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Old 05-02-2012, 03:57 PM   #29
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What is the wood like under the front windows and around to the sides? I think if it is rotted away too much it will allow the shell to move up and down too much and shear the rivits also. It may be the hitch bars are too stiff but there also may be more to the picture. Good luck
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:36 AM   #30
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Some comments to new questions/suggestions:

Rotted floor concern - I've checked and there is no rotting sub-floor in this area. i rebuilt everything on the inside from the sub-floor up.

A-frame inspection - This I am going to check.

Steel plate - I do believe there is a steel plate. That area is open (where converter is), so I can check.

Axles - They are the original axles, but I have checked them and the local Airstream shop has checked them for all the usual signs of failure/damage. They appear to still be in good shape.

Wheels/Tires - I had new tires put on, but it is possible that they were not balanced properly. I will definitely be having them checked and re-balanced.

Hitch - The previous owner used an old "Ox" W/D set up, and as I mentioned, the rivets were missing (the reason I replaced them) before I put on the Equalizer hitch. So, while my bars may be rated too high, obviously this rivets popping was a problem before.
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Old 05-03-2012, 10:25 AM   #31
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Seems like there was a fair amount of discussion about this sort of separation specific to long tailers in some of the early episodes of the Vintage Airstream Podcast (The VAP). As I recall, though, the issue was that at some point, Airstream stopped putting the hold down plate in the trailers, and it is those models that you see the separation. The fix seemed to be to install a hold down plate.

My concerns about your axle are that the 40 year old rubber rods have lost their elasticity. There may be no signs of damage, and the suspension may move when you step into it, but the wheels don't have the vertical travel that they should. Have you measured the angle at which the axle "arm" hangs (if they are horizontal or angled upwards, then the axle is sagged out).
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:25 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Belegedhel View Post
Seems like there was a fair amount of discussion about this sort of separation specific to long tailers in some of the early episodes of the Vintage Airstream Podcast (The VAP). As I recall, though, the issue was that at some point, Airstream stopped putting the hold down plate in the trailers, and it is those models that you see the separation. The fix seemed to be to install a hold down plate.

My concerns about your axle are that the 40 year old rubber rods have lost their elasticity. There may be no signs of damage, and the suspension may move when you step into it, but the wheels don't have the vertical travel that they should. Have you measured the angle at which the axle "arm" hangs (if they are horizontal or angled upwards, then the axle is sagged out).
Not sure I know what you mean by axle "arm." I too thought that the axles must be bad because of their age, but they were inspected and tested with no issues found. The Airstream shop told me "these axles were made to last a lifetime." Is there a test I can perform myself beyond just a visual inspection?
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:29 PM   #33
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Not sure I know what you mean by axle "arm." I too thought that the axles must be bad because of their age, but they were inspected and tested with no issues found. The Airstream shop told me "these axles were made to last a lifetime." Is there a test I can perform myself beyond just a visual inspection?
Unfortunately, most shops have no idea how to properly check out a "torsion axle".

The following article will help you check yours out in just a very few minutes.

The Dura-Torque Axle

Then you can decide if your shops diagnosis was correct.

