Caravan detaching from car after several miles

Sep 20, 2020
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Hi everyone. We are new to Caravanning and this was our fourth trip however my partner is an HGV driver and also tows trailers etc several times per week in his business and has done for over 20 years so is an experienced driver. Hitched up caravan on Friday night, all okay, left the house, travelled round several roundabouts, dual carriageway then motorway and 13 miles from home on the motorway our caravan bounced and became detached, the most terrifying experience ever as we were in the middle lane doing 50mph, caravan veered into fast lane and ended up against central reservation. Thankfully no one was injured which was a miracle. We understand most detachments are human error. My partner had checked everything, green button was showing, his pick up is capable of towing the caravan etc. The jockey wheel has melted the cowling and a chunk out of the jockey wheel and it wasn’t attached to the caravan after this but wasn’t bent either. This had all been secured pre leaving home. Any ideas what could have caused this? Our caravan will probably be written off with the damage sustained. Thanks
 
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Nov 16, 2015
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Hello DW1311, what sort of caravan and type of tow hitch head was it.
 
May 7, 2012
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If the green button was showing it sounds like a failure of the hitch, which is extremely unusual, it would need to be examined to identify the problem if this is possible.
The best test before setting off is to hitch up and then use the jockey wheel to raise the hitch and tow ball so you can see the back of the car being lifted in which case the caravan is correctly attached.
 
Sep 20, 2020
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If the green button was showing it sounds like a failure of the hitch, which is extremely unusual, it would need to be examined to identify the problem if this is possible.
The best test before setting off is to hitch up and then use the jockey wheel to raise the hitch and tow ball so you can see the back of the car being lifted in which case the caravan is correctly attached.
I wonder if the insurance company will want it investigated, we’ll contact them tomorrow as closed over the weekend
 
Aug 24, 2020
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Hi DW1311, thank you for writing about your experience. Firstly - and by far the most importantly - it's good to read that no one was hurt. As my wife says, everything else is just "stuff" and hopefully insured stuff at that!

If as you say your partner is an experienced tower, then all the necessary hitch-up procedure was probably done - but I will say that the only time I've ever had a detachment was when I'd failed to do the winding-up test described by Raywood in his post. Luckily it happened at slow speed going over a bump before leaving the storage yard so the only damage was that the breakaway cable performed correctly and needed to be replaced.

Hopefully the insurance inspector will get to the bottom of what went wrong, and that the experience won't put you off caravanning! If the right pre-departure checks are done, these thing are pretty rare.
 
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Nov 11, 2009
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Last edited:
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Sep 20, 2020
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Hi DW1311, thank you for writing about your experience. Firstly - and by far the most importantly - it's good to read that no one was hurt. As my wife says, everything else is just "stuff" and hopefully insured stuff at that!

If as you say your partner is an experienced tower, then all the necessary hitch-up procedure was probably done - but I will say that the only time I've ever had a detachment was when I'd failed to do the winding-up test described by Raywood in his post. Luckily it happened at slow speed going over a bump before leaving the storage yard so the only damage was that the breakaway cable performed correctly and needed to be replaced.

Hopefully the insurance inspector will get to the bottom of what went wrong, and that the experience won't put you off caravanning! If the right pre-departure checks are done, these thing are pretty rare.
It doesn’t bare thinking about what could have happened as the gas canister came flying out too. The busiest motorway in Scotland too. All insured thankfully and although devastated by what has happened a caravan is replaceable. Thankfully the breakaway cable did its job. Definitely going to do the winding up test to the future. Glad your caravan was okay after your detachment. Hasn’t put us off but I’m sure we’ll be slightly nervous on our next caravan journey
 
Sep 20, 2020
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Don’t know that one but the Alko compatible towball has a slightly taller neck to allow the Alko stabiliser to articulate around the towball as the caravan moves around. If the Dixon Bates isn’t Alko compatible then that may be the problem.

