About Blue Snoopy

Blue Snoopy is a 2012 Nova Vita Caravan pulled by a 2012 Nissan Navara ST Dual Cab Ute.

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Transition from Motorhome to Caravan

One would imagine that retirement brings spare time, how far is that from the truth?  The plan was to keep our blog up-to-date as we imagined that time would be readily available.  Not so! Over the coming days, we will endeavour to catch-up on the past couple of months and our adventures with our new RV.  It has been an exciting period in our lives and the start of a steep learning curve.

We collected the caravan and car (will call it the “combination”) on 31 August 2012.  The delivery was not as planned and “He“ eventually drove the “combination” home from Penrith during the Sydney peak hour, in the dark, with some rain around and with the effect of a 40kph southerly blowing across the freeway.  Actually it was not that bad.  It did take us about 30 minutes to get the caravan down our driveway and we were not even sure that we would be able to actually do that.

The caravan stayed parked in the drive until Monday, 1 October when we headed to the Sydney Equestrian Centre at Horsley Park where we overnighted before attending a towing course. On Tuesday, 2 October 2012, we joined a couple with a 5th Wheeler and spent the day under instruction from a representative from Tow-Ed (http://www.tow-ed.com.au/) when we learnt the finer points of towing.  The course covered;

• Combination setup
• Hitching and unhitching
• Driving through an obstacle course
• Reversing in a straight line
• Reversing into a confined space
• Reversing doing 360 degree circles
• Road test (caravan brakes) and orientation of the caravan wheels with the edge of the road.

We both passed the course and were provided with accreditation certificates.  We both agreed that whilst we learnt heaps from the course, it instilled confidence that we needed to have.

It cost us just on $500.00 for this course, money we consider VERY well spent.

When we arrived home from the course, it took us a little over 5 minutes to reverse the caravan onto our driveway.

Later that week “He” had some driving lights installed on the Nissan Navara.

Our first major towing exercise was to Canberra and we left Sydney on Friday, 5th October.  The trip to Canberra took place in very high winds and was actually the first time we towed the caravan fully laden.  It was scary with our towing mirrors being pushed back into the vehicle on several occasions by wind gusts and we experienced a high amount of sway during the journey.  The sway took place when travelling mostly between 80 to 90kph.  We believed that the wind was the major contributor.

The return trip took place in lighter conditions and the caravan behaved a lot better.

Our next major trip was scheduled for late November and was to involve travel on both highways and minor country roads.

We obtained some information from Hayman Reece relating to the setup of the weight distribution system we had purchased with the combination and “He” decided to have a play with the system prior to the trip.

Without wanting to repeat in detail the process described in the provided DVD, (if you need one call Hayman Reece and they will post a copy to you), the level of the Navara was measured both without and with the caravan attached.  From the measurements the number of chain links was reduced by one (1) which resulted in the rear of the Navara being raised by several millimetres.  Would this correct the sway?

Our next big excursion was to south western NSW, the first 280k’s on a freeway with the remained on rural roads.  The return trip would be mostly on rural roads with a crossing of the Blue Mountains via Victoria Pass.

To summarise the trip, brilliant!  99% of the sway had gone and the experience on both highways and rural roads was more than satisfactory.

The lesson, if you buy a caravan and have a weight distribution system fitted, load both the tow vehicle and the caravan and check all of the measurements and adjust the number of chain links as required.

During this trip we stayed in two caravan parks where we need to use all of our Tow-Ed skills to place the caravan in the right spots.  It took us less than five minutes to reverse the caravan into our drive on our return.

We are getting more confident but it is an entirely new world to the one we experienced with the motorhome.  We cannot take for granted anything associated with towing as you need to concentrate and by totally aware of what is happening with the combination and any external factor that can influence the setup.

Fuel Consumption figures so far are inconclusive.  Using the Nissan Navara trip computer as the sources of information, our trip to Canberra averaged 17 Lit per 100k’s (in the wind), 13.8 on the return and just over 16 on the most recent trip (when the temperature was very hot) and 14 Lit per 100k’s when the temperature was reasonable.  Speed is around the 80 to 90kph mark.

