New to caravaning...advice needed please.

May 11, 2005
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I am just about to purchase my first caravan and intend to use it this summer. I have a rover 416 which gives an 85% weight about 40kg above the caravan weight (so hopefully no problems there).

The towbar on the car has a 7 terminal socket by the side of it, but the caravan has two plugs. I am now confused - apologies if I sound a bit green. Do I need to get another socket installed on the car, do I need a one socket to two adapter, do I only use one of the sockets etc etc etc?

Could someone please give me some advice as I have done a web trawl and read up on the various connectors but still haven't come across a definitive answer as to my cars towbar electrics suitability.

Thanks in advance,

wally.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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First things first - welcome to the wonderful world of caravaning - you will enjoy the freedom and friendship of the majority of like minded people.

Regarding the electrics on the car and caravan, the socket fitted to your car has a black 7 pin connector, this is for the road lights on your van - side and tail lights, indicators, etc. A second 7 pin socket would then be required to feed the auxilary circuit in the van such as lights, fridge, etc. although not all conections in this fitting is used. the second socket attached to your car would generally be white in colour as an easy guide for matching sockets on the caravan to car. Have a look at other cars with towbars and you will more than likely see the two different coloured sockets.

However certain caravan manufacturers are now adopting the continental one socket 13 pin version although this is not at present very common in the UK.

Good luck and once again welcome to our world.
 
May 4, 2005
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Kevin,the socket on your car is for lights on the van(known as a 12n),a second socket(12s normally grey) has to be fitted to power reverse lights,battery charging, interior lights and fridge.
 
May 21, 2008
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Hi Kevin. Welcome to caravanning I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the last twenty plus years.

As the previous posts have said the black socket is for road lights, and you should have a white capped socket for the second plug (usually grey on the caravan)for auxilary power. I must admit I don't use my auxilary plug because if you put the mains power on and the fridge on, overnight before you go off, your fridge should be cold enough for most trips to the site and when there you'll probably be on electric anyway.

The 12v supply to a fridge doesn't power the fridge to 100%, it just maintains a cool flow while driving.

Last year we went to scotland, a journey of 500miles (10Hrs driving)and even without the auxilary plug the fridge was still cold when we got there.
 
May 11, 2005
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Hi Colin, Brian & Steve.

Thanks for all your answers. I have a couple of other questions (I hope you don't mind me picking your brains!).

Is it perfectly legal to tow a caravan with no reversing lights as these are on the second connector (12S)?

The 85% guide for weight limit is for a braked trailer from what I can glean off the net - does this apply to my caravan (a rather modest second hand 2 berth Eccles Nova) or are all caravans classed as braked?

What is an over run brake (is this the same as the brake in my previous question) and do I have one?

Thanks for helping me out.

wally.
 
Apr 11, 2005
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Hi Kevin

I too am new to all this so cant help you with your query the lads above have got it spot on anyway !

But keep coming on these posts and you will learn so much

as I have, you will always get a reply to your questions no matter how daft YOU think they are!

Happy caravanning.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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hi

as far as reversing lights,if they are fitted to the caravan they must work by law,if they are not fitted(older caravans)than thats not illegal, its ok.

Trailer Maximum Weights

Type 01: unbraked trailers - max. 750kg gross trailer weight or half the towing vehicle's kerb weight - whichever is less.

85%is a guide line,this is either 85% of kerbweight or manufactures towing limit, which could actually be less in some cases than the kerbweight

overun brakes in old caravans used to have to actually take off manually as far as i know,modern caravans have a damper type fitting for overun which when caravan overuns damper pushes brakes on,somebody else with more technical no how will im sure be along to make it more plainer than i can,but that is the gist as far as i can advise
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Firts things first - do not consider yourself as a wally - we have all been through the initial problems associated with the "rules and regulations" of caravaning.

In answer to your questions - under the Road traffic Act if your caravan is fitted with a reversing light it must be working, however not all of the older vans were fitted with them.

Secondly all caravans are braked trailers - you might find some older small trailer tents not fitted with brakes but this would be the exception not the rule.

