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Old 03-14-2013, 11:46 AM   #1
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1979 28' Ambassador
Cave Springs , Arkansas
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Newbie Questions

After picking up our 79 Ambassador in a blinding rainstorm, about the only advice that was given to us was "lock" the door. Four hours later, we safely made it home, almost 200 miles plus. We bought the beautiful unit but without any knowledge of RV's. I fell in love with the Airstream design, look, appearance and waited nearly three years before I found the one I wanted.

The "book" or manual that came with the unit is very general, lots of schematics, but few, if any "how-to-do its."

So, questions:

a) Is the exterior power only 220 volts?
b) What is the safe and sanitary way to dump the waste (in an RV dumpsite obviously) I've never done this before and there is no external hose on this unit. Do RV dump sites have connecting hoses or do I go purchase one?
c) Parts. We'll want to replace a few. The 30 year old unit needs some TLC on the interior, but is in otherwise pristine condition. Is there a recommended parts supplier on-line.
d) the unit only has one 12 volt battery, I know I'll need to get another one. I am assuming it's a deep cycle marine type battery. Is there a preferred battery for this unit.

I needed a hobby and now I have one. Looks like I'll be permanently busy.

Thanks for any and all help/assistance.

Beartooth
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:08 PM   #2
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2008 34' Classic S/O
Common Sense , Texas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beartooth View Post
After picking up our 79 Ambassador in a blinding rainstorm, about the only advice that was given to us was "lock" the door. Four hours later, we safely made it home, almost 200 miles plus. We bought the beautiful unit but without any knowledge of RV's. I fell in love with the Airstream design, look, appearance and waited nearly three years before I found the one I wanted.

The "book" or manual that came with the unit is very general, lots of schematics, but few, if any "how-to-do its."

So, questions:

a) Is the exterior power only 220 volts?
b) What is the safe and sanitary way to dump the waste (in an RV dumpsite obviously) I've never done this before and there is no external hose on this unit. Do RV dump sites have connecting hoses or do I go purchase one?
c) Parts. We'll want to replace a few. The 30 year old unit needs some TLC on the interior, but is in otherwise pristine condition. Is there a recommended parts supplier on-line.
d) the unit only has one 12 volt battery, I know I'll need to get another one. I am assuming it's a deep cycle marine type battery. Is there a preferred battery for this unit.

I needed a hobby and now I have one. Looks like I'll be permanently busy.

Thanks for any and all help/assistance.

Beartooth
First, Welcome to the forum, and congradualtions on your Airstream.

Now to try and answer your questions.

Your trailer should have both 120 AC power, and a 12 volt DC power system. Basically, the lights and water pump are 12 VDC, and everything else, including the power converter, which charges the battery, is 120 AC. The refrigerator should be a combintation gas, or 120 electric. The water heater should be gas, and of course the stove and furnace should be gas. Many of these appliance also need 12 VDC to operate depending vintage.

Yes, dumping the holding tanks should be done into a sewer system, either at an RV park, or other suitable system. You should have two tanks, a Main tank which holds the toilet water, and a grey tank that holds all wash water. The most accepted way to dump is to first dump the main, and then the grey to rinse out the hose. Yes, you will need to go to an RV supply, or Walmart or such, to get the hose and fitting you will need.

Parts and batteries are basically where you find them, and you will get lots of opinions about batteries. At minimum, a deep cycle is good.

Good luck with your work, have fun, and again, welcome.
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:16 PM   #3
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2006 25' Safari FB SE
Merkel , Texas
Join Date: Nov 2012
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First of all, welcome to the forum and the world of AS ownership. You have come to the right place to get lots of advice. Most of it will be good advice. And there is a lot of experience among members of the forum and many have the mechanical ability to do many of the things AS ownership requires, as well as the knack to help instruct you how to do things and the willingness to share. I know just enough to be dangerous.
First, unless you have a really unusual trailer, the electrical service to it is 30Amp 120v.
Second, you must provide the hose to empty the holding tanks, both gray and black water. The general instructions are to empty the black water tank first, then the gray waste water. The black water tank should be allowed to get pretty full before emptying it, in order to float the solids out with the liquid. Also, if you are hooked up to full services, keep the valve closed on the black tank until it is full enough to need emptying.
Third, batteries come in many different types and brands. Check the full forum for advice on them, as there as many different opinions as there are types and brands. Suffice it to say, that at least you need a deep cycle battery. Or two.
I probably left something out or said something wrong, but someone will add on or correct me. Good luck and do a lot of reading on the forum to learn.
As for parts, many sources are available, but Andy at Inland RV not only has parts but also a lot of knowledge which he is willing to share. The Airstream store also has parts available as well as many online or local dealers.
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:49 PM   #4
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2010 30' Classic
Vintage Kin Owner
South of the river , Minnesota
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beartooth View Post
a) Is the exterior power only 220 volts?
No, it's 120 volts, 30 amps. If it didn't come with an adapter to plug into a regular household outlet, you can buy one from Amazon or any store that has a section of RV stuff (walmart, etc).

