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Old 10-06-2010, 01:53 PM   #1
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Unhappy Major I-beam Repair

I have a Fleetwood Travel Trailer, Freedom Edition, 27H. The two supporting I-beams that carry the camper body have severe fatigue cracks just behind where the rear axel shackle attaches to the I-beam. Has anyone had experience in repairing these IĖbeams? Found out I had the problem after I had a flat tire on the front axel. While looking at trailer with tire off I found the problem.
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Old 10-06-2010, 02:20 PM   #2
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Ken,

First, welcome to iRV2. Good to have you join our merry group.

A good trailer repair shop or a qualified welder will repair these cracks by welding in "scabs" or backer plates on either side of the I-beam as well as the bottom (I'm assuming that the top isn't accessible) to carry the stresses from good steel ahead of the crack to good steel behind the crack. Not having the advantage of seeing the damage, these backer plates should be formed to conform to the cross-section of the I-beam and should extend at least 6" on either side of the crack.

Rusty
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Old 10-06-2010, 03:03 PM   #3
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Thanks for the quick reply Rusty. I suspected that might be the answer. Now I have to find a shop that can take on the job. Have you seen this kind of problem before?
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Old 10-06-2010, 03:11 PM   #4
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Not on anything I've owned, but "tri-5" (55, 56 and 57) Chevys are prone to frame cracks like this when the stock frame is used with, say, a 572 cubic inch rat motor - the torque under full power twists the frame enough that many eventually crack. This isn't a knock against Chevys - none of the original frames on older cars were designed for this kind of horsepower and torque.

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Old 10-06-2010, 09:00 PM   #5
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Lippert frames have been know to have this issue as well as 5ers cracking in the pin box area. do you tow on a lot of rough roads?
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Old 10-06-2010, 09:12 PM   #6
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Have to agree/disagree with quoted "scab" repair. Feel that the six inch overlay past cracks will be insufficent. While perhaps sufficent for chevy frames being torque twisted you must equate trailer frames more like heavy truck frames and therefore must be reinforced a much greater distance past the repair area. Not saying TT frame has to have as much as truck but most truck frame repair is extended 2-3 foot either side of crack from the ones I have seen repaired
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Old 10-07-2010, 04:06 AM   #7
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Bear in mind that a Class 8 tractor frame is dealing with 1200-1500 ft-lbs of torque from a 15L diesel that's then multiplied through 20:1 or lower reduction gearing in the transmission and rear axles and applied to a total load of 80,000 lbs or more when moving away from rest. I've seen some of the Class 8 frames wind up like a rubber band taking off from a dead stop. A trailer frame isn't subject to these torsional forces.

At any rate, a good repair facility or qualified welder is going to look at the damage and the space available to work and come up with a realistic, cost effective repair. All we can do is speculate through a monitor and keyboard, and the best we can hope for is to point the OP in the right direction. I certainly can't design the repair or do a finite element analysis to quantify the stresses involved from where I'm sitting.

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Old 10-07-2010, 01:12 PM   #8
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Thanks to everyone for your comments. Here are some pictures of the damage. First picture is from outside of frame on left side facing trailer hitch end.



Second picture is same side inside the frame.



Next two pictures are inside right frame.





Last picture is outside right frame.



Can the small shift in the rear shackle mount on the left side cause a large enough shift in the orientation of the rear axel to cause both rear axel tires to have excessive wear in inside edge or should I be looking for more damage not found yet?
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:33 PM   #9
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Coast Cancer

You have a lot of rust action going on that is weakening the frame.

Locate a local trailer repair facility, many builders also repair, they will be best to determine the course of action.

Have them also blast and coat the rest after they confirm the rest is ok.
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Old 10-07-2010, 01:53 PM   #10
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There's a lot more going on here than a fatigue or stress crack!! The metal worms have really been working on that frame.

If the inside edges of both tires on the same axle are wearing, and this is happening on only one axle, then that sounds like the axle has been overloaded and lost its camber. The trailer repair shop should be able to check and correct alignment and camber while the trailer is there, but you don't want to watch how they do it.

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Old 10-07-2010, 03:16 PM   #11
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TXiceman,
This is a 2002 (bought in 2003) TT. It has been to the Mojave Desert and upper reaches of the San Joaquin Valley in CA. Out in the desert of AZ near Sonotia plus some time in Tucson visiting a friend. Out in the deserts of NM near Columbus and again North of Las Cruces. The camper has been to Eureka, KS and Northwest corner of MO. More time in NE, WI, MI, OH, PA, OH, DE, MD, NJ, NY, and CT. The majority of the time is spent off the grid. I live in NY. Bottom line lots of miles and back roads. How do you identify Lippert frames?
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Old 10-07-2010, 03:39 PM   #12
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Rusty,
I seem to be in an area that does not have a trailer repair shop. The area’s largest camper dealer/repair shop does not want to touch it. Went to a large utility trailer dealer. They sent me to a shop they use but that shop specializes in building steel structures. That shop is saying that their liability insurance does not cover working on vehicles. However if I sign a waver they will work on it. Not sure if they can determine if there is damage to axel. Now working on cost of repair and how I am going to come up with the money.

I hit a railroad crossing back in July that caught me by surprise. The tracks were elevated above the road grade by about 8 – 10 inches. Hit it at about 40 mph and launched the camper. When I got to campground a few miles later the contents of the camper were all over the place. Other than that nothing was noticeably wrong. About 1000 miles later when I had the flat tire is when I found out about all these problems.
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Old 10-07-2010, 06:53 PM   #13
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Like Rusty note....got to watch out for the Ferro-Termites of Ferro-worms. You have a lot of lost metal due to rust and are looking at a lot of repair work. Any decent trailer-frame shop should be able to make some repairs. That is a pretty light frame on that trailer as well.

Good luck finding a shop to do the work.
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Old 10-08-2010, 08:15 AM   #14
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You confirmed what I thought is that you "overloaded" the frame. I don't mean by loaded weight, though that too might be a factor, when you drove the suspension up and probably to the frame when you launched it over the RR tracks. Something had to give. Yes, rust is playing a factor in the deterioration. I'll repeat what others have said - a full media blast and determine the full extent of the damage. Then at that point you can determine how you want to proceed. I think that you will then need to decide if it is really cost effective to do a major frame restoration or trade the unit for another. A GOOD welding shop can make the repairs by either boxing the frame (covering the open side with 10ga steel), fishplating (running that 10ga steel along the closed surface) or just replacing the area of the damaged frame and cross members with new steel - I would use rectangular tubing if that was the way I went. What ever way you go will be expensive. I would have whatever welds on the cross members that were not replaced rewelded as you can see that they are not continuous. When the repairs were done, I would have the entire frame steel re-media blasted, primed with a good epoxy primer then painted with a good single stage urethane paint.

All this takes is $$$$ and time

Dave W
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