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Old 06-01-2016, 05:26 PM   #1
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Airstream FLAWS

I very love my bus and it is the most usable and the most convenient vehicle in the park of my cars.

I love my bus, because it is a Mercedes, and because nothing better but Airstream Interstate on the van-sized body you can buy for a hundred + some thousand dollars.

However, having enormous experience with hi-end vehicles and different benzes in the past, I was not able not to open this thread of unprofessional craftsmanship of the Airstream in producing a conversion of Sprinters. They made a great furniture and excellent engineering of the Interstate. However, they cut corners doing their assembling job very fast, they did not pay attention to any details, they simply used workers with two left hands in a production line of Sprinter conversions (forgive me, left-handers, that was not about you).

Insufficient glues, not pressed double-side tapes, leaking vents, non-tighten screws, and a lot of other small things which are pain in the bottom... Every day I fix the flaws in my bus, doing it more and more precise. Yes, it comes better every time my hands touch it.

But I can't believe that for these money Airstream is not able to hire a good technicians in assembly line, instead of those whose job place must be asking "paper or plastic" in a food supermarket.
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:39 PM   #2
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Rather limited work force out there in the boonies. I think they use whoever they can find. Few quality experienced craftsmen would be willing to move to the middle of nowhere for what Airstream pays (whatever that is). I think the current work force performs at the level that management expects them too.
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:41 PM   #3
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they simply used workers with two left hands in a production line of Sprinter conversions (forgive me, left-handers, that was not about you).
Not to worry. Even us left-handers only have ONE left hand, not two of them.

One reason I plan to keep my 2012 Interstate until either it or I can't travel anymore is because it was built when the assembly line didn't crank out as many units in a year, so more time could be taken with each one. Not to say mine is perfect, but it certainly seems a lot less trouble-prone than the newer ones.
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:54 PM   #4
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These are decent people building your Airstream. Some good and some not so good producing good work and some not so good work. I believe we have been spoiled by the craftsmanship of robots building our cars, all so perfectly assembled one after another thousands a month.

Check any complex rv and you'll see the same thing. The reality is we inspect them at purchase and buy them if satisfied. It's then on us to play the warranty game or get out the tools and remake to our particular standards.

A few members have replaced and rebuilt most of the components to higher standards, ours was nicely assembled and we have had no failures of original equipment going on five years and 35 months camping. We have done many modifications to customize it to our particular travel style, but can't blame them for it.

We drive VW diesel, Ram diesel and 25 year old Suzuki Samurai, all defect-free at and since purchase. If your Mercedes is perfect, credit the robots.
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:14 PM   #5
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....
Insufficient glues, not pressed double-side tapes, leaking vents, non-tighten screws, and a lot of other small things which are pain in the bottom... Every day I fix the flaws in my bus, doing it more and more precise. ....
Wait a little longer until you begin to discover the full extent of where indoor rust-prone hardware was used in exterior applications where stainless steel should have been used instead. Boy oh boy, are we all gonna hear some Russian ranting at that point!!


As has been said before on many threads, here's the deal. There are only three options of which the off-the-lot Airstream Interstate, customized by you to suit your tolerances, is the first option. The other two are (a) high-end custom build by someone else, which I'm told takes about two years and costs about twice as much, or (b) build one yourself. Being gainfully employed people, we don't have time for (a) or (b) so we suck up the rusty screws and the self-customization and occasionally give moral support to those who are doing likewise. Pretty much end of story.
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:24 PM   #6
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I would disagree w/ your statement of "excellent engineering of the Interstate". Maybe you could point out several areas that you based this upon. Beyond the cabinetry, I couldn't think of any.

Personally I don't think Airstream is motivated to make any changes.
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:35 PM   #7
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I would disagree w/ your statement of "excellent engineering of the Interstate". Maybe you could point out several areas that you based this upon. Beyond the cabinetry, I couldn't think of any.

Personally I don't think Airstream is motivated to make any changes.
.....cause people keep buying them.......

I think this is just the way of the RV world.. get used to it... or get it over it... or don't buy them, or whatever... they all have things that are shy of a million bucks...
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:39 PM   #8
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The issue as I see it is that Thor manages too many brands and doesn't distinguish between an $18k plywood box and a more premium product like the Interstate.

I believe that Airstream has some really talented craftsmen working for them (their cabinetry generally is some of the best in the industry). They also have some quality draftsmen that produce the drawings they don't like to share with us. But draftsmen aren't engineers and nobody has engineered a complete electrical system for these vehicles. Quality Control is also an issue and we've had numerous threads on that topic already, and that is strictly a management issue. I've had co-workers die on the job and the most haunting phrase from the accident investigation reports have been the line: "Leaders create culture." Thor has a culture problem and until that changes, I doubt they will ever build a product that meets our expectations.

