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Old 01-31-2012, 10:28 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by samb View Post
Are torsion axles better for an Airstream and the owner than leaf spring suspension? It is a matter of opinion. Here you have my experience on the matter.
Sam
Ah, as are so many things on the forums.

Personally, my decision to replace leaf spring setup with replacement in kind is motivated by quite the opposite argument of previous regarding lowering the trailer.... I have a 26" leaf setup with reverse drop that rides way too low for my offroad/ back area destinations. And I don't plan to drive at any sort of high speed through these areas-- If it takes me an hour to get down 5 miles of dirt road, so be it.

Then again, I have no actual experience with leaf v. torsion except my one 400 mile RT inaugural camping trip, in which the leaf setup seemed to work exceptionally well. Based on the physics, I wouldn't be surprised if the torsion would have been even MORE dampening of shocks and vibration while also providing Independent suspension, but that will be the accepted downside to replacing in kind.

To me, the bottom line is you should use those new axles to "Get your 'Stream On", and see as much of the beauty in our lands as possible.

Edit: On second thought, I really like that phrase. I might even make T-shirts. haha.
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Old 01-31-2012, 11:50 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Aktundra View Post
Various parts shops have suggested an increased ride height from a leaf spring axel, if I am concerned about towing a small trailer with a lifted rig. I came running home tonight to research leaf springs vs torsion, and do not see a recent discussion on the forum. Are leaf springs totally ridiculous for a travel trailer?
In practice, either can work well, and as such, the choice is partly a matter of taste and tradeoffs.

Torsion axles are premium products that provide superior ride and handling. The suspension is fully independent, the unsprung weight is lower, and there is a degree of damping to the point where it is not strictly necessary that shock absorbers be used. The difference in smoothness of ride and stability is nothing to sneeze at -- comparable to the difference between cars of the 1950s and modern cars.

Torsion axles offer better ground clearance for the same ride height, because the axle tube is at frame height rather than at the center of the wheel.

There are some other benefits specific to tandem axle setups which don't apply to your situation.

Leaf springs are cheaper and are therefore more widely used on trailers (campers and otherwise), because making trailers of any kind is a cost sensitive business. Welding shops are more familiar with them and may recommend them for this reason alone. For travel trailers, it is necessary to use shock absorbers as part of the suspension design when leaf springs are used.

Neither suspension type lasts forever. Torsion axles fail with the passage of time, generally after 20 to 25 years though their performance may deteriorate somewhat sooner. Leaf springs fail with use, particularly with frequent articulation as occurs off-road or on poor roads. This manifests itself as leaf breakage, loss of curve, and failure of individual parts like shackles and bushings. It is necessary to replace shocks periodically when leaf springs are used.

A standard height trailer will ride fine behind a lifted truck as long as suitable drop hitching is used. Either leaf springs or torsion axles can be lifted if desired by using spacers or changing the spring/torsion geometry itself. There will be more stress on the springs and the frame when this is done, in either case.
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Old 01-31-2012, 12:33 PM   #17
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Jammer Nails It!

Airstreams are premium travel trailers with premium axles.
Leaf springs are cheaper to install, repair, and replace, but...
Torsion axles provide better performance and much better handling especially in emergencies.
By design, torsion axles dampen sway and oscillation.
There's a video on these forums someplace of a 500 HP sedan pulling both an Airstream and an SOB through a slalom. This video provides a graphic look at the difference between torsion and leaf-spring suspensions.
I'll link it when I find it.
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Old 01-31-2012, 02:01 PM   #18
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You would need to do the same test with an Airstream with leaf springs and one with Torsion Axels in order for the results to be meaningful. An SOB trailer has a much higher center of gravity and they are heavier and have the aerodynamics of a brick. Aerodynamics, weight, center of gravity, and axel type are all factors that improve handling and stability. Axel type is just one of those factors.

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Old 01-31-2012, 02:45 PM   #19
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Here's the Video

Watch this video, see what you think.

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Old 01-31-2012, 04:59 PM   #20
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The CG of that SOB is way higher than the Airstream.

Perry
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:28 PM   #21
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Independant Suspension

Everyone,

I recommended the rubber axles to AKTundra for two reasons:
(1) His trailer already came with one and so it'd be easier to replace with like
(2) You do get greater ground clearance, all else being equal, with the rubber one than you do with leaf springs.

That being said, I myself prefer metal springs. They do basically last forever unless abused. And if abused, they're easy to fix. As well, look at the world's automakers....they still use metal springs, be they leaf or coil.

If I were towing on roads all the time, I would prefer leaf springs. But, I assumed that AK would be going over boulders and everything else (from his original post wanting maximum ground clearance to match his truck) and so that's why I went with the rubber torsion axles.