Amazon.com: RV Power Cord Adapter 30A Amp Female to 15A Male 12" Long Dogbone Pigtail: Sports & Outdoors

Quote:
b) What is the safe and sanitary way to dump the waste (in an RV dumpsite obviously) I've never done this before and there is no external hose on this unit. Do RV dump sites have connecting hoses or do I go purchase one?
You will have to purchase a hose.

Vintage Airstreams require hose with a Thetford bayonet rather than the now-standard Valterra bayonet. But many trailers have had the original bayonet replaced. You'll have to find the sewer outlet by the dump valve and see what color it is, black is Valterra, white is Thetford.

Valterra hose kits are available at any place that sells RV stuff. If you have a Thetford bayonet you'll either have to use an adapter:

Valterra T05-2285VP Thetford to Valterra Universal Adapter : Amazon.com : Automotive

Or buy a hose and put the proper connector on it yourself using a hose clamp and a Thetford bayonet:

Thetford 02593C 02593 Bumper Hose Adapter : Amazon.com : Automotive

Quote:
c) Parts. We'll want to replace a few. The 30 year old unit needs some TLC on the interior, but is in otherwise pristine condition. Is there a recommended parts supplier on-line.
Many items are available from Amazon.

Vintage Trailer Supply has a well-organized web site with items of interest to Airstream owners:

Vintage Trailer Supply - parts and supplies for vintage travel trailers and campers!

I have used Tweety's and Dyers' with good results:

RV Supplies, RV Accessories, RV Parts, Camper Parts, 5th Wheel Hitch
RV Supplies, Wheel Hitches and Electrical Plumbing by Tweetys

For larger items where shipping costs are considerable, you might want to check with a local RV dealer or find a local auto parts place that sells RV parts. Most of these places get weekly deliveries from wholesalers and can order items for you. Ask them for a catalog.

Quote:
d) the unit only has one 12 volt battery, I know I'll need to get another one. I am assuming it's a deep cycle marine type battery. Is there a preferred battery for this unit.
Get a deep-cycle battery of suitable size from a local discount store (Menards, Walmart, Costco, etc.). If you're unsure of the age and condition of the other battery, especially if it isn't a deep-cycle battery, replace them both. Most Airstreams take group 27 batteries but you'll want to measure to be sure. Avoid the dual-purpose marine batteries as they will not last as long.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:16 PM   #5
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1988 32' Excella
Robbinsville , New Jersey
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Welcome your questions have been pretty well answered.
I just want to add on batteries if you will only be camping in campgrounds with electric you only need 1 battery, the second battery is only needed for boondocking (camping without hookups) to extend your power reserves. You might want to try a few sorter trips before you worry about it.

Also check the date codes on your tires, the may need to be replaced even if the look like new.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:32 PM   #6
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1979 28' Ambassador
Cave Springs , Arkansas
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 9
I appreciate the collective wisdom. When I first looked at the power cable, I thought it was a 220 volt connector. I found an inexpensive adaptor at Walmart.

I will have to check the coupling on the sewer hose, it does appear to be the former described.

Good advice on the tires--they do look alright, but I have not checked the dates.

Thanks for the forum. Good information.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:35 PM   #7
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To add a site to your list of places to find Airstream parts online, Out of Doors Mart is an Airstream and other-brand RV dealer with an online parts business.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:47 PM   #8
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2011 23' FB Flying Cloud
Branson , Missouri
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beartooth View Post
I appreciate the collective wisdom. When I first looked at the power cable, I thought it was a 220 volt connector. I found an inexpensive adaptor at Walmart.

I will have to check the coupling on the sewer hose, it does appear to be the former described.

Good advice on the tires--they do look alright, but I have not checked the dates.