Thirdly your hitch connection generally has a hydraulic damper to it so that when the brakes are applied on the car the damper will take up the initial push from the van onto the car, this push force is referred to as the over run, as this happens the brakes will be applied onto the caravan and will thereby reduce the push force. As you accelerate the damper effect on the hitch coupling will extend and will release the brakes on the van. Do not forget to take the handbrake on the caravan off prior to starting out on your journey as you travel the brakes are applied as necessary by the effect of the hydraulic damper in the hitch coupling.

I hope you find this reply understandable and helpful. Once again welcome to the caravan fraternity. Good luck
 
Apr 2, 2005
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Firts things first - do not consider yourself as a wally - we have all been through the initial problems associated with the "rules and regulations" of caravaning.

In answer to your questions - under the Road traffic Act if your caravan is fitted with a reversing light it must be working, however not all of the older vans were fitted with them.

Secondly all caravans are braked trailers - you might find some older small trailer tents not fitted with brakes but this would be the exception not the rule.

Thirdly your hitch connection generally has a hydraulic damper to it so that when the brakes are applied on the car the damper will take up the initial push from the van onto the car, this push force is referred to as the over run, as this happens the brakes will be applied onto the caravan and will thereby reduce the push force. As you accelerate the damper effect on the hitch coupling will extend and will release the brakes on the van. Do not forget to take the handbrake on the caravan off prior to starting out on your journey as you travel the brakes are applied as necessary by the effect of the hydraulic damper in the hitch coupling.

I hope you find this reply understandable and helpful. Once again welcome to the caravan fraternity. Good luck
Hi

Reverse lights are not a legal requirement and, therefore, do not have to work if fitted. If they do work only two are allowed and bulbs should not exceed 21 watts in each lamp. i.e. spotlights/foglamps as reversing lights are illegal. Until recently vans never had reverse lights and some new vans even have lamps without bulbs fitted and no cabling!!! Beejay
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Firts things first - do not consider yourself as a wally - we have all been through the initial problems associated with the "rules and regulations" of caravaning.

In answer to your questions - under the Road traffic Act if your caravan is fitted with a reversing light it must be working, however not all of the older vans were fitted with them.

Secondly all caravans are braked trailers - you might find some older small trailer tents not fitted with brakes but this would be the exception not the rule.

Thirdly your hitch connection generally has a hydraulic damper to it so that when the brakes are applied on the car the damper will take up the initial push from the van onto the car, this push force is referred to as the over run, as this happens the brakes will be applied onto the caravan and will thereby reduce the push force. As you accelerate the damper effect on the hitch coupling will extend and will release the brakes on the van. Do not forget to take the handbrake on the caravan off prior to starting out on your journey as you travel the brakes are applied as necessary by the effect of the hydraulic damper in the hitch coupling.

I hope you find this reply understandable and helpful. Once again welcome to the caravan fraternity. Good luck
I have read all of the replys to the original question and I never realized about the brakes coming on when the caravan towhitch thingy! moves forward, Many thanks thats another thing I have learnt.
 
May 11, 2005
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Hi,

I have just come back from my first ever caravaning trip. Lovely weekend in Brean - Somerset. Fine journey up there from south Devon and a lovely journey back, well most of it at least.

For those who know the area, as you are driving along the A380 from Exeter to Newton Abott, you go up and down what is known as the Ideford dip. This is a lovely long straight piece of road (about a mile downhill, then a mile uphill). I was going downhill with my slightly aged Eccles Nova when the van started snaking.

I had my foot very, very slightly on the gas and was basically coasting downhill at about 60mph in top gear. At first I just grabbed the car wheel as tight as I could and very slowly touched my brakes - no change in the snaking. I then touched my foot to the gas (I seriously has reservations about this as the downhill is quite steep and I was already doing 60!) but to no avail so foot off the gas. I could see the bottom of the dip approaching and so I just hung on for dear life. At last after about 1/4 mile of snaking we were going uphill. I now slightly accelerated hoping that that would cure the snake. How wrong I was.

