A breakaway cable clarification
I THOUGHT READERS of Practical Caravan might be interested to hear about this little incident. Recently we were heading along the motorway towards Europort in Rotterdam to catch our ferry back to Hull. All of a sudden a police car pulled in front of us and within seconds, a flashing red sign on the back window instructed us to follow him. Off the motorway and on a quiet slip road, the two officers approached our car and asked to see my driving licence and vehicle papers. They then walked towards our towbar. “Do you realise it’s illegal to have your breakaway cable wrapped around the towball?” one of them asked, going on to explain that if the caravan unhitched while in motion, the breakaway cable would unhitch too, instead of pulling the van to a halt. I explained that this was the way I had always attached my breakaway cable and most UK caravanners did the same. The officer then showed me a designated attachment point on my towbar, which I have to say, I had never noticed before, and connected it for me. After some polite conversation, they wished us a pleasant journey. My advice to everyone is to check if you have a designated attachment point on your towbar, before your next trip. Andrew Clark
Nigel Hutson replies You can’t wrap a breakaway cable around a towball on Dutch-registered vehicles. Having another means of attaching them is mandatory in the Netherlands.
In fact, they have clamps like this (see image, top left) readily available at dealerships. I hasten to add, though, that the Vienna Convention would cover such things, to the point that looping the cable as the police officer did should have been acceptable.
However, depending on the type of breakaway cable fitted, many of the attaching points on the towbar aren’t wide enough for the clip to pass through and loop back on itself – they need a carabiner-type clip. If you clip the ‘usual’
standard-fit cable clip to one of those attachments, it’s worse than looping the cable over the towbar, as it will snap without pulling the brakes on.
Take a look at my DIY Mechanic on breakaway cables (October 2017 issue, p120) to see how to fit a carabiner clip.”
PET SAFETY WHILE YOU’RE ON TOUR
I’d like to share this brilliant idea with Practical Caravan readers who take their pet on tour. Everyone should have a dog tag on their pouch, and most will also have them on their cats – this will have your home address engraved on the disc. But what would happen if your pet got lost while you were away? I expect most people, including us, never gave it a thought – how would we be able to find our labradoodle? Now we add a collar ID barrel next to his normal tag whenever we go away and change it to the address of the caravan site, along with our contact number. We’d be very sad if he went missing, but at least we’d stand a chance that if someone did find him, he’d be returned to us. Chris Wilkinson
WHY SHUT DOWN IN THE BUSY SEASON?
We have owned a British-built caravan for just over two years from new and felt reassured at the time of purchase with the warranty offered. We have since been waiting for more than one year for a replacement for our rusty locker hinge bracket, and more than six months for a reading light switch. We hold out no hope for the television socket that ‘disappeared’ down a hole in the van on our last holiday. I’m sure if we were to offer to purchase the parts to be fitted at our own expense by an approved engineer, we would have seen them by now. Imagine our amazement, too, when we got in touch with the manufacturer’s customer service department in the last week of July, only to hear a recorded message announcing that the company was on its annual shutdown and would be back on 20 August – during the busiest period for things to go wrong! Lucky for us, we love our caravan, but aftersales service is far from acceptable. Sarah and Steve Green
Niall Hampton replies August’s factory shutdown may sound like a throwback to Victorian times, but to be fair to the manufacturers, this is their only opportunity for installing new plant or servicing or replenishing tired machinery, without disrupting production.
We omitted the name of the manufacturer concerned, as all members of the Big Five take a break in August. We would have been happy to raise your concerns with the relevant customer services department, but as we went to press, they were on factory shutdown.
BUYER’S GUIDE GETS A WRONG NUMBER
On reading the September issue, I noticed incorrect page numbering in the Buyer’s Guide section. Page 122 should have been set on p121, and p121 should be p122. Philip Wharf
Niall Hampton replies Thanks for writing in about this, Philip, and to the other readers who did the same. Not wanting to offer a ‘dog ate my homework’style excuse, the September issue was the first to be produced using Future Publishing’s bespoke workflow system, which is different to the one PC used at Haymarket. Sadly this glitch got through and wasn’t spotted. Apologies for any confusion, and to the manufacturers affected.
