This section is about some of the jobs that I’ve wanted to do and some that I’ve had to do on my caravan. As I wrote elsewhere, in 2011 I decided to give up caravanning, so I sold my five-year-old Bailey and all the equipment. Four months later, realizing that I had acted impetuously, I started looking for another caravan Not being sure how long I would want to caravan on my own, I bought my 2001 Avondale Rialto. I bought it as seen from an executor but it came fully equipped and with two awnings, groundsheets and water containers all ready to go. Unfortunately, in spite of having four years worth of recent service records with damp reports ticked and marked “OK”, I quickly discovered that the van had a damp problem. Dealing with the rotten lining and timber became the number one priority.
1.. Damp in the end bathroom.
2. Fitting a cross over bar on the Carver mover.
3. Restore tired worktop edges.
4. Fitting a fold-away TV shelf.
5. Shower control.
6. Fitting vinyl flooring.
7. Fitting a second shelf in overhead cupboards.
8. Fitting a Strongbox.
9 Replacing my Truma Trumatic S2003
10. Fitting quick-release battery terminals.
11. Fitting a USB charging point.
12. Making sure my van is not overweight.
13. Renewing window seal inserts.
14. When the caravan’s electrics failed.
15. Renewing a shower tray.
16. Changing a tow hitch boot.
17. Changing the 12volt lighting.
18. A rear view camera and some interior lights.
19. Servicing the fridge
20 – Fitting a Voltmeter/Ammeter to the mains electric
21 – Checking your hot water pipe.
22 – Water pump failure.
23 – A change of voltmeter
24 –Fluorescent ceiling lights converted to LEDs
1…Damp in the end bathroom.
Within hours of getting the van home, I discovered the dampness around the toilet in the end bathroom. When I inspected the van the end bathroom was filled with awnings, Aquaroll and Wastemaster together with groundsheets, wheel ramps and a sundry collection of equipment. Not until I had it all moved into the garage did I find the soggy wall-board.
I started the job by removing the toilet and reservoir filler. To remove the toilet pan, first remove the holding tank through the access door. Screwed into the floor of the caravan are four long cross headed screws. The front two are easily reached whilst the rear two are made easier by using a piece of mirror to see them. Once the screws are removed, the toilet unit is lifted off the hanger attached to the wall. I also removed the holding tank door and surround. Back inside the van, by using a damp meter I estimated the extent of the dampness. Having marked out an area a bit less than a square metre, I began to cut through the wallboard with a sharp Stanley knife pulled along a straight edge. I used many draws of the blade with light pressure rather than pressing too hard. Eventually, the blade was into the polystyrene and I could begin to peel away the soggy wallboard. The damp had separated the wallboard from the polystyrene so it came away easily. Once that was out of the way, the blackened, saturated wood framing could be seen. I decided which sections would need to be removed and replaced and which would be still sound after drying out.. I began cutting the sections with a small tenon saw and carefully separating them from the outer skin. Being wet, most came away fairly easily but some required careful scraping with a broad chisel – the outer skin is easily damaged, even from the inside. New wood of the same dimensions as the existing was sourced from Wickes or B&Q, cut to length and glued to the outer skin with a grab adhesive. Where new timber-framed openings, I left the wood clamped overnight with a protecting piece on the outside.
Next, I needed some wall-board. The only wall-boards I could find were 8’x4’ – much larger than what I wanted and then not a true match. I decided to try to make a piece. First I found a piece of 3mm plywood which I covered both sides with sheets of good quality brown parcel paper. White PVA was used for the paper with a good covering being given to both sides That was left to dry and by sticking paper to both sides, the ply dried flat. Doing only one side will allow the sheet to bend.
Now it was time to study the existing wallboard. It was basically grey so I mixed a bowl of white emulsion paint, gradually adding some black powder paint. It took several tries to reach the shade I wanted and then it was rollered on and left to dry. The same mix was darkened slightly more and the paint was applied with a dry sponge dabbed onto the surface. When I was satisfied with the result, the board was allowed to thoroughly dry before being painted over with thinned PVA solution. That seals the surface and gives it a slight sheen.
Once dry the board was glued to the framework with grab adhesive and stapled around the edges. To cover the joint, a length of uPVC moulding was mitred and fixed with white silicon.
The dampness had been caused by a badly fitting reservoir filler surround. That was well cleaned and new mastic applied before refitting.
2…Crossover bar on the Carver mover.
When I bought my Avondale it was already fitted with a Carver mover however, it didn’t have a cross-over bar. That’s the connecting rod which allows the mover to be applied to both wheels but from only one side. Where I park my van at home – close alongside the house, to be able to operate the mover from only one side is essential.
A quick look under the van at the mover told me what I needed. On eBay, I bought two 10mm sockets and a one-metre length of 15x15mm square stainless steel tube. I already had some square tube to use as the centre part so by drilling two holes in the centre tube and welding a 13mm nut over each hole, I was able to slide in the sidebars and lock them with the bolts. Two short lengths of 12mm square steel inserted into the ends of the sliding bars held the 10mm sockets on the crossbars. A quick coat of Hammerite and the job was ready to fit. Total cost around £12.
