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Old 08-25-2014, 03:53 AM   #1
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My Overhead Cabinet Fell Down - Is my Towing Setup Responsible?

My tolerance for surprises is being tested again. Upon returning home from a long weekend with the AS I discovered that the entire “overhead” cabinet above the front panoramic window had dislodged from the wall and ceiling. It dropped all the way to the dinette table.

The cabinet had been fastened to the ceiling in three spots with 2 or 3 screws in each location. It was also attached to the wall above the window in a number of places. None of the screws were bent. It appears as if the whole cabinet just pulled out from the wall all at once. I inspected the rear cabinet, and discovered that it had dropped several inches on the curb side.

I'm concerned that my towing configuration may be contributing to this issue. When I received the trailer I installed a 6,000 lb. Equalizer hitch with 600 lb. bars. My TV was a 2005 Toyota Sienna AWD. I quickly discovered that towing right at the upper legal limits of this combination created a white knuckle experience that I wanted to eliminate.

Within the last month I have replaced the TV as well as the tires on the AS. I'm now towing with a Chevy Suburban K2500 4x4. The replacement tires that I installed on the trailer are Kumho Radial 857s. I had a nearby trailer place tweak the Equalizer to fit the new configuration. They did not have a drop shank tall enough to level the trailer. The nose of the trailer points upwards when connected to the truck – not a huge amount, but it is noticeable if you look carefully. I had some load in the back of the Suburban, but I was nowhere near the payload limits. The trailer weights 3,200 lbs. without water or waste as measured on a scale. It was probably just below the GVWR of 3,500 lbs. during the trip. The tongue weight is approximately 530 lbs. as measured by a Sureline scale placed on the inside top of the coupler. The Suburban's advertised curb weight is 6,419 lbs.

Could the changes that I've made be causing problems with the trailer? Or is the timing of this problem more likely coincidental? Do you have any suggestions on what I might do to reinforce the repairs?

I will greatly appreciate any comments or suggestions you have.
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Old 08-25-2014, 04:15 AM   #2
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What specs for your trailer? Year, model, etc. New, used, recently purchased, miles towed, give us a good idea what it is. The weight seems very low for a newer Airstream. Also, the hitch ball height when trailer is level can be useful. I cannot believe the hit h supplier could not get the trailer level for towing.


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Old 08-26-2014, 12:29 AM   #3
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Thanks Msmoto! I really appreciate your interest.

My trailer is a 2004 - 16' International CCD. It is used. It was purchased roughly 5 months ago. I don't know anything about the history of the trailer. It was towed from AZ to my home by a 70's extended cab dually, and it survived that trip without incident. I've probably towed the trailer between 3,000 - 3,500 miles since it was delivered. I haven't had any other significant issues with the trailer.

I'm confident that the cabinets were positioned as intended when I received the trailer as I looked them over when I started upgrading my lighting to LEDs.

I'll get you the measurements that you asked for. Would you please explain to me how and where to measure the hitch ball height? Is this on the TV, the trailer or both? I know it sounds simple, but I want to make sure that I give you the correct measurements.

Thanks again!
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Old 08-26-2014, 01:34 AM   #4
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Hi, switching to a much tougher tow vehicle might be part of the cause. Hitch adjustments to match this tow vehicle could also be part of the cause. Really rough roads. I have read on this forum of brand new trailers being towed from the selling dealer to the owners home have had overhead cabinets fall off. Most of these were smaller trailers. How heavy are the contents that you store in these cabinets? Wheel balance; Out of balance wheels can shake anything to pieces. You must balance the brake drums too since the factory didn't. I use Centramatics for this. And just poor installation could also be the cause.
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Old 08-26-2014, 01:54 AM   #5
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My Overhead Cabinet Fell Down - Is my Towing Setup Responsible?

If the trailer is sitting level unhooked, and this means the floor is level, or the frame is the same height off the ground front and rear, and the trailer is on a level pad, then measure from ground to the top of your hitch ball receiver. This is the "ball height" basically and the hitch ball on your truck when no trailer is attached should be about 1/2" higher than this.

