Need new axle, what brand? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-06-2011, 10:29 AM   #1
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Name: Craig
Trailer: U-Haul
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Need new axle, what brand?

I need a new axle with brakes for my "84 U-Haul 13'er. I will probably bump up to 14" wheels (from 13").

The standard seems to be Dexter. Another brand is AL-KO. Their torsion bar is triangular instead of square.

I am looking for any knowledge, experience, strong opinions, or other input about these brands or any other brands that I should consider.

The U-Haul has a unique attachment to the tongue tube that extends all the way back to the axle so I plan on making a bolt-on adapter. That way I don't need to try to get the factory to fabricate a custom attachment that they have never seen.

Most brakes seem to be electric drum though I seem to recall seeing some disc brakes in my searches. Any suggestions concerning brakes?

Are there any other options that I should consider? E-Z Lube type grease fittings?

As always, any input is most appreciated.

Craig T.
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:12 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Craig D. Thompson View Post
I need a new axle with brakes for my "84 U-Haul 13'er. I will probably bump up to 14" wheels (from 13").

The standard seems to be Dexter. Another brand is AL-KO. Their torsion bar is triangular instead of square.

I am looking for any knowledge, experience, strong opinions, or other input about these brands or any other brands that I should consider.

The U-Haul has a unique attachment to the tongue tube that extends all the way back to the axle so I plan on making a bolt-on adapter. That way I don't need to try to get the factory to fabricate a custom attachment that they have never seen

Most brakes seem to be electric drum though I seem to recall seeing some disc brakes in my searches. Any suggestions concerning brakes?

Are there any other options that I should consider? E-Z Lube type grease fittings?

As always, any input is most appreciated.

Craig T.
Both Dexter and AL-KO make fine products.
Here are some points to ponder...
You have a 13ft trailer and so you should not buy an axle with "too much" capacity. Your axle should be "rightsized" for your trailer.
Your original axle had non-serviceable sealed bearings which probably can not be replaced , so EZ-Lube would be a good idea.
As for brakes,AFAIK... you can't buy Electric disc brakes , nor can you buy disc brakes on an appropriately sized axle for your trailer.
Here are some things you can do...
You can order a 2200# axle with 7" drum brakes.
Dexter will build a 3500# axle with 10" drum brakes which they will custom downsize the capacity to match your needs. I.E. 2500#
If your present axle is square then it will likely be easier to install a Dexter.
Your tongue is presently attached to your axle crossmember for strength and stability. You should consider whether it would be prudent to add a square tube welded crossmember just in front of your new axle to take it's place in that function, or ask whether Dexter would support welding to the center of their axle.
All of this assumes that you are planning a torsion axle and not leafs.
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:30 AM   #3
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Name: Craig
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Thanks for your input Floyd and yes, replacing with torsion axle. Is the reason for de-rating a 3500# unit to my weight (probably 2000#, I am weighing everything to make that final total weight calculation) to get a more robust axle unit? Bigger brakes? All of the above?

Great idea with welding in a cross member to take the place of the axle for attaching the tongue. There is some other welding needed so this would not be a problem.

I also want to weld in the "hanger plates" that the axle bolts onto, so the next axle replacement will be much easier.

Any thoughts on the quality between Dexter and AL-KO?
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:32 AM   #4
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Name: George
Trailer: Waiting for the Sprinter van and designing the converion modules.
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Originally Posted by Craig D. Thompson View Post
I need a new axle with brakes for my "84 U-Haul 13'er. I will probably bump up to 14" wheels (from 13").

The standard seems to be Dexter. Another brand is AL-KO. Their torsion bar is triangular instead of square.

I am looking for any knowledge, experience, strong opinions, or other input about these brands or any other brands that I should consider.

The U-Haul has a unique attachment to the tongue tube that extends all the way back to the axle so I plan on making a bolt-on adapter. That way I don't need to try to get the factory to fabricate a custom attachment that they have never seen.

Most brakes seem to be electric drum though I seem to recall seeing some disc brakes in my searches. Any suggestions concerning brakes?

Are there any other options that I should consider? E-Z Lube type grease fittings?

As always, any input is most appreciated.

