What is included in our caravan servicing?
At Hardings Swift our Undercarriage Service includes a checklist of around 40 different items on your chassis and suspension system. The key areas that we will work on while servicing your caravan are:
- Wheels, brakes and bearings stripped- these will be checked and serviced
- Tyres and wheels inspected
- Springs and shackles checked for wear, outriggers, chassis rails, cross-members and A-frames checked for damage/fatigue
- All moving components inspected
- Full inspection of body components
- Jockey wheel and jacks lubricated for ease of operation
- External traffic lights and wiring connections inspected
- Water Tank mountings and hoses inspected for integrity and protection
- Handbrake cable adjustment and effectiveness checked
Below are some details about the range of undercarriage caravan servicing we offer
The tyre industry quote around 6 years as the use by date for a tyre. Generally, on quality tyres you will see a date stamp on the side which will look something like ‘2406’. This indicates a batch number (24 – indicates the week of the year and 06 is the year). A tyre with this batch number theoretically should be replaced the following year. We do a reasonable amount of insurance work on lower sidewalls of caravans due to tyres being blown out. In virtually all cases the tyres are well out of date or they’re low quality brands.
Unfortunately most caravans have periodic use, so the date comes due well before the tread is worn, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Our advice — tread carefully after 6 years or bring your caravan in for regular servicing!
ELECTRIC BRAKE MAGNETS
When the electric brake magnet is magnetised it grabs the brake drum spreading the brake linings. As a general rule these magnets should last around 50,000km. Generally after 50,000km they start to wear leading to short circuits as the magnetic coil windings start to make contact with one another.
We often change magnets well before 50,000km and this is generally where customers have the non-pendulum brake control units. Non-pendulum (solid state) brake control units output the same signal to the caravan brakes irrespective of the cars deceleration so the majority of the time the brakes will be getting too much power. Essentially the non-pendulum units are prone to wearing magnets very quickly, plus making the brakes very hot which can cause other issues, such as premature bearing failure.
Our advice – be ready to change the magnets at 50,000km. Make sure you have a pendulum brake control unit such as a Prodigy so you get a good 50,000km from your magnets.
CARAVAN WHEEL BEARINGS
Some bearings can last 10,000 km, while others can last 30-50,000 km. Our approach has always been to change bearings as soon as we see early signs of wear. Generally, wheel bearings are a low cost item and it’s not worth saving them for another 10,000km and risk significant damage. As caravans have no odometers, and people can lose track of the distances they’ve travelled, don’t leave early signs of bearing wear be ignored and let us check these for you.
It is also important to note that caravan bearing wear cannot be compared with a car. Car bearings generally ride on smoother suspensions, carry less weight, plus if they start to wear they make quite a noise that the driver hears. In comparison, caravan wheel bearings often ride on a rougher more crude suspension, have very periodic use and cannot be heard from the tow vehicle when badly worn, plus on tandems endure a severe load on every corner. As an example a typical 16′ caravan often has ‘Falcon’ front end wheelbearings supporting a load of around 1500kg. A Falcon has 4 wheels supporting virtually the same weight, so it’s no surprise these caravan bearings show earlier signs of wear!
Consequently, it’s hard to give a predicted life on bearings. The industry keeps upsizing the bearings used which has definitely increased the reliability and the Europeans now use a sealed bearing which is showing a lot of promise.
Our advice – change bearings when early wear signs appear.
In our opinion this suspension is not the best option for touring caravans. It needs too much maintenance for the distances caravanners now typically demand. Unfortunately, it’s probably the most popular suspension on tandems. Whilst we keep rebuilding this suspension we encourage new tandem buyers to request a good quality independent system (Simplicity, Vehicle Components, Knee, Control Rider, Sugar Glider, Alko Rubber).
In relation to maintenance the shackle pins and bushes can often require replacement within 15-20,000km. We therefore recommend replacing springs at 70-80,000km because after this point they can become very prone to breaking. Sometimes money is better spent (once these systems need some significant maintenance) converting to the Rocker-Roller system. The Rocker-Roller is not an independent system, but a cost effective step-up from a Rocker system.
Our advice – ensure a rocker system is serviced every 10,000km, carry a spare spring and budget some money for maintenance.
SINGLE AXLE LEAF SPRINGS
These systems are reasonably maintenance free. Eye-slipper springs are probably the most common single axle spring systems. They will wear the rear slipper guides and the front bush somewhere between 40-60,000km mark. The springs seem to flatten out at around 80,000km and the caravan can start to droop.
The other single axle system is the eye-to-eye springs which will also wear bushes at around 40-60,000km. If you have greaser pins keep them well packed with grease.
Our advice – change the springs at the 80,000km, plus monitor bush & slipper wear.
Independent suspensions are a more sophisticated suspension. They put much less pressure on the springs as the trailing arm supports the wheel load so the spring is purely used as a ‘spring’. They often need re-alignment from time to time but in good quality systems we see they either never wear bushes or only do once they’re past the 100,000km mark!
If you have a leaf sprung independent system probably think about changing the spring between 90-120,000km depending upon the system. The coil spring versions need to be reviewed periodically in relation to the distance between the bump-stop and the chassis.
There is also a very popular rubber torsional system, used on many caravans and these don’t need any toe-in adjustment but need the rubbers replacing when they start to droop.
Shockers are probably the main wear component on some coil independent suspensions and like a car they have a certain life time based upon their use.
Our advice- review the wheel alignment otherwise service at normal intervals, but generally a very low maintenance system.
This emergency system is designed to apply the caravan brakes if the caravan breaks away completely from the tow vehicle. If your van is over 2000kg in ATM you will have this small cable and switch which you connect to your car on hook-up. The switches can only be checked when they are pulled out. From experience a lot of switches break when pulled out. They’re not a high quality item plus the sun deteriorates the switch and causes the plastic to be brittle.
The other main issue is the batteries often run flat. The battery will either be run/ charged off the ‘house’ battery or have its own dedicated battery charged off the car whilst towing. We often find when servicing caravans this battery is flat, so the breakaway system wouldn’t work.
Our advice – change the breakaway battery every 2 years and have the switch checked regularly.
As part of our 10,000km Undercarriage Service we pay particular attention to finding cracks in the chassis from fatigue. Cracks where the cross members meet the chassis rails can be common after 100,000km and can be gusseted to repair. Stress rails under the A-frame often have breaks however this is partly due to weld positions. Generally chassis systems from the mid 90’s onwards are a lot more robust and don’t suffer a huge amount of fatigue.
Cracks in spring hangers can be the most critical and need to be monitored, and sometimes gusseted.
Our advice – regular servicing will prevent small cracks getting bigger!
Other Caravan Servicing we offer
The windup system most commonly found in Jayco’s is a well proven and reliable system. It does however need maintenance around the 5 year mark. It’s not uncommon for a camper that hasn’t been maintained to break a main cable (complete roof won’t wind up) or riser arm cable where one raiser arm won’t go up. These have often lead to a holiday finishing prematurely thus we recommend servicing these systems every 5 years.
A windup service inspects and lubricates the complete windup system. To access the system we need empty cupboards as we strip the internal panels that cover all the windup mechanism. The common areas of interest in a windup service are:
- Condition of the main winch cable
- Condition of the main winch clutch
- Condition of the 4 riser arm cables
- Operation and lubrication of the several pulley wheels used to convey the 4 riser cables from the main winch
- Connection of the pushrods and lubrication
- Lubrication and condition of the 4 riser arms
- Ensuring floor plates are still well anchored on pushrod assemblies