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Old 02-25-2011, 07:00 AM   #1
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1965 17' Caravel
La La Land , Wisconsin
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Moving a trailer that sat for 30 years..

I have my eye on an old trailer that is about 3 hours (driving 65 mph) away from our house. The owner says is was only moved about 5 miles to his house about 5 years ago. It only has one axle. Should I just move it to a RV dealer and have the axle replaced right away? I don't think it will survive the drive to our house. Any advice?

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Old 02-25-2011, 07:14 AM   #2
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Depends on what shape everything is in. We towed our '72 Sovereign home from Mississippi one her original axles. A mechanic friend of the PO checked the brakes for us and repacked the wheel bearings. We brought 2 new tires and rims with us (we should have brought 4 - but that's another story), and I wired up new running and brake lights. That was 1300 miles.

At a minimum, you'll want to put new tires on her for the ride home. Have them mounted and balanced. You'll also want to make sure you have running and brake lights. If she's in pretty rough shape already, towing her 180 miles will probably not do any more damage, as long as the axle will still hold her up. The axle is probably shot, meaning there is no springiness left in it at all after sitting for that long. So, if she's in pretty decent shape right now, and you don't want things shaken apart, then a new axle would be a good idea.

What year is she? I see you're in Wisconsin. Is the trailer anywhere around the Twin Cities?


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Old 02-25-2011, 07:29 AM   #3
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Get it home

Wheel bearings and tires. Temporary brake lights. That will do it. I like to have brakes too, on a longer trailer....not so much on a shorty.

My personal opinion is that to many folks blow the axle replacement out of proportion. The axle will need to be replaced at some just means a rougher ride than a normal good axle trailer. AND....why even consider it if you have a vintage with a solid axle and springs.
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Old 02-25-2011, 07:43 AM   #4
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Not sure what year the trailer is you're looking at, but if it has a leaf spring axle - like the 50's trailers, it may not even be a big deal to replace right away. The main things will be tires, wheel bearings & lights as the others have mentioned...especially the tires.

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Old 02-25-2011, 08:02 AM   #5
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What Chris wrote . . . +1
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Old 02-25-2011, 09:40 AM   #6
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Hey, funhouse. Welcome to almost ownership of an AS!!

What you are asking really depends on the age of the trailer which you have said is old and we can assume is over 30 years old by your thread title. If it is old enough it will have split rims so you will need both wheels and tires. If it doesn't have the split rims, you may only need tires. Either way, the wheel bearings should be repacked prior to moving it 200 miles or so. And, the brakes checked out for sure.

If it is old enough that it has leaf springs, the axles are a non issue at this point. Even if it has torsion axles, if you take it easy on the way home, it shouldn't shake apart in 200 miles.

You can get a temporary towing light kit at Farm & Fleet so you'll be sure to have lights. Also make sure your mirrors on the TV are adequate that you can see what's behind you.

We towed our '73 home from the Dells on old tires, axles and all at about 45 mph on state highways, but stayed off of the freeway. After getting it home and looking carefully at the tires, that was a risky maneuver...they were from 1994.

Send me a PM if I can be of any help. I'd gladly go take a look at it with you and help you in any way I can. Don't worry, I'm not in the market, I have enough of a project ahead of me with the '73.
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Old 02-25-2011, 10:00 AM   #7
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HELLO funhouse.......Where is your since of adventure? If your tires hold air, grab a spare
and head out!
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Old 02-25-2011, 10:12 AM   #8
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go slow and get a feel for it. You'll be fine with the precautions mentioned above.
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Old 02-25-2011, 10:18 AM   #9
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Tires yes, lights have to work. The wheels need to be removed and bearings cleaned and repacked. Rims maybe,and working brakes.Five miles or so at any speed on dry bearings would burn them up and possibly burn the spindles too.(we've all seen the trailer on the side of the road on one or two jacks and owner off looking for parts)................all the best......Phil.
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Old 02-25-2011, 11:14 AM   #10
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Moving a trailer that sat for 30 years.

Greetings funhouse!

