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Old 09-13-2006, 09:05 AM   #1
4 Rivet Member
1975 27' Overlander
High River , Alberta
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 385
Do I need to add shock absorbers?

The previous owner of my "new" 1975 Overlander had the original axles replaced two years ago because one was bent near the hub, and couldn't be straightened. The new axles are Dexter 3500s, but it seems that he received stock axles (not Airstream specific) and there is no provision for mounting shocks. He was told he didn't need any, and I can't say that the trailer bounces when towing.

A friend who has a farm equipment manufacturing business feels that any axle would benefit from shock absorbers. He has offered to fabricate and weld on shock mounts if: 1. I tow the trailer to his plant on a Saturday; 2. supply the new shocks; and, 3. provide a photograph of what the correct setup looks like.

(Sounds sketchy, but he's an innovative fabricator who's been making stuff with steel for 30 years. The equipment he builds is also mobile, and he's built various trailers, so he's got a first hand sense of what tows well.)

My question is: is this really necessary? Alko doesn't use shocks. The Henschen web site also proclaims that shocks are not necessary because rubber will rebound to its original position, but not beyond the way a steel spring will. And I've read that some newer Airstreams don't have shocks.

Facts? Opinions? Experiences? I'd appreciate your input.

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Old 09-13-2006, 10:24 AM   #2
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Corona , California
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Originally Posted by AlbertF

Facts? Opinions? Experiences? I'd appreciate your input.
The question is "why" did Airstream waste millions of dollars on shocks, if they were not needed?

The answer is that they "ARE" needed.

Not one single "opinion" has any long term facts as to the results of "no shocks".

Shocks are "motion dampeners", period.

Therefore the shells vertical motion is restricted "with shocks" as opposed to unrestricted "without shocks".

The absence of a motion dampener, or a worn out dampener, "will" result in long term damages, very similiar to "out of balance" running gear.

Couple no shocks or worn out shocks with unbalanced running gear, will result in serious and very expensive damages, such as broken wires, broken copper tubing, broken copper lines in the AC, sheared rivets, frame failures, fatigue cracks in the shell, excessive wear on the entrance door striker pocket and bolt, excessive wear on the entrance door hinges, closet door hinge failures, internal failures with the furnace, stoves, ovens, microwaves, punching bulkheads through the ceilings, separating furniture from the walls, and many other crazy, otherwise unexplained failures or damages.

Accordingly, if someone feels what they saved by eliminating shocks will pay for some of the above mentioned damages, then they have no clue as to how fast as well as how expensive these things can and will become.

My over 40 years of direct experience repairing Airstream trailers, more than bears out the end negative result of running gear, which includes shocks, neglect.

We do many tens of thousands of dollars of repairs, "each month", that for most part, could have been avoided, by proper care and pm of the complete running gear system, which includes shocks.

There will be those that argue against shocks, and they are probably the ones who will sell the lack of proper cared Airstream, to some unsuspecting person on E-bay.

We have been in the courts many times, trying to help the person that bought an E-bay trailer, as well as many times from an individual direct, that purchased a "basket case". We have been 100 percent successful, in getting them at least some of their money back.

Buyer or newby beware. Start your inspection of a potential purchase of a used Airstream , by checking out the running gear, including balance and shocks. If they are anything except "first class" then we would suggest you pass on the deal.

There are "good" used Airstreams available, but unfortunately, many bad ones as well. If you have the resources to pay for all the repairs that may be necessary with a "basket case", then great. If not, keep on looking.

Henschens "no shocks needed" are intended for industrial or farm type equipment, not Airstream or Argosy trailers.


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Old 09-13-2006, 08:18 PM   #3
4 Rivet Member
1975 27' Overlander
High River , Alberta
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 385

Thanks for your reply. It is certainly consistent with everything you've said about eliminating any vibration through the balancing of running gear.

The best answer is clear. I will be buying Airstream spec shocks from CanAm and looking for a local shop with an old "on the car" balancer before I take this thing very far.

Thankfully, it's only been run about 600 or 700 miles on these new axles - just a few weekend trips. The interior is intact and I haven't found any problems with the shell aside from bad clear coat and rear separation. The latter is something that can be addressed during shock installation when a MIG welder and a supply of steel are handy.
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Old 10-19-2006, 05:25 AM   #4
4 Rivet Member
1975 27' Overlander
High River , Alberta
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 385
New shock absorbers installed

The new shocks were installed the other night. Shock mounts were made up using an iron worker, and welded to the torsion arms.

The difference in towability is apparent. A vertical side-to-side rocking motion over bumps is essentially gone, and the trailer tows more calmly and smoothly. Not that it wasn't good before, but the shock absorbers make a noticeable difference.
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