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Tap Not Working in Your Caravan or Motorhome? – 6 Potential Causes

Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

Being the owner of a small caravan site I get to see a variety of issues our guests may have with their caravan or motorhome. Often I’ll arrive on site as our guests are setting up their caravan or motorhome. After levelling up one of the first jobs many caravanners do is to get their Aqua roll and water pump ready. A couple of times while I’ve been in discussions with a guest their partner from inside the caravan has stated ‘the tap isn’t working?’. What usually follows is a perplexed look falling across their face as setting up the Aquaroll and pump was already completed? Well, the reality is there is a wide range of potential issues which may stop the tap and water system from operating in your caravan or motorhome. I’ll discuss several of these potential issues below:

Caravan Tap Not Working
The causes for a tap not working in a caravan or motorhome could be an issue with the tap itself, or it could be due to other issues: Image – Caravansplus.com

Some of these issues to stop the tap working are quickly resolved. Others can require a more hands-on approach and potentially some new replacement parts. With this post, I wanted to cover the most common issues which can stop your water tap from working. I’ll begin with the most likely and easy to fix issues and then progress to other potential problems and solutions. If you have the time to read this whole post, great. If not, you can use the Table of Contents below to jump to a particular issue with your tap you may be experiencing.

Introduction to Water Pumps on Caravans and Motorhomes

Sometimes the issue with a tap not working in a caravan or motorhome is due to the tap its self (microswitch) which I’ll discuss below. However, sometimes the issue is with the pump and water pipe. Therefore, I wanted to briefly cover the different types of water pumps used in caravans and motorhomes. There are two main types of water pumps. Submersibles, which actually go into your Aquaroll water container, and onboard diaphragm water pumps.

Submersible Water Pumps

The majority of caravans in the UK use a submersible water pump which drops down into the Aquaroll. The water pipe connection on the caravan not only connects up to the water pump but provides 12V power from the leisure battery. The two main brands of submersible water pumps used on caravans are Truma and Whale. These two brands of submersible water pump are very similar when it comes to flow rate and pressure. They can provide around 9-10 litres of water per minute at around 1 bar of pressure.

Truma Ultraflow Caravan Water Pump
Probably the most common submersible water pump found on caravans today is this Truma Ultraflow: Image – Amazon

Now, caravanners can experience a range of potential issues with submersible water pumps which I’ll discuss below. On some occasions, it may be due to pump failure. However more generally its because of the choice of materials used which can create issues for the user. For instance, the type of flexible pipe used between the caravan connection and the pump its self.

On-Board Diaphragm Water Pumps

You do find onboard water pumps on some caravans, however generally its motorhomes which tend to be fitted with onboard diaphragm water pumps. How a diaphragm water pump works is the motor lifts a piston up and down which is attached to a rubber diaphragm. Through lifting the diaphragm up and down suction is created along with positive pressure on the outlet. Through this method the water pump does not need to be lowered into the Aquaroll, its is permanently located inside the caravan or motorhome. A water pipe simply connects from one side on the pump into the Aquaroll. They are normally used on motorhomes as they can be linked up to large onboard water storage tanks.

Whale On-board Water Pump
This Whale ‘Watermaster’ onboard diaphragm water pump is a typical example, along with their Aquasmart onboard water pump: Image – Amazon

Caravan/Motorhome Water Pump Summary

Both submersible and onboard water pumps when they are working as intended do a good job. However, both can experience a range of issues which may lead to your tap not working. Below I’ll discuss problems which are applicable to both styles of the water pump. However, I’ll also discuss issues which are pump type-specific.

Tap Issues 1 – A Kinked or Bent Water Pump Pipe

Probably the most common issue I’ve come across with our guests and why the tap in their caravan or motorhome may not be working is a kinked pipe. As the pump and pipe are placed into the Aquaroll or alternative water container, the pipe can become kinked and bent. The reason this can often happen is because of the height of the water pump inlet on the caravan.

Most caravanners want to stand their Aquaroll up on its base for stability, and use the top screw cap for the water pump. However, some caravans (generally older vans) have a pump inlet port fairly low down. Hence the pipe exits the caravan and has to loop up and then down to get into the Aquaroll. This then creates a kink in the pipe, hence the pump cannot pull water through the pipe. I’m sure you have experienced this issue many times with a hosepipe in your garden at home.

To fix this issue, you obviously need to remove the kink in the water pump pipe. However, that can be easier said than done. In the video below Dan (Meet the Trugians) explains the issues he experienced with a kinked water pipe on his caravan:

As a result of a badly kinked water pump pipe, Dan chose to change from his Truma Ultraflow over to a Whale EP1642 submersible water pump.

Upgrading to a Whale Water Pump

So as you can see in the video above, Dan was experiencing real issues with his Truma Ultraflow submersible water pump. Due to the issue I described above with regards to the heigh of the water fitting, on Dan’s caravan this created a kink in the water pipe. I have seen this issue several times first hand. The type of ‘flexible’ pipe that Truma use on the Ultraflow can actually be pretty stiff. They can be prone to kinks and bends which stops water getting to the taps. Hence, if you are experiencing this issue with your Truma Ultraflow submersible water pump, you may also want to consider a change to the Whale alternative:

Whale EP1642 Submersible Water Pump
As Dan states in the video above and I also agree, the flexible pipe on the Whale pump is less likely to kink and bend than the Truma Ultraflow: Image – Amazon

However, what I do wonder is, does the flexible pipe used on the Whale submersible pump maintain the same degree of flexibility over time? All rubber and flexible plastic-based products over time become more brittle and stiff. However, another factor that can accelerate the ageing process is UV radiation from the sun. Obviously, these types of pipes can be exposed to a lot of US radiation, particularly in the summer months. Most of the Truma Ultraflow pipes which I’ve seen with kinks were actually pretty old. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if over time the Whale submersible pumps also develop the same kink.

How to Address a Pipe Bend Issue with Onboard Pumps?

So changing from the Truma Ultraflow to the Whale submersible water pump is fine some caravans and motorhomes. But what if your tap is not working due to a bent pipe and you have an onboard water pump? In that scenario, you will have a coupling with a length of pipe and a filter on the end. However, the filter tends to be quite light and often doesn’t provide sufficient weight to keep the water pipe at the bottom of the water container. Well, this an issue Keith and Michele have experience in their caravan. I’ll let them explain how they resolved this issue:

You may want to source a ridge insert for your Aquaroll to avoid the issue with bends and the water pump running dry.

Tap Issue 2 – Microswitch Failure

Many caravans and motorhome have microswitches within each tap. When you lift the tap this tiny microswitch completes the connection, and the water pump is activated. However, over time this little tiny (and sometimes fragile) microswitch can fail. If you think this may be the cause for your tap not working within your caravan or motorhome, it may be worth watching the video below by John from Practical Caravan:

Tap microswitches can fail, so its a good idea when possible to have some spare to hand (along with a screwdriver).

If you believe a faulty microswitch may the cause of your tap issues, the first thing to do is to take it off the tap and use a multimeter. That will tell you if current can still pass through the microswitch when activated. As stated above, they are quite fragile little bits of plastic, and eventually, you are probably going to have to replace them. You can purchase microswitch sets with a couple of microswitches and connectors such as Whale set below:

Whale Microswitch Set
Even if a faulty microswitch is not the cause of your tap not working, its a good idea to have some to hand when they do eventually fail: Image – Amazon

Tap Issue 3 – Pressure Switch Failure

In some caravans or motorhome, the water system uses a water pump with a pressure switch. At my home, I have a whole house pump (because our mains pressure is useless). Hence, I have a big tank of water and a large pump that keeps all my taps under pressure. When I open the tap, the water instantly comes out at pressure. The same principle of this system is fitted into some caravans and many motorhomes. Instead of a microswitch located in the taps, there is a single pressure switch that services the whole water system. Again, this can be prone to failure for a range of reasons. A typical example of a pressure switch used in caravans and motorhomes is the Truma Ultraflow Smart Switch.

