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Old 04-21-2011, 05:38 PM   #1
1972 Travelux Princess 25
Cobourg , Ontario
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Towing on bad axles

I know it is hard on a trailer to tow on axles that have worn out or collapsed due to age.

The question is, how do you get an old trailer home without damaging it? Sometimes it is necessary to bring one home from hundreds of miles away.

Is there a limit to how far you can tow without damage? Or is it OK if you go slow? Assume good roads and interstate hiways, reasonably smooth, and slow right down in case of secondary roads with bad pavement or potholes ?

Is there some way to shim up old axles temporarily?

The reason I ask is, there is a 1990 Squarestream 32 foot for sale about 250 miles from here. Condition of the axles unknown but the owner admits the trailer needs work so they are probably the originals.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Old 04-21-2011, 06:00 PM   #2
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Send a message via Skype™ to Melody Ranch we go. That axle BS is just that. BS! Maybe the axle needs to be replaced....OK. That means that the rubber has taken a "set." A rough ride with less than desired smoothness....PERIOD.! Do not go hyper on the axle. Go get the Airstream...go have fun with it. So it rides rough.....just batten down and get it home. Work on it....enjoy it and when you have the opportunity to swap it it. The best thing about getting a new axle right away is that you will most likely get one with new brakes and put on new tires. Even on the "spindle handicapped" 60's if you avoid the cratered roads you should be able to safely get it home. AND....if you have a spring on the early Airstreams........I won't even go there.

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Old 04-21-2011, 06:53 PM   #3
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1961 24' Tradewind
1969 29' Ambassador
1970 21' Globetrotter
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I agree with Melody Ranch. This whole axle thing is bordering on paranoid. I have yet to replace an axle and I have had quite a few of these trailers over the years
Rick Davis 1602 K8DOC
61 tradewind, plus a few others
13 Ram 2500 TD
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Old 04-21-2011, 07:08 PM   #4
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Ganaraska I towed mine only twice a year on bad axles. I just never knew they were bad. I really never had any problems with anything bouncing around. I did after several years pop a couple of inner skin rivets over the entry door. I did really load up the trailer for the biannual tow. I once even towed it with all my work tool boxes ( 6 of them) and all my worldly goods and had no issues.
Last fall I picked up a 75 Sovereign in North Carolina and just hitched up and towed it home. The only issue I had after 1600 kms was a tire blowout.
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Old 04-21-2011, 07:51 PM   #5
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1992 21' Sovereign
Albuquerque , New Mexico
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Low Rider Trailer and Clearance?

We just replaced the axles on our 92 Sovereign 21'. Never worried about the ride and didn't have any popped rivets. Things rode pretty well inside too. But the whole trailer was low (bought it that way 2 years ago) and we had 5" clearance on the plumbing. We knocked that plumbing twice in the first year--both time requiring the Airstream dealer to fix it $200+ each time. Second time we were lucky we didn't crack the black tank due to the impact. We couldn't put the trailer in our driveway, had to be really careful coming in/out of gas stations, and forget rough dirt roads. This prompted investigation into how to get the trailer up! Axles! (Thanks Uwe) Now with new axles we have 10" clearance on the plumbing. (Sorry, don't have a pic showing the new, higher clearance.)
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Old 04-21-2011, 08:24 PM   #6
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I agree not to worry about it. If it makes you feel better, go inside the trailer and bounce up and down, I'll bet the trailer will go up and down with you. If the trailer moves, it's not locked up.
Hitch up to it with the proper hitch height and take her home.
Have a safe trip and Keep the Shiny Side UP.
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Old 04-21-2011, 09:46 PM   #7
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I'm afraid I have to agree & disagree with some of what has been said & not because I sell axles either.

First of all, I wouldn't worry too much about towing a trailer home without replacing the axles, however I would certainly repack, or at the very least remove the drums & check the condition of the grease & bearings. It's always easier to do it before you leave from the previous owners house as opposed to on the side of the road in some town where you have no idea where the parts store is.