3…Restore tired worktop edges.
Some the wooden edging strips where they had been constantly wiped with a damp cloth were looking very tired after 13 years of use. I started by rubbing down the edges with fine wire wool. Don’t use glass paper. It will take off the high spots. Because the wire wool takes up the shape of the moulding, it keeps the rubbed surface even. After dusting off and wiping down with a damp cloth, I left the job till next day to dry. The edge mouldings were now going to be sprayed, so the worktop was masked off with tape up to the moulding and newspaper was added to protect from over spray. The underside and doors were also masked. With the masking done, a can of clear lacquer – the type bought in Halfords and used as the topcoat on metallic paintwork – was used.
The spray needs to be done down the length of edging quickly in just one wipe from a distance of around six inches. Do more and it will run and start to sag. After a couple of minutes, a second wipe is given, and a few minutes later, a third, then a fourth. If you are not familiar with spray cellulose, the spray jet is cleaned by inverting the can and spraying until it clears. Then the can will be workable next time you need it. Carefully remove the newspaper and masking tape and leave the job for a couple of days to harden. (Also you’ll want to get out of the heavy atmosphere left in the van.) A couple of days later, some fine wire wool well lubricated with wax polish was lightly rubbed over the edging and a few minutes later buffed with a polishing cloth. The wax polish I used was a mix of beeswax, carnauba and white spirit, but any light coloured shoe polish would do.
4…Fold-away TV shelf.
Nowhere in my van was there a place where I could set up to view my TV. I decided I needed a fold-up shelf attached to the end of the sink unit. I wanted the woodwork to match as near as possible the grain and colour of the rest of the van.
I began by looking at different items in the local DIY stores. I found a good match in the form of a 36”x12” shelf and also a length of matching beading to cover the raw cut edges. The shelf was hinged so that it could fold up out of the way. Catches were found in caravan accessory shops.
It’s time-consuming and probably wasteful of water when trying to get a comfortable temperature for the water in the shower. This modification allows the hot water to be turned on without ever moving the hot and cold taps. Once the hot water runs through, the temperature is always the same. The control valve is a domestic central heating straight through valve.
It’s connected to the shower outlet with various 15mm chromed pipe fittings and short pieces of chromed copper tubing. All the parts can be found in a Wickes or B&Q store.
6…. Fitting Vinyl flooring.
At some time my caravan had suffered from floor delamination because when I bought it the job had already been done with the carpet being replaced at the same time. Unfortunately, the carpet chosen was of fairly poor quality and was beginning to show signs of wear, mainly through repeated cleaning around the sink and fridge areas. After much deliberation, I decided to replace it with vinyl and started to look around at types and colours. I discovered that flooring came not only in various widths but also in 2mm and 4mm thicknesses. The thinner vinyl I thought would eventually show up joints and imperfections in the wood floor so I was looking at 4mm offcuts. But then it was time for me to go off to Spain for the winter so the job was put on the ‘back burner’.
At the beginning of March when I came home I found myself with several hours to spend in Calais whilst waiting for my tunnel crossing so I spent some time browsing in Leroy Merlin’s DIY store. Wandering around I came across their rack of offcuts. Most of them were rejected because of being the wrong size, wrong colour, wrong quality and wrong pattern. But one 4mtr wide off-cut got me really excited. The colour appealed and it was the right thickness and quality, but would there be sufficient to do the job? Backwards and forwards I went between the shop and the caravan to take measurements. Finally, I decided, I would have it. Because of its length, it had to go into the caravan through the end bathroom window and travel on the floor.
The previous owner’s fitter had removed the original carpet by cutting around the furniture then fitting the new carpet on the exposed floor. It was only lightly glued around the edges so I carefully removed it and used it as a template to cut the vinyl. Many Avondales have their spare wheel in a well accessed through a lift-up panel in the floor. That was an added complication but I trimmed the edges around the well with 25x25mm aluminium angle. Fortunately, because there’s a sliding door to the end bathroom, the laying of the vinyl could be done in two sections. To go down the centre of the caravan I bought a length of carpet runner.
7…A Second shelf in overhead cupboards.
Like many caravan cupboards mine had space for an extra shelf but without one being fitted. I used some pieces of Formica which I had to hand in the workshop. First, a piece was cut just slightly smaller than the shape of the cupboard.
Then edging was cut from 12x12mm square timber and glued on the underside of the Formica. To support the shelves I fixed four equal lengths of 6mm dowel rod in each corner lightly held in place with a single dab of glue. The shelf sits on the four dowels. If at some time in the future the shelves need to be removed, they can be quickly dismantled.
8…Fitting a Strongbox.
It always useful to have a secure storage place in the caravan where passports, spare cash, keys and other valuables can be left. I bought a cash box 230mmx150mmx70mm with two keys from a stationers store. Decide on a suitable site for the box – probably in the base of a cupboard. As it’s necessary to do some of the work under the caravan choose a spot with fairly easy access, Before finally deciding on a site make sure there are no chassis members or pipes in the area.