Truma Ultraflow Smart Switch
If your caravan or motorhome taps operate using a smart switch its generally located centrally in the caravan, typically under the seats: Image – Truma.com

Generally, fixing a pressure switch on a caravan or motorhome is not a DIY job. Its probably something your service centre is going to have to assist with. You can purchase the Truma Smart Switch from various venders online. It will cost around £70, therefore if you are going to undertake the work DIY, you want to be confident that is the cause of your taps not working.

Tap Issue 4 – Blocked Water Filters

Some caravans come fitted with the Truma Ultraflow filter inlet. With this set up renewable cartridge water filters are used. Obviously as with any filter, from time to time they are going to need attention and maintenance. Furthermore, depending on how much debris and particles there are in the base of your Aquaroll the filter may require more frequent cleaning. Remember, at least once every season you should be sterilising the water system in your caravan or motorhome. Not only is this a requirement for safe water, but it will also clean out algae which can cause filters real problems.

Truma Ultraflow Water Filter
If the water inlet on your caravan or motorhome looks like the image above, you will need to make sure the filter cartridge is kept clean: Image – Amazon

Tap Issue 5 – Dry Running Leading to Water Pump Damage

A submersible or on-board diaphragm pump can potentially be damaged by running dry, hence with no water supply. However, you shouldn’t worry about dry running for short periods of time. For instance, with a submersible pump when the Aquaroll is empty. Yes, you will be running the pump for a short period of time just as the water cylinder becomes empty, but that’s unlikely to lead to damage. With an on-board diaphragm positive displacement water pump, before the pump has pulled in water from the Aquaroll again it will be running for a short period of time dry.

However, what if the water pumps are left running dry for longer than the short periods of time described above? For instance, if you left a tap or shower running while unattended. Pretty much all water pumps require water passing through them to lubricate and cool the pump. Running dry will build up friction, which may damage the seals or burn out the pump. That may potentially lead to a requirement to replace the pump.

Tap Issue 6 – A Bad Leisure Battery

One potential reason the taps may not be working in your caravan or motorhome is a bad leisure battery. As referenced above, the water system in a caravan or motorhome runs from the 12V system and not your 230V mains hook up. Granted, while you are on a serviced pitch the mains hook up should be charging the leisure battery, in some cases though, it may already be damaged. Previous overuse below 50% capacity and irregular charging may be the cause of such damage. For instance, while some people like to use a 230V inverter while off-grid camping, they can easily overwork the leisure battery. Therefore its a wise investment to have a quality leisure battery charger to keep your battery healthy.

Conclusions on Why Your Tap May Not Be Working

If you have reviewed all of the information above and tried the various solutions to no avail your service centre is going to have to help you to get the tap working again. Make a note of the various checks and solutions you have tried as this will help the service centre narrow down the problem and sort the tap issue out as quickly as possible.

I hope you found this post useful and you are able to get your tap working again. I also hope you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common to try our fully serviced pitches where you can leave your Wastemaster at home!

Caravan Wastewater – What are The Best Solutions?

Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

When it comes to caravanning there are a couple of tasks that you generally have to get used to, such as filling up the fresh waste container (Aquaroll) and emptying the wastewater container (Wastemaster). With this post, I wanted to provide pretty much everything useful I could think of about solutions for dealing with caravan wastewater. The post will start with beginners advice on using a wastemaster etc. However, the second part of this post will then move onto how you can improve the wastewater system in your caravan and fully serviced pitches. The reality is many caravan wastewater (greywater) setups sooner or later are going to lead to issues which I’ll discuss below.

Caravan Wastewater
This is a common example of a typical caravan wastewater setup, however, there are better ways to deal with caravan wastewater. Furthermore, this particular setup is likely to create a blockage: Image – Practical Caravan

Here at Horton Common, all our pitches are fully serviced and we have a ‘unique’ system for dealing with our guest’s caravan wastewater. Later in this post, I’ll discuss how and why I came up with this system. I personally believe its the best system out there to handle wastewater from a caravan or motorhome, and many of our guests agree and you can see from our reviews. You can use the Table of Contents below to jump to particular sections. As stated, experienced caravanners may want to jump to the lower sections of this post and avoid the basic’s introduction on using a wastemaster etc.

Beginners Guide to Dealing With Caravan Waste Water

Let’s presume for a second you’re new to caravanning and you are visiting a normal caravan pitch (none serviced). You, therefore, need to bring a wastewater container with you. Caravan site owners don’t want that wastewater coming out of the van and going on the ground. The reason being, its obviously not just water. Caravan wastewater contains food waste, detergents and soaps. Hence, just dropping that wastewater on the ground can create issues with rodents, create unpleasant smells and potentially kill the grass.

Wastemasters and Alternatives

You will hear the term ‘Wastemaster’ as a general description for caravan greywater containers. However, its actually a trademarked wastewater collector developed by F L Hitchman Limited. F L Hitchman also developed the Aquaroll, again that’s a trademarked freshwater collector. There are other products on the market which can do the same job. However, they cannot obviously call themselves a ‘Wastemaster’.

The Wastemaster is probably the most common caravan wastewater collector used by UK caravanners: Image – Amazon

Wastemasters are available in either black of beige plastic, however, both versions have the same capacity of 38 litres. You will notice there are two removable screw caps. The screw cap near the wheels is sometimes used as an entry point for the caravan wastewater. However, its primary purpose is for emptying the wastemaster. When the Wastemaster is full, make sure both caps are screwed tight. Then wheel the Wastemaster to a suitable location following the instructions of the site owner. There may be a dedicated greywater emptying point, or you may just be instructed to empty the Wastemaster under a hedge etc. While the Wastemaster is stood vertically, just unscrew the cap by the wheels and let it drain out.

Streetwise Waste Hog

Wastemasters in generall appear well made from good quality plastic and come with a 10-year guarantee. With regards to alternatives, you could also consider the ‘Waste Hog’ from Streetwise. With regards to price, there is not much difference between the Wastemaster and Waste Hog. However, there is a difference when it comes to capacity. Where a Wastemaster has a capacity of 38 litres, a Waste Hog has a capacity of 46 litres.

The ‘Waste Hog’ from Streetwise has a capacity of 46 litres: Image – Amazon

Now that difference in capacity of 8 litres may not seem much, but remember there is virtually no difference in price between these two wastewater containers. That 8 litres may be the difference in having to empty the wastewater collection a day less frequently. Though obviously, if your having showers don’t expect that difference in capacity to go far. What I would note is their promotional image above is not going to take full advantage of its additional capacity. Using the entry cap near the handle its obviously lower than the cap near the wheel. Hence, it will start to overflow more quickly. Therefore in general, it very rarely makes sense to actually use the top entry point.

Caravan Wastewater Outlet Pipes

To be able to use a Wastemaster or Waste Hog, you will need either flexible or rigid pipes which connect from the outlets on your caravan. Typically, your caravan will come with the flexible pipes and typically a Y piece which links the two pipes into one. The most common caravan setup is one wastewater pipe which comes from the bathroom and links the shower and bathroom sink. The second wastewater outlet is from the kitchen sink. Some caravans, have a triple wastewater pipe setup, separating the shower from the bathroom sink. I see this setup typically with our guests who turn up with Lunar caravans.

Caravan Wastewater Double Outlet
An example of two flexible pipes connecting to a rigid double pipe adapter to a single pipe into the Wastemaster/Waste Hog: Image – Amazon

Issues With Caravan Wastewater Outlet Pipes

Now, there are issues with using caravan wastewater outlet couplings and adapters. Its why I created a solution for our guests so they don’t have to use them (more about that below). So the wastewater outlets that leave your caravan have an internal diameter of 28.5mm. Well, the wastewater pipe adapters and couplings link all the wastewater pipes together to a single pipe, again with a 28.5mm diameter. You can probably see where I’m going with this.

