Caravan jockey wheels: The definitive guide
Our tech expert, Terry Owen, looks at the caravan jockey wheels that help us pitch.
From pizza cutter to pneumatic efficiency
A well functioning caravan jockey wheel can make all the difference to manoeuvring away from the towcar, especially if you don't have a caravan mover to do the donkey work.
With typical noseweights in the range 75 to 95kg, a jockey wheel has a lot of weight to carry. It stands to sense that the larger and wider a caravan jockey wheel is, the less likely it will be to sink on soft or loose surfaces.
A caravan jockey wheel that digs in can impose enormous strains on you, your caravan mover, your leisure battery and the jockey wheel's mounting bracket.
Right: Several UK manufacturers supply this as standard. It is light and reasonably wide to resist sinking into soft ground.
The width of caravan jockey wheels
I well remember the jockey wheel that came with a new caravan I bought in the 1990s. It was so narrow that I jokingly called it my 'pizza cutter'. It made a mess of my gravel driveway, and I soon replaced it with a pneumatic one that performed very much better.
On that occasion, I opted to replace not just the wheel itself but the whole wheel and mast assembly. It was a good decision; the new wheel would have been too wide for the old forks. However, it is worth noting that virtually all jockey wheels are designed to fit a 20mm spindle, so swapping only the wheel may just be a possibility.
Pneumatic caravan jockey wheels
Pneumatic wheels perform much better that solid ones. Their superior performance is particularly the case on loose surfaces such as gravel since they ride over the rough surface better.
For this reason, I recently opted to replace the solid wheel of my AL-KO Premium caravan jockey wheel with a pneumatic one. The tyre on the old wheel had become badly chewed as a result of several years' use with a large noseweight caravan on a gravel drive.
Although the new wheel fitted between the forks, it turned out that the hub was not broad enough to keep it central. The result was that the tyre caught on the forks. I solved the problem with some specially-made washers, but the next time I came to use it the tyre had gone flat.
Therein lies the Achilles heel of pneumatic wheels - if they go flat they can leave you stranded. I even remember one bursting on a hot summer's day in France. The caravan was pitched at the time.
As an alternative to a single pneumatic wheel, it is possible to fit two, or even three, to a jockey wheel mast. Reich markets a product known as the 'Easy Wheel Set'. The set replaces the existing 20mm spindle with a much longer one that allows you to mount the two supplied pneumatic wheels on the outside of each fork.
Above: A pneumatic jockey wheel compare to a small 'standard' one
It's an excellent idea but you may find you can't retract the new assembly far enough into the 'A' frame for proper ground clearance. The answer is to leave the old jockey wheel in the middle of the forks and remove the outer two for travelling. That way you can have one, two or three jockey wheels depending on the ground conditions.
Another product that uses twin pneumatic wheels is the 'Wheelie Eazi'. It just slots into the bottom of your existing jockey wheel mast. I'm not sure if they still make it but, at the time of writing, it was available new on a certain well-known internet auction site!
Right: the wheelie Eazi slots into the bottom of the existing mast pole
As an alternative to pneumatic wheels is it possible to purchase 'puncture proof' wheels. These look like pneumatic wheels but are made of solid rubber or polypropylene. Both materials have some compliance and so behave somewhere between a traditional solid wheel and a pneumatic one.
Left: This wheel is made of solid polyurethane so it can't puncture
Al-KO makes a solid caravan jockey wheel.
Caravan jockey wheels that measure noseweight
Both AL-KO and BPW manufacture jockey wheel assemblies that incorporate a noseweight gauge. They are a useful aid to stable towing although the AL-KO one weighs in at a hefty 10kg.
Left: AL-KO's premium jockey wheelis wide to spread load and has an inbuilt noseweight gauge
Left: BPW's noseweight gauge is built into the jockey wheel mast. You can choose between a solid or pneumatic tyre.
Caterpillar tracked wheels
If you want to spread load when going over soft ground, there's nothing like a caterpillar-tracked device. That's what Kronings has done with its Camper Belt caravan jockey wheel. They took the idea from Camper Trolley caravan mover. It performs well on my gravel drive, but I would be a bit concerned about mud getting trapped behind the belt if used on soft, wet ground.
Above: Kronings' Camper Beltis an idea borrowed from the Camper Trolley mover below
Up or down when pitched?
Someone once told me that I should raise my caravan jockey wheel when I have pitched to ensure the main wheels take the caravan's weight. I'm afraid this is convoluted thinking. With the jockey wheel raised, the front steadies will need to carry at least the noseweight. Furthermore, if there is a front lounge full of people, the load on the steadies will probably exceed their design rating.
Leaving the jockey wheel down means it will take this load and transfer it to the 'A' frame of the chassis. Needless to say, this is very much stronger than the floor to which the front steadies attach.
Above: The jockey wheel should be down when pitched to reduce the load on the front steadies