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Old 05-22-2023, 11:21 AM   #1
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2019 27' Flying Cloud
Corpus Christi , Texas
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Front end compression and Equalizer hitches

We had communication several months ago about using an Equalizer hitch maybe causing the front end compression. My TV is a 2020 F-250.


I had, on the drivers side, 2 popped rivets and a small wrinkle in the skin just above the bottom molding. Received feedback concerning the use of an Equalizer hitch causing this problem.



I used a Wixey digital level gauge and made measurements from the A-frame to the from end frames on either side of the front compartment.
Zeroed out on the A frame and measured 3 points on the vertical front of the Airsteam body. Did this with and without the equalizer bars attached.
Measured both the driver side, which is where I have the noticeable compression with the loss of 2 rivets, and the passenger side.
After multiple measurements, both sides measured within 0.2 degrees top to bottom.

This only shows the effects of the Equalizer hitch on level ground. When pulling into or out of a driveway, the Equalizer bars would definitely be loaded, but only momentarily.


Any thoughts?
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Old 05-22-2023, 02:02 PM   #2
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Front end compression and Equalizer hitches

I do have a thought - it’s not the equalizer.

Every time I see a front compartment trailer I go check it out for FES. 4 out of 5 show the indents and the ones that don’t are storage shed queens. Any front compartment trailer that actually gets used gets the indents. It’s a function of time and use. Sure, WDH settings can cause the indents to occur sooner but over the long run, all these trailers are going to develop this. All of them.

I’ve visualized the structural design on my trailer with FES and can confirm it’s not a hitch issue, it’s a design issue. At least from 2017-2020 there is no vertical support - none - between the segment protectors. There’s a “floating” rib on the side of the compartment that doesn’t tie into the frame. I think I have a YouTube video on here somewhere showing that on these trailers, the “floating” rib can be flexed with a single finger. My opinion is that this this “flex zone” was intentional in the design as the factory knew that there was high compression in this area and for various reasons, felt that flex was important.

Interesting that your damage is on the street side, almost all that I’ve seen are worse on the curb side. There are trailer-to-trailer variances in how close to the frame the “floating” ribs extend and I wonder if there is left/right variance on your trailer.

And - potentially a minority opinion, but one borne of experience and observation - in the absence of signs of true front end separation, these indents are cosmetic and do not require surgical intervention. If it’s in warranty, yes, have it repaired. Splits need to be sealed to prevent against water intrusion but there is no risk of catastrophic failure. Evidence of “true” front end separation involves either multiple rivets under the rub rail popping OR the frame through-bolts coming loose. This is rare and NOT what most owners experience.

If the trailer isn’t in warranty, really, it may be best to just ignore it and go camping.
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Old 05-22-2023, 02:25 PM   #3
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Equalizer Hitch Setup by Airstream Dealer for my F350 4x4 Diesel

I find your post interesting as I have a similar experience. I would like to know, also, what Tow Vehicle starlite29 to keep the 3/4 ton / 1 ton tow vehicle focus.

Is your Ford 250 a 4x4 and maybe some distances comparing it to my F350 if you are curious. A F250 non 4x4 may be different than a F250 4x4.

I looked at my Equalizer Hitch that the Ball is attached and got some information for this Thread.

My Hitch is set up for my F350 4x4 Diesel, 18 inch Michelin tires. Standard bed length, Topper over the Bed.

- My F350 Shank sleeve from the garage floor to the bottom is 17 3/4 inches.

- My F350 Shank sleeve is a 3 inch with Ford welded inner sleeve to reduce to a 2.5 inch shank fit.

- My F350 Hitch adjustment has four holes for the Ball Assembly. I use the Top Two Holes, with two holes showing below.- This Equalizer Hitch is for 1000# bars. (probably the same as other bars) The Ball Assembly is flush with the top of the Shank Unit. (making up terminology the best I can)

- The Equalizer L Brackets attached to the Frame of my 27FBQ are 13.75 inches from the back side of the L Bracket to the plastic that the frame enters. This bracket is 2 inches wide. From the front side of the L bracket it measures 29 inches to the front of the Ball Cup. Maybe a fraction one way or the other... but I will stick to an even 29.0 inches.

