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AL-KO Friction pads


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Hi

So we bought our caravan 18 days ago. Not knowing much about the AL-KO stabiliser I noticed that the indicators are red and have contacted the dealer who said to bring it in to the workshop. This is 70miles away but I have looked under the hitch and the front friction pad is missing. Can I tow it back that far with the pad missing? also I would want all pads checked. Not really filled with confidence having seen videos of caravans coming away from the tow ball.

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Posted (edited)

I would be tempted to put up a fight with the dealer if for no other reason than it doesn't sound like they have done a very good job of checking the caravan over before you bought it. How old is the caravan out of interest?

 

I'm sure the terms and your warranty will make it clear that you have to return the caravan for warranty work. As I'm sure other people will point out, the stabiliser pads don't hold the hitch on (you can tow with the stabiliser handle up for example), the tangs under the ball do. However,  if you ask your dealer in writing to accept liability for you towing the caravan with a piece of the hitch stabiliser missing I'm sure they'll be reluctant to do so.

 

Also, do work out the cost of returning it to them. It might just be less stressful all round to get a mobile caravan engineer to come out and fix / replace the pads. With the price of fuel at the moment a 140 mile round trip with the caravan in tow will be the best part of £100 before you account for anything else.

Edited by ChertseyMike
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Friction pads are wear and tear items, and would normally be charged to the customer. In your position, I would fit a set of new pads and be done with it. It will cost you less than the journey to the dealer.

Ern

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you can look up AL-KO atc on you tube  and find lots of info there.  It you have a solid red light , it means that the atc is not working but  you  can still tow the van, if it's a flashing red light then there is a fault and should not be towed, although there is a nut somewhere that can disable it so that you can use it.  You should work out the cost in time and money to get back to your dealer and even if you can't do the job , would it be worth getting a local mobile person in to do the job. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, ChertseyMike said:

As I'm sure other people will point out, the stabiliser pads don't hold the hitch on (you can tow with the stabiliser handle up for example), the tangs under the ball do.

 

"Other people" might point out that the pad that is missing here in the OP's case, is not one of the two loaded by the big handle, nor the one on the locking latch but the vitally important front pad.

 

No way would I tow a trailer with this most critical pad missing. It forms the ball seating and carries both the hauling loads and the noseweight.

 

Photo the evidence of it not being in place and use this to get the dealer to post a set to you, or simply buy a set and try to claim the cost back.

Any decent dealer will respond positively to such a request, and any decent dealer would not ask you to tow the van in such a condition. DIY change out is pretty easy.

 

THESE are sold as a pair. At what seems an eye watering price.

 

Edit: SEE this change out link

 

Edited by JTQ
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1 hour ago, Ern said:

Friction pads are wear and tear items, and would normally be charged to the customer. In your position, I would fit a set of new pads and be done with it. It will cost you less than the journey to the dealer.

 

1 hour ago, Ern said:

Friction pads are wear and tear items, and would normally be charged to the customer. In your position, I would fit a set of new pads and be done with it. It will cost you less than the journey to the dealer.

Hi

I asked if they could send me a set to replace myself and their response was it would invalidate my warranty. They will though fit new pads free of charge but I will try again and try to get them to send me a set. I'm not sure how long pads last so it may be wise to carry a spare set.

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it does kind of smell that the suppling dealer is looking for a reason to wriggle out of warranty. 
Of no comfort to the OP, but this highlights the benefit of local dealers. 

 

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2 hours ago, ChertseyMike said:

I would be tempted to put up a fight with the dealer if for no other reason than it doesn't sound like they have done a very good job of checking the caravan over before you bought it. How old is the caravan out of interest?

 

I'm sure the terms and your warranty will make it clear that you have to return the caravan for warranty work. As I'm sure other people will point out, the stabiliser pads don't hold the hitch on (you can tow with the stabiliser handle up for example), the tangs under the ball do. However,  if you ask your dealer in writing to accept liability for you towing the caravan with a piece of the hitch stabiliser missing I'm sure they'll be reluctant to do so.

 

Also, do work out the cost of returning it to them. It might just be less stressful all round to get a mobile caravan engineer to come out and fix / replace the pads. With the price of fuel at the moment a 140 mile round trip with the caravan in tow will be the best part of £100 before you account for anything else.