Prepare the cash box by drilling two 8mm holes in the bottom of it. With the box in position on the floor, drill through the floor. Your drill will go through easily since it’s only 6mm of ply on top of 25mm of polystyrene with another 6mm ply sheet below. You’ll also need two 8mmx50mm long bolts and four nuts. Just to put the bolts through the holes would not make the box very secure because it could easily be prised off the floor. A piece of plate is needed under the floor with the bolts holding it in position. With one nut tightened down on each bolt, the second nut is then tightened on top, locking the two together. That will prevent the bolt from being loosened from under the caravan.
I chose the cupboard in my end bathroom. Being at the back of the caravan access was easy when laying underneath. My hand-held Black & Decker vacuum cleaner is stored in the base of the cupboard so to an intruder taking a quick look in the cupboard, my strongbox isn’t immediately apparent.
9….Replacing my Truma Trumatic S2003
DIY work on mains electric or gas appliances shouldn’t be carried out unless you describe yourself as “competent”. These notes are not intended as a DIY guide.
The Truma gas and electric fire in my van has never been reliable. When I bought the van the young woman who was selling it on behalf of her late dad told me that the electric heater was faulty. After I got it home I tried the fire and it worked fine………… That is until it got hot and the thermostat switched it off. Then it wouldn’t come back on again until the power was switched off and allowed to cool. It was then ok till the thermostat knocked it off again. Reading up on the fault I discovered that one or both over-heat thermostats had failed. They were just a fiver each to buy but the entire fire had to come out to replace them.
This picture shows the two thermostats. They are far from accessible. In many cases, the entire fire needs to be removed.
Whenever the caravan travelled, by the time I’d made my first stop the front cover was laying on the floor. That was solved by putting a screw through the top vent. Next, the blower stopped working. The reason I discovered was a burnt PCB which was fairly easy to replace.
This is the original PCB showing the burnt component.
But worse trouble showed itself when I arrived at Portsmouth harbour at 10pm last November ready for an early morning departure. My plan was to stay overnight on the dockside and because of the cold, I needed the gas fire. It took me over half an hour to get it lit. Clearly, it was a job for the future. Once I was on a site, the electric fire was invariably used. Last week I decided to investigate. I took out the spark ignition module, put in a new battery and tested it. That was working ok and was even giving me an occasional mild shock. Next, I suspected the microswitch at the gas valve, so I substituted a spring switch, but still, the fire refused to light. Obviously, the fire would need to come out. With the gas bottle and mains electric turned off I disconnected first the electric supply to the fire, then the gas supply under the caravan. With the flue/exhaust pipe taken off, the fire was ready to lift out. Three of the five screws were only finger tight having lost their grip on the plywood/foam sandwich floor. I drilled out the holes and glued in some large plastic plugs. With the fire on the ground outside it looked a sorry sight.
Picture of underside
Both top side and bottom were thick with rust. Getting the burner out decided me………Maybe it was time for a new fire. At eighteen years old I wasn’t surprised to see that my model, the S2003 had been replaced. Comparing the new S2004 model it looked as though it would be a straight swap. Prices on the internet varied by up to £55 so I shopped around. It was ordered on Thursday and delivered on Monday – by 9.30, so I got busy straight away
The Truma caravan fire is made up of three separate units. The Trumatic is the gas fire in the front; the Ultraheat is the electric part fitted behind, then the blown hot air system is fitted behind that. The Ultraheat attaches to the inner casing which is part of the gas fire and I was pleased to see it was simply a matter of removing the element and control box from the old case and fitting it on the new. Screw holes matched perfectly.
I’d already cleaned the years of dust and fluff from the blower fan but was then dismayed to discover that the new fire casing wouldn’t accept my TEB 2 blower.
The fan with 18 years of dust before cleaning
The freshly cleaned TEB2. Also the aperture in the floor, the hot air pipes and the flu.
The three fixing screw plugs and the extraction hole were in quite the wrong place. My new fire was designed for the later TEB3 blower. I was reluctant to bin mine and part with 200 quid to replace it. I gave up for the day to ponder this latest setback.
With a new day I began to see the solution. I could use my old blower if I cut the back out of my old fire, rivet it to the new and blank off and cut a new hole to suit. It worked well – although I foresaw another problem on the horizon. With the blower and the electric fire installed, it was possible to check at that stage that it was working correctly. Once the gas fire is fitted it’s no longer possible to reach the electric part. All was fine so it was time to fit the gas fire. The fire sits in the same floor aperture used on the previous fire. The exhaust outlet is in the same place so the original flue pipe easily connects as before, It’s essential to use a new rubber sealing ring whenever the flue is disconnected because on tightening, the rubber seal becomes deformed.
The new fire fitted and connected.
Once the gas was reconnected, the bottle turned on, the air displaced in the pipe, and we had ignition. Whenever gas pipes have been opened, it is essential that on completion of the work, the system is pressure tested. Therefore with a manometer connected, the fire was lit, then turned off. The gas bottle valve was closed and the gas pressure read…. 37 for propane or had I been using butane, it would have been 28. I went and had a coffee and on my return was gratified to see the pressure was holding on 37.
