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Q Hi Lionel, I am thinking I need to replace the absorbers on my 1992
Windsor Sunchaser, but have noticed the bottom of the coil spring surrounding
the asbsorber, sits in a dish attached 1/3 up the absorber. Local Van
repairer has not seen this type and Windsor as yet have not returned my email. I
was hoping to get a mathing pair from local auto parts outlets but they
have not seen this type. Is it likely that the absorbers will still be OK?

What is your general comment on their life?

A I know the problem with these shockers as we needed a new one for our
Windsor many years ago and had to get one freighted up to Qld from
Melbourne. In our case the coil spring bracket had come adrift from the
chassis and damaged the shock as well. No-one had a replacement shocker
locally as they are a special as you mentioned.

Most vans don't have shock absorbers but I don't know if it's an
essential part of the Windsor independent suspension or whether worn
shocks could affect the van's handling and ride. Maybe not! I guess you
could test them on a van the same way you do on a car by 'bouncing'
although in this case it might be harder to see if they work or not.

I'd stir Windsor up with a phone call. They'd be quick enough to answer
if you wanted to buy a new van I'm sure.

Thanks Lionel; youre quicker than Aust Post!!!!! I'll take your advice.
Problem is the van still tows well but I just think after 12 yrs they must
be weaker.

Q I live near Coffs Harbour NSW - and have a 1989 17ft Viscount SeaBreeze
Lightweight. Weighing only about 1 tonne, I've found it a brilliant van for
easy towing and stability.

However - my back now dictates the need for easier off-vehicle maneouvering.

I know they exist - I've seen them in England - I'm looking for a motorised
jockey wheel or similar little electric motor assistance for "walking" the
van around in tight spaces (like into the spot in the garden where I now
have to keep it). Either battery or mains power will do.

Any ideas an suppliers of this sort of thing please?

A There are a couple of caravan movers on the Australian market that could help with your problem.

Dometic import a mover from Europe - you would probably find it on their website. Alternately you could try Caravan Accessories in Sydney at www.caravanacc.com.au

The other mover is from WA and you can find them at: http://www.travellerwa.com.au/

They are under RV Accessory Suppliers on my website.


Thanks for your prompt reply. I've had a look at both products. Certainly
an interesting choice between electric power and a simple ratchet winch!

<PS - why not drop in to see us sometime at :
http://www.caravanning-oz.com/>

That's where we found you! A useful site with informative answers! We run a
caravan tour section on our web site - but just to provide feedback on the
sites we have visited.

We are looking to trade in our 89 Viscount for something a bit newer - but
haven't found anything that comes close to it for low kerb weight, low ball
weight and ease of towing. Aussie touring vans seem grossly overweight when
compared with European models. After all, 90% of van owners spend 99% of
their time towing on perfectly good tarmac or gravel roads.

Q My wife and I have enjoyed your book "Australia Calling" and your website immensely. My query relates to the 'horror stories' of winds on the Nullabour as mentioned in Questions and Answers. Do you know of any such stories?
 
 The query stems from a like experience my wife and I had in November 1998 somewhere near the Head of the Bight. We had pulled into an off road rest area at dusk with a few other RV's parked nearby. No facilities were available and fairly tall, thick spinnifex grass abounded in the area. Everything was quiet and very peaceful until about 8pm when an eerie roaring noise was heard rapidly approaching from the NW. 
 
 It sounded something like a speeding express train and we were right on the tracks. Before we could ask each other what it was, the wind storm, for that is what it was, hit our 16' Windsor Windcheater van side on with such velocity that I am almost certain the near side wheel lifted clear of the ground as the van rocked violently amid a cacophony of sound. Then it passed just as quickly and all was quiet once more as the noise abated to the SE.
 
The interesting thing is that the van weighed 1950kg on the weighbridge, was not a pop-top and was still hitched to the tow-vehicle. Also the spinnifex grass (about 150 cm tall) as far as the eye could see next morning lay completely flattened. What of a free-standing pop-top or a lighter van?
 
Further inspection revealed that all of the other RV's were parked NW-SE thus offering the lowest profile to the onslaught. All had left before us early the following morning, so we could only ponder, did they have some prior knowledge about prevailing winds, or were they just lucky? We were parked pointing towards the roadway as is good practice - or so we thought.
 
So, we are very interested in similar stories and is it fair to say one should always park North West - South East on the Nullabour?   

