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How to Restore a Caravan

Posted on December 31, 2017 – Caravans & Motorhomes

Caravans are a great way to discover a country. During peak seasons, they provide you with acommodation for a reasonable price and give you more freedom. They also save you from sharing communal showers and if you like to travel in style, there is no lack of luxury caravans on offer.

Rather than going for the latest models with all the mod cons, some people choose to restore old caravans to get something a bit more unusual. Like with car restoration, it is important to plan what you will need to do beforehand to control costs and assess whether you are sufficiently knowledgeable to fix your caravan yourself.

Kitchens and heating

The most important point to keep in mind is that you can’t relocate a kitchen just anywhere if you feel that the space could be better utilised.

Kitchens mean heavy appliances whose weight affect the overall balance of caravans and determined the position of their axle when they are first built. Moving it significantly would have an impact on its noseweight so your new kitchen must more or less stay in the same location as the old one.

If you are installing appliances that require a gas connection, call a professional to do it, regardless of how competent a DIYer you are. Incorrectly fitted, a gas connection can be incredibily dangerous.

Weight checking

As we have seen previously, before you buy a caravan, you need to check which weight your car can tow or you might end up with a caravan sitting in your garden and going no where! Likewise, once you have removed all the unwanted features and appliances in your caravan, you need to have it weighed against the maximum load it can carry so that you know how much weight you can play with when you restore it. Skipping this step could have dire consequences as you are risking damaging the infrastructure of the vehicle by overloading it.

Once you know the weight, you need to find out how much everything you are planning to put in will weigh to ensure you are within the specifications of the caravan. We don’t only mean appliances and furniture but down to the last details including bedding and tableware. You would be surprise to find out how much plates, sheets, duvets, etc… add up to.

Side and roof panels

We are used to leaky homes so a leaky caravan ain’t going to scare us off!

Leaks are a common problems in older caravans, most often caused when the screws holding the trim strips around windows deteriorate – in the past, steel rather than stainless steel screws were used, making them vulnerable to rust.

To ensure watertightness, you will need to use mastic around each screw. Unfortunately, the summer heat will dry the mastic and cause it to crack. It is then best to drill new holes and use stainless-steel screws before applying new mastic or humidity will seep through, the structural timber of the caravan will start to rot and the interior walls will develop mould.

Sourcing replacement parts and materials

It is likely that your caravan will need many parts replaced. Unfortunately, you can’t pop to your local DIY shop as many materials won’t be suitable because they are too heavy for example.

You will need to talk to suppliers specialised in spare parts for caravans. If you are having difficulties sourcing what you need, you could contact caravan owners’ clubs and association as they are bound to be able to point you in the right direction. If not, it will still be useful to benefit from their knowledge.

Supply systems

Sooner or later, you will have to tackle gas, electricity and plumbing jobs. As we mentioned above, you really don’t want to risk problems with gas and it is better to leave it to professionals.

Experienced owners may feel competent enough to take care of the electricall installation. You must, however, obtain a warrant of electrical fitness (WoEF) which can be issued by an electrical inspector or the electrician you hire. The warrant is valid for four years.

By law, caravans now have to provide a certain level of self-sufficiency when it comes to waste and fresh water supply and must have a certificate to prove it. This was introduced recently in an effort to curb issues from ’freedom campers’ disposing of their waste inconsiderately.

In a nutshell, your caravan must have sufficient capacity for the occupants to have 3 days’ autonomy which represents 4 litres per person per day of drinking water and a holding tank of 1 litre per person per day for waste water.

It is crucial to take this into account early on as it will impact the overall weight of the caravan.

Tyres, wheels and coupling

Older caravans weren’t always fitted with spare wheels and some owners wisely bought one… to discover later that it was the wrong size! Whether you need to replace the current tyres or want to add a spare one, check what type you need by carefully reading the marking on the tyre sidewall and check the wheel’s fixing holes.

Also check the coupling heads as they have changed a lot over the years and they may need replacing, as well as any part involved in towing – it wouldn’t do to lose your caravan on the road!

Safety detectors

It’s best to have ‘em and not need ‘em than to need ‘em and not have ‘em.

Smoke alarms, gas leak detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and fire blankets are widely available, inexpensive and you can even buy them in your local supermarket when you go grocery shopping next weekend so why would you want to take any risks and not install them in your caravan? As they say, they can save your life!

If you are thinking about exporting or importing your caravan, new or old, get in touch with us on + 64 9 309 1163. We are highly experienced with transporting vehicles internationally and we treat them all as if they were our own.


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