If you are only using one facility at the time, no problem. But what about if one person is having a shower and someone else is in the kitchen preparing a meal? Therefore, you have wastewater coming from the kitchen sink and shower at the same time. A shower on its own is taking up the capacity of that wastewater outlet, hence its not really designed to cope with more wastewater. There is a reason your home plumbing pipe diameter steps up in size before it reaches the drain. To avoid this issue of under capacity.

Therefore, what sometimes happens is the wastewater starts to back up in the caravan. The person at the kitchen sink is unlikely to notice due to how high the sink drain is. However, the person in the shower may start to notice water coming back up the drain and have to turn the shower off. This is an issue that’s happened to my family in the past with our caravan, and I’ve had our guests describe the same issue when they have used other caravan sites without our wastewater solution. Its not a common scenario, but having to stop a shower to wait for it to drain is frustrating.

Try and Avoid Couplings and Single Pipe Connectors

To avoid the issue described above I would recommend where possible not using couplings and connectors to create a single 28.8mm pipe into your wastewater collector. Depending on the size of the inlet port on your Wastemaster/Water Hog that’s easier said than done. If its very narrow you may only be able to get one waste pipe into one port. Hence in this scenario, you could purchase some flexible wastewater pipe and cut sufficient length to use both ports on your wastewater collector.

However, if you have a Lunar caravan or similar with a triple wastewater outlet that’s another issue. In that case, you could use one double pipe adapter, and again use both ports on the wastewater container. Separating the bathroom and kitchen wastewater outlets. Its obviously unlikely the shower and bathroom sink will be used at the same time.

Drooping Wastewater Pipes Lead to Problems

So at the start of this post, I used an image from Practical Caravan of a caravan wastewater collector. It was a deliberate choice as I wanted to discuss this image later in the post, hence now. What’s wrong with this caravan wastewater setup?

Drooping Wastewater Pipe
A drooping wastewater pipe is only going to lead to problems: Image – Practical Caravan

Yes, you guessed it, that drooping flexible waste pipe. Let’s ignore for the minute my comments above on avoiding the use of waste pipe couplings and just focus on the position and length of the waste pipe. To get into the Wastemaster/Water Hog the wastewater has to fight against gravity, hence only the pressure of additional wastewater will push it into the wastewater container. This can actually cause a back up of wastewater into the caravan (shower drain). At the lowest point in that drooping loop, food waste can collect and get stuck. Really, that second piece of flexible grey pipe after the double to single pipe adapter is redundant. The Wastemaster/ Water Hog should just be moved closer to the outlets.

Improving Your Caravans Wastewater Plumbing

In most cases, the majority of the wastewater pipework on your caravan will be done with the flexible grey pipe. Now, if you have never used this pipe before you may not be aware, but it doesn’t have a smooth interior surface. You can get smooth bore corrugated pipe, however as you may have guessed, its more expensive. Hence, unless you have one of the more ‘premium’ caravans its like you will have the standard grey corrugated wastewater pipework throughout.

The problem is grease from the kitchen sink in your caravan just loves to get stuck within a corrugated waste pipe. Over time this can build up and create blockages. Obviously, how quickly this happens will depend on how frequently you use your caravan. But sooner or later, its going to become an issue. Therefore, as per the Practical Caravan video below, you may want to correct this issue:

If you want to replace the cheap grey corrugated wastewater pipe fitted on your caravan, this video from Practical Caravan is worth a watch.

In the video, John replaced the corrugated flexible grey caravan wastewater pipe with solid smooth bore plastic pipe used in domestic plumbing. Alternatively, you could (if you can find some) replace with smoothbore 28.5mm flexible pipe. It does exist, but it can be tricky to get hold of.

Caravan Wastewater on Fully Serviced Pitches

So what if you could leave your Wastermaster or Waste Hog at home? You would save a little bit on caravan weight, but save quite a bit of space when loading your caravan. However, the main benefit would be not having to empty the thing every couple of days. Well on a fully serviced pitch for caravans and motorhomes you can leave your wastewater collector at home! Hang on though, how is the greywater collected from your caravan? Well, if you’re on pretty much any other fully serviced caravan pitch in the UK other than Horton Common you’re going to need to carry a length of solid plastic or flexible plastic pipe with you along with an adapter. I’ll let Dan explain:

Dan discusses the solution he uses for wastewater removal on caravan sites with serviced pitches he as visited.

So as you can see from the video, Dan uses a double to single pipe adapter along with a length of solid pipe to connect to the drain. He also uses a Bungie to support the weight of the pipe. He’s having to go to all this effort because different sites have their drain located in different positions. So I now get to talk about why Horton Common is different and better. 🙂

The Problem with Most Fully Serviced Pitches (Not Horton Common)

So in 2013 when I was first started thinking of setting up Horton Common, I knew I wanted to go down the fully serviced pitch route. We cannot have toilet and shower facilities due to planning restrictions (Green Belt). Therefore I was thinking about how I could make this little caravan site stand out from other small sites and larger sites for that matter. My family has been caravanning since I was a child, so we all chipped in making a list of all the things we would want on a small site. Having power, freshwater and wastewater removal from each pitch became my key objective.

So I studied the fully serviced facilities on other caravan sites. While the freshwater supply is pretty easy, drainage was obviously more difficult. They all had a drainage grid located somewhere on the pitch. However, caravans and motorhomes come in all shapes and sizes. Some have the wastewater drainage outlets on the left, some on the right and some are even on the rear.

I realised other caravan sites were expecting their guests to carry in their caravan several meters of drainage pipe. First, that’s obviously a ‘barrier to entry’, as a guest may not have enough pipe depending on where the wastewater exits the van. Furthermore, they may not be able to create sufficient fall to the drain. Unfortunately, your not going to get water to drain up hill. Therefore, I thought to my self ‘the only truly universal wastewater solution is to take the drain to the caravan!’

Our Solution For Caravan Waste Water Removal

As you can see from the image above and on our homepage we have pretty amazing views here at Horton Common. So I also knew I wanted all the pitches to face the view. This also followed the rise and fall of the field. Therefore, the caravan pitches are slightly higher than the road in front of the pitches which has a drain underneath. Therefore, each pitch has a drain point. However, as stated above, I knew I had to somehow take the drain to the wastewater outlets on the caravan. Well, with some trough planters, plumbing fittings and some commercial hose pipe I had my solution.

Fully Serviced Pitch Waste Water
Our wastewater solution for our fully serviced pitches here at Horton Common

Yes, It Is a Trough Planter

Our trough caravan wastewater solution has been in place for 5 years now and its still going strong. I wasn’t sure how been exposed to UV from the sun 365 days a year was going to affect the trough planters and hose pipe. But they are actually holding up pretty well. I’ll probably replace both within the next couple of years. Note I’ve used a commercial hose pipe which has a much wider diameter than a standard domestic hose pipe. Therefore it doesn’t get blocked up with food particles etc. Every couple of months I take a bucket of hot water and soap to clean out the troughs, but that’s all the maintenance they need.

With this system, it doesn’t matter how big or small the caravan is. It doesn’t matter if the wastewater outlet is on the left, right or back of the caravan. No surplus flexible grey plastic pipe is required. And no double/triple to single outlet couples is required. Guests simply turn up, set up and level the caravan or level their motorhome, position the trough under the wastewater outlets and that’s it. Along with a hose connection to fill up the Aquaroll with freshwater, guests can have a shower any time they feel like it rain or shine, with no need to fill up or empty containers.

Conclusions on Wastewater Solutions for Caravans and Motorhomes

Most caravan sites, unlike Horton Common, don’t have fully serviced pitches with such a flexible and low maintenance wastewater solution. Therefore that means your going to have to take a Wastemaster or Waste Hog along with you. I would encourage you to consider my points above on the use of waste pipe adapters and couplings to reduce issues with blockages etc.

Anyway, I hope you found the information above useful. And I hope you also consider coming to visit us at some point in the future here at Horton Common :).

