Caravan and Chassis Inspections Identify Pending Disasters
A thorough caravan and chassis inspection should be undertaken by your service mechanic at least yearly and certainly before big trips.
Campers and, in particular, caravans suffer wear and tear during every trip. The extent of the wear is determined by the type of roads travelled. Corrugated roads are one of the worst offenders, causing extensive wear and tear on caravans.
Similarly, heavier caravans suffer more damage to parts than lighter caravans.
Whilst we are in the era of do-it-yourself, you should also consider utilising the technical experience of caravan service mechanics at least yearly.
It is a great idea to give your caravan or camper a detailed visual inspection, and write down any points for concern as a starting point for your service agent. It is likely your agent will identify more critical issues than initially expected.
Servicing a caravan has changed significantly since the 1960s. The technology in later model caravans requires forensic inspection, which uncovers minute details that require attention.
However, two components that are critical, but often overlooked are the spring centre bolts and u-bolts. This article will consider what service mechanics look at during servicing.
Spring Center Bolt Inspections
A spring centre bolt plays a critical role in keeping a caravan roadworthy, ready for your next trip.
Whilst it is important to give the undercarriage the once over with a visual inspection, it is imperative to book your van into a reputable agent for a complete service.
Caravan service mechanics know all the key points to inspect for signs of wear and tear. For example, the first port of call is weld inspection. Your mechanic knows where weld fractures start and what to look for.
Similarly, they know wear indications to look for in your spring pack.
Movable leaves in a spring pack are a result of loose u-bolts. When a spring pack is not tightly clamped by the U-bolt, additional wear is caused. The image on the right shows a spring centre bolt that has been slowly re-shaped after years without inspection.
A centre spring is manufactured from mild steel. Please do not re-install the old pin, as it will strip the hex nut during tightening.
Replacement centre pins are made from high tensile steel and can be installed using a rattle gun.
However, you might be interested to learn that most service mechanical use a clamp on the spring before pin removal. Once the nuts have been released, the clamp is then slowly removed, allowing the pin to the removed.
Leaf springs are carefully re-aligned when the new high tensile pin is re-installed. Clamps then re-tension the spring allowing the high tensile bolt to be tensioned.
The importance of service inspections is evidenced by damage found to essential components in the chassis and suspension systems. One of the final steps in servicing a caravan or camper is to examine the u-bolts.
Loose U-bolts are the cause of many serious accidents. Axle detachment and spring breakages are among the most common results of loose U-bolts.
U-bolts are made from mild steel and require tightening after 300 kilometres. This is because mild steel stretches after the initial tightening. Once the u-bolts have been ‘bedded in” a re-tightening is essential during the 1st service event.
From this point, it is wise to re-check at every service event or every 500km. U-bolts should be tightened weekly for those who travel on corrugated roads more regularly.
More articles on the importance of tight U-bolts
- Loose Axle U-bolts cause Highway Havoc
- Stretching U-Bolts cause Caravanning Problems
- Why U-bolts may be the Major Cause of Accidents
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