CARAVAN MODIFICATIONS

 

Jayco Swan Outback towed by a Toyota HJ60

 

 

 

 

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As we travel a great deal looking for new information and pictures for this website, we try to keep costs down so we use a caravan. We like to have a reasonable level of comfort but have now decided that instead of a large full-sized caravan, we will use a Jayco wind-up style.

 

The model we ended up with was the 2005 Jayco Swan Outback. It is designed to take off sealed roads and gives us greater flexibility in the places we can get to.

 

When we buy a motorhome or caravan there are a number of modifications we like to make to set things up the way we want them. This page gives some information on the Jayco Swan and the modifications we have made to it.

 

After having a full sized caravan for many years the Swan is quite a change. When it is folded down it doesn't look like it will be that roomy but once it all unfolds it gives almost as much room as a full size 18 foot caravan.

We have now sold the Jayco Swan and have purchased a Toyota Coaster.

 

PAGE CONTENTS

 

SETTING_UP_THE_JAYCO_SWAN | POWER SYSTEM | WATER PUMPS | RADIO / CD PLAYER | 12 VOLT FANS | LED LIGHTS | T PLUG DOUBLE ADAPTER | REMOVABLE SOLAR PANELS | LAZY-T OUTBOARD CARRIER | RHINO RACK WITH ROLLER | TRAILER WHEEL CARRIER | FLYSCREEN REPAIRS

 

SETTING UP THE JAYCO SWAN

 

The Swan in its travelling position.

 

When it is folded down the Swan fits in to quite a small space.

 

The front compartment

 

The front compartment carries the annex, hoses and assorted odds and ends.

 

The front compartment

 

The Ariel, winding handles etc. are all clipped up so they are easy to find.

 

Unclip the side catches and wind up the roof.

 

It is a simple matter to unclip the side catches and wind up the roof. There is a metal cable that prevents you from winding too far.

 

The beds simply roll out

 

The beds simply roll out

 

The internal view

 

The internal view.

 

The rear bed slides out to reveal a cupboard folded down underneath.

 

The rear bed slides out to reveal a cupboard folded down underneath.

 

The beds are supported by metal struts.

 

The beds are supported by metal struts. On our van the front struts have been supplemented by an extra pole that helps give more support.

 

Bed end canvas clips.

 

The frames at each end fold up and clip in to keep the canvas up. I am not too keen on the clipping style used here. I would like to see something more solid.

 

The cupboard can now be swung up.

 

The cupboard can now be swung up. In the original van this cupboard is used as a wardrobe but it is far more useful if shelves are fitted.

 

There is a LOT of room inside these vans.

 

Once everything is set up there is a LOT of room inside these vans.

 

Annex

 

If you buy a van with an annex, you can enjoy the extra space.

 

The annex also lends some stability to the roof of the van.

 

The annex also lends some stability to the roof of the van.

 

bed end flies

 

An optional extra for the Jayco Swan and other wind up vans are 'bed end flies'. These cover the normal canvas, making the beds slightly cooler and they provide extra protection in wet weather by keeping the rain away from the sides. They also provide extra privacy but still allow air to flow through as the sides are made of a heavy mesh material. After using the van for a while we haven't really made use of these flies but I can see that they would be much more useful in wet weather.

 

Internally

 

Internally the Jayco Swan has a reasonable kitchen that includes a microwave, 4 burner cook top (one burner is electric and the other three are gas) and a grill. There is also a 3 way fridge. Normally we have nothing but bad things to say about three way fridges but this model seems to work very well. We have not yet had it running in very hot or humid weather but so far so good.

 

shower / toilet

 

As the Jayco is too small to have an internal shower / toilet we use a simple pop-up tent. Inside is a foam mat to keep your feet clean when you shower, a Porta Potty and the shower head that runs from a hose connected to our on-demand pump outlet (see below for more details on that).

 

120w solar panels

 

As we like to have plenty of power available when we are away we have two fold out 120w solar panels. These have their own regulators built in. Access Antennas (Osborne Park Perth) sell these for $399 which is quite a bit cheaper than other retailers.