Caravan Corner Steady Servicing and Replacement – Tips on Grease Etc

Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

From time to time when I visit our guests on-site as they are setting up their caravan I see them struggling to lower their corner steadies into position. This is more often the case when guests are using their crank handle. However, I’ve even seen some caravan corner steadies struggle to lower properly using an electric drill. Sometimes I’ve had guests remark they think its time to replace their corner steadies. In most instances that’s not the case, a proper service would get the corner steadies back in good working order. Therefore with this post, I wanted first to discuss proper corner steady servicing and when a replacement may be necessary.

Caravan Corner Steady
Before you go out a purchase a fancy new caravan corner steady such as this AL-KO ‘Premium’ a proper service of your corner steady may solve your problems: Image – AL-KO

When you take your caravan in for its annual service, the technician should also be servicing your caravan corner steadies. However, some caravanners choose to carry out their own servicing, and some service centres do a better job than others. Some of the ‘old’ methods of servicing and maintaining corner steadies are not the best practice today. Below if you don’t have the time to read this whole post you can use the Table of Contents to jump to a particular section, enjoy. 🙂

Introduction To Caravan Corner Steady Servicing

So before you run out to source some replacement corner steadies, with a bit of maintenance you may be able to get your caravan corner steadies back in good working order. If you have read any of my previous posts you will know I like to reference videos where possible. The video below from Practical Caravan is a good starting point. However, I don’t actually agree with everything John states in the video, but I’ll get to that below:

If you have never serviced your caravan corner steadies before, a bit of maintenance may get them back into good working order.

So during towing your caravan corner steadies have a pretty hard life. Dust, grit and dirt from the road surface is thrown up at the corner steady, particularly on fast roads. When it rains, not only are the steadies exposed the water but that water carries even more dirt off the road surface. I think John does a good job in describing the main issue a hand. That been the grease on the corner steady tread has worn away. Furthermore, the pivot points on the corner steady can also become stiff and need lubrication. However, its the choice of grease used by John in the video I think needs updating.

Using an Oil Can and Thick Grease? There Must Be a Better Way!

In decades past, the use of engine oil in oil can for lubrication was standard practice. You would then use some thick grease over the thread on the corner steady. Now, this practice is still done by many caravan service centres today. Don’t get me wrong, this method is better than not greasing the corner steadies at all. However, its not the easiest/best method and definitely not the best practice when it comes to your average caravanner.

For instance, John in the video is working with an ‘example’ corner steady upside down on a desk in front of him. We’ll your not be going to be taking your corner steadies off to work on them. First, the fixing bolts may be seized (that’s a separate issue), but mainly you often just won’t have the time. At a caravan service centre, they have a lift so that can work on the corner steadies while standing. I think its safe to presume you don’t own a caravan lift. You may own a caravan jack which may make the job a little easier. But generally, you will be lying on the ground. Quick note, if you do jack up the caravan you need to use axle stands before you climb underneath. In summary, it’s not going to be easy to apply thick grease or use an oil can while you’re lying on your back. But there is also an issue using thick grease.

The Problem with Thick Grease on Caravan Corner Steadies

As stated by John in the video above. Sometimes when your caravan comes back from an annual service there may be large lumps of grease on the threads of the corner steadies. This is not best practice, but as John states. They often leave it there as ‘evidence’ the corner steadies have been serviced. The issue with this type of grease, and particularly its overuse is that its a dirt magnet.

As I reference above, your caravan corner steadies have a pretty hard life while towing. Stones, grit and dirt are bouncing up off the road etc. Well, as I’m sure you know, grease it pretty sticky. Hence, some of that dirt is going to get caught up in the grease. Then when you get to the site and lower the corner steadies that dirt and grit can get pushed into the thread. This can over time actually damage the thread. Hence, the overuse of grease is a hindrance to good caravan corner steady operation, not a help. But there is a better choice…

The Benefits of Lithium Spray Grease

So personally, when it comes to servicing caravan corner steadies I would leave the oil can and thick grease in the past. I believe the best available solution today is to pick up a can of lithium spray grease. Lithium grease is commonly used for lubrication on metal to metal applications. The reasons being it provides long term lubrication, it sticks well to metal surfaces and resists moisture. Hence, all the attributes we are looking for when it comes to servicing caravan corner steadies. But when your lying on the back trying to work on the corner steadies you don’t want to be putting your fingers in a tub of thick grease. You can now get lithium grease in a spray.

Lithium Spray Grease
The WD-40 lithium spray grease can is particularly useful for working on corner steadies due to the ‘smart straw’ applicator: Image – Amazon

Now, there are various brands of lithium spray grease on the market. The above can is produced under the WD-40 brand. Just be aware this is not a ‘standard’ can of WD-40 you may already have in your garage. Standard WD-40 does have lubricating properties. However, the effect won’t last nearly as long as using the proper lithium spray grease. You can use this lithium spray grease on the threads of the caravan corner steadies as well as the pivot points. It is much easier to apply while lying on your back, but please make sure you are wearing protective eyewear and other applicable safety wear. I would advise storing the can in your caravans front locker so its available on your travels if the corner steadies get a bit stiff.

Caravan Corner Steady Replacement

So if you have followed the corner steady servicing advice above and your steady still don’t lower and raise properly, it may need replacing. If the corner steadies have not been properly maintained in the past, the thread may be so damaged it needs to be replaced. Alternatively, the leg its self can be become bent, and will not lower and raise without significant resistance. A bent corner steady could be due to a side impact of some sort. However, it can also be due to improper use.

For instance, a caravanner trying to lift and level a caravan with their corner steadies on a slope. This can lead to damage. The lateral force and weight of the caravan can twist the corner steady leg. Now, I’m sure you have heard this many times, but I’m going to type it anyway. Never, ever, ever try and use your caravan corner steadies as a means to level the caravan. You should only use levelling ramps. Trying to lift the caravan on the corner steadies can not only lead to their damage, but it can also lead to damage to caravans body. Eventually, this may even lead to leaks and damp which you may find with a moisture meter. However, if your caravan corner steady is bent and damaged and needs replacing, what should you do? You could obviously just let your service centre do the work. But if that’s what you wanted to do you wouldn’t be reading this post.

Caravan Chassis Identification

So when it comes to choosing a new caravan corner steady to replace an old one, the first thing to do is identify what type of chassis you caravan is built on. Knowing what chassis was used will make it much easier to find the right corner steady replacement. Your caravan manual (if you have it) may state the chassis type. Alternatively, you can enter your caravan make and model number into Google along with the word ‘chassis’, you’ll probably be able to find out. If you look around your caravans hitch there is a very strong chance you are going to see the brands of either AL-KO or BPW. Now, BPW is actually now under the control of AL-KO, but don’t presume you can just order any AL-KO corner steady and its going to fit a BPW chassis.

Front vs Rear Corner Steadies

Something very important to note is that in almost all cases there are different sized corner steadies fitted to the front of the caravan compared the rear. Therefore you need to watch out for that when ordering a new conner steady, even if you have identified the right model. Before you order to avoid issues, take your old corner steady off the caravan. You will obviously have to use a suitable axle stand or similar as a temporary replacement. Again, checked for any branding (AL-KO/BPW) and thoroughly measure all the dimensions. There should also be a stamped part number. Then again thoroughly check those dimensions against your intended corner steady purchase. For instance, below are the dimensions of the AL-KO short corner steady:

AL-KO Short Caravan Corner Steady
These are the dimensions of the AL-KO short corner steady found on the front of most UK caravans: Image – Amazon

AL-KO Caravan Corner Steadies

There is a wide range of AL-KO corner steadies. First, as referenced above, they have their standard galvanised short corner steadies for the front of the caravan, and their long corner steadies for the rear. However, if you have a larger caravan based on an AL-KO chassis that’s relatively new, your corner steadies may look a little different. You may potentially have AL-KO Stabilform corner steadies fitted:

AL-KO Stabilform Caravan Corner Steady
The AL-KO Stabilform corner steady according to AL-KO provides ‘20% more stability’: Image – Amazon

The AL-KO Stabilform through its different construction and wider footprint according to AL-KO provide ‘20% more stability’. How they measured stability as a percentage I have no idea. But they do appear to be to have a wider footprint which would make sense to provide more stable support. Again, you can get Stabilform short, and Stabilform long legs. However, they are around double the price of their standard caravan corner steadies. If you have Stabilforms currently fitted I would recommend a like for like replacement. Otherwise, if you have the standard AL-KO corner steadies I would not recommend a mix and match set up. There is also the AL-KO Premium corner steady as shown in the image at the start of this post. Again, only normally seen on large caravans and has a slightly higher load rating that the Stabiliform.

