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Old 11-15-2015, 08:52 PM   #1
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Which would you rather? Better brakes, better hitch, or better wheels/tires?

Go easy on me. I'm a newcomer who has spent enough hours reading threads here to know that asking anything relating to hitches, brakes, 15 vs. 16 this, etc. can lead to craaziness, and that is not my intention

My husband and I just purchased a 1967 Overlander, and I was all ready to snap up fun things such as a Hensley Arrow hitch (from Craigslist), new torsion axles with 12" disc brakes, new 16" wheels and tires, centramatics, TPMS, etc., etc. But...that all gets expensive very fast when I'm working on some other things as well (batteries, fridge, furnace, probably h/w heater, + + +).

So, if I had to prioritize?

I was all set on disc brakes, but just got the axle quote back from Colin, and it was all a little bit higher than I had hoped (without would be $1190 for the axles plus $270 shipping, and with the disc brakes would be $1500 plus $270 shipping, plus I'd also need a $700-$800 actuator)... which makes sense, I'm just having second thoughts now. And we'll be attempting to DIY all of this (I haven't even had a chance to check the axles yet, but assuming it'll be needing them).

I found a Hensley arrow on Craigslist for $1K. Should I forgo that I favor of disc brakes? (I think I can get a Reese pro series or eaz -lift, etc on CL for under $300... Maybe a Reese dual cam for $225 but w/wrong bars).

I'm also hoping to switch to 16" wheels and tires. This seems the easiest to nix to save a little money, but since we have to get new tires anyway, I don't think it'll be that huge of an extra expense. Then there's centramatics, TPMS, and other things that I think are great ideas, BUT add up fast.

Details on how we're using it...We'll generally be towing with a Toyota Tundra (if that matters). Not full-timing, just looking to take the kids camping as much as we're able. Slowly fixing it up over time if we love it...

SO, if you had to rank such things from most impactful to least, in your airstreaming experience, how would they shake out?

I'd love to try to get the biggest bang for our buck here. I want it to function well, but in order for us to even be able to enjoy it, I need money left over to make the inside comfortable and functional since we'll be spending more time camping in it then driving it...
Thanks in advance!
Bonnie
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Old 11-15-2015, 09:16 PM   #2
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Well, you asked. I'm assuming that you've already determined that your existing axles are history. If that's the case then my priorities would be first a new axle with new drum brake set-up - that's basically a no-brainer. Past that, Easy-Lift was the WD hitch set up of choice back in the day, and many advocate for that set up still. I would think you could get 16" wheels and an Easy Lift hitch for close to the same price as the Hensly. I don't think disc brakes are worth the cost.
But then what do I know? I don't even use a WD hitch, and my trailer won't accept 16" wheels!
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Old 11-15-2015, 09:24 PM   #3
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My take is to focus on the safety items first, tires, brakes, hitch. I feel that the disk brakes are too costly of an add on unless you are spending a lot of time driving in the mountains. You probably should go with the 16" tires since the 15" are getting harder to find. I have a Pro Pride hitch and love it but going with the closest thing and being able to get a used one is not a bad trade off.
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Old 11-15-2015, 09:42 PM   #4
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Are you going to tow over 60 MPH?

If so I say make a Hensley designed hitch a priority.

Electric brakes can work pretty well, it is what I am running now.


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Old 11-15-2015, 09:54 PM   #5
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The Hensley style hitch will make towing much more pleasant and safer, drum brakes will work very well, and 16" Michelins (if they fit in your wheel well) will pretty much negate the need for TPMS or Centramatics, especially for local use.
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Old 11-15-2015, 10:15 PM   #6
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New axles with drum brakes and a good brake controller will do the job for your vintage coach. See break away system below.
Take care of any water leaks from the outside in the coach.
If you plan to use the onboard water system. It must be leak free. Depending on the shape of the copper tubing it may be advantageous to upgrade to PEX.
Replacing appliances could get expensive. Just prioritize and keep safety in mind. The furnace if you need to use it must be safe. Most units of that era would be replaced for safety reasons. If you don't plan to use the furnace then put it on the bottom of the list.
You coach does not have a grey water tank. You have 3 options;
Add a tank
Use a tote
Always camp with full hookups.
A new converter is in order as well. Along with good house batteries. You need a house battery and a functioning break away system for the trailer brakes if you plan to tow.


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Old 11-15-2015, 10:24 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by DryFly View Post
But then what do I know? I don't even use a WD hitch, and my trailer won't accept 16" wheels!
My '74 Argosy 20 had no problems adapting to 16" wheels. What did you find on yours that keeps you from making the switch?
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Old 11-15-2015, 10:24 PM   #8
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I like new axles with drum brakes, stick with 15" wheels, and a 2-5/16 regular hitch ball of correct height.
The savings could be spent on other upgrades as needed or camping.
At least this approach is working for us.
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Old 11-15-2015, 10:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by idroba View Post
My '74 Argosy 20 had no problems adapting to 16" wheels. What did you find on yours that keeps you from making the switch?
I had to replace the rims last year - the PO put some nice aluminum ones on with the wrong offset and they rubbed (not good). I took the trailer to Les Schwab to get new rims and asked if they could install 16" rims and I would buy new tires. The guy said it wasn't an option - not enough room in the wheel well. I questioned him but he was pretty adamant.

