The Airstream Diary

Airstream Trailer Answers and Questions

New Airstream Running Lights Going On Without a Hitch

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airstream led lights leds for airstream trailers #airstream #airstreamlife

airstream border collies watch while humans work

AT LEAST I SETTLED ON THE RUNNING LIGHTS!

With a little improvement, I was able to get the LED running lights going – they go from the old single + wire to the +/- black and white wires, which is a better choice given what I (think I) know about wiring. I just couldn’t be confident with grounding each light to the trailer (aluminum remember) as they were in the 44-year-old versions. Use stainless steel screws to secure these of course. And we had to move the spot where the wires go through (drill a hole / seal the old hole) – due to the clearances behind the lights (somebody take note and design a better running light please), and to run two wires through instead of one.

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LED TAIL LIGHTS – LOVE HATE RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPING

If you have been following along, and a long follow it has been, then you know the search for LED replacement lighting for our 1970 Safari is more of a long novel than a short story.

I just wasn’t satisfied with what I see as a cheap (to produce) LED light that is the de facto most popular replacement for those old round tail lights on our vintage Airstreams. They may look just fine installed, and if you are lucky enough to have someone install them (while you aren’t looking), then you won’t see what I saw; a low budget five-across puny single row LED array. I’ve seen this kind of manufacturing before, in the fly fishing industry, and all it does is make me waste a lot more time searching for a better solution that is actually worth the price. There I said it!

The initial replacement LED light for our trailer is available at www.led4rv.com – http://LED4RV.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=11&products_id=317 – and it has actually gone up another $5-dollars since I started on this search! Honestly, this cost in the neighborhood of $2-dollars to manufacture, so you do the math. Everybody buys these, and everybody uses these – I assume it’s because they can’t find anything else that fits. Well, that’s a pretty sorry reason, but that may be how this story ends for our Safari as well. I know as well as anyone “when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em.” Four of these at $35-dollars each seems a lot steep to me, crazy in fact. If we HAVE TO buy these, you can bet I will cut those connectors off first thing – and replace them with modern connectors!

#airstream #airstreamers LED lighting repair retrofit

LED tail light retrofit for Airstream.

So the search continues – I use google image search because it does a lot to eliminate LED tail lights that obviously won’t work – on sight. Let me know if you have any experience with other LED replacement tail lights for your (round) Airstream tail lights! I will take any tip seriously, and take a look. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a circle, much like the tail lights, that leads right back to LED4RV.COM, but the adventure continues!

NOTE – Keep in mind: If you have not polished your Airstream Trailer, but are planning on doing so, MAKE SURE you don’t do anything to prevent removal of the running lights! A good polish job means the running lights, among other things, come off so that the skins can be polished underneath – for a more natural and finished look. Stick around. I am sure you will get to witness that in a couple of years!

 

All the Trimmings – Airstream Trim Pieces and Banana Skins

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#airstream #airstreamrepair airstream trailers airstreamers airstream trailer repairs aluminum banana skins

 

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It’s almost as bad as fly fishing – the crazy names Airstreamers come up with for pieces and parts of our beloved trailers. If you were wondering what a “Banana Skin” is, it’s the curved piece that goes around the corners between the side skins and the belly / belly pan area.

As you can see, when your Airstream comes to you with someone else’s battle scars, or invasive surgery scars, you have want to do the patching that accomplishes two important things – keeps the rodent population at bay, and keeps the water from having an easy entry into the bottom of the trailer.

As much as we would like to think we are building our Airstreams in the likeness of our houses, I have come to find that it’s better to think of it as building our trailers to be “super tents” instead. I have spent enough nights on the ground, in a tent, in the rain, in sleet, in snow … that an Airstream is a long way up the chain from the tent days, in my new-found opinion.

We not only put the banana skins back on the trailer, we also:

– gently beat some of the dents out of the leading (front) edge bananas — that came from rocks

– patched the bananas

– cleaned the Airstream trim pieces – BACK and front before riveting them in place

– coated the edge of the “belly board” – that will he holding the new fresh water tank – with epoxy

– riveted all the trim (between the bananas and side / the side and around back) back into place (It’s the lower trim piece

That lower trim piece has several functions, and a certain way I seemed to think made it go back on better.

The turns are where a bent, or protruding trim piece will show most, so that is where I started my rivets – securing the turns, and then coming around to the sides / front / or back flat runs. There were places with significant gaps between the trim and the side of the trailer (not so much along the straight runs). And those places seemed to be caused by the body skin being dented at some time, perhaps during the full monty. So we got back inside and took a soft mallet to actually hammer the skin back out to a natural position that closed the gap. Makes sense.

TRIM YOUR RIVETS

Another thing that makes sense is to trim the rivet if you find them getting too close to a raised edge of the trim piece. As you see in the photographs, just take a pair of metal cutters, and trim the edge that would otherwise keep the rivet from being flush. For whatever reason, be prepared to have two different size rivets along the way as well – and make them the “Medium” length while you’re at it. Those holes can start off different sized, or after 43-years, they can end up different sized … can’t we all?

