Single or double axle for travel

Submitted: Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 at 18:37
ThreadID: 104511 Views:3666 Replies:7 FollowUps:3
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Hi all,

Would welcome opinions on what the best travel option is?

Looking to do the trip around, looking at independent suspension, always thought single axle would be best & less trouble, but I am not sure.
"For the Rover's life has pleasures, that the townsfolk will never know" - sort of from Banjo Paterson

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Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 at 19:15

Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 at 19:15
Hi Tony

It depends in part on your travel plans and of course the size and weight of trailer/caravan.

Our previous van was a small single axled wind-up.

Advantage - could spin it round by hand if stuck in a tight spot.

Disadvantages; stuff was tossed from one side of the cupboards to the other (we travel off the bitumen frequently), damage to fittings, milk bottles and cartons leaking from the bottom from the bouncing. I wouldn't even try and take eggs!

My husband's reasoning in wanting duals had more to do with safety in case of a blowout or losing a wheel, and general stability of the unit. We have heard of nasty accidents with a blowout or loss of a wheel with single axled vans.

There is also less thrust up and down on your tow hitch with the van stable on four wheels.

We now have a smooth ride on four wheels (Simplicity Suspension) on our 18' van. I am well and truly convinced.


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AnswerID: 518867

Follow Up By: Shaker - Monday, Sep 30, 2013 at 09:50

Monday, Sep 30, 2013 at 09:50
Might I suggest that your damage problems were not as a result of the camper being single axle, but more likely as a result of the camper being fitted with too heavy duty springs, as seems to be the practise of many manufacturers.
We had a Pioneer Argyle which had similar issues of extreme damage to camper contents during Outback travel, however after consultation with the suspension manufacturer, who informed me that on many occasions he had advised the manufacturers to fit softer springs but insisted on the heaviest, they supplied a softer spring & I never had the problem again.
I really don't understand why most Australian camper manufacturers are obsessed with "heavy duty", they know the ATM & should spring accordingly, as do Track Trailer & Vista RV.

FollowupID: 798893

Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 at 20:34

Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 at 20:34
Hi Tony,
After having a tyre shredded on a single axle van before I knew it was flat I decided to go for the dual axle so that there would be more support for all the tyres should one go flat.

So far the theory has worked.

Running on more tyres also shares the load so that no one tyre is over taxed.

Dual axle vans are also more stable on the road in my opinion and less prone to tyre fatigue for that reason.

That is my preference for what it is worth.

Cheers Bruce.
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restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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AnswerID: 518871

Reply By: Ron N - Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 at 20:49

Saturday, Sep 28, 2013 at 20:49
Sanantone - Four wheels help spread the impact of rough roads and corrugations to the frame and chassis, if a load-sharing suspension is fitted.
The impact-spreading effect is lessened somewhat with a non-load-sharing suspension.
Four wheels are heavier to tow than two, so fuel consumption usually suffers a little.
Two axles are more stable than one, for most towing purposes.
Motherhen raised a good point about a blowout - but blowouts are fairly rare nowadays. However, they still do happen occasionally. You can damage a tyre carcass with a hit on a gibber and it will quite often not blow out, until some time later.

I'd have to take an educated guess that caravans/trailers lose wheels, more often than they have blowouts. This is usually due to wheel bearing failure - and wheel bearing failure can usually be sheeted home to seal failure allowing dirt/dust into the inner bearing - or water (allowing rust to start) - and the failure is also coupled with a lack of bearing checks.

The loading per axle is important. Many single axle caravans/trailers run overloaded - on tyres, bearings, and hubs - thus creating a potential disaster waiting to happen.
It's rarer to be able to overload tandem axles - unless the axles and tyres were very lightly specced from the word go.

I would only use a single axle on a camper trailer or a very small van. On a van over 4.2M, and travelling on outback roads, you'd be better advised to go with a tandem.
AnswerID: 518873

Reply By: Member - Peter H1 (NSW) - Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 08:03

Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 08:03
Hi Tony,
Let me recount an event that happened to me about 3-4 weeks ago.
I had travelled the Birdsville track, the Strzelecki track to Innamincka and on to The Dig Tree.
I left the Dig Tree and "drove" the 14k out to the hwy. While I was parked waiting for friends to catch up [two of us had left 1/2 hour before] a friend happened to walk around my 5'er and said "you have a problem". I did indeed, I only had three wheels, somewhere along the 14k a bearing had collapsed and the wheel and drum had parted company with the 5'er. 40 people could not find the wheel.
So I drove 350k to Thargomindah on 3 wheels and had repairs done. [still no spare].
I then was headed for Newcastle for repairs as I had bent an axle, 30k out of Bollon I blew a tyre [caused by running with a bent axle] so had to drive 80k to St. George for a tyre repair.
Had it been a single axle it would have been an all up lift to repairers.

AnswerID: 518881

Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 11:18

Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 11:18
Peter - A mate of mine travelled Perth to Adelaide around 1983. Halfway across the Nullarbor, he came up behind an old bloke in his early 80's, towing a tandem van, about 7M, with his 60 series Landcruiser.

Wayne first noticed a score mark in the bitumen - and when he got up to the old bloke, he saw the van had lost a rear wheel - and the axle was dragging on the bitumen!

