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dottymay

Axle refurbishment

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We have a problem with the axle on our caravan one of the rubber bushes has snapped, we have found a company that will take it away refurbish it and return it to us via courier, they are called Fraser Brown in Scotland, just wondering if anyone has used this company.

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Assume your caravan is out of Warranty then??? If not speak to dealer.

 

geoff

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Yes it is a 2004 van so most definately out of warranty

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This is not an attempt to piggyback on Dottymay's request for advice on a workshop that claims to be able to refurbish their caravan's axle, but I have a similar concern. (And if Dottymay's caravan is on an Al-Ko chassis some of my comments may possibly be of some relevance.)

 

I also need a skilled and reliable repairer for my Al-ko caravan chassis (caravan is a 2007 Swift Charisma 535: MTLPM 1,350 kg,  Al-Ko Euro axle with same load capacity).

 

The minimum requirement is that the axle needs new rubbers each side.   Low riding on the right (heavier) side of the caravan is now pronounced enough to be a nuisance, or worse,  on steeply cambered roads when driving on the right.

 

Repair is needed simply on the grounds of convenience. The "list to starboard" also means, on a side-to-side level concrete pitch hardstanding, that the van can't be levelled without using our very effective, but heavy, bulky and cumbersome Milenco "Lockloy" wheel lifter under the right wheel.

 

I contacted Al-Ko UK for advice because, for better dynamic stability on winding and steeply cambered roads, I would like at least to explore the possibiity of going further than just a repair and get an Al-Ko "Delta" axle fitted to replace the original Euro axle.

 

The reply was that they do not do repairs. Yet the chassis handbook says that for certain aspects of an axle rebuild (eg, setting the static toe-in of the wheel hub carriers, I think) the components need to be sent to Al-Ko for correct assembly and adjustment.

 

So I asked them to RECOMMEND an Al-ko repair agent within a reasonable distance of my postcode. They just copied the list  that comes up on under "find an agent" on their website. That list  is of caravan dealers and workshops approved by the National Caravan Council (which is  a trade body). It contains three places which I have either had or look at or used in the past and would not wish to return to.

 

So I wonder if any contributors to this website know of what they consider to be a really good and skilled workshop with full expertise on the type of axle fitted by Al-Ko and BPW.

 

My postcode is DN22 7HA and I would be prepared to take the van to a repairer within at least a 150 mile radius of that point.

 

Dottymay asks if any contributors have had had experience of a particular workshop in Scotland. For caravan maintenance we do tend to use either our original dealer or one which is reasonably close. If Dottymay supplies their home postcode, perhaps contributors with personal experience within that area and/or of the Scottish workshop mentioned would reply.

 

Personally, I do not like the idea of dealing with a job like this at a distance. I would want to see the workshop and the people who would be working on my caravan chassis, and, if relevant, be able to see how they tackled the job.   I would also want to be sure that the setting up of the hub static camber angles would be done competently (so the workshop would have to send the axle to Al-Ko, or have their own proper equipment). I also wonder who would remove and replace (when refurbished) Dottymay's axle. I know that this is Dottymay's business, but we are talking about a crucial aspect of how the primary safety of the van on the road is safeguarded.

 

 

 

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Hi we would go to a registered Caravan repair company, although having said that we had the van serviced whilst it was being kept in Abersoch by a registered company and to be quite honest the service they provided left a lot to be desired, so it is very difficult to find a trustworthy firm, this does cause me a great deal of concern.

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Fraser Brown seems to be the only company that will refurbish caravan axle that mean the axle has to be removed and sent to them. I can't find anyone that can repair caravan axle, a dealer or any approved caravan service engineer will only be able to remove and replace an axle. the cost has to be taken into consideration whether it is viable to refurbish the old axle or buy a new one.

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Fraser Brown send a courier to collect the axle, refurbish it and courier it back within 4 days, it is just one side of our axle that is in need of refurbishment, and so far we have had one engineer come out and say that it would be a whole new chassis at a cost of 1500, the cost of the refurbishment including courier is 420 but then we still need to find someone that would fit it and that is proving difficult in our area.

Edited by dottymay

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4 minutes ago, dottymay said:

Fraser Brown send a courier to collect the axle, refurbish it and courier it back within 4 days, it is just one side of our axle that is in need of refurbishment, and so far we have had one engineer come out and say that it would be a whole new chassis at a cost of 1500, the cost of the refurbishment including courier is 420 but then we still need to find someone that would fit it and that is proving difficult in our area.

It is not a new chassis you need it just the axle that will need replacing. it is easy for a dealer or approved service engineer to replace an axle in situ rather than having to remove the axle and wait for it returns that is why it is very hard to find anyone willing to do the work.  

