After clipping curbs across Europe, bottoming out and hitting the stops and even cutting the engine out on a couple of occasions, we figured it was time to sort out Zagan’s low front end. We thought it would be easy to buy Hymer B544 front spring replacements, but it turned out to be a bit trickier and took us almost a month to arrange.
After a lot of reading up on Facebook motorhome forums, it soon became clear that a low front end is a common problem with motorhomes. It seems that the front suspension springs fitted in most of them are just normal van springs, designed to take the weight of a van – a couple of seats, a bit of stuff in the back and maybe the odd Ginsters pastie. For the past 16 years our front springs have had the weight of a drop down bed, two leisure batteries, two captain’s chairs, not to mention all the stuff crammed in cupboards and under the benches behind the cab. It really is no wonder they were getting tired.
We first realised there was a problem when we parked up in a supermarket car park and the bumper hit the curb and cracked. Our heavy duty Milenco levelling ramps were only a centimetre or two lower than the bumper, so on soft ground they would lift up as we rolled off them and inflict more damage to the bumper – so they were left in Croatia when we bought a second-hand pair of lower lightweight ramps from a chap on a campsite. On bumpy roads the passenger side would bang as we bottomed out on the stops, making us cringe.
When we were back in the UK in 2016 we took Zagan for his MOT and mentioned the problems to our garage. They discovered that the passenger side shock absorber had sprung a leak and had no oil left in it, so before the MOT they swapped them both. Sadly it didn’t solve the low front end problem, but surely it should stop us banging on the stops on bumpy roads? Unfortunately not. As we drove through Spain on our way to Morocco, the sickening bang was back, and even more so in Morocco with its bumpier roads and Zagan loaded to the max with life’s ‘essentials’.
The day we were leaving Morocco we hit a huge pot hole in some roadworks and Zagan died on us. He simply wouldn’t start. Thankfully some very helpful cannabis farmers (I kid you not) and the Hymer Owners Group Facebook Forum got us back on the road, and we even made our ferry (which of course was running late). It cut out again another time on a level crossing in France, so once back in the UK it was time to do some research into how to stop it happening.
The simple answer is to replace the front springs. This can be done by several companies, so I got in touch with Travelworld Motorhomes as I had seen many people recommending them. They were very quick and efficient and gave me two quotes, £829 for fitted or £499 for just the springs. After getting back up off the floor, I did a bit more digging around on the internet. I discovered that Travelworld only fit Goldschmitt – the ‘Ferrari’ of springs, which would be great on a fairly new expensive van, but on Zagan it seems a bit excessive.
I spoke to Zagan’s favourite garage (fellow motorhomer Norman) and we talked about what options there were. They could replace the springs with like for like ones for me, but I had heard that you could get a heavy duty version which would be better for a motorhome, so we agreed that I would source the springs and they would fit them.
More internet research introduced me to Lesjofors Springs, who also had great reviews but were a tad cheaper at around £70 each. As they have loads of different types of springs I needed to find out which were the right ones for Zagan. This is where I got stuck in a loop. Based on my VIN number, the online spring retailers told me I needed to use Lesjofors part number 4026148, however their site said this was for a FIAT DUCATO Box (244) (Year of Construction 04.2002 – 07.2006, 122 PS, Diesel), this set alarm bells ringing.
Zagan was registered in 2001 and even if the chassis has been sitting around for a while there was no way he could have been a 2002 base vehicle. After quite a bit of online research I discovered that the base vehicle type is listed in the VIN number and Zagan’s said his base was a 230 (built from 1994 to 2002). So why were they telling me to buy ones for a newer base? More pleas for help from the Hymer Owners Group Facebook forum gave me part numbers of springs that were fitted to a B644 – but I wasn’t sure if they would be the same.
Eventually Norman came to my rescue and was able to give me the original Fiat part number for the springs – however as the base had since had an ALKO chassis fitted and a Hymer built on top of it, he wasn’t sure if this was still the right part. I contacted a couple of motorhome dealers and one of them gave me the same Fiat part number for my springs – a breakthrough, something finally matched.
This Fiat part number was for the 244 base (Lesjofors part number 4026148) which still seemed odd, but as two sources had confirmed it was the same number, I was getting a bit more confident. Next I got in touch with Lesjofors who it turned out don’t deal direct with the public, however they were able to confirm to me that they do produce a heavy duty version of the spring number I had, the Lesjofors 4026169 (or Kilen part number 12152 – they are the same company).
After almost a month of going around in circles it was now or never, so I ordered the heavy duty version – even though the online retailers said it wasn’t compatible with my vehicle. I paid a bit extra by ordering them from Amazon as I know they have a great returns policy (I just walk round to my local post office and send stuff back). When they arrived, they were huge and about 12kg each.
The springs and Zagan were dropped off at the garage and we waited with our breath held. Norman called us a few hours later – they fitted! A huge sigh of relief was let out, our spring saga was over.
So, did they make a difference to the front end? They sure did. We’ve gone up by around 6cm. The pictures below measure from the bottom of the number plate, but in reality the front of the bumper has been lifted from 20cm off the ground to 26cm. This may not sound much but it will stop us hitting curbs and Zagan now looks a lot more level when sitting on a flat car park. Hopefully we’ll have to use our chocks less now.
To get this extra height cost us £140.68 for the springs plus £190 for the fitting (which also included the fitting of a new starter battery as we had to get a jump start to get to the garage!). We have yet to venture on bumpy ground in Zagan since the new springs were fitted, but we are hoping the ride will be better too and we’ll no longer activate the emergency engine cut off!