The van is 7yrs old and tbh in excellent condition compared to what we looked at. I'm very reluctant to tow it any distance until fixed. Tbh to replace all pads is not even a 10 minute job so will try and get some sent to me. I have ordered a full set as a spare at a cost of £65 but only having the van a short time I don't think it should be our cost for the missing pad. 

1 hour ago, JTQ said:

 

"Other people" might point out that the pad that is missing here in the OP's case, is not one of the two loaded by the big handle, nor the one on the locking latch but the vitally important front pad.

 

No way would I tow a trailer with this most critical pad missing. It forms the ball seating and carries both the hauling loads and the noseweight.

 

Photo the evidence of it not being in place and use this to get the dealer to post a set to you, or simply buy a set and try to claim the cost back.

Any decent dealer will respond positively to such a request, and any decent dealer would not ask you to tow the van in such a condition. DIY change out is pretty easy.

 

THESE are sold as a pair. At what seems an eye watering price.

 

Edit: SEE this change out link

Hi

Thx for your reply. I have ordered a set of pads as a spare but will contact the dealer to see if they will send out the replacement missing part. Looking on YouTube it is a very simple procedure to replace all 4 pads . So taking in the cost of fuel and any chance of causing further damage replacing them myself is by far the better option.

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If you have not changed these pads before it can be tricky the first time.

The front and rear are not much of a problem, just screws but the front one can be tricky to get over the hitch indicator.

The side pads need to be carefully guided in through the 'O' ring seals then popped home.

 

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We had ours pads changed on site while on holiday as an emergency repair, so maybe call out a mobile engineer?

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10 minutes ago, Tradewinds said:

If you have not changed these pads before it can be tricky the first time.

The front and rear are not much of a problem, just screws but the front one can be tricky to get over the hitch indicator.

The side pads need to be carefully guided in through the 'O' ring seals then popped home.

 

Thx for your reply

Youtube vids make it look so easy. I'm sure its not a job for a mobile tech unless I'm missing something. 

14 minutes ago, gtepete said:

We had ours pads changed on site while on holiday as an emergency repair, so maybe call out a mobile engineer?

Thx for your reply. They look easy to replace 10mins Patience and a few tools. What can be more difficult? But if I get into trouble I will call out a tech.

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Posted (edited)

We were on site, so he was the only option...one thing he did do was roughen the tow ball, with emery cloth so new pads has a better grip....and checked all the tow bar fixing bolts were tight....

Edited by gtepete
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11 minutes ago, gtepete said:

We were on site, so he was the only option...one thing he did do was roughen the tow ball, with emery cloth so new pads has a better grip....and checked all the tow bar fixing bolts were tight....

What he was doing was cleaning the tow ball. The tow ball must be spotlessly clean, free from grease etc. The pads will become very smooth as they work. The new pads grip perfectly onto a smooth clean tow ball, as soon as there is the slightest contamination of the tow ball you will hear squeaking, time to clean pads and tow ball.

38 minutes ago, Moondog said:

Thx for your reply

Youtube vids make it look so easy. I'm sure its not a job for a mobile tech unless I'm missing something. 

Thx for your reply. They look easy to replace 10mins Patience and a few tools. What can be more difficult? But if I get into trouble I will call out a tech.

I totally agree, I do mine all the time. It is an easy job , screw driver, wooden dowel drift (for side pads), very fine grade emery and brake cleaning fluid ( Halfords Aerosol Can) and that's about it.

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4 hours ago, Moondog said:

The van is 7yrs old and tbh in excellent condition compared to what we looked at. I'm very reluctant to tow it any distance until fixed. Tbh to replace all pads is not even a 10 minute job so will try and get some sent to me. I have ordered a full set as a spare at a cost of £65 but only having the van a short time I don't think it should be our cost for the missing pad. 

The side friction pads are very easy to do, think you have looked on YouTube already, it is that simple, 98% of the time you won’t need to use the shims that come with the pads.

 

the front and rear pads….unless they are faulty they are normally fine.

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Interesting that most contributors have commented on the side pads whereas the OP specifically said that it was the front pad that was missing.

Funnily enough we got back from Norfolk lunchtime  last Monday. I unhitched the van on the road in front of the house and moved it onto the drive with the mover. I returned to the car  to move it and noticed something on the road under the back end - it is sitting here on the desk in front of me as I type. When I got the opportunity and the weather was dry I got down on my hands and knees and looked inside the AKS3004 head and sure enough the piece of plastic in my mitt was the front pad from inside the stabiliser head.