SEAL THAT EDGE

Sealing the edge of the plywood that goes on the belly of the trailer makes sense because it will be (indirectly) exposed to all the elements we find on the road. Once the plywood is dry – hardened fiberglass resin – I will finish the piece with a thin piece of aluminum or galvanized tin sheet metal to prevent road damage. YOU HAVE TO IMAGINE all the things that will be hitting the bottom of your trailer along the way, and although it’s a thick piece of plywood, that last cladding of the plywood makes it bulletproof.

BE A TRAILER

I try and imagine myself tied to the bottom of the trailer, face down, facing the road. That makes me think about all the things coming at the trailer – rain, rocks, snow, low clearance crossings and all the things we see on major roads these days. Just go with a worst case scenario, and prepare the bottom of your trailer for that – that should do the trick. Cladding, the skins, a good seal, all of these things are what we do to prepare the trailer itself. From there, later on, we prepare the vehicle to minimize what it throws a trailer’s way, but that’s another story for another day!

 

 

 

Another Day at the Airstream

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Images from another workday at A&P Vintage Trailer Works.

Airstream LED Lighting Outside

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#airstreamtrailers #airstreamers airstream LED lighting LED taillights for Airstreams

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It’s a tough for me to swallow. The pricing on the taillight LEDs for the Airstream are anywhere from $29 to $35 dollars apiece on www.led4rv.com, and when I look at them up close, in person, at A&P Vintage Trailer Works; I see a Chinese unit that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a dollar to produce, okay maybe $2-dollars. Keep in mind, that retail cost is times four!


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Buttoning Up and Riveting Down and Lighting Up

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#airstreamers airstream trailers led lighting for airstream u channel rebuilding restoration

On the way back out to work on the Airstream today, and looking at LED external lighting for the Safari. Paul, the “P” in A&P, recommended looking to the website www.led4rv.com. I have dabbled on that site before, as we Airstreamers do, looking at every single item whether it’s related to the job or not. Paul told me there was a complete set for the 1970 Safari, but I no longer see that offering.

LIGHTING UP

So what I am looking at is the LED replacement for old bulbs, and lenses for the taillights. Those appear to be this item – LED Tail light kit for Airstream units from 1969-74 SKU221 and the images below show a little of how they look and work. They simply appear to have the lens and LED’s as a unit that plugs into the existing socket. Now, there’s no way I am sticking with the existing socket, so I will have to find and install those as well, but they can be found just about everywhere. And since this is a new fit, it would be more practical to completely do away with the original bulb connector (tons of oxidization potential in there), and use a direct connect two prong all weather connector. Those are extremely common, and common sense says to make that upgrade. It involves changing both ends of the connection, but why go to all the expense of a new light, and have a forty-year-old connection? Those old bulb connections are his-to-ree.

Airstream LED light replacements

 

LEDs for Airstream Trailers

Why stick with the old connectors? Upgrade your connectors while you’re upgrading your Airstream taillights to LEDs!

BUTTONING UP

The button down process includes, in our case, removing the rare aluminum U channel from the inside walls in some places, and securing it to the floor (this is the U channel that holds the trailer to the deck) with stainless steel 5/16″ 1.5 inch long bolts and nylon locking nuts (used in practical numbers), as well as stainless screws for modest securing.

Now this has to be done because the U channel can be misaligned with new things like the new wheel wells, or because of a variation in the new decking, or for any number of other reasons. Bottom line: the U did not line up. So, attach the U to the floor (most critical) and then button (rivet) the walls to the U channel.

Take a close look at your Airstream Trailer’s U channel! It is anything but typical. The bottom of the U that contacts the floor has a couple of interesting and vital characteristics. First, it has a raised line running the length of the U. That line keeps us from sliding the U all the way to flush with the edge of the decking. Very important. Second, you’ll see some holes drilled in the U channel that have no apparent purpose. Those are called weep holes, and they are supposed to be there to allow condensation from the walls to run down, through the weep holes, down into the belly and out. Do they work that way in real life? Heck, I don’t know! So don’t cover the weep holes, or run extra screws through them. Just go with the flow.

RIVETING DOWN

Before we can run around the trailer riveting the wall back to the U channel, we have to make a full run around the trailer, drilling out all the old rivets. They can be inside and out. They can be obvious, and they can be sublime. That’s a rivet. Miss a rivet, and you have a problem. That is why it’s really smart to have two sets of eyes on this process.

Riveting an Airstream trailer is a whole other story that needs a lot of time and space to explore. If we think of a rivet and gun as the Airstream version of hammer and nails, it’s possible to learn and get proficient at using a new kind of hammer and new kind of nails. Stay tuned.

 

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