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Old 02-11-2011, 07:44 PM   #1
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Name: Ken
Trailer: Bigfoot 17, 1988
Florida
Posts: 144
New axle and wheel size for Bigfoot 17?

I am thinking about switching to 15" wheels on my Bigfoot 17, 1988. I read somewhere that you need to upgrade brakes to do this. I also don't think the new tires would fit inside the wheel wells. I am thinking the new axle needs to be underneath the springs, instead of on top, to clear the wheel wells.

With wheel size and springs, I'm guessing that would raise it up about 3 inches. This seems like an inherently good thing to me anyway, as the trailer seems too low to go over anything rough at all.

Another thing I am wondering about is if anyone has loaded up a similar Bigfoot with stuff and exceeded 3,500 pounds, indicating an upgrade to a 5,000 pound axle could be useful.

I used the search, but didn't find any recent threads that obviously contained any recommendations as far as where people buy their axles, so I am interested in that too. I will be driving from Seattle to Las Vegas next week, so I might be able to pick one up somewhere to avoid shipping if a good place is along the way.
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Old 02-11-2011, 09:17 PM   #2
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Name: Borden and Carole
Trailer: Boler 1978 17' 4" Earlton Ont Model
Ontario
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bolers 17' came with st205r14 trailer tires; c rated trailer tires will give more than a 3500 lb axle can do so works fine? Do not know the weight of a Bigfoot 17'

With 14" the boler is 18" level at tongue?
How low is the Bigfoot?

The local tire shop should have b 4ply, c 6ply, and d 8ply rated tires.
15" will make your ride taller and could affect dynamic of tow?
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Old 02-11-2011, 10:12 PM   #3
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Trailer: 2000 Bigfoot 17 ft (15B17CB)
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Originally Posted by pindraak View Post
I am thinking about switching to 15" wheels on my Bigfoot 17, 1988. I read somewhere that you need to upgrade brakes to do this. I also don't think the new tires would fit inside the wheel wells. I am thinking the new axle needs to be underneath the springs, instead of on top, to clear the wheel wells.

With wheel size and springs, I'm guessing that would raise it up about 3 inches. This seems like an inherently good thing to me anyway, as the trailer seems too low to go over anything rough at all.

Another thing I am wondering about is if anyone has loaded up a similar Bigfoot with stuff and exceeded 3,500 pounds, indicating an upgrade to a 5,000 pound axle could be useful.
It is not really necessary to upgrade your brakes if you are upgrading to 15 inch rims, but the taller and wider tires might not fit inside the fender skirts. Bigfoot went to 15 inch tires for the last year of the 17 foot production (2004), but also employed a straight axle instead of the 4" drop axle used on all previous years.
I think you will find that moving your axle under your springs will raise the trailer by nearly 5 inches with your existing tires and somewhat more with 15" tires.

Some older threads covering some of your questions can be found here;

Axle replacement on Bigfoot 15B17CB

Raising Bigfoot for more clearance??

Steve.
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Old 02-12-2011, 07:39 AM   #4
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Name: Ken
Trailer: Bigfoot 17, 1988
Florida
Posts: 144
Thanks. I thought I remembered reading one of those threads. I actually don't understand the point of the drop axle. I am thinking I would feel better with a 5200# axle anyway, as there is mention in one of the threads of over 3,500# real working weights with the Bigfoot 17. I could just get a new straight one, which would raise it 4 or 5 inches without having to do any sort of over/under modifications, and hopefully no welding(?). I won't have access to welding equipment where I'll be working on it.
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Old 02-12-2011, 09:24 AM   #5
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Trailer: 1999 Scamp 13 ft and 2003 Bigfoot 17 ft (15B17CB)
Posts: 225
We replaced the axle on our 2003 17 ft BF (2 3/8 inch, 0.18 wall), with a Dexter 3 inch, 0.25 wall. It is rated at 3000 lb, but Dexter says it should have enough reserve for our needs. Seems to have worked out well, and we could use our old wheels and tires. We have 15 inch tires.
Tony
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Old 02-12-2011, 07:46 PM   #6
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Trailer: 2000 Bigfoot 17 ft (15B17CB)
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Originally Posted by pindraak View Post
Thanks. I thought I remembered reading one of those threads. I actually don't understand the point of the drop axle. I am thinking I would feel better with a 5200# axle anyway, as there is mention in one of the threads of over 3,500# real working weights with the Bigfoot 17. I could just get a new straight one, which would raise it 4 or 5 inches without having to do any sort of over/under modifications, and hopefully no welding(?). I won't have access to welding equipment where I'll be working on it.
Replacing the original drop axle with a straight axle is a simple bolt on operation - no welding. If you decide to go with a higher capacity axle, just be sure the stronger springs have the same eye to eye measurement as the original springs.
I think a 3500lb axle is adequate for the earlier 17 Bigfoots, as they are usually considerably lighter than the later versions that tend to have many more options. It really depends on how much stuff you intend to pack and if you usually travel with a full water tank.
A 4400lb or 5200lb axle does give more capacity assuming the wheels and tires are upgraded to match. These axles come with larger brakes as well, which may be a factor in your decision.

Bigfoot upgraded the axle on the newer 2500 series 17.5 introduced in 2005 to a 4400lb axle to cope with the increased weight.

Steve.
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Old 02-12-2011, 08:17 PM   #7
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Name: Ken
Trailer: Bigfoot 17, 1988
Florida
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That's good news. If it is that simple to install, that means no labor charge, so I can buy a 4400 or 5200lb axle with new springs, brakes and feel better about it. I thought I read warnings somewhere about it making the ride rougher, but I'm wondering how it could be significant, unless you were in the trailer during the ride.

