I have a "Relaxed Axle"

Nov 11, 2009
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According to the quaint phraseology used to describe a suspension fault, I have what is called "relaxed axle" This basically means that the offside is 25mm lower than the near side, and accordingly tyre -wheel arch clearance is reduced. Alko no longer recondition or repair axles so its a whole new assembly Looking on the web its not that uncommon even on new caravans. Surprisingly apart from one blog where the owner went right through the courts for redress most complaints receive the reply "The caravan has been overloaded", or "its the condition of the roads" and get no redress under warranty.

Before my last trip to Shropshire I noticed that the wheel cover was quite difficult to fit, and it got worse after that trip, and subsequently when it was having its new rear panel in May the technician reported the 25mm difference in road height between the two sides. Since i bought it in 2017 the caravan hasn't been overloaded, and if it had it wouldn't/shouldnt have affected a road axle as it would be under 30kg at most. But it hasn't. All of its heavy kit is on the near side (battery, water heater, power centre, sink, fridge, cooker, worktop, toilet, shower) so its loading must be asymmetrical as I can't possibly counter that imbalance without grossly overloading the caravan.

The cost for a complete new axle assembly is +£1000, but as all future trips this year have had to be cancelled for other reasons I am going to get it sorted. As part of the repair I am considering fitting Alko shock absorbers, just to mitigate some of the dynamic loads on the suspension. Under normal towing conditions the caravan tows very well without much movement behind the car, and doesn't input any significant movements into the car either, so the fitting of shock absorbers would only be to reduce the likelihood of a future axle suspension failure. Although I know that they will bring other benefits.

Any technical views would be appreciated.
 
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I can't offer any technical help.

I was surprised when I weighed my caravan and found the considerable difference in the weight of each side and wondered if I should be running with asymmetrical tyre pressures to match. My current van is fitted with suspension dampers and does tow a little better than the last one which didn't have them, whether they extend the life of the axial I cannot say.

I suggest that Alko would have to demonstrate to a court how they arrive at overloaded or rely on the condition of the roads as the cause of the failure, especially the latter as that is what the axle is, or should be designed to cope with.
 
Jun 20, 2005
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That’s a shame Clive.
This problem is well documented on other forums eg caravan talk. Sadly very few have received recompense. Even newer units with this failure have been assessed by Al- Ko as “been overloaded “. Bailey and Swift crop up a lot ,well they sell more than most, very unhelpful.
Have you looked at this firm http://www.fraserbrowneng.co.uk/index.php?c=al-ko-axle-repair.
I think you have been unlucky as the older axles don’t seem to have suffered the same frequency of failures as later models.
Shock absorbers should be mandatory. I’ve had them for a long time. IMO they make a substantial difference to the towing performance of the caravan. Not too much bouncing around.
Good luck
 
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Dodger524 said:
I can't offer any technical help.

I was surprised when I weighed my caravan and found the considerable difference in the weight of each side and wondered if I should be running with asymmetrical tyre pressures to match. My current van is fitted with suspension dampers and does tow a little better than the last one which didn't have them, whether they extend the life of the axial I cannot say.

I suggest that Alko would have to demonstrate to a court how they arrive at overloaded or rely on the condition of the roads as the cause of the failure, especially the latter as that is what the axle is, or should be designed to cope with.

The blogger who went through to the small claims courts did an exemplary destruction of the dealer and Alko case. Even showing the calibration of their weighing kit was out. It did get settled eventually but it was a new van and he was first owner. I’m not the first owner but the axle has shown this problem since I bought it bought whether it was over loaded prior to my ownership, who knows.
I do agree with you that the axles should be fit for purpose and if road condition does affect them well our roads have been poor fir years. I recall writing to Two Jags about the dire state of the Fosse through Gloucestershire and Warwickshire.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Dustydog said:
That’s a shame Clive.
This problem is well documented on other forums eg caravan talk. Sadly very few have received recompense. Even newer units with this failure have been assessed by Al- Ko as “been overloaded “. Bailey and Swift crop up a lot ,well they sell more than most, very unhelpful.
Have you looked at this firm http://www.fraserbrowneng.co.uk/index.php?c=al-ko-axle-repair.
I think you have been unlucky as the older axles don’t seem to have suffered the same frequency of failures as later models.
Shock absorbers should be mandatory. I’ve had them for a long time. IMO they make a substantial difference to the towing performance of the caravan. Not too much bouncing around.
Good luck