The pressure gauge connected to the gas system.
The new front panel is a big improvement on the old. Two locking spring levers hold it in place. The gas control knob works in the same way as the original. Turn to 5 on the scale and press down the knob which works the ignition. But now the problem which I mentioned earlier. Had I fitted a new TEB3 blower, it would have come with a switch which would have fitted into the top control panel. However, I was using the original TEB2 fan control. Somehow it needed to be fitted into the panel. I took one of the supplied blanking discs and by cutting and drilling, I made it so that it would mount the TEB2 switch. A little bit of cutting on the front panel allowed the fan control plug to come through.
The new control panel.
Room thermostat riding piggy-back on the fire thermostat.
A final test using the gas fire and a CO detector is all that remains to be done.
10….Fitting quick-release battery terminals.
In November 2015 having arrived at Salamanca, my carbon monoxide alarm awoke me during the night. Much later in the day, I discovered the alarm had been triggered by hydrogen sulphide gas given off the faulty 12volt on-board caravan battery. By the time I’d discovered the source of the obnoxious smell, the battery was extremely hot and probably close to exploding. There were several panic moments as a suitable spanner was found with which to loosen the bolts securing the terminals. Fitting some quick release terminals has been on my to-do-list ever since.
11….Fitting a USB charging point.
Whenever a phone or other device requires charging in the caravan it often requires a plug top to be removed from a socket, which isn’t always convenient. I thought it would be useful to have an additional three-pin socket with a dedicated charging point built into it. After switching off all the mains electricity in the caravan, I removed a nearby socket and using 2.5mm flex, connected a piece long enough to reach from the feeder socket into the new position. A hole was drilled in the wood panel so that the wire could be fed through and the patress box screwed to the woodwork. With the electricity switched on again, the wiring was checked with the polarity tester.
12….Making sure my van is not overweight.
From time to time we hear about the police and the DVSA stopping caravanners to check the weights of their outfits. Just to make sure my van isn’t over-weight I occasionally like to check the weight of my van using a Reich Caravan Weight Control. Using it is a bit like using the bathroom scales. Stand near the front or back edge, and you won’t get an accurate reading. So it is with the Reich machine. My method is to lay it between two pieces of board of a similar thickness to the machine so that the mover can position the wheel over the device without twisting it. Obviously, the boards need to be far enough away to avoid supporting any weight on them. Also, the weight control requires a fairly smooth and level surface on which to sit so I place machine and boards on a piece of plywood.
Having weighed the nose weight, the device is used on each wheel in turn until it finally gives the total of the three individual weights. Hopefully, the total weight will be less than the figure stamped on the caravan’s plate.
13….Renewing window seal inserts.
The plastic cover strips in the inside window trims seem to shrink as the years go by. Some of the strips in the corners of my windows had started to make a short cut.
The cover strip is available on eBay and if the colour is matched, it isn’t a difficult job to do because all that is required is to cut out a short length and replace with a new piece. If the nearby handle lock and stay is removed, the insert can be cut and butt-jointed between the screw holes, thus giving an invisible join.
Take care not to stretch the plastic during fitting otherwise, it will relax during the following weeks and begin to pull out again.
14….When the caravan’s electrics failed.
The porridge was cooked but the caravan’s electrics had gone off. A quick trip outside with a torch was needed to reset the breaker. But it was alright – it didn’t need resetting. A check on the sockets in the bollard showed they were live so it wasn’t a power cut. Back in the awning I disconnected the mains lead and plugged it temporarily into an emergency extension lead. That got the kettle boiled and with the fridge turned to gas, I had breakfast and pondered what to do next.
When it was light I looked under the seats to check around the charger and the fuse module but everything seemed OK. The breaker switch on the Zig unit was off and it wanted to stay that way. With the holding screws out I pulled the Zig unit forward and there, at the back of of the box, I found the burnt mains connector. It seemed the neutral pins had been arcing and had melted the plug.
The plug and socket had RS stock numbers moulded into them but RS Components web site showed no such numbers. Not surprising at 18 years old. To get the electrics temporarily working I cobbled together a connection using a UK three-pin plug into an extension socket wired into the RCD and the incoming supply. With the Zig unit back in place and the mains lead reconnected, electricity in the van was temporarily restored.
Looking on the internet it seemed the best thing to replace the burnt connectors with would be an IEC plug and socket. There were several suppliers on eBay who would deliver to Spain but all the plugs had a maximum capacity of 10amps. The caravan needed 15amps. I found them on the RS Components website.
The new socket was much bigger than the original so a larger hole needed to be cut. Not an easy job with the limited equipment in the car’s toolbox but fortunately I had some drill bits and a couple of files with me.
With the socket screwed in, new wires connected to the RCD, and the matching plug attached to the incoming supply, it was all reassembled and refitted in the overhead locker.
15….Renewing a shower tray.
Opinions are polarized over the question of whether or not one should use the caravan’s onboard shower. My choice has always been to use it. Therefore I was horrified when during the past winter spent in Spain I saw what looked like a crack developing across the corner of my shower tray. Upon closer inspection, there was more than just the one.