 

MODIFICATION 1 - POWER SYSTEM

 

Adding power

 

The standard Jayco Swan comes with a single battery and built in charger. For our needs this is not sufficient and as the standard battery is lead-acid we prefer not to use it. (it was later replaced by an AGM) We installed our own bank of gel-cell batteries with their own multi stage battery charger and on the far left you can see a 700w sine wave inverter that converts 12 volt power to clean 240 volt power.

 

New fuse box

 

We removed the wiring from the original Jayco charger and installed our own fuse box. These are available at places like Jaycar.

 

MODIFICATION 2 - WATER PUMPS

 

Water pumps

 

We don't think much of manual water pumps to get water from the water tank so we like to install our own pumps. We use two different pumps.

The first is a small Whale pump. These are great little in-line 12 volt pumps that go on and on for years without any trouble. We use this pump to draw water directly from the water tank and send it to the sink. This is a very straight forward modification and only involves cutting the existing water line, inserting the pump and connecting it to a switch and the battery.

 

Water pumps

 

Pump number two is a bit more complicated. This pump has a number of different uses. For this we use an on-demand pump like a Sure-Flo or Flo-Jet. This is also a 12 volt pump and is connected to its own on/off switch.

The on-demand pump does the following :

1. Draw water directly from the main water tank but this source can be turned off via a valve.
2. Draw water from an external source via a clip connection (see below).
3. Pump water to the caravan's mains inlet. This is done because our van is fitted with a small electric water heater and by sending water to the mains water inlet and turning on the Honda generator, we can have hot water without any fuss.
4. Send water to our external shower either from the main water tank or from an external source.

 

Water inlet and outlet

 

Here you can see the water inlet (blue) and outlet (red) from the on-demand pump. This is a very versatile and useful setup. You will note each line has its own stop valve.

 

Water pump switches

 

Switches for the water pumps were placed near the batteries for convenience. At the same time we also added an analogue battery gauge to help us keep an eye on battery charge level.

 

MODIFICATION 3 - RADIO / CD PLAYER

 

radio/cd player

 

To install a 12 volt radio/cd player you will need a jig saw, ruler and a drill. With these tools you can mark out where to place the player and cut a (fairly) neat hole. We chose to place our radio/cd under the set closest to the door.

 

Amplifier

 

An amplifier was placed behind the main seat to the left of the flip down door. The player has its own on/off switch just under the seat. There is limited room for speakers in the van so we decided to mount them inside the front seat-well on top of the ledge that runs from one side of the van to the other. Some people cut extra holes for speakers but we decided against doing this.

 

MODIFICATION 4 - 12 VOLT FANS

 

 

If the weather turns a bit hot it is always good to have some sort of fan. The best fans we have found for a caravan are Caframo cabin fans. They have 2 large blades and are made of fairly soft pliable plastic. Normally they have 2 speeds but with the addition of a voltage control dial you can set them at exactly the right speed. To mount them we have used the same clips that are used for the bed end lights in the Jayco and have used the same sort of power connection that simply plugs into the roof top light. We have had these fans for years and we love them!

 

MODIFICATION 5 - LED LIGHTS

 

This is something we have wanted to install for ages and we finally got round to buying some via E-Bay direct from China. We purchased 7 LED arrays for just over $15 AU. That included shipping. The business we got them from was:

Tomtop

It took about 3 weeks for the lights to arrive and they were very simple to install.

 

Original incandescent lights

 

Original incandescent lights

 

original globes

 

The original globes simply plug in to the socket. They use more power than LEDs and they generate heat.

 

This is what you get

 

This is what you get. The 48 LED panel and three different fitting adaptors. For the Jayco you will use the centre one.

 

plug the correct adapter into the LED wire

 

Simply plug the correct adapter into the LED wire.

 

Plug the adapter into the light socket

 

The LED panel comes with a self adhesive backing. Plug the adapter into the light socket, peel off the sticker and press the LED panel against the top of the light fitting.

 

The LED lights produce a much more white light

 

The LED lights produce a much more white light

 

The finished job

 

The finished job.

