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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.

 

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.

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!

 

Almost Hot Enough

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airstream trailers #airstreamers airstream trailer restoration

Well it seems like we wait until the weather is scorching before we get back to work on the Airstream, but tomorrow should be the first day back in a long time. The weather really did have a lot to do with that! It has been too good or too bad for awhile now in North Texas.

I did start uncovering the inside skins from their storage spot today, and dove back into the Jasco to finally finish getting the stubbornest slivers of vinyl-clad off the skins. The thing about these last shards of the old vinyl-clad is they are the toughest ones – usually under the pressure of a skin overlap – and require multiple coats of Jasco to get them to let loose.

The Airstream is on a hard deadline now, because I basically committed it to being somewhere else this winter … like Broken Bow, Oklahoma, or the Guadalupe River area of Texas. Heck, why limit it when it comes to getting out and away?

I do this thing on the Texas Fly Caster website called the “Monday Morning Sidewalk,” which is basically a review of the last week and what’s coming up ahead on the topic of fly fishing in Texas. If you are interested in fly fishing, be sure to catch the Monday Morning Sidewalk every Monday.

The next few weeks of Airstream work will be interesting, so I will be sure and have some photography to show you what’s going on. Now that the Airstream is outed on the Texas Fly Caster website, I guess there’ll be some crossover to the Texas Fly Caster site from here on out.

Behind but Gaining Fast

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We managed to get the elevator bolts (in countersunk forstner bit “cups”) covered with a concoction of epoxy (from West Marine) and powdered wood sawdust. Amazingly, it wasn’t as messy as it sounds.

When I think epoxy, I think of the project my Grandpa gave me when I was, oh, about 11-years-old. The Dargle scooter was leaking along its seams, and he gave me the glass and epoxy, and said something to the effect of, “no problem.” I did get it done, and actually it passed inspection, but not before I put too much hardener in with the resin and started a small but pesky fire. NOTE TO SELF – mix your epoxy properly!

Today, it was back out to A&P Vintage Trailer to cover the deck again, as it awaits our sanding and between today and the next chance I get to get out there – rain.

If you are in the Athens, Texas, area – be sure to check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s annual “Fly Fish Texas” event at the Texas Freshwater Fishery on Saturday. I have attended two of these, and will be speaking at this one on Saturday. Mark your calendar for Saturday at 3-pm.

Anna the Airstream Towing Dog

One of our dogs is getting old and feeling pretty bad the last couple of days, so I needed to take her “little” sister Anna, for a ride, get her out of the house, and some quality time. She was quite happy to be out and about.

Front Section of Airstream Safari converted for spare tire

We are pulling the belly pan back a section and installing an Airstream factory spare tire holder in the first section behind the tongue. It just seemed logical.

Epoxy applied to elevator bolts on Airstream Decking
Underneath the epoxy is the elevator bolt that holds the deck down.

Where the door meets the decking needs notching
Don’t forget to notch the plywood where the door jamb is located. It’s about a 1/4″ notch that keeps everything flush. We haven’t done that yet (in this image).

GO AIRSTREAM LOCO

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