I'm not sure how heavy my Bigfoot will get. I think the remodeling inside won't change the weight much, but I have heavy batteries, heavy trailer stabilizing equipment, I'm putting in a Polar Cub air conditioner in etc... I'll probably top up the water every chance I get. Plus, staying in it months on end, I might end up with more stuff in there than I'd like. Since I am looking to change anyway, it doesn't seem like a suspension setup that is a little stronger than necessary costs much more and I don't like the idea of pushing the limits of a system like that.
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Old 02-13-2011, 02:09 AM   #8
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Trailer: 2004 Bigfoot 17 ft ('Beastie')
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Hi Ken,

I second what Steve C and Tony say about not needing to go above 3500# capacity. Our trailer has lots of options and mods bringing the gross weight up to 3600#. However, the axle only weighs 3180# and the tongue 520#. Our axle is a straight Standens 3500 and looks like a 3" tube. So far, so good! The original owner added spacer blocks to lower the trailer. In the US, I would go with a Dexter axle. Their website has a lot of good information. Some people like to weld the spring perches onto the axle, but that may not be necessary. You should service the suspension if it doesn't get replaced. I would have the work done by a good shop.
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Old 02-13-2011, 09:30 AM   #9
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Name: Ken
Trailer: Bigfoot 17, 1988
Florida
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I don't understand what the downside is to moving to a stronger axle and why people are against it. I can't think of an item with a capacity or limit that I use right at the max. If I need 800gb of data storage, I don't use an 800gb drive, I get a 1 or 2 TB drive. I bought an egg vs an Airstream because I didn't want to try to tow 5,000#+ right at my truck's limit. I don't drive it until I have zero gallons of gas left, etc... It seems like with a weight capacity, the value of having some head room is high, because exceeding the limit could be major disaster. From what I see online, a heavier duty axle only costs a little more, so if I'm replacing it anyway, why not?

Also, if it is a simple bolt-on operation, why not do it myself? In my experience, no matter how good a shop or a contractor's rep is, there is at least a 50% chance they will screw something up and I'll end up fighting with them and/or getting it partially redone elsewhere or fixing it myself anyway. The last house I sold, every single contractor I hired fit into this category. I don't find intelligence or competence particularly common. If I do things myself, I just keep at it and there is nearly a 100% chance it will end up done right.
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Old 02-13-2011, 12:59 PM   #10
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Trailer: 2000 Bigfoot 17 ft (15B17CB)
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From what I see online, a heavier duty axle only costs a little more, so if I'm replacing it anyway, why not?
While I mentioned that a 3500lb axle would be adequate, especially for the older 17 Bigfoots, upgrading the axle is probably a good idea if you are replacing it anyway. It is likely the springs, bearings and brakes would need replacing on an '88, so complete axle replacement is certainly warranted.

If a higher capacity axle would give you more piece of mind, go for it! The only significant downsides are somewhat higher cost and the additional weight of the larger axle and brakes. These axles will require 15" rims with a different bolt pattern, but you were wishing to upgrade to 15" tires anyway, so this is not an additional cost consideration for you.
As I have said before, I have seen quite a few 17 Bigfoots sporting sagging axles, so the standard axle is marginal in some cases.

Steve.
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Old 02-13-2011, 05:52 PM   #11
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Name: Ken
Trailer: Bigfoot 17, 1988
Florida
Posts: 144
Thanks.

I think part of my problem is the use of the word "capacity". I have taken this literally, and thought that even running at capacity is probably a bad idea, because beyond that would mean likely bending/breakage, whereas it appears that what is meant is more along the lines of "maximum working load" There is a margin built in for the increased force of going over bumps and so forth, which explains why some axles of same tube dia and thickness are rated lower than others.

I'll probably try to upgrade to a 4400# setup with complete new springs and all, plus shock absorbers. I have been warned that the stiffer ride of a stronger axle will be noticeable and possibly add wear and tear to the trailer and contents, but if sagging axles are not uncommon, I find it hard to imagine that an extra 25% strength is going to cause noticeable problems. My tow vehicle is a Ford Ranger 4x4 with big wheels and high clearance, so the added strength might even give me a little off-road capability.
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Old 02-13-2011, 11:14 PM   #12
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Trailer: 2000 Bigfoot 17 ft (15B17CB)
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Thanks.
I have been warned that the stiffer ride of a stronger axle will be noticeable and possibly add wear and tear to the trailer and contents, but if sagging axles are not uncommon, I find it hard to imagine that an extra 25% strength is going to cause noticeable problems.
I doubt you will notice much difference in ride stiffness. You are adding shocks, which will reduce any bounce (a source of more wear and tear than increased spring stiffness IMHO). If you are still concerned about ride, you have the option of running lower tire pressures in ST225/75R15 tires than would be required with any ST size 14" tire for the same rated load. http://www.goodyear.com/rv/pdf/rv_inflation.pdf

I am using 4100lb rated springs on a 5200lb axle + shock kit, and have not noticed any major difference in ride or wear and tear - if anything, contents in the trailer now seem to suffer less on uneven roads.

Steve.
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Old 02-14-2011, 06:29 PM   #13
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Name: Ken
Trailer: Bigfoot 17, 1988
Florida
Posts: 144
Well, I broke my new tongue jack and bent the triangle it was mounted on just driving out a shallow driveway dip today. I decided to just go with having a shop here do the axle flip, as it is less than half as expensive and I kind of need it done now. I don't even want to drive it on this one trip as low as it is. I think my truck is so high and springy that the super-low height just doesn't work.
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Old 09-03-2012, 05:41 PM   #14
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Name: Skya
Trailer: In the market
Alberta
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Ken,

How did the axle flip go?

Did you have to replace the tongue or leveling jacks?

I'm interested in doing the flip on a 2006 Bigfoot 17.5...anyone else done this? Any info much appreciated.
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