Lifting a 13' Scamp - the basics? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-31-2012, 03:57 PM   #1
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Name: Sandra
Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13' Std.
Minnesota
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Lifting a 13' Scamp - the basics?

Wondering if anyone can help me understand what the options are around increasing ground clearance on a Scamp 13'. We picked up a 2008 this weekend (yay). It's a great little camper, but it's a great little LOW camper. I was surprised at how much lower than our Burro 13'.

The clearance will be OK 95% of the time, but we have an extremely rough offroad path to get back to our cabin and I know this thing is going to drag. So a little more height would be nice to have. I've planned to put brakes on it (husband would probably DIY this), but given that we're doing that work I'm wondering if now would be the time to look at if/how to raise it up at the same time, if we're investing money on brakes.

I'm very non-mechanical -- can someone please explain what our options are? From reading here, it looks like changing the axle would raise it. Is that the only option - and if so, is buying an axle with brakes and installing it overkill and far more expensive than adding brakes to the existing axle (feels like the answer to that is YES??)? I've also read things about "lift kits", but I have no idea what that means. Any idea what sort of cost range would I be looking at?

I live near Scamp and could bring it up there for service, but before I call them I thought I'd try and sound a bit more intelligent about what I was asking for.
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:44 PM   #2
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I like them low, but if I needed to raise it and was going to add brakes I would most likely buy a new axle and mount it with leaf springs and totally get away from the torsion axle that it has now. That's just what I would do, you may be able to unbolt or unweld your axle from the frame and then have a spacer or a new piece of steel welded onto your frame and then remount the axle, but that still doesn't get you the brakes.
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Old 02-01-2012, 02:30 PM   #3
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Trailer: '84 Scamp 13' & 2001 Casita 17' Spirit Deluxe
Arkansas
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Dunno exactly what the axle specs are on a 2008 model but if they're still using a torsion arm type axle I'd expect it to have a zero degree or even slightly 'up' angle. About a year ago I bought a 1984 Scamp 13' that rode really low. I'd seen 'low riding' Scamps before but this one was as low as I've seen. After getting it home (150mi or so) I pulled the wheels & the leading arms were 'resting' at least 10 degrees up with NO flex that I could detect. Reinstalled the wheels & did the 'jump' test (had my wife stand in the trailer & jump up & down while I watched the axle) & the only flex I could see was in the sidewalls of the tires.

I figured I probably needed a new axle so I contacted Trent Fisher at Scamp & he said my trailer should have left the factory with 22.5 degree down angle leading arm. If that info is correct it meant that my axle had not only deteriorated over the years but the leading arm shaft had actually 'turned' in the axle beam. I decided since I was gonna get a new axle I'd also add brakes as the original had none. We don't have a 'cabin' getaway but we do camp quite frequently in the backcountry in national forests, or BLM land 'out west' so I wanted more ground clearance than the original axle provided.

I went to the Dexter website & through studying their specs & doing careful measurement of my trailer I settled on the Dexter #9 Torflex 2200# axle, de-rated to 2K#, with 7" electric brakes. Cost was around $400 shipped to my local dealer. Grandson & I installed it in August last year. Since I wasn't sure of the chassis metal thickness (or integrity) I elected cut off (torch) & leave the upper part of the original mounting bracket (1/4" steel angle) on my trailer & weld the new side mount kit to that, & then just bolt the new axle to the side mounts. I also went with 5 lug on 4.5" bolt circle hubs instead of the 4 on 4" of the original so I had to change tires/wheels too. The change in appearance (& ride) is dramatic. I now have 11" clearance, axle beam to ground, plenty of flex in the torsion arm, & over 4" clearance between my ST175/80D13 tires & the underside of the wheel well.

Again, dunno if the expense/work would be worth it on a fairly new trailer such as yours but, the addition of brakes alone would justify it for me...

