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Old 01-13-2012, 10:06 AM   #1
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Towing with Bad Axles

Hello Folks,

I am brand new to this forum, as I have only just recently purchased a 1973 Ambassador. The trailer is in pretty good shape over-all, but I am going to assume that the axles on this unit are shot. The trailer has been sitting for a number of years and these are likely the original axles, as the rest of the trailer is incredibly original.

My question is, if the axles are in fact seized up, how adviseable is it to tow the trailer the hour and a half trip from the previous owners home to my place in Fallbrook, CA. The axles will need to be replaced, no doubt, but I need to do this work at my place (or perhaps tow it a bit further to have someone else do it). Am I going to do damage to the trailer that I will regret?

Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Vic
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Old 01-13-2012, 10:30 AM   #2
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Hello Folks,

I am brand new to this forum, as I have only just recently purchased a 1973 Ambassador. The trailer is in pretty good shape over-all, but I am going to assume that the axles on this unit are shot. The trailer has been sitting for a number of years and these are likely the original axles, as the rest of the trailer is incredibly original.

My question is, if the axles are in fact seized up, how adviseable is it to tow the trailer the hour and a half trip from the previous owners home to my place in Fallbrook, CA. The axles will need to be replaced, no doubt, but I need to do this work at my place (or perhaps tow it a bit further to have someone else do it). Am I going to do damage to the trailer that I will regret?

Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Vic
Hello and welcome! You should be fine on that short of a trip. Just make sure you bring some tools, strong Duct tape or metal repair tape, nylon zip ties and maybe even some tow lights. I would check the brakes, break lights and signals. Make sure the coupler and tongue are in working condition. When I got to my trailer after the owner dumped it in the desert on me I had to rewire it just to get it home. The front belly pan came off and started to drag on the highway (thank God for Gorilla Tape). Good luck post pics!
For the Axles I would contact Uwe at Area 63 (he is very generous with his time) or Andy at Inland Rv. I got my axles from Collin Hyde because I couldnt tow my trailer and had to do it at my place. Not easy but not impossible.
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Old 01-13-2012, 10:33 AM   #3
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Since the coach will most likely be empty for this trip and across smooth roads you should be okay. I towed my Trade Wind 800 miles from the PO AND the PO used the trailer for camping/hunting in Oregon for at least 3 years. But then again I knew nothing of bad axles so in this case ignorance was bliss. I changed out my tandem axles 2 years later at home. EASY switch.
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Old 01-13-2012, 10:48 AM   #4
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Concur with Marzboy and Freshair. You will be fine on short trip.
Avoid high speeds.
The tires may look great, but they are probably shot and ready to separate.
Don't let that happen. It can really tear up your nice Airstream.
Pull over and check everything after first 15 miles.
I lost my rear pan, slope board, contents of my black water holding tanks, and a bunch of insulation on my first tow of my first Airstream.
Two fine looking Michelin tires with "brand new" tread separated. When I deciphered the date code I discovered they were 20 years old.
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Old 01-13-2012, 12:44 PM   #5
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Hello Folks,

I am brand new to this forum, as I have only just recently purchased a 1973 Ambassador. The trailer is in pretty good shape over-all, but I am going to assume that the axles on this unit are shot. The trailer has been sitting for a number of years and these are likely the original axles, as the rest of the trailer is incredibly original.

My question is, if the axles are in fact seized up, how adviseable is it to tow the trailer the hour and a half trip from the previous owners home to my place in Fallbrook, CA. The axles will need to be replaced, no doubt, but I need to do this work at my place (or perhaps tow it a bit further to have someone else do it). Am I going to do damage to the trailer that I will regret?

Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Vic
There are 3 issues, with your game plan.

First, make sure the tires are new, or less than 5 years old.

Second, tow SLOWLY. 50 MPH.

More second, the axle rubber rods will not be serviceable.

Three. The running gear will not be balanced.

Andy
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Old 01-13-2012, 01:19 PM   #6
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I towed my 71 Overlander the hour and a half back to my house with shot axles (had been sitting for 6 years) with hardly any problems. As others have said, go slow and check often. Never know what might fall or blow off.

I brought a set of towing lights with me even though the PO said everything worked fine (lol). None of the lights worked and I really did not want to rewire everything sitting outside his house. I am glad I brought extra 12v wire with me because the wiring for the towing lights were shorter than the trailer. Never know what you might run across when moving a trailer.
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Old 01-13-2012, 01:36 PM   #7
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Towing Lights

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I brought a set of towing lights with me even though the PO said everything worked fine (lol). None of the lights worked and I really did not want to rewire everything sitting outside his house. I am glad I brought extra 12v wire with me because the wiring for the towing lights were shorter than the trailer. Never know what you might run across when moving a trailer.
Great post!
Can't believe I did not include this in my list.
I never go on an Airstream retrieval expedition (ARE) without my set of Harbor Freight, Trailer Towing Lights.
Not since I helped tow an old Airstream from upstate NY to NM, via Canada, without lights.
On another ARE, in answer to that specific question, the PO said "everything works fine," but when I got there, the umbilical was completely gone!
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Old 01-14-2012, 07:04 AM   #8
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Thank you so much, all! I have taken all your valuable suggestions to heart and intend to be fully prepared to do the tow of my new AS.

