One of the foundations of any caravan is the jockey wheel. This small but vital caravan component not only keeps the caravan’s A-frame off the ground when parked but, without it, hitching up would be all but impossible, as would moving the caravan around unhitched.
This humble bit of caravanning gear is so reliable that it’s no surprise that few people ever think about how it works, how to treat it properly or how and when to maintain it. But if you don’t look after your van’s jockey wheel, it will eventually cause you grief.
The conventional jockey wheel contains a few key components: a screw-type inner core, an outer and inner tube, a bearing, a handle, and a wheel and axle.
Beyond these key elements, there are a few different varieties of jockey wheel. The cheaper jockey wheels will typically have no easy method to grease the bearing, as the handle (which holds the assembly together) is pinned onto the shaft. The pin can be drilled out but it will need to be replaced with a roll pin or similar.
A more common setup is to have a roll pin to begin with, which can be pushed out with a centre punch and either reused or easily replaced with a new one.
SERVICE YOUR JOCKEY WHEEL
Not much goes wrong with jockey wheels but, when it does, you’ll know all about it. The two most common problems are that the caravan becomes difficult to raise or lower on the jockey wheel, or that the castor wheel becomes stiff and doesn’t turn as easily.
A stiff handle, a jolting action when operating the handle, or a castor wheel that won’t swivel easily usually means the winding handle bearing needs cleaning and re-packing with grease, or that it has been damaged and needs to be replaced.
This requires removing the handle (attached with a pin) and the outer tube of the jockey wheel. You’ll then be able to see the bearing. Some are simple ball bearing races so you have to be careful when pulling off the outer tube – the ball bearings will then be loose and easily drop out.
First, clean the ball bearings and race (if so equipped) in solvent. Clean and then check if the ball bearings are scored or the cage/race is damaged. In this case, you’ll need to replace the bearing with a good quality replacement. If it looks okay, then simply re-pack with grease and re-fit the bearing.
Before you do, though, it is a good idea to remove the threaded shaft and clean and re-grease it also. Once the jockey wheel is put back together, you should find it smooth to operate.
The castor wheel relies on the bearing for smooth movement around its axis but the wheel itself can become stiff over time and make moving the van around on the jockey wheel difficult. In extreme cases, the wheel can start to lock up and actually ‘flat-spot’ the wheel. The repair for this is quite simple: the axle just requires cleaning and greasing.
Step 1. Drill out the pin that holds on the winding handle.
Step 2. Use a hammer and punch to remove the remains of the pin.
Step 3. With the pin out, the handle comes off.
Step 4. Remove the outer tube.
Step 5. With the outer tube removed, the bearing and washer is revealed.
Step 6. The threaded bar is contained within the inner tube.
Step 7. Remove the bearing and washer. Clean and regrease the ball bearings.
Step 8. Now is a good time to regrease the threaded shaft. Here, the inner tube has to be folded back to remove the insert and threaded bar.
Step 9. Use vice grips to pull out the threaded bar. Clean and regrease.