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Old 01-31-2009, 12:33 PM   #1
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Axle/Frame Cracks on our 2499

This is probably going to be a long post, so you might want to go refresh your drink before you start reading.

Cindy and I were getting ready to take off the first of next week (February 2nd) and get back on the road. I brought the 2499 into General RV to have the brakes looked at and have them pack the axle bearings before we leave.

Surprisingly our brakes are still the original units and we've logged 50,000 miles give or take a few. 60,000 on the truck, so we think the coach might have been off for 10,000 or around their.

The service manager called saying that they didnt think the drums could be turned any more and asked if I wanted to replace the entire backing plates and all. Since this is our home and we move so much, I told them to just throw on completely new brakes all the way around just to be safe.

Then a few hours later I got a phone call that was both good and bad news. Very bad news considering that he told me when they pulled off the entire brake system, it revealed that where my axles mount to the frame, the mounting plates were cracked and peeling away from the frame itself.

I consider this good news for the fact that we are home right now and not finding this out while on the road, or worse yet watching as our house goes off the road due to losing an axle while driving.

So the next few days was spent with me and the General Manager along with the Service Manager of General RV spending a few hours on the phone and internet trying to figure out how to remedy this situation. I'd like to say a HUGE 'Thank You' to everyone over at the Novi location for their help and amazing service they do for us. Top Notch all the way around and the best we've ever seen in any industry.

Here is a update on what we've come up with. I should note that everyone should look at their axle plates just to be on the safe side, but I also dont blame anyone because I know that we have the camper loaded down to its maximum weight restrictions and put on more miles down some of the roughest roads than most do in the entire lifetime of their coach.

Our first call was to the insurance company thinking we were going to have to replace both axles. $1600 a piece for the 3500lb Al-Ko Soft Ride Axles. Not really in our budget right now. We also looked into upgrading the axles to the next weight limit size which is 4000-7000lb soft ride axles, but the guys from Al-Ko said that would make the ride very harsh and actually be the opposite of what the axles were meant to do.

Insurance company let us know that since this wasnt an accident and we didnt hit anything to cause this, it falls under the clause of Wear & Tear and is something that isnt covered.

Next call was to Al-Ko to see if the axles themselves would be covered. I thought it was funny when I was talking to the rep and he asked how many miles I had on the camper. When I told him I wasnt sure, but roughly 50,000 or around there, he said "Well you know that our axles only carry a 5 year warranty?"

I said "Yes, but we've only owned the camper for a little over 2 years now."

He coughed and said "Oh wow, we never get calls from people with this many miles in this short of a time." He also told me that they have almost never had a call due to an axle failing or cracking, so he really wanted to see the axles themselves to see what had caused it.

This was what opened up the next can of worms, but helped in saving us a whole ton of money.

With a few of us on crawlers under the coach with shop lights lighting everything up really bright, what we found was the axles themselves are fine, it's just the mounting plates that go around the axle housing and mount them to the frame.









I called the rep over at Al-Ko back to let him know that his axles hadnt failed once we saw that these plates are just welded on, but the plates themselves were what was cracking. We got to talking and he informed me that they build the axles without the plates on them, ship the axles to Lippert (in Sunline's case) with plates off and Lippert welds the plates to Sunlines specifications.

So this told me that we didnt need to replace the axles, and could probably get this fixed by dropping the axles, torching off the plates and having a fabricator weld on new, stronger, thicker plates.

This is what the rep from Al-Ko said he would do and it would probably save us a ton of money and the time of having new axles made and shipped over from Elkhart Indiana.

So, what we've come up with is that I know we're going to have to shed some weight, and lighten our load (The camper and it's contents, not my beer gut), but it doesnt mean we are going to stop traveling the way we've been traveling.

The camper itself, and the axles themselves have held up beautifully, and I wish Sunline was still around so I could let them know how well this little coach has held up to the constant abuse we've given it.

The welder at General RV was laughing when he said "What do you do with this thing? Drive it off road and go four wheeling with it?"

