Two Axles Aren’t Better Than One
These days, we’re bombarded with messages that preach “more is better.” But the reality is, sometimes less is more. This is especially true when it comes to the number of axles on your travel trailer. Two (or even three) axles aren’t necessarily better than one. At Bowlus, we’ve designed our luxury travel trailer with just a single axle. Here’s why.
The Axle and the Wheel
The axle is a simple machine that’s been around almost since the dawn of time. In basic terms, it’s a rod with a wheel on each end. While some improvements have been made since the fourth millennium BCE when the wheeled cart was the hottest tech going, it’s the same basic design that you’ll find on your RV today. The axle’s rod runs underneath your camper and allows the connected tires to rotate as you move on down the road.
How Many Axles Do You Need?
Campers typically have one or two axles, with many of the largest toy hauler 5th wheels having three. The number of axles you have on your trailer isn’t random or determined by what looks good; it’s based on the weight of the trailer. Most configurations have two tires per axle, though class A motorhomes commonly have four per axle (two on each side).
Every tire on the market has a load capacity, regardless of whether it’s going on your car, pick up, pop up, travel trailer, fifth wheel, or motorhome. The total load capacity of the tires cannot exceed the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or the maximum amount a vehicle can safely weigh. Single axle travel trailers, like the Bowlus Terra Firma or Endless Highways Edition, are lighter weight, which means they need fewer tires to support the load of the trailer.
Take the Goodyear Endurance 205R15 tire, for example, which has a load capacity of 2,150 pounds per tire. Two of these tires on a single axle can support a vehicle with a GVWR of 4,300 pounds. Because the GVWR on every Bowlus model is just 4,000 pounds, two Goodyear Endurance tires provide more than enough load capacity for our single axle trailer design. These are the tires we use on all of our models. A comparable 25-foot Airstream has a GVWR of 7,300 pounds. These units also come standard with Goodyear Endurance tires, but because of the camper’s weight, a double, or tandem, axle with a total of four tires is required.
Airstream’s single axle floorplans are considerably smaller and range from 16 to 22-feet long. While that’s more in line with the industry standard for single axle campers, it’s a pretty small space, especially if you have to give up your dinette and endure a wet bath, which you’ll likely have to do in a camper that small.
The Jury Is In: Single Axle Travel Trailers are Safe
If you spend too much time on the internet, you’ll see some die-hards that believe a double or tandem axle camper is safer than a single axle model. This simply isn’t true. Travel trailers with one axle are made the same way as their larger counterparts, using the same types of construction materials. So long as you don’t over pack and exceed the GVWR, and you keep up with your tire maintenance (including making sure the tires are properly inflated), a single axle camper is perfectly safe to tow. And for the record, you can’t overpack or ignore the tires on a dual axle rig either.
One of the common complaints you’ll hear is that single axle trailers have more bounce and sway than a heavier tandem axle counterpart. But our owners report that they find the opposite to be true. Because Bowlus maximizes aerodynamics, has a low center of gravity, and employs weight balancing techniques, our owners say that sway isn’t an issue. They even go so far as to say that the Bowlus handles better in challenging driving situations than larger, heavier, double axle trailers they’ve owned in the past.
Alignment is key to ensuring that any trailer is safe to tow and that your tires don’t wear unevenly. To keep your trailer in alignment, you’ll want to have it checked by a professional if you hit a curb, repeatedly hit potholes, or frequently travel over rough railroad tracks. All of these things can cause your RV to go out of alignment, just like your car might. If you need to get your Bowlus aligned, reach out to the Bowlus product support team to make a service appointment.
Single Vs. Double Axle Travel Trailers: Which is better?
There are two distinct camps of RVers, each insisting that they can answer the number of axles question. But since single and double axle models are equally safe, what it really boils down to is which camper best meets your needs. We love single axle trailers for a lot of reasons, many of which are tied to the fact that these units are relatively lightweight. Some of the things we love about single axle RVs are:
- They’re easier to move with the use of a jockey wheel (as found on the Bowlus) because they’re lighter and they only have two wheels. This gives you the ability to position your unit anywhere on your site and it makes hooking up a breeze.
They offer easy towing because a lighter trailer means less rolling resistance and less wind resistance.
- There are fewer tires, brake bearings, and axles to check, maintain, and replace. Proponents of double axle RVs will tell you that if you have a blowout, you can limp your way home on three tires. What they don’t mention is that doing that can cause significant damage to the trailer and the wheel – and since that can significantly increase your repair costs, it’s not really an advantage in our book.
- You don’t have to buy a big new car to tow a lightweight single axle trailer. Many mid-size and compact SUVs, including EVs like the Tesla Model X, have a 4,000 pound towing capacity. More than enough to pull a luxurious travel trailer like a Bowlus.
- You’ll get better fuel economy and better battery range for your tow vehicle because the trailer is lighter.
- Single axle travel trailers turn more easily than a double axle trailer of comparable size. This makes navigating sharp corners and tight spaces less stressful.
- They’re easier to maneuver in general.
- You don’t have to compromise on the floorplan or the interior living space.
- A lighter weight trailer means that you can stop faster. Large, tandem axle models have slower acceleration and slower braking.Every Bowlus luxury travel trailer comes with electric brakes, though it’s important to note that not all lightweight RVs do. We also include a RF brake controller that requires no modification for your tow vehicle. This is just another way we put safety first for our owners.