We see many AS and other American trailers here. Some of which have been converted by so called professionals. And we have seen many disasters!!!!
- You can use your AS on 240v with a Building site transformer ...... It will work
- You can wire your existing power points up to 240v ....... It will work
- You can run your LPG by hooking up to UK bottles ........ It will work
- You can wire up your towing lights to a UK car. (You can even buy a converter Stateside to do just this)...... It will work
- You can use electric or Vacuum over hydraulic brakes that come fitted to many American trailers.............They will work
- You can continue to use wheel chocks as your parking brakes....... It will work
- You can chop 2 holes in the floor of your car and put your feet through them to push the car along - 'Flintstone style' ........It will work.
But letís get real here. As I have said we have seen many disasters. Here's a few:-
3 Airstreams (one very rare) written off in the last year alone because of poor conversions to axles and brakes.
2 Airstreams that have come into our workshops with bodged hookup electrics. On one of these the whole trailer was live when plugged into the 240v
Half a dozen or more that have unsafe LPG systems because of faulty or leaking appliances
The Americans have there own system of code for suitability and legality. So do we.
Many of the American rigs that arrive in this country are old and worn out before you even begin. A lot of the ones that we see are over 40yrs old and need a complete service and overhaul to be practical for use. And before someone else says it I am not saying this to 'Diss' anyone and least of all our American cousins.................This is pure fact. There is a whole industry Stateside set up to overhaul and revitalise these trailers for use in their homeland because of the same fact-----A lot are old and worn out.
It is also a fact that everyman and his dog will be able to tell you how to fix up your StreamerÖÖÖA lot of advice is good, a lot isnít
We have laws that govern everything from the size of the trailer you can tow behind different types of vehicle through to the type and operation of brakes used, the specifics of the LPG and electrical system installations, And the towing equipment such as lights and markers.
Most of these things are easy and relatively cheap to overhaul and bring up to standard costing little, if any, more to bring to European spec than to just overhaul as existing systems.
Letís try and deal with the points listed above in the order that they appear:-
1 & 2) Electric Hook Up:
A lot of the older American trailers use a 2 wire system that is not compatible with the UK. Often a test of the wiring will show up faults caused by old age, vermin eating the insulation and 'not so good DIY alterations. Before you do anything these faults need to be rectified.
Then we have the conversion to 240v. You can use a building site transformer. It will be buzzy (even worse than the Univolt that you may already have) Ac units will run slow and hot. Printed circuits in some later equipment will eventually die amongst other potential problems. The reason for this is the frequency is wrong.
We have found that many folk want to retain and use original equipment. Many folk even buy retro equipment from the States just to keep originality and there is nothing wrong with this. Some items like fridges can even be converted to 240v anyway. We think the best solution is to retain the 110v systems just bringing it up to code where needed and add a 240v rail to supplement it. We even use sockets with ally flaps over the front so you donít have to put up with the ugly UK style ones. Lighting systems work fine on the 110 and bulbs are easy to obtain so no problems there or you can drop the lighting circuits out of the master breaker and wire them into a 240v breaker and use conventional (for this country) bulbs.
We have found that the best solution is to use a standard propane regulator running at 37Mb We prefer a dual with automatic switchover and automatic shutdown for safety. Your system will work just by hooking up UK propane bottles to the original reg. but this is not EU approved. The system should be checked for leaks and any appliances checked by someone that understands them. The cook stove is easy enough but what about the boiler and furnace? (Hot water and heater) These are different to the traditional English ones and many engineers don't understand how they work (although they are really not rocket science)
4) There are specific laws in the UK and EU on towing lights. How many of you are running with forward facing amber marker lights as fitted to many AS's from the 70's on? You can keep these but the law states that your outer front facing should be white or clear. How many of you are not using the legal reflectors at the rear? All these problems cost a few pounds to put right.
Hereís a tip for those attempting to run your original lights in the UK (as we do):-
The Americans flash the brake light as a turn signal. Because of this the right and the left brake lights have independent feeds. Drop these out of the brake lights and use them for your indicators then use the reverse light feed (if you have one) or run an extra wire for the brake lights. Your side and tail lights can be dealt with in 2 ways----- either link pins 7 & 5 at the plug (not the best solution) or split the right and left feeds at the front of your trailer and connect to the relevant pins.
5 & 6) All American braking systems can be used here in the UK but you will need to adapt your vehicle to suit. Beware of electric brake controllers as many are not approved for use in the EU. Some will work with ABS some won't. Most systems will need an overhaul so again you need to find someone who understands them. All will need a parking brake fitted. We have seen all sorts of concoctions including the fitting of a brake controller to the trailer itself (how in hells name was that going to work? Especially as the brakes on the trailer didn't work anyway!) And electric brakes wired direct to the cars brake light switch. That was fun as the trailer brakes did work and when we test drove the trailer for a demo the trailer lifted the back of our 3+ ton 4wd clear of the tarmac under braking-------Great stunt!!!
Vacuum over hydraulic systems will need a vacuum tap from the tow vehicles inlet manifold and possible a tank as well. ------ Possible but complicated.
And don't forget you may have to stand and explain yourself on the side of the road to some young copper who knows nothing about the subject trying to give you a ticket and impound your rig because all he can see is a trailer that is unbraked and over weight for an unbraked trailer. Or worse still to some insurance assessor because someone has driven into the back of your rig and all the assessor sees is an illegal trailer
Many trailers when they arrive in this country have both tired brakes and suspension that needs an overhaul anyway. Often the cost of Overhaul and the fitting of the extra bits to make the trailer legal is equal to or more than the cost of fitting a new axle(s) and hitch. There is not much that you can do with a duratorque axle except replace it if it is past it's sell by date. Leaf springs can be overhauled and brake systems can be converted to allow for a parking brake and or EU type Inertia (override) brakes.
Finally. We see a lot of American trailers being towed behind vehicles that are not legal for the size and weight of trailer that they are towing. A lot of folk will poo poo this and other things. Let me just say one thing:- Some idiot who lost control of his car on the motorway was responsible for the introduction of the national speed limit in the UK. ----- Do you want to be the one responsible for these beautiful trailers getting legislated out of existence in the UK?
Think about it!!
We are AS lovers and got into this business because we love them. Both my wife and I live in an Airstream ..........FULL TIME. as does my business partner. Another key member of our team lives in a vintage British caravan.
This is a very simplified explanation and I am sure that it will open up a whole can of worms.........We don't care! We have been doing this for some time and have taken the time and the trouble to find practical and economical solutions to the same problems that everyone faces here in the UK.
And again before someone else says it, YES we would like the work. But, our workshops are inundated so we don't particularly need it. We are happy to advise and help anyone importing an American Trailer into the UK or Europe with anything from shipping & transportation (both in the UK and USA), to restoration and or repairs. Advice is free but we do charge fro anything else.