Caravan Jacks or Corner Steadies.

Do you have any problem reaching your caravan corner jack points?

I HAD this problem, but no more…

The problem is that my jack points at the rear are low under the van. This usually means kneeling down in the wet grass / dirt and “fumbling” to get the handle on the corner jack…

Not any more… a VERY simple and VERY cheap way to fix the problem.

You need some 38mm waste pipe, Waste Pipe clips and screws.

Get cut the tubes to a “correct” length and using the brackets position them under the van directly in line with the jack screw heads. If the screw head does NOT line up with the tube – then fit a wooden spacer block under the bracket…

Use 38mm tube NOT 32mm – 32mm is too tight and leaves no margin for error. Since fitting these, I get my handle on first time, every time, no messing… all manufactures should fit them.

It also provides a talking point on campsites… Why does your Caravan have so many waste water pipes ???

Worms eye view…

Fit a Smart Meter to your Caravan

Now, WHY would you want to do this?

In the UK, I mainly use CL campsites. In France, I mainly use “Municipal” (local council) or I use “Cheap” sites – I don’t need “fancy” facilities – I have a “Fancy Caravan”!

The problem is that whilst 16A Electric may be normal on UK Caravan Club sites and “up market” Commercial Sites – its not unusual to find sites that offer less than this…

In France this year my supply varied from between 6A and 16A. If you use the simple formula: 1 A = 250W, this means that 6A would offer me 1500W (plus about 15% more on “overload” for a few minutes).

3A = 750W, 6A = 1500W, 8A = 2000W, 10A = 2500W, 16A = 4000W

Now the Fridge takes about 120W, the 2nd Fridge in the back of my car was taking around another 150W, the Hot Water system takes around 800W, the 12V system takes whatever Watts you are drawing – extractor fan, lights, radio etc… it mounts up. Then the Electric Kettle takes around 2000W….

2000W???? How can I run this along with everything else on a 6A supply?

Answer – you Can’t! – Get a “low power camping kettle” – 750W or use the gas!

So, the first thing I do when I arrive at a site is try to find out how much power is available: Ask? Look at the post? Open the box on the post (if you can?), or Draw power until it blows, ask the site to reset it and ask how much power you can have?

I don’t recommend the last option unless you can open the box and reset it yourself (you would be surprised how many French and Spanish sites this applies to!!!)

I fitted a “Smart Meter” so that I could monitor my incoming power at all times. (It varies as the hot water cycles, fridge cycles etc.)

Once you know the maximum watts available, it’s just a case of keeping en eye on the meter to ensure you don’t exceed it (for long!).

Be aware the the 1A = 250W is the “Input” power – This is usually marked on the appliance somewhere. Beware with a Microwave oven – if it says 800W on the front – that means it is likely to draw around 1300W INPUT!!!! Check the plate on the back or trust me!

I bought my “Smart Meter” from Ebay. Try searching for “Smart Meter”, “Energy Monitor”, “Owl” or “Onzo”. I paid around £10 for my meter, new, but old stock with leaking batteries – just fit standard AA cells. This was about 18 months ago, they seem to be more expensive now.

Also MAKE SURE it is complete! – Not only do you need the “Remote Display”- but you MUST have a “Sensor” that fits over your incoming Electric cable (LIVE line only – see later – it’s not THAT simple to fit!).

Assuming you have a kit, try it on your home electric meter to see that it works – clip the sensor over your LIVE wire from your Meter to your Fusebox.

Then the fun starts:

You need to separate out your LIVE cable inside your caravan between where it comes into the Van and where it goes to your “Fusebox”. However, you cannot just “expose” the live wire – this is against Regulations and is Dangerous! All 240v Cables MUST be double insulated by UK regs (BS7671).

Cut open the incoming cable to expose the inner cores. Extract and cut the LIVE wire only. Fit a junction box over the joint, split out the LIVE cable into another “double insulated” cable and loop it back. Then you can fit your “Sensor” over this loop.

Cut a length of suitable cable for the loop.
Live wire split, looped out and back. I used “Wago” connectors (Screwfix), but you could use Chocolate block terminals
Final job with showing the loop and the “Sensor” fitted over the loop.
The Onzo display unit can either run on batteries or a USB supply. I have replaced all of my Caravan 13A sockets by ones with USB supplies built in.

