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Shake, Rattle & Roll: Diagnosing That Persistent Caravan Rattle

In towing, we put up with rattles, squeaks and knocks on a daily basis. Towing a load of rubbish to the tip in a rattling old trailer is a classic example. However, when you’re towing your caravan for thousands of miles over poorly maintained country roads, even the smallest little creak is enough to drive you batty.

Where do you start?

In many cases, mystery noises are a sign that something has come loose or isn’t performing as it should be and this is especially the case if the noise is a new one.

The first place to look is the tow bar, then work your way back along the caravan from there.

Towbar

The towbar assembly is bolted directly to the tow vehicle’s chassis, which is why even the smallest rattles are easily transmitted from caravan to towing vehicle.

A loose tongue section is a major cause of mystery rattles and noise. Rattles occur because the hitch pin, which holds the tongue in place, essentially becomes a pivot point for any movement of the caravan. If the tongue section isn’t sitting snugly within the receiving sleeve of the towbar, even 2 millimetres of play will be enough to cause a knock with every bump in the road.

There’s a range of devices available that restrict the movement of the tongue.

  • Anti-rattle hitch wedge: This is jammed inside the gap between tongue and sleeve and is tensioned against the hitch pin.
  • Anti-rattle sleeve: This is a bracket that is fitted over the tongue shaft and clamps it against the receiving sleeve as its nuts are tightened.
  • Threaded anti-rattle hitch pin: This reduces or eliminates rattles by placing a spring-loaded thread on the inside of the shaft. The threaded hitch pin is screwed in and tightens the tongue shaft against the receiving sleeve.

These anti-rattle devices will also reduce wear and tear on the components involved.

Coupling

With a typical ball and socket fixed coupling, check that the adjustment nut is tight enough.

Also confirm that the ball is compatible with the coupling, check that the ball & couling are both 50mm specifically.

Check that the safety chain(s) are well clear of the ground and are not too tight under normal operation. Finally, check that the safety chains hang clear of other equipment.

Towball mass

Alternatively, the towball mass  may not be great enough, meaning that the caravan is trying to lift off the towball when it’s in motion.

External accessories

Check that accessories such as drawbar-mounted gas bottles, airfoils, antennas, spare wheels, awnings and storage boxes are secured.

Chassis and drivetrain

A loose wheel will make a knocking sound. Check that your wheel nuts are tightened and check the wheel bearings are in good condition. Failing that the leaf springs could be the culprit.

You don’t have to put up with a constant rattle any more. Find it and do something about it.

Now is probably a good time to look at our expert’s guide to caravan maintenance.

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