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Old 02-01-2016, 11:06 AM   #1
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1953 17' Clipper
Chagrin Falls , Ohio
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 13
No brakes on vintage airstream

I purchased my 1953 17' Clipper 3 years ago and spent the first summer refinishing all the original interior. We had new tires put on and I have started polishing. This AS does not have any brake system. All the times I have trailered it I have never felt the need for anything else. I tried to have a Pro Pride sway bar installed but they said it wouldn't fit? I have taken it many times on the freeway and it doesn't react to a semi in the slightest. I do always stay between 60 and 65 mph. It is 1900 lbs with a tongue weight of 200. I tow it with my 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with a manual transmission which helps with the control. Can I or should I look into a braking system, etc? I thank you for any words of wisdom.

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Old 02-01-2016, 03:06 PM   #2
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2010 30' Classic
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South of the river , Minnesota
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Hello Firefall

Two things to consider.

Some states may require brakes by law. It varies from state to state, the regulations are constantly changing, and the trend is for the weight threshold to be lighter than in the past. In most states it goes by registered GVW not by actual scale weight. In other places there is a minimum stopping distance. I would suggest you check the laws in the states where you plan to operate.

The second thing is that you are IMO right at the cutoff point where brakes may make sense safety wise. It is a personal decision and depends not only on the relative weights of the tow vehicle and trailer but also on where and how fast and how far you travel. If I were in your situation I would be comfortable taking the trailer on occasional shorter trips in the Midwest without brakes. For mountain driving, longer trips, more frequent trips, or for much driving in city traffic I would consider brakes. It will affect your stopping distance. Five feet can be the difference between a story to laugh over and a trip to the hospital and/or body shop.

In the real world cost is a factor also, and if your current axle does not have flanges for brake backing plates then the cost may be prohibitive.

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Old 02-02-2016, 06:54 AM   #3
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1953 17' Clipper
Chagrin Falls , Ohio
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 13
Thank you Jammer! I will check into this further. Will stay away from steep hills and city traffic as much as possible. Will plan trips carefully. I can't stop camping in my treasure! Will do whatever I can to make it work.
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:01 PM   #4
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1953 17' Clipper
Chagrin Falls , Ohio
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 13
Would stabilizers help in a sudden stop without trailer brakes? What type might work with a vintage frame?
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Old 02-02-2016, 01:05 PM   #5
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1966 26' Overlander
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A stabilizer is a devise that appears similar to a jack and is mounted or connected to 4 corners of the trailer. It's design is meant to stabilize a parked trailer from excessive movement. It is not designed to change the level of the trailer and is not designed to be used when the trailer is moving down the road.

Are you referring to a sway bar system on a trailer hitch?

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Old 02-03-2016, 10:10 AM   #6
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1959 18' "Footer"
1957 26' Overlander
san francisco , California
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If you are keeping it I'd put a new torflex axle and electric brakes on there.
A breakaway switch should be added. Maybe a couple grand to do it but much better ride and way safer.
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Old 02-03-2016, 10:30 AM   #7
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1955 18' Globetrotter
Carrollton , Texas
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firefallfarm - I had brakes added to my little 18 footer (55 Globetrotter) since I encounter heavy Dallas area traffic and love the mountains. They are WONDERFUL to have!
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Old 02-03-2016, 11:47 AM   #8
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1953 17' Clipper
Montevallo , Alabama
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 14
Firefall, I also have a 1953 17' Clipper. I just had it completely remodeled since none of the interior was original when I got it and it had a lot of rot. The guy who did the work recommended brakes and so I added them. It made me feel safer. I have not taken it on the road yet - just got it back after over a year of work. He assured me that my Lexus R350 could tow this little baby with no problem.

Does yours have the original interior? I would really like to see what it looked like. I am intending to use mine as an office/playhouse/wet darkroom/escape pod. I have never towed anything and so I am a little nervous but I am determined to take it out on the road. It is incredibly cute, isn't it? I have had so many people stop by my house to see if I wanted to sell it. I would like to post some pictures but I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

Good luck with your brake question.

Sorry for the ramble, Airforum members.
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Old 02-03-2016, 01:45 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by firefallfarm View Post
Would stabilizers help in a sudden stop without trailer brakes? What type might work with a vintage frame?
If by stabilizer you mean the anti-sway mechanism that attaches between the trailer tongue and the hitch assembly, then the answer is it would do nothing to help in a sudden stop. It might help you avoid getting into a sudden stop situation in the first place, by reducing the tendency to fishtail or trade places with your tow vehicle.
I would feel unsafe without operational brakes, even on a 1900 lb trailer.
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Old 02-05-2016, 01:13 PM   #10
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1953 17' Clipper
Chagrin Falls , Ohio
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 13
Thank you everyone!! I will definitely invest in a brake/axel system. So great to hear from you silver wren! Hard to find any of these '53s out there! Don't be afraid to trailer. I was bound and determined to show my husband I could do alone so I spent an entire afternoon at a local state park parking lot. First learned how to back straight back then learned how to back into a slot. Do it by yourself so you can make up a system that works for you. Read up on it also. I was nervous to take out on the road but once I calmed down it was so easy! The hardest part was remembering it was behind me Yes, I have almost all the inside original! New upholstery, flooring and fresh paint. All appliances still work! Will upload pictures soon. There may be some in this system already.

Sorry, I did mean sway-bar system.

Side note: I was reading an old airstream brochure and the '53 Clipper was advertised to have Warner Brakes. I called Warner and they said that was possible but they would be the very thin obsolete type. He said if you could see wires connecting to the axle, they may be there. Planning on taking to Jackson Center in a month or two and try to figure this all out.

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