Choosing Leisure Batteries

Flooded but sealed, with “Powerframe” technology – and guaranteed for five years!

On the face of it, since they are all lead acid batteries, choosing which type and size of leisure battery shouldn’t be all that complicated, but unfortunately it can get complicated and confusing, hence this attempt to show you the way.

It matters of course what your motorhome is configured to take in the way of batteries and what type or types of charger you have on board.  Motorhomes come in all shapes and sizes from DIY panel van conversions with an old car battery found in the garage and a vintage battery charger you inherited to a state of the art recreational vehicle with a powerful bank of batteries and sophisticated vehicle electronics. Choosing extra or replacement leisure batteries depends quite a lot on where on this spectrum of possibilities your particular version of motorhoming lies.

But we’ll ignore both extremes of this spectrum and concentrate on mainstream production motorhomes which include at least some facilities for charging the leisure batteries – which might well include, these days, solar panels.

The decisions which a typical motorhome owner might face about leisure batteries is whether to add an extra leisure battery and what to replace it (or them) with when they have come to the end of their service life, so let’s look at those two scenarios.  Do you simply add any continues………

The EU Referendum – and Boris Johnson

BorisThere are those who have been convinced beyond doubt that the UK would be better out of the EU and those who are just as convinced that we should stay in – and I find the position and arguments of both these groups to be equally unconvincing.

They are both speaking with passion from positions of principle and to me the issue seems to be much more one of pragmatic judgement about the current and future prospects.

And yesterday along comes Boris Johnson, with his bombshell announcement, seemingly carefully managed to get attention, that in his view we should leave the EU because this is the last chance. At least he has put his finger on the nub of the matter, is this, or is it not, the last chance we will ever have to leave the EU?

It seems silly to me to suggest that if we don’t leave now we will never be able to do so. This might be Boris’s last chance to steer us out of the EU or the last chance during Boris’s political lifetime, but surely it’s a bit silly to suggest that it will be the UK’s last chance? The EU is a treaty organisation and history tells us that treaties only last as long as the partaking countries continue to want them to last. Countries (and parts of countries) can amalgamate and break apart as they from time to time wish. It’s not very likely that they will keep making changes of this gravity backwards and forwards with any frequency, but isn’t it rather silly to suggest that any Treaty is genuinely permanent? Apart from anything else, if circumstances develop in which in becomes clearly in our interests for the UK withdraw from the EU, who is going to stop us?

So while I think Boris’s move has been helpful in flushing out the core issue, which is whether now is the right time for an EU exit, Boris has also exposed the personal nature of his agenda for change. More accurately, now is the right time for him.

Most of us probably agree that even after forty years of our membership to help sort things out, the EU is still pretty rotten. There is fairly obviously quite a bit of corruption as well continues………

Sorry I’ve been away

The Truth is out thereMy motorhome is alongside the house and my GoldWing is in the garage, so my interest in both is still alive, but I got a bit fed up of writing for this Blog, so I allowed it to go fallow a while ago. Now it’s time to pick up the habit again.

What am I going to write about? Well some motorhome topics and some GoldWing or motorcycling topics too I hope, but life moves on one’s interests change, so I might broaden the range with articles on a broader front – including perhaps current affairs.

I have relocated to East Anglia and of course the house move was a major life event which contributed to the loss of interest in the Blog but that’s over now and East Anglia provides a new area for exploration and reporting.

Please visit again.

Buying a motorhome abroad – Part 2
Some European dealership are much bigger than anything in UK and have extensive export experience

Some European dealership are much bigger than anything in UK and have extensive export experience

Buying a motorhome abroad, especially in Germany and Belgium, seems to be quite a popular activity – and to my surprise it’s seems to be done fairly widely on a semi-DIY basis, i.e. buying from a dealer over there but doing the collecting and/or all the importation paperwork yourself. It is not for the feint hearted but it obviously can be done and the DIY approach is obviously the way to save most money compared with buying in UK.

