For more Q & A



Here are some of the queries I've
 had recently and my answers.
Q.I am keen to build myself a slide on camper unit for my Toyota Landcruiser ute.I would like to do the
 type that the roof folds over to make the double bed,with a tent top.
I was wondering if with your vast experience you are aware of any plans that may be available to build same.
I enjoy your articles very much in Caravan World and would appreciate any leads you may be able to give me.

A. Thanks for the email and kind remarks. 
Unfortunately I'm not going to be much help as I have no idea where you could find plans for such a project 
or even if there are any. The unit you have in mind sounds like a camping trailer and perhaps plans 
for one of those could be adapted for a slide-on. 
Q.Recently I ordered a Windsor, Statesman "Royale" and have been enquiring into which vehicle is best
 to tow it. I am convinced that I will be going for one of the Deisel Patrol models, but seeing that the 4.2litre 
model doesn't come with automatic transmission I am forced to consider a 3litre model.
 My wife suffers from bad hand cramps when driving a manual. In your opinion would a 3litre vehicle 
successfully tow this caravan?

A. It's a bit hard to answer without knowing the loaded weight of the Statesman and the towing capacity 
of the 3-litre Patrol but my thoughts are that it should do the job OK. A 3-litre diesel is a different beast
 to the same capacity in a petrol engine but if you can find an owner who tows with one you could find out
 first hand what they are capable of with a van on the back. 
Q.I wonder if you know how I can measure towball weight at home? I have pondered using bathroom 
scales and a piece of steel rod or wood on a fulcrum, offsetting the distance between a fulcrum/towball 
and fulcrum/scales it just might be possible. Not knowing if this is a linear process I thought you may 
know some crude method?
On a totally different matter, I noticed one Q/A related to "how to charge an in van battery. I spoke to a 
very obliging and knowledgble Lee Coupe of ARB in Osborne Park WA 08 92443553 who explained
 that one must run a heavy guage wire from the car to the caravan via a separate plug/socket. 
This ensures no voltage drop between the car and the caravan battery and it will then become fully charged.

A.Thanks for the email and query about towball weight. If you go to:
 <>  and click on the menu on the right side of the page 
on 'Determining GTW & TW Capacities' you will find this plus a picture of how to do it with bathroom scales. 
Thanks for your electrician mate's tip about charging in van batteries. I did know this  - it's particularly
 important if you use a 3-way fridge on 12 volts when travelling. 
Q.(As it arrived!) lionel i am considering buying a 5th wlr      they r few and far between in oz.   but lately
 have been reviewed in the c/van mags.   what r their  downsides    I have found plenty of canadain sites
 re 5th wlr   but none discuss the performance aspects    whaddaurekon
A.I've no practical experience with 5-ers as the Yanks call them, but what I've read has all been pretty
 positive. Easy to handle - at least the smaller ones - you have transport when you are uncoupled, 
and they are shorter than the same layout of car and caravan. I suppose a downside would be the coupling 
on the tray of the tow vehicle limiting what you can carry when the trailer's not attached - or even when
 it is come to that. 
There are a few starting to be seen in Oz and I guess they will become more popular as time goes by. 
Q.Last year we upgraded our car to a Holden Commodore VT acclaim auto.
Our motor mechanic advised us not to tow our caravan with this vehicle as it is has the lower grade 
Borg Warner transmission in it and he has already had 1 VT in that has destroyed 2 transmissions.
We have an old 16 foot franklin caravan with a tare weight of 800kg.
Can you offer any advice or point us in the right direction for advice. I know all autos need an oil cooler 
when used for towing. I did not know there were different standards in transmissions and that holden 
had compromised on cost for this model.
Can you offer any general advice on suitable vehicles for towing as our mechanic also said that a 
manual transmission was better for towing.
A.There are plenty of people towing caravans much bigger than yours with VT Holden Commodores 
without  any trouble - the thing is you only hear about the problems and not the ones going along nicely. 
I'm no expert on transmissions but automatics are FAR better for towing than manuals in my opinion
 and I can't imagine anyone who has done serious towing advising otherwise. 
We have always found Ford Falcons to be excellent towing vehicles - particularly the station wagon with 
their leaf spring rear suspension but that's just a personal preference. 
I can't remember when the change was made, but both Holden and Ford increased the size of their 
transmission oil coolers and their radiators a few years back and from that time onwards their vehicles 
didn't need a supplementary transmission oil cooler or bigger radiator for towing. (It was the AU Falcon) 
Q.Lionel my question is what makes a good ground sheet for outside the door of the van. I have tried 
those square pieces of rubber that click together like matting but when they get wet or dirty 
they are a nightmare.
The matting you get from Rays tent city is about $40 a metre and this would very expensive if it doesnt work.
 I just need something to keep the dust, grass and wet out of my van. What would you suggest. 

