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Old 07-18-2021, 06:08 AM   #1
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1987 34' Limited
Hantsport , NS
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Who has replaced tri axles on a 34' Airstream

Hello; I've got the frame from our 1987 34' Limited out for major metal work. I need new axles. The oldies are rated for 2800 lbs apiece, and the trailer GVW VIN plate says 8900 lbs. GVW is over the axle specs.

The Dexter distributor is telling me to go with #10 axles, but the hubs and brakes for a #10 will require new wheels. First question = do the #10 axles fit into the frame boss without any cutting or grinding of the frame? I'm told that #10 are good up to 5000 lbs apiece.

As per some recommendations on the forum, I like the ideal of bigger brakes, hubs, and using the original wheels. I understand that the #11 axles can be derated to 3500 lbs? This would put the axles over the 10% recommended maximum GVW. Would this be a problem? I'll be asking for the 32.5 degree down angle.

And, for those who have replaced axles on a tri-axle, if you've used #11 Dexters, how have you approached the need to enlarge the frame mounting holes? 1/4" on each side of the three holes that capture the axles tube? There's lots of info on a few different strategies for single and duals, but not much that I can find on tri.

Any input is greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Denis
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Old 08-09-2021, 10:04 AM   #2
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1987 34' Limited
Hantsport , NS
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Geez, I hate to see a starter thread go the way of crickets, so I'll talk to myself.

Colin Hyde has answered my questions and many more. #11 with 3500 lb rating and larger spindles with 12" brakes is the way to go. Shock mounts will be welded on.

Cheers
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Old 08-09-2021, 02:16 PM   #3
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I'll jump...

Could you (would you) add a lift to the axle like many of us have done with the Dexter lift kit? If you custom cut and drilled 3" square tubing you could put the holes wherever you like.
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Old 08-09-2021, 02:21 PM   #4
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I have never replaced an axle and never had a trailer that required 3 axles.

The smaller drums are OK as long as one is diligent on maintenance. Mandatory annual inspections and friction material & magnet replacement when close to being worn out. When towing several tons of aluminum, I would want to be certain slowing and stopping the mass behind me was goin to happen.

The 12 inch drum gives a better margin of braking safety. Airstream uses the 12 inch drums on the de-rated axle for that reason. They are more forgiving with the less than stellar maintenance.

If it were me, I would do the same, get the axles with the 12 inch drums and an axle load rating just a bit higher. Say 3000 #s per, if that is available. And definitely an axle with no mods for installation.

I think the lack of reply may be due to fewer users with triples. And that is a guess on my part

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Old 08-09-2021, 03:14 PM   #5
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My 2800# axles were replaced with 3500# after I snapped an axle. They were purchased from Inland RV when Andy was still there. Colin Hyde is probably the person to go to now as is seems like Inland has gone off the rails. My axles were replaced by a trailer manufacturer/repair facility in Bath, South Dakota. Complete job done in 8 hours. Best money I ever spent. They were installed correctly, alligned, shocks installed, and ready to roll. Over 10,000 km later and no problems. Far easier than trying to do it yourself, and it will be done right!!
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Old 08-10-2021, 06:46 AM   #6
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1987 34' Limited
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I appreciate the feedback. I answered my own enquiry so there was some info available should somebody with similar questions land on the thread.

From what I've read, some have expressed concerns with fitting the lift kit on a tri-axle - this may or may not be an issue, but where the pros are unanimous for the single and dual but mixed for the tri, I'll not go with the lift. Abundance of caution. But, I am going with 32 degree down angle, which will help somewhat. The current baked axles are 0 degree down angle, and 'unsupple'.

Colin Hyde was super helpful and I've ordered three #11 axles with 12" brakes and shock mounts welded on. 3500 lb. There is great peace of mind dealing with a fellow who is knowledgeable on these trailers. As noted the local distributor was encouraging 10" brakes and did not agree that the #11 could be derated below 5200 lbs. Inland RV's Andy's loss to the brain trust is evident - he was very forthcoming with his guidance.

Where the frame is bare and the axles are off, it'll be manageable for me to affix the new ones. I'll have to research and will likely reach out to an expert for assistance on the alignment.

Thanks for taking the time to offer your comments!

Cheers
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Old 08-10-2021, 07:17 AM   #7
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I'm halfway through replacing a pair of axles on our 1994 Excella 25-ft. Not quite the same as your project, but I'd guess more the same than not. We did order the same axles as you but with the stock 22.5 degree drop.