A Thanks for the email and interesting points raised.

Friends of ours had an unfortunate experience when driving across the Nullarbor some years ago when a freak wind blew them off the road and overturned both car and caravan. They both finished up in the Kalgoorlie hospital and car and van were written off.

Such winds are rare but do occur in Australia and not just across the Nullarbor. One flattened a quarter mile swathe at Lake Cullularaine last year a couple of weeks after I'd been there for the weekend and I can remember others as far apart as Pambula in NSW where it cut through the Holiday Hub Caravan Park and another a few years ago at Mandura south of Perth.

I guess all travellers have experienced 'willy willies' or 'dust devils' as they are sometimes called and even these exert a fair force if you happen to be in their path. Luckily we don't get the ' twisters' they get in some parts of the US.

I really haven't heard enough horror stories to make the Nullarbor a hazard or to warrant special parking arrangements for overnight stops.

You are quite sure you hadn't been blowing that tuba just before the wind hit? (grin)

Q I'm doing a year 10 tourism studies project on RVing inAustraliaand how it affects the tourism industry. Do you know any web sites that will contain some information I'm looking for? Thank you for your time.

A Probably the people to ask would be the Caravan Industry Association (CIA). I don't have the URL handy but a google search would find it. Their members are caravan and RV manufacturers and dealers and caravan parks.

You might find something useful on my 'links' page.

Best wishes with your project,


Q Am about to leave as a virgin caravanner on a trip around oz.
Reasonably prepared and can't wait to get going. Have a query.
If I am staying at friends houses and some national Parks I have been told that I will need a 10amp power cord to use their power. i will be doing some volunteer work in a national Park and they get their power via a generator. Some friends have holiday shacks and we can park there.
I have the std power cord for caravan parks and they are 15amp. What's the difference?

 

A All the best with your trip mate - you'll have a ball.

Besides it's current carrying capacity, the difference in a 15 amp cord and a 10 amp cord is in the earth pin - it is larger on the 15 amp and that stops you plugging it into a domestic socket. There are two ways round this if a 10 amp outlet is the only one available - you can make up a short adapter with a 15 amp female and 10 amp male end or you could file the earth pin down on your 15 amp lead so that it would go into the domestic outlet. I don't believe either method would be approved by the authorities but if you are not using anything in the van needing a high current it would probably be OK.

A 10 amp cord won't fit into the caravan's inlet and that is for safety reasons to prevent appliances with a high current draw being used with a cord not designed to carry the load without overheating.

Q I'm having a disagreement with my brother in law who is travelling to Alice Spring in the next month.
He wants to get to Alice spring in the shortest time( he hasn't much time on his hands).
I'm telling him he should go through Mildura, then Morgan,then Burra then Port Pirie and onwards.
But he is telling me should go through middle of Victoria  to Adelaide outskirts and then up to Port Wakefield
and Port Pirie.
He thinks the highways would be quicker and safer.
He is not planning to stop(only for rest and night stops roadside) to look around until Cooper Pedy.
He is using Travelmate for times and distance.
Can you advice him which way to go.
And what are the roads like between Mildura and Port Pirie
Hope you can solve this little hiccup?

A Nice to hear from you although I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to settle your little 'domestic'!

I don't think there's much difference in the distance each way although Mildura might be a bit shorter. It is much quieter that way than the highway with all it's semis etc and of course it avoids going through Adelaide.

It's a long while since I've used the road to Burra but I don't remember any problems with it. The road from Mildura to Renmark was fine when I last used it.

My own choice would be to use the Mildura route but that's probably because I've used the Western Highway so often and get bored with it.

Q Hello lionel, a great website you have. I need help. We own our home car caravan and we talk of going off travelling fulltime in our caravan.We have $40,000 but it is making the plunge and getting hubby moving. Where do I start..
 
itchy feet

A Thanks for the email and question although I haven't a clue as to how to answer.

It sounds as though you have everything ready for the 'Big One' except the deadline and someones motivation. This site doesn't do domestics!

Don't leave it too long - it's amazing but there's never the right time if you wait for it. Always something crops up that must be dealt with first.

My only advice is to get out there and do it! You will love it once you get on the road and all the stress and problems melt away. New places to see, new people to meet. New pleasures to enjoy. You'd think I liked travelling wouldn't you?

Q I am in the process of immigrating to Australia from Africa.
 
