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Smooth ride!

Posted 08-31-2012 at 02:02 AM by DKB_SATX
Updated 09-03-2012 at 12:36 AM by DKB_SATX (add categories)

So, on to the reason il Carriaggio was in the shop in the first place, the axles! Here you see the stiff old axles removed.

I've read a lot on various threads about how people feel that quality (and quality control) has gone down at Airstream. Technically my trailer doesn't say anything about Airstream in 1975 since it was built at Versailles rather than Jackson Center, but there were definitely some "cobbled together" aspects that may date back to the original build.

When I first sent the axle measurements to Lance we thought that I'd made an error in the measurements, because the track was quite a bit narrower than is normal for a full-width 70s trailer. I remeasured and got essentially the same values, then I noticed that there was a big space between the tire and the opening of the wheel well, but I could barely get my pudgy fingers between the tire and the inner surface of the wheel well. Here you can even see where a tire had rubbed the well at some point.

So, we made the decision to go back with the standard width between hub faces, which moved the tires more into the center of the wells. I had gotten slightly different measurements on the distance between the axle brackets fore and aft, which turned out to be accurate. When he removed the axles, Lance found the the track differed between them by 5/16" as well!

Here's a picture of the separation between the wheel well and the trim and skin without the bubbles you see in the leak-detection photos, showing a bit of the PO's favorite expanding foam product.

One of my wheel well outriggers had some rust perforation.

Lance sealed up that perforation and stiffened up the outrigger with part of another outrigger he had.

Lance cleaned up the mounting flange and applied Eastwood Rust Encapsulator to protect it and the outriggers.

Now we get heretical! We chose Rockwell American torsion axles built to the appropriate specs for the trailer, with brackets to bolt up to the Airstream mounting flange. These had a number of advantages over the usual brands. They're made in Royse City, TX and sourced from Quality Trailer Products in Azle. Like the standard Airstream brands, they are available fully assembled (new bearings, brakes, magnets and drums.) They're less expensive, have a 5-year warranty, and they have a system called "AccuLube" that allows me to force grease through the bearings with a grease gun on a zerk on the hub (behind that rubber plug in the end of the hubs.) They seem to be normal well-made torsion axles, and the holes on the brackets lined up with the original holes in the mounting flange. Lance re-used the shock mounts from the old axles.

Lance uses crimp-and-solder connectors for the brake wires

and then he covers that with heat-shrink tubing

And now to confess my final act of heresy, I chose not to put ST tires on my trailer. I went with the 15" Michelin LTX M/S2 235/75R15 tires that some others on the forums are using. The capacity of 3 of them adds up to about 120% of the rated gross weight of the Argosy, and they're rated for higher speeds and temperatures than the STs.

Now, let's talk about the overall results. You can see the nice clearance in the photo above. This is with the standard 22-degree starting angle on 2600-lb axles, the difference is just new axles vs. the tired ones. I'll be using the second step more often now! I only used it once with the old axles, when I was in a sloping site.

I'll REALLY appreciate the BAL stabilizers I installed earlier in the year now. Before I didn't always use stabilizers when I was by myself in the trailer, but now I feel more motion just walking down the hallway.

Honestly, I didn't expect to feel much difference from the driver's seat. However, there was one peculiar trait that I didn't realize was made worse by the stiff axles and now that has been mostly eliminated. Sharp pavement joints such as you find on segmented concrete bridges often caused a weird motion that felt a bit like someone was kicking the back of my seat (though of course it was a force transmitted through the hitch to the whole truck.) It's not easy to describe the original motion adequately, but it's essentially gone with the new axles.

I'm very pleased with the work and the results. I won't hesitate to have Lance do work in the future that I don't have time or a place to do, or that I feel is above my skill level. My trailer is much better than it was, and it's ready to go to Albuquerque.
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