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Trials and Tribulations of a Caravan


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Don’t get me wrong I enjoy my caravan very much, however I was beginning to feel the brakes were not working as they should. Yes, it was professionally serviced a couple of years back and as it only does about 3000 miles per year I felt that doing it every year was not essential. However (that word again) I did wonder if the brakes had actually been adjusted last time, as driving seemed to give me a big shove up the rear every now and then.


So, I thought it would be a good idea to check, and adjust them myself. I have read the ALKO sheet on doing the work and sounds simple enough. Plus I worked for many years as a motor mechanic so have a reasonable idea how drum brakes work. Of course I last worked as a professional?? mechanic about 48 years ago. Does that make a difference??? Read on.


First thing to consider was safety. The caravan has about ¾ of a ton of weight bearing down on each wheel and as I was going to have to get inside of the wheel this needed to be propped safely. So 2 trolley jacks, 1 axle stand and electric drill for the steadies, and I was off. First slight problem. My caravan is in a storage area and where mine is parked there is a slight downhill slope. Not much but enough to give the beast a bit of movement. 2nd slight problem the ground surface is gravel. 3rd slight problem, I have a motor mover fitted which blocks access to one side of the wheel. Anyway, these are but mere trifles to a pensioner aged ex mechanic. Loud laughter from the wings.


So jacked up one side, installed axle stand with plenty of issues as getting under the axle with it, without putting myself in the line of fire, was interesting. Lowered steadies as safety and put 2nd trolley jack as back up. So the thing was as safe as I could make it. Now where are the 2 holes with plugs on the rear of the brake drum. By the way, I did remove the wheel first. Put it under the chassis as another safety factor but then found I could not crawl under the van because of it, so kicked it to the side. Ouch! Looked and looked and eventually found 1 hole tucked away at the bottom. God, they are tiny, so put on the glasses. But it was at the edge and not the right one. Using a torch, even in daylight, I eventually found the 2nd hole, but no plug. This had obviously been lost, forgotten or whatever on a previous service. Where is the arrow for rotation? Licked finger and wiped backplate and found an arrow pointing vertically upwards. Now where is the star wheel to turn. There is not one as in ALKO’s drawing merely a wheel running horizontally. Took 3 scewdrivers to find the one that would fit and moved the wheel upwards. Turning the drum forwards all the time as instructed it eventually showed signs of the shoes hitting the drum. So backed it off until it was free. Crawled out from underneath and operated the handbrake and rechecked the drum. Locked solid so released handbrake, and the drum rotated nicely. Excellent I thought.


OK, crawled back out, removed all the gravel from my hair and coveralls and proceeded to re-install the wheel and remove all the jacks and axle stand. Moved to the left hand side and repeated all the jacking, axle stand etc. Pushed the approaching hernia to the back of my mind as moving everything was very tiring. Did the same for this drum but although I could get the shoes to touch the drum fine, I could not evidently get them to release freely. Turning the drum always gave a slight binding noise. Operated handbrake and repeated it all again but the same. Had to unwind the shoes quite a bit to get them to run free. OK, I thought, but after operating the handbrake and re-checking, they were binding slightly again. Undid a bit more and re-checked. Again running free but binding after release. Undid a bit more and repeated and it did seem as they were running free. But I am now concerned I have maybe undone them too much and back where I started. I will have to tow the damn thing and re-check the drum is not overheating and the brakes operate evenly. Please note the left hand side is the harder one to do as the wheel is revolving technically the wrong way. When you are right handed it is too easy to turn it backwards, especially when you are lying on your back in a confined space.

By now my aged body was complaining severely so replaced everything, recovered all the jacks, by the way do you know the weight of a 3 tonne trolley jack?? Lifting it into the back of the car was killing. Drove home and wallowed in a hot bath for half an hour.


Damn it I am getting too old for this s..t. Now if I had had a pit or even a high lift vehicle jack that would raise the whole van in a one’er, then I could probably have done all this standing up, not crawling about under a 18 inch gap on top of gravel. Should I just get the ‘professionals’ to do it? Probably but I am still unsure if they would actually do it, or have the same issues as I did, and just call it ‘done’.


Now ALKO could have been more cooperative and put the access holes to adjust the shoes on the front of the drum, as they used to be on cars in days gone by. That would have saved crawling about in a confined space and putting yourself at risk. But then again ALKO are not reknowned for customer convenience. Even putting a hex nut attached to the adjuster would have been preferable to a rather well hidden star wheel requiring a screwdriver to be inserted from inside the vehicle chassis. Then you could have sat outside, safely and comfortably, and adjusted while turning the drum from the front. Oh to have the halcyon days long ago when these things were all standard. But of course ALKO want you to pay heavily for some mechanic to maybe, or maybe not do the work for you. Bluntly MR ALKO, why do you not just put disc brakes on the damn things? Sorting out the reversing aspect should be easy enough. It is not as if you are not making enough money.


Anyway, we will see on the 1st trip out how things work out. If more adjusting is required I may leave it until Spain when at least the rain is not trickling down my neck. I will probably get the van serviced professionally again at the end of the summer, just as long as they do it right.


Meanwhile it is a large brandy and a long rest for me.


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pelmetman - 2014-02-20 8:35 AM


Never mind Dave ;-)..................think of the money you've saved :D........


True, it will pay for the liniment. They keep saying you are as young as you feel, and today I feel absolutely ancient. Never mind the temp is rising in Spain and only about 2 months to go.

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