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craigy85

Volvo V90 Towball - Too High

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Hi all,

I've just swapped my Jaguar XF for a Volvo V90 D5 R-Design with adaptive / self- levelling suspension and a Volvo electronically retractable towbar, thinking it would be a perfect tow car.

I'm currently using it to tow a caravan through France and it's not been what you would call 'stable'. Every time a large car / van passes, or theres a bit of a sidewind, the caravan & car are swaying quite badly and taking quite a while to settle down. I towed this caravan (and 2 previous vans) with the Jaguar, at up to 70mph, with no stability issues or swaying at all, so it's definitely something to do with the car.

 

Had a triple check of tyre pressures, weights etc, cleaned the ball and stabiliser pads and everything is as it should be. .. apart from the towball height! It appears the suspension is not just levelling, but jacking the rear of the car up. The towball is sitting around 2" higher than it should be (according to EU Regs)... I've measured it at every stop over a few days and the middle of the towball was between 445mm and 465mm, fully loaded with 100kg of noseweight, which is causing the caravan to sit nose up.

 

Has anyone else had smilar experience with a manufacturer towball being too high or self levelling suspension overcompensating?

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Yes. I bought the present Volvo V70 as a 3 year old in 2013. It’s a Volvo Selekt car and I had the Volvo dealer fit a “Volvo” tow bar. The tow bar is plated Volvo but clearly a Thule/Brink produced item. When I checked the ball height it was a couple of inches too high (similar to yours). I suspected the wrong tow bar or detachable swan neck had been supplied, but after several discussions with Volvo UK I had to accept that it had been designed to achieve the correct ball height only when the car is fully loaded.  On level ground the caravan is level when checked with my trusty spirit level, which is not what the caravan fraternity likes.  We have never towed with anywhere near a fully laden car as there are just two of us weighing 23 stone as a pair. I’ve never been satisfied with this, but despite my initial perception of a twitchy outfit, we’ve towed many thousands of miles over the last 5 years including fastish runs on Autoroutes, Autopistas and Autobahns and it has remained stable. I think it’s possible to acquire a detachable swan neck with less lift, but the tow bar specialist I spoke to didn’t want to help.  

Edited by Ern

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Thanks Erm, does your V70 have self levelling suspension at the rear?

 

I understand that on a conventionally sprung car the ball may be over the 420mm limit when unladen, as the weight of passengers / luggage / caravan hitch will drop the rear to below 420mm.

 

With mine, however, no matter how much weight I put in the car, or where I put it, as soon as I turn on the ignition the rear suspension raises itself (and the towball) back up.

Edited by craigy85

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Some car manufacturers specify different towbar assemblies when self-levelling suspension is fitted. Is that perhaps the case with the Volvo in question?

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Apparently not Lutz. .. there's one version of the retractable Volvo towbar for the V90, whether self levelling or not! Interestingly, the V70 which it replaced had two different versions. ..

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Could it be the car that's at fault rather than the towbar and is over-raising the rear end? 

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6 hours ago, craigy85 said:

Thanks Erm, does your V70 have self levelling suspension at the rear?

 

I understand that on a conventionally sprung car the ball may be over the 420mm limit when unladen, as the weight of passengers / luggage / caravan hitch will drop the rear to below 420mm.

 

With mine, however, no matter how much weight I put in the car, or where I put it, as soon as I turn on the ignition the rear suspension raises itself (and the towball) back up.

No, it has simple suspension.  

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44 minutes ago, Ern said:

No, it has simple suspension.  

 

Hi Ern. All 7 of my Volvo V70's had towbars - and all aftermarket and mostly Witter albeit my 2000 reg 2. 4T has a Volvo 'factory' fitted detachable one fitted which actually was a detachable/lockable Brink.

The all had self levelling suspension and all where within the correct height parameters whether fully loaded or not when the weight on the ball was 80kgs as was dictated by Elddis for my SuperSirocco and Volvo for the fitment of an aftermarket bar/ball/hook manufacturer.

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10 minutes ago, AWanderingLancastrian said:

 

Hi Ern. All 7 of my Volvo V70's had towbars - and all aftermarket and mostly Witter albeit my 2000 reg 2. 4T has a Volvo 'factory' fitted detachable one fitted which actually was a detachable/lockable Brink.

The all had self levelling suspension and all where within the correct height parameters whether fully loaded or not when the weight on the ball was 80kgs as was dictated by Elddis for my SuperSirocco and Volvo for the fitment of an aftermarket bar/ball/hook manufacturer.