Credit where its due, I looked on line and found the cheapest supplier was Taunton Trailers at £30 plus £3.50 delivery and it arrived first class post the next morning. The list price by the way is £46.99 for two pieces of molded plastic and two screws! I fitted it yesterday - it took in total about two hours but not only was getting the thing apart and the (especially) getting the front external rubber buffer back on, the sun shining in my eyes every time I looked up/inside the socket didn't help! At least - as usual with AL-KO - it came with detailed instructions on how to fit it and there is a video on line.

I read somewhere that it is important not to overtighten the screw at the front that holds the main piece of plastic in place - I think it said 5Nm torque which is not even tight! The screw that holds the unit in place in the head goes into a small spigot on the back of the molding and said spigot had broken off with the screw still in it - looking at the state of the plastic it was  due to overtightening. We have had the caravan from new (Jan 2018) so I can only assume it was down to whoever built it at AL-KO.

I don't know if it is relevant, but there is a coloured curved piece of plastic on the lower leading edge of the ball retaining lever (the black handle) and I have only ever seen this red. On a YouTube video it said that this should be green - and it is green now that I have fitted the new part so the head must have not been working correctly for a long time - but if you have never come across it before how do you know?

To the OP, as has been said it is really only the side pads that matter when towing to stop swinging, so towing carefully back to the dealer should not be an issue. Alternatively you can do it yourself although you might find a Thesaurus of Expletives useful! You will need only a T30 Torx driver be that in a screwdriver handle or an Allen-key type construction, a stout but not too big flat bladed screwdriver to get the front buffer off and replace, and a 14mm open-ended spanner to hold the red/green front indicator (the bit that rises when you push the clamp handle down) from dropping out - and a couple of hours patience. Fortunately I have a detachable towball so it was quite easy to test the tightness of fit when completed. Oh, and you may need to lift the caravan front a bit with the jockey and feet to give you a bit of extra room. Don't be frightened, if you can do DIY or change a car wheel you can do this job.

 

2018 Passat B8 Estate 150GT TDi150 towing a 2018 Bailey Unicorn S4 Seville

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Strange, but I found a bit of plastic under our tow hitch. I think it is the remains of the front pad from the hitch.  Not worried about towing it home. Booked into the dealers for roof to be washed, too old and frail to do it myself, so I will get them to sort it then.

2019 Bailey Platinum (640) Phoenix from Chipping Sodbury caravans, towed by our  2017 my Discovery Sport!

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Woodentop said:

To the OP, as has been said it is really only the side pads that matter when towing to stop swinging, so towing carefully back to the dealer should not be an issue.

 

Whilst it is basically the side pads that apply the friction, so as claimed are the major damper "to stop the van swinging", it is my opinion quite wrong to imply it's safe to tow with the "front pad" absent. The pads, and particularly the front form the coupling's load bearing surfaces.

As illustrated in this fig 14 from an earlier AL-KO publication, [ I can't find a web link, so taken from my manual], that pad, item "3" is required to form the 50 mm diameter internal spherical cup against which the tow ball has to seat.

With item 3 missing, the ball will sit in a way bigger cup than it should.

Quite clearly with such a massive clearance that would exist the ball will slop all over the place, and "ground" against the metal casting.

Whether the ball would be retained might be questionable, but the ball would have the clearance to smash about in the hitch head potentially damaging both.

 

IMO, it is simply unsafe, to tow without the front pad, even if damaging things are acceptable. Hence the advice I previously gave in this thread.

Untitled-1.jpg

Edited by JTQ
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1 hour ago, JTQ said:

 

Whilst it is basically the side pads that apply the friction, so as claimed are the major damper "to stop the van swinging", it is my opinion quite wrong to imply it's safe to tow with the "front pad" absent. The pads, and particularly the front form the coupling's load bearing surfaces.

As illustrated in this fig 14 from an earlier AL-KO publication, [ I can't find a web link, so taken from my manual], that pad, item "3" is required to form the 50 mm diameter internal spherical cup against which the tow ball has to seat.

With item 3 missing, the ball will sit in a way bigger cup than it should.

Quite clearly with such a massive clearance that would exist the ball will slop all over the place, and "ground" against the metal casting.

Whether the ball would be retained might be questionable, but the ball would have the clearance to smash about in the hitch head potentially damaging both.

