Toolbox
Simple and inexpensive caravan alterations can make life on the road and in the park a little more comfortable.

Everyone knows that caravanners are an inventive lot. It doesn't matter how many times you walk around a caravan park, you'll always spot a modification or extras.

Chris Parsons who hails from the Adelaide suburb of West Beach, SA, is one of those people who believes there has to be a better way, irrespective of how something is done originally.

After he wrote to Caravan World, we checked out Chris's van and photographed some of his additions. Many other caravanners will be able to relate to these handy hints.

Bedside reading lights
Problem: With some island beds the standard reading lights are located just below the overhead cupboards. As they are quite high they tend to annoy the other person who wants to go to sleep.

Solution: Purchase a couple of inexpensive adjustable halogen reading lights and place on the bedside cupboard or shelf.

Comments: Solve the original problem by either installing the lights at a lower level or using lights with a narrow beam, such as those used in aircraft.

Hatch insulator
Problem: Loss of heat from the air-conditioner through Four Seasons hatch vents. Although a Four Seasons hatch is waterproof when closed, it isn't always airtight. On cold nights when the air-conditioner is pumping out warm air, some of this escapes through the gaps around the four sides of the hatch.

Solution: Make up a square panel from Corflute (material often used for signs) or a similar lightweight but strong material, and push up into hatch. If the size is right, the four winders will keep the cover in place.

Comments: The same would apply when using split system air-conditioners or even a fan heater. When cooling, this is not such a problem as warm air rises and cool air stays low.

In summer time, preventing loss of cool air through the vent in the bottom of the caravan door is a bigger concern.

Ballmount location
Problem: Towball protrudes too far from the rear of car.

Solution: Drill an additional hole through ballmount shank. This can be achieved by pushing the shank in as far as possible, marking where the hole needs to be and finding someone with a drill press and a sharp drill bit.

Comment: As a weight distribution hitch is a piece of equipment that suits many different vehicles and is used in a range of different receivers, sometimes the ballmount sticks out further than is desirable. The closer the towball is to the rear axle the less weight is transferred from the front to the rear wheels when a trailer is hitched on.

Keeping boot or other storage areas tidy
Problem: Items slide around in front boot.

Solution: Attach hooks to the wall or sides with double-sided tape to hold the jack handle.

Comments: Attaching anything to the wall or sides with screws is not recommended as there is a chance of drilling through electrical wiring or water pipes.

Always consult a caravan service specialist before drilling holes anywhere in a caravan.

Keeping track of keys
Problem: Finding the various keys used on or in a caravan. This problem is compounded by most locks on a van not having the same key or people adding additional locks to secure items such as gas cylinders.

Solution: Locate a shallow cupboard that can't be used for other storage and attach a piece of plywood with hooks screwed in to it to the back of the cupboard.

Comment: Some caravans now have all the locks keyed alike. If buying a new van, ask if this feature can be provided.

Let there be light
Problem: What to do when there is a power outage or when battery or 240V power is unavailable.

Solution: Buy a range of inexpensive portable lights that work from their own battery or get some candles.

Comment: When purchasing a 12V light, select one with a low current draw or amperage rating.

Steady mirror
Problem: Towing mirror moves when being passed by vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.

Solution: Use an adjustable strap with one end tied to the mirror support arm and the other end on to the door hinge. This method is not affected by the door being opened or closed.

Comment: While this method will stop the mirror from moving, caravanners need to check that this type of mirror will extend out far enough to provide clear and unobstructed rearward vision.

Pantry storage
Problem: Tall bottles or other containers stored in rollout pantry racks tend to fall over and as a result can prevent the drawer being pulled out.

Solution: Attach a piece of metal rod (aluminium is ideal as it can be bent and it won't corrode) to the front and back of the rack but high enough to support the taller items.

Comment: A piece of cord attached to the front and back panels of the pull-out cupboard can sometimes also solve this problem. Some people have used a piece of wooden dowelling.

Rolling along
Problem: Rear stabilisers scrape along the ground when entering or leaving a driveway.

Solution: Attach a couple of castor wheels to rear of caravan. Ideally these should be fixed to the chassis or a similarly strong structure. Fixing wheels to the bottom of the bumper bar support could cause the support to bend if loads placed on castor wheel are too great.

Comment: Many years ago wheels were fitted as standard to rear stabilisers of caravans. Although castor wheels are best, fixed wheels should be able to do the job. Wheels designed for material handling equipment will be most suitable as these are designed for heavy loads.

External shower
Problem: Having access to toilet and shower when they are not built into the caravan and when camping independently.

Solution: Construct an external enclosure that doubles as the toilet and shower. Materials used include poly sheet for enclosure ($40); pole to support horizontal arm ($10); plastic fittings to make up horizontal arm ($20); 12V shower/pump ($25); bucket and large tub ($30); 10m 12V extension lead ($20); and Velcro and cord ($5). The Porta-Potti would of course be an additional cost.

Procedure: One end of the horizontal bar from which the enclosure is suspended is attached to the TV antenna fitting. The vertical pole supports the weight to minimise the load on the antenna bracket.

When showering, the 12V pump is placed in the tub filled with water. Water is recirculated while washing. Pump is placed in bucket of clean water for rinsing.

When used as a toilet, the Porta-Potti is placed on top of the upturned tub to increase the height.

Comment: The enclosure could be used together with an external shower built into the side of caravan.

Keeping inside clean
Problem: How to keep the inside of the caravan clean without using a broom and creating a dust cloud.

Solution: Purchase an inexpensive and compact portable vacuum cleaner.

Comment: These types of vacuum cleaners generally come with a host of accessories, are cheap and take up little storage space.

Tyre protection
Problem: When the van is stored outside, tyres need protection from the sun's UV rays.

Solution: Purchase two pieces of cement fibre sheeting that are slightly larger then the wheel arch opening. Slide material up from the bottom so it stands vertically against tyre. As the material is larger than the opening, it cannot fall over.

Comment: Sometimes the material needed can be found discarded on building sites, and permission is usually required to remove it.

Raise van to remove load from tyres
Problem: How to raise and support your van when not in use to remove load from tyres, springs and bearings.

Solution: Purchase a pair of car safety stands, jack up the van and place stands under main chassis member, close to the rear of the springs. If used on soft ground add two pieces of aluminium checkerplate to the shopping list.

Comment: There are different kinds of safety stands - pin, ratchet and screw types. Make sure that the stands meet Australian safety standards.

Increasing shade under the awning
Problem: How to increase the amount of shade under the rollout awning without fitting the normal walls.

Solution: Obtain a piece of plastic poly tarp with the required dimensions, a few tent pegs and a piece of plastic chain with links that are thicker than the groove in the awning roller. Cut chain in to three link sections.

File two slots in one link of the chain so that it can be pushed along the groove in the roller. Attach sections of chain to eyelets in the poly sheet. Peg bottom of sheet to the ground.

Comment: A rope could be sewn into the edge of the poly sheet so that the groove in the roller becomes a 'rope-track'. However this would increase the cost, the primary aim is to find an inexpensive solution.

Window protection
Problem: Reduce the amount of heat coming in through the windows and stop prying eyes when van is stored.

Solution: Purchase car type foil front window protectors or sun shades. Cut the protector to suit size of the window. Depending on the type of window, either place protector between fly screen and glass or use suction caps to attach to glass or frame.

Comments: The car sun protectors can be purchased from auto accessory stores or places such as the Reject Shop or $2 Shop. If suction caps are used, install eyelets in the protector that will fit the stem of the suction cap.

 

Published : Thursday, 15 June 2006
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Total photo(s): 5 - click to enlarge