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Ask Lionel


Here's some of my latest Q & As

(Remember these answers are my personal opinion - I don't have technical qualifications)

Q We are waiting to take delivery of our new Honda cr-v & have also been looking at a Jayco Hawk camper trailer. Have you heard of any experiences towing with a cr-v. The Hawk weights just come in under the cr-v's specifications.

A I haven't heard any reports about towing with the cr-v but providing the weights are ok as you say then I can't see any problem. The manufacturer's ball load max seems pretty low so you would need to check that with the Jayco. I would have thought a ball weight of at least 10% of the loaded trailer weight would have been better but I guess Honda know best.

Q Hi Lionel, my husband and I have done a couple of campervan trips in Australia and we've spoken to other campers who said that there are big camping expo shows held in various states at different times of the year.  I'm trying to find out when these shows are held, do you know how I can find out this information????

A . Go to:

Q Hi Lionel, could you please tell us what we could buy in Australia that will help us move our Avan out of its parking position beside the house.  It has to be moved up a bit of a grassyslope and is difficult to do without the Ford skidding.  Putting the van back down the slope is also difficult because of the uneven grassy slope and the paved area is also not very level.  We are afraid if we manhandle it ourselves it may run away from us if we let off the brake and it might end up at the bottom of the garden!!   Thank you so much

A There is a thing called a Maco Mule that does a pretty good job of moving vans although the wheel tends to spin on grassy slopes. There are other much more expensive electric caravan movers like the Aussie Wheel but that might be a bit of over-kill on a light van like yours.

friend with a similar problem overcame it with a boat winch fastened to a post and he just hooked on the A-frame and wound the van up his driveway. Another mechanically minded acquaintance built a mover that fitted in the jockey wheel bracket and had a geared bicycle drive that worked by winding a handle.

Q Can you please advise us as to which vehicle (preferably not a 4X4) would tow a 21 foot caravan of a 2 500 kg loaded weight?

A That's heavy! Falcons and Holdens can't handle anything over 2,300kg loaded so you have to look at 4x4s unless you can find a Dodge Ram or Chevvy Suburban.

Q Hello can you help I been trying to get information on denning coatch for windows and fly screams i am about to pull my hair out as noone seems to be abule to help me can you please help me hope to here from you soon we have a 40ft denning hopping to tour australia in january 2006

A You could try the new company that now manufacture Denning Coaches. They are: Denning Manufacturing Pty Ltd

You could try emailing them.:

Q   Hi, I'm ordering the other two books  and sending a postal money order. However I can't seem to find an order form for "The Big One"- Can you please supply me, Lionel.

A I'm sorry but 'The Big One' is out of print. However much of the content is covered in 'Australia Calling' and as a bonus it's in full colour.

Q Hi lionel just wondering if you know anything about an olymic caravan club any info would be good thanks

A Thanks for the email and question but sorry, I haven't heard of that club. Maybe a call to Caravan Court or another Olympic dealer could get you some info.

Q I have a standard Heron split system 2.2 air con fitted to my van. What is the minimum sized generator I should use to power it and lights etc?

There was another similar email - We are about to set off on the big trip. We have a 20' van with a shower and toilet. As we hope to save some money by staying off road I was wondering if a generator would be a worthwhile investment or would an extra battery be enough. If you recommend a generator what size would we need.

A What you need to do is a power audit. Work out the wattage of all the lights and other appliances you will be running and for each one multiply the wattage by the amount of time they will be running each day including the a/c. When you have a total number of watt/hours you can calculate what size generator will cope with the load. Many people use their generators to charge batteries to supply power when the genny is not running so that may be something you need to look at as well.

Q My husband and myself are planning a caravan trip around Australia with limited funds available.  Is there such a book
that shows or lists where the cheap or free Caravan overnight stop overs are at that have toilets and water. Although we
have our own facilities in our Caravan and will have a generator we just want to be in a safe environment.  We travelled around Tasmania and had a couple of stops at Showground parks although it is a lot safer there.

A Go to

It will give everything you want to know and more.

Q I'm just getting back to caravanning after being away from it for 25 years and have a small 2 birth pop-top on order.  I notice that over-ride brakes are out and electric brakes are now in.  A quick look around the market at controllers reveals 2 types, the first actuated  by proportional control driven by a pendulum system and the second fully electronic sensing and control. The latter type has the distict advantage that it can be mounted in any position however, I wonder as to its "sensitivity" to various degrees of braking. I would appreciate your thoughts on this subject.

I have enjoyed reading through the various topics on your web-page and have found them to be of great interest to me as I start out again.

