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Old 10-01-2009, 02:46 PM   #1
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Check Alignment on New Axles!

First the bad news.

After about 3,500 miles on the new axles I installed on our '83 Excella, one of the nearly new tires was worn down to the wear bars, and another about half gone.
I took the trailer to Hewitt Alinement in Stockton, Ca, where the alinement was done on our '65 Caravel some years ago, to get it checked out. Hewitt has been there for many years, has "Pit" style alignment equipment and does multi-axle trailers as well as autos, big trucks, motorhomes, busses and most of the Street Rods in the Central Valley. Sure enough, both tow in and camber out of spec on both axles, all four wheels. One wheel, the one with the badly worn tire, was way out.

Now for the good news.

Since I was told when I purchased the axles that they were supposed to be already in alinement, I called Andy at Inland RV where I had purchased them. He talked with the owner at Hewitt, they both talked with the axle manufacturer. I just got my money back for the alinement from Andy, who was re-imbursed by the manufacturer.

Thank you to Hewitt Alinement for really knowing your stuff.

And a special thank you to Andy at Inland RV for following through and making things right.

Moral to the story....... Get your axles from someone who will stand behind them, and when you install new axles, no mater where they come from, you might want to have the alinement checked.

Our score now:
Three new axles on two Airstreams, all three out of alinement. (The axle on the Caravel was from Hayes Axle in Ontario, CA, not Inland RV.)
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Old 10-01-2009, 03:52 PM   #2
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When I bought my axles I went to the plant to pick them up and have a tour. Having watched them assemble the axles there is no definitive method of aligning them. The spindle and trailing arm are welded and that assembly inserted into the axle tube. It is the bending of the axle tube that aligns this type of axle and can only be done on the trailer after the installation.

The original axles on my trailer were out when I bought it, tore up a set of tires in 5,000 miles, and the replacements 10 years latter were also out.

What I used to check them once installed was an 8 ft. florescent light bulb laid up against the sidewalls of the tires.
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:27 PM   #3
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When I bought my axles I went to the plant to pick them up and have a tour. Having watched them assemble the axles there is no definitive method of aligning them. The spindle and trailing arm are welded and that assembly inserted into the axle tube. It is the bending of the axle tube that aligns this type of axle and can only be done on the trailer after the installation.

The original axles on my trailer were out when I bought it, tore up a set of tires in 5,000 miles, and the replacements 10 years latter were also out.

What I used to check them once installed was an 8 ft. florescent light bulb laid up against the sidewalls of the tires.
Torsion axles can only be aligned after the axle is completed.

The alignment is accomplished by bending the tube as necessary.

If someone buys a torsion axle with "no bend" in the tube, "look out" as it is near impossible for it to be in alignment.

We have learned, that freight companies can play a huge part in new axles, being out of alignment. The throw them, they drop them, they allow them to sometimes slide around in the truck trailer, etc.

Usually however, careless handling is evidenced by twisted shock brackets, dented grease caps, scraped paint, damaged studs in the drums, damaged drums, or damaged backing plates.

Unfortunately, motor freight carriers, as they say, "ain't what they used to be," and because of that, we all pay the penalty.

And here of late, the "brown truck" boys are leading the pack, denying claims, that take months to resolve, and taking months to pay legitimate claims. They even claim "improper packaging" when they send back the merchandise, in a box that you never used, that is beat to all get out.

What can you say? Hang in there and do the best you can.

Andy
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:32 PM   #4
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What I used to check them once installed was an 8 ft. florescent light bulb laid up against the sidewalls of the tires.
I wish I had done that. Might have saved me a couple of tires. Oh, Well....
It's all good now.

Finding a really good Alignment shop that does twin axle trailers might be an issue in some areas, don't know. I sure like my guy in Stockton. One of those guys that if he says the sky is blue, you don't bother to look out the window.
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:34 PM   #5
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I just installed a new axle from Inland on a 68 safari 22 ft. I have the equipment to check both toe-in and camber. What are the numbers for these? I assume toe-in is zero with some tolerance.
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Old 10-01-2009, 04:59 PM   #6
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And that would be my question....what can I check at home to determine proper alignment, other than the light bulb method?

Jim
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Old 10-01-2009, 05:01 PM   #7
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I just installed a new axle from Inland on a 68 safari 22 ft. I have the equipment to check both toe-in and camber. What are the numbers for these? I assume toe-in is zero with some tolerance.
Toe in specs are 1/16 inch, plus or minus 1/16 inch.

Camber specs are 3/4 degree positive, plus or minus 3/4 degree.

Andy
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Old 10-01-2009, 05:12 PM   #8
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And that would be my question....what can I check at home to determine proper alignment, other than the light bulb method?

Jim
Jim.

On a tandem, you can use a 3 foot level or stright edge.

Placing that straight edge on the rear tire, parallel to the ground, in the center of the tire, should touch the back of the front tire. Placing it on the front tire, it should miss the rear tire.

OR

Make sure the trailer tires are not in any twist.

Using a ruler, measure the distance between the axle mounting plate, at the widest part of the tire, both front and rear of each tire. Subtract the front dimension from the rear dimension, and that will tell you what the alignment is.

