This article is to highlight some of the most common caravanning myths. These are things I’ve come across recently while I’ve been researching articles.

Now, I was tempted to not write this article… because some people are quite passionate about these ideas. So we might lose a few readers.

But here’s the thing:

None of these are my opinion.

They’re facts I’ve come across in legislation or on sites like the Department of Health.

In fact:

I changed my own mind when presented with some of these facts.

Let’s get started:

Myth 1: Store your caravan tanks full because bacteria needs light and air to grow

Different types of bacteria and fungi can still grow whether you leave your caravan water tanks empty, full or partially filled.

One of the most popular caravanning myths is that if you leave your tanks full then there’s no air or light… so bad things can’t grow.

The truth:

Caravanning Myths - Water Tanks Full Does Not Matter e.g. E Coli is Anaerobic Bacteria

The most common cause of gastro (E Coli) doesn’t need oxygen… it’s an anaerobic bacteria

  1. Not all types of bacteria need oxygen to grow. In fact: the most common cause of gastro (E. Coli) doesn’t need oxygen… it’s an anaerobic bacteria
  2. There’s oxygen dissolved in water that aerobic bacteria can use. Just like fish get it using their gills.
  3. Not all bacteria need sunlight to grow. Again, E. Coli… it lives in your digestive system. The sun don’t shine there!
  4. Your tanks aren’t full anyway. There’d be air trapped to start with… and then after a couple of days bubbles are formed which makes even bigger air pockets.

So:

Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because your tanks are full nothing is growing in them.

The main thing is if you’re leaving your caravan sitting around and you’re worried about water quality, you should clean your tanks before you use them again.

Check out this article on Should You Leave Water In Caravan Tanks?

Myth 2: You should always tow with full caravan water tanks

This is one of those caravanning myths that’s part true:

It MAY be better to tow with full water tanks, but not ALWAYS

Full water tanks can improve caravan towing stability by lowering centre of gravity and providing more even weight distribution.

However, it may not make a difference depending on how well your van is loaded to start with (and where the tanks are relative to the axles).

Plus, full tanks can be worse. Arguments about fuel consumption aside:

  • Full tanks add a lot of weight to your caravan (1 kg per 1 L). If you’re already close to your limit, you may need to go empty
  • Depending on the position of the tanks it can impact tow ball download and make towing worse

The main thing to consider is that if your tanks are half full, the water can slosh around and cause towing instability.

You can find out more in our article, Should You Tow a Caravan With Full Water Tanks?

Myth 3: You can clean your caravan water tanks using vinegar or bicarbonate soda

It’s true that white vinegar does have some great anti-bacterial properties. It has been shown to kill things like salmonella, E. coli, and cold/flu viruses.

It’s the best for killing mould too (more on that later).

But white vinegar only kills about 80% of germs, and doesn’t kill dangerous bacteria like staphylococcus.

White vinegar is helps to keep ants out of your caravan

Baking soda?

This is one of the most dangerous caravanning myths… it doesn’t kill most bacteria, including salmonella, E. coli. and staphylococcus.

Bi Carb Baking Soda - No Good to Clean Caravan Water Tanks

It might deodorise your tank… but that’s about it.

If you want to know what the science says about what can I use to clean my caravan water tank?

  1. Bleach (diluted at 12.5 ml per 100 L) is recommended as it’s the most effective and cheapest.
  2. You can use Milton Solution if you’ve already got it (but Milton Solution is just diluted bleach that’s way more expensive).
  3. Commercially available caravan tank cleaning products are your next best option.

Read the full article here: What Can I Use to Clean My Caravan Water Tank? [Good, Bad, Dangerous]

Myth 4: Bleach products are good for cleaning mould off your caravan awning

Bleach is a great disinfectant for caravan water tanks… but it doesn’t kill mould.

This isn’t just one of those caravanning myths… it’s one of the ‘Myths About Mould’ according to the leading environmental consultants on mould (Mycolab).

What’s really interesting:

Bleach has a high pH so it’s not effective in killing mould… but the mould is smart enough to see it as an attack:

Mould responds to bleach by deactivating it and then using it as a food source…

“So when we put bleach on mould we are actually feeding it”

Apparently it only looks like you’ve killed the mold because the bleach is bleaching the mould. It loses it’s colour so it looks like it’s gone… but the colur returns in about 3 weeks.

Bleach is no good for cleaning mould from caravan awnings

It’s recommended you use White Vinegar to clean mould… check out how here: How To Clean Mould Off Your Caravan Awning [Step By Step]

Myth 5: You don’t need towing mirrors if you have a rear camera on your caravan

Saying you don’t need towing mirrors because you have a rear camera is like saying you don’t need a cup because you have a plate.