A.You didn't mention if you have an annexe or not but we use what's known as annexe matting.
 It is porous and doesn't do bad things to the grass if you are on a grassed site. Before that we just used 
a blue tarp and pegged it down at the corners. Unfortunately it did kill the grass if left too long. 
I can't remember how much it costs a metre but somewhere like Carac at Dandenong would stock it. 
Maybe Super Service at Hastings would have it - the guy's name is Gus and they are on the right coming 
from Hastings towards Frankston. 
Q I have a1990 Dodge Caravan LE. It has a water leak on the upper left hand side of the windshield
 (very annoying). I've had the windshield checked  and it does not seem to be the problem. 
I have also remove the roof rack and  reassembled it by applying rtv sealer to the attachment points
 and mounting bolts (still leaked). The water seems to "pour" out when I make hard left turns
 (if that helps). Let me know what you think.
A.Sorry  - but without seeing the vehicle it would be very hard to make any sort
of informed opinion of what's causing the leak.
Q.We really enjoyed your book the Big One.We have come over from NZ 10 days ago, purchased a 
Falcon and a Roma pop top are are a present, kitting it all out for the trip.In your book you mentioned
the Hot Aussie barbie. Can you please tell us the brand, I seem to remember you saying you baked in
it. Would really appreciate your help.
A.Thanks for your email and question about the barbie.
It's just called The Hot Aussie Barbie and I saw one just yesterday at Bunnings. It was
confusingly marked at $73 on one side and $68 on the other!
You can't really bake with it but if you put a cake tin or similar over a small joint it will
bake/roast it. We use it in preference to a bigger hot rocks model we have here at home.
Where are you staying while getting ready for your trip?
Regards - and enjoy your travels,
Q.When buying a caravan which is better a poptop or ordinary caravan, we have an old 
16ft franklin caravan,and I would like to up date, I like the jayco freedom poptop, and westport caravan
 and poptop, I would like your advice please.
A. My personal preference is for a full caravan although many people prefer pop tops.
 I don't like having to put the roof up and down all the time and the lack of insulation from the
 vinyl sleeve. Plus it's more things to go wrong. 
If it is an older poptop you need to look at the sleeve and its operating mechanism to make sure 
there are no leaks, etc. 
A pop top will fit under a carport or in a garage more easily - the only good reason for having one in my
opinion. The wind resistance is pretty similar with modern shaped full vans and the pop top roof 
is much heavier so you don't save weight. 
Q.My wife and I are about to purchase a new van and wondering if you can pass on few differentials
 we  should be looking for in a van. We intend  to do the usual around Aust. for  a few years.
 We will purchase our 4WD to suit the van we purchase. We are looking at a 19-21 ft van with a 
 shower and toilet. 
(We towed a similar sized van round Oz with a Falcon Station Wagon - the AU we use now is 
rated to tow 2,300kg - just a thought). 
Some of the queries we have are:  Suspension system - fixed or independent. 
Which is safer or doesn't it matter. 
I use leaf springs and the van rides perfectly. Should you be unlucky enough to break a spring they are 
easily fixed anywhere in Australia. We had trouble once with our independent suspension and getting
 replacement parts was a pain. That van used to eat nearside tyres as well although  I believe that problem
 has been fixed.
A combined shower/toilet is this practical? 
Yes - we've used both separate and combined and although the separate is best in my opinion so 
you can use them independently, the combined one saves space. We modified ours so that the shower 
curtain keeps shower water off the toilet with a u-shaped track. This is now standard on a lot of vans. 
 Is there a lot of difference in towing a 19ft van to a 21 ft van? 
No - the weight is the only difference and I doubt if you could tell when towing. The only other difference 
is the effect of a strong side wind. The larger the side area the more effect the wind will have.
 If it's that windy though and if you are on an extended tour you can stay put another day. 
All Aluminium versus Aluminium exterior and wood interior? 
Most van are aluminium exterior with the exception being the fibreglass ones now making a re-appearance. 
Interiors are usually wood in some form and this is very satisfactory. Most vans have wall and ceiling
 insulation in the cavity between the outside cladding and the inside lining. 
A few vans use a sandwich construction. 
 If there is  a book which will help our research it would be good because listening to sales people 
confuses us a bit.

Both of my books - 'The BIG ONE' and 'AUSTRALIA CALLING - The RV Travel Handbook' have sections
 about  choosing the right outfit plus a lot of other useful information. You can see details by clicking here. 
There are lots more when I get around to adding them to the site! IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION JUST CLICK 'ASK LIONEL'


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