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Old 02-27-2013, 06:13 PM   #1
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Airstream on Air

So I used to own an 82 motorhome with full air suspension in the rear. Some previous owner disabled the whole system and air was added manually, and it leaked... Anyway, I got to be very familiar with air ride systems, and learned a ton while I was rebuilding the whole system.

I'm searching for a trailer this time, and the only thing that worries me is the ride height. We always camp off the pavement, and usually the roads to the best camp spots are not "lowrider" accessible.

After I sold the Moho, I bought a diesel truck and a SOB trailer. Yes, it sucked, but the first thing I did was to flip the axles for an extra 4-5" of ride height.

So the SOB is gone, and I'm just not comfortable with the ride height of almost every airstream we look at. It's going to drag on the road to our beach property, and I'm sure it will get damaged off road in Central Oregon.

So that's the back-story. Here's my question:
Has anyone retrofitted an hybrid air/torsion axle system to a trailer?

I did some internet searching and I found 3 companies that make air ride systems and kits that look like they would work for Airstreams:

1. Dexter Axle: www.dexteraxle.com I'm sure this is a whole replacement and costs the most. Probably a couple grand in new axles and air systems, etc.


2. Air Suspensions Inc: Air Suspensions Inc. - Air Suspensions for Trailers
These guys don't have a very good site about their product, but what I like is you can get a kit and use your good axles with the kit to add air ride.

3. Suspension Technology: STI Suspension Technology - Air Suspensions | Trailers | Retrofit Axles
This again looks like a whole new suspension system that you install in place of your existing axles.


Here's also a good article on "hybrid" systems and the advantages:
welcome to mrtrailer.comUltimate Trailer Axle welcome to mrtrailer.com (this is where I found ASI)


How great would this be?
1. Air system maintians proper ride height down the road.
2. Claims to improve ride.
3. You could jack it up to clear a driveway, or a riverbed, or a bad rut in the road.
4. You could dump the air when you camp to help level the trailer, or just make it easier for grandma to get in.

Once I get a trailer, this will be on the list of things to do.
Are there any threads on here that I missed searching where someone put air-ride on a trailer? I saw several mentions of it, but no pictures or descriptions.

Thanks,
Kevin
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Old 02-27-2013, 08:00 PM   #2
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I'm a KISS kind of person, keep it simple...

While the 'Air ride' concept has it's advantages, it's just another 'system' to maintain, etc., IMHO...

+'s - softer ride
Auto weight distribution & ride height among axles
Ability to 'de-air' & lower trailer 3 inches when parked

-'s - Increased weight of axles
Additional maintenance requirements
Air bag rupture on the road would require immediate corrective action similar to tire air loss...
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Old 02-28-2013, 03:07 PM   #3
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You have a good point. That air-ride system in my motorhome was constant work.

I think these air systems have an internal rubber stopper in case there's air loss. Then it operates just like it did, relying on the torsion axle to absorb the bumps.

For me it's a either an adjustable ride height solution, or permanent jacked up trailer. I'd give up the "kneeling" function if I could just lift the trailer when I needed.

Mexray, I remember reading your posts 5 years ago when I was working on my AS MoHo.

I'd still like to hear from someone or be pointed in the direction of someone that's done this on an airstream trailer.

I actually loved it on the motorhome. I could hook up a trailer by lowering the rear end of the motorhome and then go under the tongue of the trailer and air up. I had to also jack up the rear end just to get out of my driveway without gouging the tarmac. It drove horrible all jacked up, but it was fun.

-Kevin
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Old 02-28-2013, 05:00 PM   #4
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Had airbags inside the front springs of my ASLYG MH, they leaked all the time, never stayed inflated. As I write, the MH is in the shop getting new stronger springs and losing the airbags. I hope the ones you plan to install work better than mine. Good luck.
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Old 02-28-2013, 05:14 PM   #5
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I too replaced those front assist airbags in my MoHo. It was a pain.

I just think the technology is so much better now than it was 20-30 years ago. I do think the airbags have a 10yr expected lifespan, but that's better than tires.

