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Swift Challenger 590 Caravan

Repairing our caravan gas locker hinges

When you purchase a second hand caravan for the family touring holidays, you would expect to be able to buy spare parts easily, but unfortunately many manufacturers, just like Swift Caravans do not provide any spares for a caravan that is more than eight years old, which can become a pain.

Obviously you can hunt around for replacements from caravan breakers, but it is sometimes more by luck than judgement that you will be able to get hold of the exact same part in good condition and this is exactly where we came across a major problem, that eventually seemed to be a more common problem with many different types of caravan lockers!

See, many of the older caravans end up having problems with their gas lockers and especially the hinges that end up rusty and eventually breaking off, which is exactly what had happened to our Swift Challenger 590 SE.

Even though we managed to find a replacement gas locker lid from another caravan that was being broken up for spares, costing ?55, the hinges were still not in very good condition and they would not have lasted for very long, which is probably not surprising considering this Swift Challenger was seventeen years old.  However, the cost for purchasing this replacement was quite a bit, so we decided to come up with our own solution to the problem, and this was when it really started to tax our brains!!

Swift Challenger 590 Caravan
Repairing our caravans gas locker hinges

When we started to take a closer look at the gas locker hinges, they were not like a typical hinge you would expect to see, but were like a steel pin with a rubber spacer, that just located into holes in the fibreglass at the bottom of the locker opening, and the original hinges were riveted into place on the underside of the locker lid.

Now we did not have any equipment for doing riveting let alone being able to find replacement hinges, so we decided that we must come up with a different way to replace the old ones, so the challenge began! 

In the end, after much thought and hair loss, we decided to replace the old caravan locker hinges with two half threaded bolts, four self locking nuts, washers and grommets.

So, we ended up buying two M6 bolts that were around three inches long with the thread only travelling about half way up the bolt, so that the remainder of the bolt was smooth, and these came with self locking nuts and washers plus additional oversized washers.  We also decided to use stainless steel, and that way we knew that we would not have the same problem reoccurring in the future with rusting.

To start with, the heads of the bolts would need to be cut off and then filed, so that you end up with a smooth pin, which now becomes the hinge locator, or pin, that will drop into the two holes that are already in place at the bottom of the locker opening on the caravan itself.

Now, on the gas locker lid itself we needed to drill a hole, the same size as our new bolts, in the same place the original pins were, so that the new pins would line up with the hinge holes on the caravan.  Once we had done this, we then had to drill two larger holes next to each other, into the side of the fibreglass hinge support section, around one inch up from the bottom, remembering that the hole needed to be large enough to get a nut and washer inside, as well as allowing us to get a small spanner inside, so that we could tighten this up later.

Once these holes had been drilled, we then used a hacksaw to cut a slot, the same thickness as the bolts, connecting the holes together, which would then let the bolts slide along, but would not let the nut or washer out. 

Now bear in mind that it is the smooth part of the bolt is what will be sticking out as the pin locator, so we needed to put one of the nuts on to the threaded part of the bolt, but this was put on upside down and wound down to the end of the thread, then we put the two washers and the second self locking nut on, but the nut was put on the right way up.

So, all we had to do then, was place the bolt through the large hole on the side, separating the washers so that the normal sized washer was on the inside and the oversized washer was on the outside, then slide the whole bolt assembly along the slot we made between the holes.  After a little juggling around we had got this in the right position and could start to tighten it up, positioning a small spanner through the large hole to stop the nut inside turning as we were tightening up the other nut on the outside.

After both bolts were in place, we then needed to put the gas locker lid back on the caravan to check the level of the lid with the caravan locker opening, and work out how many extra oversized washers we needed to use to raise the locker lid into the correct position, which did mean we had to remove the bolts to add the extra washers, but after a couple of fun moments and a couple of cups of tea to calm the nerves, we managed to get the locker lid lining up perfectly, then we just filled the holes we had made in the caravan locker lid with some white silicone, just to provide a better finish and make this more water tight within the locker lid itself.

However, the next problem we had were the holes on the caravan locker opening, where the pins dropped into, as they were slightly rough and elongated from where the old rusty pins had been rubbing at the fibreglass.. Mmm what to do! But after another couple cups of tea, which at this time we could have very easily replaced with a large vodka or whisky, we came up with a very simple solution, just find the right size of electrical grommets to put into the holes, which would then also act as a rubber cushion as well.

And there you have it, for a good days work and only around ?5 to ?10 cost instead of upwards of ?60 for a replacement second hand gas locker cover, which in itself would probably end up being a different colour!!, we had solved the problem using a couple of stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers that will last years, in fact more than likely outlasting the caravan itself!!!

Two half threaded bolts, self locking nuts, washers and grommets
Hacksaw to cut a slot in locker lid
Bolt with the head cut of and 2 locking nuts put on
Caravan locker lid hinges in place

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