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Old 04-11-2021, 07:03 PM   #1
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1963 30' Sovereign
Alden , MI
Join Date: Feb 2021
Posts: 50
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Need help- axles, brakes, wheels & wheelwells

So we are the proud new owners of a gutted 1963 Airstream Sovereign. The frame and floor were done by the POs. They were given 2 coats of paint/coating and it has a marine composite floor on it.

Someone commented on the forums, something about seeing the quality of the work. I didn't know how to do photos on the forum at that point, so I'm hoping to get some input from you folks.

First question, are these most likely the original axles? If so, do they look okay for local metal tent camping as we work on the Airstream?

My husband tried to take off the wheel to see what kind of brakes and such that we were dealing with. It was near impossible to wiggle the wheel off between the tip of the hub where the grease goes on the bearings (what is the name for that?) and the outside bottom edge of the exterior aluminum skin on the outside of the wheelwell. Trying to put it back on WAS impossible. We had to let the air out of the tires to get the wheel back on and that was only after a lot of manouevering and wiggling and shoving. We had it lifted way up (beyond what would be normal on the road with a flat tire) and were in our driveway in ideal conditions. If we were on a dirt shoulder with a flat, getting it off an a spare on would be impossible. So we are trying to figure out what the heck is going on? Are the hubs too long? Is the tire too big? We were thinking that the cutout on the side where the wheelwell wasn't as high as others in looking at photos, but we realized that was because we currently don't have an underpan on it, so it makes it look different. Help? What do we do to correct this?

The frame and welding looks good to me. They are supposed to have added extra reinforcement. The issue is that there are currently no tanks. (I think the plan for the people we bought from was an Air B&B.) We are planning on freash, grey and black tanks. So I am thinking we will have to remove some of the reinforcing. Any ideas of how we could do it without removing the extra reinforcing? Some of the reinforcing looks to be half as high as the others.

Once we get tanks, wiring etc done, should we insulate and reinstall a belly pan? (We have none, it would have to be fabricated from scratch.)

We are trying to take our time and do some noodling and planning and thinking and researching the best path forward before we just start doing stuff.

Any other thoughts, observations or advice? Thanks!

(I'm figuring out how to upload photos from Flickr. If there are not a number of photos with this post, give me a few minutes and I will get them here.)







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Old 04-11-2021, 07:31 PM   #2
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Greetings from Colorado. Thanks for figuring out how to load photos. They help explain a lot.

My bet is the tire size is too big for a 63 Airstream, just judging from the photos. I'm guessing here, but I bet the original tires on the trailer were 7x15, or seven inches wide for a 15" wheel. Newer trailer tires come in all sizes and I know we struggle with a 205-75 R 15 ST tire. Tires are just bigger now.

Chances are good if your tires are less than 5 years old, properly inflated, and your brakes work, you can pull your tent to a park for some hikes and samores.
Your axle looks original and surely needs replacing to give your trailer a smooth ride. Axles last about 30 years.

The previous owner did a good job on the frame, but maybe without a plan. So likely some modification will be needed to fit new waste water tanks. I like to say the most important thing when designing a new interior is placing the toilet. The toilet becomes the bathroom and is a focus on the plumbing systems. Don't laugh, but this is what I did in my 69 Globetrotter 21' renovation. See photo.

David
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Old 04-11-2021, 07:46 PM   #3
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1963 30' Sovereign
Alden , MI
Join Date: Feb 2021
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbj216 View Post
Greetings from Colorado. Thanks for figuring out how to load photos. They help explain a lot.

My bet is the tire size is too big for a 63 Airstream, just judging from the photos. I'm guessing here, but I bet the original tires on the trailer were 7x15, or seven inches wide for a 15" wheel. Newer trailer tires come in all sizes and I know we struggle with a 205-75 R 15 ST tire. Tires are just bigger now.

Chances are good if your tires are less than 5 years old, properly inflated, and your brakes work, you can pull your tent to a park for some hikes and samores.
Your axle looks original and surely needs replacing to give your trailer a smooth ride. Axles last about 30 years.

