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Old 04-30-2018, 12:00 PM   #1
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1971 31' Sovereign
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New Member and is new torsion axle really needed.

Hi everybody just bought a 1971 Sovereign. I have rear end separation I believe and plan on addressing that in the near future. This question is for planing purposes, I was wondering how the torsion axle fits into the picture. I've seen dexters video and understand the concept and it seems like a nice thing to be able to put back on the airstream but since money is tight and I cant afford it right now; what if I just put new shocks on? Bearings work great no heat after a 80 mile drive home. Can I just replace the shocks and get some clearance and shock absorbtion back?
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:26 PM   #2
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Shocks won't help a axle that has lost its ability to twist.
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Old 04-30-2018, 12:32 PM   #3
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If the axle is shot, changing shocks won't help. You can check your axles pretty easily. With the trailer sitting level, measure the distance from a spot on the wheel (I used the top of the center cap) to the wheel well molding. Then, using the marked jack point, jack the trailer until the wheel is off the ground and repeat the measurement. The difference should be 2.5" or more. If not, the difference between your measurement and 2.5" will give you an idea of how bad they are. Mine measured about 1.5".

I towed my trailer like that for nearly two years. The impact of it is vibration to the trailer, drawers popping open and, in extreme cases, popped rivets.

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Old 04-30-2018, 02:55 PM   #4
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Ok thats what I was trying to understand the rubber peices with in the axle are more for twisting that may occur and the shocks will only assist the axle in dampening of bumps and what not?
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Old 04-30-2018, 03:02 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Bnelson View Post
Ok thats what I was trying to understand the rubber peices with in the axle are more for twisting that may occur and the shocks will only assist the axle in dampening of bumps and what not?
Correct. In fact, Dexter says that shocks are not needed with the torsion axles. Airstream, for some reason, uses them anyway. When I replaced my axles I put in new shocks, but I almost left them off due to difficulty of mounting them. My trailer originally had Henschen axles but they are no longer available. The corresponding Dexter axle has the shock bracket at a different distance from the frame and the shocks would not line up. We cut the bracket off, welded on a spacer, and reattached the bracket to get the spacing right. You may have a similar problem when you replace the axles.

Al
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Old 04-30-2018, 03:27 PM   #6
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BNelson, The rubber rods inside the axle act like springs on a conventional axle. They provide the 'bounce' that all axles need to conform to bumps in the road. They do it by compressing the rubber, and using the flexibility of the rubber to provide the bounce. The shock absorbers, more correctly called 'dampers' by the Brits, provide control to help keep the wheels from bouncing uncontrollably on the road surface.

The issue with any rubber torsion axle is that eventually the rubber gets hard and no longer provide the proper spring action. They tend to last about 20-25 years or so, then need to be replaced-they cannot be reworked or repaired because of their manufacturing method.

As others have noted, the 'drop test', looking for a 2.5-3" wheel drop when weight is taken off the wheel is one of the best way to determine the condition of the axle. Sitting still for prolonged periods of time also makes the rubber take a 'set' and reduces the spring action.

Sadly, based on the age of the Airstream you have, you may be overdue for axle replacement if those are the 1971 originals. You may be able to reposition the trailer by towing at very low speeds, but any highway speed towing will most likely beat up the structure of the trailer, and should be avoided until you know the condition of the axle (s).

Unfortunately, Airstreams are very similar to boats and/or aircraft. The construction is similar, and the amounts of money they can cost to restore can be 'interesting' in the Spockian sense. Boats, for example, is actually an acronym for "Bring Over Another Thousand, Skipper", since they are defined as a hole in the water, lined with wood, metal, or fiberglass, into which you pour vast amounts of money.

Your Airstream, once properly sorted out, will be a wonderful experience, it's just that getting to that point will be a bit tough on the budget...
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Old 04-30-2018, 05:31 PM   #7
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Thanks guys, appreciate the help. Figured it wont be moving for a while but I would like to make it livable for guests as it sits and get new axles someday.
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Old 04-30-2018, 05:32 PM   #8
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Bad axles is a contributing factor, but not the only one, to rear end separation.
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Old 05-01-2018, 12:26 PM   #9
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Shock absorbers do NOT change ride height!

They absorb shock or control impact of a suspension part in a given direction. Basically they restrict movement in either direction.

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Old 05-01-2018, 08:50 PM   #10
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I have a 75 Overlander with bad axles and rear end separation. Here is a photo showing how the axle swing arms no longer drop down about 22 degrees with the trailer on jack stands. New axles are about $750 each with brakes and bearings. The life of the DuraTorque axle is about 30 years.

