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Old 02-07-2020, 09:54 AM   #1
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Pro's and Cons of lifting an Airstream

Continuing my research on getting ready for a full restoration. Most likely candidate is a 27' Overlander.....going in the next few days to inspect, and if I like what I find, it's coming home with me.

I've seen enough damage underneath Airstreams to know at least one "Pro" for lifting an Aistream. Getting into remote environments with it will be a lot easier and safer, as far as the camper is concerned.

What say you?
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Old 02-07-2020, 10:15 AM   #2
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I got the 3” lift installed before delivery of mine as a safeguard against scraping. Now having owned it for a year, I am still glad I have it, but am not 100% convinced I needed it. Fully depends on the roads you plan to travel. As I like to boondock, I do expect it will be valuable to have even if I never fully know that I avoided a scrape because it is there.
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Old 02-07-2020, 10:28 AM   #3
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As you will probably be replacing your axles as an alternative to adding a lift kit get your new axles with a 30 degree down angle.
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Old 02-07-2020, 10:48 AM   #4
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My understanding on the lift kits is that it drops the axle 3 inches. This means that the ground clearance at the axle point is still the same, but your front and rear will be lifted 3 inches which will help with your approach and departure angles. Is this correct?

Assuming this is correct, and that you were doing a full restoration, this seems to present a possibility and opportunity to do something with that extra space in the frame at the axle points.

For instance, I am wondering if it is possible to put in deeper tanks in the frame under the floor at the axle and tank heaters and better insulation at that point.

One could modify the belly pan to cover the tanks at that point and then angle the belly pan toward the fore and aft to maintain the added clearance for approach and departure angles.

Has anyone tried this? Does anyone know if this would be a desirable thing to do?
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Old 02-07-2020, 10:55 AM   #5
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X2
The same rated axle with 30* down.

I wonder if a higher rated axle wouldn't do the same?

I do plan to upgrade to 4200lb from 3500lb on the Classic this year. When I put the trailer on stands for Winter storage one side on each axle showed excessive movement before resistance.
I guess it's about time.🤓

Bob
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Old 02-07-2020, 03:51 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies, and keep them coming! I'm thankful to all for what I am learning.

I am trying to figure out the best axles to get, as I'm replacing them, no matter what project I purchase (unless they're brand new already.....doubtful). There's a LOT of contradictory information about what axles to get, so I'm still searching for the correct answers. Most likely candidate right now is a 1972 Overlander.

Most of the time, our use of the Airstream will be on North American roads. I do not know how much "off road" action this camper will see, as I can't haul my fishing boat and this camper at the same time. The fishing rig is kind of more important to my fishing addiction, though....

I'd rather be safe than sorry regarding the lift, unless someone can tell me why it would be a bad idea. It really isn't a whole lot of extra money to add when I put the new axles on, according to Dexter website.

Tow vehicle is a 4X4, and also is higher than normal due to the "Off Road" package from Ram. For my work, I am off the normal road surfaces often enough, and especially when I am enjoying the outdoors.
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Old 02-07-2020, 06:32 PM   #7
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All axles have the same number of degrees of travel, and therefore roughly the same number of inches movement of the arms. Higher capacity means stiffer rubber rods, and therefore a rougher ride. If axles are shot, they will have less travel. I read that Andy recommends a limited increase in capacity. I went from 4200# axles to 5000# axles. Increasing the capacity and replacing shot axles gave me an inch or so more clearance but the lift kit made the most difference. I can't tell any difference in handling so I'd be hard pressed to give a Con.

On my trailer, if I wanted to take advantage of the added clearance by adding deeper tanks, the belly pan would not be involved as there is a separate pan under the tanks. It could be replicated deeper without changing the rest of the belly pan.

Al
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Old 02-07-2020, 07:03 PM   #8
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I am not restoring an older Airstream, but for a later model Airstream there are not a whole lot of reasons for the majority of owners to add the 3 inch lift kit.