A Thanks for the email and kind remarks about the website.

I'm a great advocate of pendulum controllers - you are right when you say they have more sensitivity. I had the solid state type once when I changed vehicles and the car people fitted the sort they thought best. They were not 'tow-ers' though and I made them change it after a few weeks trial. Mounting it fairly level is not usually a problem as there's a control for setting the pendulum once installed.

Q My wife and myself will be setting off soon to travel this great country of ours in a 24ft Caravan. My question to you is: I want to be able to my laptop computer for my small business, which I run on the side. Other words I want to be able to download and use my email etc. I believe using Mobile phones can be quite expensive, is there any other methods available (except the Internet Café's).

A You are right when you say using your mobile can be expensive for email and accessing the internet.

However it is convenient and if you use a data plan and connection you only pay when data is downloaded or uploaded. This is assuming you are using the mobile as an external modem from your laptop. There are mobile broadband plans that give a lower per kb cost but are more costly in monthly charges. They would be better if you use a lot of email or need access to your website a lot.

I think the Telstra data plan I use charges 2.5 cents a kb and that adds up to a lot of money. It's far cheaper to use caravan park internet kiosks, public libraries, etc. In some cases you can even plug your laptop in.

The other problem is reception and there's a lot of Australia where you can't get mobile reception once you get away from the coast. A
sat phone gets over that but at a high cost.

A low cost system for text only email is Pocketmail. A
small handheld device that enables you to send and receive email from any public phone for 40 cents anywhere in Australia. (It's an 1800 number) You can use it on your mobile as well but mobile charges apply. They cost about $149 plus an ongoing charge that covers the operation of the service. You can find out more at  You can connect it to a laptop by a cable and transfer messages that way for easier typing and record keeping. Its a good cheap system but a bit fiddly. It downloads email from your own POP isp.

I ve since found that a device called a MiniMax is available that plugs into a USB port and connects the laptop with the net via cdma. It s available on Telstra plans c for $49.95/month you get 20 hours of internet access and unlimited downloads. The two year plan covers the cost of the device

Q My Wife and I are going from Geelong to Mt Isa in July, via Narromine, Bourke, Cloncurry, and I was wondering if you could suggest reasonable overnight stops and Caravan parks on the way. I was thinking approx 300 to 400 km a day.
Driving a Magna V6, towing a Viscount 14ft Pop Top.
I have R.A.C.V camping/caravan Guides, but they are a bit short on details from Narramine to Cloncurry.
Any advice would be appreciated. Just bought our van and found your very good site. Have had vans years ago.

A It's quite some time since we travelled that particular road so my knowledge of the individual caravan parks is a bit sketchy.

It would seem to me that your stops could be at the following towns to fit in with your suggested daily travel. Bourke (326km), Charleville (454km), Blackall (300km) and Winton (394km)

Q I am looking for a motorhome based on a Holden Rodeo or Toyota Hi Lux, with cab over roof, but can't find the manufacturer.    Sunliner Clancy has ceased to be made. Do you have any suggestions?
A I don't know who make the type of motorhome you are looking for but a good starting point would be  I notice there are a couple of second hand Toyota Hi Lux motorhomes with the cab over but they don't give the name of the manufacturer.

Q My parents are intending to go on the NO.1 highway around Australia.  We have just brought them a Nissan Patrol GUII 4.5L 2001 model.  The car is duel fuel.  So I am trying to find out for them the availability of auto gas in Australia, preferably a map or table detailing all the sites where autogas can be purchased.

I would like to know whether there is an internet site which would provide these details or some organisation who I could contact to send me the information.

Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

 A If you go to my maps page and then click on the link you can find lpg outlets very easily. It also has an excellent route planner that will give lpg outlets plus road directions wherever you want to travel.  If I can help your parents with anything else email me again.

Q I am looking to rent  a  campervan , to travel from   perth to darwin , for a  month or so .
i am looking to travel around australia with my friends-3 and am looking for a cheap company  to  rent a campervan off. i intend to travel from perth to sydney over 2 months. would be gratefull if you could suggest any companies that you know of.

A If you go to my 'Hiring' page you will find some hire companies and their websites.

Q My husband & I have decided to take a trip around this beautiful country of ours and we are looking for any information that will assist us before we head off. We have three children aged 7, 2 1/2 & 13mths and so we are trying to get some help on choosing the right caravan, the do's & dont's of travelling with kids and any other tips that people may know that we may not have thought about yet. We do plan on getting a copy of your book but i was wondering if perhaps their maybe other websites or literature that may help us, particularly because we are travelling with children. I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.
A There are a couple of places you could look on my 'links' page. Of course magazines like Caravan World, On the Road, and Caravan and Motorhome are full of travel info.  A so check out and

Q I'm thinking that a slide on camper would be great. its lightweght, no towing, and u can use your ute for other things without the camper. now all i have to do is sort out which camper to buy. would probably buy new. any addresses or websites you know of for slide ons?

