Checking the tightness of your caravan wheel nuts

Published in Caravanning Top Tips on   - 23 Comments

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  1. Malcolm says:

    And when someone gets injured who is going to be held negligent in the legal case? I had a colleague who lost a caravan wheel when it came off and rolled down a valley in France – that was 30 years ago and steel wheels were fitted to caravans in those days, so it’s always happened.

  2. Paul McCormick says:

    I e mailed eldiss last night for the wheel torque settings for my van. Got a reply this morning with all the info i need. Service or what ?

  3. Jock says:

    I don’t think it is necessary to check bolts as often as suggested but before each significant trip is advisable. It is easily possible to overtighten a bolt/nut with a torque wrench. You must only tighten it until the wrench clicks if you are using that type. Do not give it that extra tweek which I’ve seen badly trained fitters do. Apart from anything else you may find you can’t get the wheel off at the side of the road. Twin axle vans need extra attention as the wheels fight each other during cornering and manoeuvering which tends to put more distortion into the wheel and the bolts and as previously stated it is this wriggling of the components which causes minute wear between the mating surfaces and eventual loosening as the strain energy is lost. Look after your vehicle and it will look after you.

  4. Peter Bedford says:

    One possible solution is to fit tags on the studs , as they do on comercial vehlcles.Then you would be able to keep check to see if they were coming loose.

  5. Tom McNab says:

    I am also an engineer with over 40 years experience in the manufacture of componenents with threads and tapers ect,on reading the various comments it strated to make me think about dimensional tolerances of these components and are they within drawing limits. It is important that screw threads conform to the correct tolerance on size, thread form, and surface finish on both the hub ( female thread ) and the retaining bolt ( male thread ). Loose fitting threads tend to slacken off when subjected to rotation and vibration especially on the poor state of repair of our roads today. the locking of the the wheel to the hub securely depends on several factors.

    1) Is the tapered cone on the bolt and hub conforming to the limits and fit tolerance, as it is the tapers fitting together that locks both together securely ( good fitting taper is difficult to separate )

    2) Is the pitch circle diameter of the holes on hub and wheel identical with no mis-alignment.

    3) Always tighten to the recomended torque setting for your van and sequence usually 1,3,5,2,4 and as stated tighten until the wrench clicks once. Do not go past the click as you will be able to futher tighten the bolt as stated by Jeff.

    4) I agree with Jeff about the excess clearance between hub and wheel this should be a close fit enabling the wheel to be located on the hub. If this was done then this would dramatically reduce the load on the retaining bolts and let them do the job they are ment to do, lock the wheel to the hub.

  6. Jeff says:

    Among the dangers are that the bolt may not actually be tight enough, depending on the length of the brace or bar etc. with obvious consequences.
    Then again, the bolt might be too tight which can cause catastrophic failure. The bolt seat (hole) in the wheel could be stressed and crack (especially alloy wheels, but steel can be affected too). The bolt might even strip some metal from its threads so it won’t mate properly in the hub resulting in insufficient surface contact within the threads; it could pull out. Or the part of bolt may stretch and develop a waist. This waist means that the bolt has undergone plastic deformation rather than the elastic deformation that we need to keep the bolt under tension.
    And of course (especially with alloy wheels) it can cause the wheel to stick firmly so that even with all the bolts out it will not come off the hub.
    The lucky people who overtighten the bolts don’t have an accident, they just end up with a bolt that is really difficult to get out.
    Considering the cost of a torque wrench, it’s just not worth guessing.

  7. Stan Ovington says:

    With only two major chassis manufactures ie Alko and BPW is it not their responsibility to ensure that the running gear is suitable for purpose Maybe a class action is now required.

  8. Mark says:

    I am also new to caravanning and am now worried about my nuts too! When I purchased the van, I replaced one of the existing nuts with a locking wheel nut (from Milenco) and nipped in to Halfords to buy a torque wrench. The helpful chappie said a torque wrench was overkill and all I had to do was get the nut to nip up and the “give it an extra tweak” and it would be fine!!

    Possibly a daft question but is it possible to overtighten a nut? I don’t mean to the point of shearing it off but if you just get it as tight as you can by hand? I have changed many car tyres in my 30 years of driving and have never used a torque wrench on them? Althought reading above, caravans do seem to be different!!

  9. Paul Upshaw says:

    I am also new to caravaning and we have just replaced our tyres which had run flat bands on which were very awkward to fit back on. After reading these comments I will be getting a torque wrench but I would also like to say I am a Bus Driver and the wheels on buses are torqued at regular intervals as they have a tendency to come off if not checked regularly, sometimes when I start in the morning I have to wait for them to be torqued before I go out!

    Kind Regards

    Paul

  10. Barry Joslin says:

    This has really put the wind up me as I’m new to caravanning, but no mention was made of checking wheelnuts by vendor company.My next purchase will be a torque wrench ! Any other relevant,( hopefully less frightening) pointers.