Thanks for the forum. Good information.
Here's some good reading for you.

My wife swears by it.

Newbies Guide To Airstreaming: Rich Luhr, Brad Cornelius: 9780983345800: Amazon.com: Books
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Old 03-14-2013, 04:36 PM   #9
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1988 32' Excella
Robbinsville , New Jersey
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I appreciate the collective wisdom. When I first looked at the power cable, I thought it was a 220 volt connector. I found an inexpensive adaptor at Walmart.
Unfortunately many people mistake the 3 prong 30 amp RV plug for a 220 volt outlet, including many professional electricians.

Several people have paid to have a 30 amp outlet installed at their house by an electrician and told him that it had to be 120 volt and it was still incorrectly hooked to 220 volt causing $$$$ damage.
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Old 03-14-2013, 07:35 PM   #10
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1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
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Newbie Questions

Greetings Beartooth!

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

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beartooth View Post
I appreciate the collective wisdom. When I first looked at the power cable, I thought it was a 220 volt connector. I found an inexpensive adaptor at Walmart.

I will have to check the coupling on the sewer hose, it does appear to be the former described.

Good advice on the tires--they do look alright, but I have not checked the dates.

Thanks for the forum. Good information.
I might add one caution that hasn't been mentioned. When operating your coach with a 30-AMP to 15-AMP adapter, you should avoid trying to operate the air conditioner . . . the compressor can be damaged if operated on lower voltage/amperage than that for which it was designed. I learned this the hard way and burned out a perfectly good Armstrong Baybreeze compressor shortly after I purchased my Overlander in 1995.

Good luck with your Ambassador!

Kevin
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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 03-14-2013, 07:48 PM   #11
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1979 28' Ambassador
Cave Springs , Arkansas
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 9
Thanks for the precaution on overloading the 30 amp circuit. That's the last thing I need. Now the hunt is on for a 30 amp adaptor. Do they make them?

Beartooth
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Old 03-14-2013, 08:07 PM   #12
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Greetings Beartooth!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beartooth View Post
Thanks for the precaution on overloading the 30 amp circuit. That's the last thing I need. Now the hunt is on for a 30 amp adaptor. Do they make them?

Beartooth
The inexpensive adapter that you mention acquiring at Walmart is the most common route to connecting the coach when at home. About the only thing that can't be run when using one of those adapters is the air conditioner, and some microwaves . . . all of the other 120-volt AC appliances should work, but you may need to stagger what is being used to stay below 15-amps total.

My solution has been to have an electrician add a weatherproof 30-AMP RV outlet near where I park my Airstream and Argosy. The 30-AMP 120-volt outlets and weatherproof covers are available from most well-stocked RV dealers as well as from some of the big-box home centers. As has been mentioned earlier, you need to be specific with the electrician that it is a 30-AMP 120-Volt service.

Good luck with your Ambassador!

Kevin
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Old 03-18-2013, 05:41 AM   #13
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1979 28' Ambassador
Cave Springs , Arkansas
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Spent sometime this weekend learning about my unit. Two trips to the local RV dealer and a hacksaw "fixed" my sewer pipe connection. The previous owners somehow manager to force a 3 3/4" cap onto a 4" pipe. After going through an extensive search at the RV store, I went back to the Airstream, snapped a picture with my iPad--back to the store and found a rubber adaptor with hose clamps that could work. About 15 minutes with a hack saw cutting off a well glued flange gave me a straight, tab free edge to mount the new rubber adaptor. The new Rhino sewer hose connects perfectly.

About 1/2 can of WD40 was used to lube up all the window latches, doors, etc. My only problem now is a latch that won't open for the furnance vent. The key turns the lock by the latch is frozen. Now the search is on for a new latch, but early searches on the internet have not been fruitful. Not a common piece of equipment, but there must be one out there for this model.
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Old 05-10-2013, 11:26 AM   #14
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Wichita , Kansas
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Beartooth, the trailer battery also has another function. Not only will it provide "Boondock" power for dry camping, it also provides power in an emergency to your electric brake system, in the unlikely event your trailer becomes unattached from your tow vehicle. You should have a small cable with a hook, or loop in the end to be attached to your tow vehicle. If the hitch ball or other piece of hardware failed, the cable would pull a non conductive insulator from the middle of a small canister with two wires running from it. This action would complete an electrical circuit and apply the trailer brakes...pretty cool..:-)
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