A break­away ca­ble clar­i­fi­ca­tion

Practical Caravan - - Caravan Chat -

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.”


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


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.


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.


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


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


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


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

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