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Old 03-23-2010, 06:44 PM   #1
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Another Redundant Axle Question - GT 21'

Okay - this probably has been answered a bunch but here goes:

My unit is a '76 21' GT. Single Axle. Has mag wheels, I put new shocks on last season and wheel bearings & brakes are good. It tows nice.

Just drove trailer from MN to Houston - drove through a nasty winter snowstorm through ice, gusty winds and snow. I was quite impressed with the performance of the trailer.

Now, here's my question. Assuming metals were made of stronger alloys in 1976 than now, can I "assume" my axle is okay? In my mind a twin axle unit adds some protection in the event of a broken axle while towing.

What are some of the caveats to be aware of? For instance, I don't exceed 65 mph - maybe I'd do it on a newer unit but given the age - and you're probably thinking '76 isn't that old.

Anyway, your thoughts & experience to share are greatly appreciated!'

Thanks much

Ken Tuvman
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Old 03-23-2010, 07:35 PM   #2
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I have not seen anyone report an axle breaking on this type of setup. The rubber does go bad inside of the axle and it sags and gets frozen in place. Jacking up the trailer and seeing how much movement (drop) you have is one test you can preform on an axle..

When the axle goes bad, the shock of the road is transmitted to the trailer and that is where the damage occurs. Missing rivets are one first sign of this. It can also cause cracks in the skin and in some cases the frame can be damaged as well.
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Old 03-23-2010, 07:38 PM   #3
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Your axle is probably shot,there are many threads on that,just go to search and enter axle. Dave
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Old 03-23-2010, 07:49 PM   #4
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I say check YOUR axels out and if you find them to be functioning dont wory about them. I will be attacked for this but you cant say anything including axels are bad just because its old. My unit is a '69, it is within 1/2" of original spec. for ground clearence at belly pan and axel tube. I have nearly 4" of travel in the axel,and no signs of trauma. Mine are original. Everyone will tell you to change them. I say check them, then do what is needed. Everyone can now be mean and hateful, I can take it because I'm right
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Old 03-23-2010, 08:30 PM   #5
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If you're happy with the way it tracks then I would stick with a single axle. You are more at risk of losing a tire than breaking an axle. Both can wreak your trailer in a hurry.

You can drastically reduce the chance of losing a tire by adding remote tire sensors. I wouldn't think of driving anywhere in my single axle Tradewind without them.
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Old 03-23-2010, 10:06 PM   #6
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I've read about tire sensors - where's a good place to pick them up? sounds like a great idea. The trailer tracks really well and I was impressed driving thru some stiff xwinds how well she did. No problems at all and some pretty severe weather.
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Old 03-23-2010, 10:12 PM   #7
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I have a 71 GT. When I jacked it up the swing arm maybe moved 1/4". I could not get the tires out of the wheel wells without first deflating. Jack up your trailer and check for deflection. If the swing arms donot deflect downward then the rubber is shot and a replacement is in order. I replaced mine with a new Dexter and have not looked back.
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Old 03-23-2010, 11:09 PM   #8
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The original axle on our '65 Caravel was operating properly. Riding nicely, trailing arms pointing slightly downward, brakes working good, bearings loaded with grease etc., until October 27, 2002, when going down a nice smooth highway at 57mph, things went sideways.

I wouldn't trust an old axle on any Airstream, but that's just me.
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Old 03-23-2010, 11:29 PM   #9
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The broken spindle on a Caravel is a problem unique to that model and maybe a few others in the 60's.
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Old 03-24-2010, 05:46 AM   #10
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The broken spindle on a Caravel is a problem unique to that model and maybe a few others in the 60's.
Yes,the spindle hubs were not large enough for the load they carried, and the result was often a bad day for the trailer owner.
The drop test on other axles is a good indicator of condition, as long as the trailing arms aren't at the point they bottom out the shock or allow the tire to rub the inside of thw wheelwell. It is, after all, the ability to absorb road shock, rather than merely ride height or trailing arm angle, that is the primary reason for replacement.
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Old 03-24-2010, 08:18 AM   #11
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Great answers - I'm thinking my axle is okay. When I changed the shocks last season, it seems the movement where the axle attaches to the hub was okay. It rides well and I have a good amount of clearance between the top of the tire and the wheel wells.

Thanks - the TP sensors sounds like a good investment as does keeping fresh tires at all times.
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Old 03-24-2010, 10:02 AM   #12
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The broken spindle on a Caravel is a problem unique to that model and maybe a few others in the 60's.
Rich.

The small spindle problem is unique to the old Caravels and Bambi's that have torsion axles.

As with most things, many warnings have been posted, only to typically be ignored, "UNTIL" that moment happens when the spindle breaks.

Then the "real emergency" sets in for a fast replacement, but that still won't stop the additional motel and meal expenses, and inconveniences, that add up very quickly.

This failure is not a matter of "what" but a true matter of "when", as it "will" happen, but never in front of the owners home.

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Old 03-24-2010, 10:41 AM   #13
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Hi Andy,

So help me out with this. I've been doing a lot of research into the study of how the Airstreams were made and quality is one of the benchmarks. Wally Byam took the caravans not just to promote the brand but to road test the units and fix things as problems developed.

Obviously its important having a structurally sound axle - is there a high failure rate in single axle trailers like mine? I've never had an axle go out in a car before.

I could see the possibility of failure with rust present but isn't one of the big selling points & qualities of an Airstream the quality and workmanship? On the other hand I do know if a wheel came off it would cost a lot to fix and all the things you said above. Btw - mine is a Globetrotter 1976

Thanks,

Ken
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Old 03-24-2010, 12:11 PM   #14
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Hi Andy,

So help me out with this. I've been doing a lot of research into the study of how the Airstreams were made and quality is one of the benchmarks. Wally Byam took the caravans not just to promote the brand but to road test the units and fix things as problems developed.

Obviously its important having a structurally sound axle - is there a high failure rate in single axle trailers like mine? I've never had an axle go out in a car before.

I could see the possibility of failure with rust present but isn't one of the big selling points & qualities of an Airstream the quality and workmanship? On the other hand I do know if a wheel came off it would cost a lot to fix and all the things you said above. Btw - mine is a Globetrotter 1976

Thanks,

Ken
Ken.

Cars do not use "torsion" axles.

The heart of a torsion axle, is the rubber rods, that if you wish, are the springs.

Rubber does not last forever, plus it must be exercised once in a while to stay alive.

All Airstream torsion axles will fail prior to 1974. The reason being an incorrect composition of rubber was used. Since torsion axles were relatively new to the RV industry, a learning curve took place.

The rubber rods that are used, can do 2 things. They can solidify, or they can soften. In either case, the rubber then becomes useless as far as a spring is concerned. Lack of use is the prime cause of failure, of the rubber rods. When stored for an extended period of time, the weight should be removed from the axles.

Torsion axles can last 30 to 40 years, "IF" properly used. If not, they can fail within 3 to 4 years.

In your case, there are 2 tests that you can easily do.

You can read the "Dura-torque" axle article that's in the Airstream Central portion of this Forums.

Rubber also has a "bounce" factor. That comes into play because of improper running gear balance as well as simply hitting bumps.That being the case, shocks, being a motion dampener, minimize the bouncing effect so that the tire stays on the road surface with more security.

Andy
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