The Airstream Diary

Airstream Trailer Answers and Questions

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.

Airstream Scare Light

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scare light #airstream airstreamparts #airstreamrepairs

So we are looking for a quality Airstream scare light, and I am not finding anything worthy of such a prominent exterior location – on the internet. Does anyone have an idea of where to find one — good chroming, good metal (doesn’t rust) and looking a lot like the originals? I am simply trying to make the best of holes in the side of the Airstream Safari — by making one big hole that encompasses them all with a functional (instead of patch) purpose.

Anybody?

 

http://www.etrailer.com/Trailer-Lights/Optronics/RVSL21.html

https://www.rvadenver.com/lights_&_lenses.htm

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.

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