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Old 06-10-2013, 11:07 AM   #1
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Location: Langley. BC, Canada
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Plastic or bronze spring bushings?

We have a travel trailer that is 2 months old. The leaf spring bushings are worn out and need replacing. Why so soon? We've only put about 100 miles on it so far but it did come about 2K miles from the factory. There is a story to this and I will post the progress and outcome later on. Now waiting for the dealer to hear back from Lippert. A summary to date is is below including a photo.

As the bushings need replacing, I'm wondering if plastic or metal bushings are better?

One day after picking up the TT, we discovered that the spring hanger brackets were bent. Lippert initially said that it is within spec. I took it into a frame shop last week that is a government certified inspection facility. They found the that frame has "extreme flex". When it's on the hoist, the hangers bend in one direction and when it's one the ground, the hangers are bent in the opposite direction. They're out of vertical by about 5/8". The frame is distorted from the movement where the brackets are welded onto the frame. When they pushed on one side of the trailer (they call it "torquing"), the wheels went way out of camber. As we are driving along, making turns and changing lanes, they frame is going to be moving all over the place.

The bushings have failed because of the continual "flopping" of the brackets from side to side. The Lippert frame is made from paper thin metal. The I-beam is just 3 pieces of thin sheet metal welded together to look like an I-beam. It's just a case of time before the frame will crack and/or welds will fail. Misalignment of the tires will lead to premature wear and potential blowout. This is unbelievable in a new trailer! A frame shop can do everthing they can to reinforce the frame but it will still be substandard and under-designed. The only real fix would be to replace the I-beams.

If we are going to keep this trailer, it will need some serious remedial work. I would want to replace the spring and equalizer (Trailair) bolts with wet bolts. I'm wondering if going with bronze bushings is better than nylon? According to etrailer they're not. One key to bushing longetivity in our case will be to make sure that the hanger brackets are vertical and stay that way. One thing we will do is either use the Mor/ryde crossmember or weld some tubing in place to the the brackets together from one side of the trailer to the other.

We have a lot of vertical bounce in the rear of our trailer. I can see it flopping up and down as we drive along. It makes me wonder now how much might be due to frame flex.

For now we have sidelined our trailer until we get some resolution. This has put a real damper on our camping plans. This is clearly a Lippert issue but I do hope KZ does something about it. And it's not unique to our trailer either. If anyone has one of these types of I-beams, you might want to inspect it.
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Old 06-10-2013, 11:44 AM   #2
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Sorry for your problems and concerns but this is not a new issue with TT's. They are built on the edge in most aspects of the frame and suspension design. I'll try to answer some of your questions. YES bronze bushings would be much better than plastic and yes wet bolts will enable you to lubricate those bushings so that they will last longer. There is also a NEVER-LUBE bushing that is available. I am not familiar with them but some have used them and found them to be good.
That said, unless you address the weakness and flexing of the frame you will continue to have problems. I am not familiar with your unit so I don't know how close to your weight limits you are. You might fight the battle and try to get the frame manufacturer to reinforce your frame to reduce the flexing and possible frame cracks. There was one guy on the Forest River forums that did fight them but finally had it fixed by a local frame shop. He also, and I'd recommend it as well, changed the axles to a larger size so he was not always on the edge. I am familiar with and do like the Dexter Tor-Flex axles with independent torsion bars which eliminates the leaf springs/bushings entirely. We had them on two trailers and I did like them. Here's something else that I highly recommend. Install shock absorbers on your unit. No TT or any trailer of any kind should be on the road without shocks. They've done it for years, have gotten away with it for years but as a person with 40 years mechanical/teaching experience I don't understand why. Any suspension encounters bumps and those bumps take their toll on the unit, handling, sway, body roll, and it's effects on the tow vehicle,etc, etc even if you don't ride in your trailer. It only makes common sense to dampen/reduce the effects of those movements.
You can also do a search on several forums concerning installing shocks. That's not difficult or expensive.
Best of luck with these issues. Maybe selling and looking for a better unit with a stouter frame might be in order as well. It really depends on your situation and what your plans are for your TT, full timing, occasional camping, weekend trips etc.

TeJay
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Old 06-10-2013, 01:03 PM   #3
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TeJay,

Thanks for the comments. Our trailer weighs 6600 lbs (at the scale) and the GVWR is 6800 lbs. Only 200 lbs left before we hit the max. and we have hardly loaded much into it. Could never travel with a full fresh, grey or black tank without overloading it. Axles are 2 x 3500 lbs. Tires are 4 x 1820 lbs (or may be 1840?). Of course the axles see less that the 6600 lbs because of the tongue weight (960 lbs in our case). But with the trailer bouncing up and down so much, I assume that adds more vertical loading on the axles each time it bounces. Our trailer bounces a lot and causes doors and drawers to open in the rear kitchen and things fall out, just on short local trips.

The frame is already showing signs of failure. They said it is the worst frame design they'd ever seen. As an engineer, I'm shocked at what I've found. It's simply terrible. Not sure how long Lippert has been making them this way.