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22 February 2013

We have now done several trip and have started to accumulate some good numbers regards fuel consumption.

In simple terms they are:
– In the wind (16 -17 litres per 100k’s)
– Little wind (15.2 litres per 100k’s)

Fortunately these numbers are along the lines that we expected. Speed generating these numbers would be an overall average of 80kph but the most recent trip we were cruising (in wind) around the 100kph mark and the consumption then was mid 16’s.

Since our first trip we have also spent time adjusting the hitch arrangement where the length of the chains on the stabiliser bars were reduced by one link.  The overall effect of this was very dramatic with the amount of sway reduced significantly.  We still experience movement when certain types of trucks pass us but we are now prepared to react to the minimal sway.  The future addition of an AL-KO ESC system should also improve the experience.

We are not happy with our towing mirrors.  The original mirrors supplied were replaced with ORA mirrors but we experience considerable vibration in the mirrors and the mirrors have folded back several times when trucks have passed in the opposite direction.  These mirrors offer a flat face to the wind.  We have considered Clearview mirrors but the cost is a little prohibitive and we are also concerned that the overall width of the mirrors are 100mm (4 inches)wider on both sides than normal mirrors when retracted.

We are now looking at Milenco “Grand” Aero mirrors    http://www.aussietraveller.com.au/pages/products/detail/113/1328/  as the alternative as these mirrors are highly awarded and have aerodynamic qualities unlike the mirrors we are currently using.  Watch this space for a report.

21 March 2013

We have had the caravan upgraded with an AL-KO ESC (electronic stability control) system which is said to provide control over the caravan if it gets into problems.  There is a video on the AL-KO web site that shows how the system works.  If this system works as well as they say, we may never know!

The Milenco “Grand”Aero mirrors are not as stable as a Youtube video indicated but they handled our most recent trip without issue.  We will see how they go when we travel to Wagga Wagga and back.

Fuel consumption on the most recent trip has not changed.  It looks like our range is a safe 440k’s with about 12 l;itres left in the tank.

23 April 2013

Since our last post in this category, we have travelled to Wagga Wagga (round trip of 888klm) and can now report on both the AL-KO ESC system and the Milenco mirrors.

The AL-KO system is active and so far has not had the need to do its job.  There is a great deal of comfort knowing that the system is active (just need to check for static green leds on the draw bar).  Hopefully we will never have to see it in operation.

The Milenco mirrors might be a winner.  Whilst they do vibrate a little, they provide the necessary rear view and at this stage, remain very stable when trucks pass by.

We now believe that the REAL fuel consumption when towing is around the 16 litres per 100k’s.  Safe range under normal conditions (wind free) is around the 450k mark and we can both live and manage that distance.  We almost ran out of fuel returning from Wagga Wagga but the benefit of that is a better understanding of the trip computer and the remaining fuel calculation.  In other words, we need to look for fuel immediately the computer reaches a range of 22k’s as we have about 6 litres left in the tank at that time.

12 June 2014

Since the previous post we have towed our caravan to Central Australia (mid 2013) and back to South Australia in April & May this year. This is in addition to several short trips.  Since acquiring the caravan, our total distance towed is 16666 kilometres with 13164 in the past 12 months.

We can now confirm that;

  • The Milenco mirrors are indeed a winner.  Whilst there is a little vibration, they are fully functional for the designed purpose and have never folded back against the car.
  • We can only assume that the AL-KO ECS system is responsible for the overall stability of the caravan with no major sway issues experienced since the installation.  We have noticed the system braking the caravan on several occasions with an obvious reason evident each time.
  • Average fuel consumption is around the 16 litres per 100k’s.  This has been as high as 19 in a strong headwind and down as low as 13 with a tailwind.  We travel around the 90 kph mark or a little quicker on freeways.

Whilst we enjoyed additional space in the Winnebago with the slide-out, the caravan has given us a larger bed (space either side) and a walk-in bathroom with a reasonable sized shower and a washing machine.  For us and at this time in our lives, the caravan has to be the winner.

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