BPW Caravan Corner Steadies

If your caravan is based on a BPW chassis, its likely you’re going to find the correct font (short) or rear (long) corner steadies under a ‘BPW corner steady’ search. However, the actual corner steadies are manufactured by Winterhoff, just like the Winterhof WS3000 caravan stabiliser hitch fitted to caravans with a BPW chassis. Therefore, I would recommend doing a search under both ‘BPW corner steadies’ and ‘Winterhoff corner steadies’.

BPW Caravan Corner Steady
You may find the corner steadies you need to be listed as either a BPW or Winterhoff corner steady: Image – Amazon

Conclusions on Caravan Corner Steady Servicing and Replacement

Trying to lower and raise your caravan corner steadies when they are not in good condition is a right pain. Most the time with a bit of clean up and a tin of lithium spray grease as I’ve described above they can be made much easier to operate. However, from time to time they can get damaged or bent due to an accident etc. If that’s the case you should do a like for like replacement. First, get that old broken corner steady off and properly measure it, look for a stamped part number etc and brand. You’ll then be confident you will be purchasing the right replacement. There are corner steadies available as you would expect on eBay. Obviously, be cautious about what you buy when it comes to second-hand products. There is no point replacing a bent corner steady, for a bent corner steady.

While we are on the topic, there is also various corner steady leg locks you can fit as a security measure. However, as I stated in my associated post, they should only ever been seen as an additional security measure, never a primary security measure. In other words, they don’t carry the same security value as a good quality hitch lock or wheel clamp. I hope you found this post of interest. A stable caravan is an important part of being able to enjoy your time within the caravan. I also hope you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common in the near future. 🙂

Caravan Gas Regulator Problems? – A Summary of The Potential Issues

Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

Being the owner of a small caravan site I often have guests discuss with me the various issues they may be experiencing with their caravan or motorhome. Today, I’m going to discuss some of the potential issues you may be experiencing with the gas regulator in your caravan or motorhome. This post is not an endorsement for you to carry out DIY work on your caravans or motorhomes gas system. The purposes of this article is so you can make your GasSafe registered engineer aware of the potential issue so they can resolve it. Though the issue may be with the gas regulator on your caravan or motorhome, that may not actually be the original cause of the fault.

Caravan Gas Regulator
Is your caravan gas regulator really the issue, or does the true fault lie elsewhere?: Image – Amazon

What I would like to emphasize is that annually you should be having your caravan serviced. During that service, gas pressure tests will be carried out. That test would likely identify issues with the caravan gas regulator. This post is broken down under a series of sub-headings. You can use the Table of Contents below to jump to any particular section. However, if you do have the time its best to read the post as a whole. That will give you the best understanding of what the potential issues with your caravan gas regulator may be.

Introduction to Caravan Gas Regulator Issues

First, I better briefly describe what a caravan gas regulator actually does and how it works. The pressure and flow of gas straight from the LPG bottle unregulated is much higher than the appliances in your caravan require. Therefore the regulator’s job is the reduce the pressure of gas leaving the LPG bottle. Before the gas reaches your caravans hob, cooker, water heater or fridge. Previously on caravans before 2003, gas regulators were fitted to the bottles themselves. Some caravanners choose to use butane or propane. Each has its own pros and cons which I’ll cover in another post. After 2003 the gas regulator was installed into the caravan front locker its self. You simply have what’s called a ‘pigtail’ flexible gas pipe from the caravan gas regulator to either a propane or butane gas bottle. However, this is when a new issue started to occur:

John from Practical Caravan describes how a faulty caravan gas regulator could actually be caused by the flexible pigtail gas pipe.

John does a very good job of clearly and succinctly explaining the potential issue. While the caravan gas regulator may be affected by this issue, its not actually the cause of the gas blockage. I’ll now summarise John’s points below along with a few of my own comments.

Caravan Appliance Gas Blockages

You may start to become aware of potential issues with the caravan gas regulator when your appliances start to underperform or stop working altogether. The appliances in your caravan which use gas include your hob, cooker, fridge, hot water heater and space heater. Just a quick note, some caravan fridge problems as bizarre as it sounds may be due to your new tow car. Many people only use their caravans during the summer months and on a serviced pitch. Therefore its typically using either the hob or cooker when a caravanner will become aware of an issue with the gas system. You may start to notice a smaller flame and less heat being produced. This would obviously make you think, ‘oh the caravan gas regulator must have failed, its not getting enough gas through’. However, the issue may be a little more complicated.

As stated by John in the video above, the issue in several cases under further inspection has been due to blocked gas nozzles. An oily substance has been cleaned from the gas jets. This oily substance has also been found within the caravan gas regulator its self. Within a caravan gas regulator, there is a diaphragm and spring. The oily liquid blocks the diaphragm from opening sufficiently to let through enough gas. But what could possibly be the cause of this oily substance clogging up the gas jets? Well, it turns out the issue may be down to that short piece of flexible gas pipe linking the regulator and LPG bottle, the pigtail.

The Pigtail Problem

The source of this oily liquid substance which has been blocking up the gas jets on caravan appliances was traced back to the gas bottle pigtail flexible pipe. Under chemical analysis, it was found that the oily liquid contained what is called a plasticiser. The pigtail contains a plasticiser to keep the pipe suppler and flexible over time. What’s important to remember about the pigtail from the LPG bottle is that it carries high-pressure gas from the bottle to the caravan gas regulator.

Caravan Gas Bottle Pigtail
Your caravan gas regulator problems may be due to your gas bottle pigtail: Image – Amazon

If you have noticed, depending on the ambient air temperature around a gas bottle and humidity you can get condensation forming on the outside of the bottle. I won’t get into the ins and outs of why that happens with this post. However, whats important to note is when gas is stored under high pressure, condensation is a common occurrence. As the pigtail also carries high-pressure gas, it too at times is subject to condensation. And its the formation of condensation which can draw the plasticiser out the pipe. This oily plasticiser can then block up the caravan gas regular and other appliances.

How to Fix ‘The Pigtail Problem’?

Well, there are a couple of ways to address the issue of condensation and flexible pigtail gas pipes. However, if your pigtail has already created a blockage due to its denatured state, the gas engineer has got some work on his hands. The gas jets on the appliances will have to be cleaned and the gas regulator replaced. But to try and stop the issue reoccurring the following steps can be taken:

Positioning the Gas Regulator Higher Up

We now know the issue is due to condensation within the flexible pigtail gas pipe. Therefore, one method to address the issue is to position the caravan gas regulator as high up in the gas locker as possible. This way the condensation will drop down back into the LPG bottle. Now, this is easier said than done, and may not completely address the issue.

First of all, if you are using large LPG bottles that pretty much touch the top of your gas locker there is a problem. While the caravan gas regulator may still be higher than the bottle, the pigtail will likely loop down and then back up to the bottle. Hence, the condensation doesn’t fall back into the bottle, it sits in the loop of the pigtail pipe.

Don’t Use Overly Long Pigtails

You also want to make sure you don’t have pigtail gas pipes which are too long. You want them to be just long enough so you can connect the bottle to the caravan gas regulator. Therefore, if you change the size of LPG gas bottles you use in your caravan or motorhome, you also want to change the length of the pigtails to suit.

Change the Pigtail at Least Every Five Years

This only applies to the orange or black flexible pigtails, not the stainless steel pigtails below. All rubber-based hoses denature over time and become less flexible. This can actually also lead to gas leaks. I and my father recently noticed a smell of gas from within his caravans gas locker. After doing a gas pressure test which failed we looked to replace the orange flexible pigtail. After doing so we completed another gas pressure test which it passed. Hence to avoid issues with flexible rubber gas pigtails its best to change them at least every 5 years.

