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Old 10-10-2011, 10:56 AM   #15
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There have been many complaints about leaks and rotted floors, but Airstream continues to do the same things year after year. They sell enough trailers to keep them happy.

Does someone ask the question: what is the cost of warranty work on common problems vs. making the trailer better? Maybe they have and it comes out in their favor so far as the numbers go. But do they consider the costs of bad reputation? That one is difficult to quantify and may be ignored. Certainly part of the problem may be ego—corporate suits have difficulty admitting they make mistakes.

Some say Airstream is a small division of a much larger company (Thor) and can't afford research. There's truth in that, but lots of problems can be solved easily. Marine grade plywood subfloors would help, for example, but those focused on cost cutting don't see the benefits of it. Better training (is there any?) of employees would help. This is a small operation and the workers have to do numerous tasks. Are the workers trained well? Are they paid enough so they care about what they do? Is there effective QC? Is there pride in the work? Is there effective supervision? Is there effective communication between the service center and the factory? I doubt there are positive answers to these questions.

I have been told by Airstream execs they do have a good QC program and a committee of factory and service center people to discuss recurring problems. I replied the results of these efforts were not good.

The problem starts at the top. Thor does not have a reputation of making high quality trailers and Airstream is their "premium" line. Most people still think it is premium, as I was told by someone recently, it is the "Cadillac" of RV's. Maybe it is the 1980's Cadillac, however. Thor does not set a good example and that attitude filters down to the production line. I am surprised the service center is as good as it is. There are some old timers at Airstream who do care and try to do a good job, so it isn't all bad.

Apparently they are happy with sales. Thor generates lots of cash with their policies. So much cash they lent $20,000,000 to Camping World a couple of years ago at 10%/year interest. It is working for them.

What we have working for us is publicity. Some at Airstream watch the Forum and are concerned.


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Old 10-10-2011, 11:09 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Wayne&Sam View Post

Frank- they do put every AS that comes off the line through the water tunnel. I think they do it before the inner skin goes on so they can see any leaks and repair them.
The water test may not be adequate. Does the pressure equal that of a driving rain with high winds compounded by highway speeds? Inadequately applied sealant may be fine for months but let go after normal use. How do they test for that—visual inspection or nothing?

When you have a leak fixed at JC, they put it under a portable shower unit. The water "tunnel" is at the factory, not the service center. The portable unit does not look powerful enough to test for all conditions either.

The tunnel test is 15 or 20 minutes. Given the number of trailers made each day (maybe around 5), they could do it longer, but not much longer. A bad seal may not fail until a heavy rain falls for an hour or a day. After final assembly, a leak may pass water between inner and outer skins and slowly drip through the insulation for hours or days and then show up somewhere, or worse, never be visible and rot the subfloor, cause mold between skins or soak other things including wiring. A dealer may not discover a leak either until the trailer is on the road for weeks or months.

I've had leaks that didn't show up until hours after a rainstorm. It is difficult for the company to detect them all under present practices. A better water test and better build practices and materials could solve a lot of this problem.


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Old 10-10-2011, 12:02 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by MrUKToad View Post
Maybe Airstream will see the light in the future?
Sigh. I wish they would. We came back from camping this weekend with the notion that we'd start shopping (a fairly long-term process for us) for a newer trailer.

But I feel rather reluctant to drop $49k for the new 23D Serenity leftover we like. First off, there is the probability of the trailer needing to go to a pro to get the seam sealing checked every year. If it leaks, the nearest dealer is 2.5 hours away - and they're new to this. Hauling the trailer to Jackson Center (2 days away!) where I know warranty work would be done right would be another frustration. Four days of travel = a lot of money; might as well just pay someone local to fix it then...

If AS announced that 2013 trailers would have a composite floor, we'd buy new - no question. But now, what's the point? Might as well buy used and budget for upgrades and repairs. Or, maybe it starts to make sense to fully shell-off restore vintage with Nyloboard...

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Old 10-10-2011, 12:27 PM   #18
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I understand your frustration Tom. Leaks only seem to arrive when traveling since traveling is what often makes them appear. We carry sealant with us and you can usually find something at a hardware store. But, it also requires a ladder if the leak is on the roof.

