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Proven & Unbiased Information from Collyn Rivers

♦ travel trailers ♦ motorhomes ♦ camper trailers ♦ solar ♦

Cover of Caravan and Motorhome Electrics by Collyn RiversCover of Why Caravans Roll Over by Collyn RiversCover of How to Choose and Buy an RV by Collyn RiversCover of The Caravan and Motorhome Book by Collyn RiversCover of Solar That Really Works by Collyn RiversCover of Solar Success by Collyn Rivers

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Between 1959 and 1961 Collyn Rivers and Antony Fleming drove a Bedford QLR off-road truck twice the length and breadth of Africa studying road surface conditions.

A 43 minute film about their adventure, produced and narrated by Antony Fleming, has been viewed on YouTube more than 1.6 million  times!

Picture from Africa journey. Caravan and Motorhome Electrics by Collyn Rivers

To view the film, and also read Collyn's telling of the tale, just click the button below.

Africa 

Cover of the Camper Trailer Book by Collyn Rivers

The Camper Trailer Book.  Free!

Not currently available as an eBook or paperback, RV Books is publishing The Camper Trailer Book on this site.  Every week new sections will be released until the complete, fully revised, version is available.

Read It Here

Solar Success

Cover of Solar Success by Collyn Rivers

Collyn Rivers is the author of Solar Success. Previously only available on a different website (solarbooks.com.au),  you'll now find this book and a large selection of exclusive articles by Collyn Rivers dealing with the intricacies of setting up and using solar power to run your home, cabin, travel trailer or motorhome.  Over the next few weeks all of the content from Collyn's second site will be brought over to RV Books to provide a more comprehensive coverage of a wider range of topics. 

Solar Success

Featured article

Caravan fridge problems – how to fix the most common faults

by Collyn Rivers - Updated 2020

Caravan Fridge Problems

Caravan fridge problems are due to poor ventilation, inadequate cable size and/or insufficient power to drive them. Here's how to fix them.

Caravan fridge problems - fix them yourself

Pic: Original source currently unknown.

Q. My caravan fridge works fine whilst on 230 volts, but not on 12 volts when we free camp. How can I can tell for sure if the fridge is faulty?

A. You can be 100% sure if you remove the fridge. Then see how it performs standing alone in a garage at much the same temperature.

Poor installation

Q. A friend says you emphasise in your book (Caravan & Motorhome Electrics that most caravan fridge problems are due to faulty installation. How has this come about?

A: A probable 95% of caravan fridge problems are because they are poorly installed. There are two main types of travel trailer motorhome fridges: 12/230 volt compressor, and 12/230 volt/ LP gas (so-called) 'three-way' fridges. Both suffer from poor installation. Some RV makers and many self installers do not understand how fridges actually work.

Fridges do not make cold. They are simply pumps that moves heat from where it is not wanted - to where it does not matter. You must have a cool air inlet at their base. You also need to direct that cool air through the fridges cooling fins. Rising hot air must easily exit.

Ventilation is vital

Ventilation is totally vital for three-way fridges. This only too often insufficient. Some have none at all. Unless ventilation is provided as specified (and illustrated in Caravan & Motorhome Electrics) they have no chance of working correctly, on either electricity or gas. See below if the fridge works on gas and 230 volts, but not 12 volts.

Many travel trailers now have access to 230 volts, so they use this most of the time. Here, cable size can usually be relied on to be fine. Use much heavier cable if it runs on 12 volt solar/battery power. The required cable, however, is costly - so is rarely used. Current draw on 12 volts is very high. It is only feasible from a vehicle alternator, and short lunchtime stops from battery power.

Q. I know caravan fridge 12 volt fridge cable is usually too small. How heavy must it be?

A: This depends on the distance from the battery - it should not exceed two to three metres. Errors are caused by there being several ways of specifying cable size.

When specifying cable size, makers of electrical stuff either quote the cross-sectional area in square millimetres, in AWG or B&S. The latter are identical for all practical purposes. For most electric compressor fridges, the minimum is 4 mm² (AWG 10), but 6 mm² ( AWG 8) is preferable. Three-way fridges draw from 12-30 amps. These really need 8 mm² (AWG 7) unless the distance is less than two metres (when 6 mm² is fine).