    • Craig says:

      Joslin Barry
      I’m sorry we’ve put the wind up you. Better safe than sorry I suppose. It’s certainly worth carrying out this simple precaution before every trip. Apart from that you could check out our other advice articles here.
      Kind regards
      Craig
      Caravan Guard

  11. Mr J. Ross says:

    This is sound advice and I would agree that the practice of checking wheel nut tension should be adopted, but I would also extend this practice to your towing vehicle. It has been known for motor vehicle to leave the wheel drums.

  12. John Milliner says:

    just to add my bit – I mailed in some time ago after I lost a wheel off my swift 580 in the middle of France. Have now changed van for a new Coachman – collected and brought home : about 80 miles.

    After my previous experience I am very wary of wheel security.

    Checked the torque – and found to be at about 65 lb./ft. – supposed to be 95 !

    also had wheels balanced one was 50 gram out and the other about 20

    This just reinforces the necessity for regular checking – until the manufacturers stir themselves and get a proper engineering solution to the problem.

  13. Jeff says:

    So if fitting new wheel bolts fixes an inherent design fault that might cause wheel detachment, then it could be argued that caravans without this new type of wheel bolt are not fit for purpose. Maybe all those caravans currently on the road would need a retrofit at the retailing dealers expense (sale of goods act).

  14. Delwyn says:

    OK – so I check my torques before every trip. But your suggestion that we should do this every 50 – 100 miles to overcome a design flaw in caravans is outrageous. Insurers see the consequences of the problem with wheels; they need to bring pressure on manufacturers to fix the problem. Passing the buck onto customers who trust manufacturers to supply safe products is not acceptable, and unreasonable. If it was wheels coming off baby buggies, there would be uproar.

    • Craig says:

      Hi Delwyn
      I think you are right. That suggestion does seem unrealistic in hindsight so I will amend the blog post to only advise checking before every trip. There is now a company producing a caravan specific wheel bolt that promises to remain tight over long periods of time. This is available as an aftermarket product but is also being adopted by a leading caravan manufacturer as a standard fit. We’ll report on this very soon.
      Kind regards
      Craig
      Caravan Guard

  15. Jeff says:

    I agree with the theory of differential expansion, but there is one other difference between the way caravan wheels fit and the way tha car wheels fit.
    Let me expalin: when you mount a wheel on a car the centre hole in the wheel is a good fit on the hub, and all you do after lifting it on is to rotate the wheel to align the bolt holes.
    But when you mount a caravan wheel, the hub is far smaller than the hole in the wheel. Not only does this make it a bit more difficult to get the bolts into alignment, but also the whole weight of the vehicle is held on the bolts, so any slight reduction in clamping allows microscopic movements of the wheel in relation to the hub. It is this movement that then continues to slacken the bolts.
    One error in the article above it states “Torque wrenches can be set to a specific torque and won’t let you tighten a wheel nut past a certain point no matter how much force you exert.” But this is misleading. I know that it states later on about the “click” but this sentence should be deleted.

  16. James A Rankin says:

    I really can’t believe that this problem of wheels falling off caravans has been going on so long, yet all the advice we get is torque the wheel nuts every 50-100 miles, which is totally impractical, yet they seem to have done nothing to solve the problem. As your previous contributor stated, we don’t hear of many wheels falling off cars. I travel to Spain every winter towing my caravan. I check the wheels every morning before setting off, which to my mind is too often, and have not had a problem. No one has ever suggested I check the lug nuts on my tow vehicle. What is going on?

  17. john milliner says:

    Bit of a coincidence – i have just suffered from loosing a wheel off my Swift Challenger 580 whilst driving down through France – not a pleasant experience ! – I was very lucky as i was coming up to a pay booth so was only doing 30 mph.

    I am an engineer with over 40 years experience – and am old enough to actually read the instruction manual – which i followed to the letter – not that it seems to have done me any good !

    My thoughts on this issue are : the wheels are cast alluminium whereas the 5 x retaing bolts are h.t. steel – the expansion rates of these two metals are dramatically different – so when the wheel expands it becomes trapped / crushed by the bolt head . When there is a cooling period the wheel contracts and a gap is formed – therefore the bolts are no longer under load.
    I understand this problem is predominantly with the nearside wheel – this is because the direction of rotation applies a ” undo ” force – whereas the off side tends to naturally ” tighten ” the bolts.

    An obvious engineering remedy is to use left hand threaded bolts on the nearside – but i am not convinced this is a total fix as the expansion rates problem is not addressed.
    I do wonder what/ if there is a difference in manufacture process between van wheels and cars – as you don`t hear of cars loosing their wheels.

    There is obviously a serious safety issue – but i have yet to hear of any response from the industry – I don`t think they can afford to ignore it .


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