It’s uncommon, but not unheard of, that a wheel on a caravan can become detached while on the road and cause an accident because the caravan wheel nuts were not screwed on tight enough and fell off. This can not only result in expensive repairs, but more importantly, can be dangerous for both you and other road users. In this blog post we aim to highlight the importance of setting your caravan wheel nuts to the correct torque and teach you how to check their tightness regularly to prevent an accident when towing your caravan.
It’s advised that you check the tightness of your wheel nuts before every journey in your caravan. Caravan wheel nuts have a specific torque they need to be set to, which can vary between manufacturers. You should be able to find the exact figure in your caravan’s handbook.
Use a Torque Wrench to Check the Tightness of Your Caravan Wheel Nuts
It’s always recommended to invest in a good torque wrench, as this will ensure that your wheel nuts are tightened precisely to the correct level. Most torque wrenches allow you to set it to the needed force and won’t allow you to exceed that number regardless of how much you try to tighten it afterwards. These wrenches will usually make a loud click or bend at a hinge when the correct torque is reached.
Other models of torque wrenches may have pointers or needles that indicate the level of applied force and you simply stop applying force when the indicator shows that you’ve reached the correct torque level. These options are usually inexpensive and easy to find in hardware stores. They also tend to be quite reliable.
Alternatively, you can get more advanced digital wrenches that have a display which allows you to programme them to the correct level of torque. These tend to be quite expensive and often, mechanical wrenches are accurate enough for caravan wheel nuts.
Suggestions on how to correctly tighten your wheel nuts are often found to be conflicting, so when in doubt always consult the instructions provided by your caravan manufacturer.
One of the most effective methods to check your wheel nuts is known as re-torquing. To do this you have to first loosen the nuts and then re-tighten them to the correct torque level. If the manual suggests checking the torque without loosening the wheel nuts, make sure they don’t move when you apply the correct pressure using the torque wrench. However, if you haven’t checked the wheel nuts before, you might want to re-torque them first, as many are found to be over-tightened. This can cause wear to the nuts and even cause them to shear if you hit a bigger pothole.
Sometimes your torque wrench may require recalibrating to provide a more accurate and safe measurement. Recalibrating your wrench can be a hassle but it’s worth it as it would prevent you from over-tightening your wheel nuts.
Use the Correct Product for the Job
You have to be careful with what products you put on your wheel nuts. If your wheel nuts become stuck while you’re re-torquing them, don’t be tempted to spray them with WD40 or any other lubricant. While it can help in the short-term, it could have serious long term impacts on your caravan type safety as it can lessen the ability of the nuts to hold tension. Your safest option is to simply take your time and use a wrench that provides good leverage to slowly work the bolt loose.
If you have the opposite problem and want your bolts to stay secured in place then you have to use a substance such as industrial sealant which can help you give the bolts some extra grip but won’t stick the nut in place.
How to Identify Caravan Wheel Nut Movement
Road vibrations such as potholes and bumps can cause your wheel nuts to come loose. To identify movement and loosening in the bolts, you can use an indicator. These come in the form of a bright coloured cap or ring with a pointer that has to be aligned when placed over the bolt head. This allows you to inspect if the pointer has moved before you set off.
Another option is to use caravan wheel nut safety clips. These connect two nuts ensuring that if one comes loose it won’t come out completely. They are made out of flexible plastic so you can easily spot any brakes in the linkage.
You can find such indicators for pretty cheap in any hardware store, however, an even cheaper and easier option is to simply use a marker or some correction fluid to mark across the wheel nut. Check on it before every trip and if it’s misaligned then your wheel nut needs to be tightened.
Step by Step Guide
When checking the tightness of your wheel nuts you can follow this easy step by step routine to make sure they’re set correctly:
- Remove the plastic wheel trims, if they’re fitted, by carefully prying the trim away from the wheel rim with a bladed screwdriver.
- Find the correct wheel nut torque from either the caravan handbook or on the weight data plate on the side of your caravan, then set your torque wrench to the correct number.
- Clip the short extension bar and the right size socket to the torque wrench.
- It’s important to tighten the wheels in the correct sequence. Assuming that the top right nut is 1 and you count clockwise, the best sequence is 1-3-5-2-4.
- Hold the wrench between both hands, one on the handle while the other supports the extension bar so it keeps the socket fitted to the wheel nut. To tighten a normal right hand thread, the movement is clockwise. The indication for correct tightness is usually one click so stop tightening when you hear this click.
- Double check the torque settings by repeating step 4. Release the wheel lock and slacken the torque wrench back to zero to avoid stretching the torque setting mechanism.
Do this before every trip you set off in your caravan to ensure the safety of yourself, your family and other people on the road. Caravan servicing is another way of keeping your caravan safe and roadworthy. Contact us at Venture caravans for more information and service booking.
This blog was written by Dave Brown. Dave is a Director of his family business which began in 1971. He has a wealth of experience in this sector starting as a workshop apprentice straight from school in 1982. Married with two children, Dave has been an enthusiastic Rugby player since the age of 8, only retiring this year. He will now spend more time travelling in his VW Campervan and watching his favourite team, the Northampton Saints.