I would like to bring my trusty 1973 Tk MJR series Bedford with me.
She is an ex military 6 cylinder diesel 3 ton 4x4 which was used as a pantry vehicle.
As an avid outdoor enthusiast I have built a camper on the Bedford
chassis and have spent many a happy hour in game parks and remote
locations in Africa.
I would very much like to persue my interest in the outdoors in Australia and join a club / society organisation with similar interests.
 
The Importation and custom clearance of the vehicle seems to be a relatively simple process.However I am having difficulty in obtaining information on registering a vehicle of this nature
in Australia. 
 What are  requirements that need  to be met to be able to register  this vehicle on the Australian
road system?.
Would some one be kind enough to give me advise on the correct procedure to follow as I would like to prepare the vehicle prior to shipping.
On Arrival in Australia my intention is to try to hook up with some experienced 
Australian "outdoor-ers"  so I can become acquainted with my new surroundings prior to settling anywhere in particular.

 
Any and all advise would be greatly appreciated.

A I'm afraid I'm not an expert in this field so I've taken the liberty of forwarding your mail to the CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia) as they should be able to help you.

They are a strong club with more than 30,000 members and it would probably be helpful for you if you joined. They have a website at <www.cmca.net.au>

Thanks for the email Lionel,

We have already been in touch with Rob.

Have a nice day.

Regards,

Aaron Bristow.
Webmaster / Information Officer
Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Ltd.

Q In 2006 my husband & I intend to hit the road and become grey nomads.  We are currently in the process of selling the family home and will move into a unit until our caravan is purchased and built (have been quoted apx 6 months for a custom build with which we are satisfied).

When our caravan is read for delivery we will put it on site here in Cairns and live in it until we are ready to hit the road when we retire in early 2006.  My question is how do get mail as we will have no permanent address once we hit the road.  Our vehicle,  caravan and drivers licence will all be Queensland, as will our ambulance cover, when we finally get on the road.  What happens when we leave Cairns & start moving around.  We do not intend to return to Cairns permanently (just the occasional visit). The ambulance service advises me we must have a permanent address to be covered by ambulance.

I have tried to contact the relevant government authorities but have no success with speaking to a real person who understands what I am asking.

I've heard of a company called something like Mail Away but have been unable to contact them yet, so I'm unsure of their service.

I also have some questions about receiving emails while on the road but as technology is constantly changing I won't go into that issue now.

I really look forward to you reply as I'm sure you have greater access to available information that I do and I am hopeful you have a solution to our problem.

 

A It sounds like you are doing your planning well in advance - a good idea.

There are three mailing services on my 'links' page. Landbase Australia, Posthaste Australia and a newcomer - Redirect Australia.

They all handle mail, email and faxes. You can use them as your mailing address but I'm not sure about the ambulance.

I use a mobile phone and laptop computer when on the road these days (Now in fact as we are at Rockhampton at the moment!) Public libraries have a good internet service that is usually free although you sometimes have to make a booking if all the computers are in use. Some caravan parks have an internet kiosk and there are plenty of internet cafes where you pay for time on the net. There are cheaper but less convenient alternatives like 'Pocketmail' that allow email text only but can get and send email for 40cents from a public phone anywhere in Australia.

When we were on the road full time many years ago we used our daughter's address as our base for things like rego and insurance and became an 'Itinerent Voter' so we could vote wherever we liked.

Q ,I have recently purchased a caravan/fixed aluminium annex on a permanent site. I would like to add a shower/toilet "ensuite" to the existing aluminium annex. I have seen some around but am unable to locate a manufacturer (preferably Victorian). Can you please advise some manufaturers?

A I'm afraid I don't know any local manufacturers of toilet/shower modules.

The en-suites fitted in caravans are imported fibreglass jobs and are supplied by Camec. Their website is at: http://www.camec.com.au/

Your best bet would be to contact some of the annexe manufacturers and see if they can tell you where they get their en-suites or if they build them themselves.

Q Lionel, 3 years back I got a list of items that you recommend to start a new caravan, blowed if I can find it now my friends are starting the grey nomad life can you tell me where I got that copy from or send me a copy I found it very helpful at the time.

A Was it the checklist I sent? If so it's on my website and in my books. If not then what was it?

Lionel I think I got it from your book I purchased but like all good books I lent it to someone and it's not returned yet so I live in hope they will return it.I will look on your web site.
 

