Axle Questions from a complete beginner

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css9343

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Hey all! I'm currently diving into a build of a RTT/overland small camping trailer. Think 4x6-5x8, somewhere in that territory.

I have run into a dilemma. I stripped down a free popup camper and cut down the frame to just over 4.5 x 6ft. It has a 30 year old Dexter rubber torsion axle, and talking with some folks it might not be useable anymore.

So I'm down to a decision between buying a 3500lb axle kit and mounting it on this frame, or looking for a used Tractor Supply trailer or something similar. My concern is the axle rating. Most of those trailers have a 2000 or 2200lb axle rating. Is that enough for a small 5x8ish RTT camper? We'll have about 700-800lbs of tent, people, and metal framing before any gear gets loaded, and we'll probably have bikes and typical camping gear. We do try to pack light though.

Either way I go I'll repack bearings and get new tires, so those factors aren't a concern.

I've attached a photo of my current situation. I'd hate to get rid of the trailer frame I have if I can find a matching axle, it's a really sturdy steel frame.PXL_20220118_220016458.jpg
PXL_20220118_220155169.jpg
 

css9343

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For those following along at home, my options are currently a heavier duty 5x8 trailer with 3500lb axle and new wheels for $800, a 4x8 lightweight trailer with a 2000lb axle that would need some reinforcement for $250, or buying the parts to complete my existing frame for $450+
 

zgfiredude

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I have also read that supply chain bs has affected axle availability, don't know if you have located an axle only option.
 

css9343

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I have also read that supply chain bs has affected axle availability, don't know if you have located an axle only option.
Great point. I did locate a dealer with the right size axle, all together would be around $450 but who knows how long the delivery would take
 

css9343

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Great point. I did locate a dealer with the right size axle, all together would be around $450 but who knows how long the delivery would take
The main question I think is if a 3500lb axle is desirable for these type of trailers or is it more along the lines of a 2000lb axle
 

Longshot270

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Torsion are cool and have applications where they cannot be beat, but I prefer regular axles on leaf springs because I can isolate variables more easily. A light weight trailer can easily be built with light suspension on a heavy duty 1 ton truck axle from a junk yard, you won’t get the same results putting a light trailer on a heavy duty torsion.
The heavier duty suspension means your gear will take more of a beating, especially if the tires are over inflated or not balanced or you are going over rough terrain. The weight of occupants isn’t relevant in my opinion because stabilizers or jacks will eliminate the static weight bearing part of the discussion. Your math needs to be oriented towards fully loaded going down the road to decide on suspension.
I’m of the school of thought that I want the trailer as light as I can get it. Keep the trailer light and the light axle won’t be a problem. Our camper started as a 5x8 TSC utility trailer that I built a 4x5x8 slide in camper box. The downside is it came with an angled 2k axle so I can’t flip it to be under the leaf springs without getting out the welder, which I’ll be doing soon. A benefit is that I can move this trailer by hand to reposition. Two people can roll it around and the truck doesn’t even notice it back there compared to the weight we often have in the bed. We’ve also thrashed little trailers like these and they do surprisingly well, but go heavier duty metal if you know you’ll be shaking it hard on trails. We don’t go wheeling in the camper and truck, that’s what the bikes are for.
 

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css9343

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Contributor I

68
Rochester, NY, USA
First Name
Christopher
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Simmons
Torsion are cool and have applications where they cannot be beat, but I prefer regular axles on leaf springs because I can isolate variables more easily. A light weight trailer can easily be built with light suspension on a heavy duty 1 ton truck axle from a junk yard, you won’t get the same results putting a light trailer on a heavy duty torsion.
The heavier duty suspension means your gear will take more of a beating, especially if the tires are over inflated or not balanced or you are going over rough terrain. The weight of occupants isn’t relevant in my opinion because stabilizers or jacks will eliminate the static weight bearing part of the discussion. Your math needs to be oriented towards fully loaded going down the road to decide on suspension.
I’m of the school of thought that I want the trailer as light as I can get it. Keep the trailer light and the light axle won’t be a problem. Our camper started as a 5x8 TSC utility trailer that I built a 4x5x8 slide in camper box. The downside is it came with an angled 2k axle so I can’t flip it to be under the leaf springs without getting out the welder, which I’ll be doing soon. A benefit is that I can move this trailer by hand to reposition. Two people can roll it around and the truck doesn’t even notice it back there compared to the weight we often have in the bed. We’ve also thrashed little trailers like these and they do surprisingly well, but go heavier duty metal if you know you’ll be shaking it hard on trails. We don’t go wheeling in the camper and truck, that’s what the bikes are for.
Fantastic advice. I'm thinking our trailer will be about 1500lbs fully loaded going down the road, including the trailer weight itself. With that in mind do you think a 3500 axle would be overkill? The only other use I want for the trailer is hauling mulch or lawn mowers or drywall. The trailer I have my eye on now is a 5x8 with a 3500lb axle and I'm assuming matching leaf springs.
 

