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Hillstart

Change Al-Ko stabiliser, incompatibility with car

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We have a Swift Challanger Sport 586 towed by an Audi A6 Allroad Quattro 3litre (second hand couldn’t afford new)

 

lots of groaning from car-caravan hitch area when towing. Appears possible incompatibility between Al-Ko stabiliser and Audi retractable tow bar.  

 

Have ordered new Al-Ko pads etc but have read that Audi electric retractable are not compatible with Al-Ko but cannot find enough information

 

Two options, change Al-Ko hitch to another is this possible or replace Audi tow bar.. 2nd prob more expensive option. Is it possible to remove Al-Ko and replace with Winterhoff and how difficult would this be?

 

Kids want us to keep caravan as we have seperate areas.

 

if this is wrong area to post in please advise where to post.

 

thanks “The Hills”

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Who says they are “incompatible”?

 

I find it highly unlikely these days that a volume manufacturer would produce a vehicles towbar that is not compatible with probably one of, if not THE, most popular tow hitches in common use. 

 

Have you spoken with Audi or Alko and asked them about compatibility problems! If not that would be my first action rather than going down the replacement tow bar/tow hitch path. 

 

Creaking is USUALLY a sign of the surface of the small friction pads becoming “glazed” with use. A good rub over with very fine (dry) wet and dry paper to break that glaze should sort it out.  It certainly cured the creaking I used to get on my previous caravan. 

 

How old is the caravan and what sort of mileage has it been towed? Any similar problems with the previous tow car? 

 

Andy

Edited by Mr Plodd

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Thanks for replying Andy, caravan is relatively new to us, purchased secondhand from a local caravan dealer so useage unknown. Al-Ko pads very worn with shims already on so have ordered new pads however towed it home with an Audi A4 Quattro, which had a detachable swan neck  tow ball. No noise when towed hence thinking must be something other than Al-Ko stabiliser.  

 

Have done lots of towing horse trailers over 30 years never come across a problem like this.

 

Will be phoning both manufacturers ASAP 

 

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1 hour ago, Hillstart said:

Thanks for replying Andy, caravan is relatively new to us, purchased secondhand from a local caravan dealer so useage unknown. Al-Ko pads very worn with shims already on so have ordered new pads however towed it home with an Audi A4 Quattro, which had a detachable swan neck  tow ball. No noise when towed hence thinking must be something other than Al-Ko stabiliser.  

 

Have done lots of towing horse trailers over 30 years never come across a problem like this.

 

Will be phoning both manufacturers ASAP 

 

I towed with an Allroad and then a Touareg, both with factory fit towbars, no problem at all. Usually creaking and groaning as Andy said is down to the pads and make sure the towball is really clean no hint of grease etc from non stabilised couplings.

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6 hours ago, Mr Plodd said:

Who says they are “incompatible”?

 

I find it highly unlikely these days that a volume manufacturer would produce a vehicles towbar that is not compatible with probably one of, if not THE, most popular tow hitches in common use. 

 

 

I would agree with Mr Plodd. The fact that the towbar on the Audi is retractable suggests that it must be a factory-fitted one. Considering it's a German car manufacturer and in Germany virtually all cars with towbars are factory-fitted (because retrofitting there means the car has to be re-tested to the equivalent of an MOT) and AlKo, too is a German company, it seems most unlikely that the towbar would be AlKo incompatible.

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Thank you , will be cleaning  old pads off and tow ball and try again, tow ball did have some paint/rust  on it so fingers crossed it’s only this. If that’s all that’s causing the noise I’m amazed. It sounded like car was falling to bits. Have ordered new pads won’t be replacing just yet... they are expensive for size they are.

It was in Al-Ko handbook that not all towballs are compatible.. that got the pointy finger googling again..🙄

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8 minutes ago, Hillstart said:

Thank you , will be cleaning  old pads off and tow ball and try again, tow ball did have some paint/rust  on it so fingers crossed it’s only this. If that’s all that’s causing the noise I’m amazed. It sounded like car was falling to bits. .🙄

 

Well there’s your answer to be sure! It only takes a tiny amount of contamination to cause horrendous noises!

