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Old 07-24-2020, 04:13 PM   #1
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Default What would I need to upgrade on a 139 for a drive to Alaska?

My wife and I have decided it is time to expand our horizons and take an RV trip to Alaska! I have had the dream of driving the AlCan highway since I was a teenager. In preparation we have been watching some RV travelogues including the 2006 one by John Holod on Prime video. It soon struck me that 99% of the RVs making it on the AlCan Highway are either Class A or Class C motorhomes or 3/4 ton van conversions. I wondered why and made some searches on the Internet. There are literally dozens of reports of axle, spring and frame failures on trailers, as well as reports of the interiors falling apart due to the constant vibration.

I want to ask the FF experts whether a 139 from the mid-2000's could me outfitted or upgraded to make the journey and return. I have no doubt that my Ford F250 is up to the task. In today's market there are quite a few teardrop trailers being marketed as 'off road' worthy, as well as small 'off road' trailers by Forest River and Aliner. I have reviewed some of the spec sheets and noticed that the 'off road' packages include axles with higher load ratings, improved springs and much larger tires (typically the size of a small SUV). So, if I were to install a flipped heavier duty axle, installed heavier duty leaf springs and used 15 or 16" truck tires with a diameter of ~30 inches would I be good to go? What about the interiors?

Has anyone installed hydraulic or gas shocks on their 139?
Thanks for your inputs!
Jimbo
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Old 07-24-2020, 06:41 PM   #2
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Yes. Do it. (And let us know how it goes.)

Seriously, a heavy duty axle. Heavy shocks and leaf springs. The biggest tires that will fit. All of that is exactly what I have done. I am running Goodyear Endurance with Load Range D, which is way beefier than I need.

Although I have not gone to Alaska yet (it was supposed to be this year), we have towed thousands of miles (maybe a hundred thou??) on rough roads, including rocky forest roads (at lower speeds, but still a challenge).

Take two spare tires. Make sure you have a complete tool kit.

The interior cabinets will need to be locked -- otherwise all your stuff will fall out. Things will break and need fixing along the way. That is the price of back country travel.
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Old 07-24-2020, 08:30 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by profdant139 View Post
Yes. Do it. (And let us know how it goes.)

Seriously, a heavy duty axle. Heavy shocks and leaf springs. The biggest tires that will fit. All of that is exactly what I have done. I am running Goodyear Endurance with Load Range D, which is way beefier than I need.

Although I have not gone to Alaska yet (it was supposed to be this year), we have towed thousands of miles (maybe a hundred thou??) on rough roads, including rocky forest roads (at lower speeds, but still a challenge).

Take two spare tires. Make sure you have a complete tool kit.

The interior cabinets will need to be locked -- otherwise all your stuff will fall out. Things will break and need fixing along the way. That is the price of back country travel.
Wow! Thanks, that is the type of feedback I am interested in receiving, but please share your secrets: What is the rating of your axle? Describe the leaf spring thickness and how many? What size tires were you able to mount? e.g., LT235/70R15.

I remember years ago we started our camping lives with a Golden Nugget and eventually took it to San Felipe. By the time we arrived home in SoCal the trailer was no longer riding level because the wimpy leaf springs had collapsed. I replaced them with a taller stack each with about the same individual thickness (as I remember). I still have film photos of our kids playing on the beach where we camped. We were hooked!

Perhaps we should meet up and caravan! If you watch Holod's video I was intrigued by the idea of going one way on the Alaska ferry from Skagway to Vancouver (or other stops). This guy did the same thing: https://horizonunknown.com/canada-road-trip-alaska/
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Old 07-24-2020, 09:14 PM   #4
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I'll do my best to get you that info tomorrow -- I do know it is a 3500 lb axle. I never thought to count the leaf springs -- I will try to take a photo, too. The shocks have neoprene bushings -- not sure if that matters much, but it cost extra!
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Old 07-25-2020, 12:40 PM   #5
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Profdant139, please don't feel any pressure to answer quickly but I am very interested in understanding how you ruggedized your trailer for off road use.

Perhaps you or others can explain why some X-139 trailers have a single axle and others 2 axles. I would think that a single axle trailer might be the most rugged but (again) what have the experts learned? Is X-139 a model or a package designation? The weights and payloads vary over the years, as well as floor plans. Is the construction in the walls and ceiling wood or aluminum? Or does that change with the year?
Thanks from a neophyte!
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Old 07-25-2020, 06:04 PM   #6
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As far as I know, all 139s are single axle. If that is not true, someone will let us know!!

I think a double axle is better than a single -- two axles to distribute the weight, and four tires in case one blows out.

139 is a model designation -- it means that the box is 139 inches long -- almost 12 feet.

The older models had wood construction, and they switched to aluminum in around 2006 or so.

I took a look -- I have four "leaves" on each leaf spring. They look pretty beefy but I am no expert.

The tires are ST 205 75R14, Endurance Load Range D.

