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Old 08-31-2012, 11:29 AM   #1
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Axle AND tire heresy, all in one thread!

So, I've made some significant improvements to my trailer, and I chose to do so in a way that some may see as a challenge to the status quo. Of course I think I made good choices, or I would have chosen otherwise.

It was past time for new axles, and time for new tires as well. We're planning our longest trip to date, Fort Worth to Albuquerque in October to attend the Balloon Fiesta, so I decided I should get the work done before then. (If I add up all the things I blame on the Balloon Fiesta trip, it's one of my most expensive 5-day vacations ever. Generator, battery+inverter for my cpap, axles, tires, new camera... whew!)

I chose a different brand of axles, Rockwell American torsion axles built to spec just like Dexter or Axis axles, but built in Royse City, TX with a couple of nice extra features like easy-to-grease bearings and a 5-year warranty.



The axles bolted up without any modification to the mounting flange (read: no drilling!) but they didn't come with shock mounts. Lance reused the shock mounts from the original axles.

Just in case the axles weren't enough to stir controversy, I went with 15" Michelin tires as well.



Along the way, I had some leaks addressed as well, but that doesn't really fit under the running gear category.

I wrote a lot more about this (with pictures!) on the "Smooth ride!" entry in my AIRForums blog, because it's easier to edit and proof an entry there before sharing it, as opposed to the more stream-of-typos...er...consciousness I get when I write a regular thread post.

I had the triple-whammy of being busy, lazy and having a deadline (oh, and no good place to work under the trailer) so I had Lance McEwan (Top on AIRForums) do the work at his shop, and I'm very happy with the results so far. Unfortunately there's no discount for favorable reviews!
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Old 08-31-2012, 12:46 PM   #2
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Great photos and post!
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Old 08-31-2012, 01:29 PM   #3
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Great photos and post!
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Thanks... I should have credited the photos in the thread (I think I did in one of the blog posts.) These are just a couple of the photos that Lance sent me during the course of the work to show me what he found and what he was doing to correct/improve it. For an obsessive geek like me having those pictures every day or two is really great, it wasn't just "drop off, wait until we call you to come and get it."

Besides that, it's great documentation of the work if (for some unfathomable reason) I ever sell the trailer.
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Old 08-31-2012, 01:32 PM   #4
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Please be sure to share your experiences down the road (literally) and let us know how you like them! What was it that made you choose that particular brand of axles and that combo of axles and tires? And are those light truck or trailer tires? Bias ply or steel-belted?
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Old 08-31-2012, 01:45 PM   #5
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DKB_SATX,
I found your blog very interesting, some would have you believe ONLY AIRSTREAM APPROVED AXLES will safely take your coach down the road.
I am in the process of welding up a new frame on a 75 31 footer. I found the axle alignment from center of hitch to the front axles off 5/16 from side to side, the street side was farther to the rear. Then the rear axle was off from side to side from the front axle location, the curb side was farther aft from the front axle by 5/16.
So the tires were going down the road front axle headed to the curb and the rear axle headed out into the street, grinding off tread on every revolution.
Another interesting find: the coach is titled 1975, built in late 1974. The axle manufacture date was early 1970 so these axles spent 50% (some have said the life span of this type axle is 10 years+,- ) of there usable life span on someones back lot.
In building a new frame I have read most of the post about late model frame and tire issues. I have to wonder if alot of the problems with tires on late model Airstreams are due to the problems you and I have discovered in axle placement .
Good Luck.
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Old 08-31-2012, 02:57 PM   #6
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Interesting. Can you tell us how much the axles cost? And did Lance have to weld the shock brackets to the new axles?
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Old 08-31-2012, 03:19 PM   #7
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Interesting. Can you tell us how much the axles cost? And did Lance have to weld the shock brackets to the new axles?
I sent you a PM with the price. Lance did transfer the old shock brackets to the new axles, they came with none.
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Old 08-31-2012, 03:57 PM   #8
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Well, your new running gear looks pretty "sassy" there, DKB How is the ride now? Can you feel any difference when towing?
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Old 08-31-2012, 04:27 PM   #9
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Well, your new running gear looks pretty "sassy" there, DKB How is the ride now? Can you feel any difference when towing?
Y'know, I honestly didn't expect to feel the difference from the truck, I just figured it would be better for the trailer's ability to hold itself together.

As I wrote in the "Smooth ride!" blog post, I was surprised to find the ride to be noticeably better from the driver's seat. Keep in mind that this is my first Airstream, and its axles were already hardened up before I got it early in 2011, so I didn't know any better. I suspect with water in the freshwater tank it'll be even more plush.

There's a particular bit of bad behavior that the new axles pretty much eliminated. Previously when going over sharp bumps like joints between concrete road sections, the trailer felt like it was kicking the hitch when its tires hit the bump. It was very noticeable, and always seemed to take me about 50 miles to get to where I could accept it as normal. I spent the 140 miles towing it home from the shop waiting to feel that harsh kick that never came.
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Old 08-31-2012, 06:45 PM   #10
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OP: Good for you, sometime you just have to swim upstream or go against the so called internet "experts". Looks like a pretty nice package. As long as you are happy that is truly the only thing that maters. For the record I did the same thing and could not be any happier, but with different axle and tires.
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Old 08-31-2012, 08:31 PM   #11
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When I put new axles on, I to noticed the rid in my SUV was a lot smoother. No more hard jolts from the trailer.
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Old 08-31-2012, 09:53 PM   #12
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Mine was popping rivets out before I got new axles. The funny part is there's so much drama around axles, but once you make the choice, you just enjoy the ride and forget about it. I've been happy with my Dexters since 2004, and I'll be happy even if they only last half as long as the original axles!
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Old 09-01-2012, 09:08 AM   #13
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Nice thread.

I sure like the brake wiring. I use ANCOR products in a similar manner for this kind of project. Did I miss it, or was that wiring also "armor-covered" afterwards?


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Old 09-01-2012, 09:25 AM   #14
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Nice thread.

I sure like the brake wiring. I use ANCOR products in a similar manner for this kind of project. Did I miss it, or was that wiring also "armor-covered" afterwards?


.
The wires have a crimp+solder joint and that in turn is protected by heat-shrink tubing. I think they're very well-done.
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