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Old 08-12-2019, 08:52 AM   #1
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1979 31' Sovereign
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1979 Sovereign frame repair

Hi everyone,

I am new to the forums, and new to the airstream life. My girlfriend and I bought a partially renovated 1979 sovereign earlier this year. Everything looked great until we pulled out the beds and found the subfloor in the back was rotting away. After ripping that out, we found fairly extensive dusting of the frame.

My question is regarding the frame. Has anyone ever looked into using a strong steel to steel adhesive secured with bolts? We plan to live out of the trailer so once we get it to the location we want to live, it will mostly stay put.

Does this sound like a viable option? Or should it just be welded.

Thanks!
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:03 AM   #2
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Weld.
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:08 AM   #3
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Also,

Welcome to the forums and the magical world of Airstream restoration.

Regardless of whether the trailer will move much or not, the time to do it right is when you have the trailer dismantled.

Take lots of notes and even more pictures.

Read restoration threads here on the forum. There are many that pertain to your particular trailer and era.

Ian
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:37 AM   #4
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How far forward does the rust go?

On my 72 the bad rust was limited to where the black tank had been leaking onto the frame.

In my case I elected to replace the last four feet of frame and it was easy to weld up while the floor was out of the trailer.
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:50 AM   #5
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The airstream is a rear bedroom, and it really is about the last 4 feet. Can you do the welding with the shell on?
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Old 08-12-2019, 10:10 AM   #6
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Yes, many people have done full and partial floor replacements with the shell on, and that usually involves at least some frame repair as well.

good luck!
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Old 08-12-2019, 10:36 AM   #7
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The source of the leak is usually where the strip of aluminum, which the bumper lid is attached to, is sandwiched between the shell and the sub floor, inevitably letting water seep in. While you are doing this project, you should look up how people have flashed that rear end at the bumper to eliminate that problem.

Two years ago I had to replace the rear most part of sub floor in the same year and floor plan trailer as yours, though mine has a full sized bed. The flanges near the ends of my frame rails were rusted down to very little. I welded sections of angle iron top and bottom, to the web of the frame rail, to in a sense rebuild what had rusted away.

You will need to remove the lower wall skin at the back and rear corners. Also the banana wrap and belly skin from the wheel wells and holding tank enclosure on back. At that time you will likely find your outriggers rotted away at the outside bottom corner. I repaired mine by welding a flat strip of steel over the oval cutout in the outriggers, returning them to a structurally sound piece.

When completed I wire brushed, primed, and painted the frame. New insulation was rigid closed cell styrofoam, secured to the underside of the flooring with long screws and fender washers.

The whole job took about three months of weekends and evenings, there were delays for weather and other things in there.

Now pardon me as I have rambled on longer than intended. Maybe I have freaked you out, but here is the good news. If you are reasonably handy, you can do this, and such a project is a once in a lifetime deal. Done as I described, once back together you should never have to get in there again. If you don't know how to weld, and don't know anyone that does, take a night class at some vocational school, which is what I did, and that new skill will come in handy for other things in the future. I used an AC stick welder.

One more thing... Having worked on the rear section of my trailer, I was curious as to what might be lurking on the section of frame forward of the axles. This year I exposed all that. Outrigger repairs as expected. Otherwise just cleaning rust, painted with POR15, fogged inside of the A frame and frame rails, which are boxed in up front, with Fluid Film. Same deal with rigid insulation. I can assure you it was a lot of work and not much fun, just like the rear section, but as with the rear I was glad I got in there when I did. I am just now wrapping up the final details like painting weight distributing hitch hardware before reinstalling. Again this took about three months with delays for weather, etc.

Pardon once again for being long winded. Everything will be fine.
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Old 08-18-2019, 05:42 PM   #8
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After posting my last long-winded message, I realized I had some photos and a write-up started for some blog entries.

I posted all that information to my blog if you care to see what I had to deal with. Please don't be scared off by the scope of my project.

Blog entry titles are: Not the Full Monty, it's the Rear Admiral.
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Old 08-18-2019, 07:43 PM   #9
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My 75 Overlander had rear floor rot (aluminum sheet after the bumper storage lid) and rear end separation and frame rust. I was able to repair it with the shell on.

I dropped the rusty pans holding up the broken waste water tanks, dropped the belly pan after removing the axles, dropped the wet and stinky insulation, and wire brushed the exposed frame members. I identified 9 areas needing repair and welding. I purchased the steel members, cut them to fit, and hired a mobile welder at $90/hr. Four hours later we were done.

It's a big project, but your Sovereign will be solid and ready for another 40 or so years of enjoyment.

David
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Link to my 1975 Overlander Improvement Journal:
https://www.airforums.com/forums/f17...ml#post2053792
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Old 08-20-2019, 03:45 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twinwiers View Post
The airstream is a rear bedroom, and it really is about the last 4 feet. Can you do the welding with the shell on?


With the last sheet of plywood taken out of the floor it is easy to do shell on.

The whole rear end repair including replacing the frame section and buttoning the aluminum back up took less than two days.
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Old 08-22-2019, 11:02 AM   #11
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Thank! That is very encouraging to hear. Looking into getting someone to weld for us.

Is there a certain grade or type of steel to use? How thick is the steel supposed to be? Haven’t had much luck finding these answers on the forum.
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Old 08-23-2019, 07:10 PM   #12
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I think the frame rails were 3/16" thick formed "C". I used 3/16" square tubing for the rear cross member, 3/16" angle iron from frame stiffening and tank supports. I used hot rolled low carbon steel, nothing special.

David
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