Thanks for the info. Mine definitely isn't self levelling. The tow ball limit for the car is 90Kg. (for the tow bar 100Kg) It may as well be 190Kg because it never moves much.

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Not familiar with Volvo, but I would guess this is air suspension? If so there are level sensors at each corner, and these can be coded via the control module to a given ride height. This is to allow for different wheel diameters and standard/sport models according to spec, and so on. Therefore I wonder if your car is set at the wrong 'normal' height, and the self levelling is simply doing its job in returning to that height with the van on?

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Thanks all!

 

 Gary & Chris - that's my suspicion but Volvo are saying there's nothing wrong with the towball or the suspension (despite the fact that it's too high at the rear)... they also told me it couldn't possibly be illegal or Volvo wouldn't have been able to sell it, despite the fact I can't get anywhere close to 420mm at the middle of the ball, regardless of load

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1 hour ago, chrisn7 said:

Not familiar with Volvo, but I would guess this is air suspension? If so there are level sensors at each corner, and these can be coded via the control module to a given ride height. This is to allow for different wheel diameters and standard/sport models according to spec, and so on. Therefore I wonder if your car is set at the wrong 'normal' height, and the self levelling is simply doing its job in returning to that height with the van on?

Wheel diameters don't vary on most cars  - bigger rims use lower profile tyres to keep the rolling radius the same.

 

If the air suspension is height-adjustable maybe the wrong height has been selected - but that's a bit too obvious for the OP to miss.

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The correct height for a towball should be within the *range 350mm to 420mm* measured at the centre of the ball with the outfit on flat and level ground and all loaded and ready to roll.   Page 8 of The Caravan Towing Guide published by The NCC.

Drop plates are exactly that and it is illegal to use one for anything else other than to lower the towing height of a caravan or trailer.

 

Ignorance is no excuse and most certainly no defence either.

 

*Please not that this is completely contradictory to the information on page 6 of the same publication that deals with Hitch Height in the range of 395mm and 465mm above the ground level with the caravan level,front to back - there is no mention of being on level ground and ready to roll.

Hitch head height and towball height are one in the same thing - both are referred to as being measured at the centre.  

I personally have taken The NCC to task over this and it might well have been corrected in later publications - of which I have not got or seen.

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15 minutes ago, Black Grouse said:

If the air suspension is height-adjustable maybe the wrong height has been selected - but that's a bit too obvious for the OP to miss.

 

 

Unfortunately it's not in my case.  Volvo claim there's no way for them to adjust ride height either. ..

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1 minute ago, craigy85 said:

 

 

Unfortunately it's not in my case.  Volvo claim there's no way for them to adjust ride height either. ..

 

Does the Volvo 'intelligence' really know what the correct height at the centre of the ball should be ? (read my very recent posting on this subject).

 

Can you send me a link to the EU regs please ?

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As for the heights. .. my understanding is the centre of the ball should be between 350 - 420mm when the vehicle is fully laden. Hitch head height is completely separate, in that; when then caravan is level, front to back, then the middle of the hitch should be 395- 465mm (not when hitched up).

 

So, assuming you have a car with a towball at the top of the towball range (420mm) and a caravan with a hitch at the bottom of the range (395mm) then you'd be towing nose up. .. obviously not ideal. If they're both in the middle of the range (385mm car & 430mm hitch) then you're happy days and towing nose down

 

In my case, the caravan hitch toward the top of its range, at around 450mm when level, so if my towbar we're within the legal range it would tow nose down. .. Unfortunately it's well over: around 460mm when stationary and higher when driving, so it's towing nose up and is therefore unstable with passing vehicles / crosswinds.

 

4 minutes ago, AWanderingLancastrian said:

Can you send me a link to the EU regs please ?

 

Have a search for EC Directive 94/20/EC

Edited by craigy85

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1 minute ago, craigy85 said:

As for the heights. .. my understanding is the centre of the ball should be between 350 - 420mm when the vehicle is fully laden. Hitch head height is completely separate, in that; when then caravan is level, front to back, then the middle of the hitch should be 395- 465mm (not when hitched up).

 

So, assuming you have a car with a towball at the top of the towball range (420mm) and a caravan with a hitch at the bottom of the range (395mm) then you'd be towing nose up. .. obviously not ideal. If they're both in the middle of the range (385mm car & 430mm hitch) then you're happy days and towing nose down

 

In my case, the caravan hitch toward the top of its range, at around 450mm when level, so if my towbar we're within the legal range it would tow nose down. .. Unfortunately it's well over: around 460mm when stationary and higher when driving, so it's towing nose up and is therefore unstable with passing vehicles / crosswinds.

