the spare in the caravan removes the necessity of extracting the spare from the carrier into the passing traffic stream when in Europe. In fact I ditched my carriers and tended to carry the wheel in the caravan. No problem if there’s a spare wheel in the front locker.
 
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If the OP has the infamous Alko spare wheel carrier I would remove the spare and carry it within the caravan. In the event of a puncture having the spare in the caravan removes the necessity of extracting the spare from the carrier into the passing traffic stream when in Europe. In fact I ditched my carriers and tended to carry the wheel in the caravan. No problem if there’s a spare wheel in the front locker.
Many contributors to this forum complain of excessive noseweight so relocating the caravan spare to the front locker may not be appropriate - I put our caravan spare, suitably covered, in the car - upright behind the front passenger seat, but even that's not possible if rear passengers are carried.
 
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Many contributors to this forum complain of excessive noseweight so relocating the caravan spare to the front locker may not be appropriate - I put our caravan spare, suitably covered, in the car - upright behind the front passenger seat, but even that's not possible if rear passengers are carried.
I wasn’t advocating installing the spare wheel into the front locker. You have jumped to a conclusion. My point was that if there’s a spare wheel stowage in the front locker then there’s no problem viz a viz the Alko spare wheel carrier. My last van had a front locker stowage.
 
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I wasn’t advocating installing the spare wheel into the front locker. You have jumped to a conclusion. My point was that if there’s a spare wheel stowage in the front locker then there’s no problem viz a viz the Alko spare wheel carrier. My last van had a front locker stowage.
My Bailey has a moulding for the spare wheel in the front locker. But using it would make the nose load massive , requiring a lot of juggling to achieve the correct NL. As you said earlier “within the caravan” makes more sense and should be easier to regulate the NL.

Over decades I have never had or heard of an Al-ko pad failure. You can tow without them but you will have a non operational stabiliser .

Not all French EHU are three pin like ours . Carry an adaptor for two pin. You may wish to consider buying a cheap reverse polarity tester. You may need to swap the live and neutral or just carry one already pre wired.

Calor gas is not available so I’d make sure both your U.K. bottles are full.

In addition to Mr Plodd’s comprehensive list I’d also take some silicon spray and Electrical Contact Spray.
Enjoy your venture.
 
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Our last van was quite nose heavy and not easy to get down to 75kg especially as it had its spare wheel on an OEM locker mount and most of its heavy fittings in front of the axle.
So when Calor initiated the shenanigans wrt Calorlite I decided to install a second Calorlite in the front locker and removed the spare wheel to carry it in the caravan just in front of the axle. She balanced and towed just as well as normal. There are well established principles wrt loading a caravan, but at times you have to try something a bit different whilst still recognising the principles.
 
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There is no point in carrying a spare wheel if you don't have tools or knowledge to replace it. Go through process at home of jacking van up and remove spare from holder, make sure you have tool to loosen wheel nuts. Don't forget good headlamp and raincoat. Murphy Law says puncture will happen on wet night.

As others have said stablisher pads aren't essential. I've just towed van 500km with them disengaged without an issue. These seem to be european caravan thing most other heavy duty trailers eg horse float, car carrier, boat don"t have them.
 
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There is no point in carrying a spare wheel if you don't have tools or knowledge to replace it. Go through process at home of jacking van up and remove spare from holder, make sure you have tool to loosen wheel nuts. Don't forget good headlamp and raincoat. Murphy Law says puncture will happen on wet night.

As others have said stablisher pads aren't essential. I've just towed van 500km with them disengaged without an issue. These seem to be european caravan thing most other heavy duty trailers eg horse float, car carrier, boat don"t have them.
For loosening wheel nuts I always carry a telescopic wrench and the caravan one was also used to engage the motor mover too.
 
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My Bailey has a moulding for the spare wheel in the front locker. But using it would make the nose load massive , requiring a lot of juggling to achieve the correct NL. As you said earlier “within the caravan” makes more sense and should be easier to regulate the NL.

Over decades I have never had or heard of an Al-ko pad failure. You can tow without them but you will have a non operational stabiliser .

Not all French EHU are three pin like ours . Carry an adaptor for two pin. You may wish to consider buying a cheap reverse polarity tester. You may need to swap the live and neutral or just carry one already pre wired.

Calor gas is not available so I’d make sure both your U.K. bottles are full.

In addition to Mr Plodd’s comprehensive list I’d also take some silicon spray and Electrical Contact Spray.
Enjoy your venture.
I would suggest item 95426 from Screwfix. It comprises the mains plug tester, a non-contact mains detector, and a small DVM.
You will find CEE17 (blue/white 3-pin) connectors in use but there is nothing to say they will be correctly wired. As Schuko wiring is all double pole switched a French Sparky never worries which way round they connect live and neutral. Equally they often don't connect the earth either! We stayed at a site near Bordeaux where we have stayed many times. The mains connection was three Schuko sockets (French style with two holes and one long earth pin) screwed to a board. I plugged into the first socket - reversed but with earth; then the second socket - UK correct but no earth; third socket - reversed but no earth. That test kit above was worth its weight in gold!
 
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I would suggest item 95426 from Screwfix. It comprises the mains plug tester, a non-contact mains detector, and a small DVM.
You will find CEE17 (blue/white 3-pin) connectors in use but there is nothing to say they will be correctly wired. As Schuko wiring is all double pole switched a French Sparky never worries which way round they connect live and neutral. Equally they often don't connect the earth either! We stayed at a site near Bordeaux where we have stayed many times. The mains connection was three Schuko sockets (French style with two holes and one long earth pin) screwed to a board. I plugged into the first socket - reversed but with earth; then the second socket - UK correct but no earth; third socket - reversed but no earth. That test kit above was worth its weight in gold!
While dodgy wiring isn't ideal none of these connections would've caused electric shock. Needs to be combination of dodgy wiring and appliance with certain fault, which would be extremely rare.
 
