New Member needing help before 1st trip!!!!!!!!!!!

Mar 3, 2009
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Hello and what a great forum. Just picked up first ever caravan and looking to get out next weekend for first venture. Tow car is a Nissan X Trail 2.2 Diesel and Caravan is a 2003 Abbey Vogue GTS 416. ElKo hitch with what looks like a standard tow ball

As I said, only just got it yesterday and driving home with it, took the opportunity to find a quiet spot and try reversing (with some reasonale success to my wifes surprise!!!)

Anyway, we have noticed that whenever we are moving there is a quite a loud creaking to be heared, irrespective of going fwd, backwards or even straight road and constant speed. Called caravan center we bought if from who said it is more likely to be dirt within the ElKo hitch and ball. Also when moving fwd there is a general feeling of rocking backward and fwd in our car seats. As this is our first van, we have nothing to compare against.

Any help, ideas or anything truly welcomed.

Tony & Barbara
 

Parksy

Moderator
Nov 12, 2009
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Hi Tony & Barbara

Welcome to the forum

The creaking noise is definitely contaminant on your towball and possibly the AlKo pads inside the hitch.

Remove all traces of paint from your towball, they are sometimes covered in a layer of protective paint.

Use brake cleaner to remove all traces of grease or oil from your towball which should be kept clean, rust free and dry.

Tou might have to clean the pads inside the hitch but try cleaning the towball first to see if that cures the creaking problem.
 

Parksy

Moderator
Nov 12, 2009
11,856
2,279
40,935
Hi Tony & Barbara

Welcome to the forum

The creaking noise is definitely contaminant on your towball and possibly the AlKo pads inside the hitch.

Remove all traces of paint from your towball, they are sometimes covered in a layer of protective paint.

Use brake cleaner to remove all traces of grease or oil from your towball which should be kept clean, rust free and dry.

Tou might have to clean the pads inside the hitch but try cleaning the towball first to see if that cures the creaking problem.
Typo Should read -You instead of Tou
 
Mar 21, 2008
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Hi Tony,

We've been caravanning for a year, now, and have also experienced the 'van pitching as you describe.

It's surprising what a difference careful loading makes to the driving experience.

Our caravan is really quite bouncy when it is empty, or lightly loaded. Putting some weight in seems to dampen it considerably.

Also, ensuring that the noseweight is as high as possible (subject to the limitations of the caravan and the towbar) also help to make a smoother ride.

I don't know about the creaking, we haven't experienced that. What sort of condition is your towball in? To work with the Al-ko hitch it needs to be clean and free of grease, rust and paint.

Hope this helps.
 
Mar 10, 2006
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Tony

If i read your post correctly, you have a standard tow ball?

If so you should have the ALKO ball fitted to the car.

If you do have the correct ball fitted, then tow the van without the ALKO lever pushed down, this releases the friction pads from the ball, if the noise stops, then the pads or ball, as said will need cleaning, i have never had this however in 5 years towing with the ALKO.

The rocking sounds like pitching, as said. I used to go for a 85kg nose weight with the xtrail i had.

Let us know how you go on.
 
Mar 3, 2009
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Thanks for all your replies, we are delighetd to get this much needed help. Will give the tow ball a real scrub tomorrow (although it was done before our eyes when we picked it up, but somewhat hastily) and hopefully that will be that. In terms of the pitching, the van was empty and as suggested we will add some weight to it tomorrow.

Sorry if I am being naive. Noseweight! X-Trail max is 100kg, do I use that figure or the laden weight of the van?? and just for clarity, what % weight should it be.

Finally, and sorry to pester, I looked at ALKO tow balls and see that Halfords might sell them for about
 

Parksy

Moderator
Nov 12, 2009
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Hi Tony

Noseweight = It is a legal requirement that the noseweight should be 4% of the weight of the trailer or at least 25kg, whichever is the higher.. For safety you should aim for, but not exceed, the lower of the 2 figures specified for caravan and car respectively.

(Copied / pasted from the helpline.)

Try to get the nose weight to the maximum that is allowable for you outfit but don't exceed it.

I'd say that the noseweight for your outfit will be the maximum allowed for your caravan.

If you haven't already got an Al Ko towball fitted you will need one because the neck of the towball is longer to accommodate the hitch friction pads inside the hitch.

