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Old 03-06-2009, 11:35 PM   #1
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1980 24' Caravelle
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Doorway hitting Ceiling?

I have a 1980 Caravelle that has a rooftop AC. The Doorway that is in the middle of the trailer has aluminum casings that are poking a hole into the interior skin. This section is constructed like a bulkhead/wall with 1/4 inch plywood rivited into a channel along the outside wall of the interior. The ceiling seems to be sagging and some of the rivets have pulled out of the plywood.

Is the wall supposed to be supporting the ceiling? Could the AC be causing the problem. I replaced it and the installation did not look like a factory install but no ribs were cut.
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Old 03-06-2009, 11:52 PM   #2
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The wall definitely should not carry the ceiling. It's possible that the supports in the shell were compromised at the time of the AC installation (heavy AC + heavy installer= bent roof). It also may be that there should have been supports added at the time of installation to hold the additional weight.
It may require lifting the AC to reinforce the area better.

Good luck, Rich
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Old 03-07-2009, 05:51 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by jslowery View Post
I have a 1980 Caravelle that has a rooftop AC. The Doorway that is in the middle of the trailer has aluminum casings that are poking a hole into the interior skin. This section is constructed like a bulkhead/wall with 1/4 inch plywood rivited into a channel along the outside wall of the interior. The ceiling seems to be sagging and some of the rivets have pulled out of the plywood.

Is the wall supposed to be supporting the ceiling? Could the AC be causing the problem. I replaced it and the installation did not look like a factory install but no ribs were cut.

The same problem occurred back in some of the late 60's models.

The cause??

Usually a bent frame.

What caused the bent frame?

Extra heavy duty tow vehicles do it. Excessive rated hitches do it.

Unbalanced running gear does it. Square (out of round) tires cause it too.

Bad axles causes it.

In any case, the AC has nothing to do with it. The same thing happened to some trailers that did not have an AC.

The fix?? Address the above issues, (the causes), and correct them, all of them.

How do you do that?

Lower the front of the trailer several inches. Place a couple of good jack stands underneath the frame at the bumper.

Raise the front of the trailer, so that the tires are not touching the ground. "Note how much the tires drop." They should drop at least 3 inches. In other words, the trailer must be suspended from front to rear, without the tires touching the ground.

That will put a bow in the shell.

Carefully, "cut" some of the top of the bulkhead off, like a 1/4 inch or so.

Find a section of the vinyclad metal and make a plate that will vover that hole. Typically behind something in the bath area or behind the front lounge. Or locate a salvaged unit someplace. The vinyclad metal is no longer available.

Install that plate over the hole in the ceiling with 4 to 8 white pop rivets.

Lower the trailer back on the ground, totally unsupported.

The bulkhead should now be very close to touching that metal plate.

If the frame is bent, it must be repaired, in order to stop further damage.

If the axle is bad, it "must" be replaced. If not, additional and further damages will occurr, to a number of other things as well.


The damage to your trailer with the 69 and up models, is rare, but it still happens.

Basically, the shell has changed shape. All the causes must be corrected before any additional towing of the trailer.

If not, the bulkhead will continue up into the ceiling panel.

If you cannot do these repairs, then you must seek out a dealer that is well qualified to make all the necessary repairs.

The only dealers close to you that can attempt those repairs are Roger Williams in Weatherford, and the dealer in Little Rock.

Questions??? I am sure at this point, you will have several.

If so, ask away, but before Tuesday, March 10th.

Andy
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Old 03-07-2009, 12:43 PM   #4
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Its like an onion. peel a layer and cry some more.

Thanks for the information Andy even though it looks like bad news. Both axles have a bend slightly off center and the spindles are sitting higher than the square tube axle. Do I really have to replace the brakes? how do you balance the assembly and how often should it be done?

Once I correct this I guess I will need to pull the top off and take the frame to a body shop and have it straightened? Is it possible there is a crack? I am a capable welder and I believe I could chain a heavy beam to the front and rear and jack the middle down to straighten it out. Then scab on reinforcement plates. It looks like there would be a significant stress concentration where the frame drops down for the tanks just past the rear axle.

