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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.
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
When it is folded down the Swan fits in to quite a small space.
The front compartment carries the annex, hoses and assorted odds and ends.
The Ariel, winding handles etc. are all clipped up so they are easy to find.
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 internal view.
The rear bed slides out to reveal a cupboard folded down underneath.
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.
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. In the original van this cupboard is used as a wardrobe but it is far more useful if shelves are fitted.
Once everything is set up there is a LOT of room inside these vans.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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.
We removed the wiring from the original Jayco charger and installed our own fuse box. These are available at places like Jaycar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
Original incandescent lights
The original globes simply plug in to the socket. They use more power than LEDs and they generate heat.
This is what you get. The 48 LED panel and three different fitting adaptors. For the Jayco you will use the centre one.
Simply plug the correct adapter into the LED wire.
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 finished job.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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 wires and regulator in place with only some tidying up left to do. From left to right we have:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The shot below shows the finished project with the boat on top.
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 have been looking for an easy way to repair a flyscreen on the Jayco and apparently, there isn't one......
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.
Since I had the canvas off I thought it would be a good chance to check around for any more problems that might need
A few weeks later......
Part of the secret of making this job easier was to lay the canvas out properly first.
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.
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.
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.