Timbren Axle-Less: important info for those building

geanes

Member
UPDATE BELOW in GREEN (4/23/19):

Original Post:
The trailer I recently bought was equipped with the Timbren 3500lb Axle-less suspension. I outfitted it with 33" off-road tires and experienced a catastrophic failure of the hub that damaged the spindle beyond repair. This occurred within 50 miles of putting the new wheels on. I had driven the trailer nearly 500 miles home on it's stock 27" road wheels/tires and experienced zero issues. The bearings rolled smooth and the grease was a bluish color. I pulled the one still-working wheel off yesterday and noticed that the grease is a grey color with a silvery sheen. Pulled the bearings and they are clearly scouring. So, the other hub is failing too.

Here's where it gets interesting and I think people would benefit from this research. Timbren offers TWO different 3500lb 4" drop axle-less options. The one I have is evidently designed for road tires and travel. It's noticeable in that it has a 4 bolt brake plate and uses a 2" square crossmember to connect the sides. It also uses a 5x4.5 hub. The other option is their HD which uses a heavier spindle and a 5 bolt brake plate with 2x3" crossmember and uses a heavier 6x5.5 hub. eTrailer and a couple manufacturers I spoke with say that the HD is the version to go with for off-road travel and heavier tires. They have said that the other version can induce flex when using heavier/larger tires off-road that can lead to catastrophic failure as I experienced. I am now faced with significant corrective costs as I must buy an entirely new HD setup ($800), hubs ($140) and adapters ($140) PLUS have someone cut out the 2" crossmember and replace with a 2x3". I figure this $3500 trailer is about to cost $5500 or more just to correct the issue that the wrong 3500lb axle-less suspension was put on. Additionally, I'll have a perfectly fine 3500lb 4" drop standard setup that I can't use. Hopefully someone needs one for their road going trailer and I can recover a few $$.

Anyway, hope this helps others who may build their own trailers or are looking to convert their standard axle trailers to axle-less save some hard-earned cash and time. I'm literally sick over this as all that money to fix this was intended for upgrades like electrical/solar/linear lifts, etc.

Here are the part #s and descriptions per eTrailer and confirmed by Timbren:

3500lb 4" drop HD (Off-road): https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Leaf-Spring-Suspension/Timbren/ASR35HDS02.html

3500lb 4" drop SD (road based): https://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Axles/Timbren/ASR3500S06.html



4/23/2019:

Ok, so an update and a mea culpa. Timbren part #s are confusing as all heck as they have changed over time and different combos can be created. Turns out I HAVE an "HD" setup, but a version that is 2 years old (part #'s have subsequently changed). The part # is ASR2KHD.... The 2k is the spring rating and the HD is the Heavy Duty acronym in Timbren-speak. It is a "unique" setup: it has an assembly (frame mount and spindle) that are 3500lb rated, but springs that are 2000lb rated. Additionally, it does not have the "wide" axles normally associated for off-road tires. But, the spindles are rated to handle bigger off-road tires. Since I need to run a 1" adapter to convert from 5x4.5 to 5x150, this isn't an issue at all. Given that my Toyota wheels are 60mm offset, the centerline/balancepoint of the wheel is actually directly over the hub flange (which should be ideal) and I have 2" of clearance between the tire and the nearest point of the frame. This should be ideal for my trailer as gross dry weight is shy of 700lbs and my loaded weight will hit 1400lbs on the high side.

Having said this, I think I've finally figured out what actually happened by closely examining the other hub (port side) that didn't fail, but exhibited signs of impending failure.

Starboard hub (critically failed component): When I removed the broken hub from the starboard spindle, I remember that the castle nut was dang near impossible to remove. I had to use a 14" pipe wrench and "lean" on it to get the castle nut loose. At the time, I didn't notice it or give it a 2nd thought. Additionally, I don't recall a washer coming off when I removed the castle nut. It would not make sense to me that the washer (if present) would be destroyed under the high heat like the bearing carriers and bearings themselves.

Port hub (signs of impending failure): I realized that when I removed the non-failed hub (port side), it took considerable force to remove that castle nut as well. Also, after removing the wheel, I noticed that the hub didn't spin freely by hand. It spun smoothly, but didn't "coast" at all. When I pulled down on a lug by hand to initiate a spin, the hub would make a 1/2 rotation and stop....that's all. That would be way too tight IMO. Additionally, there was NO washer present between the castle nut and the outboard bearing. Yesterday evening, I reassembled the hub using new Auto-Zone bearings, added a washer from the bearing kit I purchased and reinstalled only hand-tightening the castle nut to a "firm" feel. The hub exhibited zero lateral play and, when I spun the hub by hand, it would complete a little over 2 full rotations. That seems ideal from all the videos and write-ups I've recently discovered.

