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Old 03-25-2012, 04:10 PM   #1
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Restore or replace leaf spring axle?

You can tell me I'm premature for asking this before I have inspected my 1950 leaf spring axle and posting photos when asking a question and I would have to say I agree & I apologise for my impatience BUT...I would like an opinion to know what I might be looking forward to.

I have a single axle, leaf spring. My trailer is steel & I have no idea what it weighs. I will know if I am doing a body off restoration next weekend when I move my trailer to her new home to start the restoration. If you only have 1 axle, it needs to be good and strong. I've looked at the posts regarding torsion versus leaf spring. I've located a dealer & reasonable price for a Dexter axle - just in case I need to replace it. What weight & type axle? What brake 12"? What other recommendations can anyone give me? Do I replace the axle when the body is on? Or when I pull the trailer out to restore it if I need to do a body off restoration?

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Old 03-25-2012, 04:23 PM   #2
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Three choices and considerations. A spring mount can have the axle above or below the springs using the original solid axle. Some of the old trailers ride way to low for comfort...going over bumps and entry curbs at service stations for example. There is nothing wrong with the springs...clean 'em up and lube them. (they have zerks that many folks forget about.) Then consider the brakes. You will most likely rebuild the brakes and bearings completely if you keep the spring axle....just from age. If you go with a new axle get it with the backing plates, brakes and bearings already installed. The mess with figuring out the mounting and finding someone to do a good job of it. You can also just buy a complete axle assembly and mount it above or below the springs in place of the old solid axle.

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Old 03-25-2012, 04:27 PM   #3
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Penokee , Kansas
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If it's not broke,, don't fix it..

First I would not worry about switching axles until you see if anything is broke..

The main reason its an issue with AS and torsion axles is once the rubber is hammered out,, there shot.. No spring action left..

Leaf springs are a proven concept.. If all the leaves are not broken,, and have equal arch,, at worst it might take some new spring eye bushings to restore.. Some are brass and others are rubber..

Spindle condition is another area once you pull the hubs for a clean up.. If the spindles look good and has never spun a bearing and the threads are good on the end its nothing more than clean it all up and inspect the bearings and if not showing ware or chips,, repack, replace the hub seal and go another 20,000 miles..

Brakes are matched in size with the axle payload.. If you have a 4500 lb axle your brakes will handle stopping 4500 lbs.. Double axle trailers might only have 2500 lb rated axles, and the brakes a lot smaller but have 4 of them all holding back the rated load.

First things first.. Don't get too far ahead of yourself.

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Old 03-25-2012, 04:31 PM   #4
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I replaced the original 4 inch drop axle on a 54 Safari I had. The original axle was quite useable, however the trailer was very low to the ground and also had Warner electric brakes which is long out of the business.

I replaced with a Dexter straight axle, 5200 lb rating with 12 inch brakes and the standard 6 bolt wheel pattern.
I did retain the original springs so the "ride" was actually determined by the springs, not the axle rating.
This raised the trailer 4 inches, got me modern brakes, and the cost was partially offset by not having to buy a long drop hitch bar.
I did have to make new spring bushings from Nylon as the old ones were about gone
All in all it worked out quite well.
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Old 03-28-2012, 04:21 PM   #5
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Welcome to the shiney world of Airstreams!

I believe the purpose of Airstream going to a torsion axle was multifold. It lowered the trailer body. In that lowering process it was smaller assembly that the coach had to be built around. (More interior space) And it provided a softer ride so the insides would be disturbed less.

With that said there are some benefits to leave springs.
Much longer service life
Less money to build
Less money to replace
A little bit more maintence
It will take far more abuse and neglect than a torsion axle.

Changing designs on an existing unit isn't impossible .... given enough time and money. And it will take you way more time and way more money than if you just stick with the original design.

If it were me, I would get a new set of leaf springs, if you even need a new set. There are several shops in Phoenix and may be one in Mesa as well. This would be my approach as it would be EZ and cheap. Which is one of my favorite combos.

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Old 03-28-2012, 04:45 PM   #6
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I have used this shop (several years ago) to fix a spring problem I had in a truck. Dunbar Spring

They are located in downtown Phoenix and can make new leaf springs for anything.


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Old 03-28-2012, 05:00 PM   #7
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In general there is no reason to replace the leaf springs unless they are broken. It may be necessary to replace the shackles and bushings due to wear. If they do require replacement it will be cheaper to replace them with leaf springs than with torsion axles. If the spindles are shot or the brake mounts incompatible with new brakes this should be able to be addressed without replacing the springs.

If your trailer was not designed around torsion axles then the only benefit they offer is improved ride. You will have to decide whether it's worth the added costs bearing in mind that a swap from one type to another will require careful consideration of any needed frame reinforcements and also ride height.
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Old 03-29-2012, 08:33 PM   #8
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The referral to the downtown Phoenix shop I'll save, thanks. I called a good shop near me & they said the don't rebuild these axles because they can get the parts. I thought that was odd. I have some good sites in mind to try to order parts if we need them to do the work ourselves although I wanted a price on having it done for me. And the price for a new Dexter axle with 12" brake & all the other goodies is surprising reasonable. I saw a photo of a 48 restoration where the axle was original rust & all. They didn't even rebuild it for a full restoration so I guess if the axle doesn't need anything it's fine to leave it & clean up & epoxy prime & paint treat the trailer. I'll be able to inspect the axle & trailer this weekend so instead of speculating I'll be able to send photos when I ask questions. I hope I can find what I need to keep my 1950 axles. thanks

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