Caravans are simple, elegant machines. They trundle along silently behind your car or truck, without a care in the world, providing you with a place of refuge for the night ahead and many memories.
The same can be said for their electrical systems — these uncomplicated systems were made for uncomplicated machines. This is fantastic for the inexperienced roadside electrician (yourself) and an experienced automotive electrician.
It means you can rig up certain things in your caravan’s electrical system and fix things in a pinch, but you can also pass it off to an automotive electrician and let them do the work.
What’s involved in a caravan’s electrical system?
Almost all caravans come with two electrical systems: 240 and 12 volts. The 240-volt system powers all the big stuff, while the little things are powered by the ‘little guy’ of vehicular electrical systems — the 12V.
What does 240 Volts power do?
240V systems will power all big things: air conditioning, satellite TVs, fridges, ovens, etc. This also includes allowing your caravan to plug into any campsite power. 240V systems are heavy-duty and should only be worked on by a licensed electrician.
What does 12 bolts power do?
A 12-volt system is considerably smaller than a 240V system and can power much less. Primarily, a 12-volt system can power the onboard battery of your camper, along with small electrical appliances like lightbulbs, fairy lights, and other minor things.
What are some problems with caravan electrics?
Because caravan electrics are a heavily scaled-down version of your house, a few basic issues can go wrong with your caravan’s electrical system. The first is wiring. Sometimes, a caravan’s electrical system is wired incorrectly, or the wiring is old as it is an older caravan, used heavily, and the electrical system was never checked.
Ensure a professional automotive electrician checks your caravan’s electrics. Another less common issue comes from the use of electric brakes. These can be more complicated and expensive to fix, as they are typically found on newer caravan models.
What about renewable energy?
The most common source of renewable energy for a caravan is solar panels. Solar panels can be rigged up to your 12-volt system to provide extra power to the battery or batteries if you are without mains power somewhere.
They may not be able to provide a full day’s worth of power but are usually good for several hours. Depending on how many panels you have, you may be able to get away with a full day, but several hours is usually a good estimate.
Solar panels can also power on-demand hot water showers and sink systems. Solar panel installation can be expensive, but it usually pays for itself in time.
Be careful and cautious
Your caravan’s electrics aren’t fault-proof and caravan fires are on the rise primarily due to poor maintenance of the electrical systems. So when you buy a new caravan, one of the first items on your list should be to get the electrics checked over by a professional automotive electrician.
They will perform an extensive electrical checklist and testing to ensure your new caravan is safe and ready to use.
If you ever think you may have an electrical problem while on the road, you must get it looked at as soon as possible. A short in your electrical system could lead to a catastrophic fire.
Whether you’re brand new to caravan ownership or have owned one for a while, it is worth investing time into learning everything you can about your caravan and its electrical system. This will help you be as prepared as possible to tackle minor problems when they occur.
Simple rewiring of lights isn’t too complicated to learn, nor is the installation of sockets and other things. Simply follow YouTube video instructions very carefully, and if you’re concerned, get a licensed electrician to come and have a look at your handiwork.
You must get your caravan’s electrical systems checked out, at least once every six months or at the end of a journey. This regular maintenance will help prolong the life of your caravan and save you money in the long run.