As far as brakes are concerned, it obviously better if they work, however if the tow vehicle has enough braking capacity for both, you'll likely make it home, providing Murphy doesn't show up.

Yes it is true, these axles do fail, sometimes catastrophically as well. The spindles on the 5 lug axles on early Caravels would snap off, causing far more costly damage to the body, wheel well & floor then an axle would typically cost, however I would still take the chance & tow one home, knowing the potential problems. This is not a myth, it is fact & I have seen it personally numerous times. One of my clients lost both spindles all at once by going over a railway crossing that was slightly higher than it should have been.

The remainder of the 60's & 70's axles have a tendancy to sag out. It even happens on the 80's models as well. The suspension travel becomes virtually nonexistant, raising the spring rate far beyond what is acceptable to maintaining the structural integrity of the trailer over the long run. Fatigue sets in & bingo, more costly problems that could have been avoided with a supple suspension. Again, I would & have towed trailers back to my shop in this condition, however I keep to the smoother roads & take greater care with my driving.

Another undeniable result of a sagged out axle is the ability to remove & reinstall tires. As many of you know, I have been on many recovery missions & I always take tires/wheels with me, knowing that most neglected trailers have ancient cracked tires on them, along with the dreaded split rims. When the axles sag out, the wheel sits higher in the wheel well, & when the trailer is jacked up & the wheel/tire is removed from the hub, it is often very difficult to fit the tire between the outside edge of the wheel well & the drum. It has gone as far as having to let the air out of the old tire to allow it to squeeze out, plus I will have to let the air out of the "good" tire in order to get it onto the trailer. So, you'll need a source of air, even though you brought good tires with you.

The next axle issue, I have replaced Henschen axles on late model trailers that had very bad fatigue cracks on the axle mounting brackets them selves. The cracks went from the edge of the bracket, across to the large oval hole (I have no idea why this hole was there as I have never seen it used for anything) then proceeded all of the way to the top of the bracket & across the top. If this had cracked completely across, the axle tube would only have been held on with one bolt on that side instead of two. This was not an isolated fatigue issue, as these cracks were on three of the six brackets on a 2000 34'er. This is also fact, not myth. I'll hunt around in my photos & post some later.

Many people have towed trailers all over everywhere with old sagged out axles & never had a bearing failure & the brakes have always worked, but depending on the type of roads you were on, the fatigue build up will vary, so when or if rivets start popping on the interior & exterior, bulkheads start pulling away from the walls etc etc etc will also vary, but all of it will happen sooner or later. It really depends on what you want & how long you want it to last. Some people choose to drive a hundred thousand miles without changing the oil & never have a problem, others have all kinds of issues even when they change the oil every 5,000 miles. It may be luck of the draw, but I choose to make educated decisions & choose accordingly.
I'll get off my soap box now,
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Old 04-21-2011, 11:25 PM   #8
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I've had 4 airstreams and still have one. Never replaced one Axle, call me crazy and I know they sag and need replacement sometimes. If I were towing one home, I would check the tires, carry a spare and hit the rode. If I were planing lots of rallys or several cross country trips, I would consider upgrading. When my kids were younger and we only towed a hundred miles or so to the beach or campground, changing them never crossed my mind and it still hasn't. I'd spend the money on comforts of being there, gas, propane, beer, soda, hot dogs, ice whatever.
What's most interesing to me is the Airstreams I see all over the highways. They are just cruising the highways and almost always "probably" need axles but I have never, ever once in all my years saw one on the side of the rode with one broken. I'm sure some have but just my experience.
Tires on the other hand...they all suck and you are foolish to buy any of them based on recommendations...everybody is on their own there.
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Old 04-22-2011, 01:10 AM   #9
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I agree with what has been said. You should be fine. I just completed my first ever "go out and get her" vintage unit and towed it back 1500 miles thru potholes on roads of areas that salt and washboard interstate roads. Granted 51 year old girl had spring axles but I'm sure the shocks were bad.

