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Old 02-21-2010, 12:18 PM   #1
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Spring shackles break - what casued it?

The spring shackles holding one end of my leaf springs broke on my toyhauler yesterday.

I was within 20 miles of home, on a 200 mile hwy trip. Fortunately, the bolt wedged against the frame and held everything in place. Didn't even know something was wrong until parking it a home and noticed the toyhauler wasn't sitting level.

As you can see, the bolt wore through the end of both shackles (red line). I do some off road driving, but all the other shackles/bolts seem to be OK.

What could have caused this problem?

What would you do to prevent this in the future? Im thinking of installing greasable bolts, if it's an easy swap.

Toyhauler is 5 years old and has about 5000 miles on it.

All advice and experiences welcome.
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Old 02-21-2010, 02:57 PM   #2
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By the looks of that enlongated hole, the failure has been oncoming for a while. The erosion of the bolt hole toward the end of the links(shackles) could have been cause by a contaminated spot in the steel or simply was not heat treated correctly...maybe just from dirt or lack of lubrication. If it were my rig, I'd take the weight off the axles, remove one set of links at a time and check for additional points of possible failure and lube the bolts with a light coating of lithium grease.

Depending on the application, most manufacturers recommend using a hole edge distance of 1 & 1/2 to 2 times the diameter of the fastener to ensure against cracking or edge distance failure. That looks to be satisfied so I'd go back with the original replacements by the manufacturer or to a trailer dealership/manufacturer for a heat treated facsimile.

I'd say the 'road gods' have smiled upon you by showing you this point of failure without inflicting too much damage. Good luck with the repair. Bob
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Old 02-21-2010, 03:46 PM   #3
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What you see is IMHO a classic case of Chinese components in the suspension system. Plastic bushings in the spring eyes etc all contribute to low cost and low quality. Look for wet bolt kits and parts made of quality material from a reputable axle or spring shop and fix everything.
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Old 02-21-2010, 04:42 PM   #4
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This is something that is not uncommon--not that the bolts wore thru the straps, but that the wear occurred and caused a problem. There are rebuild kits for all spring/hangers and I was told by an axle shop that replacement at 5-6 years should be done arbitrarily, or at least the bolts should be disassembled and inspected. "Wet" bolts (greaseable) will help in reducing wear. And the welds to the frame are another source of problems.
I would agree that 5000 miles is very little use, and I would think the bolt was not torqued correctly, or somehow had loosened and allowed the strap to move against the bolt. Good that no damage occurred.
Joe
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Old 02-21-2010, 05:58 PM   #5
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Iam seriously considering replacing the components with a Dexter E-Z Flex system.
Dexter Axle - Trailer Axles and Running Gear Components - K71-652-00 E-Z Flex Complete Tandem Kit
It's a reasonable price and comes with all the new components I will need.
Since Iam going to be taking it all apart and replacing most/many components, may as well end up with a greasable and more shock absorbing suspension. Will surely make a difference on those dirt roads I seem to find myself on, often.

If I ever buy a new TT again, it will have an upgraded suspension system.

I thank my lucky stars that this failure didn't happen at high speed in traffic.
Have to check my 7 y/o fivers suspension next.

Thanks for your advice guys.

P.S. IMHO - I believe the serrated bolt end stripped out the shackle hole during impact wrench assembly at the RV factory, allowing the spring to grip and twist the bolt until it wore thru the shackle. No way to tell now though.

P.S.2. Just rolled under the rig to check the axle capacity and noticed several more shackles inside wearing excessively, and ready to let go also. "Knock on wood"
Glad they all didn't let go at once.
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Old 02-21-2010, 07:47 PM   #6
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Looking at the shackle that broke I would suspect loose nuts against the shackle. The pin that runs through the mount and the shackle should move as one. I have found that the pins are not lubricated at all or very little from the manufacturer, causing the pins to seize in their housing causing the shackles to do the pivoting and wear out. If you do not have grease fittings on the pins be sure to use an anti seize grease and lots of it.
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Old 03-04-2010, 10:59 AM   #7
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Thumbs up

Well guys here's some tips RE: my suspension rebuild, and more.

