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Old 02-27-2019, 07:16 PM   #1
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Greased bearing vs oil bath

Hi, new here and new to have an Airstream. First of all, growing up I never really liked these trailers but after borrowing this one last year from a friend I found out I like it. Hence why we bought it from him. It's a 1976 Int LY Ambassador 29T, rear bath. I would like to know what it would take to go from the grease packed style bearing to an oil bath for easier maintenance. Can this be down with the original hub or does it take a different hub assembly? I can pack the bearing, just don't like the mess. And I have worked on the oil bath system before on semi trailers, so I can work with both.
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Old 02-27-2019, 07:55 PM   #2
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Welcome to the AirForum!
I've never seen an oil bath on a torsion axle, but I suppose anything is possible. First thing to do would be to find out what type of axles you have. Odds are after 40+ years they are not original, but could be. If original it's time for new.
This is a link to a catalogue that shows what Dexter offers.
https://www.dexteraxle.com/docs/defa...).pdf?sfvrsn=8

ps: The original axles were made by Henshen, who is no longer making those axles.
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Old 02-27-2019, 08:14 PM   #3
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If you’re getting new axles, get the ‘never lube’ bearings. Then you don’t need to put up with repacking
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Old 02-27-2019, 08:43 PM   #4
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Dexter can provide oil bath, greased, EZ-Lube, and NevrLube bearings on their axles. Availability may depend on weight rating. To the best of my knowledge, each of them uses a different spindle and therefore an existing axle cannot be changed from one to the other.

When I replaced my axles I ordered EZLube spindles. NevrLube spindles have a bearing cassette that, as I understand it, must be pressed in and out and is expensive. EZLube, as I understand it, is similar to the greased bearing spindle but has passages to allow the injection of grease into the end of the spindle to the rear where it is turned around and fed to the bearing cavity, goes through the bearings, and back out, essentially a permanently installed Bearing Buddy. They can be disassembled, cleaned and re-greased by hand as if they were standard greased bearings.

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Old 02-27-2019, 08:48 PM   #5
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Thanks A W Warn. I looked at Inland RV's website last night. $1300 just not quite in the budget right now for new axles. Plus it seems to be setting about factory ride height, that's without using a tape measure to make sure. But measuring ride height is on my to do list. Where do I need to look for the axle info?
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Old 02-27-2019, 08:53 PM   #6
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Also when I got it home yesterday and backed it over a small mound of frozen dirt, the rear DS tire only dropped maybe an 1" or 2" when the front was on the pile. I would think is the rods inside where worn out it would dropped more than that. And if I remember right from working on it last summer for the PO when I jacked up each tire to adjust the brakes up almost as soon the tire started lifting the whole trailer would start lifting.
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Old 02-27-2019, 11:04 PM   #7
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Sorry, it’s the other way round. A worn out torsion axle drops LESS than a new one because the rubber stiffens and prevents normal movements and rebound. The axle should have dropped about 2-3 inches if in good shape. That axle is on the way out, sadly.
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Old 02-27-2019, 11:34 PM   #8
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Per page 41 of the Dexter light duty axle brochure for 4100-6000 pound axles with a 22.5 degree starting angle (Airstream standard), the center of the axle spindle should drop 2.3 inches from full load to no load. A diagram I have for Henschen axles shows the same difference between no load and full load. A careful measurement is required to determine axle condition. Mine were about 1.5" when I decided to replace them; the trailer rides much smoother now.

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Old 02-28-2019, 12:13 AM   #9
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Ok Thanks for that info. Wont be able to move the trailer for about a week seeing we seem to be getting snow here in the next couple of days and it is currently on 3 4x4's per side. They are side by side so it doesn't sink into the ground during a thaw. But as soon as I can move it I will pull it forward to get the front on the mound and see how far the rear tire drops. I think measuring from wheel well to center of hub should do the trick for the measurement.
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:34 AM   #10
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The issue with a long term hub lubrication system is the brake drums are integrated with the hub.

Never lube or EZ lube or what ever marketing name for long term bearing lubrication is great. The technology is there (and has been for some time) for greases and hub lubricants along with bearings. So not removing bearings,/seals for inspection and repacking could be extended for a very long time.

This works well with disc brakes or brake systems that have a separate hub from the brake friction part. Once the hub is integrated into the braking piece (drum or disc) then the issue of removing the braking piece to service the brakes defeats the purpose of extended bearing service. Because the bearings get disturbed in servicing the brakes.

Not sure why the RV industry has not embraced removable hubs or hubs that are separate from the brakes. The automotive industry did that about 30 years ago and greatly reduced the maintenance and service repairs. (IT was found a significant amount of wheel bearing failures occurred because of servicing)

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Old 02-28-2019, 12:51 PM   #11
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Grease vs Oil!

Well...I suppose you could! The bearings, hubs and seals I believe are the same just like they would be on a semi trailer and I have also worked on those quite extensively. Have converted those both ways per the customers request. Myself...I would stay with the grease. Mostly concerned with oil leaking out and onto the brakes. If not noticed for a while it will eventually empty and the bearing will run dry and you know what happens next!!! With grease, it will always be there. Semi trailers get inspected frequently and the seals and the like are just so much better. After I bought mine and before I took it very far I went through everything and the seals were all but completely gone and still plenty of grease at the bearings. And this was after I pulled it 300 miles home.

