A while back I noticed that I had a tire on our 1972 Airstream Overlander that was wearing unevenly. After 5,000 miles or so, the outside of the tire was worn bare. I thought at first that maybe the tire was unbalanced. After some research I learned that the most likely cause was a damaged axle. I also learned that some of the other problems I was having, like sheared rivets on the interior, a broken oven door, hubcaps that fell off and even the broken interior panel of my fridge, might very well be caused by axles that were no longer performing as designed.
From the 1960s on, Airstream used a torsion axle. Below is a representation of how this axle is designed. After time, the rubber rods, that are central to the design, fail. This failure results in the axles no longer cushioning the ride, with all the force of hitting potholes, road debris, etc being transmitted through the frame. After 41 years our trailer needed new axles.
Thanks to the Airforums message boards I learned that replacing the axles is a common update to older trailers and that many folks did the swap themselves. In January I contacted Colin Hyde in Peru, New York who is an Airstream restorer. He is also the distributor for Axis Axles in Elkhart, IN. After discussing my situation with Colin, I decided to do the install myself. I should qualify that last comment – by “myself” I mean me and my friend Andrew Dietz. Andrew is the Service Manager at a local VW dealership and one heck of a mechanic.
Colin has the measurements for all the Airstream trailers so all I had to do was tell him the year and model of the trailer and he ordered the axles. With shipping the axles came to just under $1,300. They are made to order so there was a build time and a screwup in shipping, so it took me about a month to get the axles.
I had to pick them up at the YRC shipping depot in Cheshire, CT, about 1/2 hr from here. The folks were very nice and helpful. Below are photos of the shipping dock and the axles in the back of my truck.
Now it was time to install them.