 

MODIFICATION 6 - T PLUG DOUBLE ADAPTER

 

This isn't a modification to the caravan but the creation of a double adapter to enable more than one 12 volt appliance to be run off a single low voltage T plug.

After seeing these on the web for around $50, I decided to make my own and save a bit of money. In the end it ended up costing less than $20 which was quite worth while.

You can get low voltage T plugs from http://caravansplus.com.au for a reasonable price and you will need 2 female wall plugs and one male inline plug. (See below).

 

Low voltage plug double adapter

 

You will need some heavy wire plus two bolts and two nuts that will hold the female plugs together back-to-back. Simply wire the plugs up so that the vertical slots connect to the vertical pin and the horizontal slots connect to the horizontal pin. To be sure test it with a multi-meter once it is al wired up.

Drill or clip out a small section of the side wall of one of the female plugs so the wire has somewhere to exit and just bolt the female plugs together, put the covers on and clip the clear cover on to the male plug. That's it!

 

Low voltage plug double adapter

 

MODIFICATION 7 - REMOVABLE SOLAR PANELS

 

When we had a full height van the solution to solar panels was simple, fix them on the roof and forget about them. Now we have a wind-up van I don't want to have the panels permanently on the roof but I do want them up there sometimes for security.

The other thing I didn't want to do was start making holes in the roof for screws and cables so after thinking about a few different options I decided to put some mounting brackets on the roof that could hold the panels securely when I wanted to and would allow me to easily remove the panels and place them out on the ground if I wanted the van in the shade of a tree.

Because I didn't want to drill holes in the roof I used Sikaflex 252 (around $30 a tube) to fix the brackets. This stuff is supposed to hold on tighter than just about anything else. Time will tell if that is the case I guess.

As I don't plan to drive about with the panels on top of the van, I only have to worry about strong winds when the van is stationery and vibrations should not be a concern.

The first thing I did was cut some lengths of angle aluminium to fit along the ends of the solar panels. The panels are still going to retain their fold-up ability so the brackets had to fit between existing fixtures.

To make sure the brackets and panels would line up once the adhesive had set I put long bolts (minus the nuts) through the brackets and panel and then glued the brackets in place.

Once the adhesive had cured I simply removed the bolts and lifted the panels out (making sure I marked which panel was which as the holes would be in slightly different places.)

This was the result:

 

Removable solar panels

 

In order to make the panels easier to insert and remove I have also modified the cables and changed the regulators. To do this I used Anderson plugs.

 

original solar panel configuration

 

The picture above shows the original solar panel configuration with the el-cheapo regulator (not suitable for Gel-Cell batteries and AGM that we use.)

 

panel with regulator and battery lead removed

 

This picture shows the panel with regulator and battery lead removed. Enough leeway was left for the panel to fully open and the legs also stay in place.

 

Anderson plug

 

The last shot shows how the panel will now be connected. An Anderson plug is bolted to the side of the panel and a cable will be attached once the panel is put in place on the roof. This configuration will still allow me to use the panel on its original ground mount legs.

The regulator I would like to have selected was a Plasmatronics (either PL20 or Dingo) but the price put me off. In the end I will be using a Fangpusun which at $85 is less than 1/3 of the cost of a Plasmatronics model.

 

The old system had to be completely re-wired

 

This was the most difficult part of the job. The old system had to be completely re-wired. The battery bank on the left hand side is 4x100ah gel cells. This is probably major over-kill for the Jayco as with a gas fridge and LED lights we don't draw anywhere near as much power as we did in our big van. Still it will allow me to take the 60L Engel away if we manage to go on an extended trip.

The red battery is an AGM and is separate to the main bank. It can be charged via its own low voltage inlet by solar or by 240v. It is used only to run the fridge on 12v while we are travelling. We also have an Anderson connection to the car as an alternative power source for the fridge.

 

regulator in place

 

The wires and regulator in place with only some tidying up left to do. From left to right we have:

700w sine wave inverter, 1 x 100ah gel cell, 16amp 240 v charger 3 x 100 ah gel cell and 100ah AGM battery.