I bought a Dexter E-Z Flex Equalizer kit including wet bolts and shackles, and installed it. Dexteraxle.com had a sale on them for only $150. In the process I forced myself to R&R the dreaded bearings and brakes. Turned out not to be as complicated as I expected. Lubed the bearings with Red 500 degree Sta-Lube Sta-Plex at HF for only $3.99 (2 tubes). Did the wet bolts with clear 350 degree Sta-Lube Lithium General Purpose grease, also from HF $2.99 (1 tube).

Suspension job:
Used a HF 3-in-1 ball joint/u-joint/c-frame press kit (38335) Made installing the 8 brass bushings and serrated bolts much much easier. A piece of 1/2 emt drove out the old plastic bushings, about 1/3 of the way, then started the brass bushing into spring eye and pressed it in and the plastic one out at the same time with the c-frame press.




Finished job below:



Bearings:
To remove the inner seals I used a slide hammer type autobody dent puller (like the one below), fitted with a modified 1/4" bolt thru a 1"x1/8" piece of steel bar that fit just thru the seal hole.
Then about 4-5 good whacks up with the weight and the seal pops out.



Read 3 different techniques for bearing adjustment, than came up with my own: Use a big pair of channel locks. Spin the hub forward while tightening nut, until it won't turn any more (pretty good torque +/- 50 ft-lb)
Stop turning hub, then back off the nut till just loose. Then by hand, tighten nut til finger tight, then back off to the first place to insert the cotter pin. The hub spins about 1.5 turns before stopping. Rocking the hub yields no movement sounds.

Brakes:
Went looking for 4 pair of new AL-KO 2x12 brake shoes. After 3 RV stores, realized my brakes were barely worn. In fact at about 1/8" thick they were virtually the same thickness as new oem AL-KO shoes. So I didn't replace them.

Test drive:
Having never done bearings on anything as heavy as my toyhauler I was very concerned about getting the bearings too tight. To calm my fears I left off the wheel hub caps and hit the road at 65-70 mph. Every 10 minutes or so I stopped and read the bearing hub temp with a digital infra-red temp meter. Hottest they ever got was 106F, on a 62F day, and all within 8 degrees of each other. Realizing they were barely above body temp 98.6F, I was relieved all the bearing adjustments were good.

After a 100 mile test drive I can say one thing for sure. There was a noticeable smoothing of the ride with the E-Z Flex equalizer, even over pot holes. Not to mention a nice quiet ride on those lubed wet bolts.

All in all, a very satisfying project and result. So much so, I plan on doing the same mod to my fifth wheel this summer before our cross country trip. It has wet bolts but is missing the E-Z Flex Equalizer, so I will do one more complete suspension rebuild, and brake/bearing job.

Hope this post helps someone else with their project in the future.

P.S. Cause of original problem. Serrated bolts going into shackles were ALL stripped. I believe this was done at the factory by frame builders using an impact wrench to pull in/install the serrated bolts into the shackles while mounting the axles on the frame. The same shackles on the opposite side were also badly worn the same place as the broken ones. Dodged the second bullet too. One can check their shackles by closely observing the head of the bolt (or nut) and the distance to the end of the shackle. The one with the most distance is likely good. If the distance from the bolt head/nut is less, the hole is being elongated by wear. Be sure to check inside and outside ends of each shackle bolt.

P.S.2. If you do this job, be sure and use substantial jack stands under your frame and axles. I even put down all 4 corner stabilizer jacks on my TH for added stability.

P.S.3. There is a very detailed thread about the E-Z Flex suspension rebuild here
http://www.rv.net/FORUM/index.cfm/fu...g/1/page/1.cfm
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Old 03-04-2010, 08:27 PM   #8
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Nice write up MojaveJoe. I did a simular upgrade on my 1995 5er. Dexter came out with that new Flex Equalizer just after I did mine. Like you said it was not mcuh trouble at all.

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Old 03-11-2010, 01:37 PM   #9
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The correct procedure to get the right preload on the bearings after greasing the bearings is 1) tighten the nut to 75 foot pounds while spinning the hub. This seats bearings and squeezes out excess grease. 2) loosen nut, do not turn hub and run nut up finger tight. 3) install cotter pin . If cotter pin can not be installed, loosen to next castle and install pin. That's it. Easy.
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Old 03-11-2010, 03:58 PM   #10
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Paul... Thanks for the confirmation on adjusting bearing preload. That's exactly the technique I used, except I didn't use a torque wrench. Just tightened nut until it wouldn't tighten any more, but wheel still moved.