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Having read some of the comments, my concern is if the OP follows all of them, he will be in danger of having far too much weight. Or end up with far too much nose load.

Two points that I did see which could have a significant effect on the nose load were carrying two gas bottles and moving the spare wheel.

If the OP normally carries one cylinder of LPG, then taking a second is immediately going to have a big addition to the nose load. I suggest either switching to Camping Gaz which are available throught Europe, or at least getting a Camping Gaz pigtail, or one to suit local supplies.

The second point, is about carrying a spare wheel. There are many reported issues with the Alko carrier being difficult to use, and particularly hazardous when needed in countries that drive on the other side of the road. Several friends of mine carry the spare wheel just inside the door of the caravan on the floor inside a protective bag and wedged in place to stop it moving around, and then use it as part of a step. This solves the carrier problem, and improves access to it if it's needed, and keeps its weight close to axle rather than the hitch.

Then there is the concern about Alko hitch stabaliser pads falling out. To be honest this is a rare event, and if the hitch has been properly managed and checked /serviced the pads should not be a problem. But if they do decide to part company, it really shouldn't be a problem provided you have loaded your car and caravan sensibly. The pads are not there to make an outfit drivable, they are there to improve the handling of the outfit if you begin to lose control. Of course you should not be driving in a manner that could mean you might lose control, but the pads are there just in case. Consider them to be like seat belts, because they are not a driving aid!

It is important to understand the additional difficulties of driving yet alone caravanning abroad, with the dislocation from your normal support systems, but take some time to weigh up the relative risks and be pragmatic about which events you need to cover, and those which will make you feel good that you managed without or you created your own solution for. It's an adventure
 
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Having read some of the comments, my concern is if the OP follows all of them, he will be in danger of having far too much weight. Or end up with far too much nose load.

Two points that I did see which could have a significant effect on the nose load were carrying two gas bottles and moving the spare wheel.

If the OP normally carries one cylinder of LPG, then taking a second is immediately going to have a big addition to the nose load. I suggest either switching to Camping Gaz which are available throught Europe, or at least getting a Camping Gaz pigtail, or one to suit local supplies.

The second point, is about carrying a spare wheel. There are many reported issues with the Alko carrier being difficult to use, and particularly hazardous when needed in countries that drive on the other side of the road. Several friends of mine carry the spare wheel just inside the door of the caravan on the floor inside a protective bag and wedged in place to stop it moving around, and then use it as part of a step. This solves the carrier problem, and improves access to it if it's needed, and keeps its weight close to axle rather than the hitch.

Then there is the concern about Alko hitch stabaliser pads falling out. To be honest this is a rare event, and if the hitch has been properly managed and checked /serviced the pads should not be a problem. But if they do decide to part company, it really shouldn't be a problem provided you have loaded your car and caravan sensibly. The pads are not there to make an outfit drivable, they are there to improve the handling of the outfit if you begin to lose control. Of course you should not be driving in a manner that could mean you might lose control, but the pads are there just in case. Consider them to be like seat belts, because they are not a driving aid!

It is important to understand the additional difficulties of driving yet alone caravanning abroad, with the dislocation from your normal support systems, but take some time to weigh up the relative risks and be pragmatic about which events you need to cover, and those which will make you feel good that you managed without or you created your own solution for. It's an adventure
Prof I think that you are referring to my post. To be clear there were occasions when I required two gas bottles. The caravan spare was in the locker on its OEM mount. The caravan had tendency to be nose heavy so in order to keep the nsoeweight within spec at 75kg I would install the second bottle (not always totally full) and then place the spare wheel inside the door where as you say it is restrained and just in front of the axle. My payload margin was not affected other than the weight of a calorlite, or standard bottle. WRT touring abroad we would always take two propane bottles to save having to sort out convertors for Camping gas but in reality in summer we didn't use a lot go gas other than for BBQ and the possible use of the caravan cooker. In UK the price of Campinggaz is prohibitive a R904 bottle new and full can cost anywhere between £88-99 and a refill exchange will be around £39. You only get 1.8kg of gas in that cylinder. So to my mind it's not that difficult to manage the nose weight when you need second gas cylinder without undue expense.

My last van was nose heavy when empty ploys such as keeping the locker light, putting heavy stuff just behind the axle, and sometimes even carrying water in the cassette or flush were possible options when required. Even leaving something at home or putting a bit more load in the car were option. But it towed very well and that is what was important to me, there isnt a text book that covers all aspects of caravanning so folks have to seek advice wherever and then make up their own minds. The internet forums can be great but conversely they can lead to some being affected by "too much information, some of which is conflicting" .... and indecision take a hold.


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When we went to France and Spain, one bottle of gas was more than enough. We never bothered with polarity tester either. We never bothered with the headlamp deflectors, alcohol testers and a load of other things suggested.

More importantly get Red Pennant insurance from the CAMC for peace of mind.
 
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When We were touring France many years ago for a month at a time, I would take two full Calorlite bottles in the summer and three in the winter, one carried in the car, after four trips I realised that seldom would we use more than 1 1/2 .bottles. I did have a Camping gas 901 which a replacement was about €20, which I could power the Cadac with.
Apart from normal essentials spares, the only large spare I would take was a spare Electrical Power unit. And a spare water pump.
 

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