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Old 04-23-2007, 09:19 PM   #1
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Frame Bend? Separation? 73 Sovereign

I have a problem which seems to be slowly getting worse. While I have owned this coach for 5+ years the floor has never been level. The high point is in front of the axles. Bouncing my 260 lb body on the rear bumper I can see a little movement but not much. The vertical aluminum curbside bulkhead hallway frame has vertical movement when going down the road. It has gone through the inside ceiling skin.The roadside interior bulkhead frame member stays stationary. There is definite bowing to the axle mounting flange on both sides but more seriously curbside. There is also bowing to the bottom of the skin on the wheelwells. The axles are living on borrowed time but have a nuetral not negative angle. On a bumpy road the ride is relatively smooth inside the coach. I would very much appreciate advice in diagnosing and fixing this problem. I suspect the frame has a weak area in the area of the axles.
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Old 04-23-2007, 09:26 PM   #2
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A few more Sovereign photos

Here's a few more shots of my Sovereign
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Old 04-23-2007, 10:08 PM   #3
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Yep, you got it! I'm not sure what the cost would be to straighten out the frame and check out the rear floor area but would say it might be upwards of $3,000. Others here could give a better estimate. My rear bath '77 had a slight wave in the frame when it was sold but the buyer was not concerned when I mentioned it.
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Old 04-23-2007, 10:48 PM   #4
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David,

Care to hazard a guess what is the major problem, frame bend or floor seperation? It seems to me, although it is subtle, the tail is down the center is up and then the tongue seems to have a slight upward angle. So the whole frame would have the shape of an "S" laying on it's side.

I've heard there is a kit out there. Would this help, or at least stabilize the frame so it doesn't get worse?
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Old 04-23-2007, 11:26 PM   #5
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You will never know whether the frame can be fixed without taking down the part of the belly pan around the axles so you can examin it. It is at least bent. It might be much worse and have a fatique crack starting. If it is that the unit will cost you much more than it is worth to fix it. There was a frame stiffener Fish plate they bolted to the axle mouting plate which helped. If there is a fatique crack the whole frame in the area must straightened and be boxed. If it is just bent it would have to be straightened on a big truck frame straightener before installing the fish plate. It is best done at the factory but some really good big dealers might be able to handle it for $3000.
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Old 04-23-2007, 11:40 PM   #6
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Marshall,I don't know much other than what I've read on the forums.But some where I've read about frames sagging caused by the rear bath and holding tanks weight over the years bending the frame.Some thing to do with airstream no longer making rear bath layout.The longer trailers seam to be the most common with this problem.Some one will be able to give you more help than me.Best of luck!
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Old 04-24-2007, 05:26 AM   #7
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I think I have a related problem with my 1975 Trade Wind. You might also want to consider the possibility that the cross members are failing. The body on my coach is starting to bow inwards around the wheelwells - yours appears to be bowing out however. I suspect, but have not confirmed, that one or more crossmembers are sagging and the body is distorting to redistribute the weight.

I have temporarily "solved" the problem by acquiring a 1986 25' Sovereign with a center bath. Just got it home yesterday and will be going through the brakes and bearings shortly. I'd like to fix the old one as it is about 1,000 lbs lighter. But all the problems attributed to the rear bath are a concern. Anyway, a major body off frame project did not fit our travel schedule. Therefore, more aluminum in the driveway.

Good luck.
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Old 04-24-2007, 07:46 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwightdi
You will never know whether the frame can be fixed without taking down the part of the belly pan around the axles so you can examin it.
Would it be a good idea to cut an access window to take a look see at the frame, cross members, and outriggers rather than drop part of the pan?
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Old 04-24-2007, 08:05 AM   #9
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Drop both the front and rear pans

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marshall
Would it be a good idea to cut an access window to take a look see at the frame, cross members, and outriggers rather than drop part of the pan?
It would probably be easier if you would drop the front pan from the front, and roll it back, then drop the rear pan from the rear, and roll it forward. You will be able to see just about all of the frame - and you should have enough movement in the banana curves to inspect all of the outriggers.

