When the owner of a 3-year-old Livin' Lite Toy Hauler lost an axle while traveling, he soon found out that the axle was supported by a piece of aluminum alloy that was fastened to a steel axle assembly. (See photos below.) And from what we have learned, the high number of complaints against Livin' Lite's suspension structure is telling us that the aluminum suspension supports are not strong enough for the use for which the RV was designed.
Livin' Lite is very proud of using so much aluminum in their trailers. And because of the ratio of weight to structural strength of aluminum compared to steel, for the most part this is something to be proud of. But there are limitations to aluminum for structural uses -- especially when those uses involve high stress like the horizontal and vertical forces an axle puts on any structural component of the axle-to-frame assembly.
Somewhere along the line of engineering and design, Livin' Lite made the mistake of using either the wrong material or the wrong fastening process for holding the axles of their trailers to the aluminum framing. However, Livin' Lite isn't alone in this deficiency.
During our research on the subject of framing-to-suspension problems, we have found a number of RV manufacturers that are pushing "lite" also cutting corners in this area of structural integrity -- which, of course, is a safety problem. In the case of the Livin' Lite, had the front axle broken loose instead of the rear axle, it could have easily ripped out the back axle and caused a serious accident.
This photo shows broken brackets on axle.
This photo shows where the brackets broke away from the framing.
This photo shows the toy hauler trailer loaded onto the flatbed with the axle sitting on the trailer.
Since this is an important safety issue, the parent of Livin' Lite (K-Z / Thor Industries) should look for structural problems in all their brands and correct them without considering cost. On the consumer's part, every buyer should be aware of the problem and not hesitate to look under the vehicle to be sure that if aluminum framing is used, steel axle supports are bolted to the aluminum with an adequate insulated system to prevent electrolysis -- a reaction between two unlike metals that would eventually weaken the aluminum.
Stay tuned! In an upcoming issue of RV Confidential, we'll cover advantages and disadvantages of using aluminum structural framing and roll bars in both motor homes and trailers.