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Old 11-24-2013, 07:56 AM   #1
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1959 24' Tradewind
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Axle wonder

Hi Folks
Newbie here, just bought a 1959 Tradewind, seemingly in good condition for age, going to reno it. It was towed 200 miles recently from its moose hunting environment [I still haven't towed it myself..and remains in previous owners yard] and was reported a good success, wheels were greased etc..

My concern; is given its age, do these old beasts ever have axle problems [break], or am I being paranoid? I am confident with all other aspects of the trailer, but wonder if peoples experience may come in handy. Is it safe to say I should leave it static and not move it very much? Or, are they known to keep going with proper care.... for miles and miles..
Understanding of course, all are in different shape with wear and tear.

I will indeed search for such topics here.
cheers
Muskie
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Old 11-24-2013, 09:19 AM   #2
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Read Inland RV's website about axles.
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Old 11-24-2013, 09:57 AM   #3
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Do you have a torsion axle or a leaf spring axle? If you have a torsion axle then inland's post is appropriate. If its a leaf spring then it may be possible to rebuild. A qualified mechanic could tell you if parts are still available. In either case it's old enough that the axle should be a major safety concern.
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Old 11-24-2013, 09:59 AM   #4
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A 59 TW should have a spring axle.
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Old 11-24-2013, 10:05 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Muskie View Post
Hi Folks
Newbie here, just bought a 1959 Tradewind, seemingly in good condition for age, going to reno it. It was towed 200 miles recently from its moose hunting environment [I still haven't towed it myself..and remains in previous owners yard] and was reported a good success, wheels were greased etc..

My concern; is given its age, do these old beasts ever have axle problems [break], or am I being paranoid? I am confident with all other aspects of the trailer, but wonder if peoples experience may come in handy. Is it safe to say I should leave it static and not move it very much? Or, are they known to keep going with proper care.... for miles and miles..
Understanding of course, all are in different shape with wear and tear.

I will indeed search for such topics here.
cheers
Muskie
Hi Muskie,
This age of leaf spring axle beam isn't really the issue, the problems are more likely with the leaf springs themselves, shackle bushings, bearings, seals & the brake components. All of this can be rebuilt, but is it really worth it when you're done? I rebuilt the leaf spring axle assemblies on my 59 Ambassador 12 years ago & would never go to that trouble again, let alone pay someone to do it for me. We install modern torsion axles in my shop on this era of trailer, & you end up with a much smoother, more ground clearance, fully independent suspension system & parts serviceability pretty much anywhere. The torsion axle design has been used by Airstream since 1961, significantly longer than they ever used the leaf spring design.
Your original system should be fine to move from the previous owners house, but you should check the wheel bearings first.
On another note, my brother & sister in-law also live in Collingwood, & have an 04 19' Bambi. They have been looking for a trailer of your era & size to rebuild & customize, so you guys might have some synergy & may be able to share some direction.
Good luck with it,
Colin
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Old 11-24-2013, 10:27 AM   #6
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I had a 54 safari with leaf springs. I eventually did replace the axle with a straight axle but it was not because of any problems but rather to raise the trailer a few inches. I was able turn new spring bushings from nylon rod and kept the original springs
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Old 11-24-2013, 11:21 AM   #7
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There is no particular life span to leaf spring axles. The bearings, brakes, tires and shackle bushings are wear points but the axles themselves will last practically forever.

But, you can buy a brand new axle complete with springs for $300. For that price is it worth fixing the old stuff?
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Old 11-24-2013, 11:37 AM   #8
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I'm guessing it's a lot less money to service leaf springs than it is to replace (you don't service) torsion axles.

Am I right?
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Old 11-24-2013, 12:09 PM   #9
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I'm guessing it's a lot less money to service leaf springs than it is to replace (you don't service) torsion axles.

