Elevating My Travel Trailer

I raised my trailer 3 1/2 inches further above the axle. This raises the black and grey water dump pipe to an acceptable 18 inches off the ground. It rode pretty low before. There were a couple of other clearance uncertainties that I had for dirt road driving and now they are all answered. I also replaced the single step to the door with a 2-step setup. Neither was as easy as I thought it would be. This post is a lengthly story of how I did it.

How does one raise a trailer?

You need some tools. There are no substitutes or improvisation on these. You get them or don’t do it.

Most of the people on the FaceBook group I track for community around our models of trailer have had their dealer do it. I imagine it’s probably a 4 hour job using shop lifts and impact wrenches. It took me around 9 hours across 2 days, with 2 of them wasted before I got a long handled ratchet. See below for that fun. The remaining 3 hours difference I chalk up to using a ratchet instead of a powered impact wrench. Those things eat work like this for lunch, but the cheapest decent one I could find right away was $170 and the ratchet was $50. I figured this might be the only time I’d ever really want to have one so meh, I went cheap and got a much better workout for the choice.

I am double, hard-core, really, actually happy that I did it because I found a problem that might not have been noticed by a dealer, although really that probably would have and then charged for it of course. What I found is noted below!

Tools ‘n material stuff

Tools that got it done

For the lift brackets:

  • 15/16” socket, 1/2” drive
  • 15/16” box end wrench

For the Wheels:

  • 3/4” socket, 1/2” drive

For driving the sockets:

  • 1/2” drive breaker bar, 20” long or similar
  • 1/2” drive ratchet with a 20” handle or similar – you will really really need this or a 1/2″ drive impact wrench. You are not enough of a masochist to do it any other way.
  • Big ass 1/2” drive clicker torque wrench that goes to at least 120 ft-lb, usually with a 24″ handle

Also:

  • snips for brake wiring zip ties. Gotta cut ‘em
  • Bottle jack. Mine is a 6-ton. I got it in case of flats
  • Floor jack – for supporting the axle after it is unbolted from the trailer
  • 2 jack stands – the right height
  • a few 16” long 2x4s to block up the jack and the jack stands
  • Your new shiny3 1/2″ riser block kit (link) with 15/16″ bolts, washers, and nuts

Jack up the trailer & remove the wheel

It was easy. Might as well get good at this so you’ll be ready for a flat on the road too. This is your little rehearsal in addition to a lift.

  • Chock the side you are not working on. You do not want the trailer to start rolling while you do this.
Don’t jack the gas line!
  • On the driver side of the frame you need to be aware of the gas line which is right next to the frame. I made sure the 2×4 that I used to pad the jack stand was centered. I put the jack stands a couple of feet in front and behind the axle.
Just got it jacked and braced
  • Remember to loosen the wheel lug nuts before jacking. I forgot and had to let it down to loosen the nuts, then back up again. Lost 15 minutes. The breaker bar and the 3/4” socket work like a charm
On jack stands and the rolling jack is under the axle
  • And up on the stands it goes. Then remove the wheel.

Unbolt the axles from the trailer

  • Clip the zip tie holding the electric brake cable closest to the drum. Put the floor jack under the axle and push it up just a bit, not much, just enough to give it support.
  • Unbolt the 2 15/16” bolts holding the axle to the frame.

This is going to be surprisingly difficult if you were expecting a normal type of bolt, but noooooo, these are not normal. These bolts are “distorted thread locknuts”, where 3 places along the top of the nut at slightly distorted so the threads are tight. They are a tremendous pain to work with but it’s what you want to see holding your axle onto your trailer’s frame. There is almost an inch of thread to clear when removing the nut and you have to turn against those distorted threads the whole time. Also keep in mind that you’ll have to hold the bolt head with the box wrench so you can torque the nut. 

Removing the 1st bolt with only a breaker bar and a box-end wrench. Not good. Get the long handle ratchet.

I did the first side with just a breaker bar. It took me an hour and it was stupid hard work. I went out and bought a long handle ratchet handle after that. I could not have finished the job without the ratchet. Remember, you’ll take off two bolts but you’ll also be putting 4 bolts back in place. Make it easy on yourself.