I just think that Airstreams are the Cadillac of trailers. And like a Cadillac, they're made to stay on the pavement. I just can't believe that nobody lifts an Airstream. Or it's not a common thing to do. I understand it might raise the CG, and affect handling, but I drive like a grandpa, and that's only accentuated by the already leisurely pace of most Oregonians.

I saw a post where Andy at Inland said he put a 12" lift on an Airstream for a customer. I just can't believe that with the "world traveler" spirit of Wally that there aren't more owners that attempt to make the AS more off-road capable.

I'd love to just put on new axles with 35 deg start. That would give me 1.5-2.5" more height, then an option to boost the airbags to get me up to +5" lift just to get in camp.

We'll see. I think I'm going over to buy the new (used) trailer this weekend. As long as the guy buying my current SOB shows up with the cash tomorrow.

-Kevin
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Old 02-28-2013, 06:00 PM   #6
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I posted a while back on the " air ride axle" thread and seem to recall there was at least one trailer running air on there. Also I had Kelderman bookmarked too.

Rv And Trailer | Kelderman
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Old 02-28-2013, 07:35 PM   #7
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I think Andy raised the roof of the TT.

And one can modify with torsion axles for greater ground clearance. I'd investigate that road first.

Asking Andy would be a good start, IMO.

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Old 02-28-2013, 08:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slowmover View Post
And one can modify with torsion axles for greater ground clearance. I'd investigate that road first.
Not really. The axles bolt in to a relief in the trailer body. Modifying that relief and mounting area is at best really difficult.

>Action
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Old 03-05-2013, 12:43 PM   #9
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Message from ASI

I got a reply from Dave at ASI:

Quote:
The suspension comes in two ways.

1) The Dexter Airflex is available direct from Dexter or a distributor such as Redneck. This is the way to go if you are going to replace the torsion axle. The assembly comes from Dexter completely assembled and ready to install on your trailer. You would need to get the pricing from Dexter or their distributor.

2) We sell the bolt-on kit from ASI. The suspension design is the same except our kit is bolted onto the existing torsion axle. The axle must be removed from the trailer, our parts are bolted to the axle and then the assembly is remounted and welded or bolted back on the trailer.

Pricing is $675.00 per axle for our kit and $850.00 for the air supply kit for the trailer.
I asked another question about ride height:

Quote:
The up travel is about 3" and the down travel is also 3". If you do the retro-fit the trailer will ride 3" higher than it rides now. When the air is exhausted, it will come down to the level it rides now.

If you go with the Dexter assembled unit, you will ride at the standard torsion axle height and will lower 3" when the air is exhausted.

The overall travel is about 3 times the travel as the torsion axle.

Dave
Although it might be difficult, I have to do something before I go camping. I just brought the trailer home yesterday, and I adjusted the hitch to the lowest holes and the trailer is not level. I either need to buy a different ball mount (stinger) with a longer drop, or block up the axle mounting spot on the trailer.

I might be a little more experienced/adventurous with modifying the running gear on this trailer. I've build from scratch a 5x10 utility trailer based on plans from a local trailer builder. I also built a 8x14 enclosed trailer from a truck box. I have two welders, all sorts of metal fabrication tools, and pretty good experience lifting, repairing, building off-road trucks and motorcycles.

Without looking at the trailer, and failing to find any threads on raising the ride height (besides ordering new axles with a 35 deg start point), I'm thinking in my head that I could get a couple 5-6 foot lengths of 2" x 3" x .25" steel tube and raise the coach by 3" pretty easily. I'll bolt the spacers onto the trailer the same way the axles are bolted on, and bolt the axles to the spacers the same way they were bolted to the trailer.

I'll have a good look at it this week when I pick up the new wheels/tires.