- My Equalizer Shank slides 7 inches into the F350 Sleeve, once I insert the pin to secure it onto the Ford. (That is the wearing off of the paint at 7 inches.)

The distance of the L Bracket may be a big issue. The further from the Ball Cup would increase the WD. Closer to the Ball Cup, less WD. (I think this is how it works.) Of course, lowering the Ball, changing the washer angle of the Ball... it is very variable and NO Two are probably SET UP the same. ????

Hard to make any comparisons without the... setup and hardened washer numbers for the angle of the Ball. I might have FIVE hardened washers on the Ball Angle. Not sure...

I hope this may help.
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Old 05-22-2023, 02:36 PM   #4
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Front end compression and Equalizer hitches

Ray - my TV is stock 2012 f250 + fastway e2, setup with minimal weight distribution. Prior owner had a lifted later model f250 also with fastway e2 and that’s probably where the issue started with my trailer - he had the trailer the first 2.5 years and had a bunch of warranty repairs for stuff shaking loose.

But I’ve seen a LOT of so-called FES indents on trailers (I do not point it out to owners, btw). C’mon, it’s not all caused by WDH.
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Old 05-22-2023, 02:46 PM   #5
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I have no idea of what a F250+ fastway e2 is.

With a Lifted Vehicle... the shank has more adjustments up and down. I have seen them pulling boats. Some drive like they are in a hurry to get somewhere.

A 2 wheel drive 6 cylinder? Cannot compare with my vehicle at all.

Airstream said it is my fault. If your compression indents were caused by a lighter Ford... there is a BIG Problem with the FB models. Then we agree.

My theory is WDHitches create the stress indents and Airstream Jackson Center has not beefed up the frames on these FB models with storage doors.

WD or SC is not needed on my F350 4x4 Diesel. Come and take a look. Follow me down the highway. You will be impressed.

I am not bashful and will wear a shirt. I do not go to Airstream Rallies... so have no comparisons to make and have any comparisons to offer.

So... you have Front in Compression? Has either indent split? Do you have any Buck Rivets loose on the bottom of the Storage Compartment frame. You have to bend over to look, as I did not notice them until I was exploring what was going on with the two creases.

Jackson Center is not talking about WHAT WE or the Dealer should DO, other than Full Time at a RV Park to avoid any damage.

They did nothing for a long time.

Anyone have indents and not an Equalizer Hitch? Lets hear it. I want to know as well as starlite29 and cctx27.

If I missed something... I am old and grumpy.
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Old 05-22-2023, 03:10 PM   #6
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My 27FB also had two exterior popped rivets along the base moulding just below the curved parts of the front access door frame. Also a short 1" crack in the exterior aluminum skin like many others. Drilled out the popped rivets and replaced them with stainless steel sheet metal screws. Placed a small piece of clear packing tape over the crack. Two years and thousands of miles later no change, except the packing tape is turning yellow and probably should be changed. This problem is way down on my list of things to worry about.
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Old 05-22-2023, 03:21 PM   #7
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kscherzi... I was reading the Lithium Thread and enjoying the humor there.

I pulled up the Queen Bed, removed the plywood (I would say thin barely plywood), added a long aluminum metal bar, drilled and added it to the lower inside of the trailer / skin / storage frame. Working so far... after discovering I did not need Bars for WD.

The split on the outside indent, I put an adhesive aluminum tape strip over it. The curb side indent is almost... gone. But I added a bunch of Lath Screws to sandwich the storage door frame to give it strength. Several Buck Rivets were missing. Did not see that, as you have to be looking at those to find them.

I spent maybe $30 at Lowes sorting through their Aluminum bars and angled bars.

