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Old 04-05-2014, 10:02 AM   #1
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1993 34' Excella
Randolph , Vermont
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34' Front End Shell Separation

Hi All,

Have been reading all kinds of posts on Forum about 'C' channel and riveting and so on. All sounds good but I need further advice.

My 1993 34 foot Airstream suffers from front end separation. That is, with trailer supported at beam just forward of the entry door and raising the tongue jack, vertical movement of about 1/2" is noticed between the 'C' channel and front exterior panels. Previously I had tried pop riveting everything back together but that didn't last long. I then bolted aluminum strapping inside and outside through front ribs and floor and that helped but there was still movement as the pop rivets sheared.

Have now stripped out interior paneling and removed battery boxes and found there is some floor rot especially under the road side battery box. About a square foot would need to be replaced. Rest of flooring seems pretty good but will probably replace other sections. On rebuild I intend to install AGM batteries so will probably replace the front exterior panel. The 'C' channel is not in the best of shape to attach the exterior skin to and I was contemplating replacing it or using some sort of reinforcing. Where the three front exterior panels are torn or have enlarged rivet holes, I intend to reinforce those and then use solid buck rivets in reattaching to the 'C' channel.

Questions: (1) replacing the bow 'C' channel will be a chore but not impossible. Channel cost is slight but shipping has been estimated at $200 to $400 for this piece. This is the 'C/U' type channel. Reinforcement is more economical. What is the best way to reinforce this channel so there is a good base to buck rivet to? (2) Is there a better 'fix' for this than what I'm doing?

Photos attached.

Really enjoy the forum. Thanks for your knowledgeable help.

Dave
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Old 04-05-2014, 10:17 AM   #2
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Ouch!
Replace the sub-floor, channel, front corner panels and add a front "hold down" plate.

Good luck.
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Old 04-05-2014, 11:07 AM   #3
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1973 25' Tradewind
Beautiful , Oregon
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Do you know about the VAP podcast. Your problem has been addressed, at least, to some degree by Colin Hyde. You can buy a 3 disc set of all past shows or individual shows for a buck or so Look through the index and look for where it might be addressed

The Vintage Airstream Podcast | Vintage Trailer Restoration

good luck


Tony

Many an hour has gone by working on my 73 TW and listening to the show.
I have also gotten some great answers. Also from Top above. Hey Lance hope the birds are singing where you are.
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Old 04-05-2014, 11:08 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldfulltimer View Post
Hi All,

Have been reading all kinds of posts on Forum about 'C' channel and riveting and so on. All sounds good but I need further advice.

My 1993 34 foot Airstream suffers from front end separation. That is, with trailer supported at beam just forward of the entry door and raising the tongue jack, vertical movement of about 1/2" is noticed between the 'C' channel and front exterior panels. Previously I had tried pop riveting everything back together but that didn't last long. I then bolted aluminum strapping inside and outside through front ribs and floor and that helped but there was still movement as the pop rivets sheared.

Have now stripped out interior paneling and removed battery boxes and found there is some floor rot especially under the road side battery box. About a square foot would need to be replaced. Rest of flooring seems pretty good but will probably replace other sections. On rebuild I intend to install AGM batteries so will probably replace the front exterior panel. The 'C' channel is not in the best of shape to attach the exterior skin to and I was contemplating replacing it or using some sort of reinforcing. Where the three front exterior panels are torn or have enlarged rivet holes, I intend to reinforce those and then use solid buck rivets in reattaching to the 'C' channel.

Questions: (1) replacing the bow 'C' channel will be a chore but not impossible. Channel cost is slight but shipping has been estimated at $200 to $400 for this piece. This is the 'C/U' type channel. Reinforcement is more economical. What is the best way to reinforce this channel so there is a good base to buck rivet to? (2) Is there a better 'fix' for this than what I'm doing?

Photos attached.

Really enjoy the forum. Thanks for your knowledgeable help.

Dave
Hi Dave,
I have done this repair numerous times on 34'ers, some 32's & 31's. The longer trailers have huge rear overhangs, putting a lot of stress on the front area when attached to the tow vehicle. This is a design flaw in my opinion, however Airstream decided to omit the front hold down plate on all of their production after the very early 80's. This plate is welded to the front crossmember & extends up between the C channel & the inside of the exterior skin. It is "buck" riveted to the front skin with a double or triple horizontal row of rivets. The floor is repaired at the same time along with the C channel that extends around the floor of the front end cap. Another tell tale symptom is a 4" diagonal crack coming from the upper RH corner of the main entrance door frame. This should be patched after the front end repairs are completed. This front end problem is very common, however many like to ignore it until it becomes almost catastrophic. It is not really noticeable unless you look for it, or it becomes really bad. I've seen the beginnings of this issue on trailers that were only several years old……………very sad really. This virtually never happens on 70's & earlier trailers that have this "hold down" plate installed during production, except if the floor is really rotted out & the trailer has had a tough life.
Colin
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Old 04-05-2014, 11:23 AM   #5
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Some of that damage is caused by vibration.

Out of balance running gear is a cause.

But, in your case, your total overkill tow vehicle was the major contributor.

What rating bars do you have??

You should be using 600 pound bars with that super heavy duty truck.

As always, Airstreams MUST have a soft ride. When it doesn't, then you have learned the hard way what happens.

Andy
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Old 04-05-2014, 12:43 PM   #6
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An issue I have seen on these trailers is the bolt and nut on either side of the a frame that secures the trailer to the frame becomes loose, either through flexing or wood rot. I would check both of those and replace them when making the rest of the repairs. After you get it repaired, maybe we can figure out how to keep it from recurring.
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Old 04-06-2014, 05:34 PM   #7
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1993 34' Excella
Randolph , Vermont
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Hi All,

Thanks for the very rapid responses to the separation problem.

Andy: you are so right about the tow vehicle overkill. My bars are 1000 pound as recommended by Doug Showker who used to be with Reese Hitch. Don, from DonMar RV once told me that he never uses torsion bars when towing with a one ton dually and now I know why.

Colin: Look forward to working with you and your shop in obtaining parts. (And maybe some advice.)

Tony: Thanks for info on the VAP podcast. Have listened to several of them and am impressed with Colin's knowledge of the older Airstreams.

Top and Overlander63: Since we have this '93 already torn apart, we're going to do it right.

As of today (4/6/2014) , all 'C' channel hold down bolts, screws and elevator bolts have been cut and am ready to start removing the sub floor sections. As you could tell by the photos, there is still plenty of snow around here so it's a little chilly sometimes to do much work on this 34 footer. Also, I'll be 75 this month so can't cover as much territory as before. "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was."

Thanks guys,
Dave
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