 

Clean the towball until it’s good and shiny, to clean the pads they do need to be removed from the hitch, a thorough rub down with some very fine wet and dry and I am VERY confident all will be peaceful again.

 

Andy

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As Andy says clean the ball well, I carry a scotchbrite pad and brake cleaner and give the ball a squirt and wipe every trip.

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There’s a bell ringing in my head about Audi towballs having a ‘ring’ in them, which isn’t compatible with stabiliser hitches. 

 

Im rushing out now, so haven’t got time to check it out, but it might be worth a google. 

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1 hour ago, Fireman Iain said:

There’s a bell ringing in my head about Audi towballs having a ‘ring’ in them, which isn’t compatible with stabiliser hitches. 

 

Im rushing out now, so haven’t got time to check it out, but it might be worth a google. 

That’s what I had read Fireman Iain on another forum. Just finding it really difficult to get any more information. Have googled but not getting anywhere fast. Have phoned both Audi and Al-Ko both have advised me to contact the other. No wonder I’m confused. Anyway replacement pads arrived so just need to find time to fit, polish tow ball and hope that this works. It’s a factory fitted towball and seemingly a really expensive job to put on a different one. 

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AFAIK the Audi ring is to do with a super trailer stability or automated reversing system - like Fireman Iain said, it rings a bell.

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Back now and had a look. Does your A6 have towing assistant fitted? If so, there will be a plastic sensor ring on the towball which may or may not be compatible with stabiliser hitches. See link. It references a q7, but the trailer assistance will be common to both. 

 

https://www.practicalcaravan.com/blog/45516-can-you-tow-a-caravan-with-an-audi-q7

 

whether or not it would cause undue noise, I’ve no idea....

 

Edited by Fireman Iain

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26 minutes ago, Fireman Iain said:

Back now and had a look. Does your A6 have towing assistant fitted? If so, there will be a plastic sensor ring on the towball which may or may not be compatible with stabiliser hitches. See link. It references a q7, but the trailer assistance will be common to both. 

 

https://www.practicalcaravan.com/blog/45516-can-you-tow-a-caravan-with-an-audi-q7

 

whether or not it would cause undue noise, I’ve no idea....

 

So relieved now I know what to look for to confirm that we do not have a ring on out tow ball 

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I have an Audi Q7 with the factory fit retractable tow bar..  when working up the order with Audi I picked up potential incompatibility  problems with the tow assist sensing ring from the internet - it may have been this forum but I can’t remember.  I informed the dealer that I would cancel the order if they couldn’t give me written assurance it was Ok.  I finally received the confirmation from both Audi and Alko so carried on with the purchase.  I’ve since had no problems other than the top friction pad breaking but I think that was down to me. 

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We just did two 100 mile trips. First trip no problem. Second trip started getting horrendous creaks and groans. 

Cleaned pads and ball with brake cleaner when got home. No further noise on the 20 mile run to storage

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You may ultimately be stuck with the creaking for some reason some tow assemblies do, I had one caravan / car and no matter what I did to try and stop it, it would always return. 

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Aha, must be like the squealing brakes, some do , some don't ?

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My towball and pads were pristine - took them out and cleaned them in the drill with W&D and brake cleaner.

 

We left home and towing was silent but by the time we'd done about 100 miles down to Kent and got onto the first roundabout just off the M20, the graunching noises started again and then accompanied us all the way to site.

Cleaned the ball again and wiped the pads with brake cleaner but they still creak, so I reckon it's just summat to put up with.

Edited by matelodave

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don't alko tow hitches need a particular type of tow ball ?

Whilst this is compatible with other tow hitches, not all tow balls are compatible with alko

 

macafee2

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23 hours ago, Mr Plodd said:

 

I find it highly unlikely these days that a volume manufacturer would produce a vehicles towbar that is not compatible with probably one of, if not THE, most popular tow hitches in common use.dy

 

Andy, I think you grossly overestimate any contact the (German??) car manufacturers have with both chassis manufacturers or end users.

