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Old 12-30-2008, 09:28 AM   #1
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A Way to Visually Identify Problems with Frame?

Being new to Airstream ownership (1967 Tradewind) ... I am seeking some guidance and education from a seasoned Airstream owner on the following:

1. Is there a reliable and easy way to identify if there are any hidden issues (without removing the skin on the underneath) associated with:
A. the frame
B. seperation
C. floor rot
D. any other structural components that I have overlooked

2. I don't have the knowledge to make any such repairs and I question my abilities to make any such repairs ... thus I probably would rely on the local Airstream dealer/service shop to perform any needed repairs. They have quoted me a charge to perform an evaluation of my Tradewind which includes a front to back evaluation (leak checks, frame inspection, axles, mechanical performance, etc.) but my first impression is that it seems to be a pretty expensive fee. Does anyone have any suggestions of what would be a reasonable fee for someone to perform this type of service?

3. Would you recommend that I strictly utilize the services of an authorized Airstream dealer/service shop or do you think that other "non-Airstream" RV dealer/service shops are knowledgeable and capable of servicing an Airstream?

Lastly ... I apologize if I have duplicated any other threads. I'm still trying to understand how to utilize the forums and I'm struggling with the search engine. Thank you in advance for any guidance you can provide.
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Old 12-30-2008, 09:59 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank&Mike View Post
1. Is there a reliable and easy way to identify if there are any hidden issues (without removing the skin on the underneath) associated with:
A. the frame
B. seperation
C. floor rot
D. any other structural components that I have overlooked
Frame:
Look for trails of rust on the belly pan, or corroded rivets holding the belly pan in place. Loose or missing belly pan rivets also indicate potential frame problems.
Separation:
Stand on the back bumper, and jump up and down on it lightly. If the bumper moves more than a fraction of an inch relative to the body, separation is in process.
Floor rot:
Take an ice pick, and stick it into the floor around the walls. If it goes into the floor easily, there's rot.
Remember you are dealing with a 40 year old trailer, and 40 year old parts can fail more often then brand new ones.
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Old 12-30-2008, 10:10 AM   #3
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Generally one way to check the frame is to look inside from either end. Take something that you can insert into the frame ends and rake out any scale that may be there. That will give you some idea of the condition.

Separation may require the removal of the banana strip at each end to inspect. Another indication of problems would be a crack in the skin just over the front side of the door.

The way to check a floor is crawl around with an ice pick and poke along the outer edge for soft spots.

With few exceptions I would not recommend taking your trailer to a dealer. There are several shops that specialize in restoration of older Airstreams.
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Old 12-30-2008, 11:45 AM   #4
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Well, there are numerous threads here on axles. They are easy to check visually.

I don't want to question local Airstream dealers, but vintage Airstreams are different. Let me put it this way... if you were buying a '52 Chevy truck to restore, would you take it to the local Chevy dealership? I would talk to some vintage trailer restoration shops and see who you trust to do the work.

Just walking on the floor can give you a sense of soft spots. Most folks find an awl a handy tool for testing bad floor.

It's hard to see much of the frame with the skin and belly pans on. You can peek at the rear via the rear bumper storage area. You can pull the small electrical access panel (normally attached with metal screws) at the forward end of the trailer. I recommend pulling out the door step and looking around under there with a flashlight. We had some major rust issues with the step and the floor in this area.

If you want to get aggressive, you can pull the head (toilet) without much work and see how the floor looks there. Bathrooms are traditionally a problem area. If the floor is rotted, it's easy to pull up the wood and look at the frame.

It's one thing to look; it's another to know what you're looking at. When it came it our frame and floor, we towed the Overlander to a pro who'll do an evaluation and a repair/restore the frame and install a new subfloor. Cheap? No. Worth the peace of mind... it was for us.
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Old 12-30-2008, 08:29 PM   #5
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First, thank you very much for each of your suggestions.

This afternoon I looked for trails of rust on the belly pan and I looked for corroded rivets that hold the belly pan in place --- I found no rust or corroded rivets. I did find some holes (looks like someone created the holes for some reason) on the belly pan so I guess I'll now be focusing on some solution to patch those. I stood on the back bumper and lightly bounced all of my 195 pounds on the bumper ... I didn't see any noticable movement there (I'm sure the neighbors thought I had lost my mind ... but oh well).

I think the advice to look for vintage restoration shops is a very good suggestion. The analogy of a vintaqe truck put it into better perspective for me ... but I didn't have much luck locating (doing a Google search) any vintage restoration shops in the Austin area. I'll keep working on that one.

