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.

MaxTurn­bull, e-mail.

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.

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