My conclusion from all this is that the person who built the trailer over-tightened the pre-load on the castle nut and left out the washers (for whatever reason) which led to binding and incredible heat build up in the hub. The 33" tires likely exacerbated this heat build-up and led to the catastrophic failure. At this point, I can't fault any of the mechanical components (Timbren Axles-less, spindle or Northern Tool hubs). It appears that the hubs were simply "gorilla'd" onto the spindle which would have led to considerable binding, heat build-up and ultimate failure. I also view this as my fault for not checking the pre-load on the bearings when I purchased the trailer. Ignorance is no excuse, I should have tested that.


So, the good news is this: it does NOT appear that I need to buy an entirely new axle-less setup and fab up a new cross-member. I should be able to simply install the replacement spindle and new hubs (once I receive them) following the correct assembly procedures of including the washer between the castle nut/outboard bearing and tightening the castle nut by hand without applying unnecessary additional force that could bind the bearings.
 
Last edited:

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
Sorry to hear about your trials.

Just a different point of view from a guy who has done the light trailer on matching 33s thing. While it looks cool and means 1 spare fixes both, the big 33 on a light trailer..... regadless of the suspension tech.... always rides like crap off road. Great suspensions are light weight. A lower unsprung weight always rides smoother all else equal. On a heavy trailer the margin to increase unsprung weight increases but on a light, 2000# to 3000# trailer the difference is dramatic.

My current trailers weigh under 2000#, have 3500# axles on 2000# springs and run the stock 205/75R15 trailer tire. I tow with a Rubicon and that trailer follows me everywhere. I find no disadvantage with that small, light tire and many advantages as I watch the trailer following me in the mirror. .... with just the axle bouncing around.

511370

There was a lot of forest fire smoke last year.

But on the hub failure issue, I find it unbelievable that a hub build for 27s would fail in 50 miles with 33s. Sorry but that is pure bullshit. Or if true..... I'll remember to never by a Timbren axle. I'd take the complaint to upper management. Write a paper letter to the manufacturer.... but document the advice you got first.
 
Last edited:

Recommended books for Overlanding

Jafrench

Observer
I agree with @billiebob regarding the story you got about HD versus SD. Even if SD is meant for stock tires on road, they shouldn't fail within 50 miles. Were those 50 miles off road? Whatever the case, it doesn't solve your problem. That really blows. Out of curiosity, what kind of trailer are they on? Any recourse with whomever you bought the trailer from?

I put the HD version Timbren's on my Taxa Cricket. I chose them because they're called "Heavy-Duty" for "Off-Road Tires" but otherwise would not have known there was any difference.
 

honda250xtitan

Active member
Sorry to hear about your trials.

Just a different point of view from a guy who has done the light trailer on matching 33s thing. While it looks cool and means 1 spare fixes both, the big 33 on a light trailer..... regadless of the suspension tech.... always rides like crap off road. Great suspensions are light weight. A lower unsprung weight always rides smoother all else equal. On a heavy trailer the margin to increase unsprung weight increases but on a light, 2000# to 3000# trailer the difference is dramatic.

My current trailers weigh under 2000#, have 3500# axles on 2000# springs and run the stock 205/75R15 trailer tire. I tow with a Rubicon and that trailer follows me everywhere. I find no disadvantage with that small, light tire and many advantages as I watch the trailer following me in the mirror. .... with just the axle bouncing around.
i have my 285/70-17 tires aired down to 20psi on my trailer. Plus shocks, some leaf spring work, it rides pretty smooth right behind the 4runner. I'd rather have the ground clearance TBH.
 

alia176

Explorer
I am curious if the trailer in question was marketed as a standard, on the road trailer. Because if the trailer is being used as "unintended" then the trailer manufacturer can bow out of the liability issue.

This sucks no matter what.

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
 

geanes

Member
The trailer is a Morris Mule knock-off. Originally built by Pak-All in Austin, TX. They were sued in 2017 for patent infringement and had to liquidate their inventory. The builder bought 3 from a bankruptcy auction. They were incomplete chassis (frames already welded up with the tub). All that needed to be done to complete them was to install axles and the tongue basket. He installed the 3500# SD Axle-less suspension.

The trailer weighs the same as the Morris (685lbs dry). My total weight will barely clear 1k. The Rooftop tent will add about 130lbs, the 2500 awning about 35lbs, battery/solar setup with tongue box about 150lbs. Adding the linear actuators and proper trailer jacks on the rear plus cargo and you're looking at another 175-200lbs total. That means I will be around 1200lbs fully loaded. Am now considering if I should go with the 2200lb version. 3500lbs seems overkill for a 1200-1300 lb loaded trailer.