I did have the bearings replaced and packed before I left, towed it 180 miles in 45 degree weather on 9 year old tires to get new tires for the remaining 1320 miles no problem.
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Old 04-22-2011, 06:21 AM   #10
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Tow it home, then worry about if you need to replace the axles.
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Old 04-22-2011, 07:11 AM   #11
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axle comments

Colin’s post of above is very good.

Some additional comments for whatever they may be worth.
The 69 plus trailer had pretty much a built in tire changing problem with the clearance between the hub and the outer wheel well.
I bought my 69 Ambassador when it was only 3 years old, My 70 Globetrotter when it was 12 years old. Even at that time it was very difficult to change a tire and it is not likely that the axles had sagged that much on a 3 year old trailer. Back then the standard tire size was 700-15. These tires are slightly narrower than the ST 225-75R15 tires that they are commonly replaced with today. They were still hard to remove. It helped to jack up the trailer higher than could be done with a ramp and to hold a piece of sheet metal between the wheel well and the tire so as not to snag on the rivets holding the wheel well trim in place. I never had to deflate one but have come pretty close. Since I have never changed these trailers to radials (yet) Not sure how much tougher it would be with the slightly wider tire.

When I bought my 61 Tradewind moving around in side it would not make it bounce. I suspect it had sat for 30 plus years based on an old license plate but may have been relatively low mileage as the tire tread pattern was one that had been used before the early 70’s. Whatever the reason for the “no bounce” it freed up with use.
An axle change here would be a bit more work as they were welded in place in 1961.

I have currently towed this tandem axle trailer about 40,000 miles. The trailer now bounces properly, tires wear well, and a lantern mantle on the gas lite will last a season. The gas lite mantle is my own personal test. I have replaced a few rivets but that is normal for anything flexing as it goes down the road.

I have never worried about the shocks. Most trailers don’t even have them..

I am sure as Colin pointed out luck is a factor in all this
I do keep a pretty close watch on what goes on with my vehicles and it does pay off as my Tow Vehicle has 560 K miles on it.

Also agree with the OP who said all trailer tires are junk
Rick Davis 1602 K8DOC
61 tradewind, plus a few others
13 Ram 2500 TD
99 Dodge TD 577K miles

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Old 04-22-2011, 08:06 AM   #12
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I have various popped rivets, bedroom divider wall has pushed a hole in the ceiling, and the bathroom cabinets/mirror assembly is pulled about 1-1/2" from the walls (all rivets broke loose). This is the condition I purchased my trailer and, after reading various threads on such damage, I further suspected the cause was bad axles. By measuring the angle on my torsion arms, I verified that the axles were shot. After replacement, trailer rides 2" higher and I have not noticed any further damage of interor. Coincidence? The PO wasn't aware of any concerns with axles and would have never entertained such replacement. But all the reading here made me concerned enough to do the work. Similar issue now - with rear end floor rot - and I know from reading here that I should repair it ASAP - but others have said to use it - thousands of others are being dragged around the US with the same condition. Guess it's all about comfort levels....

Oh - to reply to the OP I'd certainly tow it HOME on the axles!

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Old 04-22-2011, 08:21 AM   #13
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1961 24' Tradewind
1969 29' Ambassador
1970 21' Globetrotter
Jamestown , Tennessee
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The trailers from 1969 up through some point in the 70's had some frame problems.
Basically hit a few hard bumps and the frame would bend over the axles resulting in the center partition pushing though the ceiling and some rear end seperation problems. It happened to my 69 and I know exactly when and how.
This was a known problem and there were several service bulletins on it and there are reinforcing plates available that go over the axle.
My guess is if you were to look at your axle mounting plates from the rear of the trailer you will see little ripples in them indicating this problem. In really severe cases the aluminum over the wheels will also have an obvious outward bulge.
Bad axles would probably contribute but the real problem was an uderdesigned frame.
I have heard this resulted when they were trying to design weight out of the trailer when the first fuel crisis's hit but don't know if there is anything to it

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61 tradewind, plus a few others
13 Ram 2500 TD
99 Dodge TD 577K miles

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