New running gear will get us around safely and smoothly. After 40 years, the rubber torsion axles on our Airstream are shot, the brakes are dodgy, and the tires are ticking time-bombs. Brand new running gear will not just help us get around safely, but it'll cushion our ride to prevent damage to the coach and its contents.
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Our generation of Airstream uses Duratorque axles. They are made with a rubber core that serves as the suspension system, allowing the wheels to bounce independently of the frame to cushion the ride. After sitting for decades, the rubber tends to dry out and lose its bounce, and the axles need to be replaced. A complete axle assembly also includes brand new hubs, drums, bearings, grease seals, and brakes.
The correct axles are still available, made by a company called Dexter and distributed by a lot of different folks. The most recommended source on Airforums is Colin Hyde, a guy who is difficult to get a hold of, but will get you direct bolt-on replacements. Probably worth the trouble to email him a few times to get what you need.
I bought my axles from Andy Rogozinski from Inland RV Center. He got on the phone and talked to me about what I needed. We agreed to upgrade my axles from 2800 lbs to 3500 lbs each and from 10" to 12" brakes. The larger axles meant I had to slightly modify the frame because the axle tube was a bit thicker and the bolts didn't all line up. The hardware included was mostly not the right size, so I bought other hardware to install at Lowes, which carries Grade 8 fasteners in the hardware aisle drawers. The axles drop-shipped from a company called Redneck Trailer Supplies.
I replaced our rims with brand new ones from Vintage Trailer Supply, and got the matching dome hubcaps. The downside of these rims is they're only rated for 75 PSI. If I had a heavier trailer, that might be a problem, but I don't. Lots of folks change their rims to 16" (also available from VTS) so that they can mount Michelin truck tires instead of trailer tires. I went with 15" rims and trailer tires.
It took me a long time to find trailer tires with good reviews. We settled on Maxxis M8008's, which are massive overkill for our lightweight Airstream, but I'll take overkill any day over blowouts. The most common factory installed tires are Goodyear Marathons. Start a thread on any RV forum, and you'll get several horror stories of members whose trailers have had multiple blowouts on Goodyear Marathons. Maybe it's just selection bias and the fact that there are so many Goodyear Marathons on the road, but I feel more comfortable running tires that don't have such a bad reputation.
Spare Tire Carrier
Airstream didn't originally install a spare tire carrier on our trailer, but the frame is prepped for one. We lose some ground clearance by adding this under the A-frame, but the weight distribution bars run even lower, so I don't expect it's ever going to be a problem.
This handy little device mounts behind your wheel, and through some interesting physics, automatically balances your wheels while they're rolling. Benefits include less wear on the tires, and less damage to your coach from vibration. Inland RV offers a discount on these when you buy them with a complete axle.