Have a Gas Filter Installed

Have a look in the front locker your caravan. If you don’t see a gas filter similar to the image below fitted next to the caravan gas regulator it may be worth asking your gas engineer to fit one. The filter should stop any potential plasticiser/oily residue going through the regulator and causing issues. However, you will have to remember to periodically change the filter or your gas system may again become blocked up. If you don’t already have a gas filter you could also consider putting your money towards a stainless steel pigtail gas pipe.

Caravan Gas Regulator Filter
If you don’t already have a filter fitted next to your caravan gas regulator you may want to ask your gas engineer to fit one: Image – Amazon

Use a Stainless Steel (SS) Pigtail to the Gas Regulator

Another method to avoid the issues of the plasticiser/oily residue issue blocking up the caravans gas regulator is to change to flexible stainless steel (SS) pigtail. I’ve actually got flexible stainless steel gas pipe in my home. The gas pipe runs through various parts of the roof space, and I didn’t want issues with gas leaks. Therefore, I have a 20m continuous flexible stainless steel gas pipe which runs through my home. You now get short stainless steel pigtail pipes. And while yes they are more expensive the oily residue issue is avoided and so its the requirement to change the pipe at least every 5 years to avoid gas leaks. Its recommended changing a SS pigtail every 20 years.

SS Rubber Pigtail
This may look like a stainless steel pigtail, but its actually got a rubber lining: Image – Amazon

But you do have to be careful. When looking around the internet for stainless steel pigtails you often see ‘Stainless Steel Armored’. Don’t fall into this trap, this is just a rubber pipe with a braided stainless steel outer protective cover. What you are really looking for is corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST). One of the few places I can currently find a fully stainless steel pigtail is GAS IT. They also produce a range of refillable LPG bottles which you may also want to consider at some point.

Conclusions on Caravan Gas Regulator Problems

Currently, this post just references the most prominent issue I’m aware of why a caravan gas regulator could fail. However, I will also update this post at a later date with a summary of other potential issues I can provide solutions for. What is important as referenced above is that you have your caravan annually serviced as the whole gas system will be checked for leaks and efficient combustion. Hence, any issues with your caravan gas regulator should also be picked up during that service.

I hope you learnt something new today, and if you do have a black or orange flexible pigtail which is over 5 years old I personally would look to get that changed. I also hope you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common in the near future. 🙂

Caravan Brakeaway Cable – Are You Following the Latest Standard?

Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

So in my previous posts on caravan servicing and caravan brakes, I briefly touched on the topic of caravan brakeaway cables. Why they are important and why you should always fit one. However, at the time I knew that I needed to write a separate post on caravan brakeaway cables. Within the last few years, there has been a change to best practice standards. Not only in how you should fit the brakeaway cable to your tow car but also the type of brakeaway cables caravanners should be using. Most of our guests to Horton Common has a brakeaway cable fitted to their caravan car such as the one in the image below. However, this particular breakaway cable and others like it do not actually meet the new standard. Below I’ll discuss why that’s the case.

Caravan Brakeaway Cables
The standard on caravan brakeaway cables changed in 2018. In fact, this particular breakaway cable doesn’t meet the new standards: Image – Amazon

If you’re new to caravanning you may not be familiar with the caravan brakeaway cable at all. If your an experienced caravanner some of the information below may seem pretty obvious. However, even for experienced caravanners, I would encourage you to watch the full video below on the latest standards on brakeaway cables. You can also use the Table of Contents below to jump to any particular section.

Caravan Brakeaway Cable New Standards

I only became aware of the latest standard on caravan brakeaway cables after speaking with one of our guests. They had recently purchased a new caravan and the dealer made them aware of the change in standards. I then did a little bit of research myself and I came across the video below from Caravan Guard. Caravan Guard is one of the most popular insurers for leisure vehicles. Hence, its in their best interests to make caravanners aware of the latest safety standards. However, its also in the best interest of the caravanner. While the new standards are not as of yet a change in the law, that might change in the future. Hence, you don’t want to find out in the future after an accident your insurance will not pay out due to a brakeaway cable or fitment which is not to standard.

Even if you don’t have the time to read the rest of my post I would encourage you to watch this video on the latest caravan brakeaway cable standards.

The Caravan Guard video above is presented by Tim Booth. Tim, as you can see from his T-shirt is a member of the NPCC (National Police Chiefs’ Council) as a Leisure Vehicles Officer. Hence, this isn’t just some random advice on brakeaway cables from self-proclaimed ‘caravan expert’. Below I’m going to summaries the points made in the video above. I’ll also add a few comments of my own. As previously stated some of the information below is going to be ‘old hat’ to experienced caravanners. However, as always, its the little details which you may not be aware of which can provide value.

What is a Brakeaway Cable and Why Do You Need One?

The clue is in the name, essentially if your caravan became unhitched from your car the brakeaway cable engages the handbrake on your caravan. The brakeaway cable is designed to snap in such a scenario. As stated in the video, since 2018 all brakeaway cables fitted to caravans should have a carabiner, not a spring clip.

Carabiner, Spring Clip, What’s the Difference?

Well, in the past with a spring clip, there has apparently been incidents where the clip failed first and not the cable. Hence, if the car and caravan become separated by the clip failing, the handbrake on the caravan is not engaged. Therefore, rendering the principle of the brakeaway cable pointless. With a carabiner and a proper mounting point, the cable should always snap and engage the handbrake.

Spring Clip VS Carabiner
On the left is a spring clip on the right is a carabiner: Image – caravanguard.co.uk

Properly Fitting a Brakeaway Cable

Many caravanners today still have a spring clip brakeaway cable. Eventually, all caravan brakeaway cables will use a carabiner. The information below referencing Tim’s advice covers both spring clips and carabiners. The whole point of the new 2018 standard was to try and remove confusion. How and where should and shouldn’t you fit a caravan brakeaway cable? Therefore below, I’ve separated the advice based on the type of cable you may have on your caravan.

Fitting a Spring Clip Brakeaway Cable

If you have a spring clip brakeaway cable fitted to your caravan you should only place it around the neck of your tow ball or though the tow hitch. In other words, a spring clip brakeaway cable should only attach back onto the cable its self. You should never fit a spring clip brakeaway cable to a clip mounting point on the cars tow hitch. The reason being as discussed above. In that scenario, the spring clip could fail before the cable engages the caravan handbrake. The following images below are the only safe means to attach a spring clip cable safely.

Spring Clip Caravan Brakeaway Cable
Spring Clip Brakeaway Cable – Can be fitted around a fixed or bolted car tow hitch: Image – Caravan Guard
Spring Clip Caravan Brakeaway Cable Tow Ball Neck
Spring Clip Brakeaway Cable – Can be fitted around the neck of a permanent or removable tow ball: Image – Caravan Guard

Fitting a Carabiner Brakeaway Cable

Now, if your caravan brakeaway cable has a carabiner fitting, you have more options. You can following both the fitment methods above suitable for a spring clip cable. You can also use a permeant mounting point on the car.

Carabiner Caravan Brakeaway Cable
Carabiner Brakeaway Cable – Can be fitted to a dedicated brakeaway cable fitment point: Image – Caravan Guard

Just to making thing confusing, however, some tow cars may appear to have a dedicated mounting point for the brakeaway cable, which actually isn’t one. The image below shows an example of what would appear to be a brakeaway cable mounting point. However, its actually not a safe mounting point.

Caravan Brakeaway Cable Fail
Never fit a caravan breakaway cable to hole under the electrical connection bracket Tim is touching: Image – Caravan Guard

You may be thinking what’s the difference? Well, there’s actually a big difference between the two. If you look in the first image the mounting point is made of much thicker steel and its truely part of the cars tow hitch. The second hole is mounted under the bracket which supports the cars towing electrical connection. That bracket is made of much thinner steel. Therefore it may potentially bend and brake off before the brakeaway cable engages the caravan handbrake and snaps.