I’d looked at Fraser Brown and have now spoken to them. They would collect on a Monday and return the reconditioned unit by Thursday. Price £420 plus pp. They use the Rubber and Plastics research outfit near Shrewsbury to advise on compounding. They thought mine had done well as a 6 year old unit and they are still seeing failures in much newer Alko caravan and motorhome axles.

How would a mobile technician jack and support a caravan to remove the axle?
 
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.......Alko caravan suspension is about as primitive as you can get and IMO it's performance is greatly improved by taking the weight off of it (and the tyres) when the caravan is not in use.
I have done this throughout the 23 year life of my caravan....but I accept most owners wouldn't want this chore.

My caravan sits much lower after a trip than it does after a period of storage.........as much as 50mm.
 
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otherclive said:
Dustydog said:
That’s a shame Clive.
This problem is well documented on other forums eg caravan talk. Sadly very few have received recompense. Even newer units with this failure have been assessed by Al- Ko as “been overloaded “. Bailey and Swift crop up a lot ,well they sell more than most, very unhelpful.
Have you looked at this firm http://www.fraserbrowneng.co.uk/index.php?c=al-ko-axle-repair.
I think you have been unlucky as the older axles don’t seem to have suffered the same frequency of failures as later models.
Shock absorbers should be mandatory. I’ve had them for a long time. IMO they make a substantial difference to the towing performance of the caravan. Not too much bouncing around.
Good luck

I’d looked at Fraser Brown and have now spoken to them. They would collect on a Monday and return the reconditioned unit by Thursday. Price £420 plus pp. They use the Rubber and Plastics research outfit near Shrewsbury to advise on compounding. They thought mine had done well as a 6 year old unit and they are still seeing failures in much newer Alko caravan and motorhome axles.

How would a mobile technician jack and support a caravan to remove the axle?

I have spoken to my local independent NCC approved workshop which I have used for previous caravans and they are looking at the request that I source a reconditioned Fraser Brown axle and they remove and refit, plus add Alko shock absorbers. The Owner is away this week and they will get back to me. The work could be carried out in their enclosed secure storage buildings which have level concrete stands. The two senoir staff didnt see any technical issues as they have done insurance replacements to axles. Its the "novelty" of using a non Alko business to recondition the Alko product. I of course would accept liability for the performance of the axle if I purchase it. remains to be seen if the workshop would undertake the total package and how much it would cost cf a Swift dealer fitting new Alko axle, which by many accounts is still inferior. The workshop are an Alko approved installer, which may have a bearing on their decision.

Here is the extremely detailed blog about on caravaners endeavours to get satisfaction when his very new axle failed.
https://worldwidewalkies.blog/2018/02/10/bailey-alko-axle-problem/
 
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Gafferbill said:
.......Alko caravan suspension is about as primitive as you can get and IMO it's performance is greatly improved by taking the weight off of it (and the tyres) when the caravan is not in use.
I have done this throughout the 23 year life of my caravan....but I accept most owners wouldn't want this chore.

My caravan sits much lower after a trip than it does after a period of storage.........as much as 50mm.

Ithat because of the good times away with beer and wine or brining things home. Are you still lookin at a t a new Van, will we see it at the Woosie fest ?
 
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Al-ko seem to have been very quiet leaving Bailey and Swift to pick up the pieces. And the poor owners!
Reading the various blogs and posts I fail to understand why Al-ko haven’t carried out an upgrade or redesign to avoid this problem. Why aren’t Al-ko doing the refurbs anymore?
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Dustydog said:
Al-ko seem to have been very quiet leaving Bailey and Swift to pick up the pieces. And the poor owners!
Reading the various blogs and posts I fail to understand why Al-ko haven’t carried out an upgrade or redesign to avoid this problem. Why aren’t Al-ko doing the refurbs anymore?