How hard can it be? (famous last words)

-Kevin
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Old 03-05-2013, 01:37 PM   #10
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I was at the Kelderman factory in Oskaloosa, IA to have the complete self leveling air suspension (removed all steel springs) installed on to my new TV. If I remember correctly, someone mentioned that they did modify an Airstream to an airbag suspension. You might give them a call to verify my recollection.
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Old 03-05-2013, 01:46 PM   #11
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Was this the kit you put on your Dodge?
R4Tech Advertisement Video - YouTube

There's also an article about it in my recent Deisel Tech magazine. It starts on page 24:
Diesel Tech - June 2012

Pretty neat stuff. Sounds like you need a matching air ride system for your trailer?
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Old 03-05-2013, 03:12 PM   #12
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The system I had installed on my 2012 Dodge 2500 uses Firestone air bags. The system consists of a Kelderman 4-Link Rear Air Suspension System and 2-Stage Front Air Suspension.
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Old 03-06-2013, 09:47 AM   #13
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Don't forget the air-ride seat bases for driver and paassenger, switz! NATIONAL is one supplier.
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Old 03-06-2013, 02:11 PM   #14
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Hey Switz,

Let me know how you like that 4 corner air ride on your Ram. I know those HD's can ride pretty harsh.

Thanks.
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Old 03-06-2013, 06:25 PM   #15
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Dropped rear tire pressure to 45psi per door label for no load and the ride improved greatly. Towing the fronts are at 60 and the rears are currently at 50. Will study weigh ticket tonight from weighing the rig with full drinking water plus 5 gallons of slosh water in both gray and black water tanks which added over 400 pounds to the rig.

Really a smooth loaded ride on highways and decent two lane roads. A real choppy road is still uncomfortable for me and the rig. Slowing down to a speed that synchs with the frequency of the bumps really helps on this truck ad it did on a 90s vintage diesel suburban.
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Old 03-07-2013, 09:07 AM   #16
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The air suspension conversion is not an inexpensive proposition. If one goes to the Kelderman website, the prices are for the conversion kits only. Installation and sales tax must be added.

My wife is still taking care of her Mum in the UK and has yet to ride in the truck. Thus she will lack the knowledge of before and after the suspension modification. It is not a luxury car ride! However, a full figured lady would definitely sense the improvement in ride.
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Old 03-09-2013, 12:15 PM   #17
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KELDERMANN was the first class choice for an air ride suspension. DODGE calls upon them for concept vehicle work.

". . A real choppy road is still uncomfortable for me and the rig."

Thus the air-ride seat recommendation. Keep this in mind:

I've moved several 78-79k loads from the Corpus Christi bay area along IH-10 in Louisiana the past few weeks. The 367 Peterbilt air-ride seat cuts (let's call it) the "experienced vibration". The truck cab and truck suspension are air ride as is the pneumatic trailer. It's the seat that keeps me from coming apart on those older sections of road near Lake Charles and Lafayette which have that sectional choppiness to which I believe you refer . . after all, stopping at DON'S Specialty Market in Scott, LA is a road trip requirement. One wants to be able tune in Public Radio for southwest Louisiana, polish off that pound of boudin with some cracklin's and thunder on down the road behind that big Cummins. Without the seat the fatigue factor cuts the day short. Can't afford that at all on one of these trips.

And what that seat takes away from an oil lease road out near the Mexican border has to be experienced.

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Old 03-11-2013, 05:30 PM   #18
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So I finally got the wheels off and the trailer in the air. There's not enough room down there for the air ride system. At least the way it's pre-fabricated by Dexter. The Water tanks and sewage tanks are completely in the way. If the trailer didn't have them hanging down below the frame, then maybe. Or you'd have to get drop axles and mount a sub-frame lower than the tanks.... It would be ridiculous.

I guess it's regular axles for me.

-Kevin
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Old 03-11-2013, 06:02 PM   #19
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I got higher angle axles for mine, plus increased wheel size ... that gave me about 2 inches more ground clearance. I think this, together with some "real slow drivin" in low range plus a bunch of "get out and take a look" sessions will help when off pavement. Do remember that the more you raise the trailer, the more you alter its handling capabilities in emergency maneuvers.
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