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Old 05-21-2014, 05:32 PM   #1
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1976 31' Sovereign
Migratory , North America
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Rims: 15", 16"? Best for a '76 31' Sovereign?

I just purchased some axles from Colin Hyde for my 76 Airstream. I've got to say, he's an incredibly friendly and knowledgable guy and I am asking him about some of this stuff, but thought I'd ask around on the forums here, too to see what experiences people have had.

My 31' doesn't have much clearance in the back ("not much" = "I scrape on all but the most level of surfaces, like those shallow drainage ditches in a Wal-mart parking lot). I'm hoping the new axles will help with that a bit, but I've seen people mentioning upgrading to 16" tires and wonder if the extra inch would be all the more help.

I'd also like to skip out on hub caps and just get nice looking wheels/rims, preferably in silver.

Now just looking at what I'm working with, I've definitely got more than an inch between where the (less than 1000 miles) new tires are and the wheel well, so I'm hoping that I could make this all work. 2-4" of additional clearance would be really nice.

So questions:

1. Anyone ever switched out their 15" for 16" on a 76-era?
2. Steel or aluminum, does it really matter? I've heard aluminum look better (but our AS is far from a mirror polish anyway) but steel ones tend to leak less.
3. Any other considerations?
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My family and I have been full-timing via various modes of travel since 2008. Going on two years in our '76 Sovereign.
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Old 05-21-2014, 05:53 PM   #2
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You may get more ground clearance with 16"s depending on the tires you buy (since both the wheel radius and the sidewall height influence the total height from hub to ground.) What 16" wheels really buy you is a wider range of tires to choose from, there are LT tires from most brands in the 16" range so you can get better-than-ST tires without tradeoffs.

I suspect for your '76 the capacity of 4 of the tires I use would be enough (Michelin LTX 15" XL radials) but there'll definitely be 16" LTs that will be great tires for it.
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Old 05-21-2014, 05:54 PM   #3
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I am assuming if you replace the axles that was because the were shot. If that is the case you should see significant clearance once the new axles are installed.

The wheel does not determine the overall height of the of the tire The combination of the wheel and tire will.

Keep in mind that 15 in tires of any quality are a thing of the past so 16 will be the way to go.
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Old 05-21-2014, 06:15 PM   #4
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If I were going to the expense of new wheels, I'd definitely go with 16".
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Old 05-21-2014, 07:39 PM   #5
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16 inch wheels will only get you 1/2 inch rise.
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:35 PM   #6
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There are brackets commercially available to raise your trailer another two inches.

They fit between the axles and the frame.

Next week I am going to take a shot at raising my 72 three inches when I install my new axles.

I may revert to only two inches if the three looks incredibly goofy though....
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:37 PM   #7
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It has struck me as kind of ironic that Airstreams are marketed as self contained boondockers, but are incapable of entering half of the gas stations in America without dragging ass.
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:51 PM   #8
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When I purchases my axles from Colin, I got them with 32 degree downturn. Which did wonders for ground clearance.
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Old 05-21-2014, 11:40 PM   #9
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I also purchased my axles from Colin Hyde with 32 degree downward angle and upgraded to 16 inch aluminum wheels. Running 225-75-16 Michelin tires on them and
have no tire clearance issues. If you just spoke to Colin today it may not be too late to change your order as there is lead time involved. You can see pictures of my trailer
in the Argosy photo section.
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Old 05-22-2014, 12:22 AM   #10
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The 7.00-15 tires that originally came on my streamline, and some airstreams, have a diameter of 29.3" and mount on 15" rims. Even though I have switched to 16" rims on the streamline, I have maintained the overall diameter of the 29.3" by using 225/75-r16 tires. Hence the ride height is still at the factory original setting.
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Old 05-28-2014, 05:46 PM   #11
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The change to 16" tires and wheels buys greater load capacity versus the 15" set up that is at the edge of capacity.

You may extra height however as indicated above not much. More choices in tire and wheel combinations, greater load capacity and generally longer tire life as the tires are not loaded to near or at their load capacity.


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