Talking to my local NCC Service Center they told me that Alko used to collect the axles and put a batch through the production line about once a month. But stopped doing it as the needs for new axles outweighed the hassle of reconditioning. Strange that BPW don’t seem to have so many problems. But they aren’t as common in U.K. being primarily Eldiss group.
Fundamentally the Alko unit seems somewhat fragile. But on older vans they don’t seem problematic. My Bailey S5 was 9 years old had its heavy kit on the offside yet sat level side to side. What happened at Alko to change it from 2012 approx onwards. Is as payloads and weight came down that vans were designed down to finer limits. I don’t have an answer but it’s symptomatic of the cottage industry.
 
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otherclive said:
Dustydog said:
Al-ko seem to have been very quiet leaving Bailey and Swift to pick up the pieces. And the poor owners!
Reading the various blogs and posts I fail to understand why Al-ko haven’t carried out an upgrade or redesign to avoid this problem. Why aren’t Al-ko doing the refurbs anymore?

Talking to my local NCC Service Center they told me that Alko used to collect the axles and put a batch through the production line about once a month. But stopped doing it as the needs for new axles outweighed the hassle of reconditioning. Strange that BPW don’t seem to have so many problems. But they aren’t as common in U.K. being primarily Eldiss group.
Fundamentally the Alko unit seems somewhat fragile. But on older vans they don’t seem problematic. My Bailey S5 was 9 years old had its heavy kit on the offside yet sat level side to side. What happened at Alko to change it from 2012 approx onwards. Is as payloads and weight came down that vans were designed down to finer limits. I don’t have an answer but it’s symptomatic of the cottage industry.

Ditto.
We had a 2003 Pagseant Majestic S5 from 2005 and until the begining of this year (from 2012) a 2010 Pegasus 462 and neither of them ever had any axle problems even though (we found out only last year) we had been at least 100Kg overweight for much of the time we had it!
 
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This thesis is well worth reading
https://purehost.bath.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/13121111/UnivBath_MPhil_2013_J_Lewis.pdf
 
Nov 11, 2009
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EH52ARH said:
I wonder , is it because people overload their caravans, ?

If you read the various websites including CMHC it’s a regular topic but the get out clause from Alko, makers and DVSA is overloading. But why should it not have been an occurrence on the older caravans made prior to 2012/3? Whilst I do accept that some will overload their vans how much overload is required to cause failure? Surely any competent design has a margin built in. Also if you read some reports new vans can have 10-20 mm side to side difference in the unloaded state. Some Baileys have had wheel arch damage as they started with a smaller clearance. Mine still has 25 mm clearance but I’m not sure what the ultimate failure mode is. Will it continue to maintain clearance or use it up? When loaded it’s offside clearance hardly changes as I load centrally or to the nearside.
What with re torquing alloy wheels, axle relaxation it really isn’t a good reflection on the industry. Cars and other commodities have moved forwards but caravans I’m not too sure.
 
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Dustydog said:
This thesis is well worth reading
https://purehost.bath.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/13121111/UnivBath_MPhil_2013_J_Lewis.pdf

Dusty,

Thank you, and what is surprising is that the author starts off referring to a "cottage industry" that has moved forward in many areas but not in chassis and suspension. Mirrors my long held view too. The Coventry Cat looks more attractive day by day! Off back up the Fosse today but the surface has improved in many parts with the work undertaken since winter.
 
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Clive...Any comments?
Quote: OC: As part of the repair I am considering fitting Alko shock absorbers, just to mitigate some of the dynamic loads on the suspension
Reading that thesis he says
Quote The results show that the Alko shock absorber has little to no effect on the damping of the suspension system.

While talking about this, my 2010 Swift van comes and goes and I have absolutely no idea about nose weight or overall weights / loads etc and it tows like a dream and has not sagged or to my knowledge changed a bit. Now am going to have to start looking at all these things to make sure I am not "grossly" overloading.
 
