Curtains and blinds are vital to keep out light and heat from the sun, help retain heat in the winter and prevent curious people from peering inside your ’van. Let’s take a closer look at what is out there.
Curtains have transferred naturally from our homes to our motorhomes. They can be quite plush and you’ll often find lined curtains that match the interior furnishings.
An alternative is net or voile drapes, which offer you a bit of privacy but don’t block the outside light.
Curtains are considered an interior design fashion choice, and while some manufacturers are no longer fitting traditional curtains, others recognise that some ’van owners would balk at the thought of their windows bereft of any drapery. So in some models, you’ll find a fabric drop mounted on either side of the windows, designed to look like a curtain. It doesn’t draw across – it’s a cosmetic add-on.
Some motorhomes have curtains around the cab. These seldom glide smoothly around their U-shaped track and they can come adrift from the runners. In daytime, they often obscure the seatbelt attachment, and tie-backs are awkward appendages.
Nevertheless, many owners are quite content with their curtains, and they certainly add colour to the interior. But if your curtains are looking a bit tired and crying out for a make-over, firms such as Regal Furnishings offer a huge choice of fabrics to choose from.
Almost all motorhome windows and skylights are fitted with blind systems, including mesh flyscreens. The latter are not cosmetic – if you’ve ever been afflicted by midges in the Scottish Highlands, you’ll know how important the mesh is when you want to open the window without being invaded!
Some blind systems have two rollers – one for the blind and another for the flyscreen, while others couple the blind and the flyscreen together on a scrolling set-up, pulling up from the bottom or down from the top, as you prefer. I prefer the blind coming down from the top, so that as the sun sets, you lower the blind accordingly.
It is also common to find a flyscreen on the entrance door, which is really handy for those travelling to countries with midges and mosquitoes.
Concertina screen blinds in the cab are also being fitted more readily by manufacturers. They look smart and allow the cab to be incorporated within the habitation area, which is ideal if your cab seats swivel round.
Silver screens provide thermal insulation to combat bright sun in summer and heat loss in winter; they also keep out prying eyes. The Swift Escape comes with interior thermal cab window covers as standard.
Alternatively, exterior thermal cab window covers are available in all sorts of designs and colours.
On many types of cassette blind, the spring can be retensioned or slackened. Normally, accessing the spring entails removing an end cap, which can be a little tricky, as ’van manufacturers often build furniture right to the end of the cassette, obscuring the cap. In that case, the entire blind needs to be removed to make the adjustments.
Once access has been gained to the spring, it can be tightened or loosened by turning the steel spindle in the middle, perhaps using pliers. There should be no need to remove the spring. Once it is at the required tension, ease it back into the cassette to engage its locked position.
Recently, I helped a neighbour repair his blind. Dents were appearing on it where something had got stuck. On dismantling the blind, we found the beading, which is used to secure the material to the roller, had slipped out. The blind was reassembled and the tension set, but it was a job that required more than one pair of hands!
If you are not entirely confident about repairing a blind yourself, don’t – speak to your local dealer or mobile engineer. It could be a costly mistake if anything goes wrong.
Blinds during storage
According to the manufacturers, if you leave spring-retracting blinds in the closed position for a long spell, this can weaken the spring. So if you store your motorhome for extended periods, the advice is to leave blinds and flyscreens in their retracted position.
This improves the life of the springs – but uncovered windows can attract snoopers, and your upholstery might fade. You could draw the curtains, but these might fade, too. If you store your ’van for long, consider buying a cover.
- A silvered surface on a blind helps reduce the heat of direct sunlight.
- A dealer or mobile engineer can sometimes retighten a roller blind if it starts to recoil too slowly.
- Less expensive blinds and flyscreens roll down from the top of the window.
- Cassette blinds that scroll are more costly and retrofitting is a problem.
- Some concertina blinds are only a single layer, offering no insulation.
- On cassette blinds/flyscreens with a double action, the blind part can be installed to drop down from the top roller. However, most German models are made so that the blind will pull upwards from the bottom roller.
It’s annoying that some motorhome manufacturers don’t make it easy to adjust the recoil mechanism of blinds and flyscreens.
Some blinds withdraw so fast that the plastic lugs on the cassette have sometimes broken off. Others have been just the opposite, retracting so sluggishly that the spring needed extra tension.
Spraying a silicone-based lubricant on the trackways can sometimes be a quick fix for improving the recoil, but do check this with a dealer first.
I suspect that many potential owners never bother to look closely at details such as blind assemblies or how smoothly the curtains draw. Their importance as insulators might not be recognised, either. That’s a pity, because they are likely to be used on every trip that you take and while some work very well, others are less effective.
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if you’ve ever been afflicted by midges in the Scottish Highlands, you’ll know how important the mesh is when you want to open the window without being invaded!