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Old 03-02-2012, 01:38 PM   #1
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Big Surprise - Broken Frame

This is a follow up to a previous post. Our Airstream is a 1976 Ambassador 29’. It was in remarkably good condition when I bought it in 2006. From what I can deduce from the PO, it had less than 30,000 miles on it. I have done a lot of preventative maintenance and do routine checks on this rig. The frame is 5” channel.

We’ve put 40,000 miles on our Airstream in the past several years. After returning from WashingtonDC (approximately 6000 miles) I noticed that the plates that the axles are bolted to have started to warp a bit. I inspected the plates just before we left DC and they were straight.


I have been working on bending the axle mounting plate back so that I can bolt it into place. After pulling the belly pan back I found a crack in the lower horizontal part of the frame. It goes through the 1 1/2 inch lower part if the frame rail and extends about 1/2 inch up the face of the frame.

Can I weld metal reinforcing plates onto the frame and expect a good outcome?

What kind of material should I use and how should it be welded on?

Do I need to put a frame stiffening kit on?

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Old 03-02-2012, 02:20 PM   #2
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Hi Eagle & Bear:
While on a WBCCI Western Canada Caravan back in about '87 we pulled into the camping ground in Calvary, Canada (pouring rain) to discover the floor inside was like climbing a steep mountain. The frame had broken. Only one place in Calvary could weld it. I had to remove the aluminum skins, then back it onto two narrow rails over a pit. The welders Vee'd out the break and welded that. Then welded a steel plate over the break (reinforcing). We finished the caravan and have since been to Alaska twice + it's still on the road -- A great little trailer!
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Old 03-02-2012, 02:50 PM   #3
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I am adding two photos of the broken frame. One shows the broken lower rail. The other shows the lower rail and the back of the frame. There are two lines on the back of the frame. The longer line is spatter from the weld below. The shorter line is the crack that extends up the back of the main part of the frame body.

Hmmmm.....I have to figure out how to post a photo on this forum.
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Old 03-02-2012, 02:55 PM   #4
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When you learn how to post the photo, let me know! I don't know how to post it so it shows up with my message.
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Old 03-02-2012, 06:53 PM   #5
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When you learn how to post the photo, let me know! I don't know how to post it so it shows up with my message.
Post #7 in this thread should help...
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f138...ics-44928.html
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Old 03-03-2012, 03:39 AM   #6
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Photos of frame.
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Old 03-03-2012, 03:43 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Bettye View Post
When you learn how to post the photo, let me know! I don't know how to post it so it shows up with my message.
Bettye, see AZflycaster's note above. Posting photos is fairly simple if you follow the directions on the link below.


http://www.airforums.com/forums/f138...ics-44928.html
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Old 03-03-2012, 07:07 AM   #8
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Any rust perforation on the frame? What is the condition of your axles? That break in the short leg of the channel looks like their was a lot of movement.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:35 AM   #9
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The axles are two years old and are rated at 4000 pounds each. The lower shock hanger is on the other side of the crack.

The axle mounting plate was warped outward about 1/2 inch. I was straightening the mounting plate and getting ready to bolt it to the frame when I discovered the crack.

The tires are new (October 2011 w/about 6000 miles on them). Two of them have over 12 ounces of lead and are still out of balance. The plates were not warped in October but the ends of the crack are rusted enough to lead me to believe that the crack formed some time before.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:50 AM   #10
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Could you post a few more pictures? Some a bit wider?
And for sure a couple of pictures of the warped plate.

From what it looks like to me it may not be a crack due to weight, the odd bend near the crack would suggest some sort of trauma that caused the crack. It looks like some sort of torsion pulled the metal down and broke it. This is what I think due to the fact that the plate that the C channel is attached to is much thicker than the C channel and is supporting it so it would be an unlikely place to see a crack, but I'm certainly not 100% sure.
That would be a good thing, since the worries about the frame being structurally unsound wouldn't apply. But since you mentioned that the plate was warped I'm not sure on this...
The only way I could see this being a break due to something other than trauma is if the trailer was wrenched from side to side and bent sideways causing that metal to crimp in on itself and then break...possible... are there issues on the other side that would match this?

This can certainly be fixed.
I just did a big frame reconstruction and I assume the C channel is the around 1/8th in on yours as well.
It would need to be bent back to butt up against each other and (if it is just a trauma break) I would just butt welded it and call it good (just what I would feel comfortable with IF that was the case).
You could certainly add additional steel if you thought it needed it.

The big question in my mind would be; why is the axle plate warped? Rust can get between the plate and the channel and bulge it out, is that what is happening? If so you'll want to decide how involved you want to get with this issue...I had the same bulging rust issue and opted to cut out the parts of the plate and replace them with new plate.

Here are some pictures of the frame work I just finished.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f421...e-85368-2.html
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:56 AM   #11
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The axles are two years old and are rated at 4000 pounds each. The lower shock hanger is on the other side of the crack.

The axle mounting plate was warped outward about 1/2 inch. I was straightening the mounting plate and getting ready to bolt it to the frame when I discovered the crack.

The tires are new (October 2011 w/about 6000 miles on them). Two of them have over 12 ounces of lead and are still out of balance. The plates were not warped in October but the ends of the crack are rusted enough to lead me to believe that the crack formed some time before.
The biggest problem your Airstream has is that the axles should not be rated at more than 3500 pounds each, for normal RVing.

However, you can load the trailer up with some sand bags to add at least several hundred pounds.

The next problem, is that the running gear "MUST" be properly balanced. If not, then the cracks in the frame and axle mounting plates will continue.

During my time, I have seen hundreds of Airstream and Argosy trailers with the same cracks, and all from the same reasons.

Andy
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Old 03-03-2012, 11:34 AM   #12
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Thanks Andy. When the axles were installed there was a 1/8th inch gap between the piece that the frame is supposed to rest on (foot/shoe/perch/? that is welded to the axle) and the frame. In other words, the axle mount (?) was not in contact with the frame and there were no shims between the axle mount and the frame. What that means is that the entire weight of the coach has been supported by the two thin, vertical pieces of steel (axle mounting plates) that are welded to the face of the frame.

It was obvious to me that the shop that sold me a new set of tires in October did not balance them correctly and may have sold me tires that required almost a pound of weights. Unfortunately they are in Maine and I am now in AZ.

The crack is between the two axles. I do not want to take my rig back on the road in this condition. I can get a welder but need to know how to weld the frame back together so that the repair will hold for many more years.
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Old 03-03-2012, 08:54 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In View Post
The biggest problem your Airstream has is that the axles should not be rated at more than 3500 pounds each, for normal RVing.

However, you can load the trailer up with some sand bags to add at least several hundred pounds.

The next problem, is that the running gear "MUST" be properly balanced. If not, then the cracks in the frame and axle mounting plates will continue.

During my time, I have seen hundreds of Airstream and Argosy trailers with the same cracks, and all from the same reasons.

Andy
So just out of curiosity, is this kind of crack due mainly to a weight issue (over for the trailer or under for the axle rating) that stresses the metal enough to crack it with the unbalanced gear, or is it more about the unbalanced gear and it could happen to a properly weighted trailer?
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Old 03-03-2012, 10:15 PM   #14
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I will bet you $1 that a major factor leading to cracking your frame was bad axles.
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