But maybe it’s not surprising. It is, after all, eighteen years old and plastics do seem to become brittle with age. Also, it gets a lot of use – approximately 150 days per year. Without removing the tray there’s no knowing how deep the cracks penetrate. And if the old tray has to come out, it makes sense to replace it with a new one. Should the cracks go all the way through then the floor is going to become damp and eventually lead to rot. After so many years an identical replacement was impossible to find however, a suitable tray was found at https://www.grasshopperleisure.co.uk/ Although it was going to need some modification.
Before I started removing the shower tray, I unscrewed the bifold door. Only when I had it removed and outside, did I realize how coated with limescale it had become. I set to with vinegar and a paintbrush. Eventually, it came up looking like new.
With the six screws removed from the corner unit, the moulding pulled away from the wall, exposing the water pipes behind it. To remove the tap unit completely the water pipes needed disconnecting. Next, I unscrewed the eight screw caps and screws holding in the shower tray. With the screws and the drain outlet removed I expected the shower tray to lift out, but not a chance. It was firmly glued to the floor with 6mm x12mm strips of adhesive pads along each moulded channel. It would yield to nothing less than a garden spade thrust under the tray. Of course, the tray came out in pieces – shattering along the cracks I noticed several weeks ago. Finally, all was removed and I was relieved to see the wood floor was quite dry and sound.
With the new tray temporarily in place, I could see at once that the drain hole in the floor would need re-cutting. Also, the new tray was smaller than the previous one. There were gaps all around it – 15mm down each side and around 40mm along the back.. Leaving the tray in place, I marked out the position of the new outlet. Then I began cutting the holes for the new drain – 90mm diameter on the top sheet of the floor and 40mm through the bottom sheet.
The old tray had been attached to the floor with 12mmx6mm sticky, spongy strips which also reinforced the fan of ridges across the tray. I used silicone sealant to overfill the grooves on the new tray so that the cured sealant would support the ridges, and at the same time the excess would squeeze over the floor and when cured will hold the tray in place. Some bags of sand on the tray held it down whilst it cured.
Next day some thin but flexible plastic angle was glued between the top surfaces of the shower tray and the walls around the cubicle. Later, when it was completely dry, lengths of upvc window trims were selected from a variety of stock widths. Each piece was measured and mitred then attached with white sanitary silicone to the angle which was laid down yesterday. Because the new shower tray was considerably deeper than the original, the corner unit needed to be raised. That also required the water pipes to be extended by about three inches.
The bifold door also wouldn’t fit in its original position so that also needed to be raised. With a bead of silicone run down the inside of the door frame and around the tap unit, the job was finished.
16….Changing a tow hitch boot.
Whilst I was away in Spain I noticed that the rubber boot on my Winterhoff hitch was beginning to swell and tear. It was time to replace it before dirt got in to contaminate the grease.
The disintegrating boot.
The method for changing is the same for both Winterhoff and Alko stabilizers. Also, these notes and pictures may be of help to anyone wishing to change their hitch from Alko to Winterhoff or vice versa.
I began by removing the A-frame cover which was held in place by four self-tapper screws. Both Winterhoff and Alko hitches are attached to the drawbar by two 12mm bolts. Both bolts have to be removed. However, before removing the rear-most bolt, the one in my picture marked with a red dot,
a piece of 12mm rod needs to be tapped into the hole to hold the end of the hydraulic damper in position. The rod needs to be slightly shorter than the diameter of the drawbar – which on most Alko caravan chassis is 50mm.
The holding bar knocks out the bolt.
Should you remove the bolt without fitting a holding bar, the damper will relax and move away from it’s fixing position.
The drawbar with the bar filling the hole.
With the bolts removed and the rod holding the damper in position, the hitch can be lifted off the drawbar, allowing the old boot to be removed. Whilst the hitch was on the workbench I took the opportunity to clean up the two pads with some fine wet&dry paper.
The upside-down hitch showing the rear pad.
I then hitched it onto the car’s tow ball to check that there was no movement. On the Winterhoff hitch, there is a pin which moves along a scale to show when new pads are required.
The hitch fitted to the car’s tow ball.
When fitting the new rubber boot, it first needs to be stretched over the plastic insert in the housing on the A-frame. With the new boot fitted the stabilizer can be bolted back onto the drawbar, replacing the front bolt first. Being careful not to damage the thread, the rear bolt is used to drift out the holding bar and with some new self-locking nuts tightened to 90Nm, the job was finished.
17. Changing the 12volt lighting.
Avondale fitted two G4 halogen lights under the overhead cupboards to light up the sink unit area and cooker.
They gave a good light but they ran very hot which was possibly one of the reasons that the bulbs didn’t last very long. And they used a considerable amount of battery power compared with more modern lights. It was maybe time to replace them with LEDs. Browsing eBay I found sets of four lights. This is the kit.
I thought that since I was replacing the two G4s with the LEDs, I would add two extra ones above the window. The whole job was easily done in a morning. Unlike the G4 lights which require a new bulb from time to time, these LEDs are not replaceable but since they have a supposedly 20,000-hour life, it’s expected that they will last for a good few years. Each light also consumes only 1.8 watts against the G4’s 10watts each. They are available in warm or cool white. My preference is for the warm – the cool light appears very clinical.
