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What Is a Caravan Axle?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

A caravan


is an axle used on a Dodge Caravan mini-van. The axle configuration of this vehicle includes two front drive axles and a single rear caravan axle. While the front axles are half axles running from the van's

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

to the front wheel assembly on each side, the rear caravan axle is a straight tube axle design suspended by coil springs and equipped with a shock absorber on each side. The Dodge Caravan was one of the earliest U.S. mini-van designs on the market and the axle design and configuration has remained virtually unchanged since the introduction of the first model.

The design of the caravan axle makes repairs and replacement a relatively easy operation. The caravan axle is held in place by mounting bolts on each side of the axle. The rear brake lines must be removed at the wheel cylinder and the shock absorbers must be removed from the axle mounts prior to the removal of the caravan axle. With all necessary components removed, the axle will slide out from under the properly-supported vehicle. Installation of the new axle is accomplished by reversing the removal procedure and bleeding the air from the brake lines.

While the caravan axle has remained nearly untouched in appearance from the first versions to the most recent, subtle changes, such as mounting locations, have been made. This makes the identification of the proper year and model of vehicle important when shopping for a replacement axle in salvage yards or via online auction sites. It is also important to determine which parts can be transferred from the old axle to the new as this can commonly save on expenses. When installing a complete axle unit purchased from a salvage yard, it is commonly recommended that new wheel bearings as well as brake components be installed on the axle prior to installation. This is due to the unknown status of the vehicle's mileage and maintenance history prior to purchase.

When purchasing a replacement front caravan axle, it is imperative to purchase the correct side, as the two axle halves differ in length. It is possible to purchase front axles from auto salvage yards, however, it is not commonly recommended due the use of a constant velocity (CV) joint in the front axle halves. The CV joint is a very critical and easily damaged component, so it is typically wiser to purchase a replacement front caravan axle from an auto parts supply store.

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