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Old 09-02-2012, 06:02 PM   #1
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BAL Jack Corrosion and broken bolts

I found several threads which kind of skirt around this subject but none that really address an apparent common issue.

I have moved to my last underbody maintenance item after removing and refinishing the curved panel storage/water compartments, hitch, tongue, and touching up the appearance of the axles, calipers and exposed frame in that area. The last removal and refinish is the Bal Jacks.

I was very surprised to find more galvanic corrosion between the jacks and the belly pan than ANYWHERE else on the entire trailer! Perhaps it is because of the path to ground when the jacks are deployed? In addition, like others have mentioned, there were a total of 5 of the 20 mounting bolts broken. They didn't break while removing them as evidenced by rust in the fractures. I can find no evidence of the jacks ever being dragged while deployed. I am of the belief that they were installed with too much torque and were broken from day one. I was only able to drill and "easy out" one of the five.

When I go back together with everything I am going to use stainless bolts and insulate the top of the jack where it contacts the belly skin. I had read some suggest aluminum tape, but I am thinking of using some of the left over rubber (EPDM) roof material for the re-roof of my old SOB.

Any other suggestions or comments on this phenomenon?
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Old 09-02-2012, 07:52 PM   #2
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dzn,
I've always just cleaned and lubed our stabilizers without removing them. Suprised to see bolt failures, gotta check mine. We also use a plastic cutting board under the jack pads, but still, I'll check this out. thanks-
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Old 09-02-2012, 08:08 PM   #3
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There was a 2005-2006 period documented here at AIR when somebody at JC was over-torquing the self threading lag screws that attach the BAL jacks. Stabilizer fell off

These lag screws are screwed into the finite thickness of the frames. I know that my August '05 produced Safari had 4 of these that were tightened too far and loose -- or missing. Two had the screw head twisted right off while the hardened shaft still was embedded in the frame. I tell ya -- the tech sure loved that!

Warranty work replaced these but one continued to fall out. I've had to use a Rivnut to replace the unsuccessful fourth with a bolt. That still is working but I feel I have to watch it with regularity.

The steel BAL jack and the aluminum belly pan inevitably will produce corrosion through bimetallism. I'd hesitate to remove these touchy lag screws just to put in an inert spacer.
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Old 09-02-2012, 08:23 PM   #4
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Well the jackes are off now for stripping and painting. They are flaking and rusting. Canoestream, since mine is an early 07, built in July 06, I guess that explains it.

I wish I could figure how to get out the remaining bolt shafts. Drilling was unsuccessful.
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Old 09-25-2012, 02:46 PM   #5
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At least nine of the twenty bolts holding the four stabilizers on my '07 Safari 20 SE have missing heads. I discovered this when last out and one of my stabilizers started flopping as I lowered the jack.

I noticed that corrosion was evident on the bolt threads near the bolt head, which indicates to me that the dis-similiar metal (zinc-steel to aluminum) corrosion has occurred. I have replaced the easy bolts with stainless. As an additional precaution I applied anti-corrosion grease to the threads near the bolt heads. Before attempting to back out the remaining studs, I'll pretreat with Kano's Aero Kroil penetrant.

I'll update the thread as this project progresses.

Bill Martin, Nashville, TN
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Old 09-25-2012, 05:11 PM   #6
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I was able to get out all but two. I went back with stainless bolts with stainless standoff washers, followed by a nylon washer against the aluminum skin. I'll watch closely for excessive pressure on the nylon. May have to replace with stainless against aluminum. I used a liberal amount of CorrosionX in the frame holes.

The old bolts were definitely over-torqued.
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:57 PM   #7
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I have now refurbished the two rear stabilizers. Two bold studs were exposed enough for me to grab them with a small vice grip plier. The man at the hardware store said that he has backed bolt studs out using a pick.

Apparently the factory clecoed the stabilizers in place, then used self-threading bolts to attached to the hole through the skin and into the frame, assuming that they used a template to locate the holes in the belly pan.

But it appears that the inboard holes (at the end of the screw bar) do not go into the frame. The 5/26 stainless would not bite. I had to tap the hole for a 3/8 bolt, which tightened up. The four bolts at the main bracket snugged up by hand and allowed some torque to tighten.

I put a film of anti-corrosion grease on the top of the stabilizer bracket to provide some protection to the aluminum skin. I thought about using nylon fender washers between the bracket and skin, but figured that the bracket needed to be tight against the skin.

