Cables and Ropes.
This post covers everything from hookup cables and accessories, to jump cables to tow ropes. Being prepared for any situation when you are fulltiming is something you learn to do very early on. Mostly due to limited space we resist carrying anything that doesn’t have at least 2 uses and gets used regularly. However some items you can carry for years and never need, but will then be really happy that you did.
I carry 3 hookup cables. I carry an extremely heavy duty cable that is also very long. I try to avoid using this when at all possible because it is heavy, awkward to wrap up after and very stiff. However it does get used a couple of times a year when I have to cover a long distance (20 Meters) or if it is going to be laid on a hard surface.
The more standard hookup cables tend to be of a lighter gauge wire and have a softer insulation sheath around them. This makes them easier to wrangle and lighter. The problem is that when you pull some current through them you get a larger voltage drop. They are also more prone to physical damage.
So, how do you balance out your requirements. I personally carry a lightweight 5 Mtr cable which is suitable when I am parked right next to the EHU post/Socket. This one travels in the cab area of the van for easy access. I can grab it off the seat, climb out the drivers door and plug it into the hookup socket which is next to the drivers door in seconds. I also carry a longer version of this at 10 Meters also in the cab area. These can be linked to give me a total of 15 Metres meaning I don’t have to go into the tool locker to get the heavy duty 20 Metre cable except on very rare occasions.
For the long cable I recommend looking for a cable that has 2.5mm² conductors. The 1.5mm² is ok for very short cables due to it’s flexibility but for long cables insist on 2.5mm² to prevent voltage drops. With any cables, it is also strongly recommended that you unroll it fully before using. A coil in a cable will generate heat, the more current (power) you pull through the cable and the more coils the more heat. This can end up in melted cables and even fires. Please do not underestimate the risk of a coiled cable… Always fully unroll your cable before use.
I also carry a 3 way power adapter. Occasionally you will want to stay somewhere that for one reason or another either doesn’t have enough hookup points OR they are not in a suitable location. This tends to happen most often when I am meeting up with friends. I carry one of these three way adapters round with me so I can get power in these situation.
Calling these useful is an understatement. If your van won’t start or one of your friends or neighbours won’t start a set of jump leads will save you a lot of aggravation. It is surprising how few people carry these so not only will you be able to get your self out of the poo, you may also find yourself making new friends through helping them get going as well. It is also worth noting that as a motorhomer you do carry spare batteries with you, so you can self help if there is no one around with a vehicle. In the past I have temporarily removed a leisure battery, carried it to the front of the van and used the jump leads to get me going when there wasn’t anyone else around. This can save you waiting hours for the recovery service to turn up.
Now some words of advice on Jump leads. Do not buy any jump leads that specify engine size only. Look for sets that state the current rating. For most vans I would recommend looking for leads that can carry 800 Amps. It is also worth buying the 6 Metre length ones not the 3-4 Metre ones. If you are on a campsite it is no always possible for a vehicle to get parked right up to your bonnet. It is possible to buy jump leads from about £5. These will not carry the required current and the voltage drop along their length will reduce their effectiveness. They will also be really short quite often around the 2 Metre mark. Totally useless. Getting into the useful range you can get decent jump leads for the £10 mark but again they will either be too short or slightly under sized in cable size. They will also generally have really weak connectors of poor quality to keep the price down. They will however probably do the job ‘most’ times. However if you are carrying a set around you may as well spend the extra £5 and get a set that will cover you no matter what the situation. I bought a set of semi-commercial leads for around the £15 mark. These were 6 Metres long and rated at 800 Amp cranking current. My battery has a CCA rating of 900Amp.
This is again something you may never use. However once or twice in the last 8 years I have needed one to get me off a grass pitch that I had misjudged. The first time I had no choice but to go there, the second was an extended stay and 4 days of heavy rain after I had pitched up caused me to sink into the ground. That’s a whole other story though..
In the first incident no one had tow ropes, so it involved a long drive by taxi into town costing £16 to buy a £10 tow rope. This tow rope then promptly snapped causing a nasty dint on my bonnet.
After this incident I spoke to a couple of mechanics who do recovery and asked them what the bare minimum I should carry in the way of equipment. They recommended that I avoid ropes and go for straps for a few reasons. The best reason for me was storage space. A strap will roll up very tight and take up very little space. He also recommended that I got ones with a loop on each end then use shackles not hooks. Finally he suggested getting one that is 1 or 2 Ton over rated for my vehicle. This is the one I ended up buying. It is very compact when stored and is rated at 5 Ton.
That is the absolute basics I carry. I do carry some other items in 240v, 12v and for recovery but they are not essential like the ones I have actually listed.
Any comments or suggestions are most welcome.