I just looked at him and said "Yeah, no one ever told me we couldnt do that" His laugh went to a serious look when he said "Are you serious, you actually take this off road?"

I dont think he's looked through our website.



What I wanted to do was give everyone a heads up to check your mounting plates where the axles are mounted to the frame. I have a crack on every plate on both sides of the frame (All 4 of them) on each side of the plate.

But again, I'd like to stress that this wasnt caused by Al-Ko or Sunline and I take full responsibility for these failing. Like the guy from Al-Ko said. "We've been making axles sine 1931 and we dont get calls about our axles failing, so I was a little concerned and stressed when I got your call." I would also like to say that the guy from Al-Ko was amazingly competent in getting back to me, answering all of my questions and letting me know what he would do personally and what he felt would save me money to get this fixed with the least amount of time and effort.

Not the typical saleman who automatically wants to sell you something and make a buck. Great people over there and glad I have a set of their axles on the Sunline.

Without the camper being lifted high on jacks and having the brake backing plates removed to really get a good look at the mounting plates on the axles themselves, this is easily overlooked.

I routinely crawl under the camper and have never seen these cracks before, so I dont know how long we've been driving like this? Without having the technician point out these small, hairline cracks, I probably wouldnt have noticed them unless I was really looking for them.

But the frame mounting plate bending is a dead giveaway. That is very noticeable and is what we are going to beef up. I'll be sure to post pictures of what the fabricators weld up to remedy this situation.

I'm pretty confident if we beef up these mounting plates, we shouldnt have this problem again. But who konws, we plan on returning to Baja, and I'm sure hundreds of miles on some of the roughest roads I've ever driven had something to do with this.

We also had to have all our bushings and tie-rods, sway control bushings and front end componets on the F-250 replaced while home this summer. But that was all under warranty Thanks again Ford!

Wish us luck and thank the man upstairs that we found this while we were home and not at 50 mph on some backroad.
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:21 PM   #2
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REMINDER TO SELF:

Steve, you have a 10 year old Sunline that is the same size as Pat & Cindy's, but has the lighter frame and axle (5,500# GVWR). You've hauled the darned thing crammed full of gear all over the northeast for those ten years.

When the snow clears and the warmer temperature makes it possible to crawl under the trailer, get yer butt out there, and check over the axle mountings with a magnifying glass!

Pat, awesome post. Thank you!
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Old 01-31-2009, 02:25 PM   #3
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emam
Hey no problem Steve, like I said, I think this isnt like the faulty frames on the other models where Lippert said they had a bad batch of steel or something along those lines.

This is more akin to our camper and the way we haul it around North America, but for people like you or others who might have older models, this might be something to look into.

These are hard to see areas on the camper under any light and especially if it has the wheels on and is sitting on the ground. They have mine jacked up with big semi-sized floor jacks right now and have good light under there in a heated garage. So its pretty easy to find it and probably why I've never seen it before.

I mean I look around under there and try to follow the welds, but not in this detail and especailly not on a concrete floor with a nice comfortable creeper with big shop floresents

If our delima helps one other RVer find a crack they might not have otherwise, then we did our job.
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Old 01-31-2009, 05:50 PM   #4
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Dirt Roads

We bought a new hitch for our Honda CRV for our trip to Labrador and when we got home I discovered the bracket for the third mounting point had fatigue cracked, actually rusted at the crack, sometime during the trip.

The continual flexing on those dirt roads is not what the average trailer ever sees., the stresses are just higher. I can't imagine how a 1000 miles of dirt compares to 100,000 miles of pavement.

During our Labrador run I would frequently crawl under the Honda to check the hitch and must have missed this failure since it is not the primary mounting point. The vendor was very professional and sent me a brand new one and paid to get the broken one back for analysis.

They were unbelieving and had never seen a failure like that. On the other hand there were less than a handful of RVs on the whole road.

I am a toatally paranoid RVer and check the underneath each year and repaint. I'm always looking for problems but on the whole these are very reliable rigs, mine is now in year 27.

From Austin Texas (we usually avoid cities but want to see the LBJ and Bush libraries).

