Aligning Trailer Tongue to an Axle
There is virtually no tolerance for misalignment. If the tongue is not mounted properly to the frame, the trailer will not track properly behind the tow vehicle. The further the attachment point is off-center from the axle, the more the trailer will sway while being towed.
1.) Locate the center of the axle by measuring the distance between the inside edges of the wheel hubs, along the length of the trailer’s axle. Divide the measurement in half and measure the result from the inside edge of either wheel hub to the center of the axle. For example, if the hub-to-hub measurement is 40 inches, half the distance would equal 20 inches. Measure in, along the axle, 20 inches from one wheel hub and mark with the pen. Double-check by measuring from the center mark to the inside edge of the opposite wheel hub. The measurements should be identical. If not, repeat the procedure.
2.) Measure the width of the front cross-member of the trailer’s frame and divide the number in half. Measure the result from one edge of the front cross-member to the center of the front cross-member of the frame. As an example, if the front cross-member is 30 inches, half the distance would be equal to 15 inches. Measure in 15 inches from either edge of the front cross-member and mark the center point with the pen. Double check by measuring from the center mark on the front cross-member to the opposite end of the front cross member. The numbers should be identical.
3.) Locate the center of the trailer’s hitch point (where the tongue of the trailer connects to the ball of the trailer hitch) by measuring the width of the ball-coupling latch that sits on top of the hitch ball socket. Divide the number in half and mark the resulting number on the latch.
4.) Push the tongue’s attachment supports up against the front cross-member of the trailer’s frame. Turn on the laser level and set the level on the center mark on the front cross-member of the frame. Align the laser with the center mark on the axle, then move the tongue assembly left or right to align the mark on the ball-coupling latch with the laser beam. The three center points of the axle, frame and hitch-point are now in perfect alignment.
5.) Mark the spots where the tongue attachment supports are lined up on the front cross-member of the trailer; the points where the tongue of the trailer will be connected (welded or bolted) to the trailer’s frame.
**Straightening a Bent Trailer Axle**
Axles are easily bent during an uncontrolled skid or collision. However, replacing them is not necessary unless it is extensively damaged. With welding skills and attention to detail, axle repair is possible. It is, however, important to weld the axle after straightening it in a step-by-step manner to prevent the axle from warping.
1.) Jack up the trailer and support the trailer bed with jack stands. Remove the tires and loosen the U-bolts with a socket wrench. These bolts hold the axle to the shackle springs. Once removed, lower the axle and support it on two additional jack stands.
2.) Lay an 8-foot level on the axle and locate the low area where the impact occurred. This indent is the point of stress created during the impact. Rotate the axle, spinning it several times, and take precise readings with the level. Be certain that the point of impact is correct. Place a mark with the chalk on this point.
3.) Rotate the axle 180 degrees (opposite) the mark on the impact site. This is the “bulging” side of the bend. With a grinder that has a thin, metal-cutting blade, cut into the bulge, going halfway around the axle. Lay a hardwood block on the cut and use a heavy shop hammer to drive the cut closed. This takes several sharp blows to accomplish. Continually use the level to ensure that the axle is straight.
4.) Tack-weld the closed cut in several places with a wire-feed welder. (The axle will not shrink, recreating a bend.) Allow the tack welds to cool. Reconfirm that the axle is straight by using the level on all points around the axle. Make any modifications as needed before welding the cut completely closed.
5.) Weld the cut closed when the level readings are good. Finish the weld by grinding the metal smooth. Spray a durable, black paint that will withstand the elements. This step will prevent rust formations on the axle repair.