First I disconnected the old lights. They were connected with two male/female spade connectors which are housed under a plastic cover fitted inside the cupboard. With the old light disconnected, the fitting came away by removing three screws. The bezel for the new light was fixed first with the two screws provided. The new wires passed through the bezel, through the existing hole and into the cupboard.
For the two additional lights, a hole was drilled in the cupboard side through which the wires would go along the shelf above the window. Again, the bezels were fixed first with the LEDs snapping into them.
The wires were threaded through the hole and the three pairs of wire were grouped into negatives and positives. A male spade connector was crimped onto each group of three wires.
It is essential that the polarity of each light is correct since if positive and negative are reversed, the light won’t work.
To finish the job and to hide the wiring to the two new lights, I needed a piece of pelmet. A few years ago I found some one-metre wide rolls of Fablon (sticky-backed plastic) which was a good match for the woodwork in my van. I bought one to keep for the future. This is what I used. Also in my workshop, I had some uPVC window moulding trim. A length was cut that would fit between the two cupboards. A strip of Fablon was also cut and the plastic trim covered with it. The pelmet was finally fixed along the shelf with some double-sided sticky pads.
A rearview camera and some interior lights.
It’s several years ago since I fitted my rearview camera on my caravan. This is the inexpensive kit from eBay which I used.
However, I discovered on my last tow that it had stopped working. The monitor was lit, but no picture. As I wanted to fit some additional lights in the van, I thought I would rewire the camera at the same time.
There wasn’t a lighting circuit on the nearside of the van so I decided to put in new wiring direct from the caravan battery. I connected a negative and positive from the two battery terminals then into the under-seat locker where they connected to a four fuse block.
The kit of LED lights came from eBay which matched those I got previously to replace some halogen lights over the sink area. Two went in the bathroom
and the other two below the cupboards over the worktop.
Switches for both sets were fitted nearby with all the wiring hidden inside cupboards or behind panels.
I decided to remove the camera wiring from the fridge circuit and wire it to one of the fused outputs with its own control switch in the caravan. The wiring went through the floor alongside the mover cables. Then from there, along the caravan chassis to the camera. When I originally fitted the camera I didn’t want to drill the rear panel of the caravan so I settled on fitting it under the floor of the van.
It gives a ‘worm’s-eye’ view but I’m happy with that.
To protect the connecting plugs from any road spray I fixed a ‘choc-box’ to the underside of the floor and enclosed the plugs and sockets within the box. Wiring was fixed to the floor with staples, then across to the chassis. The monitor is attached to the dashboard by means of a rubber suction pad with the cable going under the rubber mat in the boot.
I also fitted a 12volt cigar lighter socket in the caravan wired back to the fuse block and protected with a 10amp fuse. This I think will be useful for using a tyre pump for the caravan tyres when the car isn’t close-by.
19. Servicing the fridge
I arrived in Portsmouth in the evening to spend the night on the dockside ready for departure at 08.45 the next day. That was towards the end of October last year. The BF guy assured me that I wouldn’t need to move the outfit until 05.30 the next morning, so I locked the car and got settled in the caravan. My fridge was brim-full so the first job was to get it running on gas. But it wasn’t to be. As soon as I released the gas valve, the pilot light went out. Even after holding for several minutes, the light still went out. Finally, I got a walking stick from the car and wedged it between the gas valve plunger and the drawer unit across the gangway. Success! The fridge temperature began to drop. After fifteen minutes I removed the stick – but the pilot light still went out. The fridge had definitely developed a fault. I relit it – and replaced the stick. Throughout the evening the fridge maintained a low temperature and it was fine until the early hours when I needed to limbo dance across to the bathroom!
A note of warning here – there are risks attached to artificially holding open a gas valve. That’s the job of the thermocouple. When the bulb heats up, it sends an ‘open’ signal to the gas valve. As it cools down, the gas valve closes. Now the danger in artificially holding open the valve is that, should the pilot light get blown out, the gas valve would remain open, filling the space with gas – causing an explosive situation.
5am – and it was time to start preparing to move so I removed the walking stick and the pilot light went out. I turned the gas off at the bottle. There was definitely a job on the to-do-list. Throughout the next four months in Spain the fridge worked well on site electric. In fact, I didn’t use any gas at all.
Only now, towards the end of May have I got around to thinking about doing some work on the caravan. During the eight years that I’ve owned the van, the fridge hasn’t had any attention so a service was well overdue. But that calls for the fridge to be pulled out. First I removed the four covers inside the fridge and then the screws securing the fridge in its housing. The fridge pulled forward three or four inches but then was held because of the gas supply pipe. To reach that, I had to remove the sink. Once that was out, the compression fitting on the gas pipe could be loosened and the joint pulled apart. Next, the two electric cables were disconnected. After that was done, the fridge was free to pull forward, out of its housing and laid on its front.
First the burner cover was removed and the burner itself was unscrewed.