Norm and Ginny Milliard
2004 Honda CRV
1982 Sunline 15.5 SB (we're always the smallest rig in the park, usually by many feet)
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Old 01-31-2009, 07:45 PM   #5
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Pats Sunline

Pat, now we know where to look when hauling a motorcycle and
everything else that adds up to the #8300. I'm still trying to figure
out how to take mine with me without putting it in the bed of the PU.
Maby they all act differently when overloaded. I was thinking of upgrading the axels but added shocks instead. Thanks for the great post.
One question -- what will you be leaving at home this time?
Bob
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Old 01-31-2009, 08:00 PM   #6
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Pat

Thanks for the post and glad things are working out. Yes our “rolling homes” do get use, although not quite like yours… We all need to look and check often.

This really helps as amazing many things can be stopped before they fall off just because you found it especially your hitch. Every time you get out, just look it over. I’m probably on the extreme side of meticulous from most when it comes to hitches and I even caught mine with an issue this season. In my case my emergency break away cable got hung up in the DC area and it was almost 95% pulled out…. WOW holy cow. We stopped for lunch and I did my normal walk around and just looked. Glad I did. Well I pushed it back in and then tied the cable up high so it could not catch in the DC area. If that would of pulled out on the highway I would have really something to deal with.

I also have question that can really help me right now. Can you PM me the guy, phone number and email if possible at Al/Ko? Sounds like your found a good one. I have tried to email a letter into there service group on my axle problems and I have not gotten any response. Must be finding the wrong guy.

Glad things are working out for you.

John
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:28 PM   #7
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Hey Guys, thanks for the replies

Bob, I'm not sure what we'll be leaving at home because this time the the bike will really be needed when we get out to Yellowstone and will be sitting still for 5 months

We are thinking about leaving the kayaks, but I cant bring myself to leave them at home

We know we're going to lose a lot of clothes, and I'm thinking about getting one of the Amazon Kindles or the Sony version to get rid of every book we carry with us. This alone has to be 50lbs!

I'm thinking we're going to leave one of the generators and a large box filled with all our winter gear. Then when we get to Yellowstone and back to cooler weather (Even though it will be late May/early June it will still be cold) and have our parents mail them out to us.

When I go pick the camper up from General RV next week, I'm going to have it weighed with nothing in it, as it's completely empty right now to see where it sits with just the bigger fridge, the battery bank and the solar panels compared to what it was coming from the factory.

This will probably be the only time we have it where it literally doesnt have anything in it at all. I even pulled the couch out as I've been working on putting in a single bed to give us some more room. That flexsteel couch is a bunch of wasted space if you ask me

John, I'll shoot you over a PM with his email address
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Old 02-01-2009, 07:28 AM   #8
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Long Box

One aspect of dirt roads, particularly uneven roads is that you can end up with single wheel loading and wracking, twisting of the long box that makes up the trailer, creating twisting forces that the long 'box' is not designed to handle. There is virtually nothing in a trailer to prevent this kind of twisting.

Norm
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Old 02-02-2009, 06:30 AM   #9
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Pat - We were going to put a single bed where our couch is but the space was too short, so did this simple mod instead. Steve took apart the sofa and reattached the seat bottom such that the backrest slides behind the seat bottom. It's SO much more comfortable for sitting and sleeping because it makes it alot deeper. To sleep on it we just take out the backrest and sit it on the floor. We have a couple pillows stuffed into the space that remains when the back is removed. Our DD says it's WAY more comfortable than with the crack that used to be in the middle. And we can actually lay on it to watch TV without feeling like half our shoulders are falling off the edge.
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Old 02-02-2009, 07:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tweety
Pat - We were going to put a single bed where our couch is but the space was too short, so did this simple mod instead. Steve took apart the sofa and reattached the seat bottom such that the backrest slides behind the seat bottom. It's SO much more comfortable for sitting and sleeping because it makes it alot deeper. To sleep on it we just take out the backrest and sit it on the floor. We have a couple pillows stuffed into the space that remains when the back is removed. Our DD says it's WAY more comfortable than with the crack that used to be in the middle. And we can actually lay on it to watch TV without feeling like half our shoulders are falling off the edge.
Pictures please Pam!
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Old 02-02-2009, 09:10 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poppy & Nana
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tweety
Pat - We were going to put a single bed where our couch is but the space was too short, so did this simple mod instead. Steve took apart the sofa and reattached the seat bottom such that the backrest slides behind the seat bottom. It's SO much more comfortable for sitting and sleeping because it makes it alot deeper. To sleep on it we just take out the backrest and sit it on the floor. We have a couple pillows stuffed into the space that remains when the back is removed. Our DD says it's WAY more comfortable than with the crack that used to be in the middle. And we can actually lay on it to watch TV without feeling like half our shoulders are falling off the edge.
Pictures please Pam!
Yes pictures X 2. Us inquiring minds type need to know....