Carabiner Cables – Tow Bar Loop or Dedicated Bracket Fixing?

If there is a suitable dedicated bracket fixing for your carabiner brakeaway cable it should be preferenced over the simple tow ball loop. Let’s consider the example of your car becoming unhitched for some reason going over a bump. Well, that bump in the road may also bounce the brakeaway cable off the tow ball. Therefore, if you do have a suitable dedicated bracket fixing you should use it. But again, only if you have a carabiner and not a spring clip.

Carabiner Caravan Brakeaway Cable Amazon
There are various carabiner caravan brakeaway cables available, however, make sure you get one of the correct length: Image – Amazon

Brakeaway Cable Length, Placement and Condition

When it comes to the length of the brakeaway cable you don’t want it to be too tight. First, that will obviously make it more difficult to attach to your car, but it could also cause another issue. If the brakeaway cable is too tight, either making a right or left turn (depending on the cable guide) it could engage your caravans handbrake. Hence, you want the cable to be long enough to avoid this issue, but not so long that is gets caught around other hitch fittings.

Brakeaway Cable Guide Loop

For the cable to engage the caravan’s handbrake in a predictable and reliable fashion it should be in a straight line and through the guide loop. If your brakeaway cable is outside of this guide loop you should relocate it through the loop. This will also help to stop the cable getting damaged.

Caravan Brakeaway Cable Guide Loop
Always make sure your caravans brakeaway cable is located through the guide loop: Image – Caravan Guard

When handling the brakeaway cable if you do find breaks in the plastic outer protection and damaged wire you should look to replace it. First, handling a broken cable could cause you injury or even a cut. Secondly, a damaged cable when required may snap before it fully engages the caravan handbrake, rending the purpose of the cable useless.

How to Replace A Brakeaway Cable

As discussed above, other than going for a carabiner on your new brakeaway in terms of cable length and width (gauge) you want it to be same as the old cable. You may need to use a junior hacksaw or similar to cut through the old clip to release it from the caravan handbrake mechanism. You may be thinking, ‘why not just a pair of plyers and cut the cable?” Your welcome to try that method and if you can do it your stronger than I am. Obviously, a grinder or bolt cutters would also break the cable, but you may not have these tools available.

Some replacement brakeaway cables require you to crimp the metal loop back onto its self once fitted to the caravan’s handbrake. If you do not feel you can achieve this, there are some cables available with a carabiner clip on both ends which maybe be more suitable for you.

Conclusion on Caravan Brakeaway Cables

In an ideal world, you will have a tow car with a dedicated brakeaway cable mounting point and carabiner cable, this is the new standard. However, currently, you can legally still use a spring clip cable. But remember, with a spring clip cable, it must only be reattached back on to the cable itself, never a bracket. Caravan brakeaway cables are obviously not the most exciting or interesting of caravanning topics. However, they are an important part of being a legal and responsible caravanner. Similar topics include making sure your caravan stabiliser is properly maintained and loading you caravan properly.

I hope you learnt something new by reading this post. I also hope you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common in the near future to try our hardstanding serviced pitches. 🙂

FAQ

Do Trailers/Caravans below 750kg need a Brakeaway Cable?

Under current UK law trailers with a weight under 750kg do not require their own braking system. Hence, a brakeaway cable would be pointless as there is no handbrake to engage.

Is it Against the Law Not To Fit a Brakeaway Cable?

If your caravan or trailer has a weight over 750kg it is against the law not to have a brakeaway cable securely fitted between the trailer/caravan and tow vehicle while on UK public roads.

How Does a Brakeaway Cable Work?

If the car and caravan become unhitched, a properly attached brakeaway cable will engage the handbrake on the caravan and then snap. Therefore, the car is not dragging the caravan. This should then stop the caravan rolling across the carriageway into the other vehicles or pedestrians.

Are There Different Diameters of Brakeaway Cable?

Typically a brakeaway cable fitted to a caravan is designed to snap under the strain of 2 tonnes of force. However, if you find and fit a brakeaway which appears thicker than your current cable, its probably not a suitable replacement. When it comes to the thickest or gauge of the brakeaway cable you want to choose like for like so the cable will snap instead of dragging the caravan which would be even more dangerous.

Caravan Brakes – How They Work, the Over-Run System and Maintenance

Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

When you set off in your caravan you want to be confident the brakes are in good working order. Therefore as part of caravan servicing the brakes get a lot of attention as you would expect. Now, while this post is intended to make you aware of how the brakes on a caravan work, its not an endorsement of DIY caravan brake repair. My intention in highlighting the information below is so that if you believe your caravan brakes are not working as they should, you will be more aware of the potential faults. You should then book your caravan in with your service centre to have the caravan’s brakes checked and potentially repaired.

Caravan Brakes
Caravan brakes need an annual service and inspection: Image – YouTube.com

There are quite a few topics to discuss in this post. Including how caravan brakes work, what are the consumable parts and the overrun system. At Horton Common, our guests have to reverse their caravan from our road onto their hard standing pitch. Many will unhitch their caravan and use their motor mover. However, if I have new caravanner visit us, I do encourage them to at least try and reverse the caravan as its a safe environment to learn. I do get some new caravaners ask me whether they will be fighting the brakes on their caravan as they reverse. This isn’t an issue (as a whole) and I’ll discuss why that’s the case below. You can also use the Table of Contents below to jump to any particular section your interested in.

Introduction To Caravan Brakes

If you have read any of my previous posts you will know I do like to reference videos. Practical Caravan videos I often feel are a good starting point. That’s also the case with this post on caravan brakes. The video below presented by John briefly covers the topic of how caravan brakes work:

John from Practical Caravan provides a good brief summary of how caravan brakes work.

As referenced in the Practical Caravan video, when it comes to caravan brakes and how they work the two main topics are the Overrun system and how the brakes disengage when you are reversing the caravan.

How the Overrun Braking System Works

When it comes to discussing how caravan brakes work, the main topic of discussion is the overrun brake system. Apparently, the overrun braking system was originally referred to as a ‘surge brake’. The overrun system applies more or less braking resistance to the caravan depending on the braking force applied to the tow hitch. Under normal towing conditions in forward motion, the caravan tow hitch is uncompressed and the brakes are not engaged. When the tow vehicle starts to slow down and apply its brakes, a braking force is applied to the caravan tow hitch which becomes depressed. This then forces the drawbar backwards engaging the caravans wheel brakes.

Caravan Overrun Braking System
This is how the overrun braking system works on a caravan: Image – AL-KO.com

However, its important to note the braking force applied by the tow vehicle and force the applied the caravans wheel brakes is relative. Hence, you will only get full braking on the caravan when the tow vehicle is under heavy braking. If you review the diagram above from AL-KO on how the overrun braking system works on a caravan it all seems pretty self-explanatory. However, there is a question that many people have, what about when you’re towing a caravan downhill?

Caravan Overrun Braking Downhill

Now, how your caravan overrun brakes perform going downhill varies depending on various factors. Such as what does your caravan weigh and the speed you are travelling. First and foremost it depends on how steep the descent down the hill actually is. For instance, if its only a gradual decline such as 10%, the caravan brakes are not likely to engage. However, if the decline was very steep such as 20%, its likely the caravan will be trying to ‘overrun’ the tow vehicle. Hence the caravan brakes will be applied.

If you are travelling down a short steep hill, other than watching your speed so the outfit is under control the caravan brakes should perform just fine. However, if its a very long and steep hill and the caravan brakes are engaged for a significant amount of time, you may want to stop along the way. Caravan brakes can overheat, they are not ventilated like the disk brakes on your car. Caravan brakes are drum brakes. If you have a heavy caravan its likely even more braking force will have been applied. Hence the brakes may take more time to cool. Extensive heat over time can cause the brake shoes to delaminate (more details below).