With the gas union disconnected, the tiny jet was shaken out. It’s important that the hole in the jet isn’t probed – a blast of air is sufficient to clear any debris. Fitted on either side of the gas supply is the thermocouple bulb and the piezo spark igniter.
Both needed to be removed. After taking out the baffle from the chimney, I used a long wire brush to remove soot, rust and other debris inside the chimney, followed by a hard blow through. Next, it was time to test the thermocouple so the nipple was unscrewed from the gas valve.
With a candle flame applied to the thermocouple bulb, using a voltmeter, a reading was taken. It showed a little over 19mV.
Using some wire wool, I gave the bulb a clean and took another reading. Just the same. A satisfactory reading would have been in excess of 25. Fortunately, I had a new thermocouple on stand-by. Not identical but the same length. New thermocouples are available from caravan dealers for around £40+ but they are also available on eBay from a tenner and they all use similar unions. They come in various lengths. The burner was reassembled and re-fixed at the bottom of the chimney. With the fridge standing on its base, I connected a temporary pipe across the break in the gas supply pipe. When the gas cleared from the pipework, I held the gas valve open, pressed the piezo plunger a few times and saw the gas ignite. After a few seconds, I released the gas valve and the pilot continued to burn. Success!
As they say in Haynes – refitting is a reversal of removal. It’s quite a struggle to get the fridge back into its housing because of its weight and the fact that the fridge requires lifting on to two wooden bearers.
If parts are carefully laid out as they are removed, nothing is missed on reassembly. Once the fridge was secured, the sink could be replaced. The flue was correctly positioned working from the outside through the top fridge vent.
Finally, with the gas bottle turned on, the oven was lit, the fire was lit and the fridge started. A manometer was connected into the gas supply and the appliances turned off, one by one. Then the gas bottle was turned off leaving the manometer showing a reading of 39mb.
It was gratifying to go for a coffee, then come back to see the pressure was holding.
Finally, with the gas bottle turned on, the oven was lit, the fire was lit and the fridge started. A manometer was connected into the gas supply and the appliances turned off, one by one. Then the gas bottle was turned off leaving the manometer showing a reading of 39mb. It was gratifying to go for a coffee, then come back to see the pressure was holding.
20 – Fitting a Voltmeter/Ammeter to the mains electric.
During last winter’s stay in Spain, more than once, in the early morning, I experienced the outside power bollard tripping. Fortunately, the power box is unlocked so it was an easy matter to turn off some appliances, then go out and switch the power on again. Eventually, I realized that it was my microwave oven which was drawing much more current than I expected it to. After all, it’s only a 700-watt model, so theoretically (in Spain) it should draw approximately 3amps. In actual fact it’s draw is almost 6amps. That together with the fire on the 1000W setting, plus the fridge, plus (maybe) the water heater and maybe the battery charging, it should have coped. However, it didn’t. When I returned home I decided to fit a voltmeter.
It’s obtainable from Amazon here:- – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Digital-Voltmeter-Ammeter-80-300V-Transformer/dp/B019MK13VS
Also it’s available on eBay at a lower price.
The wiring in the caravan needs to be modified so that the positive wire passes through the coil. It won’t work by putting the complete lead through the coil since one lead will cancel out the other. Working from the diagram shows the layout.
In my caravan, I’ve removed the radio since I never use it. With a new facia made up from a piece of Fablon over a piece of plastic, the meter is fitted into that with the coil and extra wiring sitting in the space previously occupied by the radio.
The additional meter records the outside temperature.
21 – Checking your hot water pipe..
If your caravan is getting on in years and it gets a lot of use, you would be well advised to take a look at your hot water supply pipe where it leaves the top of the Truma boiler. The 12mm plastic pipe is described as being ‘semi-rigid’ however with age and constant heating up, the first few inches of the pipe eventually becomes hard and brittle – although it may appear to be sound.
During my recent stay in Spain, as I refilled the Aquaroll one morning, I noticed a constant dripping of water from behind the skirt rail. I went inside the caravan to look inside the bed locker. It was there that I noticed the steady drip from the angled fitting at the top of the boiler. Further examination showed a split close to the end of the plastic pipe.
As the water heats up, it expands and becomes pressurized so is forced out of any weak point. At the time, all I could do was to cut off a few inches of the pipe and refit it. Only now have I got around to removing two metres of the old pipe and fitting some new stuff. Most caravans use connectors known as John Guest fittings, with the plastic pipe being 12mm outside diameter and 10mm inside. The fittings rely on the pipe being cut square so that it fits tightly into an O-ring within the fitting. As it is pushed home, it takes with it a collet and stainless steel teeth. When the collet is pulled away from the fitting, the teeth grip the plastic pipe and prevent it being removed. To release the joint, all that is required is to push the collet towards the centre of the fitting, at the same time, pulling on the pipe. Connectors are reusable.
With two meters of new pipe and a new John Guest straight connector, it was a comparatively short job to cut out two metres of old pipe, fit the connector on the cut end and insert the new pipe. Some new zip ties hold the pipes secure. As the van was in storage alongside my house, I could fill the system, allow it to heat up for a while, then check for any leakage.