This are before/after pix
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Old 02-01-2012, 08:21 PM   #4
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This entire discussion reminds me of off road vehicles that want to go higher. It doesn't matter how high the body and frame are lifted... the axle stays at the same height. You can put spacers, etc. between the frame and axle... but the center portion of the axle pretty much stays at the same height. I put a 45 degree down axle on my Scamp so I could run 15" tires. But the distance between the axle and the ground is (plus) a minor amount as before the axle swap. YMMV
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Old 02-01-2012, 09:42 PM   #5
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Trailer: '84 Scamp 13' & 2001 Casita 17' Spirit Deluxe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donna D. View Post
This entire discussion reminds me of off road vehicles that want to go higher. It doesn't matter how high the body and frame are lifted... the axle stays at the same height. You can put spacers, etc. between the frame and axle... but the center portion of the axle pretty much stays at the same height. I put a 45 degree down axle on my Scamp so I could run 15" tires. But the distance between the axle and the ground is (plus) a minor amount as before the axle swap. YMMV
Perhaps yours didn't make much difference Donna but mine definitely did. If you look closely at my pix # 3 & 4 above you can see how low the original axle was & the difference in height of the new axle. That ain't just camera angle either, the spindle (center of wheel/hub) is actually lower but axle tube is higher.

My original torsion arm was at least 10* up angle (probably more as the 'low profile' radial tires were nearly touching the underside of the wheel well). Dexter charts show bracket height of 9.2" for 10* up & 12.4" for 22.5* down. That's a difference of more'n 3" which is not an insignificant amount when speaking of actual 'road clearance'.

I never measured the height from ground to bottom of the original axle but I have a small 6 ton hydraulic 'bottle' jack that is approx 8" tall & I couldn't begin to get it under the original axle tube to raise the wheels for removal (had to jack from under the raised rear portion of the chassis). The new Dexter 22.5* down angle axle tube has more than 11" of ground clearance. I'll credit a little of that additional height to different tires but the major difference is between the old 'up' angle of at least 10* & the new 22.5* down angle.

I've no knowledge of how raster's newer model Scamp is set up. If he has a zero degree start or perhaps 10* or more 'up' angle, replacing the axle with at least 22.5* down angle will provide a significant increase in actual ground clearance. Changing to a conventional 'spring' axle probably won't provide much increase in actual clearance unless the current torflex axle has an 'up' start angle in which case the 'sprung' axle would be essentially the same as zero start angle.
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Old 02-02-2012, 08:17 AM   #6
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Harvey I think your axle was worn out if it was the original on a 1984 trailer. Replacing the axle alone is enough to gain height. The point I was trying to make is lifting the body by putting in spacers will not change the center height on the axle. A deeper down angle on the axle will.
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Old 02-02-2012, 09:10 AM   #7
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You're absolutely correct Donna, on both points. My 'original' axle was definitely worn out & if the info I got from Trent Fisher at Scamp is correct, the torsion arm shaft had actually turned in the axle tube.

I too am always amused by the 'off roaders' with their 'lifted' vehicles that provide a very high 'body/chassis lift' but no increase in ground clearance for the 'running gear'. Some use bigger tires/wheels to provide a little more clearance but unless they're using the 'monster mudders' or some such, they ain't gaining much except a higher center of gravity & usually more instability

On a towed vehicle such as our little FGRVs, a change of torsion arm start angle (along with larger diameter tires/wheels) can provide a significant height increase as well as axle ground clearance, assuming of course that the axle isn't 'maxxed out' weight wise

The only way I'm aware of to achieve such with a conventionally sprung axle is to use a 'drop' axle with the spindles 'dropped' rather than the main tube, which entails its own set of problems in securing the axle from torque rotation when encountering obstacles such as bumps, potholes, etc.

I very often fail to express my thoughts clearly & my brain definitely runs faster than my typing fingers, oft times resulting in a less than cogent post/comment
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Old 02-02-2012, 11:11 AM   #8
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1983 13' Scamp
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22 1/2 degree down angle, trailing arm Dexter axle.
Top of wheel well arch to ground 24"
When door is open floor to ground 14"
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Old 02-02-2012, 01:11 PM   #9
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That's quite a difference kevin. I don't remember reading about your axle change but, didn't the change from leading arm to trailing involve considerable modification or re-engineering of the mounting point(s) for the axle? On my '84 Scamp 13 the mounting brackets are welded to the chassis rails while the axle tube itself is immediately behind, & bottom side nearly on same plane as the 'drop' floor which occupies the front 60% of the trailer. It looks to me as if changing from leading to trailing arm would of necessity raise the chassis height (especially with 22.5* down angle) since the axle tube would have to be relocated several inches forward & mounted to accommodate the 'drop' floor?? I decided to use the leading arm axle since it didn't involve much modification for installation, & the 'step-up' at the entry is still within 'reach' (around 13") without having to use a step or platform (tho my 5' tall wife says she wants a low step/platform of some kind to aid her entry/egress)
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Old 02-04-2012, 07:05 AM   #10
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Name: Sandra
Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13' Std.
Minnesota
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Thanks for all the thoughtful comments! I have to admit I'm not 100% following all the axle angles and all the specifics, but I might just need to get out there and look at what we're working with to fully understand. Greg, back to your comment on liking them low -- lo and behold, it turns out my husband is really taking to how low our new Scamp is. Since we apparently have a little difference of opinion at Chez Raster on Scampie's optimal height, it looks like we'll go brakes only for now. But I'm going to keep this thread in case we reconsider a few years down the road.

