Bailey ALKO Axle Problem

UPDATE

A copy of an email was published on Bailey UK Owners Facebook page on 9th March 2018. It seems to suggest that Bailey are now addressing the axle problem IF REPORTED, however I am not sure of the veracity of the source. Despite this apparent acknowledgement of an axle issue, Bailey have subsequently still refused to repair some axles on the basis of overloading or pothole damage. There seems to be no logic to who gets a FOC replacement and who doesn’t.

I have received some reports that when weighed empty, some Bailey caravans exceed the permitted laden weight. So it may pay to check!

The Problem

It seems that there is barely a week goes by on the Bailey forums where some poor owner does not post that they have had the dreaded Bailey Alko Axle problem and been told by Bailey that it is their fault, because they overloaded their van ‘at some time’.

The axle on our 2-year-old Vigo collapsed and were told exactly that. We KNEW that we had never overloaded our van. As a scientist and former Road Haulage Manager, our knowledge and experience put us in a rather unique position to question Bailey, however.

We put together the information below to support our case and informed Bailey that we would take them to the Small Claims Court and “Publicise our plight via every media available to us.”  We paid for the repair up front to expedite the return of our caravan (I have heard of warranty issues taking months to resolve.) Nevertheless, Bailey eventually agreed to replace our axle free of charge. It came without apology and with careful avoidance of any mention of ‘warranty’ or even ‘goodwill’ which could suggest fault on their part!

I have shared this information with a number of people who found themselves in the same position with Bailey. Bailey’s first stance is always to blame the customer (‘overloading at some time’ or ‘hitting a pothole at some time’) but I am pleased to say that in every case, the axle was ultimately replaced free of charge when the customer challenged Bailey.

Therefore, if you find yourself in this unfortunate position, I hope that the information here will be helpful. My advice is to be persistent. The axle problem is common and personally, I believe that it is something that Bailey should address. I find it difficult to believe that it is the fault of countless careless owners overloading their vans. C’mon Bailey. Play fair. That’s all we ask.

Spotting the Problem

Our new axle has a clearance from the wheel arch of 6cm on the nearside and 5.5cm on the offside. From the day we purchased our caravan with the old axle, it rode very low; to the extent that a knowledgeable friend suggested that we may struggle to change the wheel, as there was so little clearance. We dismissed it at the time, thinking that perhaps it was the design and the wheel would drop when jacked up. Oh, how foolish we were!

Dealing with the Problem

Bulleted and numbered information is a good and organised way to lay out your case. It makes it easy to refer to specific sections.

The Small Claims Court is a simple and inexpensive method of making a claim for money against a company or individual. It is my belief that any company would be very reluctant to risk having a judgement made against them in the Small Claims Court. If this happened to Bailey, it could open the floodgates of claims on axle issues. The Citizens Advice Bureau also has a useful guide to using the Small Claims Court on its website.

I was also prepared to contact Consumer programs such as the BBC’s ‘Rip Off Britain’ (Send your story to ripoffbritain@bbc.co.uk) and Watchdog (for contact form, click here) I have also written to The National Caravan Council to see if they will take action, but have yet to receive a reply.

How I Approached my Claim

Below is a copy of the evidence that I prepared and sent to Bailey ahead of potential action through the Small Claims Court. The sections which you may find most helpful are Section F; The Limitations of Portable Weighbridges and Appendix 1, which lists numerous examples of Bailey customers who have experienced the exact same axle problem. Enlisting the help of an independent engineer is also helpful (Section G.3.).

Introduction – The Companies

Bailey of Bristol

“Founded in 1948, Bailey Caravans is the longest established UK manufacturer with over sixty years experience in caravan design and production.

During this period it has grown to become not only the UK’s number one caravan brand, accounting for approximately one in three new caravan sales, but also now one of the largest in Europe.

We are now looking to bring this same level of expertise to the motorhome market as well as expanding our operations abroad.”

We purchased a top of the range caravan from the UK’s largest manufacturer in the hope that it would mean that we would have trouble free touring.

AL-KO Kober

“Since 1931, AL-KO Kober have been manufacturing premium, high quality components used in the Automotive, Commercial and Leisure industry.

Quality For Life – represents the core value of the organisation across the extensive range of products manufactured by AL-KO in all our business areas.

The extensive range of chassis components, premium accessories and spare parts are engineered to last, ensuring whatever product you have purchased, you will benefit from the generations of development and enjoy a lifetime of service.”

Most caravans in the UK are built on AL-KO chassis, so if there are inherent problems, it is difficult to avoid!