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Clive, what does the load rating plate say on your axle?
My ta has two each rated at a maximum of 1000kgs. The MTPLM is 1698kgs. Arguably a good margin of safety. I am beginning to think there is a possibility that Bailey and Swift may have been using less robust axle loadings to save costs. :unsure:
Also they use their axles on the rear of motor homes. These must be VOSA approved. I wonder what load rating they are?
 
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Dustydog said:
Clive, what does the load rating plate say on your axle?
My ta has two each rated at a maximum of 1000kgs. The MTPLM is 1698kgs. Arguably a good margin of safety. I am beginning to think there is a possibility that Bailey and Swift may have been using less robust axle loadings to save costs. :unsure:
Also they use their axles on the rear of motor homes. These must be VOSA approved. I wonder what load rating they are?

My plate in the locker is 1300kg, and the axle is 1300kg not any lower, and the MTPLM is 1300kg too. Don't know what Alko would put into their own design margin. Must say I've never had to check axle specifications on any other caravan as my last conventional caravan was the Bailey Series 5 with MTPLM 1400kg but as its suspension never gave any cause for concern I can't recollect even checking what spec axle was fitted.
 
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otherclive said:
Dustydog said:
Clive, what does the load rating plate say on your axle?
My ta has two each rated at a maximum of 1000kgs. The MTPLM is 1698kgs. Arguably a good margin of safety. I am beginning to think there is a possibility that Bailey and Swift may have been using less robust axle loadings to save costs. :unsure:
Also they use their axles on the rear of motor homes. These must be VOSA approved. I wonder what load rating they are?

My plate in the locker is 1300kg, and the axle is 1300kg not any lower, and the MTPLM is 1300kg too. Don't know what Alko would put into their own design margin. Must say I've never had to check axle specifications on any other caravan as my last conventional caravan was the Bailey Series 5 with MTPLM 1400kg but as its suspension never gave any cause for concern I can't recollect even checking what spec axle was fitted.

Very interesting. It seems to me there is no margin at all if the load rating is the same as your MTPLM. Now I am thinking more than ever the caravan makers have used lesser robust axles to carry their products than they did prior to 2012. Or am I barking up the wrong tree?
 
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Dustydog said:
otherclive said:
Dustydog said:
Clive, what does the load rating plate say on your axle?
My ta has two each rated at a maximum of 1000kgs. The MTPLM is 1698kgs. Arguably a good margin of safety. I am beginning to think there is a possibility that Bailey and Swift may have been using less robust axle loadings to save costs. :unsure:
Also they use their axles on the rear of motor homes. These must be VOSA approved. I wonder what load rating they are?

My plate in the locker is 1300kg, and the axle is 1300kg not any lower, and the MTPLM is 1300kg too. Don't know what Alko would put into their own design margin. Must say I've never had to check axle specifications on any other caravan as my last conventional caravan was the Bailey Series 5 with MTPLM 1400kg but as its suspension never gave any cause for concern I can't recollect even checking what spec axle was fitted.

Very interesting. It seems to me there is no margin at all if the load rating is the same as your MTPLM. Now I am thinking more than ever the caravan makers have used lesser robust axles to carry their products than they did prior to 2012. Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

Dusty
Agree the only margin will that designed in by the designers at Alko. Could be 5-10% but who knows. Certainly the spate of fourum posts seems to start with 2012-13 vans but even newer ones into 2016-17 are affected. Which to me seems to indicate that the makers and Alko haven’t taken action to improve matters.
I’m seeing what a brand new Alko will cost and am asking the Swift dealer if a higher rated Alko at say 1400 kg could be fitted whilst leaving MTPLM at 1300kg. But suspect even if one could be fitted there would be objections to changing the weight plate in the front locker. Alternatively don’t change that weight plate which relates to the axle chassis combination.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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I've been searching around Swift Talk and there are some quite interesting threads from Owners, Swift and Aklo. No magic wand, but Swift aim the keep caravans within a maximum differential of 45%-55% loading side to side. On mine that would relate to 715kg on one side and 585kg on the other. No idea whether mine sits within that range other than weighing it unloaded perhaps using Reich gauge. In another set of threads I came across something from Alko which states that the maximum permissible chassis deflection side to side should not exceed 12 mm. Yet some unloaded new vans are being reported as exceeding this on some websites. But one has to ask how are they being measured....no info. Alko considers that the maximum axle load is MTPLM, even though an axle may be taking less load than its max rating given the load transfers to the tow hitch of the car.