In terms of modifications, here is a link to my mod blog -- I hope that some of this will be useful:

The LMIC (Look Mom I'm Camping)
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Old 07-25-2020, 06:06 PM   #7
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And in case you are interested in the kinds of places we have gone with our 139, here is our trip blog:

Look, Mom, We're Camping!
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Old 07-25-2020, 06:39 PM   #8
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Is it your TV and trailer which is immortalized at the top of the page?

Thank you soooo much! Did you change the axle or only flip it? And you added shocks (one per side)? Have you had to replace the shocks or are they adjustable? Was the shock kit manufactured by Lippert or Monroe?

I would think the aluminum frame would be much better than the wood.

Attached is a pic of a 2013 139 showing two axles.
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Old 07-25-2020, 07:03 PM   #9
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Ours is a '05 with the Dexter TorFlex axle. I couldn't recommend the stock unit for rugged use. The factory installed TorFlex is a 2200/2500 pound axle and just doesn't have the wheel travel for rough roads. We upsized to a 3500 pound TorFlex and also added 2" spacers.
My advice for your trip would be to avoid the TorFlex and find a 139 with the spring axles and prepare it a la Professor Dan.
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Old 07-25-2020, 07:41 PM   #10
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APD, Thanks for the advice! Is the framing in your 05 aluminum or wood?
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Old 07-25-2020, 08:32 PM   #11
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Jimbo, I will confess -- that's me!

And if you look carefully at that picture, there is no way that is a 139, even though the dealer said it is. There are way too many windows, and it is much longer than a 139.

I got a new axle and then flipped it. Not sure who made the shocks -- the dealer installed them.
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Old 07-25-2020, 08:36 PM   #12
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Thanks! Oh, my! I just found a classic posting on rv.net:
Posted By: profdant139 on 10/27/11 01:35pm

Well, wish me luck. My old trailer (see picture) has single axle, torsion. I wanted double axles but I wanted a very small trailer, so my new trailer (a Fun Finder X-139) has single axles -- I could not find a little trailer with two axles. And the manufacturer went from torsion to leaf springs.

I have not taken delivery yet on the new trailer, but we are having the dealer install shocks to hold down the expected bouncing. And we have "flipped" the axles for better ground clearance (since we boondock on rough rocky dirt roads in the national forests out West). So we will see how this lifted trailer performs, in terms of towing and wind resistance. We could not get enough "lift" with our old torsion suspension. I know that I will have to inspect the axle components periodically, to make sure that they are not wearing out.

Life is a series of small compromises.
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Old 07-25-2020, 09:53 PM   #13
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Yep. That was 70,000 miles ago! As that post hinted, I have my mechanic check the suspension and the brakes every year, and repack and lube the bearings. Those are things that a handy person can do for himself or herself, but I prefer to have a professional do it so that I have someone else to blame.
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Old 07-26-2020, 12:01 AM   #14
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Jimbo-

I would also be concerned with the integrity of the entire trailer and not just the axles and tires. I say this based on my experience with pulling my 189 on about 40 miles of undeveloped roads in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a couple of years ago. The road was washboard, with ruts and holes filled with water. Going slow and navigating thur ruts and water threw the trailer out of alignment where the bathroom door would not close. After driving on a smooth paved road for awhile the trailer realigned itself and all was well. But just seeing what happened on that 40 mile stretch tells me my trailer is not meant for ruff terrain.
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Old 07-26-2020, 08:32 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimboFunFinder View Post
APD, Thanks for the advice! Is the framing in your 05 aluminum or wood?
Our's is a wood frame.

Just thinking out loud here.
Does your X139 have the roof mounted AC? That's a lot of weight sitting in the middle of the roof. If you're not going to need it you might consider, at least just for this trip, leaving it at home and installing an extra vent. It would relieve the roof stress/bouncing, reduce weight and you can always reinstall it again in the future.
If you need AC, You could take take a small 120v/5000btu window unit. Again just for this trip. They're not expensive, very light weight, would be quieter and more generator friendly too. Could be taken out and sat on the floor for travel.
Again just thinking (typing) out loud.
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Old 07-26-2020, 09:47 AM   #16
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Another random thought about a 139 in Alaska -- it rains a lot there. The 139s are great, but they are not great for spending the whole day inside listening to the rain -- rapid onset of cabin fever!

So if possible, bring along a portable shade structure that you can set up outside to give yourself a little extra sitting room. And as a bonus, maybe get a shade that has screens to filter out those famous Alaska mosquitos.

Don't be deterred, though -- lots of folks have made this trip in truck campers, which have even less inside room than a 139 does.
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Old 08-02-2020, 12:07 PM   #17
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Another thing you should check out, the Canadian government has imposed strict sanctions on travel from the US to Alaska and there are only so many border points that you use and you have to make the trip in a certain amount of time and can’t stop to sightsee.
“Foreign nationals are only admitted to Canada in circumstances where the traveller is considered to be transiting through to Alaska for a non-discretionary purpose such as work or going to primary residence.” Taken off the Canadian Border services website as of July 30 2020.
Appears this was placed into effect because some travellers said they were going to Alaska and ended up in Banff national park to vacation. They were fined $1200 Cdn each.
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Old 08-04-2020, 09:22 AM   #18
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OK, time to close this.
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