Kevin - your before/after looks a LOT like difference between my Scamp and Burro. That's exactly what I was hoping/going for. Love the hubcaps too, btw!
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Old 05-13-2012, 12:46 PM   #11
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This discussion is extremely helpful. I started giving serious thought to larger tires and more well clearance after last weekend's trip. We had at least one road where we just left the trailer behind. I don't understand all the issues yet, but will continue to follow the discussions. How have these changes affected your highway towing?
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Old 05-15-2012, 12:00 AM   #12
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Raster, I've had 2 13' Scamps.
99% of all my camping is on Forest Service unimproved roads and have never had a problem bottoming out or hanging up.
You might try it as is before you invest the money to raise it up.
John
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Old 05-15-2012, 09:36 AM   #13
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Trailer: '84 Scamp 13' & 2001 Casita 17' Spirit Deluxe
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Originally Posted by Perry J View Post
Raster, I've had 2 13' Scamps.
99% of all my camping is on Forest Service unimproved roads and have never had a problem bottoming out or hanging up.
You might try it as is before you invest the money to raise it up.
John
John is correct. I'd not advise anyone to go to the expense of a total axle swap if it isn't necessary. With the short length of the 13' Scamps & minimal rear overhang, they can take some pretty rough roads/terrain & still navigate pretty easily. I replaced the axle on my '84 Scamp because the suspension was totally worn out & there was absolutely NO flex except the tire sidewalls. I bought & installed the new Dexter axle with the aim of not only adding brakes & restoring the suspension but raising the ride height also. It has worked out perfectly for me.

We still own & use the Teardrop trailer we built in 2006. It is built on a Harbor Freight 1740# trailer chassis which uses a conventional axle/springs & has 12" wheels/tires. Cabin length is just under 10' (114") & total length closely mirrors the Scamp with similar rear overhang. Body/chassis height is around 13" while axle clearance is 8". We have towed it many thousands of miles & we too mostly frequent back-country National Forest or BLM campgrounds, often with primitive roads. I tow with a 4WD P/U & expect my trailer to 'follow' wherever I decide to go. Haven't had the Scamp out yet (re-do is goin' kinda slow ) but we've had no problems negotiating any terrain yet with the Teardrop & expect similar with the Scamp. Their towing characteristics are very similar. Tho we still love & use the TD there ain't much 'inside' place to go when weather is bad so we bought the Scamp as an alternative & 'cause it's gettin' harder & harder to put on my pants lying down!

This was in the Medicine Bow NF in Wyoming in 2007
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Old 05-15-2012, 11:21 AM   #14
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I was at the trailer builder/repair shop this weekend to get bearings checked and packed, we talked about replacing axel and adding brakes. On my 77 scamp replacing the original does involve cutting the old axel off and putting the new brackets on forward of that location. Old torsion arm is leading, new is trailing.

The gain would be ground clearence for FG body, less as Donna points out for axel itself but some. Larger tires which run cooler (fewer revolutions per mile) and reducution in bearing wear for same reason. Plus electric brakes. Considering the age of existing axel and additional swing of the new axel I could end up with less pounding of the trailer too. Depends on getting a weight capacity low enough that it does not "pogo stick" down the road but high enough to provide some bounce.

Cost was about $460 for axel and less than $200 for labor at $50 per hour. Included bolt on bracket kit from Dexter so if axel needs to be taken off in the future it's a nuts and bolt job.

I don't plan on any long trips this summer or trips to areas where I would feel a compelling need for the electric brakes but this modification is on my radar as a future purchase. I would not want to do Colorado or the Smokey mountains without the brakes. And do want to go down some rough national forest service roads.

Currently my egg sits even lower than the "before" picture of the 1983 13' Scamp posted by Kevin K.
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