Investigations continue, but whatever the outcome something has to be done about the axle relaxation, and it is going to hit my finances.
 
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Grey13 said:
Clive...Any comments?
Quote: OC: As part of the repair I am considering fitting Alko shock absorbers, just to mitigate some of the dynamic loads on the suspension
Reading that thesis he says
Quote The results show that the Alko shock absorber has little to no effect on the damping of the suspension system.

While talking about this, my 2010 Swift van comes and goes and I have absolutely no idea about nose weight or overall weights / loads etc and it tows like a dream and has not sagged or to my knowledge changed a bit. Now am going to have to start looking at all these things to make sure I am not "grossly" overloading.

Grey
Had a longer read of the MPhil report and it shows quite conclusively that Alko isn't suited to UK roads even without potholes, and having 1980s Sprite show superior suspension characteristics on its original worn dampers is amazing. The Alko dampers are undoubtedly poor in design compared to products from Bilstein, Pedders etc but even if one could fit a better quality damper the limitations of the Alko suspension rubbers-in -tube would not allow the damper to really improve suspension performance and life. A real eye opener which given the time since the report was issued one can only conclude that Bailey have preferred to concentrate on the lifestyle aspects of their caravans; and other makers too. Given that Bailey felt they would like to break away from a virtual monopoly supplier its hard to envisage another company breaking into the chassis suspension market. Too big a financial risk. The answer would be to take the whole caravan in house and do as the car and aerospace do which is to have approved suppliers logistically linked to the production process and production rate, but with Bailey as the Design Authority for the whole caravan design.
I also liked the pot shot at the ubiquitous Alko spare wheel carrier long overdue for improvement.
I doubt I will see any significant changes in this area within my remaining caravan years.

PS the report has saved me the best part of £90 on Alko dampers as I have no problems with the caravans stability or how it tows, just its suspension attitude.
 
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Dustydog said:
Al-ko seem to have been very quiet leaving Bailey and Swift to pick up the pieces. And the poor owners!
Reading the various blogs and posts I fail to understand why Al-ko haven’t carried out an upgrade or redesign to avoid this problem. Why aren’t Al-ko doing the refurbs anymore?

Whilst I can't claim I know how AlKo consider these things, but, of course as a customer your recourse is through your seller by virtue of the Consumer rights Act. You have no contract with AlKo. Also consider the fact that the caravan manufacturer specified the chassis and axle components from a catelogue of parts issued by AlKo, As Alko have not specified the parts to be used on the caravan, they have no liability if the parts are subjected to overloads which should have been considered by the caravan designer/manufacturer.

Caravan manufacturers are going to opt for the cheapest axles that will meet their designed loads, and not pay for capacity that in most cases will never be used.
 
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ProfJohnL said:
Dustydog said:
Al-ko seem to have been very quiet leaving Bailey and Swift to pick up the pieces. And the poor owners!
Reading the various blogs and posts I fail to understand why Al-ko haven’t carried out an upgrade or redesign to avoid this problem. Why aren’t Al-ko doing the refurbs anymore?

Whilst I can't claim I know how AlKo consider these things, but, of course as a customer your recourse is through your seller by virtue of the Consumer rights Act. You have no contract with AlKo. Also consider the fact that the caravan manufacturer specified the chassis and axle components from a catelogue of parts issued by AlKo, As Alko have not specified the parts to be used on the caravan, they have no liability if the parts are subjected to overloads which should have been considered by the caravan designer/manufacturer.

Caravan manufacturers are going to opt for the cheapest axles that will meet their designed loads, and not pay for capacity that in most cases will never be used.

In my case Prof I have accepted the load specication of my caravan. More would be nice but that’s not my concern. It’s the poor life and performance characteristics of the axle design which grieve me. Particularly when a 30 year old Sprite with undoubtedly many more miles under the belt fares better.
 

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