How to load your van
Q: I purchased my 2004 Ford Escape XLT V6 new and have done 158,000km in it since. I have also serviced it religiously in accordance with the logbook.
In late-2009 it developed a shudder when driven at about 1500 revs or 75-80km/h.
The number four coil was replaced at the 150,000 km service, but the problem persisted, so I took the car to the Ford dealer and they diagnosed that the number four coil was faulty.
After I informed them that this was replaced previously they then decided that the number four cylinder was the prob- lem and the engine should be removed, head shaved etc. and repairs carried out.
Three weeks and $6652.80 later, I had mycar back.
Despite my protests they maintain the costs were correct.
I complained to Ford and also suggested that the vehicle must have been defective for such an extensive repair to be needed, but they supported their dealer.
Do you think that Ford has ripped me off? I amappalled atmytreatment.
A: You don’t say who replaced the coil in the first instance, but when it showed up as a problem again soon after I would have first checked that the coil had been replaced.
Next, I would have asked for a diagnosis of the problem that pointed to a problem with the number four-cylinder before I had them pull the engine down.
If you want to pursue the issue get an itemised copy of the invoice and have a trusted mechanic go over it and give you an opinion on the charges. Armed with that information you could then think about going to your state consumer affairs people for their help. Before you hit the road on the trip of a lifetime in your new SUV, towing your new caravan, it’s best to bone up on how to safely load your caravan so your dream drive doesn’t end up a nightmare.
Start by finding out what your car will safely tow. All carmakers publish the maximum towing load their cars will haul down the highway.
Remember, that load is the total load, not just the weight of the caravan or trailer. You also have to factor in everything you plan to load into the caravan or trailer, which can easily put you over the maximum towing load if you’re not careful.
You also have to be careful not to exceed the maximumtowball weight.
That’s the weight bearing down on the towball, and it’s generally about 10 percent of the total weight of the caravan or trailer when loaded.
Too much weight on the towball puts too much weight on the rear wheels and not enough on the front, which can affect the steering, braking and road holding and make the car and caravan hard to control.
It pays to check the ball weight for your car –in your owner’s manual – as it does vary.
Australian caravans are generally designed to have a towball weight of between eight and 15 per cent of the caravan’s weight.
Modern caravans have the ball weight stamped on the trailer plate that is fitted to each unit. Loading the caravan can affect the ball weight. Place heavy items over the axle and not at the extremes of the caravan or trailer.
It’s a good idea to load your caravan and trailer a week or two before to leave on your trip, so you know all is well when you do hit the road.
Set the vehicle and caravan up the way you plan to have it on your trip and head to the nearest weighbridge where you will be able to weigh the caravan and also check the towball weight by measuring the load on the jockey wheel.