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Can I Benefit from a Setback with my Trailer?

Care is needed in writing about a practical problem. But it can be an enjoyable challenge to the writer, who must keep thinking about the general reader, and avoid too many messy, picayune details.

The broken main leaf on my trailer, in the center of photo. The axle and wheel are to the left; the bow is to the right. The break is 3.5" aft of the fore shackle (in "front" of the wheel). Ignore the horizontal steel bar along the bottom --it is tow truck hardware.

The main top leaf broke at the point where leaf #2 touches it from underneath.  The bow of the trailer is towards the right in the photo.

One of the leaf springs broke on my single-axle trailer. Fortunately this occurred at walking speed, after bumping into a partially submerged rock. So no damage was done to me or the frame or axle.

But what if this happened to a single axle trailer at high speeds? I always worried about single axle trailers just for this reason. Perhaps I was right all along.

One could argue that it would be preferable to have rubber torsion axles that don't have leaf springs, and therefore don't break. From experience I know that you can permanently bend rubber torsion axles (such as the Dexter "Torflex"). But that's a lot better than breaking something loose; you can still drive the trailer to a repair shop. On the other hand repairs are more expensive than for leaf springs.

So once I get back on the road, what shall I do to ensure this doesn't happen again?  When I bent the rubber torsion axles of my first trailer, I replaced them with heavier duty axles/springs. The problem never happened again. Should I try this for my current trailer with its leaf springs?


How can this setback be used to advantage?  Clearly, I need to take some weight out of trailer, even though it is just under the nominal rating. [1] You can't remove significant weight by winnowing the socks or underwear drawer. You must attack water, canned goods, books, tools, and BATTERIES.

Nothing shakes up the slovenly habits of daily life like reducing the number of batteries. I will probably reduce the four batteries to two, for a weight reduction of 150 pounds. After all, computers and LED lights use less energy today than years ago, when I resigned myself to needing four batteries. 

Indeed, this experiment is turning positive. I had gotten into the terrible habit of watching DVDs at night, and during the night, as a sleeping pill. I have switched to soothing background music as my sleeping pill, because it uses less electrical power, and even better, I wake up in the morning feeling more refreshed.

Of course, the biggest energy draw is the DC compressor refrigerator. The best way to reduce its energy draw at night is to keep it full of water, and turn it down to near freezing in the late afternoon, before the solar panels shut down. I will also experiment with raising the temperature set-point at night.

[1] The trailer with all my stuff in it weighs 2900 pounds. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is 3000 pounds. But that is with the 4" drop axle from the factory. I had that axle replaced with a straight axle.


If your frame can handle it, size the springs and axle so that they are not loaded to more than 75% of maximum. Additionally make sure the trailer is set level at load so both axles get a relatively even load. Frames usually have the weak spot between the front spring mount and the coupler. Usually a little forward of the box of the trailer.
Torsion axle rubber can also shear internally and give you an exciting ride once.
I have a single axle trailer.

At the very least I will also have the UNbroken spring matched to the new replacement spring.

I will ask a suspension shop about increasing the weight rating of the springs. Of course, that basically means they add one more leaf to the spring "pack". Not sure that will help a lot for the problem that I just had: breaking the main spring. (I should have showed a photograph.)
edlfrey said…
Did the leaf break at the U-bolts? If that is so then there is a good possibility that the U-bolts were loose. Increased weight rated springs and attention to U-bolt tightness may keep this from happening again. Yes, do install matching springs at the very least.
I will walk over to the tow truck and trailer and take a photo showing the break in the main spring.
Anonymous said…
Hi, I have experience, I am guessing you don't have trailer brakes based on your axle and spring rating. If this true, then you should consider buying matching springs, checking the bolts and hangers for wear, getting slightly bigger tires with more road pothole type absorbing ability and definitely lighten your load. Carry the good spring you have that did not break as a spare in your travels. If this is not going to work for you and still want to carry all that gear, contact the trailer manufacturer, ask if the frame and hangers of your trailer can handle a 5000lb axle and spring set. If they say yes, install, get trailer brakes and live happily ever after. This upgrade will run about $500 DIY around my area. If they say trailer frame is not strong enough and you still want all your gear, trade in this trailer for a dual axle one and live happily ever after.
Michael from Nevada
edlfrey said…
Considering where the leaf broke, the age of the trailer and how you drive I am now more inclined to think that you simply had a defective/poor quality spring on there.

IF the trailer is rated for 3,000# and you are not over that weight then I don't think weight was the culprit. You see more that than half the trailers on the road are overloaded and they manage to not break springs.
Yes indeed, I will get bigger tires when the original tires wear out.

Yes, lightening the load seems like a better idea than getting stiffer springs. I donated 2 of my 4 batteries to the shop that towed/repaired me. So there went 150 pounds. But every pound after this will get harder.

The trailer already has brakes.
Weight ratings are better for comparing one rig to another. The ratings are not of absolute value; it all depends on how many rough roads do you use? How many curbs do you clip?

But I distrust the equipment that comes from the factory. When I swapped the 4" drop axle from the factory for an aftermarket straight axle, the mechanic told me that there was water in the bearings of the original axle.
Wildsider said…
This same thing happened to my single axle trailer - the main spring broke in the same place, an obvious stress point where the second spring ends. In my case it was a spring quality issue - hardness/ductility is a delicate balance. A set of replacement springs with an equal weight rating solved the problem so far - e.g. more than twice the miles with a slightly heavier load and less than 75% of the load rating in both cases.
Water "in the bearings" is a seal issue - too loose a fit when new or worn (same effect).
Thanks, Wildsider. It does help to know that lots of people have been through this sort of thing before. The mechanic told me the same thing.