With the stock 22.5 degree drop it appears that it will give a considerable lift to where things were sitting on the old 0 degree drop from the worn out axles. My guess is that with the 32 degree drop you'll be happy even without the extra lift kit, unless you have a special need for the clearance.

It's taken me a few days to get the first one in position and to figure out exactly how & where to make modifications to the frame. Fortunately the notch in our frame was already large enough for the new axle tubes, but the mounting bolt holes had to be tweaked to match the holes in the new mounting plates.

I used a carbide burr in a pneumatic grinding tool. It made really quick work of moving the rear hole enough for the new placement of the bolts, and a pair of oversized washers made sure that the bolt/nut had solid metal to sit on. The steel in the frame is pretty soft and the carbide bit went through it easily, and you could probably stick one of those burrs into any electric drill and get it done.

One thing that concerned me was whether to move the front or rear bolt hole. I wanted to keep one of the original holes to help with getting the axle in the proper position but I couldn't figure out which to keep. In the end I moved the rear hole of the front axle out of concern that the new axles put the wheel center about 1/4" closer to the front of the wheel well, and this made me nervous about the wheel making contact. On the rear axle I'll move the front holes, and the result will be about 1/2" less gap between the wheels. We had plenty there so I thought it was the best route. You'll have three axles to deal with, so plan carefully where you will place things to give you the optimum spacing/gaps.

One odd thing I had to deal with was trying to get the new axle mounting plates sitting flush against the underside of the frame. There was a BB sized piece of welding slag left on a weld, and it had to be ground away before things sat properly. The original axle's mounting plate was just small enough that this wasn't an issue, but on the new axles it was. Check before bolting things together.
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Old 08-10-2021, 07:53 AM   #8
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In my exp, Airstream up until mid-2005 had dismal NCC and in mid 2005 started putting higher capacity axles on the trailers. It is very common for trailers built prior to mid 2005 that are still considered late model and not quite vintage to get higher rated axles at replacement time and am glad you went with 12". For something that large 10' seems a bit small as Action pointed out, even with 3 axles. To look at it another way, I do believe that the late model 34 footer also tri-axles younger than yours) had 12" drums too.

Glad you got it right, I think you'll be very happy and Colin Hyde is a phenomenal resource. I've spoken with him at great length about axles and he really knows his stuff!
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Old 08-10-2021, 08:28 PM   #9
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Daytonacoupe,

When you get it done, post your results on the forum for othersí benefit. I donít have three axles but would like to know how it turned out.
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Old 08-11-2021, 05:18 AM   #10
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1987 34' Limited
Hantsport , NS
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Axles are on order, and when they arrive I'll ask Colin for his advice on which holes to elongate, which I expect will be necessary. Symmetry with spacing is definately the goal!

Colin was surprised to learn that the existing axles are only rated at 2800 lbs. Brakes on the existing units are 12" though, so I'm pleased to have those re-fitted. He also suggested a few other fixes that'll extend the work load/timelines, but no question now is the time to address them (front and back hold down plates are currently non-existent on our unit).

I've benefitted a lot from the info on this forum, so yes, I'll add photos of the new units when they arrive and are installed.

Thanks!
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Old 09-04-2021, 09:16 PM   #11
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1986 31' Sovereign
Ancaster , Ontario
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We got our axles from Colin as well and also got the 32 degree starting angle. It makes a big difference over the ones we replaced. The whole trailer sits about the sidewall height of the tire taller right now. It will come down a bit once we put the interior back, but I wouldn't want it any higher than this.
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Old 09-05-2021, 06:24 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2ndbottle View Post
We got our axles from Colin as well and also got the 32 degree starting angle. It makes a big difference over the ones we replaced. The whole trailer sits about the sidewall height of the tire taller right now. It will come down a bit once we put the interior back, but I wouldn't want it any higher than this.
What did you go with for shocks? The Monroe that Colin recommends or Airstream specific. Another topic that had many opinions!
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Old 09-05-2021, 07:15 AM   #13
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We ordered the shocks off of Amazon. They were Monroe 555003 which is what Colin recommended. I'm not sure if Amazon has the best price on these, but the pandemic is making me lazy.