I'm not sure if there are industry standards & regulations that have to be met for frame construction. The industry seems poorly regulated, if it is at all. Is there a government agency in the US that you can register a complaint with? Since Lippert has such a stranglehold on the industry, they pretty much do what they want. There are lots and lots of stories out there of owners with cracked frames. I can sure see now why it happens.

The frame shop said that the tubing in the axles is also paper thin. Upgrading them would certainly help. One big problem with doing remedial repair work is that it will add weight and will push it near or over the GVWR. Three of the Mor/ryde crossmembers alone would weigh 90 lbs.

Am already looking at installing shocks. It's a bit more difficult because they need to go on the inboard side of the frame but there is the underbelly material in the way. I am considering a design where the upper shock mount is below the lower flange of the I-beam and the lower mount hangs down below the springs to be able to get the static length right. Am wondering if 5-leaf springs would be a good thing but it looks like it would mean upgrading to 6,000 lb axles. Agreed, they should have shocks in the first place. Or at least offer it as an option.

We will usually be doing short trips to our campground in the US which is only minutes away from us). Until DW retires in about 5 years, we will do an annual trip of maybe 2K miles or longer. Eventually we want to do a circle tour of the US. The frame as it currently is would not survive a trip around the US. I am so upset about this piece of j*nk at the moment, I don't want it. This is not likely unique to KZ since Lippert supplies frames to many different manufacturers. I was on another dealer's lot recently and looked at a few other brands and their frames. Many of them had bent brackets too. Pretty disgusting if you ask me....
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Old 06-10-2013, 06:53 PM   #4
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See if you can get a wet bolt kit and heavier shackle plates for your trailer. The wet bolt kit has bronze bushings and bolts that are drilled and fitted for Zerk fitting. You can grease the shackles bolts and prevent a lot of problems.

MOR/ryde Products This is the kit I put on my trailer. Any questions, you can call Dexter or MOR/ryde.

Ken
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:37 AM   #5
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MY RR,
It sounds like you do have a good understanding of mechanical things. That sure helps. Our last TT weighed just about the same with a 7-K max. I had to request new axles because my original ones were 2-3,000 LB. They upgraded me to 2-3,500LB axles.
If you upgraded the axles to two 4,000 LB ones you could then add the gussets and reinforcements needed to strengthen the original frame and not go over. I know this might be a big expense but if you switched to two Dexter Tor-Flex axles you could eliminate the maintenance issues with leaf springs and bushings. Shocks can be added to the Tor-Flex axles much easier. Go to the Forest River forums and search for a poster named, "Old Coot". He did a great job of retrofitting his unit with shocks. He even sent me some drawings of his mounts onto the brake backing plate. It was a neat job.

I know it seems unfair having to do a job that should have been done by the manufacturer. Trading might not give yourself anything much better. I believe you are correct in that nobody is regulating the TT industry. After 3 TT's we gave up and decided to go back to a motor home. We've got a Winnebago on order. In the last 3 years we have had 3 new TT's. On each one I replaced the wheel bearings with ToYo (good quality Japanese) bearings and used synthetic grease. I replaced all four tires to get rid of the china bombs. I used the four corner jacks plus two scissors jacks and two jacks on the slides to reduce the flexing of the TT when we were camped. It still bounced like a trampoline.
In the MH industry there is a Ford Rep on-sight and or handy to determine that the coach being built on the Ford chassis is within specs. The TT industry has none of that. Years ago a salesman over in OK told us that when he traveled to IN to visit some of the TT factories he said it looked like some of them just erected a few pole barns and started making TT's. That may have been a little hype but maybe not.

TeJay
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Old 06-11-2013, 01:28 PM   #6
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Before you go spending money to try and modify something that shouldn't need modifying to use for the first time. I would consult an attorney and find out about your local "Lemon Laws". A lawyer may be cheaper than modifying a poor design to work properly.

Some states have provisions for RV's which include travel trailers. While it doesn't cover things in the living area. This is obviously a chassis defect which is covered under the lemon law in most states which have RV provisions.

Check your state here:
Lemon Law - State By State Lemon Laws


Actually in some states, hiring a lawyer is 100% free. Like my state, if you sue someone you can also sue for lawyers fees which is how they get paid. They buy back your RV for what you paid for it, and the lawyers get paid their fees. Making it a no brainer to file a claim.



And if RV's are covered under the lemon law in your state. No worries because of the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act states that the manufacturer of any product — from your toaster to your lemon RV — must abide by the warranty. Same applies here, get a lemon law lawyer to take your case for free, they can also sue for fees.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:29 PM   #7
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I wouldn't put shocks on this thing because the frame is already weak. Adding a shock mount is going to put new torque on the frame and make the problem worse.

The crossmembers are supposed to keep the frame from twisting side-to-side like in your description... perhaps they left some out that were supposed to be there?

I have a lippert frame too, and while the metal is quite thin in a lot of places it doesn't appear to flex like yours. However, my TT is only 5250 lbs GVW.
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Old 06-12-2013, 10:49 AM   #8
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Got a call yesterday from the dealer and KZ is stepping up to the plate and resolving this in a big way.

Don't want to get into specifics just yet but will post the final outcome. We are ecstatic! Very impressed with KZ for doing something.
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