Once you are hooked up, again on a level pad, the trailer hitch ball receiver should be within a half inch or so of what it was unhooked. I believe any competent trailer hitch dealer or trailer service center should be able to fit your truck with the proper hitch so as to allow you to pull with the trailer level as it should be when being towed.

Also, an Airstream dealer should be able to check some other things such as proper ride height of the trailer, condition of the springs and shock absorbers, right/ left level, and make certain all is in spec.

Having said all that, is there any evidence that the cabinets had fallen prior and had been repaired such as an adhesive residue, damage around the screw holes, etc?

And finally, could you have hit something at speed, maybe a large pothole, bumps in a construction site, or just an extremely rough road?

It is sad you are having problems, but no doubt these can be repaired fully. I agree with what Was just posted by Robertsunrus as well.

My best,


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Greensboro, NC
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Old 08-27-2014, 12:15 PM   #6
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Thanks ROBERTSUNRUS! I really appreciate your help.

I wasn't aware that even some new trailers have had cabinets falling down. Somehow that makes me feel better.

I agree that many different variables MIGHT or COULD be the cause. I need to try to keep from overanalyzing it.

I estimate that there was definitely less than 100 lbs. in the overhead bin. Probably less than 50. I only store bulky clothing and sleeping bags in this space. It also houses the radio on the right-hand side.

I had the new wheels and tires high-speed balanced at installation.

I am unfamiliar with balancing the brake drums with Centramatics. I will do some Googling, but would greatly appreciate any additional wisdom you would be wiling to share on the topic.

Thanks again!
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Old 08-27-2014, 01:43 PM   #7
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I always recommend that first time buyers consider a gently used Airstream... but this is one of the hassles. It doesn't seem possible that you've overloaded the cabinets, but perhaps the prior owner had and they were near to failure before you bought. They could have also had a problem right from the factory too.

I agree totally with prior posters about the importance of not towing nose up or nose down. Get a "custom drop" stringer made if you have to - I've seen them for Hummers. The 2500 Suburban should have a softer ride than the average 3/4 ton truck, so that's good. (If someone's beefed up the suspension consider beefing it down!) Being nose up or nose down can start a rig "porpoising" - riding like a teeter-totter, and that would put a big strain the whole trailer that would be worse the farther above the wheels you get. Also, if your load isn't equally distributed from left to right you could get yaw - side to side rocking. AND with a lighter trailer... Well I've seen a pop-up following it's tow vehicle that was so out of control both sideways and front to back that from time to time you could see six inches of atmosphere under the tires! (You see this on boat trailers quite often - a day on the water in the hot sun drinking beer and drowning worms contributes to bad driving on washboard roads and OMG!)

SPEED (I may be starting to be a bit of a nut on this subject BUT anyway) These trailers have a sweet spot between 52 and 60 mph. If you tow at higher speed and your roads have any washboarding you could be turning your Airstream into that suspension bridge called "Galloping Gertie" that shook itself apart in high winds.

On a short trailer with only two axles the ride doesn't get distributed as much. Hit a pothole at speed on one wheel and you'll have a powerful lurch to the side then bounce back (it's only a bit less severe with 4 axles because there's more weight involved).

Sorry you've had this problem. Smile it will get better.

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Old 08-28-2014, 08:31 AM   #8
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Thanks MSMOTO:

I'll make those measurements to make sure that everything lines up the way you suggest. For what it is worth (and maybe it wasn't worth much) I did take the trailer and my 2nd tow vehicle to a trailer specialist to have the Equalizer WD hitch resized/refit. Before that I had the Chicago AS dealer fit the system to my first TV. The AS dealer was also paid to thoroughly go over the trailer for anything that required repair or replacement.