A BIG THANK YOU TO SPECIALISED COVERS
I would like to join Bryan Powell (Summer Special issue, p8), in praising an accessories manufacturer, in this case, Specialised Covers. Having purchased a towing cover from them, we went away on a weekend break with our grandson. While preparing to return home, we fitted the cover and strapped everything down, with me thinking all of the straps had been attached. I am usually very careful to check around the caravan before departure, but on this occasion, owing to the weather turning a little wild, I was rushing a bit and didn’t notice the two front straps left behind on the ground. Arriving home and realising they were missing, I phoned Specialised Covers to see if I could buy two new ones. The customer service rep said that it wouldn’t be a problem and there would be no charge for the items. Companies like this should receive the highest accolade possible, and should we need a new cover at some point, I would have no hesitation in buying from them again. What a relief it is to have companies like these on the caravanner’s side! Geoff Burch
NEWBIES JUST NEED PRACTICAL CARAVAN
About to start on an exciting life of retirement in our early 60s, my wife and I decided to have our first serious look at caravanning. With some trepidation, not really knowing where to start, we bought the Summer Special edition of Practical Caravan. What an amazing reference for caravan manufacturers, model comparisons, layouts, accessories, campsites and tow car reviews, and what a piece of luck that our first copy had articles just for newbies like us – Caravan Basics: How do I match my car and caravan? and Caravanning for Newbies part 4 (I am ordering back issues to obtain parts 1-3). What a really super resource Practical Caravan will be for us. I have subscribed straight away and started making lists from the articles – it has unravelled our confusion and pointed us in the right direction. We are renting a caravan in September and taking it to a site on the North Devon coast for five days to try it out, and I daresay we will then be looking to buy our first van. We look forward to holidays of freedom and spontaneity. Thank you for providing this amazing resource. Teddy and Valerie Anson
THE MANY USES OF PLUMBING CLIPS
Regarding ‘How to… fit a retainer for your caravan step’ (September issue, p106), I was pleased to see the handy DIY use of plumbing clips in Tony’s helpful article. I have found another use for these hinge-top clips for pipes, to secure the spring legs of our table. Since new, it has shown an irritating tendency to partially unfold itself while still in its storage location in the wardrobe.
One hinge-top clip secured to the underside of the table and the hinge clipped shut, and no more self-expanding table. The clips are cheap enough to replace should the hinge part snap off with repeated use, although we don’t actually use the table that often. Incidentally, this type of hinge can be quite difficult to obtain from the mainstream DIY chains, so a visit to the plumber’s merchant was a good idea – and much cheaper! Mark Russell
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN AVOID A SOAKING
I thought Practical Caravan readers might be interested in an easy solution to what can sometimes be a rather annoying problem. Let’s imagine this scenario. You arrive with your caravan at your chosen site and get it into position on your allocated serviced pitch. You connect up to the fresh water supply and the drain for your waste water, and it looks as though all is well. You then decide that you want to draw off some water from the tap provided on your serviced pitch. However, you find the pipe connector is very tight because of the water pressure and when you finally do manage to remove the connector, you get sprayed with water. Having thought about this for some time, I have found an easy solution to this very irritating problem. The next time you have been dragged to the local garden centre, head for the area that stocks hosepipes and accessories. Then, all you need to do is to purchase a Y-shaped tap connector. This simple, inexpensive item will, in effect, give you two separate connections from the one tap. So now when you need to draw water from the site tap, there will be no need for you to struggle to disconnect your water supply to the caravan. Just open the tap on the other side of the Y piece and you will stay dry. Happy days! Victor Turner
The Dutch solution for attaching your breakaway cable to a detachable towbar
A retractable tow bar, with an eyelet for attaching the breakaway cable
Our Summer Special issue focused on Cornwall, but had lots of tips for caravanners everywhere, whether old hands or new to the pastime
All you really need is a Y-shaped tap connector, and you’ll stay dry
Tony Brown provided one use for plumbing clips in our September issue, but there must be lots more