Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Check Your Nuts!!!!

We interrupt this complete absence of posting with a warning to all you caravanners out there.

Check your wheel nuts!

A little over a week ago, while making a relatively short hop from Carlisle in North Cumbria to Barrow in South West Cumbria, the rear, nearside wheel fell off.

It wasn’t a happy experience, but we have come away from it much wiser and a little poorer.

I’ve always checked the torque on the wheels before a long journey, but I must confess that I wasn’t aware of just how quickly they can work loose after removing the wheel. We’d had a full service only a week (and 105 miles) before, and we were only six miles from our destination. There was no vibration, no instability, no warning of any sort, just a bump and then, less than a second later, a crunch, followed by the wheel, er, following us along the road.

The damage? A section of the wheel arch was bent inwards resulting in a couple of short tears in the side skin. Not pretty.

Another warning to you all… Check your vehicle recovery clauses. We have Green Flag cover which came free with our fancy-schmancy bank account. Caravan recovery is included, but the (very) small print restricts the caravan length to 7m. More expense. And the two guys managed to rip a rear-corner section of the skirt off while they were winching the trailer onto the flat-bed truck.

And then it started raining. A lot.

Those last six miles took three hours.

So what advice can we offer? Apart from the obvious (CHECK YOUR WHEELNUT TORQUE!!!), have a good look at your vehicle rescue cover. With hindsight (which is always 20/20 vision), we could have attempted to re-attach the wheel ourselves. All five wheel bolts were lost when the wheel fell off (it was dark on a busy road), so we now carry a full set of spare bolts. Even though the wheel was damaged during separation, the tyre was good and it could have got us the final six miles to our destination. Even though we carry a trolly jack, it would have been very difficult to get it under the trailer at the side of the road, but we could have driven the remaining wheel up onto one of those yellow plastic ramps (I knew there was a reason why we carry them) which would have got it high enough to put the wheel back on.

We live and learn. Wheel separation isn't uncommon. It is almost always the left-hand-side which drops off. I can't find any figures for the UK, but around 50 trailer and truck wheels fall off in the US every week. So, please, check the torque on your wheel bolts.

All-in-all, it was pretty heartbreaking but no-one was hurt (only our pride-and-joy and our wallets), and at least we still have our home. We were in Cockermouth only a week before the flood – it could have been much, much worse for us.

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