Caravan Braking Stabilisation Systems

Its likely you will have a caravan stabiliser hitch fitted to your caravan. However, you may also have a system fitted such as the AL-KO ATC (Automatic Trailer Control). This is an electronic system which runs off the 12V supply from your tow car. I’ve discussed the ATC system in detail in my previous post, which you can read through the link above. But briefly, this system will engage the brakes on your caravan under a sway/snaking situation.

Reversing a Caravan and Brake Deactivation

When you put your tow car into reverse with the caravan on the back, initially as you reverse the caravan the brakes will engage. Therefore, at the start of reversing you will feel resistance from the caravan. However, as the car continues to reverse the caravan, something else happens. A lever within the caravans drum brakes detects the caravan is going backwards and disengages. Hence, the caravan brakes no longer function. This is actually why its not a good idea to reverse your caravan up onto levelling ramps, as you have less control to stop the caravan if you go too far.

Caravan Brake Hub Assembly

In the Practical Caravan video above John shows how the brake release lever pivots out of the way to disengage the brakes as the caravan reverses. He also shows what a vital role the spring on the brake release lever plays in re-engaging the brakes when the caravan moves forward. However, I’ve also found another video which I think demonstrates the caravan brake hub components more clearly. This video is actually from a training course for MCEA, the Mobile Caravan Engineers Association.

How the brake hub assembly on a caravan works presented by the MCEA

Star Wheel Adjuster

As you can see in the video above, the star wheel adjuster is used to…adjust the brakes. Pretty simply, by rotating the star wheel adjuster forwards or backwards the brake shoes are moved either closer or further away from the brake drum. As you may have noticed before in my post on caravan servicing, before the service centre removes the brake drum they often use the star wheel adjuster to create an additional clearance between the brake shoes and drum. Once the brakes have been serviced they then use the star wheel adjuster to set the brake shoes just shy of the drum. Therefore, when the braking system is engaged there is only a short delay before the brake shoes engage.

When your caravan brakes are serviced, if the brake shoes are in good condition they can be reused. However, brake shoes are a wearing part. Therefore, their depth is decreased with more use. The star wheel adjuster can be used to reduce the clearance which will be created as the pads wear. Hence, why its important that your caravan brakes are serviced and adjusted annually. Even if the condition of the brake shoes is fine, its likely the star wheel adjuster will need to be used to remove excessive clearance between the brake shoes and drum.

Caravan Brake Servicing

So now hopefully you have a pretty good understanding of how the brakes work on a caravan, and how they are adjusted. We’ll now look more closely at how caravan brakes are serviced, and what can go wrong. The best video I have found on the caravan brake serving process is produced by Caravan Talk:

This Caravan Talk video does a good job of explaining how caravan brakes are serviced and the parts that may need replacing.

If you are going to inspect your caravan brakes your self its essential you have the correct tools such as a good caravan jack. You will also need an AL-KO one shot nut to put the caravan brake assembly back together. I’m not encouraging you to carry out DIY brake maintenance, I would encourage you to take your caravan to a service centre. However, if you are going to do it yourself, you need to do it properly.

Caravan Brake Hub Cleaning

The brake shoes are consumable wearing parts. Each time your caravan brakes are applied brake dust is created from the shoes contacting against the interior surface of the drum. As previously mentioned, caravan brakes are not ventilated. Hence all that brake dust stays within the brake drum and the area needs to be cleaned during a service. Typically some form of degreasing solution or spray brake cleaner is used.

Brake Shoe Inspection and Replacement

To properly inspect the condition of the brake shoes on the caravan they must be removed. I think the video above on caravan brake servicing does an excellent job of highlighting the different ways brake shoes can fail.

Brake Shoe Delamination

This is effectively when the wearable friction surface of the brake shoe becomes detached from its metal body. There can be partial delamination or full delimitation where the two parts completely separate as seen in the video. The reason brake shoe delamination can occur can simply be down to a manufacturing defect. However, it can also be the result of the brakes overheating. Hence, why its important to not let your caravan brakes get too hot, which I’ll discuss more below.

Brake Shoe Cracks and Pitting

There are times where the caravan brake shoes may develop cracks and ‘pitting’. Cracks sooner or later are going to lead to delimitation and separation. The issue with pitting is that it creates an uneven wearing surface on the brake shoe. Hence, there is less point contact between the brake shoe and the steel drum. In both cases, the brakes shoes will need to be replaced.

Brake Shoes That are Simply Worn Out

As stated in the video by the technician, from time to time the caravans brake shoes may simply be worn down to their metal body. With proper annual servicing, it should not get to this point. When it does your caravan brakes as simply not effective. Most caravanners don’t use their caravan enough to wear down the brake shoes to this extent. Brake shoes more often need to be replaced due to delamination, cracking or pitting. However, just like the video shows with caravan tyres. Wear is not purely indicated by the depth of the pad or tread on the tyre. Caravan tyres need to be changed when cracking appears and at a certain age. They also need to be inflated to the correct tyre pressure.

How to Monitor Brake Temperature

So at a couple of points above in this post, I’ve discussed that for instance going down a steep hill the brakes on your caravan may get hot and need to cool down. But how can you monitor your caravan brakes when you stop at the service centre etc? Note, this also applies to the brakes on your car.

The most basic test is to hold your hand near the brakes, but do not touch them. If you can feel the heat radiating from the brakes you need to let them cool down. If you have been travelling down a steep hill its likely to be a temporary issue. However, say you have been going along a flat motorway and your car or caravan brakes are emitting a lot of heat. That probably indicates they may be worn out and there is metal to metal contact. Instead of using your hand to ‘feel’ the heat, a better method is to have a cheap infrared heat gun with you:

Infrared Heat Gun
A cheap infrared heat gun can be used to monitor the temperature of your car and caravan brakes: Image – Amazon

I’ve had issues in the past with the cylinders on the brake discs of my car seizing up. I once stopped at a set of traffic lights and saw what I thought was smoke coming from the engine. It was actually coming from my disc brakes. The brake cylinder would not release and it clamped the pads against the disc. I now from time to time use an infrared heat gun after a trip on the motorway to check all the car brakes are at a ‘reasonable’ temperature. If your caravan brakes are exceeding 80 degrees cecluis they need to left to cool and may require further inspection.

The Caravan Brakeaway Cable

So finally within this post, I didn’t want to forget to mention the brakeaway cable. Put simply, every caravan should have one and you should always use it. When you hitch up your caravan to your car the brakeaway cable also needs to be connected to the car. Now, there is a wide range of methods to attach the brakeaway cable to your tow car, and I’ll discuss that in another post. What the caravan brakeaway cable does is engage the handbrake on your caravan and hence the drum brakes if your caravan became unhitched.

Caravan Brakeaway Cable
Every caravan should have a brakeaway cable to engage the handbrake is the caravan became unhitched: Image – Amazon

If when you purchased you caravan it didn’t come with a brakeaway cable, you need to get one and fit it before you take your caravan on the road again. Furthermore, from time to time the brakeaway cable can become damaged and may need replacing. Try and find a replacement which matches your existing brakeaway cable for length and cable gauge diameter.

Conclusions on Caravan Brakes

Proper inspection and maintenance of your caravans brakes on an annual basis is an essential part of being a responsible caravanner. The internal components of the brake drum will need to be cleaned, re-greased and adjusted to suit shoe pad depth. Potentially, the shoe pads may need replacing due to issues such as delamination, cracking and pitting.

I hope you learnt something new today about caravan brakes and why its important they are serviced on an annual basis. I also hope you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common in the future to try our fully serviced pitches. 🙂

FAQ

Are Caravan’s Braked or Unbraked?

Any trailer (caravan) with a weight over 750kg is going to require a braking system. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, all caravans in the UK are braked.

Are American Caravans with Electric Brakes Illegal in the UK?

Some believe that its illegal to have electric caravan brakes in the UK, for instance, such as those fitted to American caravans. The truth as often is the case is more complicated than a simple yes or no answer. As standard, the electric brakes and braking system fitted to an American caravan may be illegal in the UK, but they can often be modified. Gov.uk has provided specific guidance on how electric caravan braking systems can be made legal for UK roads.