FWIW, the pics you posted it appears as if the tires are sitting well up into the wheel wells. You might want to actually measure the angle of the trailing arms on the axle. In the pics from the first post in the thread it sure looks as if you do have a "negative" angle - measure the angle from the center of the axle tube to the center of the wheel hub - it is difficult to get an accutate measurement without putting a string or straight edge up to it.
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Old 04-24-2007, 12:31 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marshall
I have a problem which seems to be slowly getting worse. While I have owned this coach for 5+ years the floor has never been level. The high point is in front of the axles. Bouncing my 260 lb body on the rear bumper I can see a little movement but not much. The vertical aluminum curbside bulkhead hallway frame has vertical movement when going down the road. It has gone through the inside ceiling skin.The roadside interior bulkhead frame member stays stationary. There is definite bowing to the axle mounting flange on both sides but more seriously curbside. There is also bowing to the bottom of the skin on the wheelwells. The axles are living on borrowed time but have a nuetral not negative angle. On a bumpy road the ride is relatively smooth inside the coach. I would very much appreciate advice in diagnosing and fixing this problem. I suspect the frame has a weak area in the area of the axles.

Marshall.

It appears that your axles have been shot for a long time.

The buckle in the axle mounting plate indicates "bottoming out."

The bulkhead pushed through the ceiling, again comes from bad axles and lack of proper running gear balance.

I would suggest that you have the frame inspected to see if it is cracked in the area of the axles. It is very common to have cracks in that area, when axles are shot.

You may also have rear end separation, caused by the bad axles.

Bottoming out, severely shocks the shell and everything in it. You could have lpg leaks or loose wires, water leaks, sheared rivets, etc, etc.

Andy
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Old 04-24-2007, 02:30 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
I would suggest that you have the frame inspected to see if it is cracked in the area of the axles. It is very common to have cracks in that area, when axles are shot.
Andy
Thanks Andy and everyone else for the advice.

If the frame is not cracked can I at least stop the damage from progressing by replacing the axles, or do I need to have the frame straigtend? (which as I understand it may be prohibitively expensive)

If the frame is cracked can a local welder do the job? ( and again at least stop the damage from progressing)
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Old 04-24-2007, 02:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marshall
Thanks Andy and everyone else for the advice.

If the frame is not cracked can I at least stop the damage from progressing by replacing the axles, or do I need to have the frame straigtend? (which as I understand it may be prohibitively expensive)

If the frame is cracked can a local welder do the job? ( and again at least stop the damage from progressing)

Yes, no and it depends.

Andy
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Old 04-24-2007, 04:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marshall
.. or do I need to have the frame straigtend? ...

... can a local welder do the job?
You're assuming the frame was rigid to start with. From what I have read, this is not the case with an Airstream due to its uni-body design of construction. In other words, the shell supports the frame; not vice-versa. Cross "frame straightening" off your list.

"Frame repair" is different. A local welder can repair your damage. However he would prefer you show up with no belly skin or floor insulation installed and a complete & total understanding that the decking may get smoked. Or worse.

Your welder may suggest stiffening plates around the axles. See the "rant overkill thread" for guidance.

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Old 04-24-2007, 08:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
Marshall.

It appears that your axles have been shot for a long time.

The buckle in the axle mounting plate indicates "bottoming out."

The bulkhead pushed through the ceiling, again comes from bad axles and lack of proper running gear balance.

I would suggest that you have the frame inspected to see if it is cracked in the area of the axles. It is very common to have cracks in that area, when axles are shot.

You may also have rear end separation, caused by the bad axles.

Bottoming out, severely shocks the shell and everything in it. You could have lpg leaks or loose wires, water leaks, sheared rivets, etc, etc.

Andy
Good call Andy. Your eagle eye spotted the tires well up into the wheelwell. Could the rear of the frame be supported, axles removed, something like the old "elephant ears" bolted on and then new axles put in place? Care to give a min/max ballpark estimate?
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