Caravan door lock not working.

My Bailey Senator is fitted with a Hartal “secure” door lock. This takes a special key and costs a “special” price for a replacement lock! This same lock is used on other makes of Van – it’s not exclusive to Bailey.

From looking on the internet many people have problems with this lock.

In my case it was jamming, the key didn’t turn properly and the lock didn’t open properly.

ADVICE: Do NOT use standard WD40 on this lock – the solvent could damage the plastic. Use either Silicon Oil (WD40 Silicon oil seems to be the best I’ve found so far in the Silicon Oil market) or use Grease.

However, in my case, this still didnt’ fix it.

To grease it correctly, you need to take the lock apart. If you are going to do that, you can fix the lock with Shims – assuming that you have the same problem that I did – slop in the mechanism due to being a “crap” (but expensive) lock!

I removed the lock (you have to prise out 4 plastic caps that are hiding the screws to remove it). Then you need to clean the surfaces that you are going to shim with a solvent to remove the grease and oil. (be careful not to melt the plastic).

I cut some shims from some thin sheet metal, and used Expoxy (JB QuickWeld) to fix the shims. I used a piece of wood (see photo) to hold the lock springs back whilst the Epoxy set.

I then greased up and re-fitted the lock. I did this 18 months ago – it’s still working fine.

Trumatic Fire Front keeps falling off!

After you have removed your Trumatic fire front (to replace ignition battery for example) you may find that it keeps “falling off” – I have had this problem with the last few caravans I have had…

I tried various fixes – then I read about this idea. I was away in France at the time with limited workshop, tools and parts – however all I needed was in my vans “maintenance box”.

I took a couple of Steel Angle Brackets and sawed them into 4 short pieces of flat steel with 2 holes on each piece. I then drilled holes in the back of the fire front lip end used short bolts to fit the steel brackets. At home I would have used pop-rivets.

Then I refitted the front “correctly” and used woodscrews to fit the front “properly” in place. It doesn’t look like a “stylish” fix – but it has stopped the front continually falling off between sites – and risking breaking the cables to the controls!

Sorted!

Dometic Fridge (RM8550) will not work on gas!

My Dometic Fridge would NOT work on Gas! – I could hear the ignition sparking and I could hear the flame light (depending on ambient noise!), but the “Flame Gauge” would not operate. If this does NOT operate, the automatic Flame Protection will turn off the gas!

Operating Normally.

From searching the internet, this would appear to be a Common Problem and people have spent lots of money replacing parts to try to fix this fault… Replacing – Indicator Gauge, Flame Sensor, Gas Jet, Selector Switch etc…

It seems that a common cause of this problem is just a dirty micro-switch mounted on the Selector Switch. To get to this switch, you need to REMOVE the fridge. I don’t believe the micro-switch is available separately from Dometic. Instead you have to buy a complete replacement selector switch and replace the existing one. (Expensive!)

In my case, I found that if I switched between Gas and Battery a few times before lighting the gas this fixed it.

Alternatively, I found that once the gas was lit, if I “wobbled” the knob slightly in the Gas position, the needle would rise/fall depending on how good the contact was. It would appear that you don’t need to achieve the needle in the green – just ensure it operates a bit… This works for me!

If one day this work-around fails to get my Fridge running on Gas, I will remove the Fridge and fit a “bypass” switch to the original wiring of the micro-switch Switch. As I have not pulled by fridge out yet (at least not yet for this fault) I can’t tell you how to bypass the microswitch – but you will have to find this yourself.

Bypassing the micro-switch will NOT cause ANY safety issues as this switch is used to enable the Flame Detection Device. Its purpose would seem to be to prevent running the Flame Detection when you are NOT running on gas – so if you fit a By-pass switch – don’t forget to turn it off when you are NOT running on gas – or you will (eventually???) run your battery down…

Dometic RM 8550 Fridge Selection Switch broken!

These “rotary” knobs on the Dometic RM series of Fridges appear to be a bit of a weak spot (based on the adverts for replacement knobs on Ebay).

