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Old 09-05-2012, 10:33 AM   #1
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1973 Argosy 20
San Diego , California
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New Owner Fix-up questions

Hi Folks,

Just acquired my parent's 73 Argosy 20 (they owned it since new, I spent summers in it as a kid). It sat idle for ten+ years, before I towed it from ID to San Diego my Dad and I did some fix up work:
New tires
New water pump.
New propane regulator
New water heater
Tightened some hoses.
Replaced some light fixtures.

Had State Trailer in Pocatello, ID do some more work:
Greased wheel bearings, plus some brake work.
Fixed gray water leak.
New toilet.
New dump valve.
Attach loose sheet metal on bottom.

I've got a few more fix-up items now that I'm home, and a few questions...

1) How often do wheel bearings need grease? My 70's cars are typically good for 30K miles, but State Trailer said every two years...not sure I buy that.

2) The curved windows have some gaps in their frame, what's a good calking to use?

3) Is there a favorite source for repro interior parts? I need curtains and a few fixtures.

4) Is there room in the chassis for a gray water tank? When I was a kid we just ran a hose into the bushes but I learned that's not cool any more. I could put one where the furnace is but the bathtub would be too low to drain into it.

5) How do you clean/grease the hitch jack?

6) Do hitches and balls wear out? Mine seem to work fine but they are 40 years with a lot of mileage.

7)) Any gotchas that I might not think of that are common to these trailers. I'll have to find the FAQs too.


I'm sure I'll think of more later.

Thanks!
Rick
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:20 AM   #2
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Welcome!

Can you add an above floor black tank for toilet use only, and use existing tank as a gray water tank? That would likely mean a lower toilet. May not work . . . just wondering . . .

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Old 09-05-2012, 11:38 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Splitrock View Post
Welcome!

Can you add an above floor black tank for toilet use only, and use existing tank as a gray water tank? That would likely mean a lower toilet. May not work . . . just wondering . . .

`

The toilet black tank is already elevated, so I don't think that would work. But good idea though.

The bathtub drain is at floor level. Maybe I could strap a tank under the chassis in the rear?
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:49 AM   #4
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New Owner Fix-up questions

Greetings Rick!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Argosys!

Quote:
Originally Posted by merlinj79 View Post
I've got a few more fix-up items now that I'm home, and a few questions...

1) How often do wheel bearings need grease? My 70's cars are typically good for 30K miles, but State Trailer said every two years...not sure I buy that.
The advice you received is within the standard practices that I have encountered. Some would say to repack wheel bearing annually as part of a safety inspection including all parts of the trailer braking system. Typically, I have the wheel bearings repacked on my coaches every other season.

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Originally Posted by merlinj79 View Post
2) The curved windows have some gaps in their frame, what's a good calking to use?
There are two products that I have utilized for sealing gaps between the glass and frame. The first is the sealer sold in auto stores for automotive windshields. The second is Vulkem . . . or Tempro . . . sealants. Either type of sealant has worked for me, but it does take Vulkem/Tempro longer to fully cure, but they remain flexible indefinitely.

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Originally Posted by merlinj79 View Post
3) Is there a favorite source for repro interior parts? I need curtains and a few fixtures.
Unlike collector cars, there aren't that many interior parts reproduced, particularly for Argosys. Unless you are striving for and exact restoration, most find attractive modern components to replace a broken or worn out component. The following are some of the "Vintage-Friendly" dealers that Airstream and Argosy owners often utilize:
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4) Is there room in the chassis for a gray water tank? When I was a kid we just ran a hose into the bushes but I learned that's not cool any more. I could put one where the furnace is but the bathtub would be too low to drain into it.
There are two options that most Vintage Argosy owners employ. The first, and probably less costly alternative, is what as referred to as a "Blue-Boy" tote . . . a 10 to 20 gallon blue plastic tote on wheels that collects the gray water so that you can dispose of it at the usual dump station. The second alternative is to install a permanent gray water tank. Installing a gray water tank involves removing at least a portion of the bellypan and modifying the drain plumbing as well as installing the tank. Since there were few, if any, changes to the chassis between 1973 and 1974, the gray water tank for a 1974 Argosy 20 should easily be accommodated in the frame . . . plumbing the gray water tank vent may prove to be a challenge as well.