The previous owner did a good job on the frame, but maybe without a plan. So likely some modification will be needed to fit new waste water tanks. I like to say the most important thing when designing a new interior is placing the toilet. The toilet becomes the bathroom and is a focus on the plumbing systems. Don't laugh, but this is what I did in my 69 Globetrotter 21' renovation. See photo.

David
Not laughing a bit. We know that we need to figure out our layout before we do much of anything. We also know that the black tank has to go below to toilet. Grey tank and fresh tank are a little more flexible. Original layout was a rear bath, rear full bed layout. Right now we are leaning toward rear quad bunks, then the bath. We are considering a small wet bath plan with an exterior shower. Mostly because we usually camp in campgrounds and in 30 years of being camping and married have never showered in our camper. I'm not willing to completely do away with the indoor shower in case of a pinch, but we'd like to save the space of putting a full separate shower in. But we are debating, because it is possible that we might do some full timing in it, in which case, I'd like the possibility of a tiny tub and real shower. I also think a bath and tanks closer to the center makes a lot more sense than that weight being cantilevered way in the back.

So axles have about a 30 year shelf life and ours are 58 years old? Great. At least they are good enough for now. We figure this is a 3-5 year project, so we have time.
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Old 04-11-2021, 08:18 PM   #4
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Dave is probably correct on the age of those axles- but they seem a bit light on scale- unless the previous owner had them sandblasted. I had maintained and repainted my 73s several times before I replaced them and they didn't look as good as yours. There should be a metal tag attached to the axle somewhere to give an Idea of the age, make and weight rating.

Shawn
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Old 04-11-2021, 10:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wagvan View Post

First question, are these most likely the original axles? If so, do they look okay for local metal tent camping as we work on the Airstream?

My husband tried to take off the wheel to see what kind of brakes and such that we were dealing with. It was near impossible to wiggle the wheel off between the tip of the hub where the grease goes on the bearings (what is the name for that?) and the outside bottom edge of the exterior aluminum skin on the outside of the wheel well.
The statement above is a great indication the axles are no longer acceptable.
The trailer is empty. Finish it off on the inside and add a 1000+ pounds and the trailer will drop lower to the ground. Add tanks and fill with fluid, depending on size of tanks and there is another 1000 or more pound load. By the time the trailer is built there will be very little springing left.

Plan on a couple of new axles with brake assemblies.

Action
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Old 04-12-2021, 09:46 AM   #6
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1964 30' Sovereign
Ione , CA
Join Date: May 2019
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Congratulations on your "new" trailer. We purchased a very similar 1964 Airstream Sovereign 30' two years ago. Your axles are definitely shot. The fact that you couldn't get tires on/off means the axle isn't dropping at all (the rubber torque band inside is like petrified wood). So you have no "spring". OK for towing at slower speeds (we towed ours 11 hours from Long Beach CA to Sacramento CA with the old axles when we bought it) but won't trail nearly as well as with new axles later.

We had the hubs inspected and lubed by a professional before making our trip. We didn't have trailer brakes but with a 3/4 Ton Diesel truck that wasn't needed (even going up and over Hwy 5 Grapevine). I wouldn't have done that with a smaller towing vehicle though.

From your description, your hubs and brakes "may" be gone. When we added new axles we got them with new hubs and brakes :-). Tows great now. But don't tow distances without making sure your hubs are working and properly lubed.

Again, congratulations on a great trailer. We love ours. Feel free to connect if you have any questions on your project. PM me with your email. We're not experts but are happy to share ideas...
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Old 04-12-2021, 09:57 AM   #7
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1964 30' Sovereign
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p.s. Forgot to answer your other questions.

Yes, you should install a belly pan. Will protect your wood flooring from moisture and will do what Airstreams do best - be aerodynamic (better fuel efficiency, less drag, etc.).

Your tires jammed because the axles aren't dropping. Our did exactly the same thing. It is not a problem with your axle or hub dimensions. And is not a problem with your tires. But ability to change a tire while on the road is another reason you'll want new axles (and trust me, you don't want AAA forcing a tire through the gap even if they will help...guaranteed bent aluminum).

