A car­a­van needs TLC, too

One of the burn­ing ques­tions among new, and even some old, car­a­van­ners is about how you’re sup­posed to store your car­a­van when the hol­i­day’s over.

Go! Drive and Camp Camp Guide - - Front Page -

Your car­a­van re­quires more than just cold wa­ter and soap

Around the camp­fire and on in­ter­net fo­rums, car­a­van­ners have all sorts of opin­ions on the right way to do it. Many say the only place you should con­sider is un­der a roof, be­tween four walls and be­hind a closed door. Some even go so far as build­ing a tiled car­a­van garage out­side their homes. Oth­ers say un­der a shaded car­port is just fine.

Then there are var­i­ous opin­ions on the pop-up roof – one group of campers say it has to be open while you’re not us­ing the car­a­van, while oth­ers are adamant that it should be closed.

An­other point of de­bate is whether the car­a­van can be stored on its own wheels or if they should be re­moved. Louis Oosthuizen would like to know the “ul­ti­mate an­swer” on go Drive & Camp’s Face­book page. But Jo­hannes Knipe from J.K. Car­a­vans in Cape Town says there isn’t re­ally a sin­gle an­swer or method. He says it de­pends on how of­ten you use your car­a­van and for how long it’s stored at a time.

And you shouldn’t only con­sider how you store your car­a­van – how you main­tain and look af­ter it is equally im­por­tant. Think of it as the three pil­lars of car­a­van care: Store, Seal and Ser­vice.

STOR­ING IT

While it’s an ad­van­tage to have a garage for your car­a­van, it’s def­i­nitely not es­sen­tial. An ex­tra garage can be an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise and if you don’t have that kind of money to throw around, there are other op­tions. A car­port made of shade cloth that can block out 90% sun­light is suf­fi­cient, says Jo­hannes, who’s been work­ing in the car­a­van re­pair in­dus­try for over 30 years. “My own Exclusive stands un­der a shade­cloth car­port. I like it, be­cause it gets some air while it’s be­ing stored in­stead of stand­ing there sweat­ing, like they do un­der some car­a­van blan­kets. With all that sweat­ing, a car­a­van can eas­ily fall prey to wood rot. Don’t worry about the dust, it’ll look good as new af­ter a wash.” If you’re only stor­ing your car­a­van for a month or two be­fore your next trip, it’s not nec­es­sary to re­move the wheels or let it stand in the air with the wheels off the ground. “Ev­ery­thing de­pends on how long you plan to store it,” says Jo­hannes. “There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween park­ing and stor­ing. If the car­a­van will stand in one place for six months or longer, store it with blocks un­der the axle with the wheels re­moved, or in the air. And it’s best to lower the jockey wheel if you’re stor­ing your car­a­van for an ex­tended pe­riod, since it takes some weight off the front cor­ner stead­ies.”

TYRES

Pump it up “My car­a­van never gets stored for more than a month and a half at a time, and I’ve never kept it with the axle and wheels off the ground,” says Jo­hannes. “But you have to make sure the tyre pres­sure is cor­rect. Store it at the same tyre pres­sure you use on the road. I pump my car­a­van’s 14-inch tyres to 3.2 bar, but you can keep 13-inch tyres

at 2.8 bar.

“Tyres of­ten burst be­cause they weren’t in­flated enough. Peo­ple will tell you that a tyre that’s been in­flated too much, wears quicker in the mid­dle. But a tyres that wasn’t in­flated enough and wears more quickly at the sides has a big­ger chance of burst­ing be­cause of fric­tion. I’d rather wear them down in the mid­dle than burst one.

“Peo­ple of­ten en­gage the hand­brake when they store their car­a­van. That’s a mis­take. Once the cor­ner stead­ies are down, that car­a­van isn’t go­ing any­where. You can also add some blocks in front of and be­hind the wheels.

En­gag­ing the hand­brake just puts un­nec­es­sary strain on the ca­bles, and any mois­ture be­tween the brake pads and the drum is in ef­fect trapped in there, which could cause rust. The brake pad can even rust onto the drum.”

SEAL IT

The wa­ter­proof­ing and ser­vic­ing of your car­a­van is vi­tal to keep­ing it in good con­di­tion. Re­seal­ing a car­a­van is a job for the pro’s, how­ever, says Jo­hannes.

“Some guys will tell you they can wa­ter­proof it, but the job is done in a day. All they’re re­ally do­ing is some dec­o­ra­tion. It takes an ex­pe­ri­enced trades­man a week to wa­ter­proof a car­a­van – if there are no se­ri­ous prob­lems or things like wood rot.

“It’s re­ally hard work! You have to re­move and clean all the alu­minium strips, rub­ber seals, win­dows and ev­ery­thing that can come loose. Then you have to re­place the old stain­less or mild steel screws with new ones. Screws can rust, caus­ing the holes around them to rot, lead­ing to wood rot.”

You can’t al­ways see the small alu­minium rust holes right through the outer pan­els of a car­a­van with the naked eye, but they can also cause wood rot. You can fix the rusty parts by fit­ting a plate at the back over of the holes. “We use Buty­lene-x for seal­ing and Tectane for touch­ing up around the alu­minium strips, win­dows and sides.” (Both th­ese prod­ucts are made by the Dutch sealant man­u­fac­turer Den Braven.)

BAT­TERY

It makes no sense keep­ing the bat­tery on a charger while a car­a­van is parked or in stor­age. If you have a sec­ond car that stays at home while you go camp­ing, it’s a good idea to use its bat­tery in your car­a­van. Swop the bat­ter­ies be­fore you go camp­ing and just swop them again when you re­turn. DIS­CON­NECT IT. If your car­a­van is go­ing to be parked for a while, it’s best to give the bat­tery a rest, too.

De­pend­ing on the size of your car­a­van and the amount of win­dows, it costs be­tween R2 500 and R4 500 to wa­ter­proof it prop­erly.

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