Lower the Axle and attach the riser to the axle & frame

  • This is where you let the axle down with the floor jack. It has to go at least 4 inches down. Just low enough to be able to slide the riser box in. There’s only 1 way to orient it. You’ll figure it out.

Inspect the brake wiring thoroughly, especially now when the mounts are separated. I found that the factory had routed the passenger-side brake wiring so that it was pinching between the axle and frame brackets. It had chafed both positive and ground to the point of exposing the copper. If it wasn’t for the paint on the brackets it would have shorted out, probably while we were driving, blowing the fuze and losing half the brakes. Probably within a hundred miles of our next trip, and the short would still have been hidden behind the brackets. It would have been a nightmare to fix on the road. But since I caught the problem, it was just annoying as hell and made me comment on the quality of workmanship on these things.

  • Once the axle is low enough there will be enough room to slide one of the riser boxes in between the axle and frame flanges. Two bolts will sit vertically holding the riser to the axle bracket, and another two bolts will be horizontal, holding the riser to the frame bracket.
  • Put in all 4 of the bolts, washers, and hand-tightened the nuts. You can only hand tighten to the last few threads of the nuts. After that the distorted thread part of the nut starts rotating down the bolt. It takes at least 30 ft-lbs of torque just to turn those nuts, even though it’s so wobbly that you’ll have to hold the bolt head with the box wrench. You will be glad you got that ratchet.
  • Now you lie there, holding one end of the bolt/nut combo with the box wrench and the other with the socket and ratchet. You flail away turniing the nut but because you’re under the trailer you can only get 30-40 degrees of rotation before ratcheting back for the next twist. It took me about 45 minutes to get all 4 bolts screwed down tight.
  • Now you get that torque wrench out, set it to 120 ft-lb of torque and get in there and reef each bolt to torque spec. It can be bloody awkward because sometimes you still have to hold the bolt head from turning under the torque wrench. What a PITA! At least once you’re done, you’re done.
  • Wah-LAH! You’re still not done with that side yet!

Put it all back together on that side

If you’re me you’ll immediately go to the wheel and bring it around to put it back on. Uh-uh, nope. Not gonna happen. When you put the riser in you had to lower the axle a little more than 3 1/2″. It’s now too low for your wheel, so you gotta jack it up to a bit more than wheel height. Isn’t that special?

I was short on 2x4s so I jacked it up to loosen the jack stands, pull one out with its 2×4, and move the other one to a point near the jack to allow me to rest the trailer on the remaining jack stand. Once in place you lower the jack to free up some jack space to slide in that 2nd 2×4, and jack it back up until the axle is a bit higher than the wheel height.

  • Replace the wheel just like you would if you were repairing a flat, remember?
  • Lower the jack so weight is on the wheel and tighten the wheel nuts to 120 ft-lbs. Oh yeah, that’s why I said you needed that 3/4″ socket…for the torque wrench!!!!
  • Once torqued jack back up enough to free the remaining jack stand, lower the jack the rest of the way and remove that baby.

Not done quite yet.

  • Now go under and route those brake wires so you can tie them down with a new zip tie to replace the one you cut off. Make sure the wires aren’t rubbing anything and are free from any springing of the suspension.
Now with 3 1/2″ extra height! 1 down, 1 to go.

Now you’re done with that side.

Now for the other side

I did the driver side first, under the slide-out. The other side is just like the first side but right-handed. The risers will work on either side so no worries there. There is one thing you will probably want to do on the passenger side which is to remove the steps. It frees up room that you’ll need to maneuver.

Notice the step mount flange between the jack stand and the wheel. Ouch warning!!!

But watch out! the step mount flanges on the frame stick out and have a very sharp corner. I didn’t get caught by that but I can imagine plenty of heads getting gouged if people aren’t looking out for it.

Otherwise it is just like the other side. Lather rinse repeat.

Replace the steps and you’re done

I actually replaced the stock steps with a 2-step version to make up for the added height. It’s very straightforward, but you might need to expand some mount holes if your new step’s mount hole spacing isn’t wide enough for the holes on the frame mount flanges like mine. It was easy to fix with a little jigsaw action.

So that is it. Your Winnie or Minnie Drop is now 3 1/2 inches taller. Congratulations!!

That black patch under the fender is not a rub mark, it’s where they didn’t scrape off the remaining vinyl decal during assembly. I’ll remove it sometime before we go camping.