TOP 5 TOW VE­HI­CLE MODS

TOW­ING YOUR CAM­PER DOESN’T NEED TO BE HARD; THESE FIVE SIM­PLE MODS CAN SAVE YOUR BACK, AND YOUR WAL­LET.

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS AND PICS DAN EVERETT

Save your back and your wal­let

1. HELPER AIRBAGS

We’ll kick this list off with one that every sin­gle tow rig should be run­ning. When you’re tow­ing a fully-laden cam­per, the lever­age ap­plied through the tow­bar and into the rear axle can am­plify to a point where it ef­fec­tively pushes the rear end of your tow rig down to the equiv­a­lent of 240kg or more, ex­ces­sively sag­ging the rear sus­pen­sion. This can not only pre­ma­turely wear rear sus­pen­sion com­po­nents but can also re­move vi­tal trac­tion from the front end, mess with sus­pen­sion geom­e­try, cause ex­ces­sive tyre wear and, in ex­treme cases, con­trib­ute to los­ing con­trol.

The ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion is re­place­ment rear springs with a heav­ier rat­ing to han­dle the loads seen when tow­ing, but this can leave you with an un­com­fort­ably stiff ride as soon as the cam­per is un­hitched. Helper airbags work as an as­sis­tant to the main spring, tem­po­rar­ily in­creas­ing the weight your ve­hi­cle can carry be­fore the sus­pen­sion sags to un­safe lev­els. If you’re tak­ing off for the Big Lap with the cam­per con­nected the en­tire time, your best bet is a set of suit­ably stiff rear springs; for the rest of us un­lucky bug­gers, a set of helper airbags pro­vide the per­fect mid­dle ground. Kits can be had in the $200-$300 range but do re­quire a mod­icum of me­chan­i­cal knowl­edge.

2. DIESEL FUEL FIL­TER

The last decade has seen a ver­i­ta­ble boom in diesel tow tugs. They of­fer pre­vi­ously un­heard of lev­els of torque mak­ing for smooth tow­ing, hatch­back-like fuel ef­fi­ciency, and a life­span that, frankly, no mod­ern ve­hi­cle should be ca­pa­ble of. They’re tremen­dous things, but quickly fall apart when wa­ter is added to the equa­tion, par­tic­u­larly with late model com­mon-rail en­gines. Through­out the com­mon-rail sys­tem there are high pres­sure fuel pumps and in­jec­tors that re­quire lu­bri­ca­tion with mi­cro­scopic tol­er­ances. Diesel fuel it­self is es­sen­tially a mild type of oil that lubri­cates the fuel sys­tem as it runs through it. When even a small amount of wa­ter is in­tro­duced to the sys­tem these com­po­nents can run un-lu­bri­cated caus­ing cat­a­strophic fail­ure, eas­ily cost­ing in the five fig­ures to fix.

In high turnover ar­eas like cap­i­tal cities and re­gional cen­tres, there’s lit­tle chance of wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion, but in qui­eter ser­vice sta­tions with in­fe­rior tanks or fuel that sits for longer, it’s not un­com­mon to have wa­ter

con­tam­i­na­tion is­sues. A qual­ity sys­tem can cost in the $200-$300 mark and can not only save you thou­sands in en­gine re­pairs but can also pre­vent ru­ined trips from end­ing in you sit­ting on the side of the high­way with a bro­ken en­gine and frus­tra­tion all round.

3. RE­VERSE CAM­ERA

If you’ve ever found your­self strug­gling to per­fectly line up the tow­ball into the re­ceiver, don’t stress; it’s some­thing we’ve all been through time and time again.

It can be ex­cep­tion­ally hard when con­nect­ing by your­self, on steep or un­even ter­rain, or when a sharp ap­proach an­gle is re­quired for tight sites. Imag­ine if, while you were re­vers­ing, in­stead of ‘guessti­mat­ing’ in the hope of avoid­ing a cam­per-tow tug bumper col­li­sion, you could get the per­fect van­tage point of your tow­ball and line it up ac­cu­rately and quickly. With a re­vers­ing cam­era, you can.

While nor­mally used to en­sure the area be­hind you is clear when re­vers­ing, they’re also ideal for lin­ing up tow­balls with pin­point ac­cu­racy.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to re­vers­ing cam­era sys­tems. High end units can of­fer all sorts of add-ons from au­dio and high-def res­o­lu­tions right through to night-vi­sion ca­pa­bil­ity but, for the bud­get-ori­en­tated, you can buy a sim­ple kit and in­stall it your­self for less than the price of a tank of fuel. When you con­sider the time you’ll save hav­ing 30 at­tempts lin­ing up the tow­ball, it’ll pay for it­self in no time.

4. WORK LIGHT

Travel is un­pre­dictable. It’s just the na­ture of push­ing out­side your own lit­tle com­fort zone and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing things very few oth­ers will. Un­for­tu­nately, this means we’re of­ten mak­ing or break­ing camp in low-light sit­u­a­tions.

If you’re lucky enough to have a cam­per that re­quires very lit­tle set up, it might not in­con­ve­nience you at all but, for those set­ting up awn­ings, ham­mer­ing in pegs or col­lect­ing wood for a camp­fire, a set of qual­ity work lights on your tow rig can be a God-send at night. The most com­mon are small units on the rear bar which will al­low easy con­nect­ing and dis­con­nect­ing of the cam­per at night, but more elab­o­rate side light­ing can be per­fect for a wide range of uses. For the light it­self, you can ex­pect to pay any­where from $30-$300, de­pend­ing on qual­ity, but you’ll need to fac­tor in around an ex­tra $20-$30 for wiring, re­lays and switches.

5. CEN­TRE CON­SOLE FRIDGE

While some mod­i­fi­ca­tions are safety up­grades, and oth­ers make set­ups eas­ier and faster, this one is a lit­tle left of field. Cen­tre con­sole fridges have be­come huge in the 4WD scene and are start­ing to fil­ter their way into the RV in­dus­try as well. They’re gen­er­ally around the 10L mark so are no sub­sti­tute for a full size fridge, but give plenty of ex­tra room for a hand­ful of cold cans of drink, a few bits and pieces for road-side sand­wiches or even for an af­ter­noon snack down by the beach.

When you’re on the road for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time, they can save the has­sle of find­ing some­where to pull off the high­way to ac­cess the fridge in your cam­per, or can serve as a por­ta­ble so­lu­tion when you’re off on a day trip away from base camp. They’re one of those mod­i­fi­ca­tions that while far from vi­tal, are some­thing you’ll won­der how you ever lived with­out. Bud­get cool­ing-only op­tions can be picked up for as lit­tle as $100 and sim­ply strap down with a spare seat belt.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: Fit­ting helper bags is within the scope of an ex­pe­ri­enced DIYer; Helper bags stiffen sus­pen­sion only when ex­cess weight is ap­plied, for a welcome boost on tow with­out im­pact­ing your daily drive; Diesel fil­ters pro­tect com­mon-rail diesel en­gines from wa­ter-con­tam­i­nated fuel sources out on the tracks; Re­vers­ing cam­eras sim­plify hitch­ing up; Low cost sys­tems are avail­able for the bud­get-con­scious buyer; The in-car dis­play will make hitch­ing and re­vers­ing a breeze; Once in­stalled, a diesel fuel fil­ter is cheap and rel­a­tively easy to re­place.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: A ve­hi­cle-mounted work light will aid set­ting up camp in the dark; Dis­crete light­ing at the tow­ball is a God-send for eas­ier hitch­ing and un­hitch­ing; Quickly and eas­ily sat­isfy lit­tle ap­petites out on the road with a cen­tre con­sole fridge.

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