Andy
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:49 PM   #34
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I would look for a different A$ shop if they told you they last for a life time. They do last for life time. Their life time, not the life time of the trailer. Their life is shortened by just setting. The rubber gets old and stiff.
If you look at the axle, the part that goes under the trailer. You will notice that the tires are not centered, they sit back about a foot.
The brake assembly is mounted to an arm (the spindle arm) along with the spindle and tires and rims. The spindle arm center is behind the axle. The suspension moves much in the same way as your forearm moves relative to your elbow. The spindle arm trails behind the axle and swings up or down depending on the road conditions. If the arms are horizontal or sloping up at the spindle end, they are shot. If you walk around in the trailer when it is hitched to the TV and the trailer doesn't bounce up and down with some spring like action, they are shot.
The axles and suspension should provide a relatively soft ride for the trailer. If the suspension is stiff, it will beat the crap out of the trailer.
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Old 05-03-2012, 02:27 PM   #35
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adwriter73,
I have heard this same statement about axles lasting a lifetime from other people in Texas that have had their trailer at a shop on the north side of the city you live in. I would recommend you re check the axles in accordance with the article posted by Mr. Rogozinski. If you don't feel comfortable with doing it yourself, send an email to Paul Mayeux and have him take a look at your axles and the rivet popping issues with your trailer. He is in Paradise, TX and is the owner of A&P Vintage Trailer Works. His email is paul@apvintagetrailerworks.com He can take care of all your needs.
I would say that your axles are in need of replacement based on symptoms your trailer exhibits. I would also add that you really need to have solid rivets holding a main structural member to the skin like the front hold down plate. I don't think that Olympic rivets have the shear strength required to be installed in that area. That of course will require access to both sides of the hold down plate.
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Old 05-03-2012, 02:39 PM   #36
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If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance,

Baffle them with your B.S.
  1. never take candy from strangers
  2. if you find something on the floor that looks like a raisin - NEVER pick it up with your bare hands
  3. never trust a "qualified mechanic" (Airstream or otherwise) until you've checked his reputation thoroughly and seen a lot of his work!
It's POSSIBLE that an old axle might still be good - if the trailer is used regularly and gently - but what about old SHOCKS? Replace them with Airstream approved HORIZONTAL shocks! Many people try to find a cheaper solution to the horizontal shocks, and while they might actually find something that fits, if it's designed to be a vertical shock it will fail quickly. If your shocks are old, or if they were replaced with regular auto shocks, putting on good shocks is priority ONE. Call the mothership. They'll give you the part numbers - and I think there might be a date code somewhere on the shock itself.

Frozen axle test: I changed out my 15" tires and rims for 16" Michelins. I rode one tire up on blocks until the other was off the ground, changed the tire, then did the same on the other axle. I noted that the arms on my axles moved freely. I had to use six layers of legos to get the tires off the ground. When I helped a SOB owning neighbor change a flat, we did the same thing with hers - and the axle arm barely moved. Three layers of lego would have done the job. Hers didn't have shocks but her axle was clearly frozen. Of course HER trailer only moved from the storage lot to the campsite and back... so no biggie.

A general word about airforums.com and RV repair shops: LET THE BUYER BEWARE. A lot of shops hire $12 per hour wrench jockeys who don't care about the quality of their work - or the shop itself is managed by people who are only interested in milking the cash cow ONE TIME. There are many heated opinions on this forum about the best tow vehicle, flooring material, frame rebuild, yadada, yadada, yadada... I personally tend to trust the Airforums debates more than anything any one service person has ever told me. That's not to say that sometimes you simply have to put your foot down and say: I am CHOOSING this option. (there ARE a lot of good tow vehicles. The forum "death matches"?)

In the end, you either become an informed consumer or make a lot of mistakes ($$$$) because you've taken advice from ignorant or indifferent or downright greedy service people. Fortunately in this forum, almost all of the contributors are sincere fans of the product and sincerely trying to be helpful. Of course every vendor has SOME motivation to attract business to his shop, but most are mindful that reputation is everything so advice is sensible. A vendor MIGHT urge an axle replacement when new shocks would do, but in fact if you're restoring an old Airstream to it's former glory... well, a good 40 year old axle is still 40 years old!

As for RV dealerships - Plain fact is that 9 out of 10 RV's become yard art, some after one trip. People buy them, use them a few times, then life and other entertaining hobbies come along. The dealerships know this - so there is a temptation to make hay while the sun shines - get you BIG for service because you probably won't be coming back year after year. If you're not putting 20K miles on an RV every year - they figure they can do mediocre repairs and no one will die on the highway as a result. IF you are a member of a forum like this, you are far more likely to use your RV extensively or even fulltime. The knowledge level increases with the interest.

