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Sue and I have just returned from dropping off our caravan at Glossop Caravans for its first service. I’m in shock…. for two reasons.

I originally booked the van in for its service just over a week ago and having never booked a van in for service before, I didn’t know what to expect, but guessed it would be like booking the Freelander in with the Land Rover main dealer…. which it was. Up to the point we dropped the van off this morning when I was asked when would I like to collect the van… I said I was local so any time……  and was expecting to be told “around three o’clock”….. I was not expecting “……next Wednesday” If I’d have known that we could have gone away for the weekend instead. 6 days does seem a bit excessive for servicing a caravan. The next shock was something I hadn’t expected at all. 

The van has been perfect and there are only three ‘warranty’ type jobs to do. One is sort the trim out above the shower door, no parts needed, just needs putting on properly. The next is the magnetic strip on the shower door. As a magnetic strip, it works magnificently….  unfortunately it doesn’t stick to the door only the shower frame. Simple solution degrease the door properly and stick a new strip on. The last is the front centre blind. There has been a lot of talk on Swift Talk about these being very stiff and wrongly tensioned by the manufacturer…. Swift have the problem in hand and ours is due to be replaced under warranty. I’d gone through these with the chap when handing the van over (I’d also emailed the service people at Glossop Caravans beforehand) the only thing I wanted in addition was for them to balance the wheels while they had them off for the service and I’d not mentioned this when I’d booked the service, so I just asked the chap doing the handover if he could put down on the job sheet to get the wheels balanced.

We don’t balance wheels….. there is no requirement” What? A short conversation followed, I asked him if he had his car wheels balanced…. yes…. and he explained that the NCC servicing guidelines doesn’t require that wheels are balanced.

Well, lets see…. Swift have said that wheels on caravans don’t need balancing… OK, Swift, enlighten me on the physics of a rotating mass not requiring balancing. Swift balance the wheels on their motor-homes – what’s the difference? Would the owners of Glossop Caravans, Stan or Brian Laing run their cars without the wheel’s being balanced or allow all the Glossop Caravan company vehicles to run without the wheels being balanced?

Running your car at 60 MPH you know if the wheels are not balanced, it can vibrate so much you spill your coffee and your sat nav falls off the windscreen. It may even dislodge a filling or two, so towing a caravan at 60 MPH that shakes by the same amount must mean that the dealers and manufacturers are quite happy to repair hinges, pulled out screws, broken latches that have been shaken to pieces. I wonder if all the issues with the drop down TV system that Swift fitted in its vans and ended up re-designing was due to the fact that it had the bejesus shaken out of it?

If you read through the caravan forums – Caravan Talk is one of the biggest with over 26,000 members currently, the number of owners that have had their wheels balanced and found that the weight that needed adding was large…. the biggest weight I can recall was 270 grams I think.

It’s interesting to note at this point that one caravan manufacturer now balances the wheels on its vans and allegedly it is reporting less issues at first service. It is also interesting to note that allegedly the caravans used for the various magazines “Tow Car of the Year” awards…. funnily enough have their wheels balanced and while I’m on a roll… pun intended… if you read the tyre manufacturers blurb for the tyres fitted to the caravan… they recommend that for “safety and tyre reliability reasons” their tyres should be balanced after fitting… Whoa there’s a surprise!

Just to drive the point home… someone who works for one of the national tyre fitting companies said “We have to balance all wheels before we let them out of the workshop as we are not covered by our insurance if we don’t

With all the long running threads and comments on several caravan forums about wheel balancing I can’t understand why any business, even if they didn’t believe in basic physics would not just go for it and shout loudly “come to us….we balance wheels!

I think the next guys that need to come under inspection are the NCC. The people there must have a different take on physics and rotating mass, vibration analysis, harmonics etc. than me and the rest of the caravanning world. I wonder if they even know what Theta Dot is?

So, what does that mean for me? Well, up to now I’ve always rated Glossop Caravans 10 out of 10… and supported them on various forums, but I’m disappointed… to the point of feeling let down. I don’t know how much this service is going to cost… (even my LR Freelander main dealer tells me that!) and I just hope there are no other issues with the service. At the moment I think that I’ll have to downgrade the score now and probably next time, I think that the servicing will be done by one of the small independents. At least they are happy to balance your wheels and when I pick up the caravan on Wednesday….. I’ll go and get the wheels balances by one of the local tyre fitting companies.

So, ask your dealer if he balances caravan wheels… if he says no ask if he is willing to remove the wheel weights off his car as he obviously must not think they are required.

I’ll let you know the weights added to each wheel next week!

Thanks for reading