A quick glance in the towing mirror to check over taking lane was clear (like anything was going to come withing 100 yards of me!) and I now gradually move over about 10 foot to my right to straddle the lane dividing line. Van goes absolutely crazy and appears to bounce from one wheel to the other about three times (big, big bangs). I'm now looking for a suitable ditch site i.e. central reservation to my right or grass bank and hedge to my left. Slowly the van starts to calm down and after about a total of over 1/2 mile I am towing straight again. We pull over. I light a cigarette. A certain six year old girl in the back of the car giggles and asks if we can do that again. My partner slowly goes from dread white to her usual pnkiness. My heart steadily rturns to normal rate. The rest of the journey is done at a max of 50mph. We arrive home.

I have read various caravaning forums before going on my first journey about safe towing etc and there seemed to be various advice about how to get out of the snaking situation. Any further thoughts?

I was running with a nose weight of 50Kg (car max weight is 70Kg). All the heavy stuff in the van was on the floor over the axles (awning, windbreaks and microwave).

Did I do anything wrong? My car is a 1999 Rover 400 saloon (quite a long distance from real axle to tow ball). Van tyres were inflated to 38 psi (van manual recommends 36psi), could this have caused this much of a difference? Both van tyres are brand new.

I do not have a stabiliser fitted. I am now (unsurprisingly) looking to have one fitted. Recommendations? I do not have a lot of money to play with.

Any further advice would be gratefully received.

Ta!

(Apologies to anyone seeing this message in another sites forum - I lost m link to this forum and it has taken a little while ro find it again)
 
May 11, 2005
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Another question to ask whilst I'm here. I telephoned my car insurance company before departing to confirm that I was still fully comp insured whilst towing a caravan. They said that I was not, just third party when towing a van - good job I didn't plaster it down the central reservation!. Any recommendations on insurance companies who are caravan friendly? My insurance is thankfully due for renewal in 5 weeks time (currently with elephant.co.uk).

Thanks!
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Hi,

I have just come back from my first ever caravaning trip. Lovely weekend in Brean - Somerset. Fine journey up there from south Devon and a lovely journey back, well most of it at least.

For those who know the area, as you are driving along the A380 from Exeter to Newton Abott, you go up and down what is known as the Ideford dip. This is a lovely long straight piece of road (about a mile downhill, then a mile uphill). I was going downhill with my slightly aged Eccles Nova when the van started snaking.

I had my foot very, very slightly on the gas and was basically coasting downhill at about 60mph in top gear. At first I just grabbed the car wheel as tight as I could and very slowly touched my brakes - no change in the snaking. I then touched my foot to the gas (I seriously has reservations about this as the downhill is quite steep and I was already doing 60!) but to no avail so foot off the gas. I could see the bottom of the dip approaching and so I just hung on for dear life. At last after about 1/4 mile of snaking we were going uphill. I now slightly accelerated hoping that that would cure the snake. How wrong I was.

A quick glance in the towing mirror to check over taking lane was clear (like anything was going to come withing 100 yards of me!) and I now gradually move over about 10 foot to my right to straddle the lane dividing line. Van goes absolutely crazy and appears to bounce from one wheel to the other about three times (big, big bangs). I'm now looking for a suitable ditch site i.e. central reservation to my right or grass bank and hedge to my left. Slowly the van starts to calm down and after about a total of over 1/2 mile I am towing straight again. We pull over. I light a cigarette. A certain six year old girl in the back of the car giggles and asks if we can do that again. My partner slowly goes from dread white to her usual pnkiness. My heart steadily rturns to normal rate. The rest of the journey is done at a max of 50mph. We arrive home.

I have read various caravaning forums before going on my first journey about safe towing etc and there seemed to be various advice about how to get out of the snaking situation. Any further thoughts?

I was running with a nose weight of 50Kg (car max weight is 70Kg). All the heavy stuff in the van was on the floor over the axles (awning, windbreaks and microwave).

Did I do anything wrong? My car is a 1999 Rover 400 saloon (quite a long distance from real axle to tow ball). Van tyres were inflated to 38 psi (van manual recommends 36psi), could this have caused this much of a difference? Both van tyres are brand new.

I do not have a stabiliser fitted. I am now (unsurprisingly) looking to have one fitted. Recommendations? I do not have a lot of money to play with.

Any further advice would be gratefully received.

Ta!