The one thing I'm really stumped on now is this small electrical access panel at the forward end of the trailer. I can't locate that. Is it on the underneath of the trailer or have I lost my mind?

The suggestion of pulling out the door step and looking around under there with a flashlight is a great one. I'm going to do that tomorrow.

I'm participating at the upcoming rally in San Antonio in February. I'm hoping that I can get some insight from other rally participants on restoration shops and all of the many things I have to learn.

Thanks again!
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Old 12-30-2008, 08:50 PM   #6
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If your unit has an access door in the back I would open it up and use your ice pick back there around the edges where the skin meets the floor. We had a lot of water coming in above the flap on the bumper. I would also open all the cabinets and do the same in there with the pick. Another thing that helped us is going in it while it's raining. Just take your time and look closely at the windows and floor, vents, in back of whatever you can see. If water is coming in that is an area that might have more hidden problems. You are lucky to be able to go to the rally- wish we could
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Old 01-01-2009, 12:57 AM   #7
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Where and when is this rally? I'm just a few hours south east of San Antonio over near Corpus Christi.

BTW, I'm new here too. I just picked up a '73 Soverign 31' that is definately going to be needing some major floor and rear frame attention very soon. I won't have time to do a "Full Monte" so it'll all have to be fixed with the body still on the frame. I'm moving to Colorado around mid September and need to get it ready to go before then.
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Old 01-01-2009, 07:16 AM   #8
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Frank&Mike and GoMopar440
The Texas Vintage Rally is one of the best places to orient yourself on what to look for and how to repair your Vintage trailer. So far there are at least 35 vintage rigs signed up for this rally and we still have over a month to go before it starts.

Anyone getting into vintage, should really consider coming down whether or not they can bring their trailer. A motel is adjacent to the RV Park (owned by the same people). The seminars will be covering pretty well everything you'd ever want to know about repairing a vintage trailer. This year there will be a '54 Flying Cloud on site that has underwent frame repair, floor replacement, complete electrical and plumbing replacement, has had black and gray tanks installed, a new axle installed, etc. A section of the trailer's floor has been left out so that you can see the frame repair, the grey and black water tanks and how the floor goes back in. A section of the wall panels have been left out so that you can visualize the plumbing and electrical repairs. They've extended the hitch and will show you how they achieved that improvement. There will be polishing demonstrations. They hope to have an old axle sawn in sections so that you can see what an Airstream axle looks like inside and they will explain how to determine if a new axle is needed and how to install a new axle yourself.

I understand there will be additonal seminars on diesel engines, cooking on the road, towing safety and how to properly hitch up your trailer using various hitches. Finally, Pee Wee Schwamborn will be there for the entire rally. He is relative to the founder of Airstream and went on many of the caravans in the 50's and 60's to Mexico, South America, Canada, Capetown to Cairo, Europe and the Around the World Caravan. He worked for Airstream and just has a wealth of knowledge about the history of Airstream. He'll be giving three seminars and will be available to visit with and answer your questions throughout the rally. I'll be checking later on today with Pahaska, the Seminar Chairman, to see if a final seminar schedule has been completed. If so, I'll publish it on the 2009 Texas Vintage Rally thread.

If you are interested in attending the seminars and/or having three catered meals with us, contact Elaine Jackson at elaine@gaj.com to request a registration form. GoMopar440, tell her you don't have a trailer yet ready to travel in to the rally and would not need parking. Tell her if you want to attend from February 4th through the 8th attending all the seminars and eating the three meals or if you will just be attending on certain days. The seminars will all be held on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday there will be a Swap Meet that morning and a Vintage Open House that afternoon. If you are only interested in the Swap Meet and Open House, then that is free. Just come on down, look around, visit with the owners or whatever. Elaine will send you the registration form and advise you what your fees will be. This rally is NOT a fundraising event for us, but we must charge something for the seminars as we are paying several of the presenters to come and provide you with quality information and we're having to pay for the meals for which we're in turn simply charging you what it is costing us. This rally is all about having fun, seeing what others have done to their trailers and hopefully spending inordinate amounts of time visiting with and picking the minds of not only experts in the field, but other vintage enthusiasts.

GStephens
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Old 01-01-2009, 07:44 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Frank&Mike View Post

The one thing I'm really stumped on now is this small electrical access panel at the forward end of the trailer. I can't locate that. Is it on the underneath of the trailer or have I lost my mind?

