The Airstream Diary

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Hard At Work

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airstream rebuild #airstreamlife airstreaming grote scare light led license plate light

THE PUSH IS ON TO MAKE HAY

There’s a push on, what with 80-degree January days, to get a lot done on the Airstream. As you probably know, we’re parked at A&P Vintage Trailer Works out in Paradise (Cottondale) Texas, and they’re even more busy due to the break in typical winter weather.

Just before we left last night, the owner of the prominent Airforums.com came out to check on his trailer and drop off a load of parts to go into that ground-up rebuild. His trailer has a great looking body, and the frame – built from scratch – is just as much a work of modern engineering art.

I was so busy putting the new belly pans up on our trailer, and the physical demands of drilling so great (drilling rivet holes through aluminum sheet then a steel frame – some of it boxed), that I didn’t have the energy to take photographs.

We’re doing a lot of little things to begin to button up the outside for good. That includes finding a new scare light that will substitute for the holes that once held the radio antenna – on the front road-side curved panel.

And there will be some time involved in retrofitting a new bank of LED’s into the old license plate housing that on this Airstream model, is separated from the license plate. Oh the joys of a unique trailer. That shouldn’t be a problem though. We also patched the old ventilation hole that was just below that light, the screened hole that provided air circulation for the old lead batteries and inverter. (This is all at the tail of the trailer.)

Now that the back inside fiberglass end cap is down, all access is granted to the taillights, the body panel seams, the running light mounting, the wire running to all that, and finally access to the end cap itself.

THE END CAP

As you can imagine with a 45-year-old piece of curved cooked fiberglass, there are a few hairline cracks in it. What we do for repairing those cracks is to drill two small holes just beyond the end of the cracks, and then glass it again – on the backside.

LED TAIL LIGHTS

I’v now been around the track twice in order to finally settle on a replacement LED taillight for our particular trailer. They typically go by terms like, “replaces old Grote Can,” and come in varying degrees of fit and finish – all at an extremely high price. The ones I settled on are / were sold at Airstream Supply – www.airstreamsupply.com, and the ones shipped first were the wrong ones, and completely unlike the photograph shown – Round LED Airstream Tail Light – the ones shipped are the type that get “glued” or essentially Sikaflexed into the original mounts, and have those modern 3-pin connectors. You’ve seen them everywhere.

That is a big nogo for me. I let them know, and was informed that there are only five (red) lights left in the world, and they would trade them out for the extinct ones. So four of the last five in the world – screw in LED light replacements for vintage Airstream with 20 led’s – are headed to me as I write.

I’ll make sure to get photographs of the extinct tail lights when they arrive and maybe as they go in. No matter what, we will be doing away with old school connection that plugs into the old bulb socket. Those old sockets are only still working because they’re inside a hermetically sealed, and never opened housing. Eventually they will go out (remember the springs and oxidization?).

Time to get back to work on the Thursday Texas Fly Fishing Report. You can see that crossover (if you want) at www.texasflycaster.com.

Thanks for reading!

A Look at the Texas Fly Fishing Report and Inside the Airstream

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airstream trailers restoration rebuilding fly fishing GoPro video

My fellow fly fishing Airstreamers will enjoy more of this than the Airstreamer Nation, but watch a little and check out the GoPro shot inside the Airstream. Not as bad as it looks really, although the weather has shut the operation down again.

Hard At Work on the Airstream

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It’s impossible not to take advantage of the great weather we’re having here in North Texas these January days! I’ve put in a few full days straight out at AP Vintage, and am making great progress on buttoning up the belly of the Airstream.

And I am also helping out with doing some work for Paul and Ann to see of they can make some rapid progress on the growing number of Airstream trailers parked there for repair. Right now, I am once again working on prepping a brand new frame for an Airstream that is having a “Full-Monty” moment. It’ll be primed and painted, but the weather may close us out tomorrow afternoon.

Back to our Airstream …

I am finding the new belly pan job to be a lot more “simple” rather than the complexities of the interior of the trailer right now. Inside, there’s now insulation just about covering everything, and dangling wiring where I began running wires for 12-volt as well as 110-volt wire also finding its way through the area of the trailer – on top of the insulation, and eventually just under the inner skins.

I took the liberty of making a slight change in the order of how belly pan skins were “put back” onto the Airstream. Originally, you will know, the Airstream comes from the factory with big belly pans that are joined to form huge sheets. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But when you’re going back in with smaller sheets, you have to “cut-and-paste” smaller pieces atop each other to cover. There’s the angles of the corners to deal with when cutting, and long runs to cut straight as you’re running the pieces that reach the long walls – street-side and curbside.

For all I know, the order they go in is pretty trivial, but I wanted to change the original way Airstream put their huge pans in overlapping the flat pan and putting the curves of the outer walls underneath. That is certainly an easier way to drill and rivet those spots, but when rain runs down the wall it seems like it would go straight into the belly if there are any gaps.

SO I started with the rectangular center belly pan skins, then went to the next pieces which run the outer edge (outrigger area). Finally that skin was tucked UNDER the outer curved side wall skins. That means every belly pan skin overlaps from the center out to the outer walls. It just makes sense to me – unless we find ourselves in zero gravity.

