Camper Trailers Tech Tips

some thoughts on a misadventure


some thoughts on a misadventure
from Bill Parker

Planning a long trip which included some rough roads, we took the camper trailer to the local trailer shop and asked them to give it a big service. So on that occasion they did the following:
* Moved the springs forward to better balance the trailer
* Replaced all shackle pins, shackles and Ubolts securing the axle
* Remarked that the springs were shorter than they normally use
* Adjusted the brakes
* Replaced and greased the bearings.

Satisfied that the trailer was prepared we set off on a trip to the gulf. 2925 kilometres from home and 1km from the turnoff into our destination we had the misfortune to break a spring on the trailer. Now before you suggest we were travelling to fast for the road conditions it took 3 hours to cover 99 kilometres and we were passed by other vehicles without trailers. So we put the break down to plain old age as the spring had seen 40,000 kilometres plus of roads with lots of dirt including all of Cape York.


Problem 1. How to get mobile to somewhere suitable for repairs

The advice offered by other tourists was to lash the spring together with wire. Then haul the axle forward on that side to about its correct position with some more wire and then proceed slowly to the station 30 kilometres away.


A When the spring broke it allowed the axle to move back until the spring hanger touched the chassis. So the trailer needs to be jacked up so that the axle can be allowed to move forward.


B The only wire available was high tensile fencing wire and for those not familiar with the product it has all the properties of a flat spring. You can wrap it around anything but the moment you release the tension on it bingo it straightens out no matter how many rude words you call it.


C Having given up on the wire I resorted to blind cord to tie the spring together and several lashings of rope to try and hold the spring forward.


A quiet drive of just over 2 hours and 30 kilometres down the road we had reached our destination with all the modern conveniences like running water, flushing toilets, hot showers and best of all a phone to the outside world.


Problem 2 How to get a new spring
Tried the nearest town and yes he had a spring that would probably work so 7.5 hour round trip for 160 kilometres and we have two new springs. When installed they were too long and immediately folded the shackles back up against the chassis


We knew all the bits in the trailer came from Active Fabrication in Brisbane so rang them and ordered two of the right size. It will be a week so into holiday mode relax, swim, fish in the billabong. No fish caught but I nearly caught a fresh water croc.


Another 7.5 hour trip to collect the new ones and the trailer is sitting nice and high on her new springs. I couldnít get over the difference in the shape as it has a lot more curve than the old one. No wonder the old one broke as it must have flattened out. Now there was a delusion.

Next morning all packed up we departed. Three kilometres out one of the new ones folded the shackle back against the chassis so a u turn back to the homestead to put in the original good spring. Five hours for 130 kilometres and we are back on the bitumen albeit with the trailer 120mm higher on one side.


Now the observations for the future
1 The new ďcorrect sizeĒ springs were nothing like the old. We believe Active Fabrication changed their supplier from 10 years ago so what they sell today in our size only worked on one side of our trailer. If I had purchased a spare before I left it may not have worked anyway. What sort of springs do you have?


2 The position of the rear hangers is absolutely critical to the operation of the springs. As little as 10mm out and a good spring is rendered useless.


3 The new springs cost $26 in Brisbane and when the pre trip work was being done I would have happily paid $52 to have them converted to a common size of 715mm as well as have new ones. The originals were 630mm eye to eye which is impossible to find in the Northern Territory.


4 The Northern Territory locals suggest that you should replace the springs on a trailer every 30,000 kilometres for those roads.



5 The jacking point at the rear of the trailer to let you get mobile is about 450mm off the ground. We made do with some jacking blocks I carry and a large flat stone found in the bush. The bottle jack is not the Mitsubishi supplied model but an extra I carry. What do you have that would let you raise the trailer when you canít put the jack under the axle?


6 I have added about 10 metres of mild steel fencing wire to my spares kit


7 I have added a 3.5 tonne ratchet strap for securing the axle forward as rope just stretches unless you happen to be carrying a piece of spectra rope which doesnít stretch. Spectra is only used by sailors and is very expensive.



8 Having to replace a spring requires the trailer to be supported safely so you can work underneath. When a jack stand that will support at 800mm high isnít available how do you hold the trailer up?
A small trolley jack isnít tall enough. The red gum blocks are just way too big so I am looking for a light weight jack stand to carry. You canít use your car jack as it will be needed to support the axle while you do the job.


9 Carry a tube of silicone as the nylocs may not be in the best condition when you get them off. A bit of silicone smeared over the thread and allowed to set makes an effective nyloc. You can also wack the nylon end with a hammer to reshape it a bit to make a tighter fit.


10 Carry spare shackle bolts and shackles as 30 kilometres of rough road when the angles werenít right destroyed both on one side and rendered the other only just usable when you have 1500 kilometres to the next replacement.


an addendum
When we arrived home we noticed the trailer tail lights were not working. So off to Aranda in Brisbane who diagnosed a faulty canbus in the rear of the vehicle, this was replaced. Everything worked fine with the boat trailer but when we connected the camper no lights again so off to the auto electrician with the camper to find out what is causing the problem.


The canbus had failed again so they went looking for the cause which turned out to be a dead short in the trailer. The 6 core for the trailer lights was pulled to check and the melted wire appeared. See photo below. When the springs were replaced in Mt Isa they made no attempt to protect the wire in either of the chassis rails of the camper so the wires were sitting on the metal they were welding. The photo is of the lighting but the charge wire for the battery on the other side suffered the same fate and has also been replaced.


If you are getting any welding work done on your trailer make sure they understand where the wiring is hidden.




Thanks to Bill for the article


november 2012