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Old 04-13-2009, 08:19 AM   #1
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ljmiii's Avatar
2006 16' International CCD
New York , New York
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 268
Upgrading a 16' Bambi with 3500lb GVWR

I've recieved a couple of questions lately on the topic and thought it would be worthwhile to pull together all this information spread in different threads and put it all in one post.


Airstream shipped a number of 16' Bambi Airstreams with GVWRs of 3500 lbs and NCCs under 100 lbs. To solve this problem with my 16' Bambi, In February 2007 I made the trek out to Jackson Center to upgrade my Airstream to the 4300lb axle with 15" wheels, 225/75R15 Load Rating D tires, and disc brakes. The axle replacement with wheels and tires cost about 1750.00. The disc brake installation cost 1710.00.

I am very happy with the axle upgrade. I would be completely happy if I hadn't found out while I was there that Airstream is in the midst of switching over to sealed bearings in their new trailers. If anyone else ends up doing the upgrade, check with parts first to see if they can order the new axles.

I am extraordinarily happy with the new tires. They look and feel so much more substantial than the 215/75 R14s - and at 2540lbs vs 1870lbs they provide a mighty margin of safety at any speed.

I am mostly happy with the new brakes. The stopping power of the new brakes is nothing short of amazing - if I slam on the brakes it feels like I dropped an anchor in the road. However, there is a noticeable increase in the delay before the discs activate compared with the drums. Also, because the discs are so much more powerful than the drums it is relatively easy to set the controller too high and get the tires to 'lock' instead of helping to stop the trailer.


In retrospect, knowing more than when I started, I would be inclined to just upgrade the wheels and tires to the ST225/75R15s (raising the max tire load from a nominal 3740lbs to 5080lbs) and not bother with the axle upgrade. I can't speak from experience on this option - but it seems to provide most of the safety increase at a much lower price. Particularly if you have a larger tow vehicle that can handle more of the braking burden.

When I started to look into the issue of dealing with my 51 pound NCC, I emailed airstream and received the following reply. Basically, the axle/wheels/tires seem to be the limiting factor with the 16' Bambi (at least up to 4300 lbs).
Originally Posted by airstream
The Canadian units do have a larger axle as well as 15 tires. It is something that Canadian standards require. The Canadian axle with the 15 tires would give you 800 additional pounds.
Even after weight distribution, a minimum of 200lbs of the Bambi's weight will be carried by the tow vehicle axles. This would make the Bambi's 'real' GVWR 3700lbs even with the 3500lb GAWR axles - thus giving approx 250lbs of NCC (or 450lbs of NCC if you don't fill the freshwater tank).

The standard wheel on a US 16' Bambi is 14" x 6" on 4.5" centers, 5 lug with no offset. So, if you want to upgrade the tires on your 16' Bambi from 215/75R14 LR Cs to 225/75R15 LR Ds without upgrading your axle you need a 15" wheel that matches the pattern above and has sufficient PSI and rim weight ratings.

I found one in aluminum at Eastern Marine - STOCK #: 1350116 @ $82.50 - for details see below.
Trailer Parts Superstore - Trailer Wheel Only: 13" thru 15"


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Old 04-20-2009, 11:49 PM   #2
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2005 16' International CCD
Ogden , Utah
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 221
Thank you for pulling all your info into a central post - and for sharing all the detail in your experience!

If I lived closer to Ohio (Utah seems so far away) I would probably just upgrade the axle as you did - for the extra margins. I can't find a place locally that seems comfortable with the axle swap, so I plan to just upgrade the tires as you suggest. I can always carry more in the truck to stay within the axle limits - but I really want the extra margin on the tires due to all the stories of blow outs and problems. I've located a place in Idaho (closer and less shipping $) that sells what seem to be the same wheels as your link - just ordered them, in fact. I'm still researching the type of tires to get, and am leaning towards an LT tire since I do gravel roads on almost every trip and want the more aggressive (and puncture resistant, I hope) tread.

Thanks again

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Old 04-21-2009, 06:52 AM   #3
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2004 25' Safari
. , Illinois
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 10,326
That reply from Airstream is exactly what I am talking about in terms of mind numbing thought processes. The Canadian units are mandated for the right axles, yet for the domestics they had some squeak out with under 100lbs of NCC. Even if it was 250lbs NCC, a case of bee...I mean soda weighs 16lbs!

It is only recently (mid 2005) where the company got their heads out of their collective behinds and did the right thing on a majority of the trailer line. I think with my 2004, I had about a 500lbs NCC and after the axle upgrades done to most models in mid 2005, my same unit had over 1000lbs of NCC, which frankly is a good number for a 25' unit. I could not even imagine have a 51lb NCC. Just what were they thinking?
Computers manufactured by companies such as IBM, Compaq and millions of others are by far the most popular with about 70 million machines in use worldwide. Macintosh fans note that cockroaches are far more numerous than humans and that numbers alone do not denote a higher life form. -NY Times 11/91
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Old 05-31-2009, 04:18 PM   #4
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2006 16' Safari
Ramsay , Michigan
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 28
Smile One link equals a case of Leinenkugel's?

Leo, Bob and Twinkie: Interesting thread.

But you folks are whiners!! How about a CCC of 13 pounds? That's what the sticker on my closet door tells me is the cargo carrying capacity for my 2006 16' Bambi. Once I put the solar panels on, I didn't even have room for a case of Leinenkugel's.

So if I crank up another link on my WDH, I can carry the beer in my camper, rather than in my trunk, if I am following this correctly, right?

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