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Old 09-22-2009, 01:31 PM   #1
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single to tandem axle conversion?

Hello-

We're researching our first Airstream trailer purchase and trying to be patient to hold out for the right one. We think that we'd like a 24-ft from the 60's or a 23-ft from the 70's and the couple of the Airstreams fitting that description that have come available in our area only have single axles. We're planning to travel to WY with the trailer often and with the crosswinds, semi traffic and gnarly mountain passes, we feel that the tandem axle is a must.

We're interested in a project trailer and from the little bit of research we've done, it seems like we should anticipate having to do an axle replacement anyway. Is it possible/ advisable to convert a single axle to tandem? Is this a DIY project or would we need to plan on taking it to a dealer? My husband has experience with (older) ranch equipment tinkering and repair, average carpentry skills, plus lots of experience with structural retrofit, but no car repair experience.

Thanks in advance for sharing your experience.
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Old 09-22-2009, 01:41 PM   #2
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Hmm... Sounds Difficult

I think this would be a major undertaking at a minimum and could get more difficult and involved than you think.

Even if it's possible you will have to move the existing axle so the two axles are properly located. So, you're really installing two axles not just one. Then there's all the wiring for the brakes, moving cabinets, tanks, modifying the body and frame.

I'm curious if anyone has done this because it certainly does not sound easy.

Lucius
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Old 09-22-2009, 01:50 PM   #3
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well, from a rebuild standpoint, you can do anything. Obviously, placing an axle on a trailer frame is not just a matter of welding on mounting tabs and bolting on the axle(s). Weight distribution is the whole enchilada, here. If you rebuild the original just like it was, it would be balanced on the single axle correctly. Adding a second axle would be an exercise in fairly sophisticated engineering. You would need to know how much weight the orig frame had on the front (tongue) when level. Then, after determining that, you'd have to determine how far apart your axles will be, and how to correctly spread the weight between them, maintaining the correct balance (10-12% on the tongue?). So, you need to know exactly what your floorplan will be, where and what size water tanks you are using, all individual component weights, and then do the math. I'll bet that you'd still miss something (Murphy's law always figgers in on these things). So, in reality, my two cents is: find a tandem axle factory built trailer and don't modify a single. Too much room for a treacherous result, which would have zero resale. I know I would not buy an Airstream modified by owner to have a different axle scheme than original.

And now that I have expressed my opinion, I'll bet there are 2 dozen folks out there who have done this very modification and may be able to guide you through it. After all, not everyone is as ignorant on engineering as I am. I would not tow a single axle trailer, though-even if factory-just my own personal choice.
ol bill
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Old 09-22-2009, 02:02 PM   #4
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Two thoughts:

- Have to say, having towed close to 10,000 miles recently with two single-axle trailers (my T@B and my Argosy Minuet), I can't really complain about sway from trucks or mountain pass handling. There are obviously definite advantages though, particularly if you get a flat.

- Most 70s 23' Safaris - I think all of them from 1971 on - have double axles. I'd wait for one of those rather than doing a major engineering job on a different trailer. (Personally, I'm partial to the 78-79 floorplan with the open lounge arrangement upfront - but that's a better arrangement for a couple without kids than the earlier twin/double layouts.)

Tom
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Old 09-22-2009, 04:26 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mutcth View Post
Most 70s 23' Safaris - I think all of them from 1971 on - have double axles. I'd wait for one of those rather than doing a major engineering job on a different trailer.
This says it all as far as I'm concerned. The inconvenience of shopping beyond your immediate region is small compared to taking the body off and rewelding the frame, constructing new wheelwell, etc. Adding two axles more than likely would take a lot more time than extending your research period.

Browse the photos at Vintage Airstream Photo Archives to define what years/models fulfill your desires.
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Old 09-22-2009, 06:21 PM   #6
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You would be surprised...

Quote:
Originally Posted by griver View Post
Hello-

We're researching our first Airstream trailer purchase... We're planning to travel to WY with the trailer often and with the crosswinds, semi traffic and gnarly mountain passes, we feel that the tandem axle is a must.

Thanks in advance for sharing your experience.
I have an Argosy Minuet 6.0 and when I bought it I was also thinking that way. I had had a 23-foot Safari before (tandem axle). After I had traveled back home from Indiana to Ottawa with my "new" Argosy, I had changed my mind. This little trailer towed like a charm... I never had any of the problems of witch you're afraid. I put a new axle last summer and I am heading to Louisiana, from Mont-Laurier, QC, in October.

I disagree with you. NO... in my opinion... tandem axle IS NOT a must.

André D.
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Old 09-22-2009, 06:43 PM   #7
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Adore, I agree completely. My '64 safari single axle tows like it wasn't even there, doesn't wag or have any bad tendencies at all. New tires cost half what you will pay for your tandems, and brakes, bearings etc. Four wheels are better than two if you have a heavy trailer. otherwise it's just more maintenance and cost.
Now lets hear from the dedicated tandem people!

Rich
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Old 09-22-2009, 07:23 PM   #8
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If tandem axles are a must...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mutcth View Post
I'd wait for one of those rather than doing a major engineering job on a different trailer.
Ding, ding, ding, ding! Give the man a prize for the correct answer!

Shari
"she who has two axles...on two separate trailers!"
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Old 09-22-2009, 08:28 PM   #9
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Seems like you can get preformance you want with less hassle & $$$$ by replacing the single axle [odds are it will need it], and investing in a high end hitch system like hensley? Then you have the hitch for the next one. Plus a used top of the line hitch system is easy to sell.
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Old 09-23-2009, 09:14 AM   #10
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We do a lot of mountain driving with a single axle and never experience the problems you mention. We just came back from a rally near Chama, NM and the winds were blowing 35-45mph. Other than lowering gas mileage it was a breeze.
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