If you have read my previous article on this subject then you will be aware that I have used an experienced British agent, Nick Legg of Bundesvan, to do the inspecting and importing for me which I found as easy, if not easier, than buying from a UK dealer. I told Nick what I wanted (which I knew pretty much exactly) and paid him a deposit – and in due course he turned up with the new motorhome at my door to exchange it for my banker’s draft.   That was a few years ago and nowadays electronic payment would work better.

He also handled the few warranty issues we had very well and I fancy that Nick’s contacts and experience with German motorhome dealers allowed him to negotiate a better deal with them than I could have achieved myself – and indeed he did secure a big “trade” discount on one of the vehicles we were looking at just recently.   Unfortunately so far we have been less successful, although not, I hasten to add, due to any fault of Nick’s.

But clearly it is possible to do it all yourself, providing you accept that effort and some extra risk are required – for example because it seems to be impossible to get anything other than third party cover for your transit journey back to UK.  Anyone (or at least lots of people) could work out how to use the internet to search for suitable dealers and motorhomes and there are some well written guides to the importation process on the internet too, for example there is a good one on Adam & Sophie’s Blog covers a lot of the ground.

The paperwork with the DVLA is a bit daunting, especially because now that you can no longer use a continues………

Buying a motorhome abroad
A step up to real luxury when touring

A step up to real luxury when touring

We have been looking for a change of motorhome for quite a few months, or rather toying with the idea, with no particular timetable – nor indeed much in the way of dissatisfaction with our existing vehicle, a Hymer B674 which we bought new eight years ago.

The temptation was that there are always bigger and better motorhomes and we were of an age when we wouldn’t be continuing to tour extensively for many more years, so if we were ever going to treat ourselves to the next step up in luxury, now was probably getting close to the time.

Budget comes into it too of course, and Lancashire Thrift, so there is no way we would be buying a brand new top specification monster of a motorhome. But we’re on our second Hymer and we like them, and we have always fancied their top of the range S Class models, so maybe we should have a serious look at getting one of those.

We would never have bought a new S Class because they cost roughly twice as much as the “ordinary” B Class but they depreciate more quickly than cheaper models and they tend to get looked after quite well, so a used one would be a possibility providing we didn’t mind buying a used one again, which we didn’t. On this basis what would have been way outside our budget was potentially affordable so we started looking around.

Our current vehicle is a 2006 Hymer B674 which I mentioned we’d had from new. It was our third motorhome and we’d reckoned we’d learned enough about what we needed so although we did look at some in the showrooms and at shows, we actually ordered it from the catalogue and from a small unofficial importer of German motorhomes called Nick Legg continues………

Nightstop Thoughts – by Ian Biggar and Sue Stanley
Ian & Sue's Blog offers some good reading

Ian & Sue’s Blog offers some good reading

Editor’s Note:  This article was submitted as a comment on a previous article on this subject but it runs to 1,500 words and is very well written, so I thought it deserved a bit more accessiblity than it would have posted as a Comment.  Ian and Sue are experienced motorhomers and they write their own Travel Blog, which you can visit by clicking HERE.  It contains some very good reading.

I see you are pursuing a topic close to our hearts.

Although members of the Caravan Club for many years, we haven’t been following the forums on CC for the very reason that you felt driven to set up another venue for discussion of this topic! So here is our five-pennyworth on the subject…

The establishment of plentiful aires/overnight stopovers for motorhomers around this country is a dream close to our hearts and we have followed the progress of various UK campaigns, but their dedicated efforts seem dwarfed by the enormity of the project to catch up with our continental neighbours.

Most local authority’s departments that have an input to this are ignorant of what motorhomes are and what motorhomers do, and show indifference to the revenue motorhoming can bring to tourism in their area. They seem unable to swiftly remove itinerants on public land, yet are up to their eyes with over-restrictive by-laws, planning rules and regulations, which they hasten to embellish and over-use to restrict even daytime parking for motorhomes, let alone overnight stops!

