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Old 04-19-2013, 07:59 PM   #1
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What is normal bend or sag of a 34' frame

I am looking at a mid 1990's three axle Excella. Since I have no personal experience with any 34' Airstream, I am asking for your help to tell me what is normal.

When the trailer is on it's wheels and hitch jack only (no stabilizers or jack stands) there is a warp in the skin around the wheel wells. It looks like the frame is crowned just above the axles. If I had to guess I would say the crown is 1" or so higher than either end of the trailer, with more slope toward the rear. The worst place in the warped skin is just behind where the rear of the wheel well ends at the belly wrap. The warp skin extends above the top of the wheel well maybe 6" to 8". It is a little less noticeable on the front end of the wheel well, but extends the entire perimeter of the wheel well. The warping is not evident anywhere else higher on the trailer. This warped skin is almost identical on both sides of the trailer.

I do not have any pictures to share.

So, these are my questions:

1. Does a 34' Airstream have some normal bending of the frame that creates a crown above the axles when it is parked without stabilizers?

2. Has anyone had any experience with cracked frames on your 1996 through 1999 wide body three axel Airstream?

3. Has anyone had any experience with rear end separation on your 1996 through 1999 wide body three axel Airstream?

4. Does the normal construction of your three axle Airstream have warped skin at the perimeter of the wheel wells?

Thank you. I appreciate your responses!

edit:
if anyone has repaired someone else's trailer please respond
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Old 04-19-2013, 08:37 PM   #2
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Although his TT is older (1991) it may be that the well-prepared [meaning well-read] Steve Bryant has already come across the information you are requesting in the restoration/rebuild of his 34' (threads referenced in link; I'd also send along a PM to his attention).

I would also search on the subject from the posts of 2Airishuman as we've not ever had another contributor with his strong grasp of material available at this site. IOW, he may have already posted what you search for, or a result of reading his threads/links may lead you to what has already been posted. (IIRC, his 34' tridem was later than your year-request.) Although he hasn't posted of late, he may respond to a a PM, also.

The 34' tridems -- be they AIRSTREAM or AVION -- are unique trailers. And capable of wide-ranging interior configurations changes with "size penalties" almost irrelevant over an otherwise comparable 27' (thinking of needed TV and/or fuel burn).

Thus I cannot think myself the only one interested in this subject even though not looking for a TT at present.

The 34's are worth knowing.

.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:07 PM   #3
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My 34 has a small wave at he back end of the wheels. I know the shell,floor,frame connection is good because I have been thru it.

Rear end sep? Mine had a bad section of floor in the front and rear, but it was due to leaks. It's been fixed and we have towed all over the USA.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:15 PM   #4
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(Man, do I feel dumb -- and extend apology to -- as Vernon is the other guy one should consult. If these guys haven't come across it, it may not exist as a standard [set of] problem[s]. )

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Old 04-19-2013, 09:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiHoAgRV View Post
My 34 has a small wave at he back end of the wheels. I know the shell,floor,frame connection is good because I have been thru it.

Rear end sep? Mine had a bad section of floor in the front and rear, but it was due to leaks. It's been fixed and we have towed all over the USA.
Thank you for your response!

I have been reading some of your threads on your repairs. That's a lot to absorb. Do you know if the main frame rails in the 91 34' are the same size as those in the wide body's in the mid to late 90's 34'?
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:58 PM   #6
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Alan, our '93 34' has a 5" frame. It is pre- wide body. Just behind the rear wheel well, in the right light, sometimes I see a slight buckle in the skin. The trailer has a sound floor, so I attribute the waviness to normal, long trailer/rough roads. A certain amount of flexing/light buckling seems normal.

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Old 04-19-2013, 10:18 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by sandlapper View Post
Alan, our '93 34' has a 5" frame. It is pre- wide body. Just behind the rear wheel well, in the right light, sometimes I see a slight buckle in the skin. The trailer has a sound floor, so I attribute the waviness to normal, long trailer/rough roads. A certain amount of flexing/light buckling seems normal.

John
Hi John,

I appreciate your response.

In those long trailers I felt like some skin stress and frame crowning due to the long overhang each side of the axles would be normal. I just do not know how much. Hope to hear from more owners and repair pros!

I'm sorry I missed the Alumalina (spell?) again this year. I did not get back north in time. Hope to make the fall get together, if the schedule works out. I've been following the thread. Sounds like all of you had a fun time. (I'll see if I catch a possum and fatten him up. ;-)
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Old 04-19-2013, 10:44 PM   #8
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Our 1999 Excella 1000 is 34' Widebody.