I don't see any evidence of a previous repair on the cabinets. No adhesive residue is present. The screw do not appear to have been stretched out more than once, but I'm not sure that I'm qualified to make that determination.

I have hit some rough spots in the road however. I'm still not used to the suspension on the Suburban. The front end makes lots more noise and movement than the minivan did when I hit a good-sized bump, so it is difficult for me to determine how "bad" the "hit" was. I'm not convinced that I hit anything hard enough to dislodge a properly installed cabinet in a recently built AS. Nevertheless, it seems like it is possible that I hit something hard enough to dislodge an already fatigued installation. Learning to spot the rough spots in the road is something that I definitely need some practice on.

Thanks again for you help!
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Old 08-28-2014, 09:07 AM   #9
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I think you have considered most of the factors that may cause too rough a ride for your 16' Airstream. The problem may be you have all of them in one package.

Vehicle suspension too heavy for the trailer.

Heavy load in tow vehicle taking up flex in suspension.

Too stiff weight distribution (the Equal-I-Zer has the least flexible w.d. bars).

W.D. hitch set too strong and trailer not level.

Over-rated trailer tires with too high air pressure. Check on this.

Too much weight in trailer, overhead cabinets.

Trailer load concentrated at ends of trailer rather than over axles.

Trailer running gear out of balance.

Rough roadways, interstates can be the worst. High speed can increase the problem.

And as you said, who knows how the previous owner used the trailer. It's not new for a cabinet to come loose, but everything should be suspect when both overhead cabinets detach in one trip. Reconsider each of the factors that may be contributing.
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Old 08-28-2014, 09:21 AM   #10
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You may find that with with a 3/4 ton Suburban and a 16 Bambi, you don't really need any weight distribution. Towing on the ball with a sway bar attached may be all you need. As stated above, the Equalizer hitch doesn't flex that much and could be transferring stress to your Bambi. However you will need to do some research at the truck scales and measure the drop on the ball.
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Old 08-28-2014, 02:41 PM   #11
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Thank you Paula. I agree that a gently used trailer is the way to start for an AS noob. I'm not really minding the hassles as it is giving me a wonderful opportunity to learn. I've still saved thousands from the cost of a new trailer even after all of the needed repairs, and I've gotten to learn all kinds of interesting stuff along the way! What could be better?

I haven't really felt anything like porpoising , although there have been some rare bumps that have gotten the back end of the TV into an up-and-down rhythm that can last maybe 4-5 cycles.

I do have a lead foot, and I'm going to have to do some serious soul-searching regarding my need for speed. I think it is likely that speed is a contributor in my situation.
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Old 08-28-2014, 05:35 PM   #12
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When I had my 16' Bambi, I towed it on the ball with a new '71 Grand Prix. Maybe that was wrong, but we never had any problems with it. We didn't know any better back then.

I didn't get WD bars and sway control until I got the 23' AS. BTW the AS dealer that I bought them from set both of them up for me.
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Old 08-29-2014, 07:18 AM   #13
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A regular program of preventive maintenance will prevent many problems. A couple of days ago I went thru my interior tightening screws. I found about a dozen that were loose. Two holes needed filling to tighten them up. Tooth pick with a dab of epoxy did the trick. Trailers are like boats and aircraft in that they seem to break sitting still. You have to stay on top of any potential issues before they become big problems.
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Old 08-29-2014, 01:42 PM   #14
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Thanks dkottum. You bring up some interesting points. Perhaps I have created the situation by trying to maximize and minimize a bunch of variables when it turns out that I have no idea WTH I'm doing!

I like the idea of putting less air in the tires. I have installed a Dill TPMS so I'll be able to monitor pressures and temperatures to avoid any overheating. The Kumho tires are D-rated with a 65 psi max sidewall rating. I did a bunch of Googling to see if I could determine what pressure I could derate the tires to for my 3,500 lb. load, but I can't find anything close to the 205R14 size listed for the tire. Does anyone have a chart that they would be willing to share with me?

Thanks again dkottum!
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