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Look at https://www.westerntowing.co.uk/acatalog/Al-ko_Axles.html where you can buy complete axle with brakes etc.  Would save time and effort removing brake drums etc if you were going to send for a repair.  There should be a plate on the old axle with all details on.  Just try and get someone to photograph it with a mobile phone?

 

 

 

 




 

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Some very useful comments have been made, for which I  am also grateful.

 

Your vehicle is a touring caravan. It has a BPW chassis with, possibly, a "Swing Vee-tec" axle (semi- trailing suspension arms - better suspension geometry than with the straight  axle tube of Al-Ko's "Euro" axle).

 

Oldboy points out that the axle is a unit separate from the chassis.   it is bolted to the central section of a "semi-chassis", consisting of this central section, the A- frame members at the front, and two longitudinal members (really substantial outriggers) at the back. The three sections are bolted together using pre-drilled holes among the sets provided, which allow one set of members to suit a (small) range of body lengths/configurations.

 

I have read that the caravan chassis and floor need multiple supports if the axle is removed. This is for Al-Ko chassis, and seems not to apply to chassis equpped with the Delta axle (Al-Ko's lookalike for BPW's Swing Vee-tec axle).  Your engineer should know if your chassis needs special support.

 

I  note with interest Oldboy's advice that refurbishment of the axle in any major respect is not a job for which we are likely to find a suitable workshop within easy reach. He believes that only Fraser Brown offer this for a rubber-in-shear touring caravan axle. That is probably because ordinary workshop staff are not trained in such work. That may be due to lack of investment in training, or  simply because a new axle is (lazily/cynically?) considered the only reliable way to deal with the sort of problem with the rubber suspension cords that you and I have.   It does sound a rather extreme way of tackling what could well be viewed as occasional routine maintenance. Akin, perhaps, to changing the clutch on a car.  

 

And you have shown that it may not be the least expensive way!  The price of £420 for two-way courier, plus what one hopes will be fully competent refurbishment of the rubber inserts, is probably a lot less than a complete new axle.    The Fraser Brown's website which deals with this type of axle presents  this service attractively, but briefly.   It implies that they change all three (if they are continuous across the axle) rubber "cords", but does not actually say so.  Nor is  there any mention of re-setting  the toe-in (and caster??) angles to the correct values when reassembling the swinging suspension arms onto what  Al-Ko call  the "stub axles".  This procedure, which sounds daunting to someone like me -  generally competent, but not  trained in the rebuilding of this type of axle - is set  out in Al-Ko's workshop manual (a vast  document which can be accessed on line, and does not make for easy reading!).

 

I wonder if your mobile caravan engineer meant the price of the axle when he told you £1,500 for a new "chassis"?  As Oldboy says, the chassis is separate from the axle. The problem is within the axle. Your van is an Elddis, so will have a BPW chassis. This may  be equipped with the semi-trailing-arms axle which BPW calls "Swing Vee-tec", and  Al-Ko "Delta" (this is the shape in plan, in flattened form, of the axle tube). If so, and if it is a Swing Vee- tech axle, £1,500 for a new one does not sound exorbitant. But is it a rational expenditure for either or us in an old caravan with a low commercial value?  And there will  be extra costs: your engineer's time, extra parts which may be advisable but not absolutely vital, and so on.

 

A new axle may be supplied with only the brake back plates.  (The drums, which contain the hub bearings (Al-Ko, at least, don't supply drums and bearings separately, even though the bearing is retained in the inside of the central bore in the drum by a (very large) circlip).  If so, your engineer will have to strip your old axle down to the same level as on a new axle. He may advise new brake shoes and, much more expensively, new drums/hub bearings - on the "don't spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar" basis.

 

 

 

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https://www. westerntowing. co. uk/acatalog/BPW-Caravan-Trailer-Axles. html also supply complete BPW axles.  I did read once that if you send an axle back to Alko to refurbish, they also check brakes etc and replace as neccessary.  Part of their QA/QC procedures, hence better to get new one as at least you know what the repair is going to cost!!  I would have thought that any competent garage could replace a caravan axle.  Support chassis adjacent to and both sides of axle, remove wheels, undo 4 bolts, disconnect brake cables and axle is down and out.

Edited by Dunhamkid

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18 minutes ago, Dunhamkid said:

https://www. westerntowing. co. uk/acatalog/BPW-Caravan-Trailer-Axles. html also supply complete BPW axles.  I did read once that if you send an axle back to Alko to refurbish, they also check brakes etc and replace as neccessary.  Part of their QA/QC procedures, hence better to get new one as at least you know what the repair is going to cost!!  I would have thought that any competent garage could replace a caravan axle.  Support chassis adjacent to and both sides of axle, remove wheels, undo 4 bolts, disconnect brake cables and axle is down and out.

