al ko torsion bars.

Discussion in 'Tech/Mech General' started by ed gregory, Apr 4, 2012.

  1. ed gregory

    ed gregory Read Only Funster

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    In August 2011 my wife and I left home in our Autotrail Mohican and caught the Dublin ferry to Holyhead. We were heading to the Alps and Italy, stopping off with friends in Norfolk along the way.
    A week later we bade farewell to our friends and, after an all day drive from Norwich to the Dover Road Park n Ride outside Canterbury, we pitched for the night and had dinner. We were due to catch the Dover to Dunkirk ferry the next morning. About 2.30am we were awoken by an almighty crash and the van lurched. At first we thought someone had driven into us, I had a good look outside and could see nothing untoward. We settled down again, hardly able to sleep when an hour later it happened again. I thought that it might be the van moving in gear against the handbrake so I pressed the clutch in and the van banged down onto her rear offside bump stop, she was way down on one side.
    After a sleepless night I inspected the damage, obviously we had broken rear springs on the driver’s side. What do I do? I was in a quandary. Do I drive onto the ferry with broken springs and get it fixed in France or head home? I decided on the latter as I had no doubt this was serious and was going to cost a small fortune to repair. We cancelled our bookings and moved as much as we could to the other side of the van and headed for home.
    Nine hours, and 380 miles later we pulled into Holyhead docks and caught the first ship to Dublin. The drive was quiet and relatively uneventful except, with the van now down fully on her bump stop, the rear tyre had rubbed through the plastic wheel arch and the torrential rain had soaked the floor inside the kitchen cupboard, this was all I needed!!!
    Once home a lot of internet research was carried out and to my horror I found that my van is fitted with a German AlKo Kober torsion bar axle containing 3 round bars in each side. Earlier models (pre 97) have flat bars clamped together and cannot be repaired so a new axle is required; some owners have paid more than £2,000 for a new one, not including fitting!
    I considered myself lucky in that the round bars can be replaced, but who in Northern Ireland could do it? I phoned many dealers and was met with the same reaction, “sorry we can’t do that sort of work”. As a reasonably competent mechanic I even considered doing the job myself until I found out from Alko that special tools and presses are required. Hagan’s of Ballyclare were my saviours. After talking to their service department I was assured the job could be done so I placed an order for 6 torsion bars at £60 each, Alko recommend replacing them all, and I agreed.
    A few weeks later they arrived and I paid £358 for them! Now all I had to do was get them fitted. Hagan’s couldn’t do the repair either but their service manager suggested a competent mechanic and my van was booked in.
    One week later I collected my pride and joy from Hagan’s and was immediately struck by just how much higher she now sits on the road, a good 3 inches on each side, she looked great. It seems that 2 bars were broken on the driver’s side and bone dry, if the third one had broken then the whole wheel/ hub assembly could have fallen out. I drove home another £400 lighter and couldn’t believe the transformation, she had never driven so well. I had already fitted new rear shock absorbers from Alko but the bars must have been on their way out for years; evidence of which I gained from looking at old holiday photographs. As my van is only 10 years old, well maintained, never fully laden and only covered 50,000 miles I was interested to find a reason for the failure. It transpires that this torsion bar setup requires very diligent maintenance indeed and many mechanics are unaware of this. The van needs to be jacked up twice a year, (not the axle) till the wheels are clear of the ground, (something to do with allowing the grease free passage round the bars), then copious amounts of grease needs to be pumped in. The manuals say 10 or 12 pumps but I don’t believe this is enough. It seems that inside the axle the bars can come into contact with each other as they twist, this grease is required to provide lubrication, I pump the grease in till I see it emerging from the swing arm seal/bush. From now on I will be diligently following this regime, especially before long trips.
    Over the years I have seen many larger vans with this suspension setup and sagging badly at the rear, owners should now be aware of the reasons and not just put this sagging down to weak torsion bars, they could be broken and very dangerous indeed, even with air assistance. I have been assured that these bars hold the whole wheel assembly in place!!!
     
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  2. dave newell lvs

    dave newell lvs Trader-Vehicle Services

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    I have to ask why you didn't call your breakdown service when it went bang? Driving for 380 miles with busted suspension was plain daft and potentially very dangerous if the last bar had snapped on the motorway you could have lost the wheel and crashed! You must have driven within a few miles of AlKo in Warwickshire on your way to Holy head and their are plenty of workshops in England that could have fixed it.

    D.
     