Am I right?
Correct, providing you are not paying someone to do it. It is very labor intensive to disassemble them, de-rust, paint, then reassemble with new wear parts. The leaf spring size is not standard anymore, so you'd have to get them made, if there are any issues, or weld new shackle brackets on the frame to suit the new leaf length. I had a broken leaf on my trailer this past Spring, just before leaving for Alumapalooza. Fortunately, I have a 57 Sovereign of the Road waiting its turn for restoration, & scavenged one from it. This trailer will be upgraded with torsion axles at some point.
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Old 11-27-2013, 09:10 AM   #10
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Thanks folks for all the insight. When I get the unit under a roof, I will inspect and again draw from your experience.
Muskie
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Old 12-02-2013, 11:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colin H View Post
Hi Muskie,
This age of leaf spring axle beam isn't really the issue, the problems are more likely with the leaf springs themselves, shackle bushings, bearings, seals & the brake components. All of this can be rebuilt, but is it really worth it when you're done? I rebuilt the leaf spring axle assemblies on my 59 Ambassador 12 years ago & would never go to that trouble again, let alone pay someone to do it for me. We install modern torsion axles in my shop on this era of trailer, & you end up with a much smoother, more ground clearance, fully independent suspension system & parts serviceability pretty much anywhere. The torsion axle design has been used by Airstream since 1961, significantly longer than they ever used the leaf spring design.
Your original system should be fine to move from the previous owners house, but you should check the wheel bearings first.
On another note, my brother & sister in-law also live in Collingwood, & have an 04 19' Bambi. They have been looking for a trailer of your era & size to rebuild & customize, so you guys might have some synergy & may be able to share some direction.
Good luck with it,
Colin
Colin, here is a pic of the leafs you spoke of. Just to understand correctly, you could replace the whole system with a completely different one that would be more serviceable? What kind of ball-park cost would that be?

The leafs look awfully close to the ground as well.

Cheers
-muskie
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Old 12-03-2013, 12:28 AM   #12
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Muskie here is a link to Cerka in Milton Ontario. They make axles and can supply you with a complete new axle with springs and brakes.

3600-5200 lb. Axle

I don't know the exact cost but I believe they are around $300 complete with springs and brakes.

I linked to the page for 3500 lb to 5200 lb axles, they have others. Notice the specs and drawings at the bottom, you can measure your axle and get an exact duplicate.

I don't know what kind of shape your axle is in now. Maybe it only needs new brakes and bearings. If so it would be cheaper to keep your old axle.
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Old 12-03-2013, 02:00 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Muskie View Post
Colin, here is a pic of the leafs you spoke of. Just to understand correctly, you could replace the whole system with a completely different one that would be more serviceable? What kind of ball-park cost would that be?

The leafs look awfully close to the ground as well.

Cheers
-muskie
Hi Muskie,
Yes, you can replace the complete leaf spring axle assembly with a modern torsion axle assembly. Some of the advantages of this include greater ground clearance (even from a new leaf spring assembly), much smoother ride due to the rubber rods that make up the suspension system, each wheel acts independently from each other (fully independent suspension), plus you can dial in the load rating on the axle to suit exactly what the weight of your trailer is, plus the gear inside. Given that you plan to carry delicate electronic equipment in this trailer, you really should get the smoothest & most forgiving suspension system you can. You can also choose the torsion arm starting angle that suits your usage. Shock mounts can also be included on the axle assembly during fabrication, to lessen potential warranty issues if added later.
Forum rules do not allow me to quote prices I'm afraid. I have however shipped axles all over North America, to the UK & to NZ.
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Old 12-03-2013, 04:45 AM   #14
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Just know that once you do convert to torsion, you will have to replace the axle in about 15 years. If you rebuild or replace your leaf spring axle it will good till 2059. The trailer will be 100 years by then.
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Old 12-03-2013, 10:02 AM   #15
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Thanks guys.
Does the pic give you any indication of needing replacement? Can you by glance know if it would be a no-brainer to replace, or if seemingly solid just be replaced using the precautionary principle?
I am very new to trailers and have little mechanic experience.
cheers.
Muskie
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Old 12-04-2013, 11:08 AM   #16
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Thanks guys.
Does the pic give you any indication of needing replacement? Can you by glance know if it would be a no-brainer to replace, or if seemingly solid just be replaced using the precautionary principle?
I am very new to trailers and have little mechanic experience.
cheers.
Muskie
The axle itself has no moving parts and never wears out. It could be bent in an accident.

The wear parts are the brakes, the bearings and the springs.

You can visually inspect the axle to see if it is bent or the wheels are cockeyed.