Obviously, the above it not as accurate as alignment equipment, but it will be very close. Make sure the tires do not have a bulge in the area of measurement.

Also, make sure the axle mounting plate is not bent or deformed.

Andy
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Old 10-01-2009, 05:34 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In View Post
We have learned, that freight companies can play a huge part in new axles, being out of alignment. The throw them, they drop them, they allow them to sometimes slide around in the truck trailer, etc.

Usually however, careless handling is evidenced by twisted shock brackets, dented grease caps, scraped paint, damaged studs in the drums, damaged drums, or damaged backing plates.

Unfortunately, motor freight carriers, as they say, "ain't what they used to be," and because of that, we all pay the penalty.
That is why I drove to Ohio and picked them up at the factory in a soft riding Suburban. They were still out of alignment.
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Old 10-01-2009, 06:01 PM   #10
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That is why I drove to Ohio and picked them up at the factory in a soft riding Suburban. They were still out of alignment.
Well Howie, in life, stuff happens.

Andy
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Old 10-01-2009, 06:29 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Jim.

On a tandem, you can use a 3 foot level or stright edge.

Placing that straight edge on the rear tire, parallel to the ground, in the center of the tire, should touch the back of the front tire. Placing it on the front tire, it should miss the rear tire.

Andy
Andy's right on.

With a long straight edge resting against the back sidewall of both tires, it should just miss the front sidewall of both tires. When held against both sidewalls of the front tire, it should then miss the rear tire. That's one of the checks they made at Hewitt.

The above is a good check, but does not insure proper alignment. Camber must also be correct.

AND........A good shop will check proper alignment with the center of the hitch for proper tracking going down the road. The axles may be in alignment in relation to one another, but that does not mean that they are pointing the right direction with regard to the center line of the trailer. They could both be pointing slightly to the left or the right, in which case the rear end of the trailer will track a little to the left or right of center going down the road. Should not be a problem unless it is excessive, but it's just not correct.

Proper wheel alignment on a trailer is not as simple as some would think. Bending an axle in such a manner as to get tow-in, camber and tracking all correct takes real know how, and good equipment. In our case, two very experienced guys spent nearly three hours, not including the initial check which took nearly an hour. The check took that long because they wanted to know exactly how far the axles were out of line. They wanted the numbers.
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Old 10-01-2009, 06:45 PM   #12
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Thanks guys for the answers. I'm hoping to put my new axles on this weekend and would like to do the "home check stuff" after installation. Just to make sure I don't really screw something up in the installation process.

Jim
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Old 10-01-2009, 08:15 PM   #13
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What about the alignment on a single axle. How is is it checked and what are the specs for it? I have a rather new axle from Inland on which I've put fair amount of miles but I'm a little suspicious about how the tires are beginning to wear. Do the axles ever get out of alignment from bad road conditions or is it matter of once aligned at installation you are good forever?
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Old 10-01-2009, 08:39 PM   #14
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What about the alignment on a single axle. How is is it checked and what are the specs for it? I have a rather new axle from Inland on which I've put fair amount of miles but I'm a little suspicious about how the tires are beginning to wear. Do the axles ever get out of alignment from bad road conditions or is it matter of once aligned at installation you are good forever?
Alignment can be checked on a single axle fairly easily.

For tow-in you want to measure from the center of the tires. It is usually done with a bar that has an arm with a pointer at each end that slides on the bar. Usually the tires are raised off the ground and a mark made around the tire at the center of the tread. Measure from one mark to the other. There should be about 1/16" difference, the front of the tires being the lesser of the measurements.

Camber is not so easy to measure at home. It should be measured at the edge of the wheels, not the tires. The wheels should be tilted out at the top, however, it is less than 1 degree. Very hard to check without proper equipment and the trailer on a level surface. You can get a pretty good idea by using a carpenter's level if the trailer is on a level surface. Won't tell you the numbers, but if it is way out, you will be able to see it.

If you are getting excessive wear, you may be wasting your time trying to measure yourself, only to find that you need to have it done at a good shop anyway.

As far as tracking, I wouldn't begin to try to figure that one out at home. With double axles, they align the front axle, tow-in, camber and tracking, then align the rear axle to the front.

Find a good shop.

Yes, alignment can change. Usually this happens if you hit something solid, hard. It will most usually cause the tow-in to tow-out. Saw a guy in a Walmart parking lot a couple of weeks ago hit a curb with his fifth wheel. It towed out the left front wheel so bad that it left a heavy black mark and was smoking by the time he moved about thirty feet to get out of the way. I think that may have gone beyond an alignment, but that is an extream case of what can happen. Also over time, if the trailer has a heavy load, the camber may change. Usually takes a long time, and if there is a little positive camber at the outset, 1/2 to 3/4 degree, you will probably be replacing the axles due to age before it is a problem.

So, yes it can change.....no, not if you take care.

Another thing,,,,I understant that dual or triple axles are put under lots of stress going around corners, as each tire wants to travel it's own circle, and is kept from doing so by the other tires. Probably best to avoid tight turns when you can. Watch your buddies tires as he turn tightly and you can see what I am talking about.
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