A Some of the sites listed on my 'Links' page might give you a lead and also the new RVPoint site could be useful. I don't know any dealers off hand but a Google search might find some.

Q My family and I have planned a trip to Australia during the month of June.  We will be arriving in Sydney and flying out of Melbourne 10 days later.  We intend to take the scenic drive down the coast to Melbourne.  We will spend two days in Sydney, and spend about 4 days to drive down to Melbourne.  We are trying to determine if we wanted to rent a car and find hotels on the way down, but then we came across the idea of renting a campervan.  This sounds really fun, but we are worried about the weather.  Will it be too cold (nights down to lower 30's) during the month of June to stay three nights in a campervan?  Thank you very much!
A I just got in touch with Kea campers as I had friends from the UK who used their services and were very happy. Kea tell me that their campervans are supplied with either reverse cycle air-conditioning or an electric fan heater.

They also said they were fully booked until the end of May and June was filling fast - the lady advised booking asap if you intend hiring a campervan. They are at

Q We've been looking at your website with great interest. we are an english couple, planning to tour Oz in the new year. we're planning to purchase a falcon wagon to tow a 16-18 ft van.
During our research of the used caravan market (budget $15,000) we've found that very few have shower and toilet facilities. As we hope not to rely on caravan sites for all of aur tour, a shower and toilet would be of great advantage. Is it possible to install these in a used van, and if so do you know how much it might cost and what's involved. Otherwise, what arrangements would you suggest to make us 'self-contained'.
Also, a final quick question, as we're working on our way round, is there a maximum time stay at most caravan parks?
We'd realy appreciate your help and keep up the good work on your fab website.

A Thanks for the email and kind words about the website. It would be quite difficult and expensive to convert an existing van although there would be nothing to stop it being done.

An alternative would be a shower tent. These are free standing tents and you can use a solar shower in them or get a 12volt operated shower that pumps water from a bucket to a shower rose. Solar showers are black bags that you leave in the sun full of water and old sol warms it for you.

There are a few s/h vans about with a shower and toilet but like you mention they are a bit hard to find. Our 10yr old van has a shower and toilet and lpg water heater. I guess you have looked at rvpoint during your research. It's on my links page along with other classified sites I don't believe there are any time limits for stays in caravan parks although National Parks usually have a limit of about six weeks. Most caravan parks have a cheaper rate for extended stays.


Q Myself and my hubby and 2 kids arrive in brisbane from the uk on the 4th march 2006 and pick up a motorhome from brisbane airport we are going to travel up the sunshine coast but want to spend a little time in noosa i have looked on the internet but cannot seem to find caravan parks that allow us to take our motorhome on thanks for your time (fab website by the way)

A All our caravan parks cater for motorhomes although they don't list them separately. If it's a particularly big rig there might be a problem but it's unlikely. Don't be afraid to come back here if you have any other questions.

QWe have just returned home to Hobart after buying our first caravan in Brisbane and touring through Queensland and New South Wales for 8 weeks.
Our caravan is a full size 17ft single axle van with a tare weight of 1290kgs and a loaded weight of 1590kgs and our tow vehicle is a 94 Commodore with heavy duty Hayman Reese hitch with elect. brakes, giving a tow capacity of 2100kgs. As we want to keep the van at home, can you tell me, if it would be safe to back the van down our concrete drive way which has a fall of 3 metres in 20 metres? My concern is if I get off course half way down I may not be able to go forward to straighten up!! I would appreciate your thoughts.

A I would have thought that your Holden would be quite capable of making a restart on a 1 in 7 hill which is approx what your driveway gradient is. After all you have to go back up next trip once you are safely down. Maybe you can find a similar hill somewhere with more room and give it a try before tackling the driveway.

Q My husband and I are thinking of buying a 1979 12ft Millard York Caravan and would like to know the tare weight and ball weight, as we have  4 cyl Toyota Camry front wheel drive and want to know if our car is suitable for towing this caravan.

A That's a very strange coincidence. I've had a very similar email from someone else today - also with a Camry!

Here's the answer I gave them:

The only way you could get these figures would be to take the van to a weighbridge. You need to weigh the van on the bridge without the car. In other words with the van wheels and jockey wheel on the bridge and then weigh it again with just the van wheels on the bridge. Doesn't matter if the van is on the car or jockey at that stage as long as only the van wheels are on the bridge.

