airstream repairs ap vintage trailer works information
I had a chance to sit down for an interview with Ann and Paul from AP Vintage Trailer Works yesterday, and go over some basic information you should have before you hand over your hard earned money for that Airstream dream you’ve been looking for all these months and years.
Ann and Paul go over some basic costs for general repairs they typically do AND MOST IMPORTANTLY; we created a checklist of things to look for when you pull the trigger on a new purchase of an old Airstream or vintage trailer for your dream machine. It’s a checklist I’ve never seen before, and one that will open your eyes to what you are looking at when you pull up to a shiny old trailer, and emotion begins to cloud good judgment.
As yo may know, I created the A&P Vintage Trailer Works website for Ann and Paul, and we have struck on a formula where I interview them to provide stories that inform Airstreamers about their own trailers, what to look for, what to avoid and common problems and solutions the Airstream repair world encounters on a daily basis. Call it the AP Reality Network Show if you want.
Well the Texas weather told us just about all we needed to know this past weekend. I ran out to A&P Vintage to see where the leaks are in the Safari, and was both disappointed and pleased at what I found.
Some of the leaks that got our attention have been slowed. Unfortunately, slow doesn’t count. And we added a couple of new ones to the list. After Paul couldn’t trace down what’s left, he decided it’s time to pressurize the trailer to find the rest of the leaks. The leaking refrigerator vent on the roof is fixed.
- Leak – on the vertical rivet lines (both) at back center outer skin.
- Leak – front big rectangular window left (street) side.
- Leak – visible empty rivet hole in front roof around new fan.
- Leak – visible from rivet in roof holding second new fan.
Believe it or not, that’s progress.
LICENSE PLATE LIGHT
I decided to do something slightly more visually rewarding, and finally got into the light that illuminates the license plate. There can be numerous configurations of the exact same piece of hardware on Airstream tails. Typically the light and the license plate holder are a single unit attached together. And that unit can be placed any number of places – dictated by the model of Airstream Trailer it goes on. Not on the 70 Safari 23′ though. The license plate (bracket) is on the back hatch door, and the light is above it. IN BETWEEN is a vent hole (pop out screened) that used to vent that back area where the battery/inverter/electrical/sink once were located. So we pulled the screen and ran a patch over that vent – which will no longer be necessary as we move all electrical to the front street-side.
If you can’t see the images large enough – It says Yankee 331 Norwalk Connecticut. Overall the split in the rubber housing can be a problem. The actual light housing has two hairline cracks in identical places on both sides, and I am missing that darn lens that goes in that long rectangular opening to diffuse the light source. That will be the hardest thing to deal with.
Once I tapped out that old bulb housing (quite easily), the new LED has plenty of room to mount. I used a flat grey primer to help bounce the LED light around before it passes out that long rectangular opening (with something to cover that opening yet to be found.
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!
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.
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.
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.