You may find it unbelievable that the hub failed in 50 miles and I understand your incredulity. However, I know what was experienced and in talking to Hiker, Boreas and 2 other reputable builders, what I experienced is not out of the question. All 50 miles were on pavement. However, in Austin, the pavement is rutted and riddled with inconsistencies. I had DiscountTire mount the 33" tires to my factory LandCruiser wheels. I installed them and went about my day. I didn't pay attention that they aired them up to the psi that would be spec for my LandCruiser (36psi). The trailer was bouncing everywhere. I later realized that I needed to lower the pressures. So, I lowered them to 16 psi. The trailer then tracked much smoother. I'm not sure if the bouncing and jarring ultimately led to the hub failing or if the axle spindle flexed (can't imagine it would). The other hub is failing as well. I don't understand how, if the grease was a blue color when I inspected it before purchase and drive home and there was no play or wobble when I checked the wheels, the grease is now greyish with a silvery sheen and the bearings are showing signs of scouring. All I can think is this is similar to the mountain bike world where you don't run smaller cross-county spindles on a downhill bike. There is no strict timeline on when a cross-country spindle would fail in a downhill application, but it would. Could happen on the first ride. Could happen after 20 rides. And likely catastrophically. The spindle and bearings on a downhill rig are larger diameter and engineered to handle that application. Would a cross-country spindle work in a pinch? Sure. But, you're playing with fire. Again, not at all sure why it failed so quick and I don't think it's a negative against Timbren. I do think they should be more clear about the applications as there really is no info from them on it at all. All the info is from eTrailer and 4 builders who have learned their lessons about the Axle-less setup. The HD setup uses larger bolts and wider spacing on the frame as well as using a 2x3 vs 2x2 crossmember. Additionally, it uses more and larger lugs with a larger diameter spindle and bearings. All of that makes sense to me.

I realize that I got very lucky. I could have lost a 100lb wheel/tire combo on the highway and god only knows what that could have done to an innocent bystander. I could have broken down in a National Park or waaaaaay out in West Texas where I'd have to abandon the trailer for weeks while I waited for parts. I was able to get it home and count my blessings in that regard. I'm going to fix it the right way so I don't worry in the future. I'm going the HD route and installing it myself so I know every single thing that was done. Found a local fabricator that is willing to help me. This is my first trailer ever and, before this, had zero experience owning one. I've towed plenty of U-Hauls, but never owned one. This trailer was an impulse purchase. I had a line on a used Hiker Off-Road (put down a deposit with the seller), but they sold it from under me the day I showed up with the remaining cash. They refunded my deposit. In my haste, I found this trailer and did very little research on it before purchase other than ask what the suspension and hubs were and looked up the provenance of the manufacturer. I assumed that a 3500lb axle was a 3500lb axle and that 1750lb hubs were all the same. It didn't occur to me that there could be different applications. That's on me for not researching enough. Kicking myself over that as I typically research the heck out of a purchase before committing.

The first pic is of the trailer as I bought it and drove it home from Denton. The 2nd is after the 33"s were installed. 3rd and 4th images are of the damaged hub/spindle. You'll notice that the races are fused to the spindle. The underside of the spindle is chewed up real good. The last pic is of an identical Pak-All trailer kitted out by a fellow LandCruiser owner in Houston. His has a Torsen 3500lb axle and Dexter hubs. He's never had an issue in over 5000 miles of travels. His is what inspired mine.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
The trailer is a Morris Mule knock-off. Originally built by Pak-All in Austin, TX. They were sued in 2017 for patent infringement and had to liquidate their inventory.
Am I the only one who is thinking "you actually thought it was a good deal" ??
 

geanes

Member
Am I the only one who is thinking "you actually thought it was a good deal" ??
Construction-wise, I think I did get a good deal. Many of these trailers are running around without issue. Have spoken with 5 different owners of the same trailer who are all happy over the years. The frame is solid, straight and it was over $1200 less than a new Morris. The wrong axle-less setup was chosen and the information out there wasn't readily available....took lots of independent research and discussions with reputable builders. The concept of this trailer was to get thru a "season" of camping because the Hiker trailers are on a 12-15 month lead time. Smittybilt's weren't available and had just gone up to $5999 and then subsequently changed to $6999 because they are now (evidently) unable to sell non-wheeled trailers. I needed something to use this season that wouldn't break the bank (budgeted $5k......have to put a 40% deposit down on a $12k Hiker already). This one fit the bill (no pun intended). Even accounting for having to replace the axle-less suspension with an HD suspension, I'll be at the price of the new Morris. In retrospect, perhaps I should have just bought the Morris. But, hindsight is 20/20. Lesson learned. I'll fix this trailer and use it as I intended. When the time comes that my Hiker Off-road is ready, I'll sell this trailer with full disclosures as to what it is, what I experienced and what I did to correct it.
 

Teardropper

Active member
Am now considering if I should go with the 2200lb version. 3500lbs seems overkill for a 1200-1300 lb loaded trailer.
I would think that if you go for the 3500#s, the only suspension that you'll actually get is from the tires.