Did I give up too easily?

More importantly, are you getting any snow?
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Old 11-16-2015, 12:01 AM   #10
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Ubless my trailer were 100% bottomed out on the current axles and/or I planned on touring round and round the country, I would service my current brakes and roll on I would get a $300 hitch and set it up properly. I would spend the extra money to replace the trailers 50 year old wheels and upgrade to 16".
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Old 11-16-2015, 12:59 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
The Hensley style hitch will make towing much more pleasant and safer, drum brakes will work very well, and 16" Michelins (if they fit in your wheel well) will pretty much negate the need for TPMS or Centramatics, especially for local use.

Hi, sorry, but no wheel combination will make up for un-balanced brake drums. Therefore Centramatics.
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Old 11-16-2015, 04:46 AM   #12
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A used Hensley has no warranty and depending on age and use may need a complete overhaul. If any major parts need to be replaced, they can be heavy and shipping costs can easily approach $100. So the low used price could have some expensive surprises.

I used my Hensley Arrow on a new 2013 25FB International Serenity behind a 2007 Mercedes ML320 CDI diesel. That vehicle turned out to have inadequate axle capacity and GVW when crossing the CAT scales with my wife and fully loaded camping ready trailer. We migrated immediately to a Ram 2500HD Cummins pickup and purchased a different stinger from Hensley. The Hensley has a parts warranty plus me paying for my return shipping costs as long as I own it.

The second generation Jim Hensley design is called the ProPride and I ordered and installed that hitch on the 31' Classic. There are significant improvements in the second design and it was less expensive than a new Hensley.

I had kept the Hensley when the 25FB was traded in for the Classic and have now installed that Hensley on our 23D and I am towing with the same Mercedes. The numbers worked out with the lighter trailer.

Both Hensley designed hitches fulfill their marketing claims for stability. I personally prefer the newer ProPride design.

The Centramatic wheel balancers have been installed first on my Honda Goldwing motorcycles and then on the three Airstreams and the Dodge 2500HD. They are worth the cost when contending with electric drum brakes which are often not balanced. I did install them back onto the Classic after the hydraulic disk brake conversion.
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:42 AM   #13
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Might make some difference what you tow with?
I am pretty running the 15" XL tires on my 25' so I would suggest sticking with the 15" wheels and just getting good tires. The 16" can have the same overall diameter and should fit if you think you need to go that way.
Disc brakes are a good idea in theory but they seem like they can be difficult to setup. I have been thinking about discs but have decided to stick with drum brakes.
I use a Reese dual cam and like it.
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Old 11-16-2015, 09:31 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by bjmckernan View Post
I'd love to try to get the biggest bang for our buck here. I want it to function well, but in order for us to even be able to enjoy it, I need money left over to make the inside comfortable and functional since we'll be spending more time camping in it then driving it...
Thanks in advance!
Four priorities, in general, when you're working out the budget—
1 - Make it movable. If it doesn't move, it's just a big lawn ornament. A trailer is only a trailer if you can trail it behind your tow vehicle. Axles, a hitch (but only if the hitch you already have will not work), and so forth.
2 - Make it safe. Once you've got it moving, you need to have it moving safely. If you can't pass your state's safety inspection requirements, you still can't use it. Things like brakes and lights fall in this priority.
3 - Make it comfortable. This comes late in the process because even if it's just an empty shell, you can always park close to the bathhouse and use it as an aluminum tent. And I've known Airstreamers who have done exactly that, camping in a gutted Airstream with nothing inside but sleeping bags and an ice chest, because they were tired of waiting to use their baby.
4 - Make it unique. Customizing, adding things that aren't strictly necessary, comes dead last in priorities. Such as 16" wheels and tires, or a new hitch to replace a usable but not ideal hitch. Anything that you don't really need in order to use the trailer, but that you want, fits this priority.

So make a list of everything that you want to do to your Airstream, and assign it a priority, from 1 to 4. List it all in order. Then work out your budget, and draw a line across the list where your budget will cover. Everything above the line gets funded, everything below the line waits until more money is available. Repeat each year until you've finally got all of the Priority 4 items funded.

When I was still working for a living, I managed a $40 million navigation project using a similar process, for five years before I moved on to less stressful work. Objectively decide what's really important in making your trailer functional, and cover the most important things first. I hate to say it, but you seem to be wanting to save money for things that are comparatively unimportant when it comes to getting your trailer road-ready, and pinching pennies on things that are essential toward making your trailer back into a trailer.
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