He managed to get the old bloke to stop. When they examined the van, the old bloke had dragged the van so far with that wheel and hub missing - that he'd worn 150mm off the end of the axle - the axle and leaf spring had reached red heat - and the spring had melted into a reverse of its normal shape!!

When Wayne asked the old bloke if he'd noticed anything, the old bloke said, "Yeah, well - I thought it was pulling a bit heavy! - so I dropped back to 4th gear, and put it down to this blasted headwind!!" LOL
FollowupID: 798835

Reply By: CSeaJay - Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 09:35

Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 09:35
All good replies.
But consider the size of the van and your intended use.
A Kimberly Kamper for example, built to take on the off road tracks and tight turns will be ruined with a double axle. (just an example)
AnswerID: 518887

Reply By: BUSH CAMPER - Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 18:56

Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 18:56
We have an Elite Goulburn 17' offroad van with control rider suspension with single wheels each side, no problem. Have done over 40,000 kms including about 3,000 kms of non bitumen.
Have done the GRR, Oonadatta track, roads up near Lawn hill and many more.
Loaded weight about < 2.3 tonne. Tows very well, no sway at all.
About to sell it and update with a new one.
AnswerID: 518908

Reply By: The Bantam - Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 22:25

Sunday, Sep 29, 2013 at 22:25
Consider one thing.....almost without exception suspension systems and running gear on trailers are cheap and nasty in comparrision to that you would find on motor cars, light commercials or trucks.

This accounts for a great many failures and a lot of the decisions made and configurations we see.

All too often the trailers ( all types) will be running on wheels, tyres and bearings that are running very close to maximum capacity....the manufacturers and the buyers simply don't want to spend the extra $$$ to build a decent safety margin into their wheels bearings, axles, wheels and matter how expensive the trailer.

All too often the suspensions are cheap and crude, in comparision to the tow vehicle.

If leaf springs are used are short, stiff and pretty poor quality......thus they ride poorly.

Mostly there are no shock absorbers, and if there are they have been fitted as an after thaught, mounted in an inefficient manner and not enginereed to match the springs or the load carried.

Then there are the independent suspensions.....some of them horrify me, the worst are as crude as the worst leaf spring systems fabbed up by some muppet with a welder possibly in a third world country.
The best may be fair but no where near the standard found in even the simplest motor vehicles.

Sorry to be a pesimist......but the quality of the suspenion system and its adequacy to do the job is more important than the number of wheels.

That said

Biigger wheels and tyres will always ride better and carry more load.

Longer springs will always ride smoother.....good luck finding a trailer with long springs.

Properly selected shock absorbers, properly fitted make a big difference.

Good quality wheels and tyres, correctly inflated and run well within their limits rarely fail.

Good quality, properly maintained bearings run well under their capacity rarely fail.

a single axle trailer will be a little easier to reverse and manover....less prone to scrub and crab.

A two or three axle trailer will ride over bumps far better

a rig with 2 wheels will generally be lighter than one with 4 or 6.

If buying an trailer with independent suspension....ask, where do I get spare parts.

There are some fairly good generally available independedent systems, that have good parts availablity......there are also those that are exclusive to a particular trailer company.

How is the support from that trailer company, and what happens if the company goes bust or changes the suspension they use.

A bloke I knew got into all sorts of strife when he could not get spares for a broken independent suspenion system.....he ended up replacing the whole suspension system to get his van back on the a 12 month old van.

Unfortunately suspension systems on trailers are like are selecting the best from a bad bunch and very rarely are they properly up to doing the whole job.


AnswerID: 518920

Follow Up By: Ron N - Monday, Sep 30, 2013 at 19:28

Monday, Sep 30, 2013 at 19:28
Bantam - Never were truer words spoken. The crap suspensions I see under some vans and trailers make me shudder. I reckon non-load-sharing tandem suspensions should be banned (typically, two sets of cheap-ar$e slipper springs - or worse, those mongrel rubber torsion suspensions with very little axle travel capacity).

Both of these styles of suspension will put all the load onto one axle when travelling over uneven ground or rough roads. That immediately means overloads on axles, suspension components, bearings, tyres, and wheel studs - way beyond any engineered design limits - not to mention the chassis itself.

The lack of shock absorbers on vans travelling on rough roads leads to a massive pummelling effect on the vans suspension, wheels, tyres and axles, that increases wear rates on suspension components by probably 100%.

The basic wheel bearing set for trailers and vans hasn't altered from the standard front wheel bearings, of post-WW2 cars such as the FJ Holden.
These bearings are running at their limit on todays heavier vans - and what so many people don't realise, is that there are now many bearings being sold that originate in China.
I shouldn't need to tell you what the reliability, product quality, and lifespan of Chinese bearings is!
What is worse, is that many "good brands" (Koyo is one) get their bearing supplies from Chinese suppliers! They come in a nice Koyo box and nowhere on the box is it stated where the bearings are made!

Joe my neighbouring mechanic, had two "comebacks" on Landcruiser gearboxes he overhauled. Joe is one of the finest mechanics I've had the pleasure to know.
In both cases, when he stripped the gearboxes down to rebuild them again, it was the same Koyo bearing, in the reverse idler position in the gearbox, that had failed! You ought to hear Joes opinion of Koyo bearings right about now!!

FollowupID: 798923

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