Longshot270

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Fantastic advice. I'm thinking our trailer will be about 1500lbs fully loaded going down the road, including the trailer weight itself. With that in mind do you think a 3500 axle would be overkill? The only other use I want for the trailer is hauling mulch or lawn mowers or drywall. The trailer I have my eye on now is a 5x8 with a 3500lb axle and I'm assuming matching leaf springs.
I don't think there is a such thing as overkill for an axle, just over springing which decreases the life span of camping gear and can occasionally increase the mortality of carbonated beverages. You can compensate with reduced tire pressure but that only does so much. The tires and suspension should work together.
If the price is right, I'd go for it. If it rides too rough, swap the springs. It isn't hard to do, even with basic tools. But now that you are considering loading it up with drywall or a load of soil/mulch, for safety, it needs to be able to handle that load and everything else comes second.
 

css9343

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Rochester, NY, USA
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Christopher
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Simmons
I don't think there is a such thing as overkill for an axle, just over springing which decreases the life span of camping gear and can occasionally increase the mortality of carbonated beverages. You can compensate with reduced tire pressure but that only does so much. The tires and suspension should work together.
If the price is right, I'd go for it. If it rides too rough, swap the springs. It isn't hard to do, even with basic tools. But now that you are considering loading it up with drywall or a load of soil/mulch, for safety, it needs to be able to handle that load and everything else comes second.
I might go for the 3500lb axle trailer and just get some lower weight springs. Even with mulch or drywall I shouldn't grab more than 1000lbs at a time, and even then that's a stretch.
 

Longshot270

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I don't think there is a such thing as overkill for an axle, just over springing which decreases the life span of camping gear and can occasionally increase the mortality of carbonated beverages. You can compensate with reduced tire pressure but that only does so much. The tires and suspension should work together.
If the price is right, I'd go for it. If it rides too rough, swap the springs. It isn't hard to do, even with basic tools. But now that you are considering loading it up with drywall or a load of soil/mulch, for safety, it needs to be able to handle that load and everything else comes second.
I might go for the 3500lb axle trailer and just get some lower weight springs. Even with mulch or drywall I shouldn't grab more than 1000lbs at a time, and even then that's a stretch.
Yeah, and try it out a few times first. Don't mess with it if it doesn't need it. The trailer might do just fine. Sometimes just changing the arrangement of gear can have a surprising effect on road manners. I'd also try high ratio tires and the right air pressure within reason before downgrading springs.
 

css9343

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Christopher
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Yeah, and try it out a few times first. Don't mess with it if it doesn't need it. The trailer might do just fine. Sometimes just changing the arrangement of gear can have a surprising effect on road manners. I'd also try high ratio tires and the right air pressure within reason before downgrading springs.
Yeah this trailer looks like it has 14 or 15 inch wheels, so I should be able to get a good set of tires and they'll be lower pressure than normal trailer tires
 

JDGreens

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One thing to mention is if the trailer suspension is to rough couldn't you remove one leaf to allow a little smoother ride ? Especially if it is only weighing in at just a little over half it's maximum pay load. I bought leaf springs for my trailer they are rated for 3.5k which is probably overkill but I figure I may do that to see how things go. If it doesn't work out just add it back in.
 

css9343

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One thing to mention is if the trailer suspension is to rough couldn't you remove one leaf to allow a little smoother ride ? Especially if it is only weighing in at just a little over half it's maximum pay load. I bought leaf springs for my trailer they are rated for 3.5k which is probably overkill but I figure I may do that to see how things go. If it doesn't work out just add it back in.
I don't know enough about leaf springs to say, but if I had a 3500lb axle I'd probably get 1750 rating on each leaf spring and see how it goes from there