In 1950 the electrical system in an RV ran a few lights and a fan. Even the refrigerators ran on pilot lights with no electricity. But as new appliances have come to market, they just wire them into the existing system. Add a water pump, add a radio, add a furnace, install an inverter, bigger batteries, add a generator, too much parasitic draw from the inverter?, graft on another coil relay.

They need to design their plumbing and electrical systems from the ground up. They have custom tanks designed to fit the Sprinter chassis but the plumbing system as a whole uses parts for brick and mortar construction with no allowances for the fact the aplication is bouncing and vibrating all over the road. I could write a dissertation on the flaws in the electrical system and I'm no electrical engineer. But I'll save that for the thread I'll start on the rewiring I plan to do after InterBlog's current to do list and before the air suspension.
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Old 06-01-2016, 06:54 PM   #9
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i realize that sounded more rudely than I meant..... for real..

I feel the same way everyone else does.... it's just that these are our choices
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Old 06-01-2016, 08:02 PM   #10
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I worked for a supplier to the RV industry for 5 years a couple of jobs ago and have been through about a dozen or so RV factories. The level of engineering and craftsmanship vary greatly between the best and the worst. There are some brands that I would never buy. That being said they are all in it for one reason- $$. If the little things we find are not called in for warranty then they will never address it, most manufacturers track warranty cost religiously, hitting the costliest first. Since there is so much low hanging fruit most miss the little things.

Personally I live 5 hours from the nearest dealer and it has to be something major for me to travel 10 hours to get fixed. I have been sent parts to fix myself rather than spend the time to go to the dealer.

My dilemma in choosing was between Roadtrek and the Airstream. Roadtrek was the obvious choice based on mechanical, they actually design for boondockers. The Airstream solar is designed only to get the batteries to last until the sale, and sometimes they don't even make it that long. However when my wife looked inside the 2 coaches, Airstream won based on fit, feel, finish. I agreed. Now- just having a grand time making it mine and traveling when I can!
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Old 06-01-2016, 09:02 PM   #11
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Thor has got a bad rep for quality control in most of their other brand offerings. What's sad is they may actually take down the Airstream brand due to their corporate model.

I had to take a step back with your "bus" reference to an Interstate.... More of a conversion van on steroids...
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Old 06-01-2016, 09:28 PM   #12
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..... My dilemma in choosing was between Roadtrek and the Airstream. Roadtrek was the obvious choice based on mechanical, they actually design for boondockers. The Airstream solar is designed only to get the batteries to last until the sale, and sometimes they don't even make it that long. However when my wife looked inside the 2 coaches, Airstream won based on fit, feel, finish. I agreed. Now- just having a grand time making it mine and traveling when I can!

I had the same experience between an Airstream Interstate, Roadtrek and Winnebago ERA, which was a lot cheaper. Once my wife got inside an Interstate the decision was over.

I knew from experience that no RV conversion can compare to the quality of the modern automobile industry. As LB_3 pointed out the electrical and plumbing systems in these vans are less than optimal. I'm certain that a van conversion to meet some peoples expectation can be made for $250,000 or more as there are several companies doing it. InterBlog is right there are three choices. But I'd add a fourth - buy used after someone else has worked out most of the assembly bugs.

I did the DIY conversion back in the day when I was a lot younger and had young children. It took me nearly a year to complete in my spare time and I nearly lost a finger in one last night incident.


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Old 06-01-2016, 10:22 PM   #13
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.....cause people keep buying them.......

I think this is just the way of the RV world.. get used to it... or get it over it... or don't buy them, or whatever... they all have things that are shy of a million bucks...
We all purchased Airstreams new or used so I agree that we're all voluntary participants in the market. It's just a poorly served market.

When I look at what is available in the RV market today, I can't help but think of how SpaceX jumped into the space launch business and started building rockets for 30% of what Boeing and Lockheed charge and even 20 million less than the Chinese.
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Old 06-02-2016, 06:40 AM   #14
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... InterBlog is right there are three choices. But I'd add a fourth - buy used after someone else has worked out most of the assembly bugs. ...
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That WOULD be a choice, except for the fact that the people who take that time and make that effort do not sell them. Using search strings, I try to track every T1N Interstate resale that is advertised in any accessible way, shape, or form. Occasionally I see someone who has fleshed out the conveniences - added their own screens, added satellite, cell booster, extra cameras, navigation, maybe even some insulation or flooring - one seller even built in a hair dryer, like you'd see on the bathroom wall of a hotel. But I've never seen anyone advertise that they improved the plumbing or electrical. Once that is done, the investment becomes so high that the vehicle really can't be let go except in an extraordinary situation.

My husband and I are time-lining that we will keep ours for roughly 20 years. We have already put so much into it that it would not be worth it to sell earlier than that, unless one of us becomes sick or disabled or has some other fundamental change in circumstances.
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