David
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Old 05-02-2018, 12:28 PM   #11
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My '76 Excella axles were at a negative angle (angles upward) while sitting on the ground. Jacked it up and there was little movement. Installed 2 new axles. VERY easy to install at home in the driveway. With weight now on the new axles they are angled downward (positive) slightly. Just installing the new axles raised the trailer about 4-5". Added a 3" lift kit to that and now I got almost 9" additional ground clearance. Matches up better to my 2018 F350 4x4 too.
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Old 05-02-2018, 08:21 PM   #12
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I'm about to embark on this with my 89 Excella which I recently realized the axles gave up, I've already talked to some local trailer places and found what people said here in other threads to be true... if you take your old axle to any Dexter dealer they can make you the replacement axle for cheaper than you'll find it at any airstream place. If you're patient (takes about a month) you don't have to pay any shipping to your local dealer. I was quoted $500/axle and free shipping. Online stores wanted $750/axle plus $500 shipping. The only difference is they place the order for you through Dexter, I think I can manage that for a cool grand.
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Old 05-03-2018, 07:02 PM   #13
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I first went to my local Dexter distributor with my old axles in the back of the truck. They had a Dexter order form in hand. The techs at this store had never seen an axle like my 75 Overlander axle. I had removed the drums to make the axle light enough for me to get into the truck. What's the hub to hub face measurement? We need that on the order form. What is the bracket measurements. What is that shock mount thingie? Oh, by the way, your order to this spec sheet, pay in advance, and no refunds.

The Airstream part number on the axles meant nothing to Dexter.

This confusion is why I went to an Airstream axle expert knowing I'd pay more.

David
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Old 05-03-2018, 07:16 PM   #14
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Hard to believe the Dexter techs did not know what they were doing, but then again. All they need is a tape measure. Dexter has instructions on specs and measurements on line. So if they measure wrong and the axle does not fit you are stuck? Were the axles the old Henschens?
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Old 05-03-2018, 09:13 PM   #15
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All Airstream trailers had Henschen rubber torsion axles (A company owned either in part or in total by Airstream) from the 1960s until Henschen folded in 2009.

The axles are kind of odd for torsion axles. Most torsion axles are on farm equipment. And Dexter makes torsion axles in bulk. These orders for one are not exactly what Dexter does for a main stream of business.

The data and any numbers found on an Airstream axle prior to 2010 relates to Henschen which Dexter does not have access to, nor do they want that data.

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Old 05-03-2018, 09:44 PM   #16
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Hard to believe the Dexter techs did not know what they were doing, but then again. All they need is a tape measure. Dexter has instructions on specs and measurements on line. So if they measure wrong and the axle does not fit you are stuck? Were the axles the old Henschens?
I don't think they were Dexter techs, but clerks/order takers at a parts place that happens to be a Dexter distributor. I spoke with Dexter on the phone before ordering my axles and when I finally got the right person she was very helpful and knowledgeable. There is an Airstream drawing showing the dimensions of the shock mounting bracket and the Dexter part number for it. The Dexter axle has a different configuration from the Henschen which results in the shock bracket being in the wrong place. On my trailer it was 3/8" further outboard. I ordered my axles with the brackets. We cut them off leaving a stub, welded a piece of 3/8" steel to the stub and welded the end of the bracket to that. The shocks aligned perfectly.

I ordered my axles from a small family-run parts place that does a lot of trailer sales, outfitting and repairs, but mostly of cargo and boat trailers. They do business with Redneck Trailer Supply who is a Dexter distributor. I measured my Henschen axles, filled out the Dexter order form and they ordered the axles. They went in with no significant problems.

Pictures of the process are in post 38 here:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f439...ss-177345.html

I helped a friend through the process. He ordered the axles and the shock brackets not installed. The tech at my parts place welded them on in the right place after measuring. His went in without a hitch (no pun intended).

Al
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Old 05-04-2018, 06:36 PM   #17
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My old axles for the 75 Overlander were indeed Henschen, built right there in Jackson Center. Here is the tag on the axle.

The local Dexter axle distributor near me actually had Torque Flex axles on display in their showroom. They sell commercial trailers and also campers. They are a good business. The folks who tried to help me were not Dexter techs, they were employees of this distributor. They were knowledgeable in that they noticed I had "5000" pound brakes and swing arms on a 2800 pound axle. They had never seen an axle like that.

David
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Old 05-04-2018, 09:30 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by dbj216 View Post
I first went to my local Dexter distributor with my old axles in the back of the truck. They had a Dexter order form in hand. The techs at this store had never seen an axle like my 75 Overlander axle. I had removed the drums to make the axle light enough for me to get into the truck. What's the hub to hub face measurement? We need that on the order form. What is the bracket measurements. What is that shock mount thingie? Oh, by the way, your order to this spec sheet, pay in advance, and no refunds.

The Airstream part number on the axles meant nothing to Dexter.

This confusion is why I went to an Airstream axle expert knowing I'd pay more.

David
Yeah, maybe the distributor didn't know what the label (it's a dexter factory label, not an AS label). I called the dexter factory, sent them a pic of the label and they pulled every spec imaginable. The label literally reproduces the axle.
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Old 05-05-2018, 01:05 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al and Missy View Post
Correct. In fact, Dexter says that shocks are not needed with the torsion axles. Airstream, for some reason, uses them anyway. When I replaced my axles I put in new shocks, but I almost left them off due to difficulty of mounting them. My trailer originally had Henschen axles but they are no longer available. The corresponding Dexter axle has the shock bracket at a different distance from the frame and the shocks would not line up. We cut the bracket off, welded on a spacer, and reattached the bracket to get the spacing right. You may have a similar problem when you replace the axles.

Al
I am wondering if using shocks in conjunction w/torsion axles helps to extend the life of the axles?
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Old 05-05-2018, 02:15 PM   #20
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I am wondering if using shocks in conjunction w/torsion axles helps to extend the life of the axles?
Not really. However it could extend the life of your trailer.

Individual results may vary.
Some assembly required.
Batteries not required

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