Contents

A.      Our Case
B.      Timeline
C.      Our Experience and Background
D.      The Accusation of Overloading
E.       Why We Disagree with the Accusation of Overloading
F.       The Limitations of Portable Weighbridges
G.     Is the Caravan Fit for Purpose?
H.     Can the Dealer Prove that the Problem was Not There When we Bought the Caravan?
I.        The Consequences and Impact
J.        Will the Problem Simply Occur Again After Repair?
Appendix 1 – Bailey Complaints Collected from the Internet as Evidence
Appendix 2 – Bailey ‘Trial of Strength’ Advertising

A. Our Case

  1. Our 2-year old Bailey Unicorn Vigo 3 Caravan requires a new axle, because the swing arms on the axle had collapsed to the extent that the wheel rubbed a hole in the offside wheel box. We believe that the £1000 cost of the repair should be covered under warranty. We purchased the 1 year old caravan from a Dealer at a cost of almost £20,000.
  2. On discovering the damage to the axle, the Dealer immediately stated that it was our fault. They claimed that the warranty was invalid because the caravan was overloaded. This accusation of overloading came before the caravan was even weighed. The position of the manufacturer (Bailey of Bristol) is also an accusation of overloading. (See Section D)
  3. We take the allegation of overloading seriously, since it would mean that we had been breaking the law by towing an overweight vehicle.
  4. Bailey and the Dealer claim that their accusation of overloading is supported by the caravan being shown to be 98kg overweight when weighed by AL-KO, the axle manufacturer, on a portable weighbridge at the Dealer’s site.
  5. We do not agree that the weighing by AL-KO is valid;
    1. We have asked for, but not received, proof that the portable weighbridge was used fully in compliance the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) Code of Practice for enforcement weighing of vehicles (Section F)
    2. A portable weighbridge is not sufficiently accurate to measure a 98kg overload either legally or scientifically. (Section F)
    3. Since a portable weighbridge cannot be used to enforce a 98kg overload, we assert that it is also not an adequate basis on which to invalidate a warranty. (Section F)
    4. To further disprove the accusation of overloading, we used a calibrated scale to weigh every item of contents that had been in the caravan when weighed by AL-KO. The weight of the contents did not exceed the payload. This is further proof that the caravan was not overloaded and the warranty should be honoured. (Section E)
    5. The caravan has not been overloaded at any time during our ownership and we can demonstrate a very strong balance of probability that we took incredible care with loading to ensure that we complied with the law. (See Sections C, E & F)
    6. We have evidence that many Bailey caravans have experienced exactly the same axle problems and that Bailey avoids claims under warranty by using the difficult-to-prove-or-disprove accusation of overloading ‘at some time.’ (Section G)
    7. In our case, however, it has been asserted that the caravan was overloaded at a specific time ie when weighed at the Dealer’s. We have shown clearly that it was NOT overloaded at this time and that it is, in fact, the method of measurement of the weight using a portable weighbridge that is inaccurate. (Sections E & F)
    8. Research online suggests a fundamental design fault with the axle of the Bailey Unicorn Vigo model and that Bailey are, perhaps, dodging the issue. (Section G)
      1. A manufacturer would obviously be keen to avoid extensive liability / recall.
      2. We would like proof that the caravan is fit for purpose.
      3. We tour extensively and feel that our lives have potentially been put at risk.
      4. We stand accused of breaking the law!
      5. We are concerned that we will experience the danger and inconvenience of the same problem again once the caravan has been repaired.
  6. An independent engineer, Fraser Brown, who has dealt with many such axle failures on Bailey caravans said that even if the caravan had been overloaded, 98kg should not cause the axle to fail in this way and that if it did, the axle is not fit for purpose. (Section G)
  7. To put the alleged overload in context, 98kg is the weight of a person. (My husband weighs 98kg.)
  8. The Dealer cannot prove that the axle problem was not already there when they sold us the caravan. This alone is a reason why they should honour the warranty. (Section H)

B. Timeline

This is a chronological list of dates and key events such as when we first became aware of the axle problem (a severe leak) and several trips to the Dealer, who failed to spot the cause of the problem, then conversations with Bailey Engineers. I have not included this here as it is lengthy and relevant only to our case, however, I recommend including a timeline of events if you are going to Court. 

C. Our Experience & Background

  1. Our experience and background is rather uniquely suited to disputing this case.
  2. We have a full, professional understanding of the concept of payloads as well as the practicalities and legalities and of correct vehicle loading. We also fully understand scientific methodology.
  3. Our relevant experience and qualifications are;
    1. Mark
      1. A 35-year career spent running a fleet of 100 trucks for a large, multi-national company.
      2. Holder of CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) for both National and International Road Haulage.
      3. Was the ‘O’ (Operator) licence-holder for Heathrow and large parts of the South of England, with accountability for six depots.
      4. Passed ROSPA Advanced Driving Course, Defensive Driving Course and is qualified to assess lorry drivers and train them in defensive driving techniques.
      5. Holds an LGV class 1 licence for driving 44T articulated vehicles.
    2. Jackie
      1. BSc (Hons) degree in Biochemistry, which gives a comprehensive understanding of scientific measurement, methodology and its limitations.
      2. Undertook and passed a Practical Caravanning Course run by the Caravan Club in June 2016. This 2 day course covered loading (both permitted payload and correct load distribution specific to caravans) and all the legalities of towing.

