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Old 09-08-2009, 11:44 AM   #1
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1977 31' Excella 500
salem , Wisconsin
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31 foot Excella 500 problems

I have have just bought a 31 foot airstream excella 500 for 4000. Then Found out I need new axels and the rear frame is saging. I am not sure if I want to repair all this. First how hard is it to fix these things. Second if I was to sell whats it worth? Some guidance pleaase. Is it worth keeping and fixing?
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Old 09-08-2009, 12:18 PM   #2
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31 foot excella 500 problems

Greetings zacfrd!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!

Quote:
Originally Posted by zacfrd View Post
I have have just bought a 31 foot airstream excella 500 for 4000. Then Found out I need new axels
Just about any Vintage (1961 or newer) Airstream (or Argosy for that matter) will need new axles if a previous owner hasn't already replaced them. They are an expense but your coach will thank you with less recurring maintenance as bad axles can contribute to a whole host of related problems.

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. . . and the rear frame is saging.

You will need to establish whether the coach has rear end separation and/or frame sag . . . two different problems with very different solutions.
  • Frame sag is evidenced by ripples or bulges in the exterior skin in the vicinity of the wheel wells -- it seems that the bulges typically appear to the rear of the wheel wells. Another indicator may be found by carefully examining the portion of the frame that is exposed between the axles . . . in bad cases of sag, it is possible to find a visible crack in the frame. The factory has a technical service bulletin covering this problem as well as a reinforcement kit that addresses the problem.
  • Rear end separation is identified by examining the joint between the frame extension to which the bumper is mounted with the body of the coach. Have someone sit or stand on the bumper while you observe each of these joints noting whether an opening forms between the body and frame rail . . . if an opening opens up then there is at least some separation present. Separation is also often accompanied by floor rot along the rear wall . . . particularly in the corners. Again this a problem for which there is a repair procedure that I believe was covered in another technical service bulletin. Coaches with the repair are often said to have "elephant ears" above the rear bumper due to skin patches applied to conceal installation of the reinforcing repair.
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Originally Posted by zacfrd View Post
I am not sure if I want to repair all this. First how hard is it to fix these things.
You will need a good set of mechanic's tools for repair of either of these conditions including a selection of jacks, jack stands, riveting tool, wrenches, torque wrench, measuring tools, level, etc. Both repairs are labor intensive with varying expense depending upon the extent of the damage. With either repair, I suspect that the cost for dealer repair would start in the vicinity of $1,600 going up from there depending upon how extensive the damage may be. . . . A vintage friendly Airstream dealer could certainly examine your coach and give you an estimate for repairs in his/her shop. I had rear end separation and some very minor floor rot repaired in my Overlander a little more than ten years ago at Ace Fogdall RV in Cedar Falls, Iowa and even then the total for the repairs was approaching $3,000 about half of which was the separation repair and the balance being for the floor repair.

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Second, if I was to sell whats it worth? Some guidance pleaase. Is it worth keeping and fixing?
One of the most commonly mentioned guides for assessing the value of a Vintage Airstream can be found on R.J. Dial's website at this link. I suspect that unless you negotiated a very good deal that you will find it difficult to sell your coach at the price you paid . . . in that case, you will need to factor in this "loss" if you decide to sell this coach and buy another. Also keep in mind the rule of thumb that nearly any vintage airstream is going to need axle or suspension attention - - and some (some may say most) will have some degree of rear end separation or frame sag.

When my Overlander was diagnosed with rear end separation five years after I purchased the coach, I ran the figures and it made more sense to keep the coach that I knew and have the repairs made rather than to purchase another coach that could end up needing similar or even more repairs. About the only way to approach this situation is a cost/benefit analysis repair of the current unit compared compared to the costs involved in selling the current unit and acquiring a different unit if that is your ultimate desire.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 09-08-2009, 03:39 PM   #3
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although i have not done an axle replacement, I have read here on this forum about it and it appears to be quite straight forward. Not simple, but a bolt on deal. For a trailer as old as yours-it is good money to replace the axles. AND not that expensive when you look at the expense of brake repair/replacement. With new axles, ya get new brakes, too. I think for a trailer 25 years or older, that is the single best investment you can make-the peace of mind, even over the purchase of a newer trailer would be worth it. What I mean is a newer (different trailer) may not have good axles, either, and you know what you have now. My 2 cents says do it yourself and never look back.
ol bill
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Old 09-09-2009, 08:02 PM   #4
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1977 31' Excella 500
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ok I am going to keep it and repair. I need some instruction please. are there any pics out there of fixing the frame and installing axels. also where can I buy new interior. Does airstream sell any of there new stuff?? cabinets curtins bunks fridge ac ect??? please guid me
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Old 09-09-2009, 08:43 PM   #5
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Greetings zacfrd!