Alko towball
The AA man who recovered us mentioned the tow ball as it has a pin hitch for towing other trailers but that’s interesting to hear about the Alko compatible tow balls, we’ll do some research into that. We were towing with his pick up as my car hasn’t got a tow ball on it yet
 
Nov 11, 2009
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The AA man who recovered us mentioned the tow ball as it has a pin hitch for towing other trailers but that’s interesting to hear about the Alko compatible tow balls, we’ll do some research into that. We were towing with his pick up as my car hasn’t got a tow ball on it yet
Alko sell 3.5 tonne DB stabiliser compatible towball S with integral pin.
 
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Oct 22, 2019
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Just out of curiosity, what pick up have you got as we use a navara for our TA caravan? And you've got me wondering as we in much the same position as you (minus the detatching caravan as ours always been ok so far)
 
Sep 20, 2020
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Just out of curiosity, what pick up have you got as we use a navara for our TA caravan? And you've got me wondering as we in much the same position as you (minus the detatching caravan as ours always been ok so far)
It’s a Ford Ranger Wildtrak.
 
Jun 16, 2020
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Don’t know that one but the Alko compatible towball has a slightly taller neck to allow the Alko stabiliser to articulate around the towball as the caravan moves around. If the Dixon Bates isn’t Alko compatible then that may be the problem.

Alko towball

http://thomson-caravans.co.uk/advice/maintenance/guidetotowballs.htm

My understanding is that the Alko tow ball has a longer as well as taller reach in order to ensure that there is clearance between it and the bumper. Many many other makes are therefore compatible so long as they have a 50mm ball which is not worn down in any way.

A worn ball could possibly be the problem.

Your link covers all that.

John
 
Nov 11, 2009
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My understanding is that the Alko tow ball has a longer as well as taller reach in order to ensure that there is clearance between it and the bumper. Many many other makes are therefore compatible so long as they have a 50mm ball which is not worn down in any way.

A worn ball could possibly be the problem.

Your link covers all that.

John
It obviously doesnt have to be an Alko manufactured towball. I used Alko as the clearest way to illustrate to the OP that for use of an Alko stabiliser the towball must be compatible. One aspect not mentioned is given the OP towed with a pickup what height is the towball off of the ground If it differs from the EC Directive then that could be a contributory cause. Did the caravan have a pronounced nose up attitude?
 
Nov 16, 2015
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DW 1311, you state you were on the motorway when youunfortunatley came unhitched, prior to joining the motorway, were there any roundabouts or severe up and down roads. , I ask this as that could have ( very rare) made the Alko hitch to release.
 
Sep 20, 2020
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It obviously doesnt have to be an Alko manufactured towball. I used Alko as the clearest way to illustrate to the OP that for use of an Alko stabiliser the towball must be compatible. One aspect not mentioned is given the OP towed with a pickup what height is the towball off of the ground If it differs from the EC Directive then that could be a contributory cause. Did the caravan have a pronounced nose up attitude?
No the caravan was level for towing
 
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Sep 20, 2020
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DW 1311, you state you were on the motorway when youunfortunatley came unhitched, prior to joining the motorway, were there any roundabouts or severe up and down roads. , I ask this as that could have ( very rare) made the Alko hitch to release.
When we leave our house we have a mini roundabout then need to turn right at a roundabout, go straight through 3 roundabouts then turn right at a further roundabout then there’s a sweeping slip way round to the left onto a dual carriageway which is downhill all the way then goes uphill a fair distance then sweeping right onto the motorway, we became detached on a straight bit of motorway so if the caravan hadn’t been hitched up properly you would’ve thought it would have came detached at one of the early roundabouts. That’s what makes it all a bit strange
 
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Damian

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Mar 14, 2005
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Having read this topic through it is pretty certain that the towball was the cause of the detachment as it is simply not compatible with an Al-Ko hitch head, which must have sufficient room for the hitch to articulate around the ball.
 
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Sep 20, 2020
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This would be an interesting article to have in the magazine as so many new people have purchased caravans. Thank you for all your responses, its put everything into place and made sense.
 

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