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Originally Posted by merlinj79 View Post
5) How do you clean/grease the hitch jack?
I don't know that there is a consensus on this question. Rather than courting problems with temperamental OEM jacks on my coaches, I have replaced the original jacks with modern heavy duty versions compatible with the original design. Since I often tow with my vintage Cadillac Eldorado, my preference is to go with an electric jack as there is so much repetitive jacking that must be done when hitching and unhitching the softly sprung tow vehicle.

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6) Do hitches and balls wear out? Mine seem to work fine but they are 40 years with a lot of mileage.
Hitches don't necessarily wear out, but should be examined frequently for excessive rust; cracked/broken/failing welds; and/or signs of bending/torquing of the components.

The coupler is a different story. Couplers do wear out, and there are usually two options available . . . rebuilding the coupler (the parts should be available for a well-stocked Airstream dealer's parts department) . . . or replacing the coupler. Lack of proper lubrication accellerates the wear of components . . . my suggestion is to add lubricant to the ball whenever hitching the coach.

If you are running a "classic" Reese Dual Cam Sway Control hitch, the saddles that bolt to the weight distribution bars can wear out, but the parts are readily available (may need to be ordered) from Reese at modest cost.

The 2 5/16" hitch balls can wear out and fail catastrophically. It is very rare to have such a failure, but I have witnessed the problem twice. The usual recommendation is to utilize a 2 5/16" ball with a minimum weight rating of 6,000 pounds for an Argosy 20 - - - I utilize a ball with a 10,000 pound rating for both of my coaches.

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7)) Any gotchas that I might not think of that are common to these trailers. I'll have to find the FAQs too.
I wouldn't necessarily consider these "gotchas", but things that a new owner might want to consider:
  • The deep-wrap front wing windows (now called Panoramic Windows) are no longer available in clear glass. The same windows are utilized in modern Airstreams, but the only type available is Solar Tinted. To protect original clear glass wing windoes, the usual recommendation is to install a three-piece Airstream front window rock guard. These guards are costly, but one broke wing window would be equivalent to the price of the guard.
  • The Dura-Torque axle is almost certain to need replacement. Two things contribute to the failue of these axles. Lack of use and age both play into failures. The suspension depends upon rubber rods inside of the axle tube . . . and these rubber rods can take a set which results in no suspension action . . . or they can become inflexible due to lack of exercise. A new axle was the second item to be replaced on my 1978 Minuet.
  • The LP Tanks likely haven't been upgraded to OPD valves. Many Argosys came with Worthington Aluminum LP tanks, and if this is the case with your Argosy 20, it is well worth the expense of installing new OPD valves and having the tanks re-certified.
  • Like all Airstreams (other than Minuets with composite aluminum floors), leaks are the worst enemy of the plywood subfloor. The floor near any compartment with an exterior access door should be inspected as well as the floor below every window and door. Probably the most frequent weak spot is in front of the entry door followed by the floor in the bathroom along the rear wall. The plumbing vent stacks will likely need new gaskets and sealing of the exterior fixture on the roof.
  • It is a good idea to check for broken/missing rivets both inside and outside of your Airstream. It isn't unusual to have an occassional popped rivet, but if excessive numbers are popping you have one or more problems that might include: lack of balance in the running gear, defective axle/shocks, or over-hitching (a common issue where a heavy-duty truck-based vehicle is the tow vehicle of choice).
  • The Argosy 20 coaches have a relatively low clearance so extreme caution must be exercised when entering/exiting streets/driveways with abrupt changes in elevation. This is particularly ture of protecting the dump valve from damage.
  • Argosy utilized the same Univolt as their Airstream cousins. These Univolt power converters are not kind to batteries and have a nasty habbit of boiling the electrolyte. Most suggest replacing the original Univolt with a modern multi-stage converter charger.
  • The OEM furnaces have something of a reputation for heat exchangers that rust out and permit cabon monoxide to enter the interior. Close frequent inspections are the order of the day if you choose to retain an original furnace. A new furnace has one very desirable option . . . automatic ignition so no pilot to light (something that is often a horrible chore due to the logistics of the furnace location).
  • If the coach doesn't have an air conditioner and you choose to add one, it does not go in an existing roof vent opening, rather a new opening is cut a measured distance from the number one roof bow where you will find both electric supply and drain hose ready for air conditioner installation.
Good luck with your coach!

Kevin
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Old 09-05-2012, 12:31 PM   #5
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Thanks Kevin, great info.

I do have an original AC and it works fine.

I did get the propane bottles tested and new valves/hoses.