Most likely they do not want to be accused of sending out an axle with faulty brakes!

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With our warranty replacement axle on our Bailey, the replacement came with new brakes. The downside of which is I now have the plague of the 2018 squeaky brakes!

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Al-Ko axles fail because the the rubber they use has been reduced in quality quite significantly.

The rubber I use is the best that a top laboratory can design for me.

we also use more of it.

By fitting the maximum amount of rubber we add 10 - 13% to the capacity of the axle.

The capacity of a 1500 kg. Al-Ko axle is exactly 1500 kgs. There is no reserve. Almost all caravans run slightly overloaded so there is no "cushion" to  soak up bumpy roads and potholes.

When I refurbish an axle it returns the caravan to it's original height and it stays there. The high quality of the rubber and the extra percentage will ensure that.

I used to do axles which were at least twenty years old. Average now is three to four.  I did one this week which was six weeks old. The owner got it under warranty from Bailey.

It failed after two trips and he could not face the trauma of making another claim.

Unlike a car, the castor and camber angle cannot be adjusted. Being a trailer axle it has no need of such refinements.

We use TNT to collect axles from the UK and the continent. They are taken apart, trailing arms are shotblasted and painted, and re-assembled with new, longer and much better rubber.

I offer a high quality repair within a week, using rubber that is better than Al-Ko used to use when their axles lasted for twenty years.

 

Best regards,  Fraser Brown. 01862 851600.

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7 hours ago, Fraser Brown said:

Al-Ko axles fail because the the rubber they use has been reduced in quality quite significantly.

The rubber I use is the best that a top laboratory can design for me.

we also use more of it.

By fitting the maximum amount of rubber we add 10 - 13% to the capacity of the axle.

The capacity of a 1500 kg. Al-Ko axle is exactly 1500 kgs. There is no reserve. Almost all caravans run slightly overloaded so there is no "cushion" to  soak up bumpy roads and potholes.

 

We use TNT to collect axles from the UK and the continent. They are taken apart, trailing arms are shotblasted and painted, and re-assembled with new, longer and much better rubber.

I offer a high quality repair within a week, using rubber that is better than Al-Ko used to use when their axles lasted for twenty years.

 

Best regards,  Fraser Brown. 01862 851600.

 

While I fully respect your judgment I do find it strange that the issue of failed axles is so much more common in the UK despite the fact that MTPLM's of caravans on the Continent are always the same as the maximum allowable axle load, which is not always the case in the UK. Judging by what I've seen on the roads on the Continent I would assume that their caravans are just as liable to be overloaded as those in the UK so the only explanation that comes to mind is that UK manufacturers set lower standards which the chassis manufacturer has to fulfil than their Continental counterparts.

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15 hours ago, Fraser Brown said:

Al-Ko axles fail because the the rubber they use has been reduced in quality quite significantly.

The rubber I use is the best that a top laboratory can design for me.

we also use more of it.

By fitting the maximum amount of rubber we add 10 - 13% to the capacity of the axle.

The capacity of a 1500 kg. Al-Ko axle is exactly 1500 kgs. There is no reserve. Almost all caravans run slightly overloaded so there is no "cushion" to  soak up bumpy roads and potholes.

When I refurbish an axle it returns the caravan to it's original height and it stays there. The high quality of the rubber and the extra percentage will ensure that.

I used to do axles which were at least twenty years old. Average now is three to four.  I did one this week which was six weeks old. The owner got it under warranty from Bailey.

It failed after two trips and he could not face the trauma of making another claim.

Unlike a car, the castor and camber angle cannot be adjusted. Being a trailer axle it has no need of such refinements.

We use TNT to collect axles from the UK and the continent. They are taken apart, trailing arms are shotblasted and painted, and re-assembled with new, longer and much better rubber.

I offer a high quality repair within a week, using rubber that is better than Al-Ko used to use when their axles lasted for twenty years.

 

Best regards,  Fraser Brown. 01862 851600.

 

Having watched AlKo's German repair shop strip and re-rubber my Burstner axle** back in 2003 I am intrigued by the reference to longer rubber inserts.  As I recall it  the axle bars almost met in the middle of the axle tube and were slightly shorter than the three rubber inserts. Are Al-Ko now using shorter axles  as well as lower quality rubber compound?

 

** Re-rubbered because the UK market version Burstner had installed the heavy components down the right hand side and overloaded the right hand axle. Despite the superb layout with full end bathroom/dressing room layout it was traded after 15 months!

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