Job number two on the first trip of 2022 was to sort out the awning light. The current one has been on the van since new and been shipping water for several years. At first we thought it was just a little condensation but it wasn’t – this is a common fault on the Swift caravans.
And now the light has pretty much totally failed and there are no replaceable parts. It’s a new unit only. We didn’t want to install the same product again so we decided upon one of the “wrap-around” lights. The first challenge was how to get one shipped over to Spain (we spent countless hours trying to find one in Spain but couldn’t locate a supplier) – previously we have had all kinds of products shipped over from suppliers directly and indirectly, via eBay and Amazon. Even Electric bike kits costing hundreds of pounds would arrive in 4 or 5 working days.
Not any more. Seems like most of the suppliers don’t like all the paperwork involved in sending out to the EU any more. We did find one supplier, after a tortuous hunt around eBay and placed the order. A reasonable £35 became inflated to £60 after the addition of £12 freight and £13 customs duty.
It took three weeks to arrive. I guess someone got a Brexit bonus from the large freight cost and customs charge… Considering the charges, packaging itself was on the light side!
As well as no replaceable parts, the existing light had been bonded to the caravan with a mixture of VHB tape and a silicone adhesive such as Bostik Simson STR-360. It was a pig to remove, achieved with:
- Heat – very important
- Stanley knife
- Fishing Line to effectively “cheese cut” under the lamp
Eventually it was freed from the side of the caravan.
The connection block was then teased out through the hole in the sidewall, disconnected and then the wires held in place with a small clamp. Note there are 4 wires here – two are for the light and two are for the alarm indicator. The alarm indictor is a small red led which flashes when the alarm is set. On a dark night, it’s like some kind of emergency beacon shining across the campsite.
We had already disconnected the source of those wires so the new lamp not having the red LED would be no problem.
Ideally I would have had a new replacement connector but I clearly wasn’t going to be able to find one of these in Spain so I carefully teased out the metal inner pins, un-picked the old wires and re-used. Finally sealing the wires into the male part of the connector with a silicon adhesive (see below).
To bond the new lamp, I would use a mixture of VHB tape and Sikaflex 522, which is a very strong silicone adhesive which can only be removed mechanically once it has cured. Full curing takes 48 hours.
I now made a right mess of sticking the lamp on. There are several things which need to happen at the same time and I thought I could manage this. The VHB double-sided tape had already been stuck on the back of the lamp and I needed to remove the sticky backing. Then I chose to apply a bead of silicon adhesive all around the edge of the lamp. Then I would connect up the lamp and simultaneously fill the hole in the side of the van with clear waterproof silicone.
This proved impossible. By the time I’d connected the wires together and filled the hole with silicone, I’d got adhesive everywhere. On my hands, on the side of the van, on the awning. Eventually I bailed out of this idea and cleaned off the Sikaflex adhesive.
That is what I should have done from the start. It was over-ambitious to think I could manage with a bead of silicone around the lamp. Eventually I got the lamp in place, stuck down with the VHB tape and then I ran the Sikaflex around the edge of the light.
Final result looks good and the bond seems strong. Lets hope it lasts and we don’t see the light dangling from the side of the van as we travel along a motorway!