An important distinction, regularly re-iterated in Europe, is the difference between “parking” and “camping” – as soon as the chairs, table or awning come out you are Camping and the authorities will take a stern view. We as motorhomers need to remember that and act accordingly if we are not to damage our own interests. We mustn’t act like itinerants of the infamous kind, or give the impression we want to park up for months, raise our kids, pester the populace and despoil the area! All we are asking for is the right to park.

So, the various motorhome groups are all doing their bit, but who has influence with the real power brokers in government, tourism and local authorities?

Lets look at the situation in France, Germany and Italy. All are countries with strong and continues………

UK Nightstops – Discussion Summary
Some motorway service areas have quiet corners

Some motorway service areas have quiet corners

As I mentioned, I originated a Thread on the Caravan Club forum to explore ideas for nightstops for motorhomes in UK, and to include provisions for other camping units, notably caravans.  I’m hoping the Caravan Club would get involved in providing them, to bring a bit of experience and weight to the scene, to set a better standard for UK than the variable one found abroad and, for the benefit of CC and its members, to broaden the scope of CC’s commercial activities.

Clearly any caravan site, including CLs, is capable of providing one night accommodation for motorhomes (and caravans and trailer tents) but they are primarily holiday locations and they are geared to advanced booking, relatively early arrivals and longer stays.  In contrast nightstops cater for casual arrivals, parking rather setting out a pitch and a shorter stay pattern.  The busier arrivals and departure pattern which shorter stays and later arrivals would bring to a Club Site would probably be unwelcome to many holidaymaker caravanners, wanting a bit of peace and quiet.

Caravan Sites and CLs are regulated according to the provisions of the Caravan Site and Control of Development Act 1960 together with model standards for things like pitch spacing and the provision of camping facilities.  This might lead you to assume that all overnight stops for camping vehicles and trailers would come under the same regulation – but no, because in UK there is already provision for overnight parking which operates simply as permitted parking.  Overnight stops on motorway service areas are one example and there are some local authority car parks (not that many at present) where overnight parking of camping vehicles is permitted. Some private car parks also permit overnight stays, for example motorhome dealerships. continues………

UK Nightstops for Motorhomes – The Practicalities

NightstopA discussion on this subject has been running on the Caravan Club’s Forum, Club Together, for a couple of weeks but  an attempt to concentrate on the practical design aspects has run into difficulties, with too many off-topic and otherwise unhelpful posts.  So I thought I would offer a more sheltered opportunity to progress the discussion on this Blog.

The proposition is that Nightstops for motorhomes (and potentially caravans) have developed along ad hoc and sometimes messy lines on the Continent, so could the Caravan Club, a big player in the UK recreational market, do better for UK by developing a more planned and coordinated set of nightstops to complement their existing and extensive network of large touring camp sites and smaller, five van, certificated locations?

Small ones?

Small ones?

Nightstops provide overnight parking and they might also have facilities for taking on water and dumping tanks, but they are not campsites.  They don’t provide the facilities of campsites, like shower and toilet blocks or resident staff.  They are for short stays, either as rest stops in transit or sleeping locations while touring an area, rather than for any sort of residence.  At their simplest they are simply car parks where motorhomes are permitted to stop overnight.

Parking rather than camping rules will therefore apply and the units will usually be closer together (i.e. parked side by side) rather than spaced out as on campsites, with room for awnings and tables and chairs.  They are therefore more like lorry parks, where drivers can park together, sleep for a few hours, maybe do some local shopping or visiting and then move on.

Big ones?

Big ones?

Along transit routes, nightstops on the Continent (called Aires and Stelplatz) are often large parking areas and they get very busy but nightstops are also found in rural villages and those may accommodate only a small handful and rareful be full.  Parking may be restricted to motorhomes but is often shared with other vehicles, including lorries, although caravans are often prohibited.