The “symptom” is that the knob keeps going round and round…

The easy fix is to buy a new one – they cost around £16-18 each – plus delivery. This will last until the next time it breaks.

OR you could try doing what i did. I replaced by “Thermostat knob” when I bought my caravan (it was 10 years old at the time).

Now, 2 years later, the “Selection” knob (Off, Mains, 12v, Fridge) started going “around and around” – So I was planning on buying a replacement. Then I got to thinking:

Firstly, I “Super Glued” the broken end of the shaft back into place (there is a keyway inside – don’t get glue in the keyway!)

Next, I wrapped wire around it. I used MIG welding wire – but you could use copper… I wound several turns of wire around a Screwdriver Shaft to make a tight coil, slightly smaller than the knob shaft. This was so that it fitted snugly when I stretched it over the Knob Shaft.

Next, I coated the wire and the shaft end with Epoxy Resin. I used JB Weld Fast. I let it set fully and then I used a “mouse sander” to polish the end where I had some wire sticking out and to remove any high spots – you could just use a file… The aim was to ensure that the shaft would still fit through the hole on the front of the fridge…

The Shaft needs to be slim enough to fit through the hole in the fridge panel. If yours is now too thick, you could drill (or file) this hole bigger – the Knob will cover the hole anyway.

That’s it – Job done – and not only are you £16 better off – but (hopefully) it will never break again!

Automatic On-board Water Tank fill System (& Tracker) Part 4 (see Sept 2019 for start of this article)

OK, 12 months have passed since I started this article. COVID-19 came along early 2020 and spoilt most the the Seasons camping, so I didn’t get a proper chance to try out the Autofill system. I’ve have just returned from 4 weeks in France – and now at Boris’s command, I have 2 weeks at home to do “whatever I want” – provided I don’t leave home!

VERDICT: The Automatic Water filler system is “Fantastic” – Why didn’t Bailey do this originally? It would not have added much cost to the van, but is a great improvement. No more running out of water, no more flushing airlocks out after running out, no more priming between sites, no more messing about with the lousy Whale Water Inlet with the “dodgy” O rings sealing system!

Basically, having fitted the Crystal 2 water inlet to provide water directly to the on-board tank, the rest was pretty simple (and reasonably cheap). If you want a simple version, just fit a manual switch to the off board pump and off you go. (you also need to arrange a 12v feed to the pump). You can actually find the feed and earth you need on the connectors to the float valves in the tank. This is what I used for my Automatic Filler. As I was not certain that the float valves could handle the current for a pump (I assume Bailey use a relay ???), I used a relay to operate my pump to avoid overloading the existing float contacts. The way I wired the external system draws power from the original bailey supply to the floats. This has the benefit that you can control external & internal pumps from the original Bailey Pump Switch. Position 1 is normal “internal only” pump. Centre is all pumps off, Position 2 is Internal pump as usual and external pump as controlled by the floats and interface box. You could simplify by not having buzzers, not having high/low level options and not having a “local” switch for the external pump. I used a “standard” external “drop in the barrel” pump. It doesn’t need to be super fast as it only keeps the tank filled – the internal pump provides the normal water supply to the taps.

Where I fitted buzzers – these are simple 12v buzzers available for a couple of pounds each on ebay. I used a “warbler” buzzer (2 tone) for the low level alarm (via a switch – I will document this in a separate article). Mine was too loud – I tried reducing the voltage with a resistor – but the best option was “lots of Blu-Tak” over the sounder holes!