I'm assuming we are talking the Steel Flex jack knife sofa that alters one body shape come morning? Yes/No?

Is this the couch we are talking about?








I can't figure out if this is it, how Steve did that.
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Old 02-03-2009, 12:59 PM   #12
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Repairs

Pat, I was thinking about your problem. Are the welders going to fix the
cracks or reinforcing them with extra plate? If they reinforce them then you could just go as you are and dont worry about the overload situation.
It seems that the axels are ok and the problem is just where they attatch.
With your upgraded tires and beefed up mounting you should be good to go but watch for more bending from now on. I think that the single axel
overloading theory has merit. These repairs should fix that.
Cant wait to read on your blog that you have left and on the road again.
Bob
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Old 02-03-2009, 11:16 PM   #13
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Hey Pam, Great idea and as soon as we get the camper back from General RV, I'll give that a try before we go out and buy a new Single mattress.

I measured it and know one will fit, but it will be tight, but hadnt thought to just unbolt the frame and put the couch on without it.

I'd love to see some pictures of what it looks like the way you have it. Right now I just have the couch itself sitting in the barn in a storage bag and was planning on picking up a single mattress this week.

Bob, I went by General RV today as they said they would have been finished this afternoon or tomorrow morning, but ran out of Ascetylene (SP?) and were waiting on the company to come fill up their tanks.

I took a bunch of pictures of the one axle that was fixed and back on the coach, and it looks like it is bomb proof. So like you said, I'm thinking that with shaving some weight off with leaving a few things behind, we might be fine going back out just the way we came in, only this time a few hundred lbs lighter.

I'll be sure to post the pictures up as soon as I clean them off the camera. They also extended the mounting rails where it mounts to the I-Beam's and added a big plate on the tire side of the I-Beam for a beefed up support.

By no means am I planning on this, but the the welder was the one asking me if I took this thing off-road, and told me he wanted to make sure if I drive this thing like I said I did, that I would never have to worry about this again.

The steel they replaced it with is twice the thickness of what was there to begin with and the supports are huge!

I'm pretty happy with the way it's coming along. Pictures soon to follow
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Old 02-04-2009, 07:07 AM   #14
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Sofa pictures and explaination will be in the mods forums in a few minutes.
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Old 02-17-2009, 10:45 PM   #15
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As promised, here are the fixes of the frame supports

This is a shot of the outside of the frame where they welded a support piece of metal to the existing I-Beam


Here is the piece of metal that is now welded on top of the old piece of metal used to support the axles. This is two fold. The old stuff is still there and the new stuff acts as a secondary support. This also lifted the camper an aditional 1/2 inch or so


In this shot you can also see that they welded little supports to the edge of the I-Beam to keep it from pulling away from the beam itself. They also left out sections incase we ever need to un-bolt the axles, we can get to the heads of the bolts. Top Notch work!!

Every thing is bolted with Class A Grade 8 bolts and looks great


In this shot, they only had one of the axles back on, and you can see how inbetween the axles, the support is one solid piece. Then where the bolts need to be accessed, there are mulitple little pieces


Hopefully, this will be the last time I ever have to take pictures like this. As beefy as this looks now, I'm guessing the axles will fall off before they'll crack again
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