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Old 12-10-2008, 08:05 PM   #1
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Central , South Carolina
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Questions about buying a used Airstream

I am looking at a 1975 Overlander 27' and have read a lot different things about old trailers on this forum. The trailer is in average condition and seems to have been taken care of.
I read that 30 yr. old trailers need new axles. Does anyone know about how much these axles cost?
The owner said the brake lights were not working, so he attached lights on the bumper and hooked directly to his truck. He also said because he only towed the trailer a short distance, he didn't use the trailer brakes.
If I'm already changing the axles, is it worth the trouble to change the brakes and how much would this cost?
I'm trying to get an idea of how much money I'll need to get the trailer in safe working order.
He originally asked $6000 and now he's down to $5500 - $5000.

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Old 12-10-2008, 08:16 PM   #2
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New axles come with new brakes. Figure total with shipping for 2 Henshen axles between $1500 and $2000. For Dexters half that.

There is a plethora of informaiton on Dexter vs. Henshens if you do a forums search. I can't think of there being much more useful (and less than useful) stuff that needs to be said. But it probably will.

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Old 12-10-2008, 08:27 PM   #3
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Questions about buying a used Airstream

Greetings Me2!

Welcome to the Forums!

I wouldn't give up on getting the trailer lights operational. It sounds like the previous owner has only towed this coach once which means that he probably didn't take the time to straighten out the Bargman connector on the trailer. In 1975 Airstream utilized a wiring schematic for the Bargman connector that does not match up to the current industry standard. It really isn't difficult to switch the wires around in the Connector to make it work. You DO NOT want to tow a coach the size of an Overlander (27') without operable trailer brakes.

If you end up purchasing the coach the easiest solution is to obtain and carry a trailer end that matches the receptacle on your tow vehicle so that you can wire in the proper connector and have working tail/running, stop, and turn signal lights. Don't forget when having your tow vehicle wired that Airstreams have bakcup lights and that wire often isn't connected by shops not accustomed to working with Airstreams.

In all probability, you won't have great expense in getting the brakes operational. Before towing, the coach should have its bearings repacked which means the brake drums will be off making brake inspection a relatively easy job. If my experience is any indicator, the brakes will be in acceptable condition and once the bearings are packed and the brakes adjusted you will be good to go (as far as brakes and bearings).

There are several ways to buy new axles -- a bare axle may run in the vicinity of $750 to $800 plus shipping -- including drum brakes would be an added option -- or you can also upgrade to hydraulic disc brakes. As an example, the axle on my Minuet was just short of $1,100 installed and ready to go with drum brakes (four years ago). I am waiting for axles on my Overlander as I want to upgrade to hydraulic discs since I like to tow with one of my vintage automobiles.

Also, before towing the coach any great distance, you will want to purchase a good set of tires (unless you can prove the age of the tires either through DOT codes or actual purchase receipts) -- a blown tire on an Airstream can easily cause in excess of $1,000 in damage to the exterior skin and wheel well.

You didn't mention any of the other systems, LPG, electric, refrigerator, water heater, furnace, air conditioner, etc. -- anyone of these could produce a significant repair bill if it isn't functional -- a seller should be willing to demonstrate the operation of these systems with the asking price being placed on the coach.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 12-10-2008, 08:58 PM   #4
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Welcome Me2,

Always good to see another Palmetto State member. As the others have stated above you're looking at $1,500 to $2,000 for new axles.

Kevin's points about brakes are not understated. SC law requires any trailer weighing 3,500 lbs have operating brakes. Central is in the Foothills and you might get away with for a short haul if your tow vehicle is big enough, but it's very risky and DMV will fine if you happen to get stopped.

$5,000 for a rig in fair conditon with untested systems seems a little on the high side (only my un-official opinion) in the current market. If you start replacing appliances and HVAC system components you'll bleed as much, or more cash than you'd pay for axles. As stated above...If you pursue this unit have the owner power up and demonstrate the electircal, plumbing, HVAC, and LP systems so you can see that they function. If they do you're in good shape. If not you have negotiating power. Don't forget to demo any awning too.

There is a great inspection checklist available on the forum that will help when you are looking to purchase an older unit. Additionally there are many fantistic resources and members on this forum who are more than willing to offer advice and assistance when asked. I frequent the Pickens area, so let us know when you take the plunge and we'll drop by to help admire the newest member to the family.

Welcome Again,


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Old 12-15-2008, 06:10 PM   #5
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I notice that your first and only post was some five days ago. Are you still reading here?

If so, I would suggest that you avail yourself of the inspection services that other members offer. You could avoid a catastrophe, or confirm what you're looking at is a good buy.

What do you think of that?
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Old 12-15-2008, 07:29 PM   #6
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Some Good Resources at

Hi Me2, and welcome to the world of Airstream. You might go to to check out the informative resources available there, such as the picture archives of most vintage AS. A section that may be of interest to you is under the heading 'Restoration Resources' there is a section called 'Price vs Condition'. It is an excellent article that is a good source of comparison info of costs and values for someone considering a purchase. It will give you a better idea of what to look for and what questions to ask. At least you won't be going in there blind and uninformed. There is so much to learn about a vintage Airstream and what needs to work and what it takes to get it to work if it doesn't. The more informed you are the better decisions you'll make, not to mention the better deal you can get.
Tim K

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Old 12-17-2008, 01:52 PM   #7
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First of all thanks for everyone's replies. I wanted to give an update on the status I know how it is when no one gives feedback.

With the current economic situation we have decide to wait. Both my wife and I have jobs that supply the automotive market so enough said.

The lady(she's 74) that was selling the AS took it off the market; she was on the fence about selling it anyway. She said that after things settle down I could come back and see if she still wants to sell it. In the meantime I will continue to tent camp and keep dreaming.
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Old 12-17-2008, 03:53 PM   #8
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Thanks for the update. Your economic concerns are shared. There are plenty of good deals out there which is a positive side effect of sour economy. So you may find a better deal as you keep looking. Hang around and keep us informed as to your progress towards ownership.

Happy Holidays,


"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."

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Old 12-17-2008, 04:49 PM   #9
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My experience from looking at a dozen or so older Airstreams is that the sellers look at what some other used Airstreams are selling for on Ebay etc. and think theirs are worth a lot more than they are. Some even think that if they have been setting unused for years that that is a good thing because of the little use they have had.
We who have worked on them realize that just the opposite is true. I have gotten to the place where I don't even want to consider buying one that that has not been towed regularly within the last year. The price you mentioned is definitely on the high side if it is as you described. There can be a LOT of expensive hidden problems with any older RV and you need to get an experienced person to check it out before making a decision.
Good luck and hope you find your DREAMstream.
"Shiny Aluminum Bodies will always turn a REAL man on"
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Old 01-10-2009, 01:26 PM   #10
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I wish more folks would read your post and appreciate what you say.
We have looked at a few trailers in the past couple of months and i don't think used owenrs appreciate how little spread there is between what they are asking and a new one. Oh well, guess we will just keep looking. If we can solve a few ancilliary problems, like storage on or near our house, then we can start looking seriously.

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