AXLE Question (length of life) - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-06-2014, 09:28 AM   #1
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Name: Kathy
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Question AXLE Question (length of life)

Hi,

My name is Kathy and I am new to the forum. We trailered in a pop up when our son was growing up, now we would like to move to a "hard side" trailer. After a couple of years of looking and rethinking (hybrid) have settled on a fiber glass as the best choice. Thrilled to find this forum and a whole community that comes with it.

Most repairs I could manage but a new axel is beyond me. Generally speaking, (I know use is a factor) how long does an axel last? I want to purchase a trailer that will have 5-7 years left before replacement is needed. Any way to assess a trailer axel without totally insulting a buyer?


Any and all input welcome. Thanks so much.
Kathy
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Old 11-06-2014, 09:39 AM   #2
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Kathy if you can put a hand width between the tire and the wheel well and if the tires look to be wearing evenly and no rubber marks on the wheel well then the axle is probable fine to continue to use. Little tire clearance or uneven tire wear or rubber marks on the wheel well are signs it needs an axle pretty quickly.

Anywhere from 16 to 20 years seems to be how long one should reasonable expect an axle on these small trailers to last.... having said that there are lots of trailers running around with no problems with axles way older than that.
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:22 AM   #3
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The hyperbole on torsion axle wear is legendary on this site.
The axle life span on a properly sized torsion axle can easily exceed 30 years.
Axle wear should be determined primarily by tire wear.
As a torsion axle wears, it develops progressively more negative camber and slight tow out. These conditions contribute to inside edge tire wear which is the chief indicator for axle replacement.
Of course like any suspension, abuse, overload, or accident can shorten its useable life.
My Scamp is now in its 11th year and has exceeded 70,000 miles towed. It is normally loaded to about 85% of rated capacity. It is stored properly (most of the time). The axle is in good condition. Predicting its ultimate demise involves an element of speculation, but another decade seems to be a very conservative estimate.
It is now on its third set of tires with and average service life of 30,000miles. The spare is evenly worn with 40% tread.

A normal torsion axle will take an initial set when new, with additional rotational drop being VERY gradual. Usually tire wear becomes unacceptable sometime after rotational drop at rest exceeds an additional 11 degrees.
Persistent excessive inside tire wear is the primary indication of axle wear.

Even when the time comes to replace an axle the cost of having it professionally done can be as low $500 sometimes with brakes.
Brakes alone (full kit) would cost at least $200.
Larger trailers would likely be a little more.
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Old 11-06-2014, 12:02 PM   #4
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Mine was 35 years old and totally shot. However I used it for two years that way because I camp locally (short trips) over good roads, in state parks with paved roads. I was really careful about the going up or down inclines due to the reduced ground clearance. It would be easy to scrape the front or rear riding that low. In short I adapted my camping activities to match the limitations of the trailer until I could replace the axle.

I was not scraping the wheel well with the tire. This may have been because I had the older small 13 inch wheels.

You might check around and enquire with local shops about the cost of replacing a torsion axle, letting them know that you are only looking for a ball park price not a price quote. Maybe someone can provide an "example" dexter axle to use in that enquiry. Price can vary a lot in different parts of the country. What you will need to pay is what matters.

Then just factor in the axle cost in what you are willing to pay for a camper that shows the signs of needing a new axle that others have pointed out. You would of course also have to factor in the value of a camper that had a good or newer axle.

One axle check is to hitch up the trailer and have someone (heavier is better) stand on the back bumper and bounce while someone else watches under the trailer. They would be looking at the wheels to see if the axle arms travel up and down. Or does the axle stop bouncing when the person stops bouncing. First detects axles that are "bottomed out" and don't move. Second detects suspension getting too "soft" from being worn so it can no longer dampen the bouncing.

BTW - if someone bounces on the rear bumper WITHOUT trailer being hitched to secure the front then the back end will teeter totter down and hit the ground.

