Caravanning and RVing in Australia


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Q Any suggestions regarding a portable device that can weigh tow ball download (apart from a public weighbridge)?

I’ve heard there are hydraulic jacks that can weigh their load but not sure of make/models that would be suitable?

A There are a number of devices around that can do the job and towbar specialists like Hayman Reese dealers have them and most will lend them for a check to be made.

There are a few devices that you can buy that will do the job but to me they are not worth the expense for a usually one time weighing. I can't remember their names.

You can do it by using ordinary bathroom scales using the following method from Hayman Reese:.

(My tech savvy friend Tom, tells me that using pipes is dangerous as they can - and do - roll. He suggests that pieces of trangular timber are best)

To find the towball weight
1.     Place your bathroom scales and a brick or paver(s) the same thickness 900mm apart.
2.     Place piece of timber on top of both the scales and the brick and rest a strong plank at least 1200mm across them. Zero the scales.
3.     Rest the jockey wheel on the plank 300mm from the brick as shown above.
4.     Multiply the scale reading by 3 to obtain the towball weight. NB. The caravan should be level and ideally fully loaded with water in the tank(s).

 Q My question is "can I run a roof mounted air-conditioner or even a split system from an inverter"? I have a Hino Rainbow (7 metre) with coach air, however the compressor has died and the replacement cost is pretty horrendous. My idea is to replace the coach system with a 240 volt system so that I can be air-cooled while the engine is running and also be able to plug in at caravan site or into a genset when stationary. I realise that this would be more expensive initially but it would allow more flexibility with just one system, also freeing up a lot more space.

A  The answer is yes but. The but relates to the size of the air conditioner. The bigger the unit the more power it takes so you need to work out what size unit you will need and then how much current it takes to run it. Once you know that you can work out the size inverter needed to supply that power as a constant load. Next comes the batteries and charging system to keep the batteries up. I guess while on the move the alternator would supply enough power but when camped away from a 240v supply you need to look at the alternatives.

Q  What length is your van? I am looking to semi retire soon and travel around our vast country. I have always thought a 4x4 would be the way to go with a big van, but they aren't getting any cheaper!!! The new Land Cruiser's top range is $104,000 new... where as a new ford XT wagon is about $38,000. Big difference...

 How big of a van would you recommend behind a wagon?

 My plan was to sell our big family home and buy a flashy 4X4 and 24-25 van a live in it and travel till a ripe old age, but my wife would prefer us to down size and maybe buy a small unit or villa, and a cheaper vehicle and van to allow us to still have a place to come home to (we are in Perth)

 I think there are pro's and con's both ways, what's your thoughts based on your travels and people you have met?

A Our van is supposed to be 16'6" but I suspect it's more like 17'. It's heavy and I carry a lot of stuff so it goes about 1900kg loaded. We have two water tanks and shower/toilet plus two heavy AGM 12volt batteries and two solar panels.

The BF Falcon wagon tows it effortlessly and is the best tow vehicle we have owned. It's on dual fuel and there is no noticeable difference in power or economy between petrol and lpg. To cope with the load of full petrol and lpg tanks plus boxes of books for sale and adding the quite heavy ball load, I've fitted air suspension kits to the wagon.

We travelled without a house for some years but my wife prefers to have a base to come back to when we are not travelling. It's a bit like insurance I guess - if something really dire were to happen to the van you can at least go home till it's all sorted out.

Q I’m just writing to try to discover if your latest book is the one that my mother is looking for.  She asked me to help her find just the right book to help them plot their next trip in detail, going from Newcastle, to Qld and NT, down to Perth, up to Alice Springs and then home to Newcastle.  They hope to travel with their dog.  She’s seen a reference to a book that not only has maps and descriptions of a comprehensive array of national parks and other scenic spots around Australia, and caravan parks and other camping spots, but even has descriptions of how to find out-of-the way places, such as “you’ll see a big dead on your right, and just 110 metres from there you’ll see a gate with ‘Farmer Brown’s Turnips” on it”.  You know the kind of book I mean? 
I’m wondering if your latest book is that kind of book, in which case I’ll grab a copy for them, or with your experience in the field, can you suggest another?

A My book is helpful and has route notes on all major highways plus a lot of other information but I feel it's not the one you are after for your folks.

I have a feeling that what you want is 'Camps Australia Wide'. There's a link at the bottom of the front page of my website. I've just bought 'Camps' with 'Snaps' which shows a picture of many of the sites, for my daughter for Christmas.

Q We have just bought a Jayco Flamingo and are having problems working out why gas is not flowing into van. We have replaced the hose as the old one was leaking  but feel the gas is not coming out of the regulator. Have you any suggestions?  The previous owners said it was working fine. Yes, we are new to this. Would appreciate any info on how to go on first trip in regards to using gas and power as I am a little confused.

A It looks likely that you have struck a common problem and that your lpg regulator has failed due to getting an oily gunk in it from the gas or pipes. You will find some interesting reading on this at:

You will need to scroll down a fair way to about February.

There's also some information on the Australian Caravan Club website at:

You may be able to get the regulator replaced under warranty but don't count on it.

