Why does my travel trailer squeak?

Imagine that you're happily camped in your travel trailer. Everything is set up nicely inside and outside, and you're ready for a peaceful evening away from home.

But there's one small annoyance. As you and your fellow campers walk inside the trailer you can hear a little squeak-squeak-squeak. You can't tell where it is coming from, but it makes the whole trailer sound like a rusty bedspring, and after a while it starts to drive you crazy!

I chased this problem in my own Airstream for years before finally realizing what causes it. Like others, I tried all the obvious things first:

  • adjusting the stabilizer jack tension
  • lubricating the stabilizer jacks
  • checking the floor for loose or rubbing segments
  • listening at the shocks and axle while somebody else walked around inside the trailer

... and although once in a while I thought I had the solution, the problem always came back.

Checking online forums, I found I wasn't the only person bothered by this squeaking. Other people had gone to extremes to try to resolve it. Some took the Airstream back to the dealer for "floor repair" which didn't help. Others replaced their shock absorbers—which also doesn't help. I even heard of someone who replaced the entire axle!

I didn't do any of those things, because sometimes the sound would stop. I'd forget about it for a while, until one day in the campground the squeak would return like the protagonist in a Tom & Jerry cartoon.

Perversely, it often seemed louder when I had visitors. It was maddening and embarrassing. So what causes it?

It's the brakes.

Brake drum

As the brakes change temperature after towing, or when sitting in the sun, or when cooling off at night, the position of the shoes and other components changes slightly. This is why the squeaking comes and goes.

Don't bother replacing the brakes or brake parts, because it happens even with relatively new brakes. Opening up the brake drum and cleaning the brake components might help for a while, but the problem will likely come back.

Instead, try this very simple solution: Chock the wheels very very well.

The cheap-o plastic chocks typically sold by RV parts stores and Wal-Mart won't cut it. You need to buy really good chocks with high-friction rubber bottoms OR "x-chocks" (pictured below) that clamp between the tires on a dual-axle trailer. To solve the problem you need chocks that lock the wheels in place and prevent them from rolling back and forth, as completely as possible.

X-chocks

Smart Airstreamers know to always chock the wheels when camped on a sloping grade. Now you know why you might also want to chock the wheels on level ground, too!

 

Feature photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash  

6 comments

Gil Jarvie

Gil Jarvie

Excellent post and not something I had ever considered. I actually use both the heavy duty rubber chocks as well as the x-chocks. I always used both to help with “rocking” but it may also been working for the “squeaks” as well. I had always understood the x-chocks were not for actually chocking the wheels, by themselves, but more for extra stability of wheels. Is that not correct? We appreciate your insights and look forward to the next post.

James

James

we always chock the wheels – level ground or not – even when in the driveway.. guessing we are smart and happy campers.

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Gil, thanks for your comment. The X-chocks do an excellent job, so you don’t need a second set of chocks at the ground. Either type can stop the wheels from rolling, and that’s the goal.

Heidi McCormick

Heidi McCormick

Thabk you for posting this subject. I have an ongoing question regarding the X-Chocks which is: How much are you supposed to tighten them? I am concerned that if the X-chocks are too tight, it could cause issues with tires or the rubber cords that make up the suspension inside the Airstream axles. I have asked Dexter this question, but they wimped out on answering by stating that since they do not make or sell X-chocks, they could not answer. (sounds like their lawyers answer) The amount of torque required is usually stated as “tighten firmly”. Obviously, firmly is different things to different people. Can you provide some advice as to how much to tighten the X-chocks?

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Heidi: I use the X-chocks and wondered the same thing. First off, I don’t foresee any way that over-tightening them could affect the rubber cords in the axles. The tires deflect to take up the force applied by the chocks, so I doubt any substantial force transmits to the axles.

Could you tighten the chocks so much that you damage the tires? I suppose this is theoretically possible, but I doubt in practice you’d tighten the chocks that much. Personally, I tighten the x-chocks until I see they are pressing very firmly against the tread of the tires (a little deflection in the rubber is noticeable). Then I go inside the trailer and walk around to see if the tires are still able to move. If they are, you can tighten the chocks a little more.

Also keep in mind that after towing, the tires will cool down and so there will be lower air pressure in them. You may find that on the next morning you need to give the x-chocks a little tweak to tighten them more, to account for the decreased pressure in the tires.

Donald k Lake

Donald k Lake

I enjoyed your saga of the squeaky trailer. I had the almost identical mystery and after the same trial and error I bought the X-chocks. Problem solved. And I too wondered whether over-tightening would damage the tires. Nah.

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