**Note: The video is not instructional. It is a mix of pictures and video clips showing our experience of changing our Airstream’s axles.
Carl is always thinking of something when it comes to our Airstream and our traveling lifestyle. For the past year, as we talked about a trip to Alaska sometime in the future, his focus has been on the amount of clearance we get with our Airstream. Given our penchant to boondock when we can, a few more inches of clearance would come in handy.
However, given the age of our Airstream (17 years) and knowing Airstream axles have a life of 15-20 years, he decided to change out the axles instead of just installing a lift kit.
The number one reason to change out axles is because of their age. Another, less important reason, would be to take the expensive route to give an RV some more clearance by choosing axles with higher brackets and increased down angles. We decided to give our Airstream new axles with a lift at the same time – a two-for-one!
Carl is the DIYer Extraordinaire—not yet running into a project he can’t do himself (or with some help). He typically does extensive research on any project he pursues. He read axle posts on the Airstream forum, and he watched YouTube videos to get an idea of what would be involved in changing them out himself. He also spent time determining where he would purchase the axles, thinking about where the company’s locations were to decide if we would pick up the axles or have them shipped, and talking extensively on the phone with a company representative to make sure he was ordering exactly what was needed.
He ordered Dexter axles from RedNeck Trailer, and we picked them up at their location in Lincolnton, North Carolina since we have been in NC for the past several months. It took about six weeks for the axles to be ready. He ordered axles with 3-inch high brackets—versus the standard 1 inch—and a 32-degree down angle for the wheels, giving us about 4.5 more inches of clearance! Our Airstream’s original down angle was 10 degrees with a 1-inch high bracket (from the factory).
The total cost (including tax; no shipping) for two axles was $2,240.70. He reused the wheel hubs, repacking the bearings as he put them back on, and he bought new self-adjusting electric brakes online for under $300.00.
It was easily a 12-hour job, with the help of his brother Brad. The first order of business was determining where to change out the axles. A nice, flat surface with plenty of space and easy access to tools is important. Brad’s driveway in Fayetteville, NC fit the criteria. Once we had the Airstream situated in his driveway, Carl placed FOUR (2-ton and 3-ton) jack stands underneath, then used a 3-ton floor jack to jack up each side to remove the tires and brake assemblies and to spray the axle nuts with PB Blaster. (The nuts had previously been sprayed a few days prior to give it time to work.) This was done on Friday evening and took a couple of hours.
On Saturday morning, after replacing a motor mount in our sister-in-law’s vehicle, Carl and Brad began the arduous work of removing the old axles and replacing with the new axles. A skateboard and furniture dolly were used to move the axles. The guys took their time each step of the way, making sure the Airstream was well-supported and confirming they weren’t missing anything. By about 7pm that evening, our Airstream had new axles, new brakes, and 4.5 more inches of clearance (which will make getting into and out of the Airstream a little more adventurous!). Carl adjusted our ProPride hitch the next morning, and we pulled our Airstream back to Garner, NC (about an hour away) with no incidents. The brakes work well, and the Airstream rode as if it had a new lease on life!
What would we do differently? Well, during the first several hours of the project, we were able to borrow another 2-ton floor jack which helped tremendously and made the job safer. Instead of the 3-ton jack stands, we would use 6-ton jack stands which are also taller. And we would reuse the old bolts, washers, and nuts, saving about $30 on new pieces.
Carl’s main motivating factors on doing anything himself are MONEY and doing the job to know it is done right. Since we are on a fixed income, and since he enjoys these types of projects, we saved over $4,000.00 (to be used as fuel money).
My main concern was their safety while doing this project. They are both in their sixties but haven’t yet come to the realization that some tasks might be better suited for younger, stronger people. I was happy and relieved to watch them be cautious and take their time through the entire process. I think it took both of them a couple of days to recuperate, as they were exhausted when done, but the satisfaction of successfully completing this project along with replacing a motor mount in one vehicle and (yes, a third project that same weekend!) two new struts on another vehicle will stay with them for a long time.
Thank you, Brad and Val, for letting us use your driveway for this project. Thank you, Brad, for your excellent assistance. And major KUDOS to Carl for pursuing and completing this challenging project.