Q I dont know if you can help or not, but here goes. We have a fairly new caravan (24'' Supreme Spirit) and all was fine until we set off after a morning after a night of heavy rain. As soon as we set off the brakes were grabbing severely from both the foot pedal and the controller (Hayman Reece) I eased the controller right off and it seemed OK but Im not sure if it will happen if it starts raining when we are driving. I would be very grateful for your opinion.

A I always check the operation of the brakes as soon as we are up to about walking speed by using the manual over-ride. This checks that they are pulling up evenly and secondly not grabbing. After heavy rain it is not unusual for them to grab until dried out which should happen quite quickly. Driving with the over-ride on or the foot brake applied for a short distance should cure the grabbing. If it doesn't then I recommend taking it to a caravan brake specialist and getting it checked.

In my experience this never happens when driving but only after heavy rain while stationary overnight. Very damp conditions with high humidity can also cause a little grabbing at the first application.

Q Hey Lionel, I am about to acquire a 18’ tandem 1989 Seabreeze in a condition anyone would die for. It appears as though the van has been kept undercover and used sparingly for its 18 years of life. My question is about its rigid strength given that I believe it is a ‘sandwich’ structure and not framed fully as most vans are? If you have any knowledge I would be grateful. I appreciate that it is not an off-road van but would certainly want to use it on dirt roads from time to time without fear of repercussions. Internal cupboards can all be strengthened of course but I am more keen to know about the body structure and its ability to deal with torsional twist and vibration etc . any help would be great.

A I haven't had any personal experience with the Seabreeze vans but they did have a good reputation and I've never heard of any problems with their ability to handle Australian conditions.

Some makers are going back to a sandwich construction so it must be a viable alternative.

 Q Great website. We are researching caravanning etc for 4 yrs time. Will a turbo diesel Nissan Navara 4x4 2.5 L automatic be sufficient to tow a van approx 20ft with shower & toilet? Nissan tells me that this car will do the job, but friends of ours have reservations. What is your feelings on this? We plan to buy a 4x4 when our current 12yr old falcon claps out.

A It's hard to give an answer without knowing the weight of the caravan ready for the road.

The Navara diesel is a good tow vehicle and should handle the van ok - I don't have the makers specified towing weights for the current model but it could of course change before your faithful Ford kicks its clogs.

Q I am a US guy living in China.  We are considering a short RV trip from
Sydney to Melbourne or vise versa.

I have checked a couple of the links to rental companies on your
website......Bartrak, Britz, Kea, and Discovery.  All the prices are pretty
comparable.  Do you specific recommendations on which one is better in
regards to service.

I will need some help in recommendations of camping areas along the way, so
I am looking at more than just price in selecting a company.

A All the companies you mention have good reputations and I don't really have any preferences although friends from the UK used Kea and were very satisfied.

Another option is to click the link at the bottom of my front page about information for hiring a motorhome. This will put you in touch with an organisation that can give you competitive rates from a number of companies.

Q My husband and I are going to upgrade our caravan. We have a Jayco Expanda at the moment. We are looking at the new 18ft 6 Franklin G2 off road version with the ensuite or the 18ft 6  Jayco with combine toilet and shower. We don't know anybody who has a Franklin. Do you know anybody who has one and do they have any complaints about this brand.

A Sorry, I don't know anyone personally who has a Franklin but I've heard no bad reports about them.

They are designed and sold by Gary Kratzmann who has an excellent reputation so I guess that's a good recommendation.

Q I have a 17ft Jayco pop top caravan (aboy 900kg in weight) and I need some advice regarding towing as the car (a 1995 ford falcon sedan) sits so low that it scrapes the driveway when I go in and out and generally sits far to low. Of course such a situation compromises the handling and safety of the car as well.

My question is then: What is the best method of getting the car level. I have rung Pedders suspension and they reckon stiffer springs and heavier duty shockers however I do not think that this is the answer. I have heard that a good load distribution hitch is the go. Please note that I already have the level riders however they do not have an impact and (tell me if I am wrong) but I thought they were more to do with stopping the van from swaying anyway.  

A I would be very suspicious of a figure of 900kg for a 17' van. I would think it would weigh far more than that when loaded ready for the road and the only real way to find out is to take it to a weighbridge and find out the weight on the wheels with it hooked up but with the car off the bridge. Then get another reading with the van on the bridge unhooked and with the jockey wheel also on the bridge. Take one figure from the other and you have the ball load.

A weight distributing hitch transfers weight forward on to the front wheels of the vehicle giving better stability. A bit of weight is also transferred on to the the caravan wheels as well. I suspect you just have level ride round bars and believe they are not strong enough for the job. I recommend a Hayman Reese WDH with a proper hitch receiver - have a look at (You can click on 'Towing' on the menu of my website for some information)

Depending on the ball load you may need to look at getting something like Polyair suspension aids from Pedders but I think a good hitch properly set up should do the trick.

Q Is there a UK caravan forum similar to ours (Touring Oz) that I can refer a friend in England to?
A Yes there are a number but the one I belong to is called clic uk - Chat Line for Internet Campers. Members are mostly caravanners but with a smattering of tenters and motorhomers. Like us they have their ups and downs, some tech info and some good natured banter. You get to know the members even through you've never met face to face.

Besides the daily chat they have such things as caravan park reports (they call parks 'sites'!) towing specs, etc.


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