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Old 05-30-2006, 10:05 AM   #1
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Red face Ooops!

How hard is it to re-align the axles? We picked up our new Airstream this week end and headed to a camp ground some 80 miles away. My F-250 handled the 30’ Safari as if it wasn’t there. There was no sway. Semi’s “snuck” up on me and passed without me even noticing them…in fact, a couple of times they startled me when I looked over and saw them even with me.

Anyway, when we left the campground on Monday, I cut just a little short coming out of the drive and brushed the trailer against a guard rail. There is a pretty good scratch and shallow dent about three feet long at the molding level that ends at the wheel well. The entire 100 miles plus home I was really getting a lot of sway. In fact even passenger cars passing were causing sway. I am positive I put the Equal-i-zer hitch on just like it was installed by the dealer so I’m thinking the guard rail might have hit the wheels also and knocked them out of alignment.

I didn’t have a chance to take pictures of the damage last night, but will this evening and e-mail them to the service manager so he can roughly get an idea of what he will have to order to make the repairs…thank goodness for insurance!

Anyway, did I do permanent damage to the handling of my brand new coach?
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Old 05-30-2006, 12:11 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnie's Mate
How hard is it to re-align the axles?
Not all dealers can align axles. You should check with yours. I know they do it at Jackson Center. At the time we were there a Hi-Lo pulled up to overnight. He was there for an axle alignment.

I'm trying to figure what you could have done to the axles that could have messed them up that badly. Especially when the body took the force of the guard rail. The wheels are tucked further inside and unless you hit a curb or other items, the axle should have been somewhat unscathed.

The question to ask is about the hitch hookup. You wouldn't have much sway control if the small bracket the "L-pin" is not holding onto the spring bar. But I would think that you would notice that when you got the trailer home. Also note that the socket bolts, one on either side of the hitch ball, should be torqued to 45-60 ft lbs. Once the hitch is broken in, you need to check this. Under torqued bolts could also cause the hitch not to display the desired sway control. On a new hitch those bolts will loosen fairly quickly as the hitch breaks in. But from my experience I wouldn't think a trip of 160 miles (your round trip), that those bolts would loosen that much.

Have you checked your lug nuts on the wheels to make sure those are tight? Those lugs will loosen early in the life of a new trailer.

Did you notice any scrape marks or marks on the sidewalls of the tires? Normally I would expect that on a side hit.

Let us know what you find.

Jack
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Old 05-30-2006, 12:27 PM   #3
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Tires?

I'd agree with Jack that Axle alignment is not the most likely cause of the problem.. Most likely is hitching issues (bolts/tightness/hookup, etc) and second on list would be wheels and tires. Is it possible lug nuts became loose, or one of the tires was bruised or cut and lost pressure? They won't look a lot different if one is missing its air, but pressure guage will show if one or two is low. Trailer will roll on three good tires, but handle poorly... May even be possible to bend a wheel or knock a shock absorber mount loose before knocking the axles out of alignment....

John MCG
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Old 05-30-2006, 12:30 PM   #4
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Oh NO!

Minnie Mate,
So sorry to hear about the ding on your new AS. Jack hit most of the trouble points, also look at the wheels to see if you scratched or dented the rim causing it to go out of balance. It may be a wheel problem and not an axle problem. Check cold tire pressure if one of the tires was running low from a slow leak caused by the impact that could contribute to sway.
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Old 05-30-2006, 12:31 PM   #5
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Could have loaded the camper different for the ride home also...
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Old 05-30-2006, 12:32 PM   #6
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The service manager said that all lugs were torqued as part of the pre-delivery check-out and told me that I should have them re-torqued after about 4,000 thousand miles and then after every 10,000 miles (that seems a little to infrequent to me).

I have an Equal-i-zer hitch that doesn't use spring bars per se. There are two 1,200 lb. bars that come off of the hitch head that I removed at the camp ground by removing carter keys and pins. I replaced them with the same. They attach to the tounge by resting on two brackets and are held into place by two "L" shaped hold downs that are held in place by carter keys. I replaced all of this the way they were when I arrived at the camp ground. In order to place the bars, I had to lower the tounge onto the ball, lock it down and raise the tounge and rear or the truck about 3" and use a lift bar to slip the bars over onto the "L" brackets, then lower the tounge. That is all there is to the Equal-i-zer.

There weren't any abrasion marks on the tires or wheels that indicated that they hit the guard rail, but I don't know of any other reason for the increased sway. As I said on Saturday there was no sway even at 70 MPH with semi's passing. On Monday, there was sway at 70 MPH with Honda Accords passing. When I was in the middle lane and had cars on both sides at the same time, I was afraid I was going to cross over into either of their lanes. When a semi passed, I felt like I was getting sucked over into his lane.

