Our Goldstream Explorer ST caravan

Our caravan is a 14 foot Goldstream Explorer ST (shower & toilet) made in Pakenham, Victoria. It is not the standard model and has the following options as supplied by Goldsteam:

  • Off road build;
  • Galvanised underfloor;
  • Trailing arm coil and shock absorber suspension;
  • 16 inch wheels;
  • Awning;
  • Off road coupling;
  • Stone deflector;
  • Solar panel and regulator;
  • 100 amp hour deep cycle absorbed glass mat battery;
  • Fold down outside table;
  • Reverse cycle air conditioning.

The van we purchased was built by Goldstream for show at the Melbourne Caravan Show so we did not have complete control over all options. The included microwave has been removed to be replaced by a cabinet door and the space turned into a food locker. We have reverse cycle air conditioning but this is rarely used. On my instructions Goldstream upgraded the wiring from the Anderson Plug to the battery as the normal “industry standard” wiring was not, in my opinion, adequate and would have resulted in an unacceptable voltage drop.

The caravan has an internal shower with pressurised hot water from a gas fired water heater, toilet with vanity, double bed, dinette, galley and plenty of storage. Full particulars of the van can be viewed on Goldstream’s web site.

We are very satisfied with the general layout of this van, the way it tows and its off road ability. We have not seen a van we prefer since we purchased it. It suits us and our type of travelling perfectly. However there were faults with it and work and money was required to fix either poor design or bad workmanship. Following are some issues that had to be addressed by myself before I felt the van was fit for purpose:

  • Modifications to awning foot support

    Modifications to awning foot support

    It cost us $600 to have the awning repaired when the front leg of the Dometic Sunchaser awning came loose from its secured position whilst we where travelling. This bent the roller assembly and made the awning unusable. The repair agent pointed out that  Goldstream had fitted the leg supports upside down. Until the repair agent pointed this out to me I was unaware that a problem existed. Such fitting left the release trigger pointing down and exposed instead of being shielded by the support leg. This also left the feet supports unable to adequately support the weight of the awning. The repair agent had to replace the support feet as both were cracked. On being informed of this damage Goldstream stated “unless we fit the feet upside you cannot open the rear locker door”. They denied liability for the damage. It did not take much imagination or effort to lower the feet mounting point by 50mm using marine grade aluminium plate and stainless steel bolts to enable the feet to be mounted correctly. I also added deflector plates to limit the risk of the foot being caught and pulled away from the mounts. Note: If the release leaver for the awning arm is at the bottom of the foot then the foot has been installed upside down – refer to awning manual;

  • A month after taking delivery I felt that the fridge was not working on 12 volt and I was unable to detect 12 volts at the fridge DC terminal so I contacted Goldstream to find out how it had been wired. I was told that the fridge had been wired to draw power from the reversing circuit on the trailer plug. I was told this was “industry standard” but it had not been mentioned on delivery!  With a battery in the van it was logical for the fridge to run from this and I rewired the fridge accordingly;
  • Dual Shock Absorber Modifications

    Dual Shock Absorber Modifications

    The shock absorbers had been installed with 12mm bolts but 14mm internal diameter split metal inserts had been used in the rubber bushings. The mountings are drilled for 12mm bolts. Because of the 2mm play between the bolt and metal insert these 14mm split metal inserts distorted and tore out the rubber bushings. I had to purchase new shock absorbers from the suspension manufacturer, Vehicle Components in Brisbane and have them freighted to Central Australia. These came with the correct size metal inserts, that is 12mm internal diameter. The fitted shock absorbers are Gabrielle model 737924. I am unable to find any other manufacturer that makes the same size shock absorber as these, which must be purchased from Vehicle Components as they supply the metal inserts. Subsequently whilst in Brisbane I had Vehicle Components examine the suspension. They shared my view that the suspension was not stiff enough and given the weight of the van should have dual shock absorbers per side. I had this modification done which has resulted in much improved stability of the caravan;

  • The exit angle on the van was poor the way the rear bar was configured and would have certainly hung up on some of the tracks we have taken. It was necessary to cut the jerry can carriers from inside the bar and weld them outside (to the rear) to enable the bar to be positioned closer to the rear of the van. In my opinion the design of the rear bar was very poor. The rear of the van had been constructed to allow for the bar supports to be curved upwards which would have significantly increased the departure angle but Goldstream had chosen to fit straight support arms. When queried they stated curved support arms were not standard and would have had to be specially made;
  • Skid pipe installed under wiring

    Skid pipe installed under wiring

    The cables coming back from connection to the vehicle were taken underneath a chassis member from one side to the other. This made them extremely vulnerable to damage in an off road situation. I have installed a skid pipe underneath them but these cables still remain vulnerable. This is an example of very poor planning and quality control, as with a little thought this could have been avoided;

  • The supplied Hyland coupling had an override function. Even with the override disabled there was still enough slack in the coupling to jerk badly on corrugated roads and to produce an unnerving “clunk” most of the time. I replaced the Hyland coupling with a Tregg hitch.
  • New reverse cycle vent

    New reverse cycle vent

    The Truma reverse cycle unit was installed so that it drew its recycled air through the under bed storage compartment. This presented difficulties when stowing items in this compartment. To overcome this I have removed the fire extinguisher and remounted it higher up but still accessible from outside. A new vent was then installed in place of the fire extinguisher thus allowing the reverse cycle unit to draw recycled air directly into its own compartment.

  • Expanding foam has been inserted via five holes drilled in the interior lining in the front of the caravan, between the bed base and the lower edge of the window. This was required to stop the transmission of the temperature build up, either hot or cold from the aluminium plate on the front of the caravan. This was proving uncomfortable to the person sleeping against this wall. Goldstream supplied photographs and measurements to allow for the accurate positioning of these holes.

