Camper not really movable in current state - what to do? - Fiberglass RV
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Old 07-30-2014, 12:29 PM   #1
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Camper not really movable in current state - what to do?

So we've unfortunately discovered that one (and likely both, though we haven't really looked at the curbside yet, but I'm assuming from the odd patterns of tire wear that it's in similar shape to the streetside) of our axle's hubs are completely toast - and by toast, the interior components are so rusted away that the only thing remaining is the crown nut and the hub flange (which just flops around with the wheel off)... the bearings are effectively gone.

So, as my scamp sits up on jack stands with one wheel off, and no realistic way to move it any great distance, I'm not sure what to do.

Obviously the axle needs to be replaced, which I expected to tackle, but I also assumed we'd be able to just tow it somewhere to get that done. To be honest, I'm shocked that the camper made it to our house in the first place with the one hub we've looked at in such bad shape. I think the wheel could possibly be put back on and we could maybe roll (or winch) the camper onto a trailer, but I'm not 100% certain on that as we haven't tried.

My husband seems to think that replacing the axle should be an "easy" job for anyone who can weld, and I'm really trying to talk him out of that thinking.. I'm worried about alignment, not to mention the possibility of catching the thing on fire, but he's wanting to ask our neighbor (who does welding part-time) or some guy he works with, but I don't have much confidence in that solution.

If this was your situation, how would you handle it?
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:00 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by sarahspins View Post
So we've unfortunately discovered that one (and likely both, though we haven't really looked at the curbside yet, but I'm assuming from the odd patterns of tire wear that it's in similar shape to the streetside) of our axle's hubs are completely toast - and my toast, the interior components are so rusted away that the only thing remaining is the crown nut and the hub flange (which just flops around with the wheel off)... the bearings are effectively gone.

So, as my scamp sits up on jack stands with one wheel off, and no realistic way to move it any great distance, I'm not sure what to do.

Obviously the axle needs to be replaced, which I expected to tackle, but I also assumed we'd be able to just tow it somewhere to get that done. To be honest, I'm shocked that the camper made it to our house in the first place with the one hub we've looked at in such bad shape. I think the wheel could possibly be put back on and we could maybe roll (or winch) the camper onto a trailer, but I'm not 100% certain on that as we haven't tried.

My husband seems to think that replacing the axle should be an "easy" job for anyone who can weld, and I'm really trying to talk him out of that thinking.. I'm worried about alignment, not to mention the possibility of catching the thing on fire, but he's wanting to ask our neighbor (who does welding part-time) or some guy he works with, but I don't have much confidence in that solution.

If this was your situation, how would you handle it?
One of the flat bed tow truck should be able to handle it including loading and unloading. They're not expensive, check around at tow companies and if you have AAA call them and see what they say, they just might cover the move.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:07 PM   #3
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Well, I'm assuming duct tape doesn't factor in the solution (insert obscure Red Green quote here.)

The thing about changing the axle that occurs to me is taking extra care to getting it on square to the frame. Welding it on, assuming a big enough arc welder (or gas) should be relatively straight forward. Although bolting it on might be a better option.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:19 PM   #4
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If these shade tree helpers really know their stuff, fine. But if it does not turn out correct, there may be hard feelings plus additional expenses to set it right. It's the chance you take. It might turn out totally great, but maybe not.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:21 PM   #5
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Axle and hub & bearing are two different parts. You can probably replace the hub and bearing right in the driveway making it portable again. Unless the axle spindle is chewed up.

Might only need the bearings to make it mobile. they lose their grease, rust then grind the little rods and the groove the rods spin in. They can get pretty sloppy without destroying the axle spindle shaft they go on. If the bearings seize the can damage the spindle but you might well be able to still replace the bearings and make it work for short trip to a repair facility.

This 3 minute video walks you through the process of replacing the bearings. And parts should be about $16 or so, readily available as the trailer uses a stock size.


That is where I would start get the hub off, look at the spindle, if spindle is ok replace the bearings and call it good. If the spindle shows a groove from bearing grabbing and spinning replace the bearing to make it portable enough to take in for repair. Your replacement bearings will probably need to be replaced again after running on a bad spindle but lots cheaper than towing bill and will let you get to a shop.

Lot of people replace their own axles, what you pay for at the shop is the experience and measuring they do to order the correct axle. Scamp can probably tell you the exact axle you need. That leaves experience to deal with anything "unexpected".

Axle alignment is important but the alignment is with the frame, axle bracket is welded to the frame, if bracket aligns with frame your probably good. Those that have done this job on a camper can probably offer some better advice on how to make sure it's in alignment.

