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Part 2 of Libby and family question GoSee about caravans and tow vehicles

February 24, 2015
Part 2 of Libby and family question GoSee about caravans and tow vehicles

Libby Wilson of Lower Hutt New Zealand and her family of two adults and two children asked GoSee to help them buy their first caravan and a tow vehicle. There is no such thing as a stupid question on the GoSee websites. On both sides of the Tasman thousands of Newbies have had their questions answered.

The collective knowledge of the Old Heads who assist newcomers to GoSeeNewZealand.co.nz and its sister website GoSeeAustralia.com.au is based in practical experience. Here is the second run of questions GoSee is posting for general information with the agreement of Libby and family.

Libby: Me again. We are considering a 750kg caravan, towing with a Honda Edix (tow rating is 1500, has a 2L engine). What do you think?

We are considering the following vehicle http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=841721827

But we haven't been able to look at it. How crucial is looking at a vehicle when it is a newish (1998 vehicle). Are there people you can get to view a caravan remotely, like a local garage?

GoSee says: We would like to see you towing with a lot more grunt Libby.

The Honda is a 2l petrol It will be revving at 4000rpm to produce 192Nm of torque.

The diesel version of the Edix which is also branded FR-V is a 2.2l which produces 340Nm at 2000rpm.

Please dont think about buying anything sight unseen. Yes knock in caravan repairs on a web search and call a convenient company.

If you are a member NZ AA will advise you.

GoSee says: I have just posted a Freedom camping Information Article to GoSeeNewZealand.co.nz

Australia is following NZ in managing Freedom Camping. The NZ Act is key to your question which hinges on vehicle self-containment.

Australia has no Act in terms of Freedom Camping.

The CMCA, which is like the NZMCA, has a Leave No Trace Program which includes emphasis on self-containment but nationally Australia trails NZ.

Sadly Australia is now behind NZ on international Broadband speed too. Please keep in touch as you go through your caravan buying experience. Our team are keen to help you as far as possible.

Bay Canvas  awning tailored to fit GoSee Leisureline.
Bay Canvas awning tailored to fit GoSee Leisureline.

Libby: Thanks you so much - very helpful and your comments about brakes are very enlightening. Is a lone chemical toilet inside a caravan adequate for freedom camping?

GoSee says: Libby no. Here is a link which details both the reasons why and the obligation we all have to protect the environment which underpins it. http://www.nzmca.org.nz/self-containment.

Libby: thanks for that. Very helpful. Three more questions:

1) Why the recommendation around a table that folds to a double bed and having 2 bunks already fitted. Is it because that layout works better, or because it is hard to install a top bunk?

2) What is an annex (for a toilet)? Is it a free standing tent or awning, and can you freedom camp with an annex/tent for a chemical toilet?

3) What is the story with brakes on caravans? I assume earlier versions of caravans (which we are likely to purchase as they are in our price range) won't have brakes, but will exceed 700KG (the unbraked tow capacity of most vehicles). Is it necessary to get old caravans retro fitted with brakes? Do weight distribution hitches help

Southern roads can be a challenge
Southern roads can be a challenge

GoSee says: Hi Libby, interesting discussion.

1) Why the recommendation around a table that folds to a double bed and having 2 bunks already fitted. Is it because that layout works better, or because it is hard to install a top bunk?

Both, works better in a small van and the bunks can be used for storage when not in use. It could be difficult to satisfactorily secure a second bunk when the vans framework was not built for a bunk i.e.: insufficient support

3) What is an annex (for a toilet)? Is it a free standing tent or awning, and can you freedom camp with an annex/tent for a chemical toilet?

No GSA means an awning/annex fitted to the caravan provides extra space to allow a privacy curtain behind which is a chemical toilet. The awning/annex can be fully enclosed.

NZ Freedom Camping legislation requires specific holding tank capacity which a lone chemi toilet does not meet. The New Zealand Motor Caravan Assoc. (NZMCA) is particularly active in the area of responsible camping.

4) What is the story with brakes on caravans? I assume earlier versions of caravans (which we are likely to purchase as they are in our price range) won't have brakes, but will exceed 700KG (the unbraked tow capacity of most vehicles). Is it necessary to get old caravans retro fitted with brakes?

GoSee thinks brakes should be fitted.

GSNZ having fun South Island.
GSNZ having fun South Island.

The issue with braking is a real concern for safety

Firstly, even though legally you can tow a trailer below the stated magic figure 700 KG (changes in NZ/Aust)

It makes a massive difference to a vehicles ability to stop.

Lets assume we have a vehicle weighing 1500 KG.

We then fit an unbraked trailer/caravan of say 700 KG

That takes the total load (momentum = weight X speed) required to be braked to 2200 KG times the speed.

The brakes of the vehicle have not had their performance increased nor has the surface area of the tyres that applies the friction to the road been increased

The next point is the braking curve is not Linear.

E.g. These figures not authoritive but just for illustration, by adding another 50% to the load approx 1500 to 2200 you may affect the brakes by requiring another 75% distance to brake. Also by doubling the speed it may require three times the distance to brake.

Combine that with a wet slippery road, or heavily braking traffic in front, it is possibly an accident about to happen.

Cathedral Rocks Waimangu Volcanic Valley Rotorua
Cathedral Rocks Waimangu Volcanic Valley Rotorua

By adding brakes to the caravan it also aids stability (trailer (electric) brakes can be used to stabilize the trailer manually using the control box just like Electronic Stability Control (ESC) does it automatically). ESC is standard on modern caravans like the Australian built Jaycos.

Another issue is in older vans if brakes are fitted they may be of the hydraulic override type. If that is so and the van has been standing for a long time they will definitely need to be serviced, otherwise, the first really strong braking application may well blow a slave cylinder seal or the fluid may be contaminated, or the plunger may have surface rust restricting braking.

Example of a real situation GoSee has had was a 24 foot Millard that only had 2 wheel braking when purchased, after a near miss it went straight to the workshop and had braking added to the other 2 wheels.

All modern vans have all wheel braking so older ones may not ... but the difference between 2 wheel and 4 wheel on the same van was possibly an extra 30% braking ability.

Take care with registration requirements. GoSee suggests a registered caravan with brakes fitted is a better safer buying decision.

4. Do weight distribution hitches help?

Yes with heavier caravans, but at the caravan weights we are discussing in your case Libby you do not need a WDH.

Editors note: Pictures with this Information Article are from GoSees camping experiences since 2005 on both sides of the Tasman.

GSNZ near Port Waikato North Island.
GSNZ near Port Waikato North Island.

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