Craig T.
If I would be replacing axles on my trailer the Dexter Never-R-Lube wheel bearing system would be my choice. In 21st Century replacing grease in wheel bearings is archaic.
There are disc trailers brakes but not electric, at least I have not seen them. Electric brake drum has two functions, one to provide friction for brake shoes and the second one for electric activation of brake lever spreading brake shoes. It would be difficult for disc brakes to perform this second function.
Good luck,
George.
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:35 AM   #5
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Name: David
Trailer: 16 foot Scamp
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I have never had a problem with either brand although my AL-KOs are just 2 years old. One thing about Dexter that I like is that you have a lot of options for customing the axle. Brakes, down angle, load capacity, mounting flanges, etc. That makes it easier to find a good fit for your needs. I've never dealt with Al-KO so maybe they are just as easy, but that would be a consideration for me.

One note on ordering axles. It is very imporatnt to have all the details on your orderform spelled out clearly and accurate. Mistakes on axle orders do happen, and you want recourse if it happens to you. Be sure and keep a copy of your original order. The axle maker will not cover problems due to ommissions or errors in your order. I have known of people getting axles they could not use, could not return, and could not really fix either.

David
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:53 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Craig D. Thompson View Post
Thanks for your input Floyd and yes, replacing with torsion axle. Is the reason for de-rating a 3500# unit to my weight (probably 2000#, I am weighing everything to make that final total weight calculation) to get a more robust axle unit? Bigger brakes? All of the above?

Great idea with welding in a cross member to take the place of the axle for attaching the tongue. There is some other welding needed so this would not be a problem.

I also want to weld in the "hanger plates" that the axle bolts onto, so the next axle replacement will be much easier.

Any thoughts on the quality between Dexter and AL-KO?
If your trailer actually weighs 2000# or more loaded, then I would consider a derated 3500# axle in order to gain the larger brakes and a moderate increase in capacity.
My Scamp Has a 2200# axle and weighs just shy of 2000# loaded.
I have no problems with excessively rough ride or doors flying open etc.
If your trailer is significantly below 2000# then the smaller axle will be adequate.
The 7" brakes are adequate for my trailer, but I would like the 10"brakes better.
My real point was to avoid an OVERsprung axle, which could be rough on your trailer.
A good 13" tire is more than adequate for your 13ft trailer, what do you hope to gain by going to 14s?
I'm convinced that both companies make fine products, but I would choose a Dexter if I were replacing my axle.
The Dexter has 4 rubber elements and Al-Ko has 3 larger ones... what that means for ride and longevity I could only speculate.
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Old 11-06-2011, 12:57 PM   #7
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Trailer: 16 foot Scamp
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When considering weight rating you should also think about intended use. A lower weight rating will ride softer on good roads, but may bottom on rougher ones. The trick is finding the balance and defining your needs. I've had several discussions with Dexter engineers over this. While they acknowledge the issue they will not offer suggestions. If I recall correctly, an axle loaded to the rated weight has 10 to 12 degrees of travel left before bottoming as delivered. After a bit of settling, that goes to 8-10. That is from memory, so you should verify that. That is not much travel before bottoming. This will also affect your final ride height, along with the down angle you choose. The first time I went through this I thought "surely there was a table somewhere", but there ain't.

One advantage to the derated axle is larger bearings. Even on a smaller trailer that is a good thing. When I bought my trailer, I might have chosen a 13, but I could not get a heavy duty axle, so I went with 16 and got the 3500 pound model. My trailer weighs around 2500 and the axle is fine for my use. It could be a bit softer IMO for just highway use.

With regard to tires, again it comes down to intended use. I would not have 13's on any trailer for a number of reasons. 14's have heavier carcasses that can withstand more abuse, resist rock cuts better, and gives you a much wider margin in load carrying capacity. Bigger tires run smoother over the road and spread the load over a bigger area which keeps them cooler. They give additional under-axle clearance for logging roads and other rutted paths, as well as increasing approach and departure angles. Downside is they cost more, although they will last longer. Your 13" tire carrier may not accommodate them either. I had to modify mine for both the size and the weight of the bigger combination. If your trailer is mainly for weekend camping, short trips, good roads, etc, then the 14's probably aren't worth the bother.

David
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:36 PM   #8
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Name: Craig
Trailer: U-Haul
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George, I do not see the Never Lube in the Dexter literature. Can you point me to that info? Do you have much experience with Never Lube? I presume it is a sealed bearing?