D. The Accusation of Overloading

  1. From the moment the problem with the axle was identified by the Dealer, we were straight away accused of overloading the caravan.
  2. The Dealer’s Maintenance Manager stated on two occasions that he thought the vehicle was overloaded because it ‘felt heavy to push around the yard’.
    1. We suggested that this ‘feeling’ might be more to do with the fact that the axle was damaged and the wheel rubbing on the wheel arch, since friction on a wheel is the principle behind a braking system!
    2. The Maintenance Manager simply dismissed that suggestion.
    3. It seems that the lads in the yard are very well calibrated. They claim to be able to detect a suggested 98kg (7%) overload when several of them were pushing a 1.5 tonne vehicle. The overload they ‘felt’ would be 7% divided by the number of people pushing; usually 2 or 3, so the overload ‘felt’ is very slight!
  3. The AL-KO engineer inspected the vehicle on Monday 22nd May and told us that the results from his portable weighbridge showed that the vehicle was 98kgs overweight and as such the damage to the axle would not be covered under warranty.
  4. As stated in the timeline, we wrote to Bailey stating that we did not agree that the caravan was overloaded and set out our arguments for disputing their findings.
  5. Bailey’s response was a pre-arranged phonecall from one of their engineers;
    1. The engineer had not troubled to prepare, stating that our written complaint was “a bit long-winded” so he had not bothered to read it and had not considered any of the points that we had made.
    2. The Engineer’s objective was simply an attempt to find new and innovative ways in which we could have overloaded the caravan. “Is there a motor mover fitted?” No. “You haven’t included your clothes.” We have. “ALL the contents are part of the payload!” We know. etc.
    3. Having failed to further the accusation of overloading, the Engineer then referred to the weighing by AL-KO and stated that this was empirical. The caravan was weighed. It was overloaded. The warranty invalid. That was that.
    4. We tried to explain the limitations of portable weighbridges that we had covered in our letter (see Section F.) The Engineer was not interested and simply talked over us. He told us that he had never heard of the DVSA Code of Practice for Portable Weighbridges, but was nevertheless unerringly confident that it would not apply to AL-KO’s portable weighbridge, which was somehow a special case.
    5. We said that an independent engineer had suggested that even if the caravan had been 98kg overweight, that would not be sufficient to cause such damage to the axle. Bailey’s Engineer said that an overload of 1kg would cause the axle to fail! The assertion that a small bottle of water is sufficient to cause an axle to fail was so ludicrous and the conversation so pointless that we ended it.

E. Why we Disagree with the Accusation of Overloading

  1. Our background (Section C) means that we have a very comprehensive understanding of vehicle loading limits and how to distribute loads.
  2. We knew that there was a 154kg payload from the day we collected the vehicle.
  3. We weighed every individual item that we planned to carry in the caravan when we bought it, even teaspoons. We compiled a spreadsheet of the combined weights.
    1. The weight of the contents was just over half of the payload.
    2. The spreadsheet is dated as last updated on the 6th May 2016, which only serves to emphasise the care we took with loading the caravan when we bought it.
    3. We distributed the weight evenly, keeping heavier items close to the axle, in line with recommendations.
  4. We measured the nose weight of the caravan at this time and have photographic date- and time-stamped evidence that we did so.
  5. Our only tow vehicle is a 3.5 tonne panel van. With all this carrying space and capacity in the van, we have no need to even consider overloading the caravan. We remove all heavy items from the caravan before we travel. Every time we tow.
  6. We were so sure that the caravan was not overloaded that, following the accusation of overloading, we returned to The Dealer to weigh each item of the caravan contents individually.
    1. We used a postal scale, which although not calibrated, we deemed to be reasonably accurate for small weights and the best option available to us at the time.
    2. To prove that we weighed everything that was in the caravan;
      1. We photographed all the contents at the same time as photographing the empty caravan to give time- and date-stamped evidence that the caravan was fully empty.
      2. After weighing each item in the caravan, we asked one of the Dealer’s Employees to verify that the caravan was empty.
      3. The Employee then selected some items at random, which she verified were all recorded on our list.
      4. We re-weighed the chosen items in front of her and the Employee verified that the weights of the selected items matched those that we had recorded.
      5. Since we had expected to be without the caravan for only 3 days for its service, we had returned to the Dealer to collect some clothes from the caravan. We brought all of these back when we weighed the contents. Clearly, either judging us by his own standards or accusing us of being dishonest, the Dealer’s Engineer said that he would have removed everything before re-weighing the contents. We said that we hadn’t, as we are honest, but nevertheless, removing nearly 100kg of clothes in the couple of carrier bags that they saw us take from site a few days before would be a tall order.
  7. The weight of the entire contents when weighed was under the permitted payload of 154kgs, even though this included some heavy items (the wheel and hitch locks and outdoor chairs) which we normally transport in the van, but had left in the caravan while it was in for its service.
  8. We subsequently purchased our own set of postal scales with a calibrated weight with which we could verify the accuracy of the scales used at the Dealer’s. We re-weighed all of the contents on the calibrated scale. This once again proved that the weight of the contents is less than the payload. The difference between the weight of the contents measured on the calibrated scale was within 500g of the previous measurement – and actually showed the contents to be lighter.
  9. We can state categorically, without even the slightest doubt in our mind, that this vehicle has never been driven above the weight limit while in our ownership and assert that it was NOT overloaded when it was weighed.