 

ready to go

 

Finally all tidy and ready to go. Underneath there are now three different low voltage plugs. One for the AGM battery, one as an outlet from the main battery bank and one as an inlet for solar power.

 

Underneath there are now three different low voltage plugs.

 

One final addition to this install is a 240v power outlet that comes from the inverter. This makes it simple to plug the whole van into the outlet if we want to run something off 240v.

 

240v putlet from the inverter

 

MODIFICATION 8 : LAZY-T OUTBOARD CARRIER

 

The latest addition to the van comes from Mangrove Jack Marine and is designed to carry our outboard motor. It has a weight limit of 40kg and our Yamaha 9.9 comes in at 36kg.

We have always had problems finding somewhere to carry the outboard and with our old setup we had to put it in the back of the Landcruiser. Now we have both a smaller car and a much smaller van so a different solution had to be found for taking the boat away.

The construction of the carrier is all anodised aluminium and the bolts are stainless steel. At $387 it wasn't a cheap alternative but without it we don't get to go fishing in the boat and usually fishing without a boat means no fish.

Installation involved drilling 4 x 10mm holes in the draw bar of the van and 8 x 10 mm holes in the supplied box section aluminium. 8 x 10mm stainless steel bolts secure the carrier to the draw bar.

We were initially concerned that we would have to remove the outboard from the carrier each night when we extended the front bed on the Swan but when everything was in place it all went together as if it had been made specifically to fit.

The only concern I have at the moment is the additional weight to the right hand side of the draw bar. We will have more to say about how it actually effects towing and handling once we have had it out for a good test run.

The carrier is designed to be flexible and can be extended to accommodate a long shaft engine.

 

Lazy T outboard carrier installation

 

In the shot above you can see how the outboard carrier fixes to the aluminium box sections that are in turn fixed to the draw bar.

 

The outboard simply clips to the carrier

 

The outboard simply clips to the carrier via its existing connections. The shaft will be held in place by wrapping a ratchet strap around the front cross bar and over the engine.

 

Everything just fits on the Jayco.

 

The front bed support was our main concern as we didn't want to remove the engine every time we stopped. Thankfully it just fits.

 

RHINO RACK WITH ROLLER

 

Although this isn't a caravan modification, it is a related area as many people like to take a dinghy away on holiday with the caravan and putting it up on top of the car roof rack is often the only option.

When we changed cars from the Landcruiser to the Prado, we found the new roof rack was too narrow to accommodate the boat. We needed wider bars and a roller to help get the boat on top without losing the carrying capacity of the main roof rack.

The solution was to buy a couple of 1650mm Rhino Rack bas and matching full length roller. They were easy enough to install by drilling holes through the Rhino bar and down through the top rail of the existing rack. We used stainless steel bolts to attach the bars and for added safety used Thread- lock on the bolts to ensure they remain tight.

You will note that the Rhino bars also have tie-down eyes added to help secure the dinghy. These are an added cost but they have the added benefit of being adjustable to the width of the dinghy and they make it more simple to align the boat on top.

 

Rhino Rack roller bar

 

The shot below shows the finished project with the boat on top.

 

Finished rack with boat on top

 

TRAILER WHEEL CARRIER

 

After the short trip away using the Mangrove Jack Marine collapsible boat trailer, we decided that it would be useful to find some way to carry the wheels outside the caravan or car.

I spoke to Gavin at Mangrove Jack and he mentioned that they produce an axle stub that fits inside the trailer wheel assembly. All that was needed was a back plate to be welded on for attachment to the caravan.

Once everything was finished we attached the wheel holders to two big storage boxes we have on the back of the Jayco and the wheels simply slide on top.

As the boxes on the van already have extra rear lights fitted we didn't have to worry too much about obscuring the original lights but in the end there wasn't really a problem in any case as the wheels sit above the lights.

To secure the wheel, one of the pins used to keep the wheel in place on the trailer slides through and can be locked on for security with a small padlock.

The boat trailer wheels have to be removed before the box tops can be opened and the width the boxes open is now slightly restricted but it is still more than enough to get items in and out. Having the wheels locked to the top of the boxes actually helps improve the security of the boxes themselves.