There is a "bow" rather than sag. I think too much weight may have been put in TT while traveling. But if I look length inside there is no noticeable bow. Same outside underneath. However around the wheelwells there is some waviness. Strange.

When inspecting all is tight. But looks like tires may have delaminated and beat up the area.

So try this. Shine a light down center of floor and look for hump in center. No hump no worry at first blush.
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Old 04-20-2013, 08:00 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwf View Post
Our 1999 Excella 1000 is 34' Widebody.

There is a "bow" rather than sag. I think too much weight may have been put in TT while traveling. But if I look length inside there is no noticeable bow. Same outside underneath. However around the wheelwells there is some waviness. Strange.

When inspecting all is tight. But looks like tires may have delaminated and beat up the area.

So try this. Shine a light down center of floor and look for hump in center. No hump no worry at first blush.
One thing I did when looking at an old house was put a laser pointer on a skateboard and roll it across the floor. You can watch the dot on the wall and see where there is discrepancies in the floor. Just remember, especially with something that long, a small bump may translate into a large movement of the dot if its shooting a long distance.
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Old 04-20-2013, 08:51 AM   #10
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Alan, I did see a 34 widebody one time that had a crack in the skin, just over the left side of the door. Ran at about 45*, maybe 4" long. The owner didn't offer up any explination, and I didn't persue it.

They are long trailers, and the roads are rough, and who knows what kind of life they have led with a PO. I really haven't seen/heard of any specific problems with them, none more than possible with any mid to long trailer.

I predict a big crowd for Alumalina 2014, so go ahead and start fattening up one of those premium, Davidson County possums. We'll need it!!!!!!

John
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Old 04-20-2013, 09:13 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwf View Post
Our 1999 Excella 1000 is 34' Widebody.

There is a "bow" rather than sag. I think too much weight may have been put in TT while traveling. But if I look length inside there is no noticeable bow. Same outside underneath. However around the wheelwells there is some waviness. Strange.

When inspecting all is tight. But looks like tires may have delaminated and beat up the area.

So try this. Shine a light down center of floor and look for hump in center. No hump no worry at first blush.
I appreciate your response. The trailer I am looking at is bowed over the axels. I am wondering how much bow is normal.
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Old 04-21-2013, 05:01 PM   #12
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34' with warped skin at the wheel wells

I have been searching images on the internet and found some pictures of similar conditions to give you an idea of what I am talking about. These images do not really show the crowning of the frame I asked about, but they do show the warping of the skin around the wheel wells. One is a 1998 the other is a 1999.

What do you think caused this warping?



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I found more images of other 34' trailers from the late 1980 to the mid 1990's but they were poor quality.
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Old 04-21-2013, 06:35 PM   #13
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My guess to the buckling in the skin near the rear of the wheel well is from the rear of the frame sagging. I don't have a 34' Airstream, but I do have a 34' Avion and it isn't buckled at all, but it has a real strong 3 member frame.
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Old 04-21-2013, 06:46 PM   #14
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Sag

This appears to be a textbook example of what they call "Sag" in Airstream parlance.

On the old long trailers (think a 70's 31 footer), the frame wasn't deep enough, and so wasn't stiff enough. You hit a big bump with something heavy in the back (or not....the rear bath models were worse for this because they're already carrying heavy stuff in the back) and you deflect the frame a lot. The skin then tries to take the load. Imagine holding a Pepsi can horizontally and trying to bend it in half. The top is in tension, the bottom is in compression.

That buckle you see just aft of the wheel well is the skin buckling in compression.

I had a 31' Excella that had that. I haven't pulled a tape, but is the overhang on a 34' triaxle actually any greater than that of a 31 or 32' tandem axle? They both have a lot.

You typically won't see this on an Avion because they're frame is a lot stouter.

And, it's less prevalent in the post 1985 Airstreams than it is the ones before.

Inland Andy has commented on this topic a bunch. Bottom line is that the long overhang is like a fishing pole. If you have out of balance running gear, worn out shocks, and a bunch of weight in the back, it's basically like shaking a fishing pole. The back end bounces all over the place, and that's hard on the trailer.

Separation I know you can fix (where the back of the shell comes detached from the frame). I'm not sure how you'd fix sag, other than beefing up the frame. They used to make those "elephant ear" doubler plates for the frame way back when. I guess you could pull off the belly pan so you can get to the frame, park it on level ground, put a jack under the back and raise it up slightly higher than level, and weld on some doublers. Then when you release the jack, that should let it drop back to where it's about right.

Might be better to find another trailer.

Sorry if I sound like the Harbinger of Doom. The trailer in question may be perfectly fine. But I know on my own that had a buckle like that, the frame was toast.

Best of luck,
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