Not sure of exact years when different camper companies switched from 4 bolt to 5 bolt wheels but 4 bolt wheels are older style. New axle you will want to purchase to fit a 5 bolt wheel that is currently standard. If you purchase something with older 4 bolt wheels you need to factor in new wheels cost as part of replacing the axle.
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Old 11-06-2014, 12:28 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by floyd View Post
The hyperbole on torsion axle wear is legendary on this site.
floyd,
Since I bought my 1988 Scamp earlier this year with a completely shot axle, I take exception to you calling discussion of this condition “legendary hyperbole”. True, it is a very fixable issue but MOST CERTAINLY one that should be factored into any discussion of the value of a particular unit. There is great benefit in a new axle, brakes, bearings, seals, tires & rims, and it gives me great piece of mind to have all that when I am on the road. But all of that did not come simply or cheaply.
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Old 11-06-2014, 01:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timber Wolf View Post
floyd,
Since I bought my 1988 Scamp earlier this year with a completely shot axle, I take exception to you calling discussion of this condition “legendary hyperbole”. True, it is a very fixable issue but MOST CERTAINLY one that should be factored into any discussion of the value of a particular unit. There is great benefit in a new axle, brakes, bearings, seals, tires & rims, and it gives me great piece of mind to have all that when I am on the road. But all of that did not come simply or cheaply.
Certainly the replacement of any worn or broken component should be factored into the discussion of the purchase or maintenance of a fiberglass trailer.
The hyperbole to which I refer only serves to obfuscate that discussion.
For instance...I could hardly count the number of times I have seen comments calling for axle replacement merely by seeing a photograph of an early Scamp or by knowing the year of production. Or how about replacement mandated by a "fist test"? Tire size change alone could flunk a good axle if shaking your fist at the trailer is the criteria.
I have seen posts which would call for replacement of the axle on the trailer below... which was not only new when the picture was taken, but it was the cover picture of the Scamp brochure at the time!
Reasonable discussion, yes... Hyperbole ? Not so much.

BTW...I didn't call the "discussion of the topic" "legendary hyperbole"
I said "The hyperbole on torsion axle wear is legendary on this site".
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Old 11-06-2014, 01:15 PM   #7
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It is true that to my Scamp 16 owner eye all Scamp 13 footers look like "low-riders".
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Old 11-06-2014, 04:05 PM   #8
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And an advantage to owning a "Low Rider" is we dont have to use a step.

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Originally Posted by Timber Wolf View Post
It is true that to my Scamp 16 owner eye all Scamp 13 footers look like "low-riders".
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Old 11-06-2014, 04:59 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Darral T. View Post
And an advantage to owning a "Low Rider" is we dont have to use a step.
And they tuck behind the tow vehicle for nice aerodynamic towing.

I think that "axles" get some extra concern because people not familiar with torsion axles have purchased trailers unaware that this was a part that is not repaired but replaced. They have purchased an older camper only to find themselves with an unexpectedly large cost soon after purchase. Many do sit low by design so finding out that few extra inches too low is going to cost $500 - $800 to deal with is a problem.

The other thing is many camper owners can't do the work themselves or have little if any experience as a consumer purchasing this work. Finding a good auto service garage ask your friends and neighbors, replacing an axle? Not that many people you can ask in most peoples circle of friends. Thank goodness for this forum.

You can always make an attempt at fiberglass patching a hole, worst case how much can you mess up? There is already a hole right? Window already leaks you can take a stab at fixing the leak and worse case you fail and have to pay to have it done. With an axle replacement much easier to mess up badly if one does not know what they are doing or is not careful.

You can get a pretty good idea of how much axle sag there is. The square shaft welded into the arm at the axle shaft is at an angle, it looks like a diamond <>. The horizontal points started out parallel to the frame, the number of degrees the side with the tire on it is pointing up rather than parallel with the frame is how much the axle has moved up. You can get a good idea just by looking at that square shaft, enough to tell the difference between really new and really shot certainly.

If nothing else checking this can help you determine the "original" angle (and height) when it was new so you can determine what angle to order if replacing. Or how much lift getting a different angle will provide.
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Old 11-06-2014, 05:08 PM   #10
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[QUOTE=RogerDat;491055]And they tuck behind the tow vehicle for nice aerodynamic towing.
Roger D(th)at!!
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Old 11-07-2014, 09:19 AM   #11
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Thanks

Thank you every one for your input. I have a much better understanding of what to look for and how to plan if the "perfect" trailer is a little saggy.
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