 

Boat trailer wheel carrier

 

Boat trailer wheel carrier

 

FLYSCREEN REPAIRS

 

I have been looking for an easy way to repair a flyscreen on the Jayco and apparently, there isn't one......

It seems like the only way to replace a badly damaged flyscreen is to completely remove the canvas section from the van and take it in to a canvas repair workshop.

 

Flyscreen repair

 

Taking the canvas off wasn't too difficult but having done that, there is no way I am going to try and put it back on again. Chances are that I will manage to damage it and as the replacement flyscreen is going to cost between $150 and $200 that is the last thing I want to do.

When the repairs have been done I will get a proper caravan repair workshop to put everything back together.

The canvas comes off by simply removing all the fastenings along the top edge and then pulling the canvas out of the plastic runner that it sits in. Then you remove the fastenings from the lower section and slide the canvas out of the channel that holds it in place.

 

Top side plastic runner

 

Bottom side channel.

 

Canvas ready to be repaired.

 

Since I had the canvas off I thought it would be a good chance to check around for any more problems that might need attention.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the two bolts holding the front of the roof to the two upright supports had BOTH SHEARED IN HALF! There was nothing holding the front roof on, it was just being held down by gravity!

Jayco have obviously skimped on the quality of these bolts and as there are only 4 in total holding the roof on, I would have thought something a bit stronger should have been used.

I also went round tightening all the bolts holding the beds on their runners and found a few of those were working loose as well. An application of lock-tight or something similar would have been a good idea when the van was constructed.

 

Sheared roof support bolts

 

There was NOTHING holding the front of the roof on! New bolt is now in place.

 

A few weeks later......

Well so much for me saying "there is no way I am going to try and put it back on again" because I went ahead and tried it anyway.

Much to my surprise it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I expected. It is a 2-3 person job but once the canvas is laid out over the van and some dry lubricant sprayed into all the metal tracks, it isn't all that difficult.

 

Part of the secret of making this job easier was to lay the canvas out properly first.

 

Part of the secret of making this job easier was to lay the canvas out properly first.

Then it was just a matter of sliding the L shaped bottom fastener into the metal track. We had one person in the van shifting the canvas to make sure it didn't snag on anything, one feeding the canvas into the track and one pulling the canvas along.

 

Putting the canvas bottom end back into the metal tracks.

 

There were two problems we had while putting the bottom track back on. The first was the canvas snagging on the upright supports as it is pulled along. To make this easier just flip up the canvas part leaving the track insert exposed. This helps but you will have to keep doing it as the canvas always seems to flop back down again once you stop watching it.

The second problem was caused by some of the screws holding the bottom track in place actually splitting parts of the insert. This causes a rough edge which will not go back into the metal track. The only solution to this was to cut the damaged part of the insert on a 45 degree angle and then it was easier to guide back into the metal track.

We put the long side on first, followed by the next longest piece of canvas and then the shortest piece last. This is a good idea as the more you work on it the more tired your arms get so leaving the easiest piece until last does help.

 

Fitting the top of the canvas.

 

Next came the attachment of the top of the canvas. I don't know if there is a 'proper' way to do this we we started on the left hand side of the door (when viewed from the inside) and just worked around.

Make sure the roof isn't wound fully up so that you can reach everything easily.

This part of the job can easily be done by one person, just make sure you charge up your electric screw-driver first as there are a lot of screws to put back in.

There will be a little bit of stretching involved to get all the screws back into the same holes they came out of but if you leave a few screws out before you attach each corner and then go back and put the other screws in once the corner is attached, your life will be a lot easier.

 

Putting the curtains back up.

 

The last part of the job was putting the curtains back up. This is very simple as long as you put the frill on last.

Finally that was it! Everything done and back together with only one or two screws left over - isn't there always?

We had the canvas work done by BDM Leather and Canvas in Rockingham. They did a great job and for all the work they did, not just replacing a big flyscreen but patching all the other screens and repairing the canvas I damaged, their price was very reasonable indeed.

 

Looking almost as good as new again.

 

 

 

 

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