You all want to see a really cool suspension? Check out my two attached pictures here. This is six wheel fully independent suspension with six spring packs, six shock absorbers, and six individually pivoted swing arms. What is this on? This is called "Adjust-a-Ryde" suspension and it is on my '87 Avion 34 footer. Avion has three main frame rails that are 6" deep, and an 8" deep suspension frame that the main coach frame sits on top of. These are heavy duty Dexter axles cut in half and a fitting welded into the end, which are mounted to fittings attached to the center frame rail of the suspension frame. So it's like the old Ford "Twin I-Beam" front suspension. It works great! I run 58psi in my D rated tires and I can lay a plastic spoon on the counter and 500 miles later, it's still there. My pictures on the wall are just on normal hooks and they don't fly off. It really is a good suspension design. But, it doesn't give you maximum ground clearance like a 45 degree down angle torsion axle would. However, I don't pull my 34 footer over 2 foot high boulders. For any kind of decent road, it's excellent. But it's not an off road machine.

The Best way would probably be double wishbones with coil over shocks. But that takes up a lot of room and surely isn't cheap.

For trailers, I like leafs for durability. But if I wanted an off road machine to max out ground clearance, I'd look hard at rubber axles. Although, that being said, the truck has leafs
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:40 PM   #22
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That being said, I myself prefer metal springs. They do basically last forever unless abused. And if abused, they're easy to fix. As well, look at the world's automakers....they still use metal springs, be they leaf or coil.
I almost touched on this in my earlier post but thought I'd wait to see if it came up.

There is very little magic in the fact that the torsion axles used in Airstreams use rubber cords. It's a convenient design because it allows the entire suspension to fit into an axle component that is then merely attached to the frame in two places on each side. The independence, lower unsprung weight, and improved geometry don't depend on rubber.

Automakers generally use independent suspension designs with metal springs. The overall properties of the rear suspension used in most SUVs, typically coil spring or torsion spring designs, are similar to those of the rubber torsion axles used by Airstream. Their disadvantage, in a trailer, is that they place demands on the frame and body that an Airstream cannot accommodate without extensive modifications.
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Old 01-31-2012, 06:17 PM   #23
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Too bad they don't make trailer axels with steel rods in them like on the front end of an old VW bug. I don't like that Avion concept with the 6 independent axels and springs. I would think that system would tend to get out of alignment if it is like the control arms on cars.

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Old 01-31-2012, 08:17 PM   #24
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re. springs.....I replaced 3 out of 4 during the last 4 years I owned my 17 year old SOB. Not overloaded, not abused.....just a LOT of miles. The main leaf broke on each of them at the point of the tip of the second leaf.

Before that, one of the springs on my pop up sagged unequally from the other. Again, always garaged, never overloaded nor abused.

Springs don't last any better than torsion, IMO.
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Old 02-01-2012, 01:02 AM   #25
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I appreciate the input, I guess it's the torsion that I am least familiar with ( as mentioned we come across leaf springs on trucks & such).

I know what a catastrophic failure on a leaf looks like (broken leaf, broken mount, same as previous exept bent, etc). Seems like most the knocks against torsion is they wear out in 20 years ( but what doesn't).

What is catastrophic failure of torsion, look like?
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Old 02-01-2012, 03:02 AM   #26
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If the torsion spring fails then it would rest against the stop and you would have no suspension and it would ride real low. I have not heard of any mechanical failures of them like spindles coming off etc.

Perry
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Old 02-01-2012, 06:24 AM   #27
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When I first started Streaming....

No Forum input...was a real newbie...

63 22' Safari...

Took me way to long to realize that the frequent rivet replacement, erratic towing behavior, vibrations, uneven tire ware, interior appointments finding new locations to reside, broken dishes, difficult wheel removal etc. was because of a worn out axle.
After a ride in the coach trying to find out why the fridge burner kept blowing out, it became apparent immediately that the axel compliance or lack thereof was the cause.

Nothing catastrophic but in total a real PITA.

I guess that's why I'm so anal about the underrated axles on the Classic.

Bob
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Old 02-01-2012, 06:54 AM   #28
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If the torsion spring fails then it would rest against the stop and you would have no suspension and it would ride real low. I have not heard of any mechanical failures of them like spindles coming off etc.

Perry
I've read on here of a few examples...but Andy could tell you better. IIRC, there were some years (a long time ago) when the spindles were too small. Saw a pic somewhere where one broke.

Somebody else had a trailing arm snap off where the square shaft mounts to the trailing arm.

These things seem to me to be more rare than broken leafs, shackles etc on a leaf suspended trailer. Worn shackle pins were always an issue on my leaf suspensions. Even after installing greaseable shackles. (another maintenance item BTW)
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