Our axles are 4200lb rated #11's, so they may or not be the same as what your axles will need.
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Old 09-06-2021, 06:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2ndbottle View Post
We ordered the shocks off of Amazon. They were Monroe 555003 which is what Colin recommended. I'm not sure if Amazon has the best price on these, but the pandemic is making me lazy.

Our axles are 4200lb rated #11's, so they may or not be the same as what your axles will need.
Our axles are 3500lb rated #11's, and Colin recommended the same shocks.
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Old 09-06-2021, 09:25 AM   #15
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Call up to B&B Trailer in St Augustine. Their shop manager is very knowledgeable. They put new axles on my '77 30' Excella 500. He also ordered them with a different down-angle that lifted the camper about 3" without needing the lift spacer kit. Mine were shot and so was my brake system. They put new axles, brakes and brake controller on my truck for $3300, if I remember correctly. 904-829-6855, 2876 US-1, St Augustine. I have no affiliations with that shop, just like their work, lol.
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Old 09-07-2021, 06:25 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by sarge12212 View Post
Call up to B&B Trailer in St Augustine. Their shop manager is very knowledgeable. They put new axles on my '77 30' Excella 500. He also ordered them with a different down-angle that lifted the camper about 3" without needing the lift spacer kit. Mine were shot and so was my brake system. They put new axles, brakes and brake controller on my truck for $3300, if I remember correctly. 904-829-6855, 2876 US-1, St Augustine. I have no affiliations with that shop, just like their work, lol.
Sarge; thanks for the info. I did order new Dexter's from Colin H with the 32 degree down angle so I understand I'll get an approx. 3" lift over the toasted axles that had been on it. Colin recommends the Munroe shocks but I've read many opinions that only the airstream Gabriel's are functional with a horizontal shock configuration. I'm new to this so the varied opinions do add to the confusion on which path to follow. As it turns out the airstream shocks via ODM are the same price delivered to my outback as the Munroe's, so I'll go with the airstreams Gabriel's. I have a minor concern that the axle down angle may obstruct the shock if the diameter of the upper housing is not identical between AS and Munroe, and if that happens and I'm forced to go with Munroe I'll find a buyer somewhere in Canada for the AS Gabriel's.
I don't know if Colin recommends the Munroe as it's the only one that will fit based on how he welds on the shock mounts, or if he thinks it's a cheaper option. I'm working toward getting everything I need here on site to button it back together before the long winter arrives. I've had the old axles on and off the frame several times so that part of the exercise is becoming straight forward. Cheers
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Old 09-08-2021, 04:21 AM   #17
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Come to think of it, I never even thought about the shocks. I'm not sure what they put on. I'll have to go outside later and see for myself. Seeing as we've taken it to Arkansas twice and Texas once, it's a bit too late to worry much. All seems rock solid. ��✌
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Old 09-08-2021, 07:17 AM   #18
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Brand of shock is not as important as the design.

Because AS designed the shock to b mounted in a more or less horizontal position that required shock valving to be changed. So a shock designed to be mounted in a vertical position will not work when it is mounted in a horizontal position.

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Old 09-08-2021, 09:27 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Action View Post
Brand of shock is not as important as the design.

Because AS designed the shock to b mounted in a more or less horizontal position that required shock valving to be changed. So a shock designed to be mounted in a vertical position will not work when it is mounted in a horizontal position.

Action
Yes, I read a post by somebody who had enquired with Munroe, and was told that their shocks are designed for vertical mounting only. Where Dexter appears to maintain that no shocks are required, perhaps the dampening is so subtle that a vertical unit will do the trick. Getting the AS makes the most sense, and where the price is almost the same, I don't yet see why there's any benefit to deviating from stock. I say 'yet', because I may find they don't fit due to how the bracket is affixed to the axle. The dimensions for the Munroe on-line appear to be very close to the AS units that I took off, so I expect I'll be fine.
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Old 09-08-2021, 10:11 AM   #20
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I don't think shocks are absolutely necessary on these trailers with torsion axles. The shocks are only dampening the axles own movement, which is already dampened by the rubber. If it adds up to a gentler ride, then I'm sure it's a good thing.

Airstream buys their shocks from someone (probably Monroe) so I think the Monroe version will be just fine. They are being compressed along the axis of the shock tube so I don't imagine it will affect their performance at all.

One other note I found... The shocks won't fit onto both shock bolts until after the trailer is loaded up. Putting the shell back on got them close, but we'll need to put some of the interior back, or fill the water tank to get them to bolt on.
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