I want my wheelie

by PG Jonker

I recently posted the story of me and my good pump on the website here.  That was, however, not the only travel woes I had on that holiday.



We holiday with a caravan once a year.  The first time I saw the caravan it was only a floor on a set of wheels.  Acting in faith, my brother-in-law and I bought the caravan, awaiting the builder to restore the caravan to its previous glory.  Which he did.  Now it’s 9 years later.  I have since bought out my brother-in-law.  Being rather hasty in nature, it drove him up the wall towing an obstacle along that slows him down as the caravan does.


Spare wheel

As part of the road worthy you need a spare wheel.  We got one as part of the deal, but it was clearly only to meet the legal requirement of having to have a spare wheel.  Whereas the caravan’s wheels are shod in 165’s, the spare wheel had a 185 tyre on.  Apart from being oversize, the tyre was perished; the running surface bulged in all directions.  Also, as my brother-in-law found out next to the road one day, the spare wheel did not fit, as the centre hole was too small.  That problem was subsequently fixed.  But still, my spare tyre was truly an emergency tyre.  If I had to use it, it would have caused an emergency.

In spite of my over cautious nature, this did not bother me.  Until two days before our departure this December.  I suddenly felt this real sense of urgency to have this tyre replaced with a real tyre.  So I rushed down to the local tyre guys and got me a new tyre.


On the road again

Two days later we departed.  We did so well with our packing that we scored a day.  So instead of leaving on Sunday morning, we left on Saturday morning just before seven.

The most stressful part of caravanning for me is getting the caravan out from behind my house.  I have very little space.  Also, it is downhill.  So it takes a concerted effort of the whole family to navigate the caravan out, and also to prevent it from running off on its own.  Once hitched, it takes me some 10 minutes to start relaxing as the bakkie’s big six burbles away softly.

Bakkie en karavaan

Shake, rattle and roll

So I just settled into being comfortable, when there was a loud bang, just about 5km’s before Paarl on the N1 outgoing.  In my left mirror I could see bits and pieces of tyre flying around.  The left tyre of the caravan had burst.

The caravan behaved nicely.  Pretty much like Ruth of the Bible, you know.  Where I went, there she went, without protesting or deviating from course.

It was a bad spot.  A rail on the left hand side of the road prevented me from pulling off completely, so I did the best I could to pull off as far as possible.  It was early Saturday morning, to the traffic was not too hectic, but still, it rattles one if you’re busy working on changing a wheel and you hear the noise of a large truck bearing down on you!

I got out my triangles and jack and set to work.  I did not even bother to do the kicking of the tyres-bit as is customary.  Firstly, I was in a bit of a hurry, and secondly, I did not want to break my foot; there was little rubber left to kick.

Now, I always wondered how one changes the wheel on a fully lade caravan next to the road.  Now I know.  With difficulty.


Jack of one trade

Because of a bad experience with my previous vehicle’s jack, the first thing I did after I bought my bakkie in 2001 was to get me a 4-ton hydraulic jack.  Now was the first time I got to put it in use.  It was still in the plastic, as I bought it.

At first I could not get the jack to move.  I fiddled with the mechanics a bit, undid a circlip thinking that might be required, but fortunately, before I could lose it, I realised that doing so would render the jack totally useless.  So I put it back.  It turned out that just a little bit of violence was needed to overcome the inertia on the jack on its maiden voyage.

Although I try not to overload my caravan, I had the peace of mind that my jack could lift 4 tons.  So off I went, pumping my jack.

Surprise!  The jack nearly reached its full extension before it started lifting the caravan.  So I had to alternate between the jack and the left rear corner steady to lift the caravan.  I later had to move the jack to another spot.  The slight decline in the road, and the fact that the caravan was in any event running at a bit of an angle to the caravan, assisted in eventually getting it lifted high enough to remove the wheel.

Gebarste band

Now I ask you:  who designs a 4 ton hydraulic jack that is so short that it would barely reach the underpinnings of an A-class Mercedes!  The caravan is somewhat lower than my bakkie, and I could barely make it.   I afterwards tried the jack on my bakkie, only to find that it reaches its full extension even before it can start lifting the bakkie!  Fortunately, in thirteen years’ time, I never had to use that jack!


On the road again – again

I was pretty nervous to get my rig out of the way, so I wrapped up the job and with my wife rendering sterling assistance, chucked everything back into the bakkie and the caravan’s nose cone.  Afterwards, though, it seemed that I was a bit too much in a hurry, as it turned out that I left one of my spanners next to the road.  The bakkie’s wheel spanner.  Not that it  is much of a loss.  My spare wheel is an Isuzu rim instead of a Mazda wheel, and the spanner does in any event not work on the Isuzu wheel.  I have an extra one.

Half past seven the morning we pulled in at a tyre outfit in Paarl.  Quarter past eight we departed with our new spare wheel.

To quote Sonny from the Exotic Marigold Hotel:  “Everything will be all right in the end.  If it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”


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