Q I wonder if you know which is the best forum in which to leave a message about swapping my Camper with an Australian Camper/Motorhome owner. I am in Vancouver, only 2 days from Banff/Jasper or California/Nevada . I Just finished a swap with some people in the UK  and it worked really well.

A Probably the best place to try would be the CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia). They have upwards of 36,000 members and are by far the largest RV club in Australia.

Their website is at http://www.cmca.net.au/

I'll forward your email to their webmistress who is a friend of mine and I'm sure she will help you find someone interested in a swap.

Q  Are your books available in any retail outlets in Perth WA?

We've just put our order in to purchase an offroad Jayco Pop-top. It's our first van, and we plan to travel around Oz next year.

As we shopped around, we were bamboozled with huge amounts of conflicting information. What is your opinion on the best frame construction material...aluminium or wood?

My husband wants to change the wheels on the van to make them compatible with the wheels on our 4WD (to give us more spares) In your experience, is this a good idea, as they are quite expensive to change over?

A We have found it better to sell by mail order as this lets us keep the price down - bookshops want a big cut and usually work on sale or return.

We do dispatch by return mail so you would get them fairly quickly if you placed an order. If you wanted to use your credit card you could contact 'On the Road' magazine - there's a link on my 'To order' page. As soon as the credit is approved they email me and we send the books straight away.

There are very strong arguments that prove conclusively that timber is the best frame. There are equally compelling reasons given that show aluminium to be best! Depends on which salesman you listen too and what his/her manufacturer uses. Personally I don't believe there is any discernable difference once the skin's on.

Having interchangeable wheels is a big plus if you are going to do serious off-roading - I had them on a Falcon and van at one time and I found the extra spare an excellent investment - both for practical purposes and also for peace of mind.

I know you will get a lot of pleasure from your new van when it arrives.

Q I am new to caravanning. I have an old 16ft Franklin arrow which will soon have a new A frame put on.

My question is do u have any idea of how much it would weigh. I am driving a Hyundai Elanta 2002 model, 5 door. It's a medium sized car and I need to know if I can tow a caravan with it.

If I can do you know somewhere in Melbourne where I can hire a car with a tow ball for towing.

Any info would be great. thank you.

A I'm afraid your Franklin is going to be too heavy to tow with the Elanta. Check in your owners handbook to make sure but I believe it can only tow 850kg with brakes on the van (Less without brakes).

I don't know what your van weighs but I'm pretty sure it would be more than 850kg loaded and ready for the road.

Sorry I don't know any hire firms with towbar equipped cars although there could be some.

Q We are from England and are planning a trip (or trips) to Australia next year - hopefully of six months at a time.  We are planning to buy/rent a campervan/motorhome and have two queries we would like your advice on.

We would like information about van sites - we have logged on to several web sites for caravan parks that have everything but we are early retired and we don't need children's play parks, etc.  Can you recommend a book which lists good, clean sites but without amusement parks, etc.!!  We intend to cover the East coast in our first trip - starting at Sidney.


We are also considering buying a van (Sprinter or something similar) and converting it ourselves.  I have a web site from your answer to a previous question which supplies windows, etc.  Most important for us to know - is there a law in Australia that covers changing a solid sided van by putting windows in?  We don't want to be on the wrong side of the law!


Thanks - we have both of your books, by the way,  - excellent reading and very informative.

A The motoring organisations like the RACV and NRMA have what they call Tourist Park Guides that list just about every caravan park alphabetically. They have different front covers depending on which State you get them from but are all the same inside. They are cheaper for members - a good idea to join when you come here.

We don't have a string of lower cost parks like your Caravan Club and Camping and Caravan Club unfortunately but there is a book called 'Camps 2' that lists bush camps and rest areas plus some lower cost caravan parks. It's available mail order from 'On The Road' magazine's country store - http://www.21century.com.au/shops/otr/

As far as I know there's no regulation about putting windows in a van - it's different if you want to modify a vehicle mechanically.

I'm pleased you found the books helpful.

Q I am considering buying my first van at the age of 60.

I have looked at the Jayco range and they seem well priced , however I have heard a few comments that they are not the best in the Quality department.

 
Do you have an opinion of them in general? Hope this question is ok.

 

A I do have opinions and probably like everyone else I have biases and preferences but I'll try to answer your query without letting any personal feelings get in to colour my remarks.