In Ely, Minnesota, several years ago we had no ladder or sealant. I found a tire shop where a guy agreed to go up on the roof and look for the problem. I bought some sealant and he fixed the problem. A year later I had to seal it again—it was around the Fantastic Fan. In a small town, you are more likely to find someone who will help.

Sealing things is not something that requires a lot of experience or intelligence. Of course, the smartest person can do a bad job and seal it badly. Sometimes a careful inspection will reveal a small void where water is getting in. Sometimes you can't find it. Either way I put a lot on anywhere it appears water is getting in. Eventually there is so much you have to remove it and start over, but I haven't gotten to that point yet.

Besides the tire shop, leaks have been fixed at JC and by me. Lewster checked out the roof earlier this year.

The good thing about a used trailer is that leaks have probably been fixed by then and you may be ok for a while. An inspection must be thorough—in cabinets, behind drawers, anywhere you can see the inner skin. In aluminum, there are usually water tracks left in dust or from minerals in the water (unless someone cleaned them). They may indicate a recent leak or that one was fixed and no one removed the tracks. A cloth interior should show water stains—a good reason not to buy anything with cloth interiors. Of course, water that has run down between skins and soaked the subfloor is harder to find. There may be places you can pull up vinyl and look, but that isn't enough for a thorough inspection. Checking plumbing for leaks is also a good idea—and looking for stains below plumbing. And plumbing is not always visible. Under our dinette seat, a cabinet recently had some water. I could find no tracks. We figured that a gallon jug of water that had been stored had a small hole in the bottom and no water has appeared since. Sometimes it is that easy.

There's no perfect solution and any trailer can leak. I think you have to decide what you want, what the risk associated with it is, and prepare for leaks as best you can. Knowing you as I do, I think that is just what you are doing and will come up with the solution that works for you.

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Old 10-10-2011, 05:52 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Wayne&Sam View Post
Frank- they do put every AS that comes off the line through the water tunnel. I think they do it before the inner skin goes on so they can see any leaks and repair them.
The trailers go in to find the leaks, YES. However my point was that the tunnel should be used to prove they don't leak because during construction, every step was taken to assure it won't leak. How much more effort could it take? Currently they go in to find the leaks missed during construction.
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Old 10-19-2011, 03:12 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by THEPILL View Post
Will my expenses be even considered?
I am curious. Has anyone had any success in getting them to reimburse travel expenses when warranty work was involved?

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Old 10-20-2011, 09:34 PM   #21
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Leaks only seem to arrive when traveling since traveling is what often makes them appear. We carry sealant with us and you can usually find something at a hardware store. But, it also requires a ladder if the leak is on the roof.
Found my leak while it was still sitting in the driveway; prior to that, it had been sitting in the showroom.

My leak was in the bathroom wall seam. It was a small leak; however, I was worried sick about it. And yes, it did fracture my Airstream "honeymoon" somewhat.

So, back to the dealership it goes, and the leak is fixed. Next time I am there, I am going to get them to tell me exactly where the leak originated. It looks like some sealant has been applied to the top of the smaller side window between the bathroom and pano window, and bedroom roof vent. So, I am assuming one or both was the source, but want to see what is on file.

Since then, here on the wet coast, have experienced the usual downpours. On my recent shakedown cruise, experienced mountain monsoons with driving rain. The inside was as dry as a bone. Hopefully, that's the end of it....for I have accepted the fact that "they all leak" eventually, but with observation, diligence, and maintenance, it can be controlled.

Sorry to hear about your ongoing issue Shane. I hope it will be resolved as well as mine was.

I was very happy with my trailer on the shakedown. Everything worked well; new RVs imported into Canada have more stringent manufacturing standards in some areas - maybe this made the difference.
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Old 02-09-2012, 07:48 PM   #22
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Thanks for the comments...Now my rear curbside is letting water in. Floor is rotting and laminate floor is discolored.

Airstream has authorized to remove belly pan by a dealer and they are going to look at it.

2 major leaks in 2 years.

I love my airstream....just advice is warranted at this point.


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Old 02-09-2012, 08:29 PM   #23
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Shane, please keep us posted on how this goes.
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Old 03-06-2012, 09:35 AM   #24
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Hey we all need a Seal tech 430 r water leak tester!!!
Only problem !!!! Very expensive.
I guess after a number of years it would pay for itself!!

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