Getting the perfect home on wheels
Getting the right motorhome or camper van can be a bit of a challenge. There are so many options out there. We found a motorhome that is perfect for us, but it seems there’s always a compromise on something, whether it’s cost, weight, storage, or something else.
Once you have your vehicle, you can make little changes to make it even better for your needs, which may change over time. So that’s what we’ve done with our Rex.
When we first bought Rex, he already had a solar panel fitted, so that was great. We added an extra leisure battery to give us more power without needing electric hook-up or EHU. We also had a Gaslow system fitted. This allows us to fill up with LPG Autogas at the pump for our gas-needs for heating and cooking. It is convenient as this type of gas is available across Europe and it is a little cheaper too in the long run. Along with this we had an external gas point fitted to allow us to use the Gaslow system with our Cadac for outdoor cooking, without the need for an additional gas bottle.
Now that we’re living in Rex, we think we will need more payload to allow us to carry enough water to stay off sites for longer. So we’ve decided to increase the weight of Rex to increase the payload. Rex originally comes as a 3500KG max weight van, with a payload of 425KG. That’s pretty good for a 3,5T van, however that payload has to cover any extras like the Gaslow system and bottles, the TV, the extra leisure battery, the contents of the water tanks as well as the passengers and their stuff. So it can be surprising how quickly you use up your payload, especially with a 100 litre fresh water tank which equates to 100KG. There is a real science to payload calculations, including what axle the weight is on, whether oils and fuels are included etc, so it’s definitely worth getting familiar with what’s included and what’s not included in your van’s weight.
We have the option to increase Rex’s weight to either 3700KG or 3850KG. This would increase our payload to 625KG or 775KG respectively. For the lower weight, no changes to the van are needed and we just have to send off the paperwork. However, it seems to us that we might as well go all out. To increase Rex to 3850KG, we have to change the tyres to a slightly larger size, and we have to have rear air suspension fitted. So this is what we’ve had done this week.
The rear air suspension has made a real difference to how the van handles on the road. Due to licence weight restrictions, more bigger vans are coming in at 3500KG but they can be a bit more difficult in bends etc as they are so large, with large overhangs on the rear axle. The air suspension steadies the van at the back, and stops it leaning so much in bends, as well as keeping it more steady in general both on the road and when parked up in strong winds.
Now that we’ve noticed the difference, we would definitely recommend rear air suspension for anyone with a larger vehicle (Rex is 7.35m long).
For us, the next step is to send the paperwork off to a company called SV Tech who can change payload for vans already on the road. Then the log book needs a change and we will be officially heavier and I won’t be allowed to drive Rex anymore until I get my C1 driving licence.
For those of you wondering why we didn’t just buy a heavier vehicle in the first place; we did look at several heavier vans but none had the lay out we wanted. There was an Autotrail that potentially fitted the bill, the Apache 700. But the bed in Rex is bigger and I think so is the rear lounge. The price for the van was considerably more as well, so increasing the payload on Rex was better value for money and made more sense to do in our case.
EDIT: I forgot to add that we’ve also had a 1600W inverter fitted, which gives us 240V power while off grid, should we need it. The inverter does take a lot from the leisure batteries and certainly in winter, the solar doesn’t quite keep up, so we keep it turned off unless we need it.