When we travel off the paved roads, up to 25 feet of Airstream, you can handle the majority of 'dips' in a road. They are graded for pickups towing cattle haulers... at the best. When towing a trailer up to 25 feet, you can actually catch the REAR BUMPER in a DIP/Creek Bed/Ruts and pull it off or seriously bend it needing to replace the bumper. (Cost of new bumper, someone may know.)

Towing a 27 foot, which is 28 feet long I heard. Since we travel a lot of unpaved roads intended for hunters, trailers with higher clearance with leaf springs and ATVs... I already understood the geometry and risks of dips in the road. When the nose of the trailer goes UP, the rear goes DOWN.

Road Gators... which we are always on the lookout... can also cause more body damage than the cost of a lift kit and still may not make any difference. So... who knows.

The 3 inch lift kit, two Dexter pieces of iron 3 inches tall, slipped between the axle and body.

The 16 inch Michelins added about another 1/2", more or less.

Nancy still needs to get out and watch the bumper clearance when I see some risk. Ruts I am excellent in traveling over... but one mistake and you are plowing dirt and grit.

So if you travel on mostly paved roads and graded roads to a RV Camp... you probably do not need a lift kit.

- The addition of the lift kit did change the hitch setting.
- I have that 3 1/2" for gravel bouncing around beneath the bottom skin.
- The extra height was handy to change 16 inch wheels.
- The steps out of the trailer need some attention is a possible negative.

That is my story and I am sticking to it. Most likely YOU may not need it... but could be a great resale point years from now.
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Old 02-07-2020, 07:32 PM   #9
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Lots of factors involved with making a decision like this. I think I'd opt for an increased down angle on the axle torsion arm rather than using the lift kit. As mentioned above, the increased down angle along with a larger diameter tire will essentially give you a "lift."

I think the standard down angles is 10 degrees. Other standard angles are 22.5 and 45 degrees. Other angles may be available depending on supplier and the ability to custom order the axles.
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Old 02-07-2020, 10:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Al and Missy View Post

On my trailer, if I wanted to take advantage of the added clearance by adding deeper tanks, the belly pan would not be involved as there is a separate pan under the tanks. It could be replicated deeper without changing the rest of the belly pan.

Al
I must say this possibility makes the addition of a lift kit even more compelling. Everyone is always complaining about the capacity of their gray tank, especially when Boondocking, but this mod would help I wonder if I would have to order custom tanks to take advantage of this or if there might be some stock tanks that would drop right in.
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Old 02-08-2020, 06:59 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skyguyscott View Post
I must say this possibility makes the addition of a lift kit even more compelling. Everyone is always complaining about the capacity of their gray tank, especially when Boondocking, but this mod would help I wonder if I would have to order custom tanks to take advantage of this or if there might be some stock tanks that would drop right in.

I made a custom 4" lift kit for mine, and used the extra space to fit a 37 gallon gray tank almost directly above the axles. I could just about put another one next to it, but i figure one is enough. Now I have capacity to match the freshwater tank between the black and gray. There are a lot more options for tanks when you can go deeper than 5".
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:30 AM   #12
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Our Fresh Water tank is adequate for extended Off the Grid Boondocking for one to two weeks. When we travel through a town with fresh water access... we will top off and good for another couple weeks. We drink from our fresh water tank and when packing through the forest/desert/prairie, carry water for ourselves and both Blue Heelers. Leave heavy, return light if not picking up rocks and minerals.

Our Black Water tank is adequate for months when OTG Boodocking. We use the system Pioneers used in the wilderness... shovel and bury. Sans... toilet paper we pack out. Urinating in the wilds contain Nitrogen and the grass likes the attention. Urine is sterile. Feces buried will break down into organic soil. Wild horses and livestock... do not carry shovels, so have no choice to spread the manure around without ill effects. (Yes... I do understand that they eat grass and we are talking apples and oranges here. Come on, we are not from the City.)

Our Grey Water tank is adequate for months when OTG Boondocking. We wash dishes in a sink pan, Shower outside and wash up using a folding outside table and plastic wash basin. When we wash the few dishes, pots or pans inside, we use a plastic wash basin and when done... toss the water onto a bush. No... this does not infect or poison the vegetation. This is no different than a Cabin in the forest with the drain coming outside the wall into the gravel.

