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Old 05-04-2006, 06:42 PM   #1
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Smile Dexter Axle Installation Started!

Good day all!
The axles I ordered from Dexter came in yesterday and I got one of them installed today! Most of the information I found on this site was kind of vague about how to install Dexter axles, so I took some pics and notes along the way to help others who may be undecided on which axles to purchase.
First, a little backround. I started researching axles on this forum several months ago and soon decided that replacing the Henchens with Henchens was gonna cost substantially more than going with a Dexter or Axis axle and since I'd really like to afford a new zip dee awning this summer, the choice was narrowed. From there I called the nearest Dexter dealer (Starbright Trailers, Galloway (Columbus) Ohio 614-878-5321) to get some info and a quote. The guy I spoke with seemed pretty knowledgable and the prices were fair. He explained that I may have to do some modifications to get the Dexter to mount on the trailer, although he didn't know exactly what would need modified and that the Dexters come with 10" brakes and not 12" ones like on the Henchen however he doubted that I'd notice a difference in stopping power. So out came the old Henchen and I took it over to his shop to compare it side by side with a Dexter to figure out just how much modification would be necessary. He told me that Dexter only makes the mounting brackets one way. That one way just happened to be the exact opposite of the Henchens. After thinking about it for a while and rummaging through all the stuff in the store I got a game plan together and told him to go ahead and set me up for 2 new 3500 lb. Dexters complete with brakes and all. He took the measurements for me- Hub face to face- 75" and outside of bracket to outside of bracket 58" I, however, had him order the outside bracket dimension 1/2" less, (1/4" smaller each side) or 57 1/2" total to accomodate the new brackets I found. (NOTE-your trailer's axle measurements may not be the same as mine! Verify your measurements before ordering, it's pretty easy)
Note the first pic. The old Henchen mounting brackets are turned in and the Dexters are turned out. So here's the solution. Rumaging through the store I found some Dexter axle mounting brackets that were just loose. Hmmmmm...... I could reverse those brackets, mount them to the factory axle brackets and have an outside flange to mount to the trailer! Pic two shows the one of the 4 loose brackets I bought. Their part numbers were 3-176 and 3-177 and two of each were needed.
Today I got a "rain day" (Oh Yea!!) and decided to get busy with the install. The first thing I did was to take a 4 1/2" grinder and cut the old shock mounts off the Henchen. They were then welded to the new Dexter as shown in pic 3. The next step was to bolt the loose brackets to the already welded on axle brackets in reverse, so the flange is outward. This would give plenty of room to mount the axle to the trailer. (See pic 4). I then did a dry run installing the axle. Unfortunately the bolt heads hit the bottom of the trailer and held the axle down about 1/2" which didn't allow much steel left on the frame to bolt the axle to. I was hoping I could tell you all that the dexter could be just bolted in with the extra mounting brackets, but no go. So I pulled the axle back out and welded the axle brackets together, eliminating the bolt altogether. (See pic 5) This allowed the axle to be up exactly where it should be. The axle brackets and loose brackets are both predrilled with a 5/8" holes and the holes will line up on both brackets perfectly with each other. This allowed me to put the axle up into position and drill from the backside of the axle, using the predrilled holes as a guide, and through the frame on the trailer easily. There it is- installed in pic 6!
The total install time for this axle was 6 hours, and that is by myself. (It's a hard job for one guy, get some friends if possible.) That time included some engineering time, time to check the alignment of the axle, and also included some other things that needed to be done such as wire brushing the rust off of the wheel wells and priming and painting them. Tomorrow I'm going to stop at Napa and get the new shocks and get them installed. Saturday I plan to replace the other axle. I think if I got some help, the next axle could be done in two to three hours easily.
No real modifications are necessary to get a Dexter axle to fit your coach, you simply need additional mounting brackets. If you want to keep using shock absorbers (they are not really necessary according to Dexter) they will need cut off the old axles and welded on the new ones. The new mounting brackets will also need to be welded onto the existing brackets on the axle. You may be able to have the axle shop do the welding for you, just make sure they line up the pre-drilled holes on both brackets so you can drill on through the trailer frame easily. Total cost for both axles complete with brakes, 4 extra brackets, all four shocks and tax is going to end up right at $1000. Hope this helps with your axle decision! --dave
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Old 05-04-2006, 07:37 PM   #2
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Looks good to me. Good job!
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Old 05-04-2006, 08:56 PM   #3
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Dexter Orders

Dave,

It is possible to order Dexter axles that fit exactly, with the mounting brackets going in the right direction, and also with 3000lb rating and 12in brakes.
The only Henschen features that can not be done by Dexter are the shock mounts, and exactly matching mounting holes.