Andy, you stated "The running gear will not be balanced". I assume you mean that this would be the case if I were to replace the old tires with new ones. Or do you mean that the current tire and wheel assemblies won't be balanced due to sitting so long?

Here's a photo of my new baby:
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Old 01-14-2012, 07:14 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by CF Av8or View Post
Thank you so much, all! I have taken all your valuable suggestions to heart and intend to be fully prepared to do the tow of my new AS.

Andy, you stated "The running gear will not be balanced". I assume you mean that this would be the case if I were to replace the old tires with new ones. Or do you mean that the current tire and wheel assemblies won't be balanced due to sitting so long?

Here's a photo of my new baby:
Nice and clean looking!

I would get that gravel guard over the front wing windows replaced ASAP before towing any distance, those wing windows are almost irreplaceable and the replacements are EXPENSIVE. I would even go as far as to duct tape a quilt or something over them for the short tow home.

Outside of balancing tires, most trailer running gear isn't balanced. For as short a tow as you have planned, that would be the absolute least of my worries. Once you get ready to start towing on a regular basis you can worry more about balancing. On Airstreams (and quite a few other vehicles) to get proper balancing you have to balance the whole wheel assembly including the brake drums. There are several ways to do it.

Aaron
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Old 01-14-2012, 09:29 AM   #10
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Nice Find

WahoonC is correct. Wheel balancers will be the least and last concern.
I use Centramatic balancers; an easy and effective solution.
From the photo, it appears new axles will be on your short list of things to do.
But first you must protect those wing windows for the short trip home.
As you will find in the thread "Laws of Airstream Restoration" you must start restoring and renovating from the bottom up, lest you find yourself tearing out one restoration to correct frame and floor issues.
Semper Fi and thanks for your service!
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Old 01-14-2012, 11:36 AM   #11
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Many owners fin fault with the need for proper running gear balance.

On newer coaches, they sometimes have a point.

In the absence of knowing what the balance issue may or may not be, on your coach, it would be best to either find out, or do the balancing.

Why, you may ask, when others say that's the last thing that would concern them.

Simply put, the early 70's trailers have been known to have running gear as much as three (3) pounds out of balance.

Imagine what that does at even 50 mph.

Assuming, is not a good word, when it comes to safely towing an Airstream.

Andy
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Old 01-14-2012, 11:44 AM   #12
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Next thing to consider, when towing a trailer that is equipped with "torsion" axles, is their condition.

They indeed do, absorb some road shock, when in good condition. That road shock can be bumps or lack of running gear balance.

However, when the axles are known to be bad, then the running gear balance, or lack thereof, becomes more of an issue.

In the case of bad rubber rods in a torsion axle, and poor or no running gear balance, then "ALL" of the road shock goes directly to the chassis and shell.

How much is too much??

The end results of the tow, answer that question.

But, people are always free to make their own decisions.

Andy
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Old 01-14-2012, 11:44 AM   #13
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Welcome CF AV8or
U should be fine on an hour and half trip. Like andy said. New tires,now just cause they look good dont mean they are. They can do some serious damage to the body which looks pretty good in the picture.
When we bought our 77,it looked like yours. Notice the edge of the wheel wells are at the edge of the rims.GOOD indicator that the rubber rods are shot. We towed ours out on three short trips about 200 miles total.First we noticed the roll towel and TP were unrolling and cabinet doors were opening in transit.Then I found popped rivets in the axle area and grey stains(indicating movement) around the interior rivets. THEN it schucked the mirror off the bathroom door and that was it. AXLE REPLACEMENT TIME. There are lots of axles out there.They are not all created equal but close. Mine were OEM Henshen before they went out of business next door to Airstream. If you are even a little mechianicly inclined you can change em. All ya need is a patch of concrete or asphalt,some lumber,and aircompressor and an impact and a floor jack and the willingness to save some money.Its a simple process. I did enlist the help of a neighbor and it took us 3 hrs to change both axles.
GOOD LUCK
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Old 01-15-2012, 05:33 PM   #14
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Thank you all, again, for this great information. I can see that this forum will be invaluable in my continued AS pursuits!

Cheers,
Vic
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