Road Test – Jayco Expanda and HJ61 Cruiser

We hit the road just over a week ago for the start of two months leave.

A couple of weeks prior we bought a new (to us) caravan which raised the anticipation levels a bit and also the anxiety levels a little as we wondered what we would discover about it as we travelled. Fortunately there have been no nasty surprises and only a few minor repairs needing doing.

On our trip round Oz in 2009 we often saw people with Jayco Expandas and envied their extra space and ease of set up & pack up. The thought of an onboard toilet and shower was also attractive so when I spotted this one on Gumtree one weekend it was hard to refuse with a long break coming up. It was $25k not neg and I ended up saying no… until a text message came asking if I’d buy it at $24k. So I did and then sold the generator for $500, making it a very good buy. I figured if we didn’t like it we could sell it when we come home and maybe even make a profit.
So far it’s been really good, although with two big kids who don’t sleep well together we have been creating a makeshift bed out of the dinette table each night to ensure everyone wakes up happy. We looked at bunks, but they are pretty squeezy and we figured we could make this work. The big win has been the hot water system that means we no longer have to boil the kettle to do the dishes or even wash hands. It’s also been good to have extra storage space, the roll out awning and larger seating.
The only real hiccup was with the toilet cassette… After a few days the toilet got smelly and I eventually discovered that the seal from toilet to waste cassette wasn’t sealing so wee was leaking thru… Blech… I had two clean ups to do before I worked this out as I initial thought it had just been overfilled. Google and Expanda forums helped me track the problem and fortunately Exmouth caravans had the part in stock and I was able to fit it. No more stray wee…
I imagine this van will do us for a few years until the kids move out or decide they no longer want to go camping… or hang with us… Right now we still get on fine, but they miss their friends and mum and dad might be nice people (in a nerdy kind of way) but they aren’t fun like friends would be.
The fuel economy has taken a hit going from 14/100 with the camper in tow up to between 16-18/100 depending on how I drive. Still – that’s pretty acceptable for a 1987 car I reckon. It’s like a brick on wheels towing a block of flats!
The cruiser sits on 90-100 pretty easily but driving into the wind yesterday it struggled to stay above 80. I could have flogged it to get to 90, but I imagine it would have slurped the diesel. 80 is slow…

What I did notice is that my air con has been losing coldness in longer drives. It starts off cold and then becomes ‘cool’ after an hour or so. The evaporator under the dash seems to be icing up, but I’m not sure of the fix and I’m reluctant to give it to someone up here who may not know either. I rarely drive for longer than an hour these days so I hadn’t spotted it around town. But it’s definitely going to need attention when we get home. If we had another 6 months of hot weather I’d be a bit more concerned but I can ride this out.
We replaced the cruiser battery yesterday after a near miss with a toilet stop. We left Exmouth in the rain on Sunday and stopped on the North West coastal highway for a break and left the lights on for 5 minutes. It only just cranked back over and after a couple of other near misses I figured a new battery was in order before we got caught out.

I guess the cruiser doesn’t tow like a late model car but she does pretty well and is good to drive.

I’ll make my judgement on the van at the end of the trip!

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