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 LED Lighting Outside

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#airstreamtrailers #airstreamers airstream LED lighting LED taillights for Airstreams

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It’s a tough for me to swallow. The pricing on the taillight LEDs for the Airstream are anywhere from $29 to $35 dollars apiece on www.led4rv.com, and when I look at them up close, in person, at A&P Vintage Trailer Works; I see a Chinese unit that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a dollar to produce, okay maybe $2-dollars. Keep in mind, that retail cost is times four!


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Buttoning Up and Riveting Down and Lighting Up

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#airstreamers airstream trailers led lighting for airstream u channel rebuilding restoration

On the way back out to work on the Airstream today, and looking at LED external lighting for the Safari. Paul, the “P” in A&P, recommended looking to the website www.led4rv.com. I have dabbled on that site before, as we Airstreamers do, looking at every single item whether it’s related to the job or not. Paul told me there was a complete set for the 1970 Safari, but I no longer see that offering.

LIGHTING UP

So what I am looking at is the LED replacement for old bulbs, and lenses for the taillights. Those appear to be this item – LED Tail light kit for Airstream units from 1969-74 SKU221 and the images below show a little of how they look and work. They simply appear to have the lens and LED’s as a unit that plugs into the existing socket. Now, there’s no way I am sticking with the existing socket, so I will have to find and install those as well, but they can be found just about everywhere. And since this is a new fit, it would be more practical to completely do away with the original bulb connector (tons of oxidization potential in there), and use a direct connect two prong all weather connector. Those are extremely common, and common sense says to make that upgrade. It involves changing both ends of the connection, but why go to all the expense of a new light, and have a forty-year-old connection? Those old bulb connections are his-to-ree.

Airstream LED light replacements

 

LEDs for Airstream Trailers

Why stick with the old connectors? Upgrade your connectors while you’re upgrading your Airstream taillights to LEDs!

BUTTONING UP

The button down process includes, in our case, removing the rare aluminum U channel from the inside walls in some places, and securing it to the floor (this is the U channel that holds the trailer to the deck) with stainless steel 5/16″ 1.5 inch long bolts and nylon locking nuts (used in practical numbers), as well as stainless screws for modest securing.

Now this has to be done because the U channel can be misaligned with new things like the new wheel wells, or because of a variation in the new decking, or for any number of other reasons. Bottom line: the U did not line up. So, attach the U to the floor (most critical) and then button (rivet) the walls to the U channel.

Take a close look at your Airstream Trailer’s U channel! It is anything but typical. The bottom of the U that contacts the floor has a couple of interesting and vital characteristics. First, it has a raised line running the length of the U. That line keeps us from sliding the U all the way to flush with the edge of the decking. Very important. Second, you’ll see some holes drilled in the U channel that have no apparent purpose. Those are called weep holes, and they are supposed to be there to allow condensation from the walls to run down, through the weep holes, down into the belly and out. Do they work that way in real life? Heck, I don’t know! So don’t cover the weep holes, or run extra screws through them. Just go with the flow.

RIVETING DOWN

Before we can run around the trailer riveting the wall back to the U channel, we have to make a full run around the trailer, drilling out all the old rivets. They can be inside and out. They can be obvious, and they can be sublime. That’s a rivet. Miss a rivet, and you have a problem. That is why it’s really smart to have two sets of eyes on this process.

Riveting an Airstream trailer is a whole other story that needs a lot of time and space to explore. If we think of a rivet and gun as the Airstream version of hammer and nails, it’s possible to learn and get proficient at using a new kind of hammer and new kind of nails. Stay tuned.

 

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