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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.

Do As I Say – Not as I Did

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double wide airstream runners
The new double-wide Airstream belly runners. This is where the sides and belly pan come together.

Yeah, an Airstream rebuild is a humbling experience. You think you’re going to snap it back together, like a pile of LEGOs that you just pulled apart, but nooooo!

I hear it when Paul (AP VT Works) says, “things don’t always go back the way they were,” but maybe I don’t always listen.
Folding over side Airstream panel

I had no idea the runners – that run along the bottom of the outriggers, and are where the side panels and belly pan get overlapped and riveted – would be so far off my dead center measurement of the originals, that I would have to go back in and weld in another whole set of runners.

I figured that having a double wide set of runners, rather than cutting out the old or moving the old, I would totally eliminate the margin of error (and tacked the two together along the length) … and be done with this SNAFU. Let me tell you, welding upside down with floor attached is a whole different deal. Put that together with days that start early and end by noon-ish due to the heat, and it’s a recipe for a good old fashion beat down. And that’s exactly what it was.

NOTE TO YOU WHO ATTEMPT THIS – Save these runners for the last welding you do after the shell is back on. Fold under the side panels, measure and weld for the new location of these runners. The old measurement will not work.

Appliances are starting to roll in now. We have a brand new Dometic A/C and I picked up our new toilet the Dometic 310 this week as well. We are starting the search for a refrigerator now. Amazing what trailer (gas + electric) cost these days, and always I guess. It’s hardly aligned with what you get for the dollar in a home refrigerator, so just put those comparisons right out of your mind.

Airstream Polishing in action
There is a polisher working out at AP right now, and he gave me a cost on polishing the Safari. I would have to remove the clear coat, and Paul said that’s a pretty simple chemical process. For $2400., we can gaze at the landscape in the side of the Safari. Time to call in some debts?!

Work Gets in the Way of Work

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photo
Ahhhhhhh! I forgot and left the Airstream home alone (actually at A&P’s) for 45 days!

Finally made it back out to Cottondale, Texas, today. It’s been so long I may have to remind you that is where the Safari 23 resides, among many more Airstreams at A&P Vintage Trailer Repair, aka. Ann & Paul’s.

I described the feeling to Ann as what I would imagine a parent to feel when they look up two months later, and remember they forgot to pick their kid up at school. You hope they are still there.It felt like the inanimate Airstream was a little upset being left out there in the rain, wind and hail. Thank goodness we have so little of all of those in North Texas these days. Global something, you know.

As many steps as we made forward before the work hiatus (when I actually went to work), I also took a couple of steps back, and they feel like they were knee-deep into mud. First, the angle iron (custom bent as you recall) that runs along the back wall – sandwiched between the wall and U channel – had to be cut out with the plasma cutter. It didn’t line up properly AND I had already sandwiched the bottom of the angle between the floor and the frame with liberal amounts of that bonding calk. Done, cut out and gone. SECOND, the perfectly straight runners that go underneath along the outriggers (they are where the belly pan and outside wall panels curve under, meet and get riveted), no longer line up the same distance in as they did on the original frame. Rather than cut those out, I ordered a whole new run of them, and they will run doublewide down the length of both sides of the trailer. None of that would be a big deal, but I am the guy who hates rust. That means everything that has been cut out was already painted – well painted. That means I now have to paint the runners, crawl around on the ground with a welder, and act like a weldor again. I hoped I was done with that, but NOooo.

On the cooler side, I did order our new Dometic air conditioner today. We went for the biggest they have, since it is Texas after all. I should have that in a couple of days.

The checklist gets longer not shorter now.

There’s still the sheet of plywood that supports the freshwater tank. Somebody remind me why I threw the old one away. It’s a funny thing. This sheet of plywood really needs to be bullet proof. It covers a huge area of the bottom of the trailer, is exposed to all the elements we will be navigating (think Stony Pass water crossings), and it supports a lot of weight. What a recipe. The original wasn’t in too good a shape, but it did appear to have the sheet of aluminum adhered to it quite well – almost like another layer of plywood veneer! So, I have to bomb-proof that piece of plywood.

We also have a buckle in the marmoleum flooring that runs in a visible spot. The floor laid out fine before we dropped the shell back on it, but now with heat (or whatever) it is a serious problem. It looks like we will have to cut a splice in the marmoleum, gather and glue it.