  3. ed gregory

    ed gregory Read Only Funster

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    Thanks

    Well thank you very much Dave for the wonderful welcome to my first post on this website. Thanks for your very curt but unhelpful reply to my tale of woe, it must be great to possess your high degree of professional hindsight, your sympathy was overwhelming to say the least. I will certainly think twice before posting any more messages on this site in case I offend anyone else, obviously I am on the wrong website. Please accept my apologies.
    Ed
     
  4. dave newell lvs

    dave newell lvs Trader-Vehicle Services

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    Well I'm sorry if the truth hurts Mr Gregory! I read your initial posting three times before I replied but for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would drive 380 miles with knowingly broken suspension to a small island with few workshops when you were on a large island with plenty of workshops! I'm sorry if this offends you, it isn't intended to it's just the truth. To you it was a tale of woe, to me it was a tale of questionable logic and major risk taking, not just for you but for every other road user you passed on your journey. Surely occurrences like this are why we have breakdown cover?

    D.
     
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  5. Johns_Cross_Motorhomes

    Johns_Cross_Motorhomes Trader - Motorhome & Accessory Sales

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    Hi Ed,

    Dave meant no insult to you, the alko greasing is not done very well if at all by some workshops as you have found out and it is good that you have again brought it to Fun members attention but as Dave said, breakdown cover would have got you home safely.

    If you had joined Fun before this sad event and posted about the problem, many of us would have posted back with seasoned advice and you could always have called into us if not on breakdoewn.

    Peter
     
  6. vwalan

    vwalan Funster

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    hi i remember years ago alot of these axles got sent out with no greasing at all. they were snapping bars all over the place . .i would have thought every garage servicing these would know about their greasing schedule . seems this one as had bad servicing for along time.
    many broke while still under warranty. i know of several that got changed free of charge to customers . as dave says its a shame op didnt realise alko were on his way home bet they would have done him a good deal.
     
  7. hdvrod

    hdvrod Read Only Funster

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    how many other makes have these torsion bars fitted?
     
  8. meexi

    meexi Read Only Funster

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    Hi Guys,

    Sorry to jump on this thread but does anybody have a diagram or parts list for a Alko Tag Axle as fitted to my Hymer as i think the bearings have seized?
     
  9. vwalan

    vwalan Funster

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    hi. can you not remove the bearings look on them for numbers or measure them . a bearing specialist will either have them or get them rapid i would have thought. dont forget any seals as well.
     
  10. meexi

    meexi Read Only Funster

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    Yes i can do that but i like to get a `heads up` to see if there is any pitfalls.

    What i think is wrong is that the axles have never been greased properly and there is a build up of dry grease stopping the fresh grease doing it`s job.
     
  11. dave newell lvs

    dave newell lvs Trader-Vehicle Services

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    If its actually the trailing arm movement from the axle that has seized then a new axle is required I believe. I did manage to free one off a couple of years ago but it took about four hours with oxy acetylene torch, WD40, grease and a big jack and lever.

    D.
     
  12. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    Let me get this right................People choose to buy vehicles with the Alco chassis :RollEyes:
     
  13. Reallyretired

    Reallyretired Funster

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    They do have their good points, low floor, longer wheelbase etc. Just need a bit of maintenance. I don't currently have one but had in the past.
     
  14. Snowbird

    Snowbird Funster Life Member

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    I was always more than a little apprehensive about the Alco chassis. Firstly they chop off the original chassis just behind the main load bearing area ie the cab. Then weld a plate onto the original chassis and then bolt there chassis to this plate. Good lord it sounds more like a cut and shut at this stage. They then proceed to put a suspension system on the rear which no one only themselves understands and requires constant greasing and maintenance. Correct me if am wrong but I was under the impression that grease guns and grease nipples went out with the ark, I am constantly being informed that we have moved on in the automotive industry and now use greased for life parts which are sealed for life.
    After all this malarkey they then tell you not to drill there chassis or fit a tow bar to it or you will invalidate your warranty as the chassis will rust away like a 60s Vauxaul.
     
  15. hdvrod

    hdvrod Read Only Funster

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    Totally agree with you!
     
  16. Xabia

    Xabia Funster

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    The point is that the Alko system is much more advanced that the 'cart' springs fitted to the standard chassis. Suspension is semi-independent giving a more comfortable ride and lower vehicle height has to be good for cornering stability.

    Only has to be greased once a year so I don't see this as a major problem.

    You can fit a towbar, the holes are already there for mounting, they just tell you not to drill the chassis.

    I have had one motorhome with leaf springs, 3 with Alko and when I change again I will only buy one with the Alko chassis. Never had any problems at all with mine.
     
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  17. Forestboy

    Forestboy Funster Life Member

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    Blimey I would'nt call 50p worth of grease once a year high maintenance I wish thats all I'd had to do to the Merc's I've owned:Eeek::Eeek: a small mortgage evrytime they go in the garage which in my case was more time than they spent on the road.
     
  18. ciderman

    ciderman Funster

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    my alko tag is sealed for life no grease nipples alko tell me there is no need for them on the air suspension axle but they will not say what life is:Eek!:
     
  19. phil1946

    phil1946 Funster

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  20. meexi

    meexi Read Only Funster

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    Got them all

    She is going in for her MOT on Saturday we shall see if she passes:cry:
     
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