Most caravanners are on the lookout for simple, cheap modifications that can protect their van or improve its functionality on the road. Here are a few of the modifications we have found successful on our van…
1. Awning arm covers and tie downs
Awning arm covers are extremely useful. We put them on the awning arms before departing on each day’s travel. They keep the parts of the arm clean from road grime and mud, and protect the more vulnerable fittings from stone damage.
As some insurance policies do not cover wind damage to awnings, it is a good idea to tie your awning down routinely. We tied a neoprene hook to the end of the rope tie-down. Simply put the rope over the end of the awning barrel and hook back into the rope. It’s easy to remove when needed. Paint the tent pegs white for easy visibility and secure a couple of luminous cylinders (available at camping stores) to the bottom of the rope for night visibility.
2.Bubble gauge on A-frame
Three-way fridges work efficiently only when they are level. Fixing a bi-directional bubble gauge onto the A-frame helps to make levelling the van a routine part of setting up. Side to side levelling is done with the tow vehicle still attached, using wooden blocks or plastic chocks, and fore and aft levelling using the jockey wheel after disconnecting the tow vehicle and before the legs are lowered. Never try to level the van using the corner steadies.
While it is probably being picky, in some vans the A-frame and the fridge floor are not horizontally parallel. The ideal way to set-up the bubble gauge is to put half a glass of water in the freezer compartment. Level the van until the water in the glass is parallel with the top of the glass and then build up the bubble gauge as necessary so that it reads level when the water in the glass is level.
3. Shade cloth walls for the awning
As we do most of our travel in the tropics, we do not bother carrying heavy vinyl awning walls. We made one long and one short wall from high grade shade cloth which provides good shade but still allows in sufficient light and ventilation. We have a sail track on the offside of the van that allows us to use the awnings on either side according to the need for shade or protection from rain and wind.
4. Custom covers
Fittings on the A-frame are vulnerable to stone damage, particularly if you do much of your caravanning on single-lane bitumen or unsealed roads. It is quite easy to sew gas cylinder covers from heavy vinyl and use webbing on exposed edges. We cut a circular top a little wider than the top of the bottle and pleated on a skirt to go around the cylinder. Leave a gap of about 10cm at the back to allow your hand in to turn the gas on and off, and to let gas escape. Webbing tabs with velcro are used to hold the covers together and fix to the A-frame.
Under the covers, we run a bike security chain with keyed lock through the tops of the cylinders and around the A-frame to protect against theft. When parked, we cover the jockey wheel and electrical connections with vinyl covers closed with velcro but you could use a zipped neoprene stubby cooler for electrical fittings.
5. Better TV signal
We are often asked by other vanners why we have a clear TV signal and they don’t. One common cause for loss of signal is corrosion in the fittings on the exterior wall of the van. One way to avoid this problem is to insert an Ezi Eye or similar. This is essentially a sealed grommet in the wall of the van. The cable is passed through and then plugged straight into the TV (or signal booster if required).
Another common problem with digital reception is that you have to point the antenna accurately to the signal; near enough results in pixelation. A signal finder is necessary for this.