Broken spring ends big trip before it had even begun

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Leaf springs break in caravan
Glenn and Rowan love hitting the open road in their caravan.

If you’re going to suffer a caravan ‘malfunction’, the driveway of your home is as good a place as any for it to happen. And that’s why grey nomad Glenn Bowyer looks at his recent misadventure from a ‘glass half full’ perspective.

Just a week after returning to his home in Nairne, South Australia, after a 7,000-kilometre trip, Glenn was ready to hit the open road again with wife, Rowan … but they didn’t get too far!

“I was pulling out of the driveway towing our 2.8-tonnne caravan when I heard two ‘clinks’ as something fell to the road,” he recalls. “I stopped and found two short pieces of leaf spring broken with half a hole at the break point!”

And it got worse!

As Glenn lay on his back inspecting the dual axle leaf springs, he discovered that, on the front driver side axle, all leaves of a seven-leaf spring were broken at the same halfway point and were missing … except for the one attached to the eye bolt.

“I immediately thought ‘I hope some poor b… has not worn them as they travelled behind me’,” said Glenn. “And then I realised that it was me and my family that had really dodged a bullet!”

Then, as he attempted to reverse the stricken van back into his driveway, the last leaf suddenly broke.

“I was imagining a slow motion frame-by-frame picture of what could have happened at highway speed as the front axle dropped, dislodged and moved forward jamming and squashing the tyre up into the underside of the wheel arch,” said Glenn.

With the help of a friend, Glenn managed to chock the axle up and secure it with a 10-tonne drag chain before inching back into the driveway, where it sits awaiting a full replacement kit.

Having had such a big scare, Glenn promptly went to town researching what had happened and why … and he is anxious to find out how common it is for leaf springs to break.

“According to a manufacturer supplier it is not just overweight caravans that break springs but uneven tightening of the fish plate … with the likely cause being a rattle gun,” he said. “When tightening the nuts on U-bolts it is best to use a spanner, so as to get a more even pressure on the spring, either side of the centre bolt.”

Going forward, Glenn says he will be checking his new U-bolts after 500 kilometres, re-tightening them, and then implementing a full underside check on a cyclical basis.

“To be forewarned is to be forearmed,” he said. “So, if you are a caravanner, a boatie, or tow anything with springs, please consider your own maintenance programme!”

  • How often do you check the health of your leaf springs? Comment below.


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One Response to Broken spring ends big trip before it had even begun

  1. I have my bearings regreased yearly and replaced every 20,000 kms at our local Caravan Doctor. They check the springs, chassis and anything else I ask them to do. Works for me.

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