I'll get a torgue wrench and try the lugs before our next trip and see if that is it, but I don't know what else it could be.
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Old 05-30-2006, 12:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillTex
Could have loaded the camper different for the ride home also...
That might be part of it because my wife did take a lot of stuff this week end to "decorate" the trailer. We pretty much had everything you need to camp in it and there was more tounge wait after it was packed because we stored a few items (not much though) under the bed in the front bedroom. Maybe one side is loaded heavier than the other. Where would I look to find a public scale to weigh each side? I don't know where the nearest truck stop would be...I mean the only one I know about is only open to trucks and not to RV's.
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Old 05-30-2006, 02:17 PM   #8
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It is more likely that less TW on the ride home, or side-side loading, would cause sway.(Did you have water on the drive up?)
Being rear-end heavy in the camper is not good.
The weight and corresponding height used to set up you hitch initially and the weight and height you have now may require you to tweak you Equalizer.

After you have camped several times, and your weight becomes more consistant (you will, no doubt, fine tune what yoiu bring and what you DON'T bring any more), you probably won't have to adjust the hitch any longer.

I have used an Equalizer for years and have never had sway yet (not to say it won't happen some day). But review your hitch instructions, look at how you are loaded side-side, and front-back, and get a better idea of your actual weights.
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Old 05-30-2006, 02:40 PM   #9
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Perhaps it was calm on the day of your departure, and windy upon your return? Or the wind direction may have been different? As passing cars and trucks block and unblock strong winds from the street side you will notice buffeting. It makes a big difference!

Also, it's not so much the amount of stuff you put in the trailer, it's where you put it. If it is tail heavy you may get real sway.

Check the pressure of all your tires - including your truck.

If there are no scuff marks on the tires, no damage to the wheels, and the aluminum skin did not get pushed in as far as the wheels/tires... then I do not think you have an alignment problem.

Sorry to hear about your crunch. Airstreams are bulky and very intolerant of bumping into things. I hope that you can get it repaired to your satisfaction.
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Old 05-30-2006, 02:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnie's Mate
The service manager said that all lugs were torqued as part of the pre-delivery check-out and told me that I should have them re-torqued after about 4,000 thousand miles and then after every 10,000 miles (that seems a little to infrequent to me).

I have an Equal-i-zer hitch that doesn't use spring bars per se. There are two 1,200 lb. bars that come off of the hitch head that I removed at the camp ground by removing carter keys and pins. I replaced them with the same. They attach to the tounge by resting on two brackets and are held into place by two "L" shaped hold downs that are held in place by carter keys. I replaced all of this the way they were when I arrived at the camp ground. In order to place the bars, I had to lower the tounge onto the ball, lock it down and raise the tounge and rear or the truck about 3" and use a lift bar to slip the bars over onto the "L" brackets, then lower the tounge. That is all there is to the Equal-i-zer.

There weren't any abrasion marks on the tires or wheels that indicated that they hit the guard rail, but I don't know of any other reason for the increased sway. As I said on Saturday there was no sway even at 70 MPH with semi's passing. On Monday, there was sway at 70 MPH with Honda Accords passing. When I was in the middle lane and had cars on both sides at the same time, I was afraid I was going to cross over into either of their lanes. When a semi passed, I felt like I was getting sucked over into his lane.

I'll get a torgue wrench and try the lugs before our next trip and see if that is it, but I don't know what else it could be.

Based on how you've described hooking up the Equalizer hitch it doesn't sound like the problem is there. It seems like you'd have to hit the guard rail pretty darned hard to knock the axles out of alignment. Based on your description of the damage it just doesn't seem that you did. Having said that, and the degree to which you are now experiencing instability, you may want the dealer to pull the wheels and hubs in order to see if the spindles may have been bent, or perhaps even the torsion arms. I'd have them check all four to make sure they're still within specs.
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Old 05-30-2006, 03:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coriolis1
Based on how you've described hooking up the Equalizer hitch it doesn't sound like the problem is there. It seems like you'd have to hit the guard rail pretty darned hard to knock the axles out of alignment. Based on your description of the damage it just doesn't seem that you did. Having said that, and the degree to which you are now experiencing instability, you may want the dealer to pull the wheels and hubs in order to see if the spindles may have been bent, or perhaps even the torsion arms. I'd have them check all four to make sure they're still within specs.
I'm taking it back to the Dealer in a couple of weeks to have additional awnings installed across the rear and on the roadside and will have him check them out while he is repairing the side.