(Apologies to anyone seeing this message in another sites forum - I lost m link to this forum and it has taken a little while ro find it again)
Should the same happen to you again, slow down (don't do an emergency brake but enough to actuate the overrun brake on the caravan). The further you slow down the more likely the caravan will catch itself and revert to a stable condition.

You can count yourself lucky that the snake didn't develop into anything worse. Probably going uphill again prevented the worst from happening.

Also, it would probably be wise to make full use of the 70kg noseweight that you say is permitted for your car. Otherwise, you did everything right (correct tyre pressures, good load distribution, holding the steering wheel steady as soon as you noticed the snake).
 

Damian

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Mar 14, 2005
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Kevin, glad you had a mainly good outing with your van, sorry you encountered the snake, and well done on not plastering it all over the road.

Firstly, you need to increase your nose weight on the hitch to as near the max for the car,ie,70kg.

Secondly,reduce your tyre pressures to those recommended.

Thirdly,,when you start to feel a snake , SLOW DOWN, do NOT try and out run it, especially on downhill runs.

Lastly,as far as the van goes, a stabiliser would help, and one of the leaf spring types would be fine, if you do not have the ALKO hitch type fitted, and can be found ebay, or from places like towsure, or any caravan dealer.

As for the insurance, would be worth checking again, as my understanding of how it works is ,,the car remains fully comp, but the van is only 3rd party, on the car insurance, as it should be covered by its own insurance for any more
 
May 11, 2005
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Hi Damian,

Thanks for the reply. One other question that you or someone else may be able to answer. When loading all of the extra 'luggage' for a weekend away i.e. food, drink, clothes, books etc is it better to have this in the caravan (low down over the axles) or in the boot of the car.

Now that I intend to tow on a regular basis, should I be looking to have upgraded rear suspension on the car or alter it for a higher ride height (I had a few nasty scraping/banging noises going over speed humps and very bumpy roads).

Is it still possible to have a virtually uncontrollable snake when a stabiliser is fitted?

Thanks!
 

Damian

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Mar 14, 2005
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Kevin, we tend to travel with very little regarding food items, but look out for a decent shopping place near the site we are staing at, we just take enough for the first evening and breakfast the next day, buying locally thereafter, and it is stored in the lower cupboards near the axle when moving.

As for suspension height and speed humps, this is a nuisance thing when towing, and quite often it is either the jockey wheel catching on the top of the hump, make sure it is fully up in its resting place, or the back end of the van catching on the road as the van climbs the hump. Raising the suspension will make rear end grounding worse, as it is raising the front of the van.

When you hitch up, stand back and look at the whole outfit, if it all looks level, maybe slightly nose down, in my case, then spring assisters will not be much help. If your car suspension is bottoming out, then assisters may help.

A stabiliser will not fully prevent a snake, but will stop excesive pitchig and swaying. The only thing that prevents snaking is correct loading of the van, and keping your speed sensible with regards weather, large vehicles passing you, and going downhill.

Towing is a totally different ball game to solo driving and takes time to get used to, especially the slower speeds.

The speed restrictions on towing are for a safety purpose BUT they are NOT targets to meet. As with all driving, read the road, conditions and adjust speed accordingly.

Hope this helps .
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Whether it is impossible to have an uncontrollable snake with a stabiliser depends on what sort of stabiliser is fitted. The most common are the frictional, whether integrated in the coupling such as the AlKo or Winterhoff or blade types. Regardless of their design, these can only provide protection so long as the forces inducing the snake are less than the preset frictional forces. However, if they are exceeded, a snake, although less likely, is still possible. In principle, the same also applies to viscous dampers such as the Straightliner. The difference between frictional and viscous systems is that the frictional variety react with constant output whereas the performance of viscous dampers is proportional to the speed of relative movement (i.e. the snake). The maximum performance of both types of stabiliser is, however, limited by the structural strength of the towbar and vehicle underbody as all forces are transmitted through these components. The only type of stabiliser which is independent of any such restrictions because they are a closed system, are electronic stabilisers that automatically apply the brakes as soon as a snake is sensed. Electronic stabilisers can either be vehicle-fitted, such as the New Vauxhall Astra with the ESP-plus option, or trailer-installed, such as the LEAS stabiliser.
 

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