Originally Posted by funhouse View Post
I have my eye on an old trailer that is about 3 hours (driving 65 mph) away from our house. The owner says is was only moved about 5 miles to his house about 5 years ago. It only has one axle. Should I just move it to a RV dealer and have the axle replaced right away? I don't think it will survive the drive to our house. Any advice?
As others have mentioned, there isn't a definitive answer for your question as there are multiple variable involved. Things that would go into the equation in my experience are:
  • As you noted, the axle might be questionable.
    • If the coach is pre-1961, it will likely have leaf springs which makes for less of a replacement quandry. The leaf spring bushings and hangars will need to be inspected, but replacing bushings or hangars should be far less of a task than total axle replacement.
    • If the coach is post-1961, it will likely have a Henschen Dura-Torque axle that may be "seized" or "set" meaning the coach would receive a very harsh ride on the highway. Immediate replacement may not be an absolute if you are willing to take the secondary highways and maintain a very slow pace of travel to reduce the likelihood of problems due to harsh ride.
  • As others have mentioned, wheels and tires are a definite concern in this situation. In all probability, the coach will likely have split-rim wheels that are almost impossible to have serviced today. Replacement wheels aren't terribly difficult to source, but it can take a few days for your local tire dealer to order them into stock.
    • Tires are an important safety factor, particularly on a single axle coach. There is the threat on any Airstream coach that if a tire blows there will likely be significant body damage from the portions of the tire carcass that are thrown about. The age of a trailer tire is as much of a factor as is the mileage that it has covered -- it the tire is more than three to five years of age, it is a blow-out waiting to happen.
    • The tires should be ST (Special Trailer) or LT (Light Truck). There are proponents of both choices -- both tires have stiffer sidwalls than automobile tires, but ST tires also have additional compounds added to the rubber to retard the detrimental affects of limited use.
  • The condition of the frame is of concern on a coach that has sat idle for the number of years that the one in question has remained idle. With the enclosed underbelly, there isn't an easy, sure way of inspecting condition, but rapping on the underbelly near frame rails will identify if there is significant debris floating around on the opposite side of the panel.
  • Condition of the coupler should also be inspected. Repair kits for the 2" Marvell couplers are available from several vendors familiar to Forum members, and carrying one would be a comparatively inexpensive insurance policy.
  • Brakes and bearings will almost certainly require service.
  • The umbilical cord will almost certainly need to be rewired to match your tow vehicle connector. This is not a huge job, but can be tedious depending upon the condition of the wiring and how much modification has transpired over the years.
  • Also, keep in mind that your tow vehicle will need to be prepped for this task -- a good brake controller, and a hitch with adequate drop/rise to accommodate the coach at a minimum.
Good luck with your research and investigation!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
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1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 02-25-2011, 11:49 AM   #11
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Springs and axle(s)

I agree with MelodyRanch. The axles will get her home. If it is 20 feet or under, you can probably handle it without brakes depending on your TV.
New tires and a repack of wheel bearings would be in order. Keep your speed at 50mph or lower. Again you haven't posted the age of the trailer or what it is.
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Old 02-25-2011, 02:13 PM   #12
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Go get it!

I went with my buddy to retrieve a $250 CL-found 1965 Scotty from two states away in New Jersey. When we got there it was on its belly in deep, damp sand. We pumped up one tire- which held air. The other did not. We towed it out of the place where it was becoming one with the earth and hoped the frame would be OK. It was. We threw on the one spare tire we brought with us and hooked up a temporary light bar.

Off to the tire place to have some "newer" tires we had with us mounted. They looked at the algae covered trailer...looked at us...and offered to do the job for an outrageous price. My buddy is a mechanic and with the right tools could have done the job himself in five minutes. we went.

We got across the Delaware Memorial Bridge and within one mile of home before the cracked and dry-rotted tire that had held air stopped holding air or form. A call to my wife and we got another spare delivered and towed it the one mile to my driveway. Within a day my buddy had new RV tires mounted and the bearings repacked and off he went.

Now the trailer is fully restored and in frequently-used condition.

I have towed home at least four forlorn trailers this way. They have all made it safely. This is not to say that problems won't occur. They can...but all you can do is try to plan for any eventuality, gas up the TV, and go get it! The adventure is fun...and the stories more so!

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Old 03-20-2011, 10:41 AM   #13
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1965 17' Caravel
La La Land , Wisconsin
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Just wanted to say we drove 150 miles to get it a few weeks ago and it towed home just fine. Our electric worked just fine with an adaptor and I held my breath all the way home waiting for the axle to break! I should say we bought a 1965 Caravel, so we weren't too worried about the brakes working as we have a 2500K Suburban to tow with. It looks like most everything on it is original and we've already ordered a new axle that my wonderful, kind, patient DH will install in a few weeks. Right now we are looking for leaks and trying to put the toilet back together as someone has put a new tank in place, but never finished the job. New foam is coming too so I can get busy sewing new cushions. Fridge looks like toast, water heater is bad too. The stove and oven look like new and work perfectly. Not too sure about the furnace as it looks dangerous so I think we'll forget that for now. There are a few bad spots in the floor that we will have to fix, but we aren't going to give it a full monty until our little girls are tired of camping. Right now, we just want to get it road worthy and get out there and have fun! I'm very grateful for all the information on these boards. Thanks so much!!!
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Old 03-20-2011, 11:01 AM   #14
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1973 31' Excella 500
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Glad to hear you got her home in good shape. Keep us posted on your progress.

I don't know what part of the state you are in, but I'd recommend Gov. Dodge State park near Dodgeville as a great place for a family outing.

Enjoy the journey...

Lew TAC #WI-6
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