Just an opinion!
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Old 02-28-2019, 12:56 PM   #12
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Ok Thanks for that info. Wont be able to move the trailer for about a week seeing we seem to be getting snow here in the next couple of days and it is currently on 3 4x4's per side. They are side by side so it doesn't sink into the ground during a thaw. But as soon as I can move it I will pull it forward to get the front on the mound and see how far the rear tire drops. I think measuring from wheel well to center of hub should do the trick for the measurement.
When I replaced axles on my '67 Overlander I made the mistake of following Inland RV advice and bought plain axles and now i have to jack up and repack every other year. Buy EZ Lube and just jack up and spin for bearing noise. Also buy an infrared temperature gun from Harbor Freight for about 15 bucks and check temp of hubs each time you stop for gas. Another piece of advice, search on line for Dexter axles and pay no freight if you can pick up the axles yourself and deliver them to the shop you have searched out to install them. The only other problem I had dealing with Inland was that the bolt holes did not line up with my mounting plates and the shop had to redrill but that wasn't major. I also upped the load rating a bit so that I could add a few things a '67 did not have.
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Old 02-28-2019, 12:58 PM   #13
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For reference:

Nev-R-Lube= sealed non serviceable bearings.

EZ Lube = standard bearings with a zerk fitting so you can pump enough grease into the hub to blow the inner seal, and contaminate the brake shoes.
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Old 02-28-2019, 01:30 PM   #14
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Quote:
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When I replaced axles on my '67 Overlander I made the mistake of following Inland RV advice and bought plain axles and now i have to jack up and repack every other year.
Really?...I check ours every year. Re-pack if needed,
4 times since new.
The more you mess with 'em the more chances to screw 'em up.
As Pappy said... "if it aint broke, fix it 'til it is."

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Old 02-28-2019, 01:35 PM   #15
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Also when I got it home yesterday and backed it over a small mound of frozen dirt, the rear DS tire only dropped maybe an 1" or 2" when the front was on the pile. I would think is the rods inside where worn out it would dropped more than that. And if I remember right from working on it last summer for the PO when I jacked up each tire to adjust the brakes up almost as soon the tire started lifting the whole trailer would start lifting.
Maybe the rubber inserts were frozen.

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Old 02-28-2019, 01:51 PM   #16
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Quote:
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When I replaced axles on my '67 Overlander I made the mistake of following Inland RV advice and bought plain axles and now i have to jack up and repack every other year. Buy EZ Lube and just jack up and spin for bearing noise.
The maintenance schedule for the 1967 axle (and the replacement axle you bought) was to inspect brakes and bearings annually or every 10,000 miles which ever came first.

To inspect drum brakes one has to remove the hub/drum assembly if the hub and drum are cast in one piece. If you have to remove the hub (with bearings inside) to inspect the brakes it seems like the point of any long term wheel bearing advances are lost because the hub has to be removed from the spindle.

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Old 02-28-2019, 03:59 PM   #17
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Thanks for all the advise and information about my question. Didn't think about the hub/drum possibly being a one piece unit (always hated those). I just got home from doing errands wife the boss. I slid under our Silver Twinkie and looked for the tag on the axle, found and after using a wire wheel in a cordless drill I found the axles are the original axles rated at 3200 lbs. I also measured from the bottom of the axle tube to the 4x4 it is setting on and got a measurement of 11.5". IMPO an 1" drop in height over 43 years of all that weight setting on them isn't to bad. So looks like we are going to have to save up the money and buy new axles, luckily if they let me I can drive 1-1.5 hrs up to the plant and pick them up in Elkhart, In. It's maybe 90 miles at the most from my front door.
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Old 02-28-2019, 05:26 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlvrTwinkie View Post
Hi, new here and new to have an Airstream. First of all, growing up I never really liked these trailers but after borrowing this one last year from a friend I found out I like it. Hence why we bought it from him. It's a 1976 Int LY Ambassador 29T, rear bath. I would like to know what it would take to go from the grease packed style bearing to an oil bath for easier maintenance. Can this be down with the original hub or does it take a different hub assembly? I can pack the bearing, just don't like the mess. And I have worked on the oil bath system before on semi trailers, so I can work with both.
Might be tough to find a good oil seal...front cover?....also if the el leaked oil the thin brake lining would be ruined....pack them every year...
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Old 02-28-2019, 06:08 PM   #19
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Are the bearing and seals AS specific or if I pull them to the numbers off them can I take them to someplace like NAPA and have them cross reference them?
Also what about the shacks, wondering if I pulled one if I could measure the extended length and the collapsed length along with the eyelet size then have a parts tore order a set of 4 with the measurements. Would be nice to find small air shocks to fit the unit, one I could get factory ride height back and 2 I could use them to level side to side in extreme situations that I don't have enough leveling blocks. LOL. Air shocks is just an after thought though.
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Old 02-28-2019, 06:12 PM   #20
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Shocks are Airstream specific because they are not mounted vertical, but laid over darn near horizontal. The valving is special in these horizontal shocks.

Conventional shocks, even though of similar size, will not function properly in this application.

Your are basically stuck with getting real ones.
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