How many repairs does it take to do a caravan repair?

Three apparently!

Our nightmare caravan repair story

What do you do when you arrive at your free camp only to see your caravan on a major lean like the Tower of Pisa? You’re in a small town, it’s really late in the afternoon and your kids have decided being in the car is the last place they want to be! Disaster right?

My first thought was “What’s this disaster going to cost us?”. Freaking out is never going to solve this problem and in fact, it made it worse. When you’re travelling full-time, you are going to experience a few problems on the road. In fact, we had been travelling for 2 years before our first major breakdown.

After our initial freak out session and a few choice words (lucky the girls were in the car) we stepped back from the van and tried to think of some solutions.  Option 1) make Matt get under the caravan to see if he can work out how much damage there was and or Option 2) park up for the night and deal with it tomorrow (total head in the sand solution). Option 2 was my favourite but it wasn’t going to happen. The caravan was on such a large lean that we would have had to jack it up just to have a good night sleep. So we needed to try and work out what damage we were dealing with to see if there was a solution we could come up with.

We had to completely empty our water tanks to take the pressure off that side of the caravan. As we are sitting there waiting for it to drain I kept thinking who should we call? We have roadside assistance but I wasn’t sure if the caravan would be covered.

We started working out how far we were from a major town that might have some services available to help us. It’s late on a Thursday afternoon and we really needed to get this fixed tomorrow so we can press on with our travel plan.

Luckily Matt seen the issue straight away

It didn’t take Matt too long to check the van out. It’s lucky that he’s pretty mechanically minded and saw that the rear spring was on its way out. Not fully broken but enough to make the van look a lot worse than what it was. So we knew the problem and now it was time to find a caravan repairer. Thank goodness for mobile phones and Google! A list of phone numbers with a push of a button. Unfortunately, we were really struggling to find anyone in Wagga Wagga that could help us. We called mechanics/truck mechanics and none of them worked on caravans, but they did give us a name of a trailer mechanic and it was our last hope. Thankfully our last hope said he would be happy to look at it the next day and thought he could repair it for us! At last a possible solution.

The next day we arrived early to the trailer mechanics only to find they didn’t have any springs in stock that matched ours! And added bonus was we would have to wait nearly a week to get some sent from Sydney. Again with the pressure of sticking to our travel plans, we had to come up with another solution. So our mechanic helped us and called around other major towns in the area to see if anyone had rear springs that matched ours. We managed to find a pair but it meant a 4-hour return trip to get them, desperate times means desperate measures.

Our van being repaired at the first caravan repairer

So Matt completed the mother of all road trips to get our new springs. We were “guaranteed” they were perfect. Phew, it only cost $450 (plus a long drive) and we didn’t have to wait a week!

Excellent, on with our adventure! 1000km later we were enjoying our trip when we arrive at Portland Victoria and our van just didn’t look quite right again. Matt got under the van and seen our new springs weren’t doing the job. They looked like they were “flattening out” but they were brand new!

After getting the caravan inspected by another springs mechanic in Portland we were told that the springs fitted had failed and we needed new ones! We explained that these were brand new but he was a mechanic and we thought he knew what he was doing. With noone else in town for a second opinion we got him to replace the springs again.  After paying our bill we drove down the street to get some groceries and Matt decided he would double check the new springs. We couldn’t believe it, our BRAND NEW SPRINGS looked worse than our old ones!

How is this even possible? How could another mechanic get it so wrong again? Our caravan is not over our weight limits as we work really hard to keep it under. But for some reason, the new springs and our old new springs weren’t cutting it. To make matters worse when we returned our new mechanic’s workshop it was shut. He had left and wasn’t answering his phone.

We waited 2 hours for him to return and started to discuss how the new springs still weren’t adequate, they were flattening out the same as the ones we already had. He couldn’t work out why it was happening and had no solutions for us.  Then he offered us a deal! The deal of the century I say……… he offered to swap them back for $100 labour plus no refund on the parts! What a crook!

We gave him a few choice words and said  “Take your dodge springs back and give us a full refund!” We negotiated (argued) back and forth and things obviously started to get pretty heated. In the end, he agreed to refund us the parts but no labour. So basically we had to pay $130 to get bad advice and waste our time.

Totally frustrated we headed to Mount Gambier looking for help when we found a spring works centre. Within 10 minutes we had answers. The original repairers in Wagga had simply incorrectly measured our old springs and therefore fitted inadequate springs for our van. Again the spring mechanic in Portland neglected to measure correctly and fitted incorrect springs. Such a simple error cost us hundreds of dollars and a lot of stress.

There was nothing we could do with the springs on our van, they couldn’t be fixed. Our best option was to have two new springs MADE to match our front springs and then our van was fixed. Our rookie error back in Wagga was letting our fixed itinerary get the better of us. Having time restrictions on us made us rush into decisions. But you never know, we could have waited the week and we still ended up with the wrong springs.

What should you do if you need a quick caravan repair?

* Don’t rush into a quick decision when you need to get your caravan repaired. If you have time then give the decision some extra thought. Call other mechanics and ask for some advice. They might be able to assist and give you another idea.

* Try not to indicate to your repairer that you’re passing through. I’m not saying any supplier lied to us or intentionally ripped us off but they did know we were leaving that day!

* If you have to get a quick caravan repair done make sure the next town you visit, GET IT CHECKED. A second opinion can’t hurt plus you haven’t travelled too far if you don’t need to return to complain.

* Perhaps you could take before and after pictures to see if the repair looks the same. Maybe if we had done that we would have seen the mistake sooner.

* Trust your instincts and if you need to, then walk away. Also if you’re not happy with the repairs then complain and get your money back!

Sometimes no matter how much research you do, phone calls you make or money you spend you can always get bad advice. Next time we’ll think before we do a quick caravan repair.