As well as these major issues there were a myriad of small issues from water leaks to pelmets falling off to splinters on unsanded wood work.

We ended up with a list of over 50 changes. The majority of these changes were personal preferences found through use of the van and not a reflection on Goldstream. Modifications we made to the caravan include:

  • Changed all fluorescent, quartz halogen and incandescent lights to LED. Whitworths Nautical World have a good range of LED light fittings and lights;
  • Added a reading light over the dining table;
  • Filled in under body hole around shower outlet that breached underfloor integrity;
  • Made and installed fly screen for pressure hatch;
  • Changed curtain tie backs so they pull curtains away from windows (more light);
  • Changed shower head to low pressure type as the supplied shower head did not work correctly;
  • Converted hanging space to three shelves and removed hanging rod;
  • Re installed swing down stabiliser legs so that they drop down when released and don’t need pushing down;
  • Installed support arm on stone guard as guard was not securely mounted;
  • Added a “fridge switch” on 12 volt supply to frig to stop fridge drawing 12 volts when van stationary;
  • Added fan in rear of fridge housing to assist with cooling;
  • Added end stops to the table mounting track to stop the table moving fore or aft;
  • Installed additional 12 volt outlets; and
  • Installed additional breather to rear water tank as original did not work

There are some issues that I have not yet tackled as they are difficult and I am yet to determine if it is possible to remedy these:

  • Install installation around fridge so that fridge gas burner does not transfer heat to inside the van;
  • The 12 volt outlet at the foot of the bed is inside a storage locker and difficult to get at. This needs repositioning out of the storage locker;
  • The pop top roof is hard to open. I have seen this on other Goldstreams yet on some other branded caravans the pop top has lifted easily. It does not appear that this is related to pressure in the gas struts. Rather the fulcrum used in the lifter to multiply the effort used would appear to be too short;
  • There is a jumble of electrical wires and connections behind the fridge, revealed when the lower fridge vent is removed. Such terminations should have been done using appropriate terminal blocks and this termination should have been done away from the fridge vent.  Possibly these terminations should have been in the space near the battery charger under the bed. This wiring looks very amateurish to say the least;
  • The 12 volts wires into the brakes are extremely vulnerable to being broken off where they enter the rear of the assembly (this has happened). There should be a steel spigot on the rear of the assembly to which the wire cover can be clamped; and
  • During river crossings water enters through door (not vents, these are secured) I would like to construct a way of sealing the door so that is watertight up to 1.2 metres from ground level.

Subsequently I have had to replace a failed gas regulator. This  involved remounting the new regulator so the mounting and regulator complied with the recommendations in Safety Alert 29 from the Queensland Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate. 

On delivery of the caravan I was told by Goldstream that an automatic fan had been installed in the rear of the fridge to assist with ventilation. This fan was not shown on the wiring schematics for the Goldstream Explorer, nor was it mentioned in the fridge manual. At no time could we hear a fan running. Because the fridge was struggling in the heat with a high ambient temperature I subsequently installed a fan inside the lower vent to direct air upwards onto the fridge fins. I also installed a switch inside the caravan above the fridge to switch the fan on/off. This initially worked well, but the fan motor failed after only four weeks of operation.  Whilst disconnecting this fan I discovered what looked to be a thermocouple (heat switch) with a device attached to clamp it to a tube, hanging loose. With a mirror and torch I then discovered a fan halfway between the lower and upper air vents. I could not see the power wiring for this fan but when I disconnected the thermocouple wires and joined them together the fan worked. I have now wired these thermocouple wires to the switch I installed so that I have manual control of this fan. I do not believe this thermocouple was ever clamped to the required tube as we have never heard this fan operate. I presume that someone did the wiring in the refrigerator space, including the fan and thermocouple but the person who installed the fridge did not attach it to the required tube.

This fan is unable to provide sufficient ventilation for the fridge to operate efficiently at high temperatures. It is October in the Kimberly’s and the ambient temperature approaches 40C. I have had to remove the  fridge vents when camped for the day in order for the fridge to have any chance of getting below 6C, mostly it is around 10C. When we eventually get home I will look at improving the ventilation in the space by better placement of fans and making the vent covers swing up so they can easily be opened for better ventilation. It also appears that Goldstream have installed this fan without fusing its circuit, something that should never be done.

There is also a real issue with the way Goldstream have installed this fridge. The gas burner and exhaust tube are right next to the bed, only being separated by a thin piece of plywood. The bench top and the plywood on the side of the fridge get very hot and transfer this heat to the van. The installation of insulation is required to limit this heat transfer.

There also does not appear to have been much thought go into the installation of the reverse cycle heating/cooling system. This unit has been installed so that the exhaust air is expelled on the same side as the awning, and that is exactly where people sit. It should have been on the opposite site. This would have involved repositioning some of the water components but it would have resulted in a much more “liveable” installation. The Truma reverse cycle unit fitted to the van is not exceedingly powerful but it does lower the interior temperature by approximately 12C degrees with the pop top raised. Whilst this does not seem very much, with an outside temperature exceeding 42C the temperature inside the van is reduced to a comfortable 30C.

I don’t believe there are many caravans that have travelled as extensively as ours or been in such remote areas including Cape York, the Gary Junction Road, the Gibb River Road and the Gunbarrel Highway. No matter the weather or the location we are comfortable and secure. However I would have preferred to not have had the expense and trouble of rectifying so many issues and finding other issues that simply cannot be rectified.

It is a real pity that Goldstream seem to lack adequate quality control and quality assurance and that they don’t seek feedback and input from their customers.

updated 21/03/2012

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