Here are photos I took at the time…

You need to buy a new water inlet & connection for an external pump – this is the one I fitted. You will also need buy a standard external filler pump.
Measure this inside wall from the water tank and the floor, to find a suitable location, and then drill a hole through to the outside (as a marker). Then, working from the Outside, put masking tape roughly where you intend to cut…
Place the fitting over the tape with the hole just to the left of the section of “fitting” that sinks into the caravan wall… (see hole through tape – top left) Mark both sides of the fitting…
Use a “Square” to ensure the final fitting looks neat!
.. And again using spirit level (my square has one built in)
Drill the corners to ensure a neat cut-out and using a “Multi tool” (or a pad saw?) cut through the caravan wall (its about 3 cms deep)
Resulting hole…
I used “Mastic Tape” – you could use Mastic from a gun – you could use “Silicon Sealant” – but I went for “traditional” Mastic – but I used tape for convenience… and I already had some!
If you use Mastic Tape – you will need to trim the excess off…
Screw the fitting in and clean off any excess mastic.. White spirit will clean mastic. If you used Silicon – try Meths on a Kitchen towel.
Inside View – NOTE If you have NOT removed your water tank (only reason really to do this is to replace the Tracker Battery) then MAKE SURE you fit the power cable for the pump BEFORE you fit the fitting – otherwise you will find it difficult to access the connector screws!
I bought a small ABS box fitted with screwdown lugs. Inside this I fitted the Relay. I also fitted a sounder internally, (so that I know when the outside pump is running for when it runs out of water). I later moved this outside of the box, because I couldn’t hear it.
I bought one of these boxes from Ebay – Search for “Waterproof ABS Plastic Electronics Project Box Enclosure Hobby Case” or similar. The size I chose was “100 x 70 x 50mm. This size was dictated by the 12v relay I used – and the connector strips.
Relay inside box with slimline sounder – I later fitted an external sounder across the pump connections.
I used a step cutter to cut a hole in the top corner of the water tank.
I used a large cable gland to make a sealed connection into the tank. It needs to be a suitable size to fit the flexible piping to the Water Inlet.
I fitted suitable length cables to the box, before I tried to connect to the existing connections, switches etc. It was easier to make them plenty long enough and have slack, rather than try to cut to size.
Two cables fitted to the original cable connections on the caravan wiring harness. This originally connected to the upper and lower floats in the tank. The float connections will now be taken to the interface box. The connections to the original bailey fitting was made using Crimps to push onto the existing bailey harness.
Note in the photo, the original wiring harness has two BLUE wires on the bottom, a GREY wire top left (in photo) and WHITE wire top right. The new cables: The LEFT cable: Blue=3, Brown=16. The RIGHT cable: Blue=1, Brown-16.
The two control switches I fitted. The top one is On/Off. The lower one is to select “Full Fill” or “Minimum Fill”. I arranged the switch such that pressing the top in for High Fill, and pressing the bottom for “Low” fill. This means mounting the switch “upside down” as switch “open” causes “low” fill only.
Circuit Diagram of Automatic Water Filler System – as installed.

So, I used a Crystal 2 water inlet with filter, and off-board pump (and fittings to fit Crystal 2 connector).

A standard “Automotive” 12v Relay.

A cheap “electronic” buzzer.

A couple of switches – I used the same switches that Bailey used – either buy them from Prima Leisure (official Bailey spares supplier) or get them much cheaper on Ebay!

Why you should have regular Electric Inspections (EICR)

I was called in to carry out an Electrical Inspection for a Landlord. As part of carrying out a full Inspection & Test – I have to remove the covers from the Shower to test the cabling back to the Fusebox (Consumer Unit).
This is what I turned up – The Tenant had not noticed any problems!

This is the result of using a “Plumber” to change your shower and not having the work inspected (or the electrical connection made by) a Qualified Electrician. Also a reason why you should not do this in your own home either – unless you are Electrically Competent!

See “Before” and “After” photos….

Before….
After

First Fit on New Build Malinslee

I carried out First Fit Electrics on a New Build House in Malinslee in 2019.

This was for Michael Jessa (or Michal Jerzy Jezza) who is a Director of:

Jessa Enterprises Limited, Defined Construction Limited, Fox London Limited, Xpression Group Limited

Leave a reply below if you want to know more…..

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020

For those looking for something to read in bed… Here is the Act that has been laid before Parlimement.

Interesting to note that although the Regulations: BS7671, 2019 (18th Edition) says the EICR’s should be carried out after each change of Tenancy – This act avoids saying that… I say “avoids” because its wording is along the lines of ….

… every 5 years – or whenever the tester has stated…. (my paraphrase)

Read it for yourself here:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2020/9780111191934/pdfs/ukdsi_9780111191934_en.pdf?dm_i=5172,4SB5,94CDW,J6NJ,1