Updated May 2017

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. Opinion is valid in areas such as what camp sites 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 space craft 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 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’. ‘It’s commonsense that batteries need exercising too.’ The facts here are 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 endangers. Supply cables are specified to ensure circuit breakers cut current flow within 0.4 second. This is essential to save life. Extending length by joining cables, restricts current flow. This can prevent circuit breakers acting in time to save 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 hundreds do yearly – a fact backed by insurance records.

Campfire mythology too is rife with opinion. Much relate to that which worked in unique circumstances. A classic example is the bicycle wheel or tin dunny roof that worked as a TV antenna. It happened in a freak reception area, but is promoted thereafter for all TV reception. Another is ‘position of caravan weight 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 not possible for non-technical people to know who to believe on forum (technical) matters. Further, many almost vital threads become permanently locked due to trolling. Or sometimes (seemingly) to moderator whim. Many engineers (including me), have thus virtually ceased responding.

Instead, I now expand and routinely update my articles. My books too are so updated.

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 ElectricsCamper Trailer Book, Solar That Really Works (for RV) and Solar Success (for homes and properties). All are written in plain English.

For more about Collyn – Click on Bio.