Help ! Broken van..

Jun 12, 2022
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Hi All,

I am writing this from our pitch in France ( Annecy), I don’t think faithful van of 18 years is going any further.
Noticed that the front seemed to be very low so I had a look under breath to find this.
BDF1146E-481D-4289-B818-4481BD6D0C72.jpeg

the same on both sides
2354B94E-92A3-476B-BD0B-FCBF7591B659.jpeg

we limped to the camp site with the van catching on speed bumps etc.
We have red pennant insurance but they are suggesting that they may just write the van off - which breaks my heart.
I am at a loss to even understand how this happened.
Any bright ideas? Or any local knowledge of repair shops etc. would be welcome.
We are even considering buying a replacement whilst we are out here.
Ta
:cry:
 
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It looks to have suffered some sort of impact to have broken like that especially as you say both sides have gone, either it has broken in one go , or has cracked over time. was anything reported at your last service?
I would say it is dangerous to tow so recovery would be your best option, but where you recover it to is difficult to advise. I suspect that the break is repairable and would probably involve plating and welding. The problem would be ensuring the chassis squared up again, so would probably need a specialist, could even need the body removed, and with a van of that age it is probably not economical .Sorry I can't be more helpful , but perhaps start with somebody on the site, they may know local caravan dealer/repairer who might look at your van and give first hand advice.
 
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Jun 12, 2022
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It looks to have suffered some sort of impact to have broken like that especially as you say both sides have gone, either it has broken in one go , or has cracked over time. was anything reported at your last service?
I would say it is dangerous to tow so recovery would be your best option, but where you recover it to is difficult to advise. I suspect that the break is repairable and would probably involve plating and welding. The problem would be ensuring the chassis squared up again, so would probably need a specialist, could even need the body removed, and with a van of that age it is probably not economical .Sorry I can't be more helpful , but perhaps start with somebody on the site, they may know local caravan dealer/repairer who might look at your van and give first hand advice.

thanks!
Serviced July last year and nothing. We only used the van on a single uk trip after that and it seemed fine. Given the nature of the problem it ‘feels’ like I would of noticed an incident that would have caused this. I wonder if something happened to it whilst in storage.
We were only supposed to be at the site we in for a couple of days so first problem is finding somewhere to limp to while we deal with the problem.
Site have not been too helpful thus far, however it is Sunday so all of France is closed…
 

JTQ

May 7, 2005
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Both "A" frame girders have broken, IMO almost certainly fatigued from where there is some structural discontinuity at the bend where cranked?

Physically these are standalone items so their replacement if made available is a possibility, and if the cost is viable.
I suspect the package cost to Red Pennant are simply too high, recovery, repair of an 18 year old van.

Cause now probably immaterial but I suspect the 100 kg noseweight has regularly been exceeded, and the 18 years probably meant a lot of towing.
Way above any design intent IMO, I doubt the designers ever planned over 12 years of use.
Tragic as it is a Hymer so probably in many ways a good van; though now valueless to all but a keen DIYer.
 
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I have blown up your pictures to get a better look and it seems as if there is rust on the broken edge, which leads me to think there may have been a crack which has got worse over time as the bottom part looks like a clean break. So you would have the situation where the crack was getting worse every time you used the van and eventually something like a speed bump, or pothole would cause the chassis to break, I would have expected it to be spotted at service. As a last resort to enable you to remove the van from the site, you could try jacking the van up, and bolting some steel plates either side of the crack, but this is not an easy fix and will involve obtaining some steel plate and nuts and bolts, and will depend how competent you are with DIY, both sides will need doing. on a different issue it looks as though you have a bike rack on the A frame as JTQ has surmised this may have exceeded the nose weight.
 
Jun 16, 2020
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I would think the chassis is repairable as they are sectional and the front is bolted to the back, better than welding. However, the chances are the body would have been over stressed already. And therefore beyond repair.

Is it usable in the meantime?

When I had a wheel detachment in France. My recovery (not Red Pennant) . Wanted to know if it was an accident or a breakdown. Luckily I opted for break down as I was not covered for accident. But Red Pennant are more comprehensive. They looked after me when my car was written off when I was rear ended.

The whole wheel detachement event went on for a couple of weeks and was very traumatic. So I really feel for you, but I imagine RP are far more professional in their handling of your case.

Hopefully, when it comes to the insurance claim, there won't be an issue.

I can see RP hiring a van for you so you can get your contents home using hotels along the way. And having the van disposed of. Thank God for recovery insurance.


Keep us informed please.

John
 
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JTQ

May 7, 2005
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Whilst now little more than of academic interest my professional thoughts are it is highly probable a crack has over time been developing from the point marked with a white arrow to that with the black arrow; a fatigue crack.
Then with the girders strength so weaken a near instantaneous tear from then on.
That it appears to have been on both girders points strongly it was not from a manufacturing fault as such, but a long term overloading abuse.

In fairness the type of servicing a van would be expected to have is very unlikely, unless being specifically focused on finding cracks, likely to have picked these up.

I have just come back from under my 14 year old van pretty confident mine is still okay.