22 – Water pump failure.
When I was away on my last caravan tour, I got up one morning to find there was no water at the taps. After breakfast, I set about trying to find out why. With the tap opened, there was no voltage at the pump socket and the impeller appeared to be seized. Replacing the blade fuse restored the power to the socket, and my cheapo reserve pump kept the taps supplied (rather sluggishly) for the remainder of my stay. However later in the day, I found the pump was working, but without raising any water. I suspected an air leak around the O-rings on the socket. I replaced them and the pump worked correctly for the rest of my stay.
There used to be a time when I could hear the buzzing of the pump in the Aquaroll. But now, even with hearing aids, I don’t hear it when it’s working. Very likely the pump had worked for several hours during the night, before eventually over-heating, seizing and blowing the fuse.
It was time for a modification. What I needed was a light to show when the pump was switched on. Several positions were considered for the light but finally, I decided the easiest place to install an LED, was below the pump switch itself.
The faceplate was removed and drilled for an 8mm hole. An LED was glued into a broken mount rescued from the scrap box.
A length of cable was soldered then covered with heat shrink to the two leads.
The cable was sufficient to run across to the side of the van, then alongside the water pipes to the pump socket. There it was connected to the two terminals on the rear of the socket.
LEDs are polarity conscious so positive needs to go to positive and neg to neg. It won’t work if reversed.
Now, when a tap is opened, the light flashes – but more importantly, should the pump startup because of a fall in pressure, the light will alert me to the pump working its way into the rubbish bin.
23 – A change of voltmeter
The volt meter fitted in my old Avondale caravan had a simple pointer registering on a red/yellow/green scale. Now, twenty years on, I felt it was time for an improvement, so on a cold, wet afternoon last week, I decided to update it. Several weeks ago I purchased a digital volt meter from ebay – Item 352627865033.
With the electric disconnected from the van, I removed the control panel, then unplugged the mains supply together with the two connectors for power services. The control unit could then be taken into the garage. The leads to the volt meter were cut so that the connector was saved, and the old voltmeter pried out of it’s fixing hole. Masking tape was then applied to the fascia so that an enlarged hole to suit the new meter could be marked out and then cut.
With a bit more filing, the new volt meter snapped into place. The two leads were soldered to the old plug and the joints covered with heat shrink. Connection were remade and the unit screwed back into its position within the locker. Total time – about two hours. Total cost – less than £3.
24 – Fluorescent ceiling lights converted to LEDs
In addition to the mains electric lights, my caravan is fitted with four fluorescent ceiling lights, which are all fine and all functioning well, but if there’s room for improvement at a modest cost, I like to modify. So the improvement with the change to LED is that they provide a similar amount of light, but at a reduced demand on the 12 volt battery. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been converting the fluorescent fittings to LED.. After the fitting has been removed from the ceiling, it needs to be completely dismantled.
All of it, except for the back-plate, the end covers and the switch can be got rid of. The back plates on mine are ridged and quite thin, so I purchased a one metre length of 50mmx3mm aluminium strip. The length was cut into suitable pieces to fit between the end caps and was then attached to the base plate with double -backed adhesive pads. Adhesive pads are sufficient because when the fitting is once again screwed to the ceiling, the screws pass through the aluminium strips.
LED strip can be purchased by the metre, five metres or even 10metres. It comes in 8mm and 10mm widths. It can also be waterproof or not. The waterproofing is a strip of plastic covering the individual LEDs. Since it’s being used inside, non-waterproof is fine. Finally, the strips are graded by Lumen from cold to warm white.
The individual strips need to be connected together. This can be done by soldering short lengths of wire however, snap connectors can be bought – and again these come in 8 and 10mm widths.
The strips of LED should only be cut at the marks indicated along the length of the ribbon – about every 50mm or so.. Each side is also marked positive or negative, since they are polarity conscious. Get the strips the wrong way round, and they won’t work. Once they are cut, they need to be joined with the connectors. Under the hinged cover there are two tiny terminals. The cut end push under the terminals. When the cover is closed, the pressure holds the strip in place. I found it best to join the four lengths, then test, before fixing them down on the base plate. Having made sure each strip works, the protective backing is peeled off and then fixed to the base plate. To control the light, the original switch needs to be incorporated into the circuit so there’s a little bit of soldering to do. The soldered joints are insulated with lengths of heat-shrink.
After the ceiling lights were completed, I added some lengths of LED strip under the curtain pelmets around the seating area of the van.
LED lights are designed to work on a 12 volts supply, but usually our caravans when plugged into the mains are operating at 13.8 volts. When they operate at the higher voltage, the LEDs tend to overheat. The adhesive can then begin to melt and loose it’s grip and over time, some of the individual LEDs can even fail. The answer is to run the lights at a controlled 12 volts. From the caravan fuse box, I identified the two wires supplying the ceiling lights. I cut the cables and inserted a drop down converter.
Without the converter fitted, after a couple of hours, the pelmet LEDs were running at around 70C. With the converter fitted, they run at not more than 30C.