F. The Limitations of Portable Weighbridges

  1. AL-KO weighed the caravan on a portable weighbridge.
  2. It is on this evidence that AL-KO, the Dealer and Bailey base their accusation that we overloaded the caravan by 98kg and claim that our warranty is invalid.
  3. As stated in Section E, we do not agree that the caravan was overloaded at the time it was weighed.
  4. DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) has a published “Code of Practice for enforcement weighing of vehicles”.
  5. Section 3.5 of the Code of Practice sets out the requirements for portable weighbridges. The pertinent points are;
    1. “Before weighing of vehicles commences, the authorised officer must ensure that the designated weighing area has been tested for levels compliance in the preceding 12 months.”
    2. the accuracy limits of portable weighpads is +/- 100 kg per axle, with a consequential accuracy limit on gross/train weights of +/- 100 kg multiplied by the number of axles on the vehicle: compensating axles are to be assessed as a combined weight (applying the +/- 100 kg accuracy limit for each axle included)”
    1. We have asked for, but not received, a copy of the calibration certificate for the portable weighbridge and confirmation that the weighing was carried out fully in accordance with this Code of Practice; eg that the weighing area had been tested for levels compliance.
    2. This Government document states that portable weighbridges have an accuracy of +/- 100kg per axle. We therefore assert that that this is not a sufficiently accurate instrument on which to base a claim against us of overloading our single axle caravan by 98kg.
    3. Given that we weighed the contents and showed that the payload was NOT exceeded and that the claim of a 98kg overload falls within the error margins of the weighing instrument used by AL-KO, we believe that the claim of overloading is invalid and the repair to the axle should be covered under warranty.

G. Is the Caravan is Fit for Purpose?

  1. A Design Fault?

A brief search on the internet indicates that failure of the Al-Ko axle and holes in the wheel box of Bailey caravans are not an uncommon problem.

  1. The problems seem to occur mostly, but not exclusively, on the Vigo model.
  2. One Vigo was reported as suffering the same failure when only 2 months old. (Appendix 1 section 2.1)
  3. There is a suggestion that there is a fault in the design of the Vigo model, with all the heavy items such as the sink, oven, water pump and heating system located on the offside, where the problem occurred most severely.
  4. There is also a suggestion that there is an ongoing dispute between AL-KO and Bailey that the wheel arches on Bailey caravans do not have adequate clearance.
  5. The weight of feeling with Bailey owners who have suffered problems is such that  there has been a call for the Admin. of the Bailey UK Owners Facebook Group to contact the press and organise a mass protest at the Bailey of Bristol factory or to boycott their stand at the Motorhome and Caravan Show!
  6. Anecdotally, we have heard on several forums that a number of dealers have stopped supplying Bailey caravans due to the high incidence of faults on Bailey caravans. (See Appendix 1 section 3.4)
  7. Again, anecdotally, we have heard that Bailey employ agency workers and cannot keep up with supply, this is perhaps a reason that the build quality has suffered. Certainly, Bailey are keen to expand into new markets such as Europe and Australia.  (See Appendix 1 section 3.4)
  8. A couple of years ago, there was a recall on Bailey caravans due to the wheels falling off the AL-KO axles!
  9. Many makes of caravan ride on AL-KO axles, yet this problem seems to be prevalent on Bailey caravans and particularly the Vigo model, although a gentleman who contacted me through Facebook stated that when he took his Cadiz into the workshop, there were around 9 other Cadiz models undergoing the same axle repair.