REMEMBER to use belly pan rivets to secure these skins, as holes can get wallowed when drilling through heavy steel to set the rivets.

REMEMBER that the space where the vent for the refrigerator (if gas) underneath the trailer can be left with a couple of “spot” rivets until it gets finished out with ventilation (a hole in the floor, mesh covering a cutout in the belly skin). This leaves a cavity for fresh air to accumulate and updraft later on.

ON ORDER

I finally broke down and ordered four red LED taillight replacements from Airstream Supply. That’s a hard bullet to bite, at $34.50 each, but they definitely have a high LED count at 24, and I like the way they appear in the photograph – with nicely done screw holes through the lens housing.

NOTE – I will be adding a post here with photography to help with visualizing these repairs, and will also show you what the new taillights look like once they arrive.

 

Happy 2015 Everybody! It’s The Year of the Airstream

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airstream trailers airstreamers #airstream repairs

Happy New Year! I know I have been in and out of writing about the life of our Airstream Safari, but this year is the one for the beginning of the new chapter in the life of our trailer. There’s light at the end of the ice and rain and cold, and that light is the promise of having our trailer on the road in the first quarter of this year.

I originally wanted us to be rolling out this month. I was to be in Beaver’s Bend, Oklahoma, living and fly fishing from our Safari, but was sidelined by the opportunity to work in the oil fields near Bellevue, TX, for an extended period in October and stretching to December. The photography business finally forced me back into the daylight, but there was enough positive funds flow to now begin to make serious progress on our trailer.

There is so much more going on, so be sure to check back here and see what I am learning – save yourself a lot of time too! I’ll be putting out a list of what’s left to do, and some photography (perhaps video) of the trailer and the work.

Thanks for reading, and check back soon!

Installing a New 110 Outlet on Outside Wall of Airstream

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airstream 110 wiring outlet #airstream #airstreamers 12 volt wiring

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ON THE 110 Volt SIDE

Some things are simple, and some are not. When you’re dealing with a piece of Airstream that reaches from the outside to the in of your trailer, that’s a vulnerable spot. And all kinds of bad things can happen where these exposures are.

I think if you take a look at the way we installed and sealed the 110 single outlet, it makes sense, and really isn’t that difficult of a repair – all Airstream repairs considered. Inside, the skins are still off, but the insulation is going in, and I am running the 110 wiring circuits as instructed. I am actually using some outdoor quality wire (by local manufacturer United Copper Industries).

Running 110 in the Airstream Safari 23′:

  • Curb Side Circuit – That 110 outlet / a 110 inside back / refrigerator
  • Top Single Circuit – A/C
  • Street Side Circuit – Kitchen 110 / Bathroom 110 / Dining 110

I think this is accurate, but of course will get the approval of my supervisor along the way. It’s certainly possible to run another circuit, and simple stuff. The draw from the A/C is the greatest single draw of our particular trailer. We all know electric heaters and hair driers can be huge draws as well.

ON THE 12 Volt SIDE

Inside any Airstream Trailer, there’s plenty of 12 volt action going on as well. And it’s cleanly divided into two flavors. Right now, I am in the midst of wiring the new lights we installed on the trailer a few weeks ago. And I am still looking for a practical (spelled affordable) LED solution for the tail lights. All the external Airstream running lights are wired on their own accord, and powered / controlled only by their connection to the tow vehicle. All of these external turn/brake and running lights are powered by LED’s and use a fraction of the power needed to run the old style Edison bulbs. What a world! Nevertheless, there is the need to be efficient in how these lights are wired and run inside the skins because it’s hard to imagine breaking open the skins again to find a problem.

  • We’re using LEDs I purchased at a local truck stop on the outside of the trailer – for the amber and red running lights.
  • I am using 16 gauge marine grade (aluminum coated copper) wire from
  • I am using heat shrink butt-to-butt connectors for the running light connections (and all 12V connections).
  • We are leaving enough “slack” in the wires to be able to pull them out, away from the body – when polishing time comes.
  • Every place where it’s logical to secure the wires against the inside of the outside skin, I am using a powerful outdoor double-sided 3M foam holding tape (used for taping mailboxes to brick and such).
  • Every place that wires run through those round holes in the inside “studs” (for lack of a better term) – will have RUBBER grommeting to prevent friction wear for every single wire or group of wires running throughout the trailer. I’ve seen what happens to those plastic snap-in grommets, and it isn’t pretty; they are cooked by years of heat and crumble away.

I have seen and done wiring since I was a kid, car stereos and such, so I would hope to be a little better than average at this part of the Airstream rebuild. In general terms, a lot has changed for this 1970 Airstream’s wiring –

We’re moving all the controlling devices, battery, inverter, breaker boxes – to the front of the trailer – AWAY FROM the very back of the trailer. This does not pose any problems (due to the inside skins being out), and is a significant weight relief to the back end of the trailer. It’s entire probable we will end up running two batteries when all is said-and-done.

GO AIRSTREAM LOCO

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