I think Jaycos could be compared to Holdens. They appeal to the mass market, their price is reasonable, their service and dealerships seem OK and there are lots of happy owners.

On the downside it could be that like all mass production goods the quality and craftsmanship might not be as good as other more expensive makes.

If you want a BMW you don't go to a GMH dealership and you expect to pay more for the extra quality. To carry the analogy a bit further - if you want a Mercedes you need a bulging wallet.

The same goes for caravans. I don't believe there are any bad caravans made these days. Just that some have more refinement and luxuries than others.

You are about to join those of us who know that caravanning is a great lifestyle and gives great pleasure - if I can help further don't be afraid to email me again.
Q  I just came across your website while surfing, and saw your Q & A column, which appears to give some great advice - I'm hoping you may be able to help me.

I have just acquired an old (86) Viscount Ultralite van (and subsequently read in the only comment I could find online that these are "awful" - I hope to find out why one day soon, hopefully not the hard way!), and an oldish Nissan Patrol to tow it with. The only trip I have made with it thus far is the 35 km tow from the dealer to my home.

I read somewhere online that these vans have "override" as opposed to electric brakes. My question (please don't laugh - I'm a complete novice) is, should there be some connection (like a cable or hydraulic line) between the towing vehicle and the van, other than the electrical plug? I checked before I drove off that indicator and brake lights worked, but having read this, I'm not sure whether the van brakes are being operated at all.

Apart from the above, if you have any idea where I may be able to get more info, or even an owner's manual for this van, I would greatly appreciate your help.

Thanks in anticipation.

A I think all the 'awful' Aerolites have long since fallen apart and only the best are left. They had very light chassis that broke and many had new chassis fitted. They had very lightweight construction and our Australian conditions were not what European vans would expect (They were based on the European principles).

I see no reason why your Aerolight shouldn't give you good service if it's in good condition and you don't expect to take it across the Simpson Desert or similar!

The brakes work without any connection - apart from the towbar of course. They rely on the tow vehicle slowing under brakes and then the weight of the van trying to push it compresses the van's brake actuating mechanism to apply the van brakes. That's why there is a little gadget you swing into place to stop this happening when you reverse. Don't forget to swing it back out when you've finished reversing or your brakes won't work at all.

I would doubt if there would be any handbooks about - van makers have never been good at producing them.

As you don't mention where you live I don't know who to suggest for more info but any of the van repairers like ADP or Hardings in Melbourne or Darios in Adelaide should be able to help.

Q Is there a register or organization for casualor temporary employment;somthing like backpackers enjoy,while on the wallaby?

A Have a look at <http://www.workaboutaustralia.com.au>. I think it will be what you are looking for.

Q This from Texas:
I have been an avid camper for over 40 years.  Stareting with back pack then tents then trailers and now a motorhome.  While in the US military I traveled with family by tent throughout western Europe. Now retired and with a partially disabled wife, I want to do Australia by motorhome, if possible.  Our plan is unfixed but the start date will be
sometime in 2006 (nothing like starting early). 

What we need to know is availability of rentals suitable for handicapped, campgrounds that are
accessable to same, some idea of pricing and any recommendations you may offer about length of stay in Australia.  We currently use a large
motorhome (34ft) with extendable rooms, making things easier for the handicapped.  Any thoughts please eMail if possible.

A I think the best people to help you would be the CMCA ( Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia). They have in excess of 36,000 members and are very active. I'm sure they must have a number of members with disabilities and have found the answer to coping with a motorhome. <www.cmca.net.au>

There are very few motorhomes with slides down here - we are a bit behind with that but some manufacturers are now offering them as an option on their dearer models. Winnebago and Swagman come to mind - there are links under Manufacturers on my site.

Most Caravan Parks (Campgrounds) have handicapped facilities eg wheelchair access.

If you plan an extended stay you could perhaps consider purchasing a motorhome under a 'Buy Back' scheme run by some companies. It could be cheaper than hiring which is quite expensive.

Just got your latest note, thanks.  I have visited the sites you cited and will continue to do so.  I have started a file of selected articles I have downloaded on this subject and hope to be able to educate my wife and myself on the potential for enjoying a motorhome tour of your country.  Unlike Canada, your country will require plenty of study and serious planning before we can start. 

I look foreward to reading your postings and will pass along any comments or observations I think may be of some value.  Be well and have a MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR.

 

 

 

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