2. Convenient Excuses from Bailey & The Dealer to Avoid Liability

  1. All of the Bailey owners who have suffered the same axle problems as us have been accused of “overloading at some time.”
  2. It strikes us that a manufacturer dealing with a significant number of potential warranty issues, an accusation of overloading “at some time” is conveniently difficult to prove or disprove. However, fortunately for us, they accused us of overloading at a specific time, which we were able to demonstrate was incorrect.
  3. The other commonly found difficult-to-prove-or-disprove accusation against these owners is ‘pothole damage’. Thankfully that tactic has not yet been used on us and before it is, we can give assurance that we have not had any incidents with potholes.
  4. Contact with many Bailey owners with varying problems (damp ingress is another common problem with Bailey caravans) shows that Bailey’s first stance seems to be to blame the customer.
  5. Most owners would not have our level of experience and knowledge in order to challenge the dealer and manufacturer, who claimed that weighing is final and empirical.
  6. Bailey also seemed determined to set before us the impossible Labours of Hercules.
    1. Their Engineer said that the only way we could disprove their allegation of overloading was to weigh the caravan both empty and loaded on a calibrated, fixed weighbridge.
    2. Clearly, with a caravan deemed unroadworthy, this was not possible for us, either legally or practically, since we cannot tow a caravan with a damaged and unroadworthy axle to a weighbridge.
    3. We believe that weighing the contents on a calibrated scale negates the need to do this in any case.
    4. We asked, but have not yet had an answer as to whether Bailey weigh each individual caravan when it is manufactured, or simply assume that identical caravans would all have identical and rather specific ‘dry weights’ of 1346kg. Anecdotally, we have heard of Bailey owners weighing empty caravans on public weighbridges and finding that the empty van was overweight.
  1. Independent Advice from Fraser Brown Engineering

    1. We have spoken to an independent engineer, Fraser Brown Engineering, who is experienced with many cases of similar AL-KK axle problems.
    2. When we explained the situation, he said that even if the vehicle had been 98kgs overweight, it is “laughable” and “an insult to your intelligence” to suggest this to be the cause of axle damage, since axles are over-engineered and there would be a sensible margin before such catastrophic damage would occur.
    3. He has offered to write us a report to support our case should it prove necessary.
  2. Trial of Strength

    1. Bailey’s own advertising campaign ‘Trial of Strength’ shows a Bailey caravan with a car and a person on its roof, stating that it is strong enough to support a weight of 1600kg.
    2. If, as stated by Bailey’s Engineer, a 1kg overload or the 7% overload of which we are accused can cause the axle to fail when towing, is this not a breach of Advertising Standards as well as a suggestion that the caravan is unfit for purpose?
    3. The caravan is a 4 berth touring caravan, so to be fit for purpose needs to cope with extensive towing. Then, it must be capable of withstanding the weight of 4 people and all their belongings when pitched. My husband weighs 98kg; the weight of occupants alone could be nearly 500kg.
  3. Why us?

    1. There is always the chance of a faulty batch of materials. However, the problems seem widespread in Bailey Vigo caravans in a way that suggests a more endemic cause.
    2. Most owners use their caravan for only a few weeks a year. Perhaps Bailey can attempt to ignore the large number of axle problems because, with the usual light use, they tend not to occur until after the warranty has expired.
    3. We toured in our caravan for 9 months in 2016. If the fault was not there when we bought it, perhaps this heavy use precipitated the fault earlier than expected?
    4. The fault did not become evident until the caravan was towed in the rain; conditions in which most people would avoid using their caravan. It may be that the problem simply does not become evident to many owners.
    5. A Bailey owner who contacted me via Facebook said that he had been told by a Bailey salesman that the caravans are designed to be used for only 3 weeks in a year.

H. Can The Dealer Prove that the Problem Was Not There When we Bought the Caravan?

  1. The leak caused by the axle problems manifested itself only when we drove in the rain, so it did not become evident to us until 6 months after purchasing the vehicle.
  2. The Dealer did not find the problem when they ‘thoroughly inspected’ the vehicle looking for a specific problem identified on the offside of the vehicle.
  3. As such, I do not believe that they would have found the issue during any pre-delivery inspections.
  4. We seem to have been given different stories as to why the caravan we bought was returned to the dealer when only a year old. While we do not like to make such accusations, sadly, this has raised concerns in our minds that the Dealer could possibly have known that there was a problem with the caravan. It is a problem that may not become evident until after the warranty had expired, or, once sold, there is then always the possibility of blaming the problem on an accusation of overloading by the new owner.
  5. At nearly £20,000 the caravan was not an inexpensive item and we have spent well in excess of this in cash with The Dealer on the purchase of the caravan and accessories. We bought from a Dealer to give us peace of mind.
  6. Leaks of this type appear to be a known problem on Bailey caravans, but The Dealer claimed to be unaware of it.
  7. We would like The Dealer to prove that the vehicle was problem-free when we purchased it and take liability for the repair, which as stated above, we feel should be covered under warranty in any case.

I. The Consequences & Impact

  1. Accusation of Breaking the Law

    1. The accusation of overloading is an accusation against us of breaking the law, which is a very serious allegation to make.
  2. Danger to Life

    1. The caravan clearly had a problem in November 2016 when it was inspected by the Dealer, who declared it to be fault free.
    2. We are extremely concerned that we have been driving an unsafe and unroadworthy caravan for at least 6 months and possibly since we purchased the caravan a year ago.
    3. We crossed France last year, travelling several thousand miles. The leak we experienced was caused by the tyre rubbing on the wheel arch. Damage to the tyre could cause a blow-out. If this happened on a motorway, it could have been much more than an inconvenience, with real potential for loss of life.
  3. The inconvenience of being denied the use of our caravan for a month.