I like Lath Screws. Those have not fallen out, yet. Although now no WD Bars, so my problem is solved. Back to making drawings in the back of our Cave.

I do not sell aluminum hardware, buck rivets, Lath Screws or How to Fix anything with a Hammer booklets. This is a Non Profit Discussion.
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Old 05-22-2023, 03:25 PM   #8
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Ray - fastway e2 is just another brand of WDH, functionally identical to Equalizer.

kscherzi - Yes! you get it. On my trailer, when I disassembled the interior beds and skin to see what I was dealing with, I overlaid the inner part of the crease/split zone on both the left and right sides with some roofing repair tape, the sticky black butyl stuff. That was my "repair," $15 and I still have about 25 square feet of that tape left over.

I investigated DIY reinforcement but when I saw how little support the "floating" rib would provide even if reinforced, I decided against it.
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Old 05-22-2023, 03:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by starlite29 View Post
Ray - fastway e2 is just another brand of WDH, functionally identical to Equalizer.

kscherzi - Yes! you get it. On my trailer, when I disassembled the interior beds and skin to see what I was dealing with, I overlaid the inner part of the crease/split zone on both the left and right sides with some roofing repair tape, the sticky black butyl stuff. That was my "repair," $15 and I still have about 25 square feet of that tape left over.
******
Duct Tape use to be the fix for everything in an Airstream.

Then came along Gorilla Tape. Black and Silver. Two different widths.

Anyone tried getting into the space with the Plywood removed? If you can manage to GET OUT... you are are still in great shape. Once you are down in the Storage Area... my wife would hand me tools I needed through the open storage compartment door. Yes, my storage door hinge is still working well.

It is an experience to work from the Interior. Have good fresh drill bits. Maybe a sack lunch...
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Old 05-22-2023, 03:58 PM   #10
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Front end compression and Equalizer hitches

I had a lot of fun disassembling the interior, but did not tell my wife I was doing it, nor why. Would not have been well received. Metal shavings in my shins, I can deal with.

Here’s a photo of the backside of my curb side split, which is typical. You can see the aluminum oxide from the flexing on that lower rivet. (Also note the stop-drill hole, which failed.) The rivet in the “floating” rib, I don’t know that it hurts or harms or does anything at all. The crease points right to it, but I think without that rivet it would still crease, just maybe not in that exact spot.

That “floating” rib can be flexed laterally with the pressure of a single finger, about 5 lb or pressure will flex it. To the right, behind the insulation, which you can’t see, is the rib that extends to and is bolted to the frame, and THAT is the important structural rib. On Airstream’s structural diagrams, the “floating” and “structural” ribs have different outlines - again, this is by design not mistake.

Anyway, this is to emphasize the point that it ain’t the equalizer or the fastway or the whatever. It’s the design and every trailer with this construction will end up like this, if used and well loved.

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Old 05-22-2023, 04:18 PM   #11
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JC has been not doing anything for a long time trying to fix the problem.

Not only is the same problem still around...so are the same arguments

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Old 05-23-2023, 09:38 AM   #12
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This has been thoroughly discussed on AirForums. Here is one thread which is up to over 37K reads on the topic.

https://www.airforums.com/forums/f23...am-225389.html

Mine is not a scientific experiment but the observation of a single case, ours.
The conclusion is that after 2 years of traveling (19K miles) in some of the roughest road conditions possible (for example I 40 in West Arizona) with our Eaz Lift round, tapered 1000lbs WD bars and chains installed by Can Am RV which replaced the stiff (1200lbs) square Equalizer bars, all is still rock solid up front and the rig is a pleasure to drive, and no other parameters in the equation were modified except for the replacement of the OEM front end shocks of our Sierra 2500HD with Bilsteins which reduces the front end vertical displacement on rough roads.