Auto cable size

Q. I hear there is a problem with the auto cable sold in auto parts and hardware stores.

A. Auto cable is usually just fine. But, for reasons that defy sanity, auto cable makers use similar ‘numbers’ as above (e.g., 4 mm, 6 mm) to imply something totally different.

Auto cable ‘4 mm’ is not 4.0 mm² – it is the overall diameter of the cable including its insulation. That rating is the size hole you can push the cable through!

Worse, auto cable insulation thickness and type varies from maker to maker. Most 4 mm auto cable is anywhere from 1.8 mm²-2.0 mm². Most 6 mm auto cable is 4.6 mm². The reason why so many fridges are affected is because that 4 mm² and 6 mm² cable are the sizes most commonly specified.  Be aware that even if you ask for (say) 4 mm² cable what you almost always sold is 1.8-2.0 mm² auto cable. Many people fall into this trap as few vendors know there's a difference. (The square mm size is, however, usually shown in the cable's specification.)

Caravan fridge - current ratings

Q. My three-way caravan fridge draws 25 amps. It is connected to the tow vehicle battery by ten metres (total for twin conductor) of 35 amp cable - yet barely works. A friend has your Caravan & Motorhome Book (that has a lot about caravan fridge problems). He says the cable is much too small. How can this possibly be? It’s already three and a half times the necessary current rating!

A.  Current ‘rating’ is mostly misunderstood. It is not a current carrying recommendation but a fire rating that relates only to the current the cable can carry before its insulation begins to melt. The rating has absolutely nothing to with voltage drop. The most commonly used ’35-amp’ cable can be as small as 4 mm auto cable (1.8 mm²)! Ten metres of this introduces a massive three volts drop. That fridge will barely work at all. The minimum you need is 10 mm², over seven times the size.

You need to locate that battery in the travel trailer, charged from the alternator by a caravan-located dc-dc charger. See: dc-dc charging. Still use proper size cable. (You owe your friend, and that fridge, one considerable apology!)

About the author

Collyn Rivers is an ex motor industry research engineer who switched careers in mid-life to write and publish technically correct books in plain English. They cover the travel trailer, motorhome and solar areas.

The 'overall' ones are the Caravan & Motorhome Book, and the second edition Camper Trailer Book. Electrical issues are covered in Caravan & Motorhome Electrics, solar in Solar That Really Works (for cabins and RVs) and Solar Success (for home and property systems).

Recently updated articles

Electric Vehicle History

Updated 2020 Electric vehicle history Electric vehicles have existed for longer than most people think. They long pre-date petrol and diesel. This electric vehicle history by Collyn Rivers is an overview. The first dc electric motor (1866). Pic: Siemens UK. The...

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Baghdad battery myth

In the 1930s, German archaeologist Wilhelm Koenig claimed that whilst excavating an archaeological dig near Baghdad (Iraq), he uncovered a small clay jar. It had a plug that sealed the opening. That plug had a copper tube with an iron rod inserted into it. If filled with an acidic liquid, the device functioned as a basic battery. Koenig and others made similar versions that generated up to two volts per unit.

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Warning for Potential Caravan Buyers – how to buy a caravan

Potential buyers of caravans need to be extremely careful to ensure that their proposed caravan is, in fact, fully compliant with Australia’s vehicle safety regulations, as stated in the national Australian Design Rules. The Federal government’s Vehicle Safety Standards branch has recognised the problems in the caravan industry. It is introducing a new Road Vehicle Standards Act in July 2021. This Act replaces the Motor Vehicle Standards Act, which has been in force since 1989.

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Caravan Length and Stability

For decades both travel trailer owners and vendors have emphasised the need for a laden tow vehicle to at least weigh as much as the laden travel trailer. Length and travel trailer stability, and where weight is distributed over that length, is now being seen as more significant.

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Articles by Category

Electrical (general)
Batteries & Battery Charging
General
Travel
The Camper Trailer Book

Want to find out more? Our books cover all these topics and a lot more. 