Quote:
Originally Posted by zacfrd View Post
ok I am going to keep it and repair. I need some instruction please. are there any pics out there of fixing the frame and installing axels. also where can I buy new interior. Does airstream sell any of there new stuff?? cabinets curtins bunks fridge ac ect??? please guid me
Here is a link to a diagram of the factory reinforcement plate for the frame -- see this link.

Detailed instructions from Airstream for installing the factory reinforcement kit can be found at this link.

Repairing Shell to Chassis Separation in 1969-1972 recommended repair procedures can be found at this link.

A comprehensive thread on axle replacement can be found at this link.

Airstream sells some new interior components, but be prepared for the cost - - it is probably more cost effective to have a local cabinet maker build what you need. What I did with both of my coaches was take them to Fowler RV Interiors where Arlene and Henry did amazing work in refurbishing my coaches' interiors. Arlene handles the upholstery, cleaning, and interior detailing. Henry is a wonderful wood worker and has made wonderful oak table tops for my original drop-leaf table (Overlander) and Credenza table (Minuet) as well as replacing a cabinet end panel that had been very badly damaged during refrigerator replacement -- and the cabinets in the Overlander were completely refinished to match the original golden oak.

Good luck with your projects!

Kevin
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Old 09-09-2009, 08:48 PM   #6
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Someone mentioned you get new brakes with new axles, this is true if you have drum brakes. Not necessarily true if you have disc brakes. I reccommend keeping the disc if you can but that's a whole nother thread.
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:55 AM   #7
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1977 31' Excella 500
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my trailer is a 77 is this frame repair the same on that?
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:02 AM   #8
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also for a 77 31 foot what size axels do I need? Where should I get them.
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zacfrd View Post
I have have just bought a 31 foot airstream excella 500 for 4000. Then Found out I need new axels and the rear frame is saging. I am not sure if I want to repair all this. First how hard is it to fix these things. Second if I was to sell whats it worth? Some guidance pleaase. Is it worth keeping and fixing?
Before you jump in and do a lot of repairs right off the bat... Are you planning on lots of long-distance travelling, or are you just going to stay in your local area? If you are a local user, the axles and frame repairs may not be urgent giving you the option of doing the repairs over time rather than spending big $$$ right away.

How advanced is the frame sag?

Also, do you have both the 1977 owners manual and the 1977 service manual for your trailer? I have them on CD and could mail it to you to print off if you want.
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:29 AM   #10
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31 foot excella 500 problems

Greetings zacfrd!

The rear body to frame separation repairs are rather generic . . . the same basic procedure was followed by the shop to repair my '64s rear end separation . . . and a friend's '77.

The frame sag issue repair is a little different, and the factory or an Airstream repair center would be better able to identify any adjustments to that procedure that would be required for a coach other than the '69-'72 -- my suspicion is that the repair will remain the same as long as the frame member dimensions remain the same.

Good luck with your projects!

Kevin
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Old 09-10-2009, 12:42 PM   #11
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I would like to go some distance. I dont know how bad the frame sag is whats bad? here are some pics
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Old 09-10-2009, 01:15 PM   #12
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In picture DSC000391, are the indents visible (by the furnace vent and by the wheel well) associated with the frame sag, or are they from another separate incident?
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Old 09-10-2009, 01:21 PM   #13
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Thats what I am trying to find out. Could this be caused by frame sag because its only on one side of my trailer?? I am trying to find out if I have frame sag or seperation.
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Old 09-10-2009, 01:37 PM   #14
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Ok Is it best to get to the frame from the inside or under the trailer? I am going to just rip it apart and take a look.
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