RV Trailer Axle life? Torsion axles have a service life of about 10 to 1 - Fiberglass RV
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Old 08-31-2022, 07:51 AM   #1
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Name: Shangie
Trailer: Northwood Nash 22/1977 Trillium 4500
Washington
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RV Trailer Axle life? Torsion axles have a service life of about 10 to 1

After recently looking at another 2006 Casita 17 and inspecting the axle, we agree with this helpful article about replacing axles, especially since Torsion axles have a service life of about 10 to 12 years: https://www.humbleandfree.com/casita-axle-replacement/

This is the second Casita (one a 16', the other the 17') we have looked at that needed a new axle but the price did not reflect that. We also saw lots of subtle rust in the interiors- little things here and there, including rusted rivets. The ones we looked at were 15 and 16 years of age and very nice looking at first glance. Once we opened everything and inspected hinges, etc, we were reminded that older trailers certainly have issues, which is to be expected no matter how well maintained the unit appears.

The question when purchasing one is budget and time available for repairs whether you DIY or take it to a shop. Now checking into where we could get an axle and how much to install it.
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Old 08-31-2022, 08:25 AM   #2
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Not sure where the rust is coming from, but Aluminum rivets don't rust.

My 2008 Casita is 14 years old and my axle is still in good shape. I know some people who have had their Casitas, with the original Dexter axles, for more than 20 years and are still running fine on them. Yes, the rubber in the axles does eventually deteriorate, as all rubber things will over time, but most of them are still in service after 15-20 years.

Anyway, factor in about $1K for a new axle if it needs it. And also be aware that Casita has "upped" their prices considerably this past year. A new 2023 model, BASE price, no extras and options, is now over $32K, and they're already sold out on their 2023 production. Yes, they went up over $6K just recently. I bought mine back in 2008 for $16K with every option they offered. They've more than doubled in price in just 14 years. Obviously, this will also spread to the used Casita market as well. I'd expect all the used ones will also go up in price as well. It's driven by supply and demand.

And those Dexter 3,500 Lb rated Torflex axles are prolific. Use your search engine and you'll find dozens of Dexter dealers all over the country. They are probably one of the most common RV and small trailer axles ever made, and are available all over the country.
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Old 08-31-2022, 08:33 AM   #3
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That is a very conservative estimate of axle life, and probably only applies to rough commercial service with daily use and heavy loads.

In occasional RV service with good maintenance and no abuse (curb strikes, deep potholes…) I’d expect 20 years with minimal deterioration of ride quality and without unusual tire wear. Absent visible damage or symptoms, there’s no reason to proactively replace an axle. As long as the attachment points are solid, there’s no safety issue.
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Old 08-31-2022, 10:34 AM   #4
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Name: Shangie
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Axle Wear

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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
That is a very conservative estimate of axle life, and probably only applies to rough commercial service with daily use and heavy loads.

In occasional RV service with good maintenance and no abuse (curb strikes, deep potholes…) I’d expect 20 years with minimal deterioration of ride quality and without unusual tire wear. Absent visible damage or symptoms, there’s no reason to proactively replace an axle. As long as the attachment points are solid, there’s no safety issue.
None of us can really know the history of how an owner drove with their trailer. Maintenance is also an unknown unless complete records are available. The good news is that the cost is not that great for what one gets when replacing an axle unless the fiberglass is cracked which we saw on a 2005 that was rattled all over New Mexico/Arizona back roads on an old axle.

Rubber degrades regardless of mantenance- that is why we change out tires even when they have lots of thread life. Our boat and RV trailers get changed out every five years on a maintenance schedule unless something occurs before then.
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Old 08-31-2022, 10:39 AM   #5
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Thanks- Yes, worked out the cost. It is not that great an expense with regards to maintaining an older trailer in top shape. Rubber degrades over time, which is why we change our boat and trailer as well as our RV trailer tires on a five year schedule.

Yes, a trailer may have an original 20 year torsion axle and appear to be fine but we can assume the rubber is degraded because rubber degrades and it would be rare that it did not. Once a person loses shock absorption, the fiberglass is in increased jeopardy.
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Old 08-31-2022, 10:48 AM   #6
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Perhaps the rivets were replaced with non aluminum? Or perhaps the owner put in stainless washers which is not a good combination with aluminum. They had to change several out due to leaking and this one was where the television was attached. Trailers just rattle down the road, another reason to replace an axle before the bitter end.

I think a lot of what we see in older fiberglass trailers is no different than we se in any RV: Maintenance is critical as is knowing how to correctly do that maintenance.

We have bought trailers form people who portrayed themselves as experts in the maintenance department only to find they were experts in jerry rigging and opinions not based in fact or even experience, at times.
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Old 08-31-2022, 11:03 AM   #7
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Interesting read here regarding how you know....

https://www.boler.ca/2017/05/19/torsion-axle/
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Old 08-31-2022, 11:16 AM   #8
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Excellent JerryBob! Once again " As a general rule of thumb an axle that is 15-20 years old probably needs replacing."