Before putting the stabilizer back on I used brake cleaner to spray off the accumulated grease I had been using for lube. The man at the hardware store encouraged me to forgo the grease entirely since it attracts so much dirt. I scrapped the loose electrostatic paint coating (senior moment: I forget the common term) from the bracket and sprayed the rusty areas with Permatex's (formerly Duro) Extend.

The rear two are done. The weekend will determine if the front two will be as straightforward as the rears.

Bill Martin, Nashville, TN
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Old 09-26-2012, 08:32 AM   #8
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I also have some minor concern about my use of the nylon standoff washers, that's why I'll watch them. But the more I thought about it, the stabilizers don't (shouldn't) have more than a couple of hundred pounds of force on them (SWAG). That force spread over 4 or 5 points(depending if I got all the old bolts out or not) isn't really much pressure on each washer.

I'm camping this weekend and will update....but it may take some long term use to determine if they will work.
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Old 09-26-2012, 08:36 AM   #9
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I also cleaned all old grease. I have found that silicone spray works the best. doesn't attract dirt and lubes for about 1/2 season on the rear.....longer on the front.
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:13 AM   #10
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Corrosion is worse where the bal jack attach because there is a large area where water can get trapped between two different metals and the water can't get out and air can't get to it.

Perry
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Old 09-29-2012, 08:29 PM   #11
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I finally completed my rehab project on the stabilizer jacks. The solution was suprisingly simple. I discovered it after trying to back out the rust frozen bolt studs, and then relocating one of the jacks. It was a big mistake to relocate the jack since I didn't get the holes lined up properly. Some bolts are wopper-jawed, but the installation appears to be solid.

On the final jack I simply kept drilling until the bolt stud broke off inside the frame channel. I used a 1/8 bit to drill about a quarter inch in from the surface of the frame, then widened the hole with a 1/4 bit. Since the wall thickness of the frame appears to be about 3/16, I figured that I would not have far to go to push the bolt stud out. I found that using a high speed on the colbalt drill bit really chewed into the bolt. Failure to center the drill bit proved not to be a big issue. I cleaned up the hole with a 5/16 tap. On one hole I had to use an oversize bolt, so I tapped for a 3/8 bolt, and enlarged the hole on the jack bracket.

Am I glad that this one is done!

Should I ever trade, one of the first things I'll check before signing the papers is the stabilizer bolt installation.

Bill Martin
Nashville, TN
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Old 09-30-2012, 01:38 PM   #12
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On the final night of our " Out West Summer Trip" we camped in western PA and I did the unthinkable. I tried to drive out with the rear stabilizers deployed. Ouch. Twisted them like a pretzel. The other day I removed them and found that they came off without any stripped / broken bolts. I used a small air ratchet and I think the vibration helps removed bolts that otherwise may get stripped out. I disassembled the stabilizers and hammered the side support brackets back into shape and got them operational. I'm cleaning and painting the sliding arm and will sandblast and re-paint the main body frame then re-assemble the stabilizers. When I install them I plan to use a thick rubber insulator pad glued to the stabilizer body. I'm hoping that this will protect them from the corrosion effect of the dissimilar metal contact. But in any event it can't hurt anything.

Job for another day will be to remove the front stabilizers and clean them up too.
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Old 09-30-2012, 07:11 PM   #13
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I just got back from the weekend trip and the nylon washers worked just fine.
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Old 12-08-2012, 09:00 PM   #14
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Small Project: Bal Stabilizer Pad Replacement

I purchased my Airstream used and the PO stored it outdoors on an asphalt driveway with the stabilizer jacks in the down position. The pads rusted from the daily ground contact so I've been considered removing them, cleaning off the rust and then repainting them. Recently I found replacement pads sold in a set of 4 at Camping World for about $30 so I decided to replace the rusted pads instead of spending the time to wire brush off the rust and repaint the old pads.

In an effort to prevent or delay future corrosion of the new pads, I sprayed the bottoms of the new pads with Rustoleum truck bed coating purchased at Home Depot. The pictures below show the old rusted pads (left) and the new pads with bottoms coated (right). I've also shown a picture of the replacement pad box from the store and the spray can of Rustoleum truck bed coating. Today I installed the new pads, with truck bed liner coated bottoms, on the trailer. The replacement set includes new bolts, nuts and rubber bushing.
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