The Airstream Sport 22 unfortunately comes out of the factory with very low ground clearance. The grey water tank hangs down below the frame of the camper at the rear, where it drags pulling into and out of driveways that have more than a negligible slope. More than once we’ve winced as the tank made a terrible grinding sound as it dragged across the asphalt on the way out of a gas station parking lot. It was time to give this Airstream a lift.
Getting Wobbles into our Driveway
Prior to the lift, getting Wobbles the Airstream into our driveway was a multi-hour maneuver, involving multiple different height hitches and wooden blocks to make a ramp.
After returning from a trip, first we would park on the street and change from our load distributing hitch to a hitch with a 4″ drop. Dropping the hitch 4″ would raise the back of the camper up about the same distance, giving us enough clearance for the gray water tank and sewer drain at the rear. We would then place some wooden blocks at the point where the side of the street meets our driveway ramp (the lowest point). Slowly, we’d back the trailer up until the grey water tank cleared the top of our driveway ramp. Soon, the spare tire holder at the front of the trailer would begin rubbing on the driveway.
At this point we would stop, unhitch, change to a hitch with a 2″ rise, and re-hitch the trailer. All the while our van would be pretty much blocking the street, so I was in a panic to hitch up as fast as possible. With the higher hitch the spare tire holder would just barely clear the driveway.
Installing the Lift Kit
I ordered the lift kit from Dexter, the company that makes the axles that Airstream uses. The lift kit (Dexter #11 Lift Kit) was designed for 2-axle trailers, so it came with twice as many parts as I needed, so I sold the other half of the kit to another Airstream Sport 22 owner.
Airstream doesn’t approve of lift kits, so having the dealer do the install was out of the question (I asked and they declined). I was nervous about jacking up the trailer, as I don’t have a lot of experience with such things (nor do I have any jacks). Fortunately, my friend Josh had both the equipment and experience. I brought the trailer over to his driveway and we got to work.
The install took us about 4 hours. It involved jacking up the trailer, removing the bolts holding the axle in place, dropping the axle about 3″ using a hydraulic jack, inserting the spacer blocks from the lift kit, and bolting everything back together.
While the wheels were off, I also took the opportunity to touch up a few rust spots around the wheel wells with some Rustoleum spray paint.
The only real complication was that for some unknown reason Airstream chose to run the propane line through the axle bracket. They must have run the copper pipe through prior to flaring the ends, as it did not fit back out through. Since I didn’t have a replacement propane line, I chose to just bend the copper pipe downward with the axle. It’s not the prettiest solution, and perhaps some day I will replace the pipe with a new one and run it up above the axle.
I’ve only done a short test drive after installing the lift kit, but it felt like it towed just as good as before. The best part: I was able to back straight into our driveway without any blocks or hitch changes!
18 Comments on “Giving our Airstream a lift”
Awesome job Justin! Not a small task. Curious to hear how she handles on the freeway with the lift.
I have the same problem with my new 22 ft sport. (one axle) How much did it lift your trailer. Do I void the warranty ? The problem is my plumbing is only off the drive 7.5 in. What was the airstream company thinking. This is the 3rd airstream I have owned. (I keep down sizing). Thanks for your post. Tye Kline
The lift is only 3” additional, but it makes a huge difference. No more worrying about gas station entrances/exits. No, it doesn’t appear to void the warranty. We have had warranty work done since at two different dealers and nobody said a thing. In fact, they said they install lift kits for customers at the Las Vegas dealer (our Portland dealer doesn’t install them)
Can you provide any updates on the improvements/degradations pros/cons of traveling with the lift? Any overhead clearance challenges?
Hi Jim— there is nothing we regret about doing the lift. We’ve been on a trip with the Airstream for the last 4 months and haven’t bottomed out once— but I can think of dozens of places we’ve towed where it would have bottomed out if we hadn’t had the lift. I do always use wooden blocks now under the tongue jack as otherwise the stock jack can barely get the tongue high enough to hitch up… however, you could also swap out the jack of that we’re an issue for you. It’s a bit farther of a drop from the door step to the ground, but that hasn’t been an issue, even for our 4 year old. No clearance challenges as the Airstream is still much shorter than the majority of RVs out there. I definitely recommend the lift.
Thanks for that it was very helpful with helping me to decide to lift or not to lift.
I would like to have my Airstream lifted. Would you know of a reputable installer on the west cost please.
Hi Fernando— since I did the lift with my friend, I don’t know if installers. However, I have heard that some Airstream dealers will do it, while others won’t… so I would start by just calling around to various dealers.
My wife and I installed a 3 inch lift kit on our 16 foot Bambi sport. We have a Dexter number 10 axle. The holes for mounting the axle on our airstream are vertical ovals. We bolted the lift kit block as high as we could on the oval, to give us as much lift as possible.After everything was tightened, and we let the trailer off the jacks, one Bolt on each side stayed on the highest end of the oval. The other shifted the axle down.
It doesn’t seem quite right. Anyone have any thoughts?
Steve, did you use a torque wrench to tighten the bolts? The instructions that come with the lift kit have the torque listed as 130-150 ft lbs. I remember that I wasn’t strong enough to reach the target torque and my more muscular friend had to finish the job :).
We just yesterday lifted our single-axle 16′ Sport with a Dexter axle kit. The original axle bracket and the bracket on the frame where it attaches, both have slot instead of a hole to accept the bolts.
After we completed the install, and lowered the trailer back down, ON BOTH SIDES, the axle tilted downward in the front and up in the back (separate from the intentionally-designed camber and toe-in of the axle), making the lift kits tilt down toward the front as well. Not sure if this is normal…we didn’t see if the axle was completely horizontal to begin with!
That doesn’t sound right.. did you use a torque wrench and tighten to 130-150 ft lbs?
You know what.. I just ducked under our airstream and ours has rotated (on both sides) just as yours did. I hadn’t even realized! It hasn’t given us any trouble so far… but it is weird that that made those holes ovals….
I’m about to do the same lift on my 22′ 2018 Sport. I want to then put in a 2 step set of folding stairs to make up the 3″ difference. Know of a good set that will fit the existing holes?
I don’t know of a 2-step stair. I thought I might need to change the stairs after the lift since I was worried our children wouldn’t be able to make the step, but the step really didn’t feel overly high after the lift so I didn’t change the steps.
Thanks for posting, I am looking at add the lift to our 30′ 2014 Classic this summer, also in reference to the 2-step Morryde has one for Airstreams.
Wanted to leave a comment in case someone came across this researching lift kits… I found out that the Airstream dealer in Portland now installs lift kits! They order the kit directly from Dexter so that lead time needs to be taken into account, but in case others don’t have a place to do the installation, the dealer is now an option.
Can you get a dexter kit for single axle. I have a 2008 Safari sport knocked off the grey water drain .
Hi Bill— no, they only come in dual axle kits. I sold the other half to someone else on Airforums (you might first check if anyone is listing one there)