Caravan and motorhomes are often simple things in terms of running gear, and are often so reliable these days that it is tempting to avoid checking the state of your rig when out on the road.
It isn’t a wise move to do that though. Aside from keeping up servicing (most caravan retailers suggest a service every 10,000km or two years, which ever occurs first) there are checks you can make while on the road that can help you catch small problems before they develop into big ones.
The best time to check your van or motorhome is when you’re relaxed and in no hurry to be anywhere. So park in a shady, dry spot and make a cuppa. This might sound trite but it's better assess your rig in your own time when you’re relaxed, and not when there’s a queue behind you at the servo pump and you’re keen to get back out on the road.
Here’s our list of five simple checks that you can make a part of your routine cuppa stops.
Caravan and motorhome tyres should of course be checked regularly for appropriate tyre pressures, but when you’re checking the tyres on your trip look for foreign debris such as nails in tread as well. Make sure there are no suspicious bulges in the sidewall or tread separation – if there are, it’s time to fit a new tyre.
You can also check whether or not your tyre pressure is too low by putting your hand on the tyre just after pulling up to see how hot it is. If it’s almost too hot to touch, it’s time to get out the tyre pressure gauge to see what’s going on as there could be a problem with the other components (see below).
The best way to make sure the bearing and brakes are functioning properly is to check wheel temperature when you stop. Obviously if you stop at the bottom of a mountain pass you’ve just driven down, the wheels will feel hotter from heat transfer from the brakes than if you were rolling along on the plains. So check for consistency in similar conditions – and if the wheel feels too hot to touch, or is much hotter than usual, you should investigate further by taking it off and checking for bearing failure or seized brakes.
A simple check is all you need for this one – but you’ll need a spotter. Get your spotter to see that the taillights of the van or motorhome are working while you operate the lights. Work out a hand signal that has been agreed on. This will
save time and avoid grief for everyone else if you’re leaving a caravan park early. Even if the lights function, check the trailer plug connection is secure and wiring is not too loose or getting caught on the coupling.
There are a few items usually fitted to the A-frame you should check. Even though the A-frame is a robust bit of gear, check that the gas cylinder is secure, that the jockey wheel bracket is secured, that the handbrake is off and that the coupling is properly engaged and is sitting snug on the A-frame and that no bolts are missing. Check chains and shackles for looseness, wear and cracks.
Do a round of the van, checking windows are secure, the rear bumper/spare wheel is secure, and any exterior components of the van, such as an exterior fold-down table, are latched as they should be. Also check that stabilizer legs are secured.