Good solid welds are a plus too, and that frame tube is not super heavy so the skill of the welder does matter.
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Old 07-30-2014, 01:29 PM   #6
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Bearings are cheap get a set of bearings, races and seals. Knock off the old stuff and replace with new with new grease. Once you separate the old stuff clean off the spindles and send a picture our way. If worst case you may have to chisel the bearing centers off the spindle and run a file over the surface so you can get new ones on then you should be able to move the thing and have it checked for proper repair. The hard part is getting a proper order filled out for a replacement axle that fits. As for welding it in anyone who can weld properly knows if they are up to the task or not. If the person doing the work has to be talked into the job you need to go find someone else. Check You tube for a video on replacing trailer bearings.
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Old 07-30-2014, 02:06 PM   #7
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I cannot add anything not already covered about the bearings, and am not really competent to do so anyway. I have however driven past a Holiday Inn Express and changed the axle all by my lonesome on my Scamp 16. Two words: ďwitness marksĒ. Make marks on the frame, body and everywhere BEFORE cutting the old axle loose. Use these marks to align the new axle (which undoubtedly will have different mounts) to the same relative locations on each side of the trailer. If the old axle pulled true and the new one is not cattiwhompus (technical term) then you will be good to go.
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Old 07-30-2014, 04:16 PM   #8
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Before buying tires think about your purchase as many people swapping out axles change from 4 lug to 5 lug rims so you don't want to do the tire thing twice.
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Old 07-30-2014, 05:34 PM   #9
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Bearings and seals

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevebaz View Post
Bearings are cheap get a set of bearings, races and seals. Knock off the old stuff and replace with new with new grease. Once you separate the old stuff clean off the spindles and send a picture our way. If worst case you may have to chisel the bearing centers off the spindle and run a file over the surface so you can get new ones on then you should be able to move the thing and have it checked for proper repair. The hard part is getting a proper order filled out for a replacement axle that fits. As for welding it in anyone who can weld properly knows if they are up to the task or not. If the person doing the work has to be talked into the job you need to go find someone else. Check You tube for a video on replacing trailer bearings.
Hi I am a commercial member and sell these items on my website Fiberglass Travel Trailers RV.
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Old 07-31-2014, 08:09 AM   #10
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I agree that all you may need is new bearings and races, and maybe new hubs at the most. There are no parts that actually rotate on the axle stub itself. Unless it was badly scored, due to a frozen bearing race rotating on it, it could be salvageable.

In a worse case scenario, cleaning everything up and installing new bearings and races may give you the ability to tow it a reasonable distance for proper repairs.

As a caution, there are a number of peeps on the site that can tackle projects well over the heads of most owners. In as much as you are trusting your investment, as well as your life (and those of others on the road) to a properly done axle replacement, I side with you to turn a thumbs down to the guy down the street or any one else than doesn't have some experience in the task at hand. Any money you save up front will be quickly eaten up re-doing a job done wrong.



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Old 07-31-2014, 09:15 AM   #11
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I had already thought about the wheels/tires and planned on replacing both when I get the new axle. The current tires are in rough shape but would certainly get the camper somewhere to get the axle replaced, if the bearing situation is resolved

It was too late (and dark) to mess with getting a better look at the spindles last night, but I will tackle that later this afternoon.

We haven't asked the neighbor about the axle replacement yet - if he seems confident that he could tackle the job then I'd be happy to let him do it, my reluctance had more to do with my husband's buddy at work - I wouldn't trust him any more than I would trust my husband to do it if he still owned a welder.
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Old 07-31-2014, 10:33 AM   #12
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I had already thought about the wheels/tires and planned on replacing both when I get the new axle. The current tires are in rough shape but would certainly get the camper somewhere to get the axle replaced, if the bearing situation is resolved

It was too late (and dark) to mess with getting a better look at the spindles last night, but I will tackle that later this afternoon.

We haven't asked the neighbor about the axle replacement yet - if he seems confident that he could tackle the job then I'd be happy to let him do it, my reluctance had more to do with my husband's buddy at work - I wouldn't trust him any more than I would trust my husband to do it if he still owned a welder.
5 bolt rims are the most common, if you have brakes on the new axle you will probably want to switch to 5 bolt rims. If the rims are 13 inch most 13 inch trailer tires would fit both 4 bolt or 5 bolt rims. Some folks switch to 14 inch tires when replacing an axle, some stay with the stock 13 inch. When you get to the point of replacing axle post a thread on it and you will get lots of information and good advice.

If or when you replace the axle I would suggest getting them with brakes or at least the backing plate that would allow you to add brakes. During your own use the trailer will be more comfortable to drive with brakes and on resale having brakes or at least the ability to add them adds value. People tow these light weight trailers with smaller vehicles which makes having trailer brakes more important.

Don't know your neighbor or the buddy at work. There are a lot of people with a high level of skill in many areas on this site and in the world. The good ones will tell you right up front if they feel it's a job they don't feel comfortable doing or have concerns about. The ones to watch out for are the ones who say "well I've never done it but how hard can it be?".

I don't even know if you or your husband have the ability to change wheel bearings. I'm going to guess you will look at the video and decide if you feel you can handle that task. Or get someone to come over and help whom you trust to guide you through the process. Always easier with a mentor on hand.
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Old 07-31-2014, 10:43 AM   #13
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don't even know if you or your husband have the ability to change wheel bearings.
I am confident in my ability to at least take apart the spindle a bit further... I don't see replacing the bearings to be that difficult if the spindle is at least in fair condition. Right now it's covered in rusted apart junk, so it's hard to say until I have a chance to take it apart more. I will take some pictures before and during that process.