But the more I think about it the more I think it could be uneven load. All of the "stuff" that was loaded from the back of my truck into the coach for the first leg of its journey was in boxes that were placed in the center aisle so the load was still even side to side. Most of the stuff was kitchen items that was placed in the kitchen cabinets, overhead bins, and drawers which in this coach is on the roadside. After we got home last night, my wife started adding the remaining items that will stay in the Airstream and rearranged what was there. She told me just a few minutes ago that she had moved some of the heavier items to the curb side storage wardrobe already so maybe that will help. I guess I'll find out when I take it to the dealer for the repairs.
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Old 05-30-2006, 04:16 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnie's Mate
I'm taking it back to the Dealer in a couple of weeks to have additional awnings installed across the rear and on the roadside and will have him check them out while he is repairing the side.

But the more I think about it the more I think it could be uneven load. All of the "stuff" that was loaded from the back of my truck into the coach for the first leg of its journey was in boxes that were placed in the center aisle so the load was still even side to side. Most of the stuff was kitchen items that was placed in the kitchen cabinets, overhead bins, and drawers which in this coach is on the roadside. After we got home last night, my wife started adding the remaining items that will stay in the Airstream and rearranged what was there. She told me just a few minutes ago that she had moved some of the heavier items to the curb side storage wardrobe already so maybe that will help. I guess I'll find out when I take it to the dealer for the repairs.
Well, it probably is just a question of re-distributing the weight inside, as you say. Let's hope that solves the problem!
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Old 05-30-2006, 05:39 PM   #13
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This is interesting. Just an FYI if you raise the hitch a little higher, you probably will be able to move those spring bars (yes, that's what Equal-i-zer calls them too) over to the L-bracket. I used the lift bar the first few times and then realized it was easier to use the hitch jack to raise things a little higher.

Sounds like you hitched up correctly so I am curious about your weight distribution also. If your Safari is like my 30' Classic, the bulk of the weight pretty much sits over the wheels or forward of them. The microwave, refrigerator and food panty sits on the street side, the closet, stove, sink and counter sits on the curb side. The fresh water tank sits between the tandem axles. When I hitch up I have a slight and I mean very very slight tilt towards the front. That tilt goes away as my fuel tank empties on the TV. So I don't plan to adjust the hitch since I think I might be in a slight nose high situation if the fuel level drops. Have you had your hitched up vehicle sit on level ground? How does it look. Technically you shouldn't have any nose high or down situation. If you have a small amount (and I do mean very small), I would error toward the nose being the lower side.

The area to the rear of the axle carries the load of the shower on curb side and bathroom on the street side. The rear bedroom carries some items under the bed none of which is heavy, plus towels, under garments and shoes in the underbed sliding drawers. The cabinets on both sides of the bed are lightly loaded. Nothing heavy here, and over the bed we carry my cameras and extra bedding. Again nothing heavy.

I'm using 1,400 spring bars and a class V receiver. The slide out has a big weight difference than most Airstreams with my hitch weight being somewhere in the 1,250 lbs range.

The Classic pulls rock solid and to be honest exhibits less sway tendencies than my Reese Dual-Cam did when I pulled a 27' Safari. I've pulled in some nasty cross winds and as recently as two weeks ago pulled in some 35 mph gusts that were hitting me at an angle and at the side. I'm convinced that this hitch shouldn't be giving you the problems you are seeing.

I don't feel comfortable with the wheel lug nut checking routine that your dealer gave you. I continue to check lug nuts before every outing and can tell you that only towards the end of my first year did I find the lugs consistantly tight. Personally I consider the lug checking as important as tire pressure checking before beginning any trip. Also don't forget to check those socket bolts on the hitch. My recommendation for you is to set them at 60 ft lbs. based on your situation. 45 is the minimum, and that's where I keep mine at this time.

Recheck the L bracket installation. Are the L brackets mounted in the same holes on both sides of the A frame? Does anything seem loose? I caught a problem this spring where one of the brackets was slightly loose causing a slight tilt to the L bracket.

Jack
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Old 05-30-2006, 06:47 PM   #14
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Whoa!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnie's Mate
The service manager said that all lugs were torqued as part of the pre-delivery check-out and told me that I should have them re-torqued after about 4,000 thousand miles and then after every 10,000 miles (that seems a little to infrequent to me).
Way too infrequent.
Try at 50 miles, 150 miles, 500 miles, 1000 miles, and 2500 miles. Checking them at 5000 miles, and every 5000 thereafter would be a really good idea. Most of us don't put that many miles on their coaches, so maybe check them at the beginning and middle of camping season. You theoretically will be removing them when you repack the wheel bearings and check the brakes every spring, anyway.
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