Cover of How to Choose and Buy an RV by Collyn Rivers

Whether you’re buying your first RV or updating to a bigger, more comfortable rig, there are a great many things you need to know and consider. How to Choose and Buy an RV breaks things down so that you can decide what you want and whether or not what you’ve found is right for you.

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Cover of Solar That Really Works by Collyn RiversSolar That Really Works! explains every detail of designing and installing solar in boats, camper trailers, travel trailers and motorhomes.

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Cover of Caravan and Motorhome Electrics by Collyn RiversCaravan & Motorhome Electrics covers every aspect of designing, installing and fault finding of the electrics in fifth wheel and conventional travel trailers, camper trailers and motorhomes.

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Cover of The Caravan and Motorhome Book by Collyn RiversThe Caravan & Motorhome Book covers every conceivable aspect of camper trailer, travel trailer and fifth wheel travel trailer, campervan and motorhome usage.

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Cover of Why Caravans Roll Over by Collyn RiversTravel Trailers and their tow vehicles rarely jack-knife and roll over - but when they do the results are catastrophic. The cause, and how to prevent it, is explained here. Why Caravans Roll Over offers solid advice for keeping yourself safe on the road.
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Cover of Solar Success by Collyn RiversSolar Success explains how to design and build home and property systems that ensures affordable solar success first and every time.

 

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Cover of How to Choose and Buy an RV by Collyn RiversWhether you're buying your first RV or updating to a bigger, more comfortable rig, there are a great many things you need to know and consider.  This book breaks things down so that you can decide what you want and whether or not what you've found is right for you. It's technically sound and comprehensive so that you can proceed with complete confidence.  How to Choose and Buy an RV is the ultimate guide for those times when you want to, well, choose and buy an RV.

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Cover of Why Caravans Roll Over by Collyn RiversTravel Trailers and their tow vehicles rarely jack-knife and roll over - but when they do the results are catastrophic. The cause, and how to prevent it, is explained here.  Why Caravans Roll Over offers solid advice for keeping yourself safe on the road.

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Cover of Caravan and Motorhome Electrics by Collyn RiversCaravan & Motorhome Electrics is the totally rewritten successor to the original globally selling Motorhome Electrics. The book's content now also covers every aspect of designing, installing and fault finding of the electrics in fifth wheel and conventional travel trailers, camper trailers and motorhomes.

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Cover of Solar Success by Collyn RiversSolar Success explains how to design and build home and property systems that ensures affordable solar success first and every time.

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Cover of The Caravan and Motorhome Book by Collyn RiversThe Caravan & Motorhome Book covers every conceivable aspect of camper trailer, travel trailer and fifth wheel travel trailer, campervan and motorhome usage. Like all of Collyn Rivers' books it is technically sound yet written in plain English.

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Cover of Solar That Really Works by Collyn RiversSolar That Really Works! explains, in clear English, every detail of designing and installing solar in boats, camper trailers, travel trailers and motorhomes. It is up-to-date, valid globally and technically accurate. It is clear, concise and easy to follow without sacrificing important detail.

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How to Choose and Buy an RV

This is Collyn Rivers' newest book.  Building on his years of experience and extensive knowledge of engineering and all things travel trailer and RV, this is the book you need with you when shopping for an RV.

Caravan & Motorhome Electrics

Collyn Rivers has done it again! – if you need to know anything about motorhome electrics, then this book is for you... Collyn must be, without doubt, the foremost authority in Australia on this subject.

The Wanderer (Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Ltd)

Why Caravans Roll Over....and How to Prevent It​

Should be compulsory reading for everyone involved with Travel Trailers: Design / Engineering, Marketing, Journalism (print & electronic), Regulations, Inspections, Driver-Training, Travel Trailer Clubs, Towing and Modifications.

Colin Young

Founder and CEO, Caravan Council of Australia

Solar that Really Works!

Collyn is an accomplished engineer who knows how to design and build successful systems. It is refreshing to see practical advice written in plain language when there is so little solar information around. . . this is an essential text . . . you won’t find a better guide.

Alan T. Gray

Earth Garden Magazine

The Caravan & Motorhome Book

Without doubt, this is the best book we have ever read . . . it will be treasured, and read on a regular basis.

The Wanderer (Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia Ltd)