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Old 01-29-2014, 12:22 PM   #1
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1967 17' Caravel
Oakland , California
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Why do you need shocks?

Our 67 Caravel has shocks but with the design of the axle, why does a
3000# trailer require shocks? If so how soft or hard should they be?
We are about to put the frame back under the shell and now is the time to address this issue.

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Old 01-29-2014, 12:39 PM   #2
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I always thought it was to make the trailer ride even smoother- so everything stays where you put it.
Airstreams are the only trailers I know of that have shocks.
Airstreams are also the only trailers I know of that have reverse lights.

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Old 01-29-2014, 12:46 PM   #3
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Well, there are several other threads about shocks, and whether they are needed/effective or not. If I remember correctly, the Professionals recommend them and contend that without them, you will do your body/interior more damage, wear, etc. than without. I suppose the way I see it is that no company wastes time and money adding a feature to a product that isn't needed, so I assume that Airstream convinced themselves (via some kind of testing/experimentation) that shocks were needed, and that the installation is effective even though there isn't much travel in the shock.

Seems that there is also an overwhelming opinion that you have to use Airstream OEM shocks because they are designed to be mounted horizontally (though again, I wonder, in a gas filled shock, what difference orientation makes). Anyway, these particular shocks can be acquired without much hassle from places like Inland RV or

You may find that it is extremely difficult to get your shock on or off without removing the entire axle, because of tight clearances. I believe that has a little video on their site showing how they do it.

Good luck.
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Old 01-29-2014, 03:25 PM   #4
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I am assuming since you have an Airstream manufacturered after 1966 the shock mounting is more or less horizontal. This was a touted feature for the 1967 model year and was done to increase interior coach space over the previous arrangement.

If it is a horizontal mounting the only vendor for this shock is Airstream and it's network of dealers. This shock is sold in so few numbers other vendors do not want to carry this shock. And a shock designed for vertical installation does not work in a horizontal mounting because the valving and the effects of gravity. DO NOT USE A GAS PRESSURIZE SHOCK. The mounts are not designed to handle the stress of that type of shock.

As to if it is needed, that is a judgement. Airstream says absolutely it is needed. There is a user here that did a electronic measurement inside his trailer before and after axle replacement and before and after shock installation. Was there a measurable difference? You bet there was. Well at least the difference was dectable by a machine. Could you or I detect a difference if we were riding inside? I am not so sure.

I personally have not had to make that choice as my trailer was a 1966 and was mounted vertically. My guess is I would reinstall an old one and forgo the expense of a new one. These trailers need lots of work and I can always find other areas of the trailer to spend my next dime on.

Good luck making a choice.

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Old 01-29-2014, 05:00 PM   #5
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There's always the entertainment value when the guy in the neighboring SOB exclaims "Airstreams have shocks?"
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Old 01-29-2014, 05:00 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by vanster View Post
Our 67 Caravel has shocks but with the design of the axle, why does a
3000# trailer require shocks? If so how soft or hard should they be?
We are about to put the frame back under the shell and now is the time to address this issue.
Try riding in a car, with no shocks.

Shocks are exactly that, they reduce the road shock that goes to your car, or in this case, your Airstream.

Airstream over the coarse of years. has made some mistakes, but then who hasn't????

But, I assure, using shocks on the Airstream trailers, save you money in time, as it adds to the "soft ride".

Shocks cost less than $ 30.00 each, so if you want to save 60 bucks, skip the next couple of happy hours, but don't deprive the Airstream.

You will be very sorry if you left them off.

A few of the damages that are caused by NO SHOCKS, is. fatigue cracks in the frame. fatigue cracks in the shell, busted copper tubing in the water system and AC, broken wires, shearing inside and outside rivets, AND A TON OF WATER LEAKS.

So put the shocks on, and then go and enjoy your happy hour with a BIG SMILE.

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Old 01-29-2014, 05:42 PM   #7
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Do you need shocks? No. The often used comparison to a car with out shocks would only be valid if you picked a car with rubber torsion suspension, I'm not aware of any that were ever produced. I measured the ride of my Airstream before an axle replacement and again after the new axles were installed. Old axles with shocks vs new axles with out shocks. No measurable difference so I'm 100% sure that no person could ride in the trailer and tell a difference. I trailered thousands of miles with no shocks on that trailer with no ill effects.

I suspect the reason that Airstream kept shocks when they switched to rubber torsion axles is because 'everyone knows that you need shocks!' And we all know that they 'didn't make changes, only improvements'. I am sure that in the early 1960's there wasn't any accurate technology to quantify ride quality with a true measurable to justify shocks.

Then again, we 'Streamers rarely make trailer decisions on pure data, it's usually based on passion. The same goes with discussions on shocks.
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Old 01-29-2014, 06:25 PM   #8
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I don't know why everyone says SOBs don't have shocks. My 2005 Montana came with them, every 5th wheel I have looked at since has had them. Granted I don't look at low end trailers any more, but I can testify that the Montana rode like a dream, a coke can stayed on the kitchen counter going up a crushed rock road that I had to slip in 4 wheel drive to get up the hill. Rarely did anything move around while traveling.
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Old 01-30-2014, 08:23 AM   #9
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Shocks are used to dampen the recoil action of metal springs.
A car with bad shocks goes Boing Boing Boing down the road. Lack of good shocks can cause handling problems in a car or truck.
I am not aware that torsion type axles have any recoil action. They simply return to the relaxed angle.
If you have bad axles, the rubber is ridged and does not flex. Since the spindle arm cannot pivot in this case. There is no movement in the suspension. Therefore it is akin to riding on steel. Shocks will not do a thing if the suspension can't move.
I believe shocks do help on trailers with metal springs. Not sure how much if any benefit they are on a torsion axle.
If it makes you feel better. Install the shocks.
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Old 01-30-2014, 08:44 AM   #10
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Short answer, you need dampers in a vibratory system.
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Old 01-30-2014, 11:18 AM   #11
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1967 17' Caravel
Oakland , California
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Thanks to everyone for rapid response. Our moderator seems to have nailed it.
Airstreams have a torsen bar axle which although appears to look like a solid axle, has 4 rubber cushions that control the movement and torque of the axle as it moves down the road. This is similar to a 911 Porsche or an older rear engine VW only without the rubber casing. Our Caravel has vertical shocks that were purchased from Inland RV in 2008. They appear to be the basic garden variety oil filled shock with a short life. This led me to believe that this was over kill and could possibly make the frame too stiff similar to sport gas shocks on your family sedan and could cause excess vibration inside the trailer when going down the road.
The question is, did Airstream keep shocks when the went to this type of axle from the old leaf springs as a marketing tool?
( I going to leave them on, but just curious)
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Old 01-30-2014, 01:01 PM   #12
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The rubber torsion spring axle has alot of damping from the rubber springs. Does it have enough? If you use conventional springs you really need them. If you don't have enough damping, I would think you would see the trailer tending to pogo over bumps. It would also tend to dance around alot.

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Old 01-30-2014, 02:28 PM   #13
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Part of the answer is -- they help keep the tires on the road, and damp vibration.
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Old 01-30-2014, 03:16 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Alphonse View Post
Short answer, you need dampers in a vibratory system.
What he said.


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