The excitement of it all. You have managed to tow your prized caravan across the country without even a scratch…job done! Well, not quite…you still have to set the thing up.
While some of you will want nothing more than sit back and enjoy a beer, to others, the work is not done.
In this article, I will take you through the steps that you need to go to for setting up your caravan for the first time. From the moment your car and caravan enter the caravan site, I give you the steps that you need to take.
Of course, there are certain things you want to miss and somethings you might want to do in a different order. That is fine. This is meant to act as a general guide not a definitive one. As long as you cover the important steps, you will be fine.
Entering the caravan site
The first thing we do is enter the site and park up in the new arrivals bay and head over to the reception. This is obviously where you check in and introduce yourself to the site warden. You will need to pay any outstanding balances at this point.
The site warden will run through the check in procedure and will let you know where things are and where the services are. You will at this point be shown what pitches are currently available.
If you are lucky, you can choose the pitch that you want. In some cases, you are assigned to a pitch before you arrive. At some caravan sites, you can pay a premium to select a pitch of your choosing.
Where you prefer to be is a personal preference to you. Some people prefer to be close to facilities, others prefer to be in a secluded spot.
Whatever you prefer, if you are moving around the site to find the pitch perfect for you, please remember to honour the on-site speed limit. They are there for good reason as you will often find children running around and other people moving their caravans.
Please be extra vigilant and stay in first gear.
Setting up a caravan on arrival – The pitch
Pitches are either hard standing or grass. Often the rear of the pitch is defined by a marker where the rear of the caravan needs to meet.
How you move your caravan on to the pitch comes down to personal preference. You can use a motor mover if you have one or reverse the caravan onto the pitch.
It is also perfectly fine to push the caravan onto the pitch too…caravan people are helpful people; they will come out and help you.
Levelling your caravan
Before you uncouple the car, you just need to check that the caravan is level across the axis. The simplest way to do this is using a spirit level inside the caravan. If you find that it is not level, use a simple levelling ramp to raise one side. Either ask somebody for help if you are alone but a motor mover is incredibly convenient to do this.
The next step once the caravan is level across the axis is to unhitch your car and level up the caravan front to back.
Once your car is out of the way and the steadies put down, your caravan is sited. This is the time to put your security items onto the caravan such as your hitch lock.
Setting up the services
The caravan is now sited and level. It is now time to consider the services that you will need.
Gas and electricity hook up
These can be described as inside and outside jobs. I always start with the outside jobs which include the gas and the electric hook up.
The first service that I connect is the electric hook up. The reason why you should connect the electricity first is because you can tuck the cable behind all the services you will connect to the caravan.
First, connect the cable to your caravan and uncoil the cable completely. We don’t want to keep it coiled as it becomes a fire risk. Uncoil it so it is nice and loose. We will then take the other end of the cable and take it to the electricity post.
When you do this, make sure the cable is behind any other caravans and out of the way. This will prevent any potential accidents and trip hazards.
The electricity is now connected. Let’s move onto the gas. This is straightforward, simply connect and turn on.
Liquid based services
We now have power connected to caravan so it is now time connect all the liquid services.
The same procedure is followed every time. We start off with the fresh water, then the waste followed by the toilet.
Grab your aqua roll and head over to the service point. Fill with water.
The service points, depending on where you are staying, normally have a fresh water, waste water and chemical waste point. Some others have other things to such as recycling and dog washing points but it is dependent on the caravan site.
Once your aquaroll is full, take it back to the caravan. You then need to connect your outboard pump from the aquaroll to the caravan. Make sure you remove any air bubbles from the tube by moving the tube in and out of the water. The water is now connected.
The grey water waste needs to be connected at this point. This is relatively clean water which can be poured into a hedgerow when full.
Remove the cassette from the housing and open up the spout. We will then pour in the blue chemical as per the instructions on the chemical bottle. The cap on the spout is normally a measuring cup too, to make things easier.
You will need to top up the chemical with water as per the instructions on the bottle. You may need a bottle of water or some other method for this. This is now complete.
If you have a flush tank, now is the time to prime that up so simply top up with water and add in the pink additive, as per the instruction on the bottle.
All the outside services are now complete. We now need to focus our attention inside the caravan.
Inside the caravan
We are almost done but there are a couple of important things we need to do. Obviously turning all the facilities is one of them but before we do this, we need to follow a few important steps.
Firstly, we are going to set up the kitchen. First, we need to open up the sink and the cooker. We need to make sure that all the taps are closed. Close the kitchen tap, the washroom tap and shower tap. The final tap to close is the drain down tap which can be found close to your water boiler.
With all these closed, we can now fill the water tanks.
Before we do this, turn over the fridge to mains hook up and turn the master switch. We can now turn on the pump which will pull water through the pipes, through the taps and into the water tanks.
Some air will remain in the pipes which needs to be removed. Head over to the tap furthest away from the inlet…usually the shower and turn it on. Turn it to the cold water and let it run. Then do the same for the bathroom tap and the kitchen tap. You will see the taps spit but simply wait until they run free.
Repeat the process for the hot water setting. This will remove all the air from the system.
Once this step is complete, we can turn on our water heater and heating system…should you need too.
Essentially, we are done and everything set up.
Final check up
It is prudent to run through a check once everything is set up and connected. This lets you know if there are any problems early on. The last thing you want to do is have to remedy issues later or in darkness.
This stage is what caravaners call the ‘cup of tea’ test. It simply involves making a cup of tea but uses all the services that you have connected.
Let’s run through the steps here. Firstly, use the water tap in your kitchen to fill the kettle. Then use the stove to boil the water. This has so far tested the water and the gas supply.
We then make the cup of tea…the milk from the fridge will tell you if it is cold. Sit back and drink your well-deserved cup of tea.
We now approach the final checks…we need to wash the cup. This will test the hot water system…and then you check the toilet…when nature eventually calls.
This is now everything done. You are ready to sit back and relax.
This may look like a lot of work but let me assure you, once you’ve done it a couple of times, you can get through this very quickly. Funnily enough, I enjoy doing it. It is part of the process of caravanning. It does make it even easier if you can delegate some of the tasks.
As a final point, it is always important that you take the time to do things properly. Rushing the jobs involved only means that you need to come back to them later. Taking your time also means that you can do things safely. Safely for you and to a standard where everybody else is safe too.
Make sure those cables are well out of the way and there are no obvious trip hazards. Remember that the lighting at night is poor so you don’t want to be falling over anything.
I hope you found this article on setting up your caravan for the first time simple and straight forward. I have written a number of articles that should make your caravanning simple and efficient. Please consider reading more of the articles.
If you think that your friends may enjoy reading this article, please consider sharing this article on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media. You may also want to leave a comment below…let me know what you do and whether I have missed out any steps. Remember we are all part of one caravan community so all feedback is welcome.
Checklist for setting up caravan
This information is summarised in a handy checklist for setting up a caravan on arrival. Simply download the PDF document and print it. Keep it in your caravan as a reminder to what you need to do.
Setting up a caravan on a seasonal pitch and setting up a static caravan
If you are looking at setting up a caravan on a seasonal pitch or setting up a static caravan, then follow the procedure above. The process and services are exactly the same in most cases.
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