Caravan Shock Absorbers
Are they worth fitting?
One of the questions I often get asked is whether it’s worth fitting shock absorbers to a caravan. Before looking at the pros and cons we need to understand a little about how the suspension on a modern caravan works. To save space and weight the springs and shock absorbers found in more conventional systems are replaced by an axle tube containing long strips of rubber that deform under load. The construction is such that there is some resistance to movement and this provides a degree of shock absorption. To see it in action click here.
Whilst the arrangement provides an excellent overall compromise between weight and space on the one hand and performance on the other, the shock absorbing properties are not as good as they would be if dedicated shock absorbers were fitted. The question is ‘does this matter?’
I remember the first outing after fitting shock absorbers to my caravan. The beginning of the journey was slow, in heavy traffic but then we got on a relatively empty dual carriageway so I put my foot down to make up for lost time. Then, with the speedo on 60mph, I saw a big rut right in front of me and right across the road. It was the remains of a trench that had been filled and then sunk. There was nothing I could do except brace myself for the reaction that was surely to come via the tow hitch. Amazingly there was virtually none. Also when we got to site the fire front was still in place for the first time in many outings
If you do decide to fit shock absorbers to your Swift Group caravan it’s a very easy process as the suspension and chassis are already designed to take them. Alko supply shock absorbers of 3 ratings according the weight of the caravan to which they will be fitted. For easy identification each rating has its own colour as follows:
Please note that tandem axle vans require 2 sets, i.e. 4 shock absorbers in total.
Fitting requires the removal of each wheel in turn (follow normal precautions for this). Next a rubber plug needs to be removed from the underside of the radius arm. This allows the insertion of the two halves of the new arm to which one end of the shock absorber will fit. The two halves must be inserted individually then squeezed together so they open up in the radius arm and grip it tightly. The instructions say use pliers for this but I needed a ‘G’ clamp. The other end of the shock absorber bolts to an existing hole in the chassis, the exact hole being determined according to a table in the fitting instructions.
From September 2008 all Swift and Sterling brand caravans now come with shock absorbers as standard 'for a smoother more stable ride'. That says it all really. Bailey also fits them to all of its caravans except some entry level Ranger models.