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Caravan jargon buster

Every hobby comes with its own jargon, and the world of caravanning is no exception. To the newcomer, it can appear baffling – all the terminology and technical lingo that seems to be the native tongue of every other caravanner with which you come into contact.

Just what is a hitch head stabiliser? And how exactly does it differ from a leaf spring stabiliser? What is secondary coupling and does it have anything to do with my noseweight limit?

For every caravanner who has ever been caught out on the meaning of this, that, or the other here is a ‘starter for ten’ jargon buster; a simple, easy to understand guide to some of the more confusing vocabulary you might hear amongst the caravanning fraternity. Of course, we can’t guarantee to explain every single piece of jargon, but this should at least get you on the road towards holding your end of the conversation when an enthusiastic group of caravanners is in full flight.

Caravanning - learning the lingo

Jockey wheel: This is a little wheel that comes at the front end of the caravan, used to help move it about while it’s unhitched.

Corner steady: A fairly straightforward one, this - a corner steady is a jack built into the corner of your caravan helping stabilise it when it’s in use.

Blown air heating: This is a type of heating used on most modern caravans, in which warm air is circulated throughout using a fan. This is usually far more efficient – and warmer – than the more old-fashioned heating systems.

Delamination: This may seem like an inoffensive word, but your ears should prick up if you ever come across this one. Delamination is when bonded layers of flooring start to separate from each other. This often happens because of water getting into the layers, or as a result of wear and tear. It’s fairly common in older caravans, and you’ll notice this problem – particularly near the kitchen area – if the floor feels spongy. However, it is fixable.

Cassette toilet: This is a type of chemical toilet in which the waste holding tank is stored in a separate box, or ‘cassette’, that you can get at from outside the caravan. The advantage of this is you empty it without having to carry the whole toilet across the site. This is as opposed too...

Chemical toilet: The other major type of caravan toilet. With this variety, the waste is kept in a sealed tank and is usually emptied less often. With these toilets, you’ll add a special chemical fluid to the tank that breaks down the waste and gets rid of any nasty smells you really don’t want as holiday companions.

Ex-works weight: This is the weight your caravan should be when you buy it fresh from the showroom complete with standard fixtures and fittings. It’s also known as unladen weight or mass in running order (MRO). Not to be confused with...

Maximum authorised weight: This is the maximum your caravan should ever weigh, when packed with all your kit. Also known as maximum gross weight or, catchily, maximum technically permissible laden mass (MTPLM). Also not to be confused with...

Nose weight: Basically, this is the weight of the caravan’s front end that is supported at the tow ball. You need to pack your caravan so most of the weight is over the axle rather than at either end, or you could end up in serious trouble. You’ve got to be careful not to go over the nose weight limit, particularly on return journeys, but you can now buy nose weight gauges that are simple to use.

Gross train weight: Yet another piece of weight-related jargon, this time referring to the total weight of your car and caravan – containing everything you’re bringing on the trip.

Hitch head stabiliser: This is a stabiliser that uses friction against the tow ball to stop the caravan moving, and is built into the caravan’s hitch. For the record, it’s not to be confused with the...

Leaf spring stabiliser: This normally involves a large spring, joining the caravan's A frame with a friction damper underneath the tow bar. Most new caravans come with some form of stabiliser fitted as standard, providing an extra level of safety, particularly when driving at high speed.

Secondary coupling: A kind of safety device that kicks in if the car and caravan become separated. In the case of smaller trailers without brakes this can consist of a simple chain keeping the two together. However, most caravans would use...

Breakaway cable: This is a thin steel cable linking the caravan’s handbrake and the tow ball. If the worst came to the worst, this would operate the caravan’s brake and bring it to a rapid stop. Secondary coupling such as a breakaway cable is a legal requirement.

Keep these few terms in mind and you can get by in most conversations but the one thing you should always remember is that caravanners are a friendly bunch and are always more than happy to give newcomers the benefit of their wisdom and experience.