I owned my First VanBitz Motorhome Alarm for a year without knowing it. This was over 20 years ago. It had been installed by the previous owner of an AutoTrail van we had bought; they’d left no paperwork. I had the alarm fob and used to alarm it after we locked the van up and it appeared to work. I tested it by opening doors and lockers and the alarm did activate. It also gave me some coded beeps, I had no idea what they meant.
With the previous owner untraceable and no evidence of the maker on the key fob, it looked like I’d never find out. I was aware that people often had car alarms fitted to motorhomes, and it could be one of many hundreds of makes. Then, that year at the Peterborough Show, I happened to see the Vanbitz stand and went and had a chat.
“Don’t suppose you could take a look at my van and identify an alarm for me, I don’t have any instructions.”
“Has it got a remote?”
“Yes, I have it here.”
“Yes, that’s one of ours.”
So I now knew I had a Strikeback Alarm. However, until I could prove I was the new owner by showing a driving licence and log book they couldn’t help further. After proving I owned the van, they booked me into their workshop in Taunton the following week to look over the alarm and re-register it to me.
They produced detailed drawings and photographs of my van made at the time of the original fitting and knew exactly what was fitted and where.
The motoirhome alarm was thoroughly tested and I was given a full demo of its capabilities along with a manual and some new stickers. All for the princely sum of £20.
From that day, I was so struck by their professionalism and attention to detail that I have since had three new vans fitted with the Strikeback. The latest van has the Strikeback Growler and this review is about that alarm system.
Why the Growler.
Many people will tell you ‘The alarm is dead – no vehicles are fitted with alarms anymore” We have become a nation of alarm ignorers, and most rely on the factory fitted immobiliser. This much is true; alarms are pretty much universally ignored. When did you last respond when you heard an alarm? So why go through the bother and expense of fitting one, especially as we know that not many people actually have their motorhome stolen.
Well, I fit them because they work, but not in the way that people think. While not many have their motorhome stolen. Plenty of people have valuables stolen from their motorhome, and it’s for this reason that we employ an alarm.
A good alarm benefits us in a number of ways.
It’s a deterrent.How can it be a deterrent after we just agreed that alarms are ignored? Because they are not always ignored by burglars. They want to steal with the least bother and risk of getting caught, so given a choice between robbing a van that is obviously alarmed and one that obviously isn’t, then they are always likely to choose the softer target.
They secure us while we sleep. The biggest fear of many is to be woken in their motorhome by a burglar. In a properly alarmed motorhome, you will be woken before the burglar is in. The peace of mind this brings is considerable. Especially so as we often sleep in public places like motorway service stations. But a confidence boost at any time, even on a proper campsite we set the sleep mode to protect us while we relax in the van.
Loud internal sirens do ensure shorter robbery times. With a deafening internal siren, thieves will be in and out in seconds. They will not hang around and search thoroughly; rather the robbery will resemble a smash and grab which means that in their haste to leave, as long as your valuables are not in plain site then they are likely to be left alone.
So, this is why, before I’d even paid for our new (to us) van, I’d arranged the workshop time to have an alarm fitted by VanBitz.
Getting the Growler Motorhome Alarm Fitted
I know from experience that the fitting takes the best part of a day, so I arrived the night before and had a complimentary night on the rather swish VanBitz campsite. Known as Cornish Farm (in Somerset, not Cornwall,) this is a lovely little site with excellent facilities. If I say it has manicured lawns and piped music in the shower that should give you an idea. I also found adjacent to the site a great walk through orchards to keep my dog happy.
In the morning at the workshop I was met by Ashley, who inspected my RV and asked me a lot of questions about how we use the motorhome, do we tow, do we wild camp, carry bikes, have pets, etc. All the while making notes and ticks on a form.
He then took me for a coffee and left me drooling over expensive gadgets in their well-stocked accessory shop, while he disappeared into his office to work out exactly how best to protect our pride and joy. He emerged after a few minutes and began explaining what he considered would be our best options.
We decided that we wanted every external locker alarmed. (apart from our waste dump locker) We wanted the external loop to add the cover to our bicycles on the rack; this also comes in handy for securing chairs and our barbecue etc. at night on sites. We definitely wanted the growler upgrade which adds the all-important and deafening internal alarms and the intense blue warning lights. However, because we always set the alarm when we are sleeping, and knowing how bright they are, we wanted the option to dim them for when we were on sites.
Lastly, because we had a dog they offered the option of disabling the loud internals which means that should we ever leave our pet alone in the van, we could still arm the van and should the alarm go off, we weren’t going to deafen our dog in the process.
At the same time as the alarm, we had also decided to have the VanBitz Non-Starter fitted, and I have reviewed that elswhere.
No more to do, we were offered a lift to town to go shopping and have a wander around Taunton while the work was carried out. A nice offer but we declined as we’d rather go for a spin on our bikes, and anyway I wanted to get a few photos of the alarm install. Like any fitter, I’m sure they’d have preferred or even insisted I didn’t enter the workshop, especially with a camera but for me, they’d make a rare exception as long as I didn’t get in the way.
Within a few minutes, you could see that this was no ‘off the peg’ alarm system. One of the fitters studied a copy of the form Ashley had produced and made several measurements of the motorhome.
He then started to make the most complicated looking loom I’d ever seen, hundreds of feet of wires, in dozens of colours being attached to the ‘brain’ of the Alarm. This loom took a few hours to make, but while it was being constructed two other fitters were attaching sensors and switches to various bits of the van in readiness to be connected the one of the many wires.
Then they spent considerable time, fitting it all together and configuring it. Once finished, and the best part of a full day had passed; it was back to Ashley who’s job it was to explain precisely how everything worked and how to use it in day to day operation. We confirmed the operation by activating the alarm several times.
He explained how the series of beeps when you disarm after an activation told you exactly what aspect triggered the alarm. How to activate the bike loop, increase or decrease the intensity of the warning lights, night mode for safe sleep, pet safety for the internal alarm, etc. All backed up with a comprehensive manual. I was sorted and very happy.
I’ve had the Growler alarm fitted for six months now, and it’s been faultless. We wildcamp a lot, and the ‘sleep mode’ gives us great peace of mind. When we leave the motorhome on a site or a public place, the blue LED’s leave people in no doubt that our vehicle is well protected. No surprises really, as a long term user we know they work well. We have never been plagued with those neighbour-annoying ‘false alarms’ that affect so many inferior products.
The Strikeback Growler is the premier motorhome alarm, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Funsters get 10% off this alarm