On my 67 Tradewind the access panel for the trailer running light wireing is about 18 inches back from the front of the trailer. It is on the belly pan just to the inside of what would be the lefthand(street side) frame rail. It is about 5 x5 inches and held in place by 4 screws. Adios, John
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Old 01-01-2009, 08:18 AM   #10
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Echo just because some one works on newer Airstreams is no indicator they know what they are talking about when it comes to restoration.

Also bring her down to a vintage restoration rally. You will learn a lot. The most valuable lesson may be that the number of solutions to a restoration problem are inversely proportional to the number of attendees. Some of which are more valuable than others. But it will be an invaluable experience for developing your own vintage Airstream BS alarm.
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Old 01-01-2009, 08:46 AM   #11
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Thanks for your reply and information GStephens. We were planning on arriving Friday but I see where it is important for us to arrive Wednesday and participate all 4 days in order to benefit from the seminars. I just emailed Elaine asking her how I need to upate our registration to change from 2 days to 4 days. We will definitely be there all 4 days now so please include us on your list of RSVP'd.

Diesel1 ... thanks very much for explaing to me where that electric panel is located. I just went outside and looked ... there it is. I plan to open that up today and take a peak inside. Maybe it will yield some clues as to why the front amber clearance lights don't work as well.
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Old 01-01-2009, 01:27 PM   #12
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I finished investigating inside the electrical panel today to look for potential frame problems. My inspection for frame problems has uncovered other concerns/questions with electrical (unrelated to my original questions on this thread about the frame) which I have posted a seperate thread for =>>> Wiring Diagram for 1967 Tradewind 24 Ft? within the forum for Electrical Wiring.

This is when I start getting nervous about owning a vintage unit.
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Old 01-01-2009, 02:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank&Mike View Post
Being new to Airstream ownership (1967 Tradewind) ... I am seeking some guidance and education from a seasoned Airstream owner on the following:

1. Is there a reliable and easy way to identify if there are any hidden issues (without removing the skin on the underneath) associated with:
A. the frame
B. seperation
C. floor rot
D. any other structural components that I have overlooked.
Some shops may have access to a snake scope or other type of optical inspection tool - most likely place to find this type of inspection is a large industrial truck, compressor, or generator shop, or an aviation FBO - expect to pay upwards of $200 per hour for a mechanic with such specialty tools and experience.

Some type of frame and total frame/floor/shell jointery is warranted prior to spending any money for an interior upgrade - much of the interior will have to be removed to do a proper repair on just about any frame or floor issue. Best to do the repairs sooner rather than later.

The entire interior floor perimeter must be accessed for a proper integrity inspection - this will require the removal of a certain amount of furniture and fixtures.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank&Mike View Post
2. I don't have the knowledge to make any such repairs and I question my abilities to make any such repairs ... thus I probably would rely on the local Airstream dealer/service shop to perform any needed repairs. They have quoted me a charge to perform an evaluation of my Tradewind which includes a front to back evaluation (leak checks, frame inspection, axles, mechanical performance, etc.) but my first impression is that it seems to be a pretty expensive fee. Does anyone have any suggestions of what would be a reasonable fee for someone to perform this type of service?.
Shop fees of $100 per hour are not unreasonable. Above all, do not pay for someone else's learning curve. Even if you have to travel out of state, shop the repair to an experienced facility who have done multiple similar repairs in the recent past.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank&Mike View Post
3. Would you recommend that I strictly utilize the services of an authorized Airstream dealer/service shop or do you think that other "non-Airstream" RV dealer/service shops are knowledgeable and capable of servicing an Airstream?.
Certain shops with experience with Silver Streak, Boles Aero, or a limited number of other types of manufacture are similar enough, unfortunately, the number of shops doing this type of repair is extremely limited. DO NOT pay for someone else's learning curve. Bob Jones RV in Houston is the only shop I know of in SE Texas meeting the requirements of the above parameters. There ARE shops in the Dallas area who may be qualified...these are current AS or recent AS dealers shops.

Quote:
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Lastly ... I apologize if I have duplicated any other threads. I'm still trying to understand how to utilize the forums and I'm struggling with the search engine. Thank you in advance for any guidance you can provide.
Your most important resource right now is this Forum - until you are more familiar with it, use the "Google" search function option to search specifics.
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Old 01-01-2009, 02:49 PM   #14
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Diesel1 ... thanks very much for explaing to me where that electric panel is located. I just went outside and looked ... there it is. I plan to open that up today and take a peak inside. Maybe it will yield some clues as to why the front amber clearance lights don't work as well.
The clearance lights are grounded through the rivet that holds them on. The rivet gets loose and the light won't work right. Just bang them tight or drill them out and replace. I do this every year on at least one of mine.
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