If you subtract the weight on just the wheels of the van from the total weight including that on the jockey wheel you will then have the ball load. The Camry is able to tow 1200kg and is allowed a ball load up to 120kg. This refers to the weight of the van when it's loaded so it would be a good idea to weigh the van ready for the road.

Q I have a 21 Foot Jayco caravan with a rollout awning and full annexe attached. If I want to change a wheel do I have to take the annexe down or not?

A I would think that you could change a wheel with the annexe in place if you loosen the pegs at the bottom and drop the corner rafters a few notches so there is some slack in the walls when you jack up the van.

Q Question, it is possible to have a normal towbar and a Hayman Reese Distribution system?
On another topic, I have a battery on the Caravan, I am told by the salesman, not a technician, that this does not power the fridge. They said it would flatten the battery in a short time. When I was talking to others about this, they disagreed. I could not see why I could not get the temperature down on mains power, put the system on 12 volts while driving and then get the Caravan battery to take over when I stopped on the journey, before I set up camp and switched over to gas or 240 volts.
Question : Assuming I do not open the fridge and I am not in 42 degree heat, so the fridge should not be working too hard, how long would a fully charged battery run for? I am scared of stopping for a look around a town, then getting back to the caravan to find I had forgotten to switch the fridge off 12 volts and it had flattened my car battery. I am thinking of investing in a battery protector, but it is another expense and it does not allow my fridge to work while we are wandering. If the salesman had mentioned the "Feature" of the fridge before I fitted the towbar, I could have done other things, but that time is passed.

A The Hayman Reese hitch fits into a square hole in the hitch receiver - not a feature of a normal towbar so you can't mix the two systems.

I have a simple ignition relay - quite inexpensive - fitted to the car so that power only goes to the caravan when the engine is running and there's no chance of the fridge flattening the car battery while you are away shopping. With the door shut there's little loss of cooling in the fridge and no need to run the fridge from the battery in the van. The load is far too high and would quickly flatten the van battery/ies. There are quite complicated and expensive systems for charging the van batteries from the vehicle alternator and isolating the van when the engine is not running but these are not essential in my opinion.

We used to have a 2-way 240volt/gas fridge and it stayed cold when we travelled providing we didn't open and shut the door too many times at lunch time.If it's really hot then there's nothing stopping you lighting the gas during the lunch break if you are going to be stationary for a while.

Q In all your travels you might have spoken with some folks who have toted their bikes between their car and caravan and if so have they experienced any you know of any other caravan associations that I may speak with to find out recommendations on this idea...thanks too for the site great reading

A Carrying a bike/s on the a-frame seems much safer than at the back of the van on an attachment to the bumper bar. I know as I lost a brand new bike plus the carrier off the back a few years ago.

The only problem in carrying them on the front would be lack of space. There is certainly much less pitching at the front and that would be a plus as I think the pitching at the back was what weakened our mounting bracket. I do still carry a bike at the back but on a far more substantian bracket and have had no further worries.

I did look at a Fiamma bike rack for the front of a van at Rockhampton this year and the owners were very pleased with it.

You could try one of the caravanning forums like 'Touring Oz' for more feedback.

Q I am thinking about doing the around Australia thing. I am a single dad with 3 children 6,8,11.We were planned to go 2 years ago but my wife was dignosed with cancer and we lost her 12 mths ago. Now is the time while kids are in primary school. Iam looking at caravans (with shower toilet) I have looked at the big expanda and the windsor rapid. what are your thouights on these? I guess I am after any info at all about doing a trip with small kids etc. Found your web site by accident looks like you have lots of experience.

A Mate I salute you for doing what you originally planned when your wife was with you and I'm sure she would have been pleased. It will be the greatest experience the children will ever have and I wish you well.

I guess you will be doing correspondence learning with them but actually getting out there and seeing our wonderful country will be good for them. I expect they will still want their share of electronic entertainment but hopefully they will get enjoyment from the outdoorsy things as well.

They will need a bit of space for themselves so something like the Expanda or Rapid would probably be a good idea. I guess a roster of chores will be a way to see that they all share the work of setting up and striking camp. If you use some National Parks besides caravan parks they will get a far better feel for the country. Let them share in the planning too as that's always half the fun in my opinion.

Don't try to cover too much distance in a day - kids get bored, tired and cranky if you do!

The shower and especially the toilet are a really good idea and saves that annoying trip to the amenities in the middle of the night. You would have to be strict about time under the shower as on-board water storage doesn't allow for long showers - nice as they are.

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