David, thanks so much for your insights. The de-rated 3500# unit sounds like the way to go. All that you mentioned about 14' vs 13" is why I am hoping to upgrade to 14" wheels.

The issue of correctly selecting the proper angle, weight capacity and such is what concerns me with this purchase.

Good point about getting every detail recorded on the purchase order. By the way, can I order directly from Dexter or do I need to go thru a distributor?

Floyd, the trailer is supposed to weigh about 1200# but those "official" weights are often low. I tried to weigh the trailer yesterday but the scale at the local construction waste recycling company that agreed to let me weigh the trailer was not operating. Maybe next weekend. Grrrr.

When emptying the trailer we carefully weighed everything and recorded the distance from the axle so I can properly manage the weight and tongue weight. I was surprised that we had nearly 500# of stuff. That included the propane tank, spare tire, a cast iron dutch oven, a heavy-ish reclining chair. Other than that we do not have a lot of excessive stuff. It adds up though.

Looks like the total loaded trailer weight could be 1700# to 2000#. I need the actual trailer weight though to spec out the axle.

And a good point about not over rating the axle. Your 200# excess is probably a good margin.

Craig T.
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:01 PM   #9
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Trailer: 16 foot Scamp
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Craig,
I ordered mine through a dealer who I knew well. I could trust them not to be the weak link in the chain of information. The truck delivery to the dealer was much cheaper than ordering direct and shipping direct.

My advise is to take your time and think it through before you order. Maybe pass it by us once you get it figured out. My perspective is from a guy who does a lot of backroad travel over very rough roads. Some of what I do is overkill for more ordinary campers. I do think the 14" wheels/tires offer advantages. I had to trim the fender wells on my trailer (16' Scamp) to make the installation of the tires easy. It all looks fine. You will certainly have to trim yours as well.

With regard to down angle, the axle will ride best if the static load doesn't have the swing arm at too steep of an angle. If you paid attention in geometry class you can probably see why. Also, try and figure out where the top of a 14" tire will ride with respect to the bottom of your trailer. You don't want a combination that hits the trailer when you bottom. That might affect your choice of down angle as well.

New axles are like new shoes!

David
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Craig D. Thompson View Post
George, I do not see the Never Lube in the Dexter literature. Can you point me to that info? Do you have much experience with Never Lube? I presume it is a sealed bearing?

David, thanks so much for your insights. The de-rated 3500# unit sounds like the way to go. All that you mentioned about 14' vs 13" is why I am hoping to upgrade to 14" wheels.

The issue of correctly selecting the proper angle, weight capacity and such is what concerns me with this purchase.

Good point about getting every detail recorded on the purchase order. By the way, can I order directly from Dexter or do I need to go thru a distributor?

Floyd, the trailer is supposed to weigh about 1200# but those "official" weights are often low. I tried to weigh the trailer yesterday but the scale at the local construction waste recycling company that agreed to let me weigh the trailer was not operating. Maybe next weekend. Grrrr.

When emptying the trailer we carefully weighed everything and recorded the distance from the axle so I can properly manage the weight and tongue weight. I was surprised that we had nearly 500# of stuff. That included the propane tank, spare tire, a cast iron dutch oven, a heavy-ish reclining chair. Other than that we do not have a lot of excessive stuff. It adds up though.

Looks like the total loaded trailer weight could be 1700# to 2000#. I need the actual trailer weight though to spec out the axle.

And a good point about not over rating the axle. Your 200# excess is probably a good margin.

Craig T.
Nevr-lubes are not available on smaller axle sizes.
I think you can special order them on 3.5K axles but they must have 6 lug wheels and straight spindles. EZ lube is however.