So, read, study and think. Check the easy & free stuff first. Tire inflation, axle arm movement, age of shocks, icepick the floor for rot, bounce and observe for frame separation, etc. Only then start "spending the big bucks and doing it right the first time."

Lastly let us know what you find. We're interested.

Best wishes, Paula
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Old 05-04-2012, 12:21 PM   #37
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Thanks for all the advice and suggestions. That's why I come here for help. I know that everyone on here is extremely passionate and have more experience with this stuff. I'm going to spend some time tomorrow checking out the running gear again. and Taking a look at whether or not I have a holding plate up front. I'm also going to take the wheels and tires in to have them re-balanced. If I can find a place that does the Centramatic balancing, then I will definitely go there. I'll post what I find (or don't find).
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Old 05-04-2012, 01:00 PM   #38
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Ad', you don't go anywhere for Centramatics "balancing". You buy them and then remove the wheels, put the Centramatics in place, put the wheel back on. Some say you'll never have to balance tires again, though I don't know if that is a good idea. At least get them balanced when they are mounted. The company is in Ft. Worth. Call them and discuss it with them and find out which one fits on your trailer. Ask if it fits on 16" wheel as well, as at some point you may want to upgrade to 16" wheels and light truck (LT) tires.

As for the axles, go to another Airstream shop and get some feedback on your axles. So far as I know, this axle style is unique to Airstreams and lots of shops will have no experience with them. I don't know much about axles, but the way these are made sure isn't going to last forever.

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Old 05-04-2012, 09:30 PM   #39
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The torsion axles aren't common on trailers, but not unique to Airstream either (they are popular on higher end boat trailers too). One problem is that the axles can be customized so that the "arm" descends at a variety of angles. I believe that the airstream spec was 21 degrees (down) from horizontal. So, unless you know what to expect to see when you look at the angle of the arm, all may "appear" well.
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Old 08-17-2012, 12:08 PM   #40
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UPDATE:

Discovered that several bolts holding the subfloor to the frame near the toungue area were missing or had rusted apart. Local Airstream shop re-attached and reinforced the entire front area. I am leaving for a cross-country trip tomorrow, so we will see how well it all holds up. If it does not, then I am convinced it's the axles. They are 90% shot from what I can tell.
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Old 08-17-2012, 04:26 PM   #41
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Ad,
Olympic rivets do not have the shear strength as an AD rivet (bucked solid rivet). If they did most aircraft would have that type. Folks use them as they are quick,easy, one man job.
There is a front hold down plate welded to the front of the frame that extends vertical into the coach.
If you had the AS dealer check out the front end of the frame and replaced bolts and etc. that have rusted into, did they check the rest of the hold down bolts. there are bolts at every outrigger down the sides and in the rear. If the front were rusted through are the others holding the shell down?
Not to put fear into the plan, but you may need to inspect things a little closer before a long trip.
Good Luck,
Jack
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Old 08-18-2012, 10:03 AM   #42
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Ad,
Olympic rivets do not have the shear strength as an AD rivet (bucked solid rivet). If they did most aircraft would have that type. Folks use them as they are quick,easy, one man job.
There is a front hold down plate welded to the front of the frame that extends vertical into the coach.
If you had the AS dealer check out the front end of the frame and replaced bolts and etc. that have rusted into, did they check the rest of the hold down bolts. there are bolts at every outrigger down the sides and in the rear. If the front were rusted through are the others holding the shell down?
Not to put fear into the plan, but you may need to inspect things a little closer before a long trip.
Good Luck,
Jack

No, they did not check the rest of the bolts around the trailer. However, I suspect they are fine as the reason some of these front bolts are missing is my own error. I replaced this section of the subfloor and apparently didn't secure it with the proper bolts. The bolts in adjacent areas were severely rusted even though the wood was not rotted through.
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