 

IMO, it is simply unsafe, to tow without the front pad, even if damaging things are acceptable. Hence the advice I previously gave in this thread.

Untitled-1.jpg

Oh well if you deem it to be dangerous, unlike other posters, I will simply tow the caravan home and then to the dealer with the stabiliser handle up! Be like towing like we used to back in the 60’s.

2019 Bailey Platinum (640) Phoenix from Chipping Sodbury caravans, towed by our  2017 my Discovery Sport!

 

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3 hours ago, Woodentop said:

Interesting that most contributors have commented on the side pads whereas the OP specifically said that it was the front pad that was missing.

Funnily enough we got back from Norfolk lunchtime  last Monday. I unhitched the van on the road in front of the house and moved it onto the drive with the mover. I returned to the car  to move it and noticed something on the road under the back end - it is sitting here on the desk in front of me as I type. When I got the opportunity and the weather was dry I got down on my hands and knees and looked inside the AKS3004 head and sure enough the piece of plastic in my mitt was the front pad from inside the stabiliser head.

Credit where its due, I looked on line and found the cheapest supplier was Taunton Trailers at £30 plus £3.50 delivery and it arrived first class post the next morning. The list price by the way is £46.99 for two pieces of molded plastic and two screws! I fitted it yesterday - it took in total about two hours but not only was getting the thing apart and the (especially) getting the front external rubber buffer back on, the sun shining in my eyes every time I looked up/inside the socket didn't help! At least - as usual with AL-KO - it came with detailed instructions on how to fit it and there is a video on line.

I read somewhere that it is important not to overtighten the screw at the front that holds the main piece of plastic in place - I think it said 5Nm torque which is not even tight! The screw that holds the unit in place in the head goes into a small spigot on the back of the molding and said spigot had broken off with the screw still in it - looking at the state of the plastic it was  due to overtightening. We have had the caravan from new (Jan 2018) so I can only assume it was down to whoever built it at AL-KO.

I don't know if it is relevant, but there is a coloured curved piece of plastic on the lower leading edge of the ball retaining lever (the black handle) and I have only ever seen this red. On a YouTube video it said that this should be green - and it is green now that I have fitted the new part so the head must have not been working correctly for a long time - but if you have never come across it before how do you know?

To the OP, as has been said it is really only the side pads that matter when towing to stop swinging, so towing carefully back to the dealer should not be an issue. Alternatively you can do it yourself although you might find a Thesaurus of Expletives useful! You will need only a T30 Torx driver be that in a screwdriver handle or an Allen-key type construction, a stout but not too big flat bladed screwdriver to get the front buffer off and replace, and a 14mm open-ended spanner to hold the red/green front indicator (the bit that rises when you push the clamp handle down) from dropping out - and a couple of hours patience. Fortunately I have a detachable towball so it was quite easy to test the tightness of fit when completed. Oh, and you may need to lift the caravan front a bit with the jockey and feet to give you a bit of extra room. Don't be frightened, if you can do DIY or change a car wheel you can do this job.

 

Thx for your reply. 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, PR1 said:

Oh well if you deem it to be dangerous, unlike other posters, I will simply tow the caravan home and then to the dealer with the stabiliser handle up! Be like towing like we used to back in the 60’s.

 

It will not "Be like towing like we used to back in the 60’s", as back in the 60 the couplings shell fitted the ball.

The AKS, fits the ball only with all its "pads" in place and the side pad loading handle set down.

 

With one missing, in this case the vital one item 3 in the figure I posted, there is then a void between the ball and the metal casing creating freedom. The 1960's hitches, when latched never had a void, there the metal casing and rear shoe closely encapsulated the ball.

 

Item 3 takes both the hauling loads and the carries the nose weight, two of the major loads the coupling carries. It forms, both a bearing surface against the ball and provides an element of frictional resistance.

 

The handle only loads the side pads to pinch the ball, creating friction to damp yaw. Towing with it up also allows greater freedom of movement of the ball, additional clearance.

 

With the handle down, pinching in the side pads and the front pad item 3 missing, then with the ball free to shuffle about will subject their plastic stems to shear loading. 

 

The AKS is not a coupling designed to be used with a critical component as the load carrying bearing missing.

 

 

Edited by JTQ
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In the 60's we had grease on the ball as well!

2018 Passat B8 Estate 150GT TDi150 towing a 2018 Bailey Unicorn S4 Seville

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