I've got a Dexter Torflex coming next week for build #4 –it's downrated to 1500 pounds. The trailer will weigh in at 1250.

T
 

jwiereng

Active member
geanes said:

“Am now considering if I should go with the 2200lb version. 3500lbs seems overkill for a 1200-1300 lb loaded trailer.”

Probably best to use springs as close to the max intended load. Too harsh if oversprung.
 

geanes

Member
Ok, so an update and a mea culpa. Timbren part #s are confusing as all heck as they have changed over time and different combos can be created. Turns out I HAVE an "HD" setup, but a version that is 2 years old (part #'s have subsequently changed). The part # is ASR2KHD.... The 2k is the spring rating and the HD is the Heavy Duty acronym in Timbren-speak. It is a "unique" setup: it has an assembly (frame mount and spindle) that are 3500lb rated, but springs that are 2000lb rated. Additionally, it does not have the "wide" axles normally associated for off-road tires. But, the spindles are rated to handle bigger off-road tires. Since I need to run a 1" adapter to convert from 5x4.5 to 5x150, this isn't an issue at all. Given that my Toyota wheels are 60mm offset, the centerline/balancepoint of the wheel is actually directly over the hub flange (which should be ideal) and I have 2" of clearance between the tire and the nearest point of the frame. This should be ideal for my trailer as gross dry weight is shy of 700lbs and my loaded weight will hit 1400lbs on the high side.

Having said this, I think I've finally figured out what actually happened by closely examining the other hub (port side) that didn't fail, but exhibited signs of impending failure.

Starboard hub (critically failed component): When I removed the broken hub from the starboard spindle, I remember that the castle nut was dang near impossible to remove. I had to use a 14" pipe wrench and "lean" on it to get the castle nut loose. At the time, I didn't notice it or give it a 2nd thought. Additionally, I don't recall a washer coming off when I removed the castle nut. It would not make sense to me that the washer (if present) would be destroyed under the high heat like the bearing carriers and bearings themselves.

Port hub (signs of impending failure): I realized that when I removed the non-failed hub (port side), it took considerable force to remove that castle nut as well. Also, after removing the wheel, I noticed that the hub didn't spin freely by hand. It spun smoothly, but didn't "coast" at all. When I pulled down on a lug by hand to initiate a spin, the hub would make a 1/2 rotation and stop....that's all. That would be way too tight IMO. Additionally, there was NO washer present between the castle nut and the outboard bearing. Yesterday evening, I reassembled the hub using new Auto-Zone bearings, added a washer from the bearing kit I purchased and reinstalled only hand-tightening the castle nut to a "firm" feel. The hub exhibited zero lateral play and, when I spun the hub by hand, it would complete a little over 2 full rotations. That seems ideal from all the videos and write-ups I've recently discovered.

My conclusion from all this is that the person who built the trailer over-tightened the pre-load on the castle nut and left out the washers (for whatever reason) which led to binding and incredible heat build up in the hub. The 33" tires likely exacerbated this heat build-up and led to the catastrophic failure. At this point, I can't fault any of the mechanical components (Timbren Axles-less, spindle or Northern Tool hubs). It appears that the hubs were simply "gorilla'd" onto the spindle which would have led to considerable binding, heat build-up and ultimate failure. I also view this as my fault for not checking the pre-load on the bearings when I purchased the trailer. Ignorance is no excuse, I should have tested that.

So, the good news is this: it does NOT appear that I need to buy an entirely new axle-less setup and fab up a new cross-member. I should be able to simply install the replacement spindle and new hubs (once I receive them) following the correct assembly procedures of including the washer between the castle nut/outboard bearing and tightening the castle nut by hand without applying unnecessary additional force that could bind the bearings.
 
Last edited:

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
The 33" tires likely exacerbated this heat build-up and led to the catastrophic failure.
Actually the larger diameter 33s would have slowed the rotations and likely extended the life of the bearing.
Altho I doubt it would be measurable, mostly theoretical.

But yes, very good news.
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

We Will Be Free: Overlanding In Africa and Around South A...
by Mr Graeme Robert Bell
From $20
Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term Wo...
by Rolf Potts
From $14.29
Don't Go There. It's Not Safe. You'll Die.: And other mor...
by Jared McCaffree, Jessica Mans, Kobus Mans
From $19.99
Tortillas to Totems (Every day an Adventure Book 4)
by Sam Manicom
From $9.99

geanes

Member
Actually the larger diameter 33s would have slowed the rotations and likely extended the life of the bearing.
Altho I doubt it would be measurable, mostly theoretical.

But yes, very good news.
Very good point. That is true. I was thinking more about the weight of the 33s increasing the heat. My 33 wheel tire combo weighs 92lbs. The 27 wheel/tire combo was like 42lbs.
 
Top