 

The centre of the ball and the centre of the hitch head coupling are one in the same (ball into socket).

The reference in the NCC Guide although contradictory as I pointed out are both talking about with the caravan hitched-up.

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But they're not the same when they're not connected. ... one is the ball (360 - 420 range) and one is the hitch (395 - 465 range)?

 

It's obviously recommended to have the ball lower than the hitch so that the trailer / caravan is nose down when towing. ..

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My V70 is a very stable tow car, I have never measured the ball height but my Clubman looks nice and level

 

I don’t think that is relevant to you as the car looks like a complete revamp.

 

But I would say, that regardless of what Volvo say, the tape measure can’t lie.  If the maximum regulated height is 420 and yours measures more, it is simply wrong and they must correct it.  In your case with self levelling suspension, they can’t  even argue its about loading.

 

Sounds like they are making excuses.

 

John

 

Just thought.  Is the self levelling standard or an optional extra.  With conventional suspension some loading drop might be expected, so allowed for, but obviously that won’t happen on yours.

Edited by JCloughie

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11 minutes ago, craigy85 said:

But they're not the same when they're not connected. ... one is the ball (360 - 420 range) and one is the hitch (395 - 465 range)?

 

It's obviously recommended to have the ball lower than the hitch so that the trailer / caravan is nose down when towing. ..

 

Why is it obvious? I can't think of any logical reason other than loss of ground clearance at the rear of the caravan so long as the noseweight is adjusted to compensate?

Edited by Lutz

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31 minutes ago, craigy85 said:

But they're not the same when they're not connected. ... one is the ball (360 - 420 range) and one is the hitch (395 - 465 range)?

 

It's obviously recommended to have the ball lower than the hitch so that the trailer / caravan is nose down when towing. ..

 

Sorry but you need to get a copy of the guide that I mentioned in my post as they are clearly one in the same.

I will scan the respective pages later if I have the time.

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There must be a Volvo forum somewhere where others might be able to advise/measure their own cars. Practical Caravan magazine now have a V90 on their fleet so maybe drop them a question?  I wouldn’t totally trust a manufacturer especially if what you have contradicts what it should be. If you’re a member of the Caravan Club do they have a helpline? I’m sure they used to have one. What you are describing just doesn’t sound in any way acceptable.

 

 I hope you get it sorted. I’ll watch closely as I’m considering the V90 to replace my BMW520D next year.

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You'll need to press your dealer and Volvo UK for rectification as it doesn't meet EU Directives if the centre of the towball is greater than 420 mm when the car is fully laden. It's likely to be a long battle and you may need to threaten legal action, or indeed start it - good luck.

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39 minutes ago, Lutz said:

 

Why is it obvious? I can't think of any logical reason other than loss of ground clearance at the rear of the caravan so long as the noseweight is adjusted to compensate?

 

Because if a trailer or caravan is 'nose up' then weight will transfer to the rear and exacerbate any instability (pendulum effect)... it is widely recognised that a level or nose down caravan is best.

44 minutes ago, JCloughie said:

Just thought.  Is the self levelling standard or an optional extra.  With conventional suspension some loading drop might be expected, so allowed for, but obviously that won’t happen on yours.

 

It's an optional extra which also includes adaptive dampers.

12 minutes ago, GaryB1969 said:

There must be a Volvo forum somewhere where others might be able to advise/measure their own cars. Practical Caravan magazine now have a V90 on their fleet so maybe drop them a question?  I wouldn’t totally trust a manufacturer especially if what you have contradicts what it should be. If you’re a member of the Caravan Club do they have a helpline? I’m sure they used to have one. What you are describing just doesn’t sound in any way acceptable.

 

 I hope you get it sorted. I’ll watch closely as I’m considering the V90 to replace my BMW520D next year.

 

I've tried the Volvo forums but haven't found anyone else with the self levelling suspension and a towbar who could measure theirs. .. most V90s have conventional springs

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43 minutes ago, craigy85 said:

Because if a trailer or caravan is 'nose up' then weight will transfer to the rear and exacerbate any instability (pendulum effect)... it is widely recognised that a level or nose down caravan is best. 

1 hour ago, JCloughie said:

 

The degree of nose down is quite important as if it is excessive then the weight transfer on braking and especially when on a decent can really cause stability issues.

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