NOTE – Just to give you guys the heads-up, I am about to pump some serious energy into this website. You will notice a “Instagram” photo in the sidebar, and a twitter feed as well. I have put off really “plugging in” this site until I was ready to deal with what it means for readers and traffic here. If you ever see anything you don’t like, let me know. I AM ALSO MAKING IT EASIER TO COMMENT on this site. You can comment and ask questions without having to register or login. Your comment will be held for approval, but that’s only prudent.

I am also undertaking the redesign of Ann & Paul’s site this summer. So keep your eyes on www.apvintagetrailerworks.com in coming weeks.

Still Waiting

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We’re still waiting around for the weather to warm enough to roll out the Marmoleum, but there are still holes as well …

We have three fan holes in the roof and the A/C hole that need to be plugged with proper appliances. I don’t know how many of you have been down the A/C road, but if anyone has an opinion on which brand is best, I sure would like to know about it. Maybe I can create a “quick poll” and throw it on the site. We’re going to have to ask about a refrigerator as well, and I’d just as soon tap into the knowledge of the masses, as to have and research and learn and make an unsubstantiated decision.

Another thing I wonder about the whole A/C thing is: I am seeing these heater add-ons for A/C’s and wondering if that is something that works or is worth it?

Meanwhile, I am looking for other cool Airstream websites – cool content and cool looking, and built on a wordpress platform, so if you see any, please send me the links.

Finders Keepers

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Second move for the Airstream Safari in 6 years

Sunday’s transport of the Safari to A&P Vintage Trailer Restoration went off without a hitch … almost. Is it okay to say “without a hitch” when talking trailer lingo?

I had lowered the trailer onto the hitch of the Toyota fully expecting the 500-pound tongue weight to take the rear of the Toyota to the ground. I was mostly shocked when that didn’t happen, and instead the weight leveled out the car’s rear and made for almost a straight line body mass parallel to the ground. Amazing. It must be the suspension on the Sport version of the 4 Runner that provides the backbone.

The timing was precisely right as far as when to be in transit during a low tide of law enforcement on the road. Nary a peacekeeper was stirring until we hit Decatur, and what must have been a shift change. Still, we made it through town. There was some kind of auto flea market on the outskirts that featured just about every domestic classic car, mostly in rusted pieces, on trailers, and in piles. The wind blew dust clouds through that event, and that was enough to keep us from thinking about stopping on the way back through.

At the end of the line at A&P Vintage Trailer

WE breezed to Cottondale, actual town where A&P Vintage is located, with only a couple of navigational miscues. The Toyota ran more smoothly with the load than it does without, and although there was high wind, 18-wheelers and rough roads, no anti-sway – none took away from the ride, or took us near a point of danger in this short jaunt.Up the driveway, the last great challenge of the day’s road, and to the end of the distinguished line of Airstreams waiting their turn.

Leslie got out of the car, with no need to kiss the ground, and said, “Hey Shannon, there’s something missing.” Immediate adrenalin for me. “The air conditioner is gone.” Sure enough, daylight was all that was left of where the a.c. on top of the trailer once sat. Gone, as in without a trace. Talk about a sick feeling. Not about losing a great a.c., more about possible damage to others, and probable littering of the Texas roadside – something I hate to see.

Nothing but blue sky through the hole, the third opening in the roof, besides the two vents that came standard. That was another piece of knowledge imparted to us by Paul; our Airstream came stock without an a.c., and a third hole was cut to place the unit near the middle of the trailer. The a.c. was going to “go away” as it were, but I had hoped to dictate the time and place of its final departure.

I knew for a fact that the a.c. was just sitting there sealing the hole from the elements, and had asked Leslie an unnamed helper to re bolt the unit securely using wood to cross over the opening. The key words there are, “cross over.” I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that the unnamed helper had cut a perfect shape piece of plywood to fit precisely in the opening, therefore securing the a.c. to nothing but the board. It was a clean separation, like when the different stages of an Apollo moon shot separate. There was only a telltale scratch extending down the side of the trailer where it fell away once we had separation (down the curbside and probably right out of traffic).

Paul whipped out a quick rain patch, crawled atop the Airstream, and taped it over the hole. Another thing learned; Airstreams would support a person crawling around on the top of them – just try to hit the supports and stay off the hollow spots. I just figured the whole thing would taco, but chalk it up.

We quickly took our leave, and headed back retracing our route in expectation of having to pick up shards of an old brittle plastic trailer a.c.. What we found was nothing. There was not a trace of plastic, compressor, injury or maiming to be found. Relief was unanimous.

Perhaps our future junk was someone’s treasure that day? We’ll probably never know. What I do know is, that this Airstream is turning into our “box of chocolates” a la Forrest Gump.

GO AIRSTREAM LOCO

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