One of the most common downsides of towing is the relatively low life span of the tires. Whether pulling a travel trailer or fifth-wheel, premature tire wear — as well as unexpected tire failure — is a serious safety concern, not to mention the extra cost associated with frequent replacements.
To help better understand early tire wear with trailers, you first need to know the symptoms that cause the problems. There are basically two major causes for premature wear and failure that can lead to costly collateral damage. Number one is grossly unbalanced lateral trailer weight. This condition is symptomatic of positioning too many heavy items on one side of the trailer, which may include a large slideout. Concentrating heavier objects on one side of a trailer essentially forces the suspension system out of alignment by pre-loading only half of the springs and axles.
The second problem comes directly from the point of origin. Sadly, many trailer chassis simply aren’t built using high enough standards. Straight out of manufacturing, the axles aren’t square to one another or to the ball and king pin, creating the misalignment — and there’s no provision for alignment. The end results of these conditions are increased friction in the wheel bearings and tire regions, ultimately escalating blowout probability and bearing wear — and let’s not forget about the potential fuel economy loss.
Rieco-Titan has a solution for the aforementioned scenarios, called the Correct Track (now in its second iteration), appropriately labeled, Correct Track II. The system consists of axle spring hangers that use special cams to align the axles (and wheels) in relation to the coupler and kingpin. The original kit, which is more appropriate for installation during chassis manufacturing stage, requires that the hangers be welded by proficient metal fabricators, but the Correct Track II can be bolted in place using hanger plates, making it very practical for aftermarket installations. There is no need for cutting, welding or fabricating. The kit is designed to reduce the chances of a blowout, while promoting improved tread wear. Testing has shown that tires run cooler, tread life is improved and catastrophic blowouts occur much less frequently.
Even without the need for welding, installation of the Correct Track II system is not recommended for just any average Joe. To begin installing the alignment correction kit, it’s first necessary to establish a level trailer from front to back using only the front jack(s), and to measure from the center of the kingpin or coupler back to a spot on the axle that never changes, such as the U-bolt plate. It’s sometimes easiest to do this using a plumb line and marking the ground first, then taking your measurement back. Don’t forget to write down the numbers.
At this point it’s imperative to carefully chock one side of the trailer’s tires, followed by securing all four corners of the trailer’s frame. Next, remove the tires from the side opposing the chocked wheels and place a floor jack under the first axle you’ll be working on. To maximize the performance of the new Correct Track II, it’s recommended that you also purchase the Rieco-Titan Never Fail bushings, which should be installed during this step in the build up. The easiest way to replace the bushings is to take one of the new long 9/16-inch bolts with a Never Fail piece seated against the bolt head and slide the remainder of the bolt into the original bushing and driving it through the hanger until it bottoms out. Doing this should push out the old bushing and install the new one simultaneously.
With the bushing where it should be, place two of the new hanger plates with both horizontal and vertical slots over the factory spring hanger using the center (non-slotted) bolt and hole to sandwich it. Tighten the bolt once the plates are positioned as straight up and down as possible. Use a 1/2-inch drill bit to mark the location of the new top bolt hole through the vertical slot. This is done by placing the drill bit as high up as possible in the slot, avoiding contact with any surrounding holes. Begin drilling just enough to make a small centered dimple and stop. At this point you need to determine whether or not you can get a level and straight hole all the way through both sides of the spring hanger. If you aren’t 100-percent positive that you can do this, then you should mark the inside portion of the spring hanger with the drill before removing the new hanger plates for final drilling. Continue drilling out the marked holes with the new hanger plates out of the way. You might want to consider pre-drilling these holes with a smaller bit first so you don’t burn up the 1/2-inch bit. Repeat these steps for all the new hanger plates on both sides of the trailer.
All the new hanger plates install exactly the same — with the only difference being the center plate, which contains one vertical slot. All the corresponding nuts and bolts are then tightened, making sure the applicable hanger-plate spacers are in place. Once the hangers are secure, jack up the spring eye back into position with the new hanger’s horizontal slot. Install the octagonal cam adjusters using the long 9/16-inch bolts to hold it all together. From here you can move on to the center equalizer hanger, followed by the remaining spring eye, repeating the process. Before completely tightening the cam bolts, rotate the cams, aligning the axle, based on prior measurements. Each turn of the cam adjusters is equal to 1/4-inch in either direction.
To take full advantage of the kit, I found it best to set the trailer back on the ground under full weight and then re-measure. If any changes are required the trailer will need to have the pressure lifted off the cam-adjuster bolts and the cam position moved until the axles are square to the coupler or kingpin.
Does it really work? In short, yes! The test trailer’s axle measurements were more than an inch off from one side to the other before the install and are now down to a mere 1/8-inch difference. This is a huge improvement — and a testimony to the crudeness of some trailer chassis. There is much less drag on the tires and bearings once the alignment is made. You can use the shoe test to quickly check if your axles are aligned properly before deciding on purchasing this kit: At about the center hub level, stick your shoe between the tires as far as it will go, then do it on the opposite side. You’ll likely be surprised at the difference.
As for the Correct Track II components, everything for the installation is included and well fabricated using high-quality metal and hardware throughout. However, the spacer blocks may not work precisely with all sizes of factory spring hangers. These spacer blocks are designed for the longer spring hangers, and used to prevent the lower ends of the brackets from bending as the bolts are tightened. The test trailer was fitted with shorter spring hangers, so the spacer blocks were left out. For these brackets, it’s best to snug the lower bolt (with the new bushing) before tightening the upper bolt. That way the bracket is kept from collapsing.
The complete kit retails for $259 and takes about four hours of labor for the installation.
Rieco-Titan, (866) 403-9803, www.riecotitan.com