Archive for April, 2011

Back from my sabbatical

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

I haven’t posted for several months. Now that it is Spring, I’m doing what many other Airstreamers are doing – getting ready to travel. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be taking my 1986 Excella to Fort Collins, CO, to put on a new set of Dexter axles. Luke Bernander does a side business there doing maintenance and even restoration on Airstreams.

The rubber torsion in the old Henchen axles have lost their suspension ability, that is, they no longer insulate the chassis and shell (and interior) from road shocks transmitted from the wheels. I know this because I tested the vertical travel of each spindle and found there was only about 2″ of movement. Also, I noticed increasing stress on rivets, especially over the door. Either there was black residue around the rivet heads (aluminum oxide caused by movement of the rivet against the skin), or the heads themselves were popping off. On the inside, there was not only a lot of rivet maintenance, but one ceiling cabinet in particular (the one over the stove) required additional support.

I replaced the single axle on my 1966 Globe Trotter back in 2002 for the same reasons. I was able to do that job myself, but then I had a house and some room to work. Now I don’t. The Excella is also much larger and is going to require some heavier duty jacks and stands to get it up in the air. Luke has all that. I’ll participate in doing as much of the labor as I can, but I’m glad that I don’t have to do it all by myself.

New axle
Here is the axle I installed on my 1966 Globe Trotter. I simply used a floor jack to position it.

I probably should have had the factory do all this last year when we were at Alumapalooza, but would’a, should’a, could’a doesn’t count for anything. It’s is 75 miles to Fort Collins, and about 1,100 miles to the factory. Since the factory charges more anyway, the economics makes it an easy decision.

Changing axles is intimidating, but really isn’t that complex. If you decide to DIY, double check, even triple check your measurements. The axles have to fit to within an eighth of an inch on both ends. The mounting plates have some flexibility, but the welds do not.

Also, don’t attempt it if you do not have the proper equipment and a stable and level work area with sufficient space to maneuver. Having even a small Airstream come off its supports while you’re under it would most likely result in death or serious injury (not to mention that it would be hard on the trailer too).

I’ll post the results next month!

Old versus New
In this photo it is easy to see the difference in the angle of the “arms”. The axles are upside down in the bed of the truck.
A neutral (parallel to the chassis) or positive (the arm axle in an up position) is another sign that the axle is worn out.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Forrest McClure. I've been writing for the magazine since its inception. My wife and I travel with our 1966 20' Globe Trotter or our 1986 32' Excella. So, my primary interest is vintage travel trailers.