They’re related, but do different things.

  1. A rear camera is essentially doing the job of a rear vision mirror… allowing you to see BEHIND you.
  2. Side mirrors do a completely different job… they allow you to see down the SIDE of your caravan.

You need to be able to see along the full length of the SIDE of the caravan at it’s widest point and a further 20 m behind it.

Australian Design Rule Towing Mirrors Caravans

[That’s from Vehicle Standard ADR 14/02]

Unless your rear camera allows you see along the side of your caravan, you need mirrors that can do this.

Does this mean you need towing mirrors?

Yes, unless your vehicle’s factory fitted mirrors are wider than the caravan… and provide a clear view along it’s full length and a further 20 m behind it.

Caravanning myths - you don't need tow mirrors if you have a rear camera

For more info about this one check out the article: Do You Need Towing Mirrors For A Caravan in Australia?

Myth 6: Kangaroo whistles reduce risk of hitting kangaroos

Someone did a PhD to find out of if kangaroos whistles work.

It was pretty clear: No, they don’t.

The tests showed that kangaroos don’t react (at all) to the high frequency sounds they emit.

They aren’t loud enough for the sound to project forward of a moving vehicle’s road noise… and can only be heard when the vehicle’s passing.

Studies of fleets of vehicles have shown that just as many people hit kangaroos when they’re using them compared to when they’re not.

Caravanning myths - kangaroo whistles do not work

Some interesting points:

  1. Even if you strap a roo-guard to a stake it doesn’t change kangaroo behaviour
  2. Driving around with a kangaroo whistle doesn’t make a difference
  3. If you leave a kangaroo whistle in the bush they’ll come and take a dump next to it

Okay, don’t shoot the messenger on this one! Check out this article

Myth 7: You can plug your caravan into a home power point as long as you have the right plug on your extension cord

The plug on a heavy duty 15A extension cord won’t fit into your house power point for a reason:

It’s not supposed to.

10A and 15A Power Point - Connecting a Caravan to Mains Electricity

Some might suggest modifying the cord, either by:

  1. Swapping the plug for a smaller 10A one, or
  2. Grinding down the earth pin until it fits (called a ‘death lead’ for a reason)

how do I connect my caravan to the mains

Illegal, fire danger, and voids insurance.

Why?

Your home runs on a 10A power supply. Caravans run on 15A power supply.

This means that if you’re using a ‘normal’ extension cord (or plug) you can be drawing up to 1.5 times the amount of power through it than it’s rated to.

Read this article if you want to know more details about how to power your caravan from home by connecting to mains electricity.

For a quick explanation:

To start with you need a heavy duty extension cord that’s rated to 15 amps. Then you have 2 options: either get a qualified electrician install a 15A power point to plug into, or purchase an approved 15A to 10A adaptor (like this Ampfibian).

Ampfibian 15A 10A Adaptor Most Popular Caravan Safety Accessory

Myth 8: Your caravan tow ball weight is 10% of your van’s weight

The truth is:

A caravan’s ball weight changes every time you load your van… or change the amount of water in your tanks

Unfortunately you can’t just calculate the nose weight of a caravan (or any type of trailer for that matter).

Think of your trailer as a see-saw:

  • The wheels are the fulcrum
  • You have some weight on one both sides
  • One end is resting on the tyre on the ground (this is your tow ball)

Caravan tow ball weight is like a see saw

It’s pretty easy to see how increasing the weight on either end of the see-saw will change the reading on the scale.

Caravan myths - caravan tow ball weight is 10%

It’s safe to say their tow ball weight was more than 10%

Exactly the same thing happens on your caravan.

So some things that will affect your caravan’s ball weight include:

  • How you’ve loaded your van
  • If your water tanks have water in them on not
  • If there’s gas in the bottles
  • Where you keep your spare tyre
  • Are there Jerry cans on the back of your van… and if they’re full

Myth 9: To decrease your tow ball weight just move heavy things to the back of the caravan.

Well, I guess this isn’t technically a caravanning myth…

…because moving heavy things to the back of your van will definitely decrease your tow ball weight.

how not to properly load a caravan

The problem is:

It’s dangerous.

Check out this article on how to properly load a caravan for towing.

The key points are that:

  • Weight should be over the axles, then the front, then the back
  • Uneven weight distribution can increase risk of swaying

Full Water Tanks More Evenly Distribut Load and Lower Centre of Gravity

Check out this video for a quick demonstration:

Summary

These are just some of the caravanning myths you’ll hear at happy hour.

Some are silly, others are just, well, plain dangerous.

Comment below:

What’s the worst caravanning myth you’ve heard?

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