On our 1964 Sovereign, we had a new black tank installed (under toilet in rear of trailer) and a new grey tank installed (behind rear axle) where weight is not as much of a concern. New freshwater tank is under the double bed above the axles. Then belly skin all over the underside. Works great and keeps weight distribution perfect for stable towing. The tanks are standard aftermarket and you'll be able to see if the old owner's 'extra' bracing needs to be removed to install (wait until you know tank dimensions before removing any of the bracing).
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Old 04-12-2021, 11:06 AM   #8
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1996 25' Excella
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Ditto... that the rubber suspension suspension has deteriorated and the trailer has settled on the axles. Lifting the body of the trailer ( i.e. jacking on the frame holding the axles) would normally allow the axles to drop enough to remove the tire. My '96 still has some positive angle but if I lift the trailer by pulling one tire up on blocks to free the other tire, I still need to angle the tire to get it out and back in. That is the result of the suspension starting to settle as the rubber takes a permanent set and is no longer able to carry the trailer at its original height.
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Old 04-12-2021, 11:13 AM   #9
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Welcome Aboard👍

Replace 'em.

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The '63 'Frantic Banana' before the axle up grade.
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Old 04-12-2021, 06:21 PM   #10
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1963 30' Sovereign
Alden , MI
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Originally Posted by Action View Post
The statement above is a great indication the axles are no longer acceptable.
The trailer is empty. Finish it off on the inside and add a 1000+ pounds and the trailer will drop lower to the ground. Add tanks and fill with fluid, depending on size of tanks and there is another 1000 or more pound load. By the time the trailer is built there will be very little springing left.

Plan on a couple of new axles with brake assemblies.

Action
New axles (probably lifted in some way) and disk brakes are part of the overall renovation plan. It makes no sense to us to redo everything on this camper and have original axles. The question is if they are "good enough" to relegate it to further down the timeline of the redo, for the new and improved axles and we can use these original ones as we are we are running wires and pex and redoing windows and weatherproofing the camper, when we will be glorified "tin tent" camping.
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Old 04-12-2021, 06:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wagvan View Post
New axles (probably lifted in some way) and disk brakes are part of the overall renovation plan. It makes no sense to us to redo everything on this camper and have original axles. The question is if they are "good enough" to relegate it to further down the timeline of the redo, for the new and improved axles and we can use these original ones as we are we are running wires and pex and redoing windows and weatherproofing the camper, when we will be glorified "tin tent" camping.
We waited 4 Seasons...camping was too much fun.
Plus we hadn't found the Forum to advise differently.

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Old 04-12-2021, 06:34 PM   #12
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1963 30' Sovereign
Alden , MI
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Alrighty. It sounds like new axles just got moved up higher on the to do list. The place we planned to get them done is a shop that flipped our old camper's axles. They are 4.5 hours away near our old house. From what I am reading, we need to find a local shop to do it.

Recommendations of what axles we should get? Bonus points for links. Also brakes and hubs? The running gear is definitely the thing that we are lacking knowledge on. Hubby knows about greasing the bearings and such, but this is the part that is not in our wheelhouse as much as the other stuff.

Thanks all!
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Old 04-12-2021, 07:37 PM   #13
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When you are ready to install new axle, I recommend Colin Hyde Trailer Restorations in Plattsburgh area of New York. Give him your trailer serial number and description, and he will spec the new axles, and ask questions about added weight, higher ride height, disc brakes and the like.

Your wish is my command:

https://sites.google.com/a/colinhyde...ions.com/home/

David
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See my 1969 Globetrotter 21' Renovation Project:
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Old 04-12-2021, 11:58 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wagvan View Post
New axles (probably lifted in some way) and disk brakes are part of the overall renovation plan. It makes no sense to us to redo everything on this camper and have original axles. The question is if they are "good enough" to relegate it to further down the timeline of the redo, for the new and improved axles and we can use these original ones as we are we are running wires and pex and redoing windows and weatherproofing the camper, when we will be glorified "tin tent" camping.
If you are not going to move the trailer (as in renovation) no need to replace the axles.

Moving the trailer with bad axles at slower speeds (under 25) is not likely an issue. Wanna go faster than that with a remodeled interior, get new axles. The damage that may happen with axles that have lost their spring just isn;t worth the risk. You are going to spend lots of money and effort redoing the interior. Protect that investment.

Action
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