Camping at Nowra Showgrounds

April 22, 2022 Peter No comments exist

After a few very muddy weeks at Coledale Camping Reserve, the sun came out in time for the Easter weekend and everyone who had a booking at Coledale Camping Reserve decided that they would make use of their booking no matter how wet the sites were. That meant that we had to leave Coledale.

In addition to having to find somewhere to stay, we needed to renew the annual registrations on the Ranger and the caravan. The Ranger was a fairly simple exercise. Due to the upheaval over the past few weeks because of the wet weather, we had forgotten about the caravan registration and the registration had lapsed. We called around and managed to find someone in Nowra who could inspect the caravan at short notice. The registration inspection for the caravan proved to be a very frustrating exercise.

We arrived at the inspection station early in the morning. One of the checks was the operation of the emergency braking system. Because we have a dual axle caravan, it is a legal requirement that the caravan be fitted with an emergency braking system. If the caravan and the Ranger part ways while we are travelling, the emergency braking system must activate automatically and stop the caravan and hold it for at least 15 minutes. The mechanism for doing so is fairly straightforward. There is a unit on the caravan tow-bar that has a cable which is tied to the Ranger. If the Ranger and caravan part ways, the cable attached to the Ranger pulls a pin from the unit on the caravan and the emergency brake is activated.

We, as it turns out rather naively, assumed that this had been tested by the dealer who sold the caravan to us a little more than 3 months ago. The unit on the caravan looked a little rusty but it appeared to be no more than surface rust. The inspector lifted one of the caravan wheels off the ground and pulled the pin from the unit which should have activated the emergency brake. The wheel kept on spinning. That was an immediate fail. There were also a few globes that weren’t working and that too resulted in an immediate fail. Not the kind of news we wanted a few days before a long weekend.

The inspector felt that the emergency brake not working could be a flat battery. The emergency brake has to be powered by a separate battery and if the battery was flat the system would not work. In all the caravans that he had tested there was a small unit in the caravan with a AA or AAA battery and a test switch. We needed to find this unit and check the battery. We went through all the paperwork that had been supplied to us when we bought the caravan and found a manual for an emergency brake but the wiring diagram showed that the emergency brake was powered via the house battery. Perhaps the manual was an old one – the inspector was adamant that there was a separate battery. And so we went about searching for the unit with the battery. We turned the caravan inside out for an entire morning but found nothing. Margaret posted a message on the Roadstar owners Facebook page and all the replies indicated that the unit should be accessible so that the battery could be changed.

In desperation we called the dealer who sold us the caravan. The owner was adamant they had tested the system and that everything was working when they sold us the caravan. The owner couldn’t remember exactly where the unit with the battery was but he did recall the caravan had such a unit and we should again look for it as he was certain it was no more than a flat battery. All of this while we were parked at the old disused Bunnings site in Nowra. We searched again with the same result.

The inspector had given us the names of a few local companies we could take the caravan to if we came unstuck. We called these companies but they could only see in about three weeks. With an unregistered caravan and no-one able to help us, we booked into the Nowra Showgrounds for a few days.

We then called the Roadstar manufacturers who shed some light on the matter. Our caravan was manufactured before the current legislation and at the time of manufacture it was legal for the emergency braking system to be powered by the house battery. So much for the comments by the dealer who sold us the caravan – they clearly had not tested the emergency braking system before selling us the caravan. The manual we had was correct.

In one of the calls with an auto-electrician who could see us in 3 weeks, he commented that if there was power at the unit on the caravan tow-bar, it should be working. That was a light-bulb moment and a check with the mutimeter revealed that there was no power. The inspector who had failed the caravan happened to call on us at Nowra Showgrounds to see how we were getting on and mentioned that if we shorted the system out we should hear the emergency brakes being activated. We pulled the unit apart and shorted it out – sure enough, we could hear the emergency brakes kicking in. The problem was the rusty unit on the caravan tow-bar which we managed to replace for $35.00. After replacing the unit on the tow-bar and a few globes, the inspector passed the caravan and we could register it.

With the Easter weekend approaching and the weather clearing, we decided to stay on at Nowra Showgrounds. There is a small designated area for camping which we expected would be full over the Easter weekend but turned out not to be.

We had planned to go back to Bendeela Recreation Area on Monday 18 April but decided to first have a look at both the road to Kangaroo Valley and Bendeela Recreation Area to see what shape they were in after all the rain. It was just as well we did. The road from Nowra to Kangaroo Valley has been badly affected and there is one-way traffic with a guide car. Not the kind of road you want to take a caravan on. Bendeela had fared even worse – large parts of the reserve had been destroyed by the water. It is estimated that the road from Nowra to Kangaroo Valley could take two years to repair. We decided to extend our stay at Nowra Showgrounds. Whilst the Showgrounds are pleasant, we do feel that the rate of $32.00 per night (for two adults) is expensive.

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