If you buy a new towball it will have a painted surface which must be rubbed off the ball using emery cloth or wet & dry.

Under no circumstances allow oil or grease to remain on the towball and fit a cover to it when it's not in use.

When you load your caravan place the heavier items on the floor over the axle. Keep the weight low down to keep the centre of gravity low and avoid any weight towards the rear of the caravan.
 
Mar 10, 2006
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Tony

The caravan club advise for nose weight is 7% of the max caravan weight. My van is 1330kg fully loaded, so the recommened nose weight is 1330x 0.7 =93.1kg.

However i found with the xtrail that this was a bit heavy on the back end, it depends what you have in the boot of cause.

So i found 85-90kg was ideal. But you can load to 100kg if you like, the alko max nose weight on my bailey is 100kg. You must not exceed the lower of you nose limits, car or alko chassis.

The ALKO ball is expensive, go to a local towbar fitter and get one fitted, you can get a "copy" of the ALKO for about
 
Mar 3, 2009
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Thanks Ray. Using your formula presents a dilema for me. Weight of van is 1443kg Therefore 7% = 101Kg but my Nissan X trail only rated to 100Kg Max.

Is there a safe answer?
 

Parksy

Moderator
Nov 12, 2009
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'For safety you should aim for, but not exceed, the lower of the 2 figures specified for caravan and car respectively.'

This means that if the car manufacturer specifies a lower noseweight than the caravan manufacturer you should go with the lower of the two figures i.e. 100kg
 
Mar 10, 2006
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Tony

The 7% is only a guide.

As i've said i tow a stable rig with a nose weight below the 7%.

I would think below 100kg is perfectly acceptable
 
Mar 3, 2009
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Hi All. An update since I posted the original query. Took onboard all comments and first move was to change the towball. Now have the At Ko. Loaded the van with the heavy items that we will be taking with us next week and did did a nose weight measurement using digital bathroom scales. Came to 54Kg which I thought was far too light. Did some reorganising inside and got it to around 91Kg (that should do it we thought). Wanted to get more driving practice so took it for a spin.

Hitch noise was substantially reduced (forgot to say, gave everything a good clean and sprayed with brake cleaner). However, the ride was not smooth at all as the pitching was awful. Pulled over and moved some weight from front to back of van - made things worse, so but the moved things over the axle. Hey Presto - pitching stopped (on smooth roads anyway), motorway driving for first time was pleasurable. Are vans that sensitive and is there a rule of thumb regarding weight distribution to curb pitching????

Thanks to everyone who offered help

Tony & Barbara
 
Mar 10, 2006
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Tony

Happy to see you are getting the idea. The trick i think is to find the best setup that you are happy with, which it appears you have.

There is a few threads about reading the nose weight correctly.

I would have thought 90kg would be enough, it sounds like you may have increased from that figure.

Did you load the boot as you would going away?

I usually fill the fuel tank, and put the tyre pressures up to max load settings.
 
Jul 25, 2007
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Given the weight of modern caravans it is actually impossible for many people to find a caravan that they can tow with a nose weight at the 7% guidline as it exceeds the maximum permissible load for the car. My 2006 Mondeo is allowed to tow a trailer with 75kg noseweight. Even the light weight Bailey ranger caravan has a 7% figure of over 80KG. I spent a lot of time rearranging the contents of my caravan, but was limited by it being an end bathroom layout which means nearly all storage spaces are in front of the axle. In the end to keep the nose weight close to the 75KG allowed for my Mondeo, I had to make a harness to allow me to carry a gas bottle in the end bathroom (I have webbing straps connected to the bottom of the wardrobe and a wooden base which stops the bottom of the bottle sliding. This roughly balances out the other bottle in the gas locker. To date the van has towed just fine. I wonder if your car is part of the problem as 4x4s are more wobbly than normal road cars (although the X Trail is a favorite with many Caravan Club members). As you have found how you load the van makes a big difference. I didn't know about needing a special ALKO tow ball (but then neither my old nor my new van have a stabilizer) and I could not fit one in any case as I have a Bosal tow bar of the swan neck variety.
 
Mar 10, 2006
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William

You only need the ALKO ball with a fixed ball type bar, your swan neck should be ok with an Alko
 

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