    1. We rented out our house and tour in the caravan in the summer and stay in our Italian ski apartment in winter. We have had nowhere to live in the UK while the caravan has been in for repair. We have had to rely on the goodwill of friends and family for places to stay. Having retired early, we live on our savings, so we can’t afford hotels etc.
    2. We have four dogs, which makes finding accommodation challenging.
    3. We have had to postpone and cut short our trip-of-a-lifetime to Europe, which we had timed to coincide with meeting friends. Our planned departure date was 12th June 2017, our actual departure was 28th June 2017.
    4. We have lost deposits on UK caravan sites that we had pre-booked and were charged to re-arrange our ferry crossing.
    5. We had to arrange alternative accommodation for the National Watersports Festival. We had promised to act as volunteer helpers and did not wish to let down the organisers, although we had to cut short the length of time for which we could offer our voluntary help.
  4. Stress

    1. We chose a lifestyle that would avoid stressful situations. The stress of dealing with this situation has been very unhelpful.
  5. Cost

    1. We have had to pay for the repair and arrange alternative accommodation.
    2. We had hoped that the caravan would give us many years of reliable service. However, we no longer trust the caravan and have looked into changing it for one which does not ride on an Al-Ko axle. Unfortunately, it appears that we are stuck with it, since the cost of changing it is prohibitive.
      1. The quoted trade-in value of our caravan is now £4,695 less than the purchase price a year ago.
      2. Our awning, wheel locks, security devices and many of the extras would not fit another caravan and would cost several thousand pounds to replace.
      3. The overall cost of changing caravan would be around £10,000. More than half of the original purchase price a year ago!

J. Will The Same Problem Simply Occur Again After the Repair?

  1. Our worst fear is that, if there is a design fault, the caravan will be repaired but we will find ourselves in the same position next year; driving an unroadworthy and unsafe caravan, losing deposits on bookings, having to cancel or delay our proposed trips then being subjected to another costly repair and the stress of being blamed for overloading when we have been extremely careful and diligent to avoid doing so.

Appendix 1 – Evidence of Widespread Alko Axle Problems on Bailey Caravans

  1. Bailey Owners Club
    1. In 2017, the Alko axle problem had become so widespread that the Bailey Owners Club polled its members to identify the extent of the problem and planned to approach Bailey. I am not a member of the Club, so I am not aware of the outcome, but the fact that the Owners’ Club took up the issue with Bailey does rather highlight the prevalence of the problem and the level of concern.
    2. Copy of the email sent out to members by BOC;

      Your name – 

      Model of Caravan – Bailey Unicorn Vigo Series 3 (2015)

      Full chassis number as etched on the windows / in your service book – 

      Current issue or resolved issue – Resolved

      If resolved, how resolved – who paid to resolve the problem? – Bailey paid in full to replace the axle and wheel box after a bitter argument and threat of action through Small Claims, media and consumer groups.

      If current, what is the current status of your discussions? – Closed (but I am assisting others with the same axle problem.)

      Do you have an agreed close out / decision date? Closed

      Dealer who is handling your case. 

