Monday, March 23, 2009

The axle is here!

The new Dexter Torflex axle has arrived. Much research and deliberation went into the selection and ordering of this. I looked into buying a similar axle from two well known Airstream people. Wanting to support the A/S trailer community was the goal, but I ended up supporting my local Dexter distributor instead.

Six Robblees is the Dexter shop in town and I really like being able to walk into the store and talk to two or three sales people face to face. They really know their stuff and order these things every day. They even hid their eyes as I'm sure they rolled them many times as I asked the most obscure questions that I'm sure didn't really matter. A little silly, but I even called and talked to a Dexter engineer about a few of the questions I had about frame stiffening and exactly how to size the axle to fit this old trailer. I'd be happy to go into painstaking detail if you'd like to be put to sleep (I tried it out on Katie -- she couldn't take more than a few minutes...).

One of the big factors in deciding where to place my order (and spend my money) was shipping charges. I could get the axle shipped common carrier for about $300 in freight, and get it in two to three weeks. Or I could have it attached to a Six Robblees weekly order shipped by train and get it in four. We decided on the train, since there would not be an additional freight charge. A roll of the dice, considering I wanted to get the steel work done, welder put away and frame turned camping side up.

Three weeks to the day after ordering, they called asking me to come get the axle. I borrowed a work van to go get it.

I had weighed the old axle and springs. They weighed in at 243lb. The new setup is right at 240lb. Travis is the guy who placed the order (looks like Traw's in the photo).

Twisted Fred's arm to help me after work a few days later to get it moved onto the frame and measured into place. We bolted the brackets that weld to the frame to the axle.

Following Dexter's instructions, we found the center line of the frame. We snapped a line and clamped a straight edge on the chalk marks. Fred and I were totally amazed that this fifty year old frame was about as straight and true as we could measure. What a relief, it made the job of squaring the axle very easy.

Getting very close to tacking the brackets in place.

We squared the axle to the center line and centered the brackets laterally to the frame. A final check was to measure from the ball to the face edge of left and right brackets. I have a laser measuring device I use for work that I used to take the measurements -- the distance was the same. Totally amazing.

Got the nod from my Technical Adviser (Fred), so I went to work tacking the plates to the trailer.

After getting the plates fully tacked in place, we took the axle off and put it into storage so I could finish the welds.

'Give 'em the whole nine yards' kept looping through my head as I bounced around inch by inch on the brackets. Yards of wire fed through the mig welder to connect the plates.

I do not usually do this much welding. I hope my buddy Hugh approves of my work, he's MUCH more accomplished and technically trained than me. Did I mention I learned to weld at art school?

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