2/12/2014 We found a novel way of reducing the weight of the caravan – just drop a wheel!
After leaving Maffra for Port Albert on the coast, we were motoring along slowly (fortunately) on a back road from Seaspray to Port Albert, when we felt the van give a slight lurch. In the passenger mirror, I could see a wheel tootling along beside the Kruiser. After a hasty pull over to the side of the road, I flicked on the hazard lights and trekked back to retrieve the walkabout wheel which had conveniently come to rest leaning up against a small cutting beside the road. After a few more expletives from me, the wheel was stowed away in the back seat of the car.
Apart from the five broken wheel studs, the rest of the running gear appeared to be fine, particularly the brake rotor which hadn’t dropped down far enough to make contact with the road. On the other hand, the wheel rim had suffered some damage to the stud holes and was a write-off.
The advantage of the Kruiser’s air bag suspension is that the wheel-less swing arm could be tucked up high under the van reasonably easily. I lowered the passenger side air bags to drop the air pressure right down, and then shut off the air valve to that particular bag. With the air bag now deflated, the swing arm was jacked up using an 8000kg bottle jack that I’d fortunately bought in Canberra only a week earlier. At the time, Di queried the need for the jack, so one of the pluses of this incident was that I could now boast about the wisdom of my forethought (gotta take credit when you can).
Once the swing arm was tucked up as high as the air bag would allow, it was secured to the chassis with a metal turnbuckle and a nylon strap (for double redundancy). Now that the running gear was secured up high and with the air bag still isolated, the remaining air bag on that side was pressurised to lift the van up level again. The plan then was to travel back to Sale, the nearest major centre, for repairs.
Of the few vehicles travelling this road only one pulled up to offer assistance. Kerry and Peter turned out to be fellow caravanners and we appreciated their offer of help. On three wheels, we headed slowly into Sale. Fortunately, the road was flat and not much braking was needed. On the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System screen in the car, it was interesting to compare the pressure and temperature of the single wheel on one side with the tandem wheels on the other side. The pressure difference during the trip was only a couple of PSI, but the temperature difference got to almost 20 degrees with the lone tyre bearing twice the normal weight on that side. Travelling at slow speed (60kph) for a short distance (50kms) was fine on this occasion, but the tyre would need cooling rest stops if we had to travel any further distance.
By the next morning, Kimberley had organised replacement wheel studs to be sent to us, and had teed up a local caravan repairer to carry out repairs.
The next week was spent in Sale awaiting parts and repairs.
Given the potential life threatening consequences of loose wheels hurtling around, we are very thankful that the two of us and the rig were all in one piece. I’d hate to think of the possible consequences if the wheel had come off on a more populated road. The incident can’t be blamed on the Kruiser. It was a case of loose wheel nuts. Even though I have always been vigilant with wheel nut tension, I’m now even more vigilant and check them whenever moving camp. Here’s a good tip – once the wheel nuts are correctly tensioned, mark the face of each nut with a vertical line using paint or permanent marker. You can then do a quick visual check to see if any nuts have loosened off as they won’t be pointing in the same direction as the others.
A highlight of our stay in Sale was meeting up with Fred and Di, fellow Kimberley Kruiser travellers and kindred spirits. There aren’t that many Kruisers on the road and we hadn’t yet come across another one, so it was great to see theirs pull in near us in the caravan park. Over many glasses of wine, we enjoyed a great chat with them until late into the evening, sharing information about the Kruisers and each other’s travels. We look forward to catching up with them again, either on the road or visiting them in their hometown of Inverell.