  2. Caravan Talk – Alko Axle Problems
    1. Hi We have a similar problem our caravan a Bailey Unicorn Vigo is only 2 months old and the wheel arch liner has split letting in water. This has been caused by the wheel rubbing on the liner as the gap is too small. It would appear the axle has dropped and AL-KO arrived today and are going to carry out an investigation. The wheel in question is on the offside where the kitchen units, cooker, microwave and water heater are positioned.
    2. There seems to have been a similar problem before.  See Suspected Al-Ko Suspension Problem
    3. Have noticed that my van when parked on level ground sits 2 cms lower on the O/S (have measured the distance between the top of the wheel arch to ground level) spoke to my dealer who thinks this acceptable because the cooker , fridge and Hot water tank are located on the O/S which would make it sit slightly lower .
      I not convinced and think the rubber bushes may be collapsing , the van was new 20 months ago so would this be covered under warranty ?
    4. Anyone had this problem? The nearside torsion arm is close to ejecting itself fron the axle tube because the upper of the three torsion rubbers has disappeared into the axle tube! Caravan at present with supplying dealer to be rectified under warranty (just in warranty!)
      I, personally have never heard of this happening with ALKO axles Seen it many times Donny in the 22 yrs ive been in the job , your not the first mate , the axle will need to be replaced as it an Alko job
    5. Its the offside with me. rubber is compressing because everything is on the offside, fridge, cooker, gas cylinders, shower, loo, not much thought of balance gone into the Pentland.
  3. Caravan Club – Alko Axle Problems
    1. Posted on 18/10/2016 14:25 Hello everyone, Have a Bailey unicorn Vigo, and yes we have just had to have a new axle fitted, £940 inc labour. Only had it 16months. We were told by the dealer it’s been overloaded, this is our third bailey and we have never had this issue, the side were the the cooker, microwave, gas bottles and water system is, had no clearance hardly above the tyre, having had the new axle fitted I have noticed that that same side as less of a gap than the door side, and the van is empty.
      The farther in law Also has a Vigo and it looks like he has got the same issue and Carrys little in the van, it looks like his may have dropped on the same side. It’s in for its first service at the beginning of November, so let’s see. Looks like a bad design on the unicorns, having the gas bottles over the axle, cooker, microwave and water and heating system.
    2. Posted on 31/10/2016 09:42 Didn’t Bailey move the gas bottle etc to try to counteract the heavy nose weight on the new AluTecs? It was an obvious ‘sensible’ move in loading terms but having all the heavies on one side must have been too much. It would be interesting to compare the offside and nearside weights. The axle as a unit might be OK but the weight distribution overloads one side, therefore Bailey’s are partly responsible, surely.
    3. Posted on 31/10/2016 20:38 We have a series 3 Vigo which now has to go back to the factory due to an axle problem. Our friends have an identical van which had to go back in the summer for the same problem. Bailey/Alko clearly have a problem and should accept responsibility. Why is the CC not taking it up on behalf of affected members? I have also had the thought about the position of the gas bottle.
    4. Posted on 24/02/2017 08:45 Our series 3 Unicorn Vigo was with Bailey for 3 months due to it’s broken axle. They also found water leak. Just trade it for a Coachman. A dealer who has given up selling Baileys told me he was fed up with the amount of warranty work. He said Bailey are employing agency workers rather than having their own committed people with years of experience.
  4. Bailey UK Owners  & Bailey Caravans R Us Facebook Forums
    1. A quick check on here (and other Bailey Forums) will bring to light countless examples of Bailey owners who have suffered the same problem with ALKO axles. The first stance of Bailey is always to accuse the customer of overloading.
  5. Caravan Times – ALKO Recall for Loose Wheels
    1. A  problem occurred with Bailey who issued a warning of wheels coming loose on some of their single-axle Unicorn caravans.

Appendix 2 – Bailey Trial of Strength Advertising

Bailey is very proud of the strength and build-quality of its caravans. Here are two examples of their own publicity which would seem to be rather misleading light of ours and others’ experience;

  1. Bailey ‘Trial of Strength – “Plus, as the icing on the cake, to show his confidence in his products Bailey Managing Director Nick Howard adds his weight to proceedings. A total load on the Alu-Tech body shell of 1,630kgs, a weight well in excess of the MPTLM of the caravan, putting Bailey Pegasus in a league of its own as regards strength and durability.”
  2. Arctic Adventure – Bailey took one of their caravans to the Arctic to prove its resilience.

For further caravan tips, click on Tips or to follow our travels, please check out the Trips section of my blog.

If you enjoy my blog, please ‘Follow’ me – that way, you will receive an email each time I publish a new episode or tip. Happy travels!

24 thoughts on “Bailey ALKO Axle Problem

  1. It is time there was an ombudsman to sort out Caravan manufacturers so that they cannot continue to rip off the public with their expensive, substandard and ill designed Caravans.

    Like

    1. Hi Robert – I agree. Somebody should bring the manufacturers to account. Unfortunately, that seems only to be us – the caravanning public – at the moment.

      I have contacted the NCC, the Industry body and I know of others who have contacted DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) about this problem, but there doesn’t seem to be any momentum to take action. The more of us who do so, however, the more likely it is that action will be taken.

      I find it shocking that in 21st Century Europe – with all the consumer protection that we have – you can spend £20K plus on a brand new caravan to find that you have saddled yourself with such major issues and no willingness on the part of the manufacturer to take responsibility and sort it out!

      If the Industry body or the Caravan Clubs are not prepared to take it on and bring manufacturers to account, I am really at a loss. All I can do is my own little bit to help those who have the same problem and try to make Bailey address the problem in a fair way. That is why I wrote this article. I also call on others to lobby those with influence in the industry, since this seems to be the only way that change will happen at the moment.

      Thanks for your comment and most of all, Happy Travels!

      Like

  2. Thanks for your report, well compiled, could come in handy !!!!
    I have A 2 year old Cadiz and just had mine replaced under warranty and yes, I was accused of overloading. My concern is, has this has now rectified the problem (not sure if I will ever get an honest answer from Bailey)
    or should I get shot asap and move to an alternative caravan manufacturer ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – I am so pleased that you found my article helpful – and that you had your axle replaced under warranty.

      You are in the same position as us; will the problem simply recur? We have decided to stick with our Bailey. As I said in my article, the cost of switching to another manufacturer was prohibitive (about £10K) and it was difficult to avoid ALKO axles! Only Knaus seem to use other chassis, although the Knaus model that we liked was also on an ALKO chassis!