I have a BMW 4 series with factory fit retractable towbar.

Never mind the well documented lack of complete wiring kit, coupled with the possibly understandable lack of knowledge of Dealerships.

My car has a bumper to ball clearance of well below the minimum specified by Alko for their stabiliser hitches.

How this situation has ever come to pass is beyond me - obviously there has been little real world testing.

I could hitch up my van only when it was pretty well in line with the car, anything of an angle meant that the bumper was in the way of the hitch. Once hitched, the stabiliser could not hit the bumper, but it is mighty close - and I don't want to scratch my paint. Solution: fit the Westfalia/BPW hitch. I've had experience with these hitches before.

 

To the OP: fitting the BPW hitch is a very easy job and a direct replacement for the Alko. Just remember to use the (supplied) spacer when replacing the rear bolt, or the damper will retract and it can be a bit of a job to get it back.

 

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I still get a little creaking on my factory fit towbar, its just a bit of paint that I didn't fully remove, to be honest I never bothered with paint removal on my last witter towbar, but the Tiguan paint seems more resistance to removal by the pads, so due to embarrassing noise I had to have a go removing it.

 

I know you should remove it first.

 

Give the ball a good scraping with a fine emery paper, removed mine mostly in a couple of minutes. 

 

Clearance is tight but not an issue with a mover.

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10 hours ago, AlwynMike said:

 

Andy, I think you grossly overestimate any contact the (German??) car manufacturers have with both chassis manufacturers or end users.

I have a BMW 4 series with factory fit retractable towbar.

Never mind the well documented lack of complete wiring kit, coupled with the possibly understandable lack of knowledge of Dealerships.

My car has a bumper to ball clearance of well below the minimum specified by Alko for their stabiliser hitches.

How this situation has ever come to pass is beyond me - obviously there has been little real world testing.

 

 

I worked for over 30 years for a German car manufacturer (not BMW though), and for quite some time the colleague sitting next to me in the office was responsible for product design of tow bars. I can assure you that he worked closely with AlKo and towbar manufacturers and with the development engineers responsible for testing the design. That the wiring was incomplete for UK use was not his decision, but a management one. At the time it was considered to be too low a volume to justify a cost penalty for all other users.

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20180823_111408.thumb.jpg.0e5dd7424c585bb2e6cc1aa9e42cd579.jpg

9 hours ago, Lutz said:

 

I worked for over 30 years for a German car manufacturer (not BMW though), and for quite some time the colleague sitting next to me in the office was responsible for product design of tow bars. I can assure you that he worked closely with AlKo and towbar manufacturers and with the development engineers responsible for testing the design. That the wiring was incomplete for UK use was not his decision, but a management one. At the time it was considered to be too low a volume to justify a cost penalty for all other users.

 

The wiring issue I can understand, but the lack of clearance between bumper and ball is terrible.

I know people who tow large trailers (no stabiliser) and they struggle to hitch up without touching the bumper.

The bumper's shape means that vertical clearance above the ball is minimal.

 

Edited by AlwynMike
Picture

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On 24/04/2019 at 09:01, Lutz said:

 

I worked for over 30 years for a German car manufacturer (not BMW though), and for quite some time the colleague sitting next to me in the office was responsible for product design of tow bars. I can assure you that he worked closely with AlKo and towbar manufacturers and with the development engineers responsible for testing the design. That the wiring was incomplete for UK use was not his decision, but a management one. At the time it was considered to be too low a volume to justify a cost penalty for all other users.

Typical of the way that accountants have taken over from engineers in industry. I used to think it was just a British problem but clearly not.

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Hi All

 

Finally found time to investigate further. The depth/height of our towball  is not giving the 60mm clearance that Alko hitch require. We are unable to change factory fitted towbar due to cost so now need advice on replacing Al-Ko hitch with ?? All suggestions greatly appreciated. 

 

Unfortunately I’ve sold my driving ponies or I might’ve been tempted to bypass the car and use them.

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