After changing motorhomes, we always make it a priority to take our new 'van to the longest-established fitter of motorcaravan security systems in the country to have 'it', 'us' and 'ours' properly protected.
Motorhomes are worth a lot of dosh in their own right; although actually, ours is worth more to us than it would be to some earwig of a thief, because it's integral to our lifestyle.
Transport, adventures, exploring, walking, foreign holidays, mob-handed family weekends away, even romantic meals for two watching the sun go down on a jaw-droppingly beautiful view - our motorcaravan is essential for most of our leisure activities, so to have it stolen would be life-changing.
Twenty-eight years ago, someone broke into our coachbuilt motorhome and it was obvious that the 'car alarm' fitted needed replacing with something designed and purpose-built to protect our motorcaravan and accessories, such as bikes on a rack.
Back then, only one firm had alarms made to their own specification, and were enthusiastic motorcaravanners themselves - so understood that the requirements differed from those of car owners. They were also approved by insurance companies.
I reckon that company has remained ahead of the game ever since, which is why for almost three decades, I've been a Van Bitz customer.
Our Bailey Advance has been fitted with a Growler system, which uses the same basic Strikeback alarm as we've had before, but includes some useful extra accessories and features. The Growler's key advantages are:
- Three (yes, three) exterior sirens, creating a wall of sound
- Two (switchable) internal sirens
- Blue LED variable-intensity warning lights at front and rear, and next to the entrance door
- Bonnet protected by a tilt switch, rather than a pin switch
- Interior protected by high-frequency sensor. Better coverage and more reliable than PIR detectors, plus air conditioning or blown-air heating won't trigger the alarm
- Diagnostic facility for alarm triggers
- Perimeter-only protection can be selected, so Fido or Top Cat can pad about inside when their owners are out and the 'van is alarmed
- Bikes, genny and so on are protected by an accessory loop
- Panic button on key fob triggers alarm, whether it is 'armed' or not
- Approved by Thatcham and all leading motorcaravan insurers. Some give a discount on the premium
- Hard-wired gas detector is standard. I'm more concerned about LPG leaks than (supposed) narcotic gas attacks, but to have something that detects both can't be a bad thing
- High-quality multi-lingual warning stickers are provided
- Two anti-grab and anti-scan radio keys supplied as standard
- System is upgradeable to include Europe-wide GPS tracking
- Lifetime warranty
Jack's hacks for keeping your 'van safe:
- Even the best alarm in the world will not prevent the theft of a vehicle or its contents if you don't set it!
- Those after stealing your 'van may attempt to take your keys, rather than try to break in and bypass the vehicle immobiliser and steering lock. Keep those keys safely out of sight.
- Visual deterrents do work - on three occasions, those looking for stuff to steal from our 'van have been put off by the LEDs and stickers, and moved on to our site neighbours' 'vans, which weren't so well protected.
- If you have an older panel van conversion, you might wish to put in an isolator switch for the central locking on the slide sliding door. Then you can lock the other doors, but leave that one unlocked when you are sitting beside it.
- If you think the cost of installing a security system is high, consider that, for the basic Strikeback alarm, this equates to five tanks of Derv.
Of course, there are many other great alternatives to both manufacturer and alarm systems - but remember, you want the best value, not the cheapest.
You can also download some helpful free booklets from Van Bitz to guide you through the maze of security products currently available.
Van Bitz can be contacted via their website, www.vanbitz.com or on 01823 321 992. Strikeback alarms start at £599, while the Growler security package, including Strikeback, starts at £999 (fitted). One night's camping on Cornish Farm's full-facility campsite (adjacent to Van Bitz) is included.