Edit: look carefully at the colour and nature of the fracture surfaces, between the arrows and then above, that info could be very telling.

Hymer Chassis.jpg
 
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May 7, 2012
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We did deal with a number of similar claims with Trophy models when our company did caravan insurance and all even newish caravans were written off as to repair would need a new chassis and the body and all the interior moving across which was not economical. If the caravan is 18m years old then I can see no possibility of an economical repair. We were never able to find any long term fix for the chassis.
The claims related to the longer mainly twin axle models which suffer from more stress when towing. The engineer who used to service our caravans did tell me that towing longer models with commercial vehicles caused problems of this sort as well but not knowing the history of your caravan I do not know f this is relevant.
The photo does not look as though it is a longer model though, and woodsieboy looks to have the most likely answer, although it may just be stress from years of towing. His suggestion may get you home but I am afraid that long term a replacement is needed.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Whilst now little more than of academic interest my professional thoughts are it is highly probable a crack has over time been developing from the point marked with a white arrow to that with the black arrow; a fatigue crack.
Then with the girders strength so weaken a near instantaneous tear from then on.
That it appears to have been on both girders points strongly it was not from a manufacturing fault as such, but a long term overloading abuse.

In fairness the type of servicing a van would be expected to have is very unlikely, unless being specifically focused on finding cracks, likely to have picked these up.

I have just come back from under my 14 year old van pretty confident mine is still okay.

Edit: look carefully at the colour and nature of the fracture surfaces, between the arrows and then above, that info could be very telling.

View attachment 3386
Noting that there is more rust on the upper part of the fracture could lead to a view that the incipient fatigue fracture started at the top and worked down.
 

JTQ

May 7, 2005
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Noting that there is more rust on the upper part of the fracture could lead to a view that the incipient fatigue fracture started at the top and worked down.

Or of course both ends?
I was not seeing any real rusting apart from what might simply be down to post failure air exposure.
I see a lot in the character of the visible bottom section to think fatigue, and arguably some of that's characteristic also in the fracture shape at the top. Though why now is somewhat academic in the OP's unfortunate case.
 
Jun 12, 2022
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Thanks for all of your kind and helpful comments.
I have always worked on an 80kg nose weight (a 100 was a surprise) and never overloaded with bikes - usually they go on the roof with maybe one on the rack. But I guess I would say that wouldn’t I, and I defer to you guys on this and fatigue is the most likely cause.
I have thought about plating it but probably lack the tools on site to do it.
Problem no.1 was finding a pitch (we were only due to be at the current site until Tuesday) - this is now sorted and have found a lovely little site within limping distance.
Yes, the van has put in some miles we regularly holiday in Europe often down to Lake Garda it’s certainly paid us back financially speaking.
The worst bit of it is for us is that it’s not just a thing to be disposed of, this is 18 years of the happiest memories.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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With such serious failure of the chassis frame I would suspect that the floor panel to which the chassis is bolted has also suffered some damage in the affected area, so even if the chassis were repaired or replaced there would be the risk of a potential future damp issue in the front floor area.
 
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With such serious failure of the chassis frame I would suspect that the floor panel to which the chassis is bolted has also suffered some damage in the affected area, so even if the chassis were repaired or replaced there would be the risk of a potential future damp issue in the front floor area.
This is a relevant point but at the end of the day as insurers we never found an economical way to repair far newer models with this problem so it probably makes no difference.
Assuming it is insured a claim needs to be set in motion as it needs to be either repatriated or disposed of where it is. A problem could also be getting everything in the caravan into the tow car, unless the caravan is to be repatriated.
 
Jun 16, 2020
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This is a relevant point but at the end of the day as insurers we never found an economical way to repair far newer models with this problem so it probably makes no difference.
Assuming it is insured a claim needs to be set in motion as it needs to be either repatriated or disposed of where it is. A problem could also be getting everything in the caravan into the tow car, unless the caravan is to be repatriated.

The OP has Red Pennant. When my car was rear ended. RP just took it to a nearby scrap yard. I removed the new radio and got a taxi back to the site. What I cannot remember. Is how my car insurers agreed to it being a write off. I don't remember an inspection. They were only interested in my getting an incident number. Which was not easy as the local police could not care less.

In my case, RP sent a car and driver back to France to retrieve my van. I imagine they will make an agreement to transport the belongings back, or hire the OP a van.

Mine was a long time ago 25 -30 year's so well before Bexit which might add further admin problems.


John
 
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Mine was a long time ago 25 -30 year's so well before Bexit which might add further admin problems.
The only administrative problem that could occur is that one would be importing a caravan upon which French VAT would theoretically be payable on the scrap value. I somehow doubt whether they would bother in a case such as this, but maybe some of you can recall the days well before UK joining the EU where one needed a 'carnet de passages' for the car when going abroad. That was a kind of bail bond to avoid having to pay customs duty on a vehicle that would be imported only temporarily. The need to have a carnet issued was dropped before the UK joined the EU.
 