When in town, we do not smell, look homeless and probably are in better physical condition than most that are concerned about the environment being damaged where the last human at our campsite may have been an American Indian hunting with a bow and arrow.

Our new 27 foot International diverts the grey water of the Shower into the Black Water tank. Probably because so many do not know how to keep their Black Water tank from clogging up. Now only our sinks go into the Grey Water tank... even if we use them.

If this sounds unusual. Ask yourself how we did all of this backpacking and tent camping in the same areas? Oh... a bucket for fresh, grey and black?
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:33 AM   #13
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I made a custom 4" lift kit for mine, and used the extra space to fit a 37 gallon gray tank almost directly above the axles.
This is precisely the direction I was thinking of going in. I can fabricate my own lift kit brackets, as I have my own machine shop for my business (and hobby).

Another subject, but we are leaning towards a composting toilet of some kind (just starting to research), eliminating the need for a black tank. That leaves a lot of room for fresh water and gray water tanks. This is not set in stone, as of yet, but would be my preference.

I don't know what my problem is, and forgive the topic, but I can field dress an elk with no problem, but I cannot deal with the emptying of a disgusting black water tank. It is my weakness.....
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Old 02-08-2020, 10:15 AM   #14
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raised ground clearance

When we started renovating our '67 22' Safari we observed that the bumper had been bent, broken and probably pulled off in its history. This might have been caused by the angle change between street and driveway, not necessarily by backcountry roads. We ordered the new Dexter axle with the 32˚down angle instead of the 22˚ standard and also asked for the mount to include an additional inch drop below the frame. See photo of getting ready to install the axle.

End result was 3" added ground clearance. I used the added space below the frame and belly pan to run propane between axle and pan rather than bending it around the axle. My trailer had spring metal skids near wheels to catch the trailer after a flat, adding new u-bolts with double nuts to keep them tight. If I had to order another axle, I would talk to Colin Hyde rather than Inland RV.

By the way, I inserted copper propane gas line into soft plastic tubing for separation of metals and protection.

Best wishes for your project.
Jim
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Old 02-08-2020, 11:12 AM   #15
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AirstreamFan: We had not even considered the axle lift until we mentioned to the dealer that we planned to take the TT to Alaska. He suggested that we check the Airstream Forum (and here we are); that a lot of Airstream owners headed that way install the lift kits and upgrade from 15" wheels/tires to 16". We had the dealer install the lift kits before we took delivery. We are towing a 2020 FC 27FBT with a Ford F-150 with the FX4 (off-road) package. The added height of the trailer body/hitch has turned out to be a better match to the height of the receiver on the truck than with the standard TT axle installation. ~Bruce
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Old 02-08-2020, 12:06 PM   #16
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Higher center of gravity, which can create other problems.

Stay Safe,
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Old 02-08-2020, 12:29 PM   #17
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Jim

Thanks for sharing your experience with the 32° angle axle, and the photo. Nice rig! I would like to talk to Colin Hyde first, for sure, but have read several recent posts about lack of communication, on his part, and much longer than quoted wait times. I will check into that some more, when the time comes, but that type of situation is a major NO GO for me. I won't do business with anyone that doesn't communicate well, and ignores phone calls. I'm not passing judgement, I'm simply saying that I would like to know if he's worked that situation out yet, and put it behind him. I'll gladly pay a little more to someone with better customer service. I hear he's "the guy" to talk to about axles, but that doesn't matter if he doesn't deliver what he sells....at least to me. More investigation on my part required there.

Bruce

The Alaska trip is on my bucket list, and have read that those roads can be quite unforgiving, so good to hear from you. Thanks.
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Old 02-08-2020, 05:37 PM   #18
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Higher center of gravity, which can create other problems.

Stay Safe,

you could always tow with your water tanks full to help bring the COG back down.
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:15 PM   #19
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lift

Does doing a lift affect mpg at all ??
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:45 PM   #20
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Any problems or regrets from your lift and tank mod? Anything you would improve or do differently?
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