I do know that my trailer got new tires about 2 1/2 years ago so I can only assume that the bearings weren't in such poor shape then, but it's hard to say for certain, especially given the unusual wear patterns on the tires. Everything I was told about the trailer by the PO (such as bouncing when not loaded) led me to suspect the axle was shot before I got it (which again, I was okay with), but I didn't expect there to basically be no bearings... that is complicating things.
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:09 AM   #14
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I am confident in my ability to at least take apart the spindle a bit further... I don't see replacing the bearings to be that difficult if the spindle is at least in fair condition. Right now it's covered in rusted apart junk, so it's hard to say until I have a chance to take it apart more. I will take some pictures before and during that process.

I do know that my trailer got new tires about 2 1/2 years ago so I can only assume that the bearings weren't in such poor shape then, but it's hard to say for certain, especially given the unusual wear patterns on the tires. Everything I was told about the trailer by the PO (such as bouncing when not loaded) led me to suspect the axle was shot before I got it (which again, I was okay with), but I didn't expect there to basically be no bearings... that is complicating things.
I sort of figure someone that used to have a welder probably has some mechanical aptitude. I generally assume that folks will not tackle a suggested repair if they don't think they can do it. Unless the say they have no idea about how to do it.

Pictures would be good, next person that comes along with a similar problem may find them most useful.

Bad bearing will cause rapid tire wear, but a shot axle will also cause uneven tire wear from bounce scuffing.

Depending on how bad the suspension is you might well be able to use camper for short trips even before you replace the axle if the spindle is ok. Good to know the PO was upfront on the axle condition so at least that need was not the unpleasant surprise the bearing condition turned out to be. Hopefully it will all work out smoothly.
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:39 AM   #15
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Made a quick trip home for lunch and snapped some pics, spindle is definately not okay :P

See what used to be the bearing? Yeah, not so awesome


Harder to see because of the sun, but the underside of the spindle is worn away and metal has been pushed over the crown nut, making removal impossible without some grinding away of material (I didn't even try, obviously).


uneven tire wear - the other side is very similar, but not quite as worn down


I wouldn't say that the PO was upfront about the axle condition, more like blissfully ignorant. They told me that they had it checked when they got it 2 1/2 years before and everything was "great", but then everything they described was basically to the letter of what you'd expect when the axle is worn out (trailer bouncy when towing unless LOTS of weight is put on the tongue, and obvious to me it was sitting VERY low, and the arms are at about a 20˚ up angle). So based on that I expected to replace it the near future, I just didn't really expect the mess that I have on my hands now

I didn't tow this trailer home since my husband's truck was in the shop for an airbag issue, but the PO towed it about 55 miles in this condition - we have only moved it (by hand) a few feet to make access to the side marker lights easier since we had parked it between our house and a shed.. but we discovered when I went to replace two broken side marker lights (the old housings had been smashed) that none of the lights worked as we received it, and only one of the new side marker lights worked (old/corroded wiring was to blame for the other, when tested with a battery it lit up just fine). I decided at that point and a lack of continuity in the wires I checked that I would just replace all of the trailer wiring as well as the other 4 lights, I just haven't gotten around to tackling that job yet.
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Old 07-31-2014, 11:56 AM   #16
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WOW !! I've never seen an axle or bearings that bad. It's just scary that the PO was pulling this thing around in that condition. Maybe the only option now is a rollback truck to move it. May have to put some kind of wood skids or dollys under it to even do that.
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Old 07-31-2014, 12:13 PM   #17
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That was my husbands immediate impression. I think if we put the wheel back on (realizing of course that it's a less than optimal solution) that it could probably be loaded on a flatbed trailer and towed somewhere safely.. but I wouldn't directly tow it behind a vehicle of course
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Old 07-31-2014, 12:24 PM   #18
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Lord have mercy! That is one messed up situation.

One might with a grinder and file get bearings on that mess that would allow you to move it a short distance. But this is coming from someone that once used a welder to build up an axle with a groove cut in it and then grind down the welds to a mostly round shape so bearing would go on. In my defense trailer only had to go a few miles on back roads and then was going to remain on that farm property to move stuff around at low speeds.

Might be time to see about an axle and that neighbor who welds or a shop that offers portable welding service. Norm and Ginny had a frame break in a campground and welder came out with portable rig and made the repair at a good price.

I don't know that without wheels a dolly can move that but I'm no authority on towing and wrecker equipment.

Man what a mess for you to have to deal with!
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Old 07-31-2014, 12:41 PM   #19
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Well I've contacted one local shop about acquiring the axle so we'll see where that goes... It *does* roll with the wheel on, it's just not very secure, so I do think it could be loaded on a flatbed trailer.
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Old 07-31-2014, 12:51 PM   #20
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Flatbed trailer should have a dolly for the wheels. That's how they move wrecked cars.
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