Caravanning and RVing in Australia
For more Q & As
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/
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 -
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!
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 is 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 3' 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 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 can do that on our 'To Order' page
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 16tf Franklin arrow which will soon have a new A frame put on.
My question is do you have any idea of how much it would weigh. I am driving a Hyundai elanta 2002 model, 5 door. Its a medium sized car and i need to know is I can tow a caravan with it.
If I can do u know some where in Melbourne where I can higher 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.
- I don't know any hire firms with towbar equipped cars although there
could be some.
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.
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 so 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.
(Re-reading this reply I see I've confused 'Aerolights' with 'Ultralights' - a far better van!)
Q I was wondering if you
could help? We have looked at a lot of different caravans in Adelaide
and depending on who you talk to, each manufacturers rating in
the caravanning world varies enormously. Is there a
site or reveiw we can try to track down to give us some idea of who is
at the top of this supposed ladder and who is at the bottom.
We are trying to buy a fairly large family van 22ft with main
bed, bunks, kitchen etc and bathroom, so we want to make sure we choose
the right place to spend our $40 - $50k
A It's my belief that there are no 'bad' caravans on the market any more so really it's a matter of personal preference and budget. I'll admit that some of the top end vans seem overpriced.
I guess in terms of comparison with the motor world: If you want a Holden you look at Jayco and if you want a Mercedes you look at Boroma or similarly priced vans. The Adelaide Caravan Show is on shortly - that's a good place to compare all the different makes and models. It's often a place for good deals.
I don't think you'll find a web site with a 'ladder'. Caravan World carries plenty of articles about new vans but I haven't seen any comparison lists.
we bought a 1998 Jaco Hawk privatly, the previous owner has
reinvented the suspension (ie the springs are secured above
the axle, not below it) and as a result it rides a little highter than
the convential camper. Took it for our first run down to Canungra from
Brisbane on the last weekend in January 2006. However when I drop it
onto the ball behind the AU Falcon it forms a shallow "V" instead of
riding level to the road, this can be helped a bit by puting a nut
above the towing tongue as well as under it (there is plenty of thread
to play with)
A It certainly sounds as if
you need load leveling bars to bring the camper back level.
There should be between 10 and 15% of the total loaded weight on the ball - this indeed makes it front heavy but is what it should be for optimum towing.
Hayman Reece site tells you how to find out the ball load. I'm afraid
your eyes are going to get another work out if you start reading the HR
A The ball weight certainly seems very low and I suspect it could well be the cause of your problem.
Is it possible to move something to the front - spare wheel/s for instance? Best towing seems to be with 10-15% on the ball so you are looking at 190kg plus, assuming you have a load of 250kg or more to add to the tare weight.
The BA should be fine for your van providing you can sort out the sway problem. I've towed a similar van to yours around Australia behind an older Falcon wagon with no hint of sway although I did fit a dual cam sway control to make it easier when trucks overtook.
Dual cam sway control or a friction control could help you but it doesn't get to the cause of the problem - only makes it easier to handle.
could be an idea to talk to a Hayman Reese dealer about the problem -
or some towing specialist like Hardings in Melbourne.
In the article you make mention of converting old vinyl records over to the more convenient CDs. My question is how do you do this?
A You were not the only one to ask about this so I'll just copy my last reply and send it.
"What I use is a little gizmo from Griffin. You plug it into the stereo or tape player and into a usb port on the computer. You then play the record or tape and it records it in digital format in the computer. The one I use is called an iMic and is made by Griffin. You also need to load an application they supply called 'Final Vinyl'. I can't remember what it cost but it wasn't too bad.
Here's their site: http://www.griffintechnology.com
got it into the computer you then can to burn it to a cd. I don't know
what computer you use or what music programmes it has but most
computers these days allow you to burn cds."
A lot of overseas visitors seem to do it this way. My question is, Is there a recognized "central base or meeting point" for the purchase/disposal of Camper vans and Motorhomes,ie where purchasers may make for on arrival to buy a van that someone has just finished their trip in and wishes to sell?
I am just a little wary that at the end of our trip we could be left with an expensive Motorhome on our hands that may take quite a while to dispose of.
A Have a look at: http://www.carmarket.com.au/ I didn't know about this site until recently when a Canadian journalist who had been holidaying down here mentioned it to me in an email. It does looks a good place to go for travellers like yourselves but does seem to cater more for campervans and not motorhomes..
are also a number of sites like RV Point that list RVs for sale all
over the country. http://rvpoint.ninemsn.com.au/
Don't block the door vent as it it there as a safety precaution in case you have an LPG leak. Despite all efforts, there will most probably be some dust that gets in so it's a good idea to check where pipes etc come in - or go out - through the floor and make sure these are sealed properly with silicon or something.
other thing is not to travel too close to the vehicle in front - let
the dust settle a bit first.
A I believe it's fairly common to relocate the axle to give more ride height and I haven't heard of any problems caused by it. It's not quite as simple as it sounds as you probably have to turn the axle 180 degrees to locate the spring centre bolt. That means undoing the back plates and turning them 180 as well so the brakes work the same way as usual and putting in the centre bolts the opposite way. As you mention you can compensate for the change of height at the tow hitch end. The other option would seem to be having the springs reset higher - I have done this myself with one van when I changed the axle to a heavier one.
Another option could be to use larger wheels and tyres although this would probably be more expensive.
have a tandem axle Windsor and we feel that the
A I'm afraid I'm not an expert on this so suggest you ask someone like Hardings in Melbourne about the problem.
Their website is: http://www.hardingscaravans.com.au
From memory our last tandem van was similar to your drawing but that's a while ago.
family and I travelling to Australia from the UK for the first time
you go to: http://rvpoint.ninemsn.com.au/ and select 'Holiday Parks'
you can get a list of caravan parks (campsites). I hope you have a
A As far as I know there is nothing to stop you parking a van in the street providing it's an area where you can park a car. After all you pay registration fees for the van.
I'd check with the RTA and your local council to make sure there is no
local regulation to stop you doing this.