To get the 12in brakes, and the 6-hole bolt pattern like Airstream had for years, is to order a beefier axle with downrated rubber rods. Also, if you specify "reversed" mounting brackets, then they will have the perfect orientation. My local Dexter depot got this done without a problem,and my axles were a breeze to install, without any auxilliary bracketry.
Required was drilling of 8 mounting holes for the 2 axles, and fabrication or transferring of the shock absorber mounting brackets. In my case,, I went with their HD disc brake setup, and additional steps were needed to install hydraulic lines and the electro-hydraulic actuator. But that is entirely optional.

Unfortunately, many Dexter dealers go by catalog only, and don't take the time to call Dexter's excellent engineering department in Indiana to get the "scoop" on what's needed.

I believe that your dealer misinformed you, making more work for you than what is usually necessary to install a Dexter axle on a vintage Airstream.

Be that as it may, your work looks great. Thank you for sharing.
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Old 05-04-2006, 09:09 PM   #4
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Dave,

Looks great! Enjoy your new axles.
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Old 05-04-2006, 10:43 PM   #5
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Great!!!!

Dave,

I have been very anxious to see someone document what it takes to install a Dexter axle(s).

Thanks for sharing - I look forward to future updates!!!!!!!!!

Best of luck,
Henry
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Old 05-10-2006, 01:56 PM   #6
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Dexter installation completed.

Sorry for the delay in follow up. I'm happy to report that the axle installation is complete. I've also installed 4 Napa part number 94008 gas shocks. The last thing left to finish is running some new wires for the brakes (I noticed a couple were frayed during the install) and to torque the lugs. I have not been able to take it for a road test yet, but will as soon as I get the tags renewed and brakes wired. A big difference is already noticed, the trailer will bounce if I jump on the floor over the wheels. The old Henchens, although still having a slight downward angle, didn't bounce. Just a "thud" when I jumped on the floor. Also, the Henchens never dropped at all when the trailer was jacked up. I'm sure they had taken a "set" and were not providing any shock absorbtion to the trailer at all. I'm very happy with the Dexters so far. I'll report back after the road test! --dave
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Old 05-10-2006, 03:06 PM   #7
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Really neat looking~!
I've got one to replace on my 64GT and, will bookmark your comments...
Nice set of wheels...where did you say you live..?? lmao
I have the original split rim wheels on mine and, they're not to be reused..
53FC..
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Old 05-10-2006, 06:08 PM   #8
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Looking good!

Dave,

That looks good, partner!

I am anxious to hear of your road test results!

Also remember, unlike the OEM axles, Dexter has over 300 dealers so you will never be far from parts or service. Though I doubt seriously you will need anything for a while - happy travels.

Best Regards,
Henry

PS: Don't forget to re-torque your lugs after the road test!
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Old 05-10-2006, 06:15 PM   #9
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Good job! My original axels were the same way - the angle looked good, but they had no give to them at all, and they were beating the trailer to pieces.

When I got my new Dexter I had to raise the ball on my TV and get a taller foot for the jack! I think I gained about three inches!
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Old 06-04-2006, 11:19 AM   #10
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New Dexter axles tested this weekend..

This weekend was the first test run/camping trip for the new Dexter axles. I set a few things up in the coach to act as kind of a basic test to see how soft the axles would ride. The fridge was left unlocked, I left some plastic glasses on the countertop, and a few things on the floor. Everything was intact after a 50 mile trip. It pulled beautifully, almost like it was on rails. The 10" brakes had plenty of stopping power. We didn't have any need for emergency braking on this trip, though I really wanted to stand on the brakes and check the stopping power in kind of a mock emergency. Unfortunately, that would have ruined the "soft ride" test, so the emergency braking test will happen next trip. So far, I'm extremely pleased with the new Dexter axles! --dave
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Old 06-04-2006, 11:59 AM   #11
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Dave,

Great news. I would like to propose a contest in honor of your new axles.

See if anyone can top this:

. . . My new axle is so smooth I drove 50 miles with an open can of POR-15 paint on the kitchen counter.

Other entries?
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Old 06-04-2006, 04:34 PM   #12
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Dave, can you tell us what the cost was to do this axle swap?
Thank you!
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Old 06-04-2006, 06:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markdoane
Dave,

Great news. I would like to propose a contest in honor of your new axles.

See if anyone can top this:

. . . My new axle is so smooth I drove 50 miles with an open can of POR-15 paint on the kitchen counter.

Other entries?
LOL!!! I'm very pleased with the ride of the new axles, but there's NO WAY I'm gonna compete in that contest. With my luck, I'd have to slam on the brakes for some reason and there would be POR-15 everywhere! --dave
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Old 06-04-2006, 06:31 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Gadget
Dave, can you tell us what the cost was to do this axle swap?
Thank you!
Total cost for two complete axles, including extra mounting brackets and new shocks all around came to $970 plus tax. Axles came from Dexter dealer, shocks came from Napa. Hope this helps! --dave
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