Also don't forget to subtract tongue weight when figuring your axle needs. My 2200# axle carries 1700#, the additional 250# is tongue weight. So the aforementioned Margin is really 500#
A "C" rated 13" tire has a capacity of 1380# which is likely close to twice that needed for your trailer, and a 205/75R14 will provide only 1" more ground clearance over a 175/80R13 Both having a "C" rating will result in no significant difference in sidewall strength. Still, there is little downside to going up to the 14" wheels except the negligible cost difference and possible clearance issues.
The added weight capacity is not really an issue in your 13 ft trailer, although some 16s and ALL Scamp fivers would benefit from the upsize.
As above, Like new shoes, axles and tires must fit and be suitable for the application to give satisfaction.
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:24 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Craig D. Thompson View Post
George, I do not see the Never Lube in the Dexter literature. Can you point me to that info? Do you have much experience with Never Lube? I presume it is a sealed bearing? ........Craig T.
This is URL for Never Lube and indeed they are sealed bearings. Unfortunately, Floyd is correct, the are only available for larger axles. I would go with EZ-lube.
Dexter Axle - Trailer Axles and Running Gear Components - Nev-R-Lube Bearings
George.
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Old 11-06-2011, 09:18 PM   #12
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A "C" rated 13" tire has a capacity of 1380# which is likely close to twice that needed for your trailer, and a 205/75R14 will provide only 1" more ground clearance over a 175/80R13 Both having a "C" rating will result in no significant difference in sidewall strength. Still, there is little downside to going up to the 14" wheels except the negligible cost difference and possible clearance issues.
.
On my trailer the 205's netted closer to 2" ground clearance because the same weight compressed the larger tire far less. In fact, the 13's running 100 pounds under their max looked dangerously compressed to me. Although the two tires both carry the load range "C" rating, the 14's actual capacity is 400 pounds greater per tire. That translates into a significantly more robust tire, both in the sidewall and the tread area. Anyone doubting this can go to a tire store and pull the two off the rack and clearly see and feel the difference. The 13foot trailer has some safety margin on the 13" tires, but the 16 footer really needs the bigger tire. For one thing, the stock tires are 800 pounds below the axle rating! You also have the ability to run the 14" tires at lower pressures and get a softer ride. The 205/14 running at 35psi is still capable of carrying more load than a 175/13 at 50psi!

I'm not saying the 175/13's aren't fine for the 13 foot trailer. They are. I'm just saying these are the real world differences between the two tires.

David
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Old 11-06-2011, 10:08 PM   #13
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On my trailer the 205's netted closer to 2" ground clearance because the same weight compressed the larger tire far less. In fact, the 13's running 100 pounds under their max looked dangerously compressed to me. Although the two tires both carry the load range "C" rating, the 14's actual capacity is 400 pounds greater per tire. That translates into a significantly more robust tire, both in the sidewall and the tread area. Anyone doubting this can go to a tire store and pull the two off the rack and clearly see and feel the difference. The 13foot trailer has some safety margin on the 13" tires, but the 16 footer really needs the bigger tire. For one thing, the stock tires are 800 pounds below the axle rating! You also have the ability to run the 14" tires at lower pressures and get a softer ride. The 205/14 running at 35psi is still capable of carrying more load than a 175/13 at 50psi!

I'm not saying the 175/13's aren't fine for the 13 foot trailer. They are. I'm just saying these are the real world differences between the two tires.

David
The trailer in question(A 13ft) would come nowhere near the load capacity of a "C" rated 13" radial... in fact much closer to half.Consider that it weighs 1700# with 250# of tongue weight. The balance, evenly shared on the axle would result in load on each tire of less than 50# above half of it's rating. In fact a "B" rated 13 would leave a 60% margin on it's rating.
Now I have conceded that a 14" wheel /tire combo would offer little downside. I simply assert that it offers no real advantage other than those to which I have already alluded .
Your case has more credence when applied to a 16 Scamp, but still the average 16 would have nearly 400# of margin, The axle capacity being irrelevant. In that case increasing the margin to the same ratio as a 13 with 13s would seem a practical, though unnecessary, move.
I take issue with the idea that trailer tires should be used as adjustable suspension components however.
If you care to rebut that last one... contact Mcbrew, he has "proved" me wrong repeatedly on that one!
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Old 11-07-2011, 03:59 AM   #14
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Name: Craig
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Do I recall recently reading on the forum that another advantage of 14" rims is that there is a much larger selection of 14" tires made to choose from? Also much more likely to be able to find a replacement tire should one blow out while traveling?

My pop-up had very small tires, 12" maybe? I had 4 blow outs in the 15 years that I towed it. Two of those were in VERY dangerous conditions. I want rugged. 13"ers might be rugged enough.

All your input is most helpful and appreciated. Keep it coming.

Craig T.
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