      My logic is that if the problem recurs, we know what to look out for and how to tackle it. Better the devil you know… Unfortunately, moving to another manufacturer doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be problem free.

      I hope that this gives you some food for thought! Happy caravanning!

      Like

  3. Had the axle on my cadiz 2015 model changed 2 months ago on warranty. Luckily the dealer was very helpful and did not have the same fight you have had, although I did expect there would be. Before it was agreed they took the van to a local weigh bridge and it came-in below the mtplm, which I had increased at build to the maximum allowed i.e 1550kg . There does seem to be a problem with the axles as it has suddenly become a major talking point on forums; and it never was before. I also raised the point with the dealership about having 4 adults staying in the van and all their gear, raising the weight well above the max quoted , but did not receive an answer that really made sense to me. I also carry heavy items in my car and am now paranoid about weight and a repeat of the problem . Good luck

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bill – I am so pleased that you had a good outcome. There seems to be no consistency in who gets an axle changed under warranty and who doesn’t, so I am glad that you are one of the lucky ones!

      My understanding of MTPLM is that it is the maximum permitted weight when towing the caravan. (see http://www.tourerinfo.co.uk/payloads/) Clearly, the stresses on the axle will be much greater when towing – if you go over a bump, the 1.5 tonne weight of the caravan is magnified by the acceleration. (Energy = Mass x Acceleration.) When pitched, the caravan can carry more weight, such as people and belongings as there is no acceleration to take into account, although there is a maximum. https://www.outandaboutlive.co.uk/caravans/articles/practical-advice/caravan-weight-loading-to-be-legal describes the ‘PEP’ – Personal Effects Payload;

      PEP = 10L + 10N + 50(kg), where L is the body length of the caravan in metres and N is numbers of berths.

      So, a five-metre, four-berth caravan should have a PEP of: 10×5 + 10×4 + 50 = 140 kg

      I hope that this is helpful. Happy caravanning!

      Like

  4. What a fascinating post. Considering that Bailey vans are available here in Oz I was surprised at the 3 weeks use in summertime. It’s not unusual for Aussie retirees to buy a van for 2 years or more permanently on the road and although we don’t like to be caught in bad weather a tropical downpour can continue for days dropping 4-500mils of rain. Which in turn riddles the best of highways to a pot holed mess. I do hope they’ve factored that in for the models they sell here. Thanks for taking the time to document your troubles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope that Bailey have taken Australian potholes into account, then! Australia is one of their target markets.

      My aim is simply to help others – when faced with a problem of this nature and the intransigence of a corporation, people don’t always know where to start, so I hope that my post helps!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That is excellent news! It is not a recall, but if true, it seems to be a step forward in acknowledging that there is a problem rather than blaming the customer every time an axle fails, so thank you for sharing.

      Could I ask your source?

      Like

    2. Great news for you guys, I think Bailey are having a hard time with this issue. In my view it would have been much better from a public relations perspective if they had put their hands up in the first instance and pursued the issue through their / Alko professional indemnity policy instead of off-siding hundreds of loyal Bailey customers.
      My only remaining question is, have they fitted a modified axle or simply installed a new axle i.e. same axle as when the caravan was purchased new. The dealer currently will not answer this question they advise that, as advised by Alko they have fitted a 1550kg axle ? Does this mean it is an identical axle to when initially purchased and we will be facing the same issue in 18 months time ?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you completely, Graham. The axle issue has been rumbling on for a couple of years and I don’t agree that all publicity is good publicity…! We don’t know whether a modified axle has been fitted. However, we know what to look out for and will be monitoring the clearances between wheel and wheel arch. If the axle fails again, I will take Bailey to task over it once again and shall expect a FOC replacement!

    Like

    1. Hi, I have tried to find the letter you refer to on the Bailey Owners Facebook page without success. I to have a problem with my 12month old Unicorn Madrid, cannot put my fingers between tyre and arch. Have also been accused of overloading. Wonder if you can help further with regards to the letter. I could not compete putting a detailed report together as you have done. Well done

      Like

      1. Hi Terry – I am sorry to hear that you have the dreaded axle problem. I can see that you were part of the original discussion on 8th January – it looks like the letter / email from Bailey has been taken down. One of the reasons that I did not publish it is because it is privileged information and I didn’t want to get in trouble!

        You are welcome to use any relevant part of my report – some is specific to our case but I would imagine that the limitations of the portable weighbridge and many of the overloading accusations would be the same.

        You are welcome to message me via the Contact page of this website or via Facebook (I am Jackie Lambert on the Bailey thread) and I can email you some information which might be helpful to your case.

        Like

  6. For any of you who have suffered the axle problem, a letter from Bailey appeared on Facebook today and seems to imply that Bailey intend to replace axles on certain models. I have published it at the top of the blog. I hope that this will, at last, put the issue to bed!

    Like

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