If you want to visually compare the WD bars here is a picture. Again this is not science, but one could be convinced that the thinner tapered round bar will flex more than the heavier square bar, and thus apply less pressure on the frame as a consequence.
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Old 05-23-2023, 10:30 AM   #13
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What is missing from your information is the rating of the WD bars. I had the same issue with my first AS 27FB. Turns out the dealer gave me bars rated at 1200 lbs and with my F350 suspension, it was beating the trailer to death. No popped rivets but stress crack on both corners of the front compartment. I switched to 600 lb bars and life was much better for all. I got the info from the famous Andy at Inland RV. There are plenty of posts about this issue.
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Old 05-23-2023, 12:37 PM   #14
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It's not the hitch. My brand new 2021 GT 25FBT had front end creases before I even picked it up from the dealer lot. Luckily I had the pictures to prove it. It's a design flaw. The dealer got approval from JC and fixed the problem under the warranty, including reinforcing the shell around the front storage compartment.
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Old 05-23-2023, 06:34 PM   #15
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Old 05-23-2023, 06:51 PM   #16
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Could someone post a pic of these "creases" so I know what you're talking about.
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Old 05-23-2023, 07:22 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AKSteve View Post
Could someone post a pic of these "creases" so I know what you're talking about.
Here are the creases that appeared on our 2021 International 27FBT. Not too severe and the Aluminum skin is not severely bent nor has a tear appeared.

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This issue is a problem with the design. Airstream frames are lighter weight than other trailers especially those with automatic levelers. Airstream frames can twist if stabilizers are cranked down too hard. The frame flexes going over road variations regardless of the type of hitch used. This flexing causes the creasing at a weak area that lacks needed bracing. It has nothing to do with weight distribution hitches per se.

Tampa Airstream just installed under warranty new factory-made brackets to repair this weakness in the design of trailers with a front storage bay.

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Here is a picture of the two brackets as viewed as if looking from inside the storage bay forward. As you can see, they are rather large and thick brackets that get installed in-between the inner and outer skin of the trailer. The storage bay fame is removed to gain access to the area. They are riveted to a vertical frame member on each side and screwed into the floor. There is no visible difference from the outside.

Airstream has not changed their recommendations about using a WD hitch. They addressed the frame weakness issue. I was told by my dealer that new Airstreams have this bracket installed when manufactured.
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Old 05-23-2023, 07:28 PM   #18
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New Factory Brackets Reinforce Corners of Storage Bay

See my post below. You should get these new factory brackets installed.

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Old 05-23-2023, 07:37 PM   #19
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Front end compression and Equalizer hitches

Thanks Etroup, those are beautiful and definitely would help strengthen the area. I’ve seen the new factory repair process also involves welding plates to the “outrigger” part of the frame under the banana wrap to further limit torsion.
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Old 05-23-2023, 07:44 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ETroup View Post
Here are the creases that appeared on our 2021 International 27FBT. Not too severe and the Aluminum skin is not severely bent nor has a tear appeared.

Attachment 432248
Attachment 432249

This issue is a problem with the design. Airstream frames are lighter weight than other trailers especially those with automatic levelers. Airstream frames can twist if stabilizers are cranked down too hard. The frame flexes going over road variations regardless of the type of hitch used. This flexing causes the creasing at a weak area that lacks needed bracing. It has nothing to do with weight distribution hitches per se.

Tampa Airstream just installed under warranty new factory-made brackets to repair this weakness in the design of trailers with a front storage bay.

Attachment 432250

Here is a picture of the two brackets as viewed as if looking from inside the storage bay forward. As you can see, they are rather large and thick brackets that get installed in-between the inner and outer skin of the trailer. The storage bay fame is removed to gain access to the area. They are riveted to a vertical frame member on each side and screwed into the floor. There is no visible difference from the outside.

Airstream has not changed their recommendations about using a WD hitch. They addressed the frame weakness issue. I was told by my dealer that new Airstreams have this bracket installed when manufactured.
Interesting
I have a new 2023 GT 27FB. I will inspect the front compartment for this bracket and report back as soon as I have a chance
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