Trailer height and the Axle Connection - Fiberglass RV

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Old 04-25-2008, 06:06 PM   #1
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Trailer: 1970 Campster
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Please forgive me, but I'm a newbie with no previous trailer exposure and apparently am confused by some of the jargon associated with trailer anatomy. Now I am not sure how I can solve my dilemma and hope that someone (or many) can clarify what I need to do regarding my axle.

I recently bought a 1970 Campster that has an axle with leaf springs. When I took it to the trailer shop for a more detailed inspection and to have the bearings packed, I pointed out to the mechanic that I was not comfortable with how low the axle hung on the trailer because I frequently camp in locations that require driving distances on some pretty rough dirt roads. I also explained that I wanted to purchase a pair of 8" rims so I could put them on the trailer and wheel it under my 77" high garage door. I needed to lose about 6" from the trailer's current height if I was going to be able to put the trailer in the garage. (The current rims are 14" and the overall wheel diameter is 24".) I was also concerned with the condition of the axle and wondered if it would be worth my purchasing a torsion axle (I'd really like to have brakes too!) He responded that a torsion axle would cost more than what I paid for the trailer and that although the current axle is old, it is still in good enough condition. He thought a torsion axle would be a waste of money. Part of my inquiry about getting a torsion axle is that I am aware that they are straighter and I thought torsion axles would also provide more ground clearance than the low-slung axle that is on the trailer now.

The axle on my Campster hangs like a "U". The mechanic pointed out that the leaf springs were currently on top of the axle and are normally located on the bottom side of it. He said that the previous owner probably wanted the trailer higher and that is the reason the leaf springs were not in their normal location. Then he stated that if he "flipped the axle" and put the leaf springs on the bottom of the axle then this would, in effect, lower the trailer by about 3". Well, I was quite happy about this idea and gave him the okay. However, after I picked up the trailer last weekend and got it home, I discovered that the axle remained in the "U" position, when I had expected it to be inverted with the leaf springs on the lower side. Much to my dismay, what he had done was merely put the leaf springs on the underside of the axle. Now, the bolts holding the leaf springs onto the axle are closer to the ground than before and when I put the 8" wheels on one side of the trailer (he had called me and said the trailer was substantially lower and told me I could now get the wheels on the 8" rims and would then be able to maneuver the trailer much better than rims alone) the bolts were within 1/4" of touching the ground. The tires were so completely compressed that I discovered the wheels were too small at this point and risked being unable to move the trailer at all if I put the other small wheel on the trailer.

Now I know this may be semantics, but when someone tells you that he is going to "flip the axle" and put the leaf springs on the bottom of it wouldn't you expect the axle orientation to be inverted? To me, it sounded like he was going to do two separate things: 1) Invert the axle; and 2) Change the position of the leaf springs to the underside of the axle. I just spoke with the mechanic, who is a genuinely nice guy, and he explained that you cannot invert the axle or the wheels won't fit on the trailer. He is willing to "flip it back" but says if he does this the trailer won't fit in my garage.

So now I'm back to my original set of questions. . . Is buying a torsion axle (with brakes) going to lower the height my trailer compared to how it is with it's current axle? Will a torsion axle have more ground clearance? What size rims or rims with tires should I buy so I can get the trailer in my garage? The trailer is in my garage now with the original tires but I let a lot of air out of them and put the trailer on jacks. If I keep the original wheels I'll be forced to deal with inadequate ground clearance, when actually using the trailer, and am certain that I'll bottom out in a pothole or rut.

Thank you in advance for any pearls fo wisdom you have to offer on this subject!

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Old 04-25-2008, 07:28 PM   #2
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Name: Frederick
Trailer: Fiber Stream
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Now I know this may be semantics, but when someone tells you that he is going to "flip the axle"...
Welcome to the world of Trailer Semantics! Unfortunately, the term "Flip the axle" is not a [b]literal description of what happens. It is a bare-bones phrase... a more literal translation is to Flip the Axle Mount. My 1st trailer, a Compact Jr.was configured just like your Campster, with the same offset axle. I flipped my axle mount in order to raise the body in relation to the ground, but the axle tube clearance remained the same.

So now I'm back to my original set of questions. . . Is buying a torsion axle (with brakes) going to lower the height my trailer compared to how it is with it's current axle?
Depends on what arm setting you get... Up-angle? Down-angle? Leading arm? Trailing arm?

Will a torsion axle have more ground clearance?
I think it might, since the photos of the torsion axles I've seen show the axle "tube" against the underside of the body while leaf spring axles put the axle "tube" centered to the wheel or offset lower.

Changing to a straight leaf spring axle instead of an offset one might be a lower cost than a torsion axle...

Frederick - The Scaleman
1978 Fiber Stream 16 named "Eggstasy" & 1971 Compact Jr. named "Boomerang"
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Old 04-25-2008, 07:44 PM   #3
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Trailer: Scamp
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Flip the axles is a misnomer; 4x4 people call it a 'spring over', Dexter calls it UnderSlung or OverSlung (where the leaf springs are in relation to the axle).

The axle is never 'flipped' over; it is constructed with angles and an arch that affect the wheels and the axle strength. It is moved under the springs to get more ground clearance between the body/frame and the ground, and more height. It is moved over the springs to get bod/frame lower on top and closer to the ground.

However, the axle itself is no higher or lower, just the trailer. To get the axle higher or lower, one must change out wheels or tires (different profile) or both.

To get lots of ground clearance, some folks to a spring-over (aka over-slung) to get body clearance and then take advantage of the clearance to put on larger wheels/tires to get axle clearance.

If the bolts are closer to the ground, it's because they were pointing up before and are now pointing down. Ask mechanic if he can either reverse them (may require new hardware because some hardware has destructive lock-threads) or cut the ends off.

You can lower trailer by 1/2 the diameter of a smaller wheel/tire. I have to use smaller rims without tires to put my Scamp in garage and it rolls fine on the concrete floor.

If you put on a torsion axle with a shallow down-angle, you might be able to get trailer lower, but it would stay lower.

If you existing spindles each have a plate, between wheel and springs, about 1 1/2" square with four holes in it, you can put on brakes. On a leaf-spring axle, you may be able to have that plate welded on (but that's not possible on torsion axle).
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Old 04-25-2008, 11:12 PM   #4
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Trailer: 2000 19 ft (formerly 17 ft) Casita Freedom Deluxe ('Nuestra Casita') / 2000 4WD V8 Tundra
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Lisa H.,
There are 4 wheeled dollies which are usually used under each of the car wheels to allow it to be pushed sideways (or in any direction) for storage in tight quarters. These are quite low with fairly small wheels. I think a pair would work very well for your circumstance if there is not much of a lip between the driveway and garage floor and your tongue jack is equipped with a wheel. They could be placed under brake drums or spring mounts for use after removing the trailers tires and wheels and thus solve the low height problem.
Contemplating the possibilities is part of the fun...enjoy the process!!!

Kurt & Ann K.
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