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The only administrative problem that could occur is that one would be importing a caravan upon which French VAT would theoretically be payable on the scrap value. I somehow doubt whether they would bother in a case such as this, but maybe some of you can recall the days well before UK joining the EU where one needed a 'carnet de passages' for the car when going abroad. That was a kind of bail bond to avoid having to pay customs duty on a vehicle that would be imported only temporarily. The need to have a carnet issued was dropped before the UK joined the EU.
I did wonder about that. I have not been involved in having to repatriate a caravan, but certainly it could happen with cars if you did not do repatriate, but we would make a decision as to which cost most, transporting the car back or just paying the tax. In this case the caravan is an 18 year old model so any tax would almost certainly cost less than the transporter route, and that is assuming the authorities picked this up.
 
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I had a crack in the chassis on a JCB a bit like the photo. I would be inclined to get a couple of plates made, drill some big holes in the plates and chassis, jack it up and fit the plates and bolt them together, weld it at a later date. (PS I was welding car chassis in 1964 when cars had chassis and a repair like this was perfectly acceptable)
 
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I had a crack in the chassis on a JCB a bit like the photo. I would be inclined to get a couple of plates made, drill some big holes in the plates and chassis, jack it up and fit the plates and bolt them together, weld it at a later date. (PS I was welding car chassis in 1964 when cars had chassis and a repair like this was perfectly acceptable)
Nowadays the steel used for chassis frames is often heat treated to get maximum strength out of minimum sheet metal thickness. Welding such frames would interfere with the stress distribution, resulting in potential failure elsewhere.
 
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As per other comments, sorry to read of the problem, and it does look as though it will be terminal, for a host of reasons. I hope you get sorted satisfactorily as soon as possible.

From the academic perspective, I do find it strange that both sides have suffered what is apparently an identical failure. In such cases I don't believe in coincidence, and it would seem highly likely there is a common set of causes for the failures. The fact they have occured where the sections of chassis have been cranked to form the A frame I suspect is highly significant.

I do wonder if the crank was formed after the sections had been coated for rust prevention, and the bend caused the coating to crack, allowing the steel to be exposed and for corrosion to start along the bend.

This is of course pure speculation, but it could explain how this particular section was weakened over time.
 
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I personally would jack it up and fish it then make decisions when I got it home. With it in mind that it may be difficult to find a welder to touch galvanised steel
 
Jun 16, 2020
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I don’t know if I would be even thinking about the possibilities of temporary or permanent fixes. The OP has Red Pennant. He very likely also has standard insurance. If so, all avenues are covered without the worry. Just the emotional loss. But insurance companies do have their limitations.

John
 
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I had a crack in the chassis on a JCB a bit like the photo. I would be inclined to get a couple of plates made, drill some big holes in the plates and chassis, jack it up and fit the plates and bolt them together, weld it at a later date. (PS I was welding car chassis in 1964 when cars had chassis and a repair like this was perfectly acceptable)

That’s a +1 from me.
So I’m old school and a mechanical design engineer too. I cannot believe how everybody could think this is a write-off.
Welding or bolting repair sections into a broken or corroded frame was standard practice on any 60s car more than 6 years old. And still is on any classic car. It’s structural, so you’ll need to find an engineer to do the calcs. But eminently do-able.
BTW, it wouldn’t be possible, here in Spain – caravans have to be MOT’d, mods have to be MOT’d and a structural mod would require a lot of paperwork from the designer, steelworker, and installer before the MOT.
 
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That’s a +1 from me.
So I’m old school and a mechanical design engineer too. I cannot believe how everybody could think this is a write-off.
Welding or bolting repair sections into a broken or corroded frame was standard practice on any 60s car more than 6 years old. And still is on any classic car. It’s structural, so you’ll need to find an engineer to do the calcs. But eminently do-able.
BTW, it wouldn’t be possible, here in Spain – caravans have to be MOT’d, mods have to be MOT’d and a structural mod would require a lot of paperwork from the designer, steelworker, and installer before the MOT.
Obviously old school, as you say. Since bake hardening steels have come into widespread use, especially for chassis frame applications, all subsequent welding and drilling is a definite no-no.
 
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Obviously old school, as you say. Since bake hardening steels have come into widespread use, especially for chassis frame applications, all subsequent welding and drilling is a definite no-no.
Good point. Welding is a no-no. But bolting a replacement C-section appears feasible. The web holes are already there on one side of the break. Not enough web holes on the other side but it is surely do-able to drill a few more holes in the web?
 
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As I suggested previously I would go for a bolted plate repair, although we don't know the OP s skills at DIY, presumably he will need to make a decision soon, as his time in France will be limited and any plated repair could only be considered temporary. I would not want to try to tow the caravan all the way back to the ferry from Annecy. If possible I would try and get the plating done, then explain the situation to Red Pennant, and hope they would recover the caravan, Failing that the OP could attempt to contact a recovery service and pay for the caravan to be returned to England, there may be carriers willing to consider taking the caravan as a return load.
I suspect that ultimately the OP has to decide whether he wants to keep the caravan, to which he has an emotional attachment, or not, and once that decision is made move on.
 
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