Inspect the springs for broken leaves. They should have a slight curve to them. If they are not broken, bent, or flattened out they are ok. Although, they will work smoother if you take them apart, clean out the rust and put some grease in between.

You have to remove the brake drum to inspect the brakes. This is best done by taking off the wheel, drum and hub as an assembly. Clean the bearings and inspect for wear, rust or galling. If everything is smooth and shiny they can be packed with fresh grease and reused. You should put in a new grease seal when you repack the bearings. New bearings and seals can be bought from Peterborough Bearing or any bearing supply place. The hub and bearing is basically the same as the front wheel on a rear drive car or pickup truck. Any auto mechanic should be familiar with them.

Drum brakes are the same as used on cars except they are electrically actuated. Inspect shoes for wear, or for lining separating from the shoe. The parts, springs etc should be free to move and not too rusty. Brake drums can get worn and rutted, if the shoes are good slight scoring is nothing to worry about but if you replace the shoes the drums should be turned if they are not smooth.

There is an electromagnet on a lever. It wears against a flat plate in the drum. If the magnet is worn down too far it must be replaced. Inspect the wire for wear, fraying, or cracking insulation. If you apply 12volts to the brakes they should lock up and skid the tires. For proper use you need a brake controller in your tow vehicle.

It may be possible to clean, inspect and lube the brakes and bearings. If they are in good shape go ahead and use them. But if the brakes and bearings are worn out it is better and cheaper to buy a whole new brake assembly, about $80.

Any good auto mechanic can service inspect and repair your brakes and bearings.
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Old 12-05-2013, 01:07 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Ganaraska View Post
The axle itself has no moving parts and never wears out. It could be bent in an accident.

The wear parts are the brakes, the bearings and the springs.

You can visually inspect the axle to see if it is bent or the wheels are cockeyed.

Inspect the springs for broken leaves. They should have a slight curve to them. If they are not broken, bent, or flattened out they are ok. Although, they will work smoother if you take them apart, clean out the rust and put some grease in between.

You have to remove the brake drum to inspect the brakes. This is best done by taking off the wheel, drum and hub as an assembly. Clean the bearings and inspect for wear, rust or galling. If everything is smooth and shiny they can be packed with fresh grease and reused. You should put in a new grease seal when you repack the bearings. New bearings and seals can be bought from Peterborough Bearing or any bearing supply place. The hub and bearing is basically the same as the front wheel on a rear drive car or pickup truck. Any auto mechanic should be familiar with them.

Drum brakes are the same as used on cars except they are electrically actuated. Inspect shoes for wear, or for lining separating from the shoe. The parts, springs etc should be free to move and not too rusty. Brake drums can get worn and rutted, if the shoes are good slight scoring is nothing to worry about but if you replace the shoes the drums should be turned if they are not smooth.

There is an electromagnet on a lever. It wears against a flat plate in the drum. If the magnet is worn down too far it must be replaced. Inspect the wire for wear, fraying, or cracking insulation. If you apply 12volts to the brakes they should lock up and skid the tires. For proper use you need a brake controller in your tow vehicle.

It may be possible to clean, inspect and lube the brakes and bearings. If they are in good shape go ahead and use them. But if the brakes and bearings are worn out it is better and cheaper to buy a whole new brake assembly, about $80.

Any good auto mechanic can service inspect and repair your brakes and bearings.
Hey thanks for your time explaining that. I guess I really just need to take it to a mechanic and let him graze over the important bits and give me an idea of what I am up against.
Will keep you posted. Thanks again.
-m
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Old 12-05-2013, 04:32 PM   #18
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Frank,

I like how you think! While redoing the 56 FK, went back with the original springs, shackle bolts, etc... style system. I figured if the original ones lasted from 56 until now (and still working fine), a new set should last until I'm no longer able to drive.

Enjoy,
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Old 12-06-2013, 10:14 AM   #19
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O ya forgot to mention the tires. Trailer tires are only good for 5 years before they lose their strength and start cracking. There is a code date stamped on the sidewall. More than 5 years old should be replaced.

You have to use your common sense here. If you are moving the trailer a couple of miles at no more than 30 MPH you can be a little chancy. For a trailer that is used on the hiway regularly, don't take chances. A blown tire can do serious damage to your trailer and possibly cause an accident.

Some people prefer light truck tires over trailer tires.
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