Caravan owners are constantly looking for new ways to improve fuel consumption and reduce wind drag while out on the road. The use of wind deflectors is one of the widely-touted solutions, but do they work?
Caravan wind deflectors work. However, the level of impact will depend on the dynamics between the pulling vehicle and the caravan. The achievable results vary from one caravan to another, but many users have noted some improvement in their fuel mileage following the use of wind deflectors.
The rest of this article will cover all you need to know about caravan wind deflectors. You’ll learn why they work or where to install them for your van build.
What Are Caravan Wind Deflectors?
Caravan wind deflectors are components mounted on the roof of caravans or by the windows to change airflow and reduce overall drag when pulling a caravan with a truck.
When towing a caravan slightly taller than the pulling truck, good wind deflectors can help reduce the heavy wind action between the caravan and your truck. Reducing or eliminating the wind resistance between them can help reduce your fuel mileage and ensure a smoother ride.
Dealing with wind drag is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face while out on the road with your caravan. Installing wind deflectors correctly is a good way to deal with the problem and save fuel at the same time.
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Do Caravan Wind Deflectors Work Always?
Caravan wind deflectors do not work all the time. Many aerodynamics-related factors have to work together to create any improvements you might see after installing a wind deflector.
This is why the debate has been raging for some time. While some users claim to see improved handling and fuel mileage improvements of up to three miles per gallon, others claim not to notice any improvements.
According to a study, wind deflectors work. However, they have to be installed within a few feet of the caravan for them to work efficiently. This is because the airflow created by the deflector will close within a few feet if it’s not conducted by an external surface such as side fairings and cab extension gaps.
The scientists confirmed that trucks pulling caravans lose a considerable chunk of their energy once at highway speeds due to aerodynamic drag. They used computational fluid dynamics to study interactions with test models in a wind tunnel.
Looking at the report and the test method, it’s also easy to see why wind deflectors don’t work all the time or work for everyone. The test environment and subjects used are hard to replicate in real life.
It is hard to get fixed results in aerodynamics, especially in this type of situation. Factors that will determine if caravan wind deflectors will work for you include:
- The area of installation on the caravan (more on this below).
- The front design of your truck.
- The distance between the truck and the caravan.
- The height difference between the truck and the caravan.
If you have the right combination of all or some of these variables, caravan wind deflectors can work for you. Otherwise, you may not notice any significant improvements.
What’s the Best Place to Position Wind Deflectors on a Caravan?
The best place to position a wind deflector on a caravan is on top of it. The top of the caravan is the best place to position wind deflectors as it increases the possibility of significantly reducing aerodynamic drag.
This is another conclusion reached in the research I mentioned above.
So, if your main reason for installing wind deflectors is to save some money on fuel, you should ensure it’s installed over the caravan. It doesn’t have to sit directly on the caravan, but the construction should keep it as close to the top of the caravan’s front side as possible.
You may also need to install gap seals because an excessively large gap will only increase drag and worsen your fuel economy instead of improving it.
Alternatively, you can install wind deflectors on windows and by the sides of your vehicle, but they should ideally accompany the top installation instead of working alone.
What Are Wind Deflectors Made From?
Wind deflectors are typically made from the highest standard cast acrylic or other types of strong plastic. They are usually tinted to help reduce glare but may also come in clear white.
While wind deflectors for vehicles are made to fit window channels of specific vehicles, those for caravans are often custom-made. You’ll need to place an order for your specific caravan model to get some deflectors installed.
Once you get the deflectors, mounting them is typically all about tightening a few screws.
Can You Make a Caravan Wind Deflector at Home?
You can make a caravan wind deflector at home and save some money if you have the right materials and hardware. However, you need to ensure the materials are as close to factory-produced variants as possible.
If the material used is too heavy, you will add to the aerodynamic drag and worsen your gas mileage. If it is too light, the deflectors will disintegrate as soon as you hit the road.
An important consideration to keep in mind when building top-mounted caravan wind deflectors on your own is to ensure the deflector matches at least 75% of your caravan’s width. A smaller width will not yield any benefits. The best wind deflectors are 6 feet (1.83 m) wide and 3 feet (0.91 m) high.
The deflector shape must also make sense from an aerodynamic standpoint and sit at a 30-degree angle when mounted.
Caravan wind deflectors can yield benefits under the right conditions. When properly mounted, they can reduce aerodynamic drag and improve your overall fuel consumption. The results obtained will vary from one vehicle to another due to several factors, but it’s an installation you should consider if you are out on the road frequently with your caravan.
You can order caravan wind deflectors from manufacturers near you or make yours if you can find the hardware and have the technical skills to create an aerodynamics-compliant deflector.