Updated 2020

Caravan Facts an Opinions

Caravan facts and opinions are not the same. People confusing one for the other cause ongoing and major misunderstanding. This article explains how and why.

There is a major difference between (caravan) fact and opinion. An opinion is valid in areas such as what campsites to choose, and pubs to eat in etc. Engineering issues are substantially different. Most are based on work and engineering ‘laws’ long proven. Newton’s (1684) Laws of Motion enable spacecraft to navigate space too distant to visualise. Much we know about electricity stems from the early 1800s.

Caravan facts and opinions – safety factors

Engineering facts relate to things like strength of materials. Engineering opinion, however, may relate to acceptable safety factors, desired life expectancy etc. There, engineers and bean counters often disagree. The days have gone when bridges had a safety factor of seven.

Too often, however, opinion is seen as valid as fact. One caravaneers forum posting noted: ‘my 120 litre three-way fridge doesn’t cool properly’. Questioning showed it was drawing over 15 amps through ten metres of hopelessly thin cable. Those who knew, factually advised the voltage drop was so high that the fridge could never work properly. Resultant responses were that’s only ‘opinion’.

A mention of Ohms Law (that quantifies volts drop) then copped this salvo. ‘Ohm – never heard of him mate – but what would that Ohm fella know about it anyway. The real world’s different.’

Caravan facts and opinions – electrics

Many use ‘real-world’, and ‘commonsense’ to defend absurdities. Some forum respondents resort to abuse. This is particularly so with caravan electrics. Some threads become so abusive they are locked.

A still encountered opinion is: ‘people need exercise to be healthy so it’s commonsense that batteries need exercising too.’ The facts here are the opposite. Battery heaven is being totally unused but charged enough to balance internal loss. But that’s like keeping a lead-acid Labrador.

This issue also arises with caravan supply cables. Forum posts still advise joining supply cables together ‘as long as connectors are kept dry.’ Such opinion seriously endangers.

Supply cables are specified to ensure circuit breakers cut current flow within 0.4 seconds. This is essential to save a life. Extending length by joining cables restricts current flow. This can prevent circuit breakers from acting in time to save a life. Raising this point, however, results in ongoing ‘I’ve been doing that for fifty years mate’. Or the #@%^$ electricity regulators don’t know what they are talking about.’ And any number of similar and seriously dangerous opinions.

Caravan facts and opinions – caravan and tow vehicle stability

My own speciality (of caravan and tow vehicle stability) exemplifies this. Some owners refuse to accept physical laws relating to jack-knifing. ‘I’ve never rolled a caravan’ is often posted. But several hundred do yearly. This a fact backed by insurance records.

That not understood is that any caravan towed via an overhung hitch is fundamentally unstable. It is safe to do so, however, within limits – of which the major one is excess speed.

Campfire mythology too is rife with opinion. Much relates to that which worked in unique circumstances.

A classic example is a bicycle wheel that worked as a TV antenna. It happened in a freak reception area but was promoted thereafter for all TV reception.

Another (and hugely dangerous) is: ‘the positioning of weight in a caravan does not matter as long the nose weight is right’. That, if applied to rear-end weight, is virtually a recipe for jack-knifing.

Caravan facts and opinions – responding on forums

It is impossible for non-technical people to know who to believe in forum (technical) issues. Furthermore, vital threads become permanently locked at a moderator’s whim, leaving absurd claims unchallenged. Many engineers have ceased posting or as in my case (on a caravaners forum) being banned from posting.


Collyn Rivers is an ex-research engineer. He switched careers in mid-life to become a technical writer and publisher. His books are based on known long-proven facts. They include Caravan & Motorhome BookCaravan & Motorhome Electrics, Camper Trailer Book, Solar That Really Works (for RV) and Solar Success (for homes and properties). And more recently: Why Caravans Rollover – and how to prevent that. All are written in plain English.

For more about Collyn – Click on Bio.