The OEM furnace does not work, my Dad got tired of fixing it so he put in a catalytic space heater. That should suffice for SOCAL.

I bought a 5-gallon container for grey-water, but with small children and dishes it fills up 2-3 times/day so kind of a PITA. A bigger one would be harder to move around. My tow vehicle is rated for 3500/500 so I'm right at the weight limits and can't use the cargo space in the SUV for anything heavy due to tongue weight/ rear axle limits so a water tote would have to be either emptied or moved to the center/rear of the trailer.
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Old 09-05-2012, 02:11 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by merlinj79 View Post
The toilet black tank is already elevated, so I don't think that would work. But good idea though.

The bathtub drain is at floor level. Maybe I could strap a tank under the chassis in the rear?

How does the tub drain flow up now? I have a twin tank 1976 version, so both my tanks are below the floor.

`
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:18 PM   #7
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How does the tub drain flow up now? I have a twin tank 1976 version, so both my tanks are below the floor.

`

The gray water plumbing joins the black water outlet between the dump valve and the cap, so it just flows down. I think it has a check valve...you can actually put on a cap and open the dump valve which sends gray water backwards up into the black tank. But that's a small tank and this traps sewage between the dump valve and the cap...gonna be messy when you remove that cap.
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Old 09-05-2012, 07:40 PM   #8
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So the gray water was designed for a trailer only hooked to a sewer dump, or to be dumped on the ground, or connected to a portable sewage container? Am I understanding that right?

Thanks for the education.

`
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Old 09-05-2012, 08:28 PM   #9
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You are correct. And there is no check valve involved. If both tanks are below the floor and there is not a separate dump valve for the grey water. You can not prevent the grey water from running out, once you remove the cap.
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Old 09-06-2012, 07:59 AM   #10
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I suspect your Argosy bathroom is a lot like the Minuet's facilities and draining the shower into a grey tank is not really feasible. There isn't enough room under the rig to mount a decent size tank and mounting outside the belly pan is an invitation for disaster. A larger blue boy than 5 gallons may be a good solution as it can be carried inside the trailer while under tow and doesn't weigh much when empty. Weight when full is another matter. My take on it is that no grey water tank is ever large enough as grey water seems to accumulate even when you are asleep

You might consider having a new axle raise the trailer several inches above stock height. I found that between the rise from just replacing the axle and adding an additional 3 - 4 inches by changing the angle on the arms made my Argosy tow better and made the possibility of dragging the tail end much less when negotiating drive ways and other places where the angle changes abruptly.
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Old 09-08-2012, 01:05 PM   #11
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I spent a couple days cleaning up a bunch of minor glitches until I felt I was testing the Neighbors' patience with on-street parking.

It seems that about half the time when I drill out a rivet I end up widening the hole so much that I have to move up to 3/16.

Then I took the thing over to Tommy's Custom Coach in San Diego, he seems pretty legit and is real close to home. He's going to fix a couple things that State Trailer Pocatello screwed up (sounds like ST will make good though). He's also going to quote new floor covering, curtains, and upholstery as well as a grey-water tank. I think grey-water is job #1.

He thinks my axles look OK, they are original but ride good and are level. Hopefully they stay that way for a while...

Has anybody thought about jacking the axle up a little when stored to take weight off the torsion bars? I'll probably be stored 1-3 months between trips.

What's a good chemical to clean the plastic sink and tub? I tried a dish-detergent solution but there are still stains. I was hesitant to step up to comet...
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:32 AM   #12
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If you need newer lights, I suggest Dan at LED'S for RV. He really gives great customer service.
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Old 09-09-2012, 10:29 AM   #13
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If you need newer lights, I suggest Dan at LED'S for RV. He really gives great customer service.

I have some new flourescents and some OEM fixtures, and would like to go all-LED...but that's pricey and I doubt I'll be spending more than a night or two without hookups anyway.

Actually my priority for LEDs will be to do my house first....

Do you need new fixtures or do they make LED bulbs that fit the OEM fixtures?
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Old 09-09-2012, 10:33 AM   #14
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The biggy that has been missed so far is if your Argosy's Dura Torque axles have not been replaced, there is a good chance they are shot. Bad axles will cause a lot of damage as there is not enough buffer for road shock which will be transferred directly to the trailer. When, and if, you replace your axles you could go for a Never-lube or EZ lube option which, unless you actually like pulling hubs, makes life a little easier.
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