It just makes sense. We change out 12 tires every five years on our 'Toys" even if they have little use and look great we know the rubber has deteriorated. Sure we could stretch it and some people get away with doing that as our last boat trailer owner did because all he had to go was two miles down a 25 mph road to launch using nine year old tires. We winced all the way home and would have replaced them in the small town we bought the boat from had it not been a Sunday and everything was closed.

We looked at a 2005 FG trailer and the owner said the trailer was really bouncy along with the door latch not working right. Both those might indicate, in an older tailer with original axle, that the axle may be worn out.

This forum is great for educating prospective buyers and current owners about what to expect, costs, whether parts are available, etc. And the forum helps educate people as to what RV common sense is, including scheduled maintenance items. I would conclude, after reading manufacturer data and experiences from others who had issues, a trailer axle is a fifteen -20 year maintenance item just to keep things in top shape even if the axle seems okay because the rubber has deteriorated.

I would think lack of proper shock absorption would put the fiberglass at risk but I may be wrong there?
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Old 08-31-2022, 11:35 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shangie View Post
None of us can really know the history of how an owner drove with their trailer. Maintenance is also an unknown unless complete records are available. The good news is that the cost is not that great for what one gets when replacing an axle unless the fiberglass is cracked which we saw on a 2005 that was rattled all over New Mexico/Arizona back roads on an old axle.

Rubber degrades regardless of mantenance- that is why we change out tires even when they have lots of thread life. Our boat and RV trailers get changed out every five years on a maintenance schedule unless something occurs before then.
I wouldn't be so quick to blame the axle for the fiberglass damage on the trailer you saw. 15 years on AZ/NM back roads is going to take a toll regardless of the axle age. Scamps are not off-road trailers.

But in any case, it's another symptom of hard use. What I said was, "Absent visible damage or symptoms, there’s no reason to proactively replace an axle," and I'll stand by that statement. Advising everyone to replace axles after just 10-12 years regardless of use and condition is a waste of money and resources.

You can do what you think best with your money, of course, but I am confident my 14 year old axle is still supple and roadworthy. I know that because I can verify proper function with a stationary lift test and a road test.

Tires are a huge safety issue and more deserving of proactive replacement, especially with an unknown history. Rubber in tires degrades more quickly than the rubber cords in a torsion axle.
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Old 08-31-2022, 01:38 PM   #10
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I think that how the trailer is stored would make a difference as well. Using jack stands in storage would help keep the weight off the inner rubber & hopefully preventing or delaying permanent deformation.
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Old 08-31-2022, 02:24 PM   #11
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Jon, Totally agree on not blaming every problem on manufacturers. And at 14 years, you probably do have several years left on your axle.

And yes, unless the trailer is rated and set up for off road, much damage can be done that might not be apparent for years. I had a 1975 Scout (my favorite vehicle ever) set up for off roading and it still suffered premature maintenance needs from taking on teeth jarring roads.

Sellers simply cannot be aware of every thing that is wrong or about to go wrong with their trailers. A good water connection could rattle apart a hundred miles down the road, flooding your new to you trailer. Naturally you take your chances with the used stuff and even some of the new from what I have seen on RV forums online.
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Old 09-07-2022, 06:47 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Shangie View Post
Yes, a trailer may have an original 20 year torsion axle and appear to be fine but we can assume the rubber is degraded because rubber degrades and it would be rare that it did not. Once a person loses shock absorption, the fiberglass is in increased jeopardy.
I think that you are overthinking the deterioration of the rubber INSIDE the axle. Yes, I said INSIDE.... as in INSIDE the metal axle housing where the rubber is located is an area not subject to UV light.

Chinabomb Tow Master exposed to UV light deteriorate in 4 years
USA-made Goodyear Marathon tires exposed to UV light deteriorate in 6 years.
USA-made Goodyear Marathon tires protected from UV light are still good 10 years after the DOT manufacture date.

My last 6000-mile family trip was delayed (and the side of the 2004 camper destroyed) because of a blowout on a 4-year-old china bomb. The 17-year-old torsion axles were still perfectly intact.

Just replaced that trailer with 2012 (manufactured 3/2011) and USA-made Goodyear Marathon tires manufacture date codes 3110 and 3210. All five tires have NO weather checking because the trailer was protected from UV light when not used once a year for the past 10 years.

So please stop fussing over rubber deterioration INSIDE your Dexter Tor-Flex axle housing. The rubber IS protected from UV light.
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Old 09-07-2022, 07:50 PM   #13
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I don't think that the rubber would deteriorate from UV. The usual thing is that the rubber ages and gets hard and less resilient.
In the case of most of the torsion axles there rubber rods that are compressed between the axle outer metal box and the internal shaft that springs the arm.
In the case of the old airstream axles they could have the rubber replaced as a service function and the life extended.
Current axles do not offer this today.
In the case of the Flexiride axle instead of pinching rubber rods between the housing and the internal shaft the rubber is vulcanized in the housing with the shaft embedded within the rubber. The hysteresis between the shaft and housing of the rubber provides the springing action.
Which lasts longer? who knows.
I chose the Flexiride because the angle of the arms is adjustable and replaceable and the axle is also replaceable if damaged.
The axles are replaceable and not that expensive as related to the value of the campers. Not many small trailers other than these molded fiberglass ones are worth replacing the axles as in the length of time to wear out the axle they are basically scrap.
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