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Archive for the ‘ Skins ’ Category

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!

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.

 

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!

 

 

 

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