Iam no longer skeptical about doing a brake and bearing job on my trailers. This forum and all its great posters and threads are the reason.
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Old 03-11-2010, 10:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MojaveJoe View Post
Paul... Thanks for the confirmation on adjusting bearing preload. That's exactly the technique I used, except I didn't use a torque wrench. Just tightened nut until it wouldn't tighten any more, but wheel still moved.

Iam no longer skeptical about doing a brake and bearing job on my trailers. This forum and all its great posters and threads are the reason.

The one thing not mentioned enough here is safety, safety, safety. Use good quality jack stands and floor jacks. Do not rely on the jack itself to hold anything up while underneath and never work when tired. Work on level ground (concrete is best) and support the trailer you are working on very throughly.
I have worked on trailers and trucks all my life and to date no injuries beyond a skinned knuckle. However I have been very lucky. I did essentially the same job as reported here 6 years ago now on my 37 foot Jayco. I jacked her up and supported the rear of the trailer with a single 8000LB jack stand behind each wheel and the 2 landing legs in front. All wheels now are off the trailer and its being supported with 2 8,000lbs stands and the front legs The trailer weighed about 13,000lbs so way more then marginal. I had finished putting together one side of the rig and crawl under the trailer to grease the shackle bolts. I crawled out and washed my hands and pulled the jack out to go around the trailer and continue on the other side when I heard a loud rippng sound. Then, the whole trailer moaned and fell onto the ground with no wheels on it. Fortunately, I had crawled out from under it 5 minutes before. After getting my nerves settled and jacking up the trailer again the failure was obvious. One of my Chinese made 8000lbs stands had one led that just folded up despite having a 1/8 x3/4 strap tying all 3 legs together. It was a cheap piece of chinese made crap. That single failure threatened my life, did 1000s worth of damage to the underside of my 5er and pushed the spare, which took the brunt of the fall, through the sub floor right in the middle of the living room and bent beyond repair the front landing legs.
It took me another month welding the frame, fixing the subfloor, and replacing the carpeting , and replacing the landing leg hardwarwe before it all was fixed again. What a mess.

In retrospect, some railroad ties along with the stands would have been worth while. I never saw that one coming. Be careful out there folks. All it takes is a cheap piece of hardware from China to ruin your great RV adventure called life.
Great write up and great work MojaveJoe,
-Paul R. Haller-
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Old 03-12-2010, 08:41 AM   #12
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Holy Smokes ! Paul....Your story brings new meaning to word "Safety"

Sure glad that didn't happen to me, though it may well have, in light of the fact I jacked up my trailer on a sloping driveway (bad idea). Only about 2" of slope mind you, but enough to have the over extended jack tops leaning about 1" forward instead of straight up. They were Harbor Frt 6 ton stands, so that was 48K total support under an empty TH at about 10K max. I knew I was pushing my luck when I went to reinstall the the wheels, by jacking the axle/spring instead of the frame, and things started moving forward ever so slightly. I only raised the axle about 1/8" higher than necessary to get the wheels on, then did the other side. My zerk's were on the outside so I didn't need to crawl underneath to lube the bolts. But if anyone has zerks inside, PLEASE install the wheels before crawling under your jacked up rig.

I like your idea about railroad ties plus jacks. I may have to consider that before doing the fiver suspension. In the past I have jacked my fiver frame on one side high enough to spin the wheels, but I was very uneasy about putting all the front wt on one landing gear leg. After that experience I always raise the frame only enough to get the wheel off after jacking the axle/spring too. This saves about 3" of frame lift. Plus puts a lot less stress on the front jacks of any trailer. (p.s. Never jack the axle itself, but rather under it at the spring mount, to avoid axle damage.)

Another thought is don't depend on your front jack(s) alone. Use extra jack stands to support the front of the rig too, when working on suspension etc..

I know I am going to work safer on my fiver now.

Thanks to Paul for sharing his story
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Old 03-15-2010, 09:33 PM   #13
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I like to have the truck hooked up, and only work on one side at a time. That seems to keep everything anchored well. Many years ago I too had a tag trailer on 4 jack stands when a storm blew up, lots of wind and when it was over the trailer was on its frame and the hubs. Only damage was a busted holding tank which I was able to use epoxy fabric patch kit on.
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Old 03-22-2010, 10:39 AM   #14
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the ez flex system was a great up grade for us too
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