Piecemeal development is taking place in UK using a mixture of exiting locations like pub and other car parks and some local authorities in tourist areas are recognising the value of providing for motorhomes rather than shunning them, but it’s patchy and slow.  There are hopes for a positive impact on local tourism and businesses and concerns about an adverse impact on campsites and about Travellers and others abusing them.

There is an article on the All the Aires Website which condenses ideas from continental experience and suggests way to construct a good nightstop – and this is worth everyone who is interested in this topic reading as background information.  The message is that they can be successful (and lucrative) but money should be taken for parking charges rather than services like water, which it is expedient and more practical to provide free of charge instead.

Service points can be simple

Service points can be simple

Could a big player like the Caravan Club usefully get involved and start to develop a network of Nightstops, big, small or a mixture, to compliment its camping locations?  And if so what types should they be and where?

The Motorcaravan Club is actively engaged but is trying to provide nightstops as small camping locations, which brings them under camping regulations.  The Caravan Club is already planning to give Nightstops consideration and is being encouraged to think outside that box – and the discussion on their Forum has already developed into the nuts and bolts of the idea: the types and sizes and locations and practical design aspects.

But it is getting clogged up with a lot of off-topic stuff, hence this invitation to discuss.  Anyone may contribute but please note that comments which aren’t about the nuts & bolts of nightstop development and design will not be accepted.

How do you think nightstops can best be developed in UK?   Over to you  ……………………………………………

Motor Insurance is challenging these days
If you've got it, flaunt it,- but are they both covered in this combination?

If you’ve got it, flaunt it,- but are they both covered in this combination?

We punters get taken advantage of quite a lot because we don’t bother to shop around and that’s particularly true of motor insurance.  Even though we have to renew every year, which reminds us of the need to take stock, some of us won’t bother to shop around to compare the price.

Insurers want to keep our renewal business so they don’t particularly want us to shop around – and they are not above trying to make it less likely that we will do so.

In order to discourage shopping around and encourage renewal with them brokers or insurers may:

  1. Encourage  automatic renewal if we pay by direct debit
  2. Send the renewal letter as late as possible
  3. Play hard to get with NCB confirmation
  4. Counter-offer with a lower premium but only if they think they are going to lose you.

Only the last one of these is helpful to you, because even if they offer automatic renewal they will still want you to confirm that you’ve had no claims or earned no points on your licence.  If you have had claims that they don’t know about or collected new points on your licence, they will want to charge you extra if they can and may start to treat you like a captive customer.

Our opportunity at renewal time, especially if we have not become a captive customer, is to shop around to make sure we’re not being taken for a ride.  This article is about why and how to do that. continues………

Digital Radio on the move

DAB*
Sony DAB*

Digital radio has been around for a while and it’s very clever – providing crystal clear sound and a much wider range of stations than you can receive with ordinary FM.  It’s now also available for use in vehicles in UK, i.e. for use on the move.

There are other systems around the world but DAB (digital audio broadcasting) is the digital radio format used in UK.  It allows far more stations to be squeezed in and the inclusion of additional digital information, including for example the name of the tune currently being played on a music station.  The sound is crystal clear and cross country reception is seamless.

Ordinary FM radio still works well enough on the move for many of us and thanks to clever old RDS (radio data system) which Honda introduced with the GL1800 as it came to Europe in 2001, provides traffic alerts and seamless access to national radio channels as we cross the Country.  Together with MP3 players and the like to play recorded music through the bike’s powerful stereo system,  those Wingers who like sound while they ride are well provided for.  And installing a replacement radio in a GoldWing isn’t exactly straightforward anyway, as is the case in many modern cars, where the manufacturer has deterred theft by building the radio into the dashboard rather than using a standard sized rectangular slot.

DAB is better but there isn’t really enough improvement for many people to want to continues………

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