Many add-ons for your 4wd are like an insurance policy, ensuring that you and your vehicle return home safely from any adventure. Yet it is amazing the array of accessories promoted as ‘essential’ these days as it seems you’d need an extra trailer just to carry everything! The best idea is to be equipped with the necessary extras that make your style of travel safer and more convenient. For many of us, the purchase of a new camper trailer is an act of faith in fulfilling the dream, however there are a handful of budget – and mostly DIY – modifications to your tow tug that will not only make it more suitable for towing that new purchase, but make setup at your destination a breeze.
No matter what type of trailer you hook up to your tow-tug, there are bound to be some blind spots which even the most extended wing mirrors aren’t going to cover. A high-quality reversing camera system can take the stress – and much of the danger –out of many driving situations; and they might just save a relationship or two along the way. Whether you struggle to line up the tow ball with the coupling – especially by yourself – or you have to manoeuvre into a tight site on steep or uneven terrain, reversing cameras absolutely make towing easier. Many vehicles come with these fitted as standard, but there’s still room for improvement. Grabbing yourself a wireless camera to stick on the back of your camper trailer will allow you to easily reverse to within a few inches of obstacles and are an extra aid to be sure there are no wayward bikes or children hiding behind you. These cameras are battery powered, sending their signal to a small screen you can mount inside the vehicle’s cab; they are a useful add-on to your kit.
Safe towing is of paramount importance in any situation that involves you and your family so if you have purchased a camper trailer that is fitted with electric brakes and you want them to actuate, you’ll need a brake controller. In fact, for trailers over 750kg, they are required by law, but check your state’s regulations for further details. Imagine a group of kids skating in a line, each holding onto the hips of the one ahead; the line goes along smoothly if all the kids remain at a steady speed. If one child suddenly slows down, the following one will soon end up crashing into him. Towing a camper trailer works in the same way. The added weight of the camper can make slowing down or stopping the tow vehicle dangerous as the trailer’s momentum can cause it to keep going. An electric brake controller eliminates this risk by activating the trailer’s brakes when the driver of the tow vehicle hits the brake pedal; quality devices detect how much power is required for the camper trailer to safely slow down and stop in correlation with the tow vehicle’s deceleration, whereas cheaper models simply brake on a sliding scale. Furthermore, most systems are relatively easy to install yourself, are compatible with both 12v and 24v vehicle electric systems, and can be customised to the driver’s preference.
When towing your camper trailer, the weight imposed on the tow bar acts on the suspension through increased leverage which can push down the rear of your vehicle and cause the suspension to excessively sag. Aside from the obvious wear, this will cause over time, other aspects of your ride such as traction, tyre wear and steering control can all be affected. Most camper trailers have a relatively low ball weight and don’t require the use of a weight-distribution hitch; however, helper airbags can assist in decreasing suspension sag and increasing safety. It can be tempting to replace the rear springs with heavy-duty ones, but this can result in an uncomfortably stiff ride as soon as the camper is unhitched. If you’re taking off on an extended tour, then replacement is your best bet, however, a set of helper airbags provide the perfect middle ground for the average weekend warrior.
When you’re travelling long distances, and spending a great deal of time away from major centres, you want to be able to power all the devices and accessories you enjoy at home. To keep the fridge going and the beer cold, you’re going to need a good dual battery system so that you’re not relying on the vehicle’s main battery for additional power. When choosing a second battery, think about what appliances you’ll be running and the kind of current they draw, as well as how you will top up the charge – like with a complementary solar system. There are a few ways the second battery can be wired into the vehicle, depending on its intended use and the system flexibility required. But no matter what, the second battery must be installed and wired so that it can be isolated and doesn’t flatten the vehicle’s starter battery.
Reliable lighting. It really is an essential thing we take for granted when we don’t have free access to it. All too often we leave late on a Friday arvo – rushing to get clear of the rat race – and rock up to camp in the dark with all aspects of setting up still to come. If you’re lucky enough to have a camper trailer that is quick and easy, it might not inconvenience you at all, but for those erecting awnings, hammering in pegs or collecting wood for a fire, a set of quality work lights on your tow rig can be a godsend. Small units that attach to the rear bar will allow for easy connecting and disconnecting of the trailer and side lighting can help you to see where you need to bang in the pegs. More elaborate setups that plug into your cigarette socket and magnetically attach to the body of your vehicle are also perfect for a wide range of uses.
Travel is unpredictable. The very nature of pushing past your comfort zone – experiencing things that few others will – means you will often end up in situations that will cause you to rely heavily on the equipment you bring with you. Thankfully, the 4WD and camping accessories market today is endless, and technology has come a huge way in the production of high quality, practical mods and add-ons. However, it seems like many people have a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ attitude when it comes to their setup instead of focussing on how they use their 4WD and camper and tailoring accessories to suit their needs. Any additions have the potential to make your rig more reliable, capable and functional, so make sure you stick to what’s essential for you and what will make life easier in every situation.
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