I wish I had found this forum before I purchased. I though I was just going to do an interior restoration. Does anyone have any budget information for a restoration project? Is it worth it?

I plan on gutting the inside. Should I remove the interior skin? Can I work out some of the dents if I do? I guess you can buy painted rivets. Where do you get them? I have purchased some blind pop rivets to replace some on the outside, should I replace these while the interior is out?

I have way too many questions so I will pour over the previous posts some more.

Thanks for your help.
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Old 03-07-2009, 12:50 PM   #5
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Andy, isn't it going to put undue stress on a 24' , 29 year old trailer to lift it like you described? I'd be worried about causing a few new problems with that process.
You obviously have much more experience with this than most others here, and I know you know what you are talking about, but it does seem like it could cause damage to do that to an older trailer. I look forward to your reply, as I'm learning a lot from you.
If I understand your post, it sound like you believe the frame could be arched up in the middle. Could this be checked with a long straightedge, or a laser level to see if the frame is flat or not?

Curious in California, Rich
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Old 03-07-2009, 03:48 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by jslowery View Post
Thanks for the information Andy even though it looks like bad news. Both axles have a bend slightly off center and the spindles are sitting higher than the square tube axle. Do I really have to replace the brakes? how do you balance the assembly and how often should it be done?

Once I correct this I guess I will need to pull the top off and take the frame to a body shop and have it straightened? Is it possible there is a crack? I am a capable welder and I believe I could chain a heavy beam to the front and rear and jack the middle down to straighten it out. Then scab on reinforcement plates. It looks like there would be a significant stress concentration where the frame drops down for the tanks just past the rear axle.

I wish I had found this forum before I purchased. I though I was just going to do an interior restoration. Does anyone have any budget information for a restoration project? Is it worth it?

I plan on gutting the inside. Should I remove the interior skin? Can I work out some of the dents if I do? I guess you can buy painted rivets. Where do you get them? I have purchased some blind pop rivets to replace some on the outside, should I replace these while the interior is out?

I have way too many questions so I will pour over the previous posts some more.

Thanks for your help.

Hi Piney woods country.

Had a mother-in-law that worked at Texas Foundries back in the 50's and 60's.

First things first. All Airstreams are flexible. The unbalanced running gear and/or rigid hitch torsion bars and/or super heavy duty tow vehicle, bad axles, all together or individually, cause the trailer to shake far more than it should. That's what caused the ceiling problem.

That does not mean that there is a frame problem at all, but there could be.

Your description of the axles says they are shot. Further towing will cause further damage. When the trailer is fully loaded for travel, the spindles should still be below the axle tube, at least to some degree.

The bend in the middle of the axles is normal. That's how they are aligned.

You can check the frame at the axles, and see what's up.

Suspending the trailer, from front to rear, as I described earlier, should be done with caution. You do not need to reverse the shell bend any more than necessary, but just enough to make the bulkhead molding and bulkhead drop, so that you can trim it. Remove the rivets from the molding before you do any jacking.

Since the trailer has been abused, I would suggest that you pull the complete underbelly, and check the entire frame. New style brakes have oval magnets, which are far superior to the old style round magnets. If yours are round, then also be advised that some of those backing plate parts are not available. New style hub and drums are far superior to the originals on your trailer.

Balancing should be done every 10,000 miles. A major brake and wheel bearing pack should be done every 10,000 miles or once a year, whichever is first. Airstream however, now suggests every 6 months or 10,000 miles. Why? Because water can get into the bearings, just being parked.

You cannot work out dents that have creases to the extent that they cannot be seen. The crease will still show.

We carry over 3300 different Airstream parts in stock. That would enable us to help you with most any part you may need, from stock.

Pop rivets can only be used on the inside of the trailer, and the underbelly, since they leak.

Exterior rivets are called "Olympic rivets." They operate similiar to pop rivets, but must be shaved.

I doubt that your frame is bent. Please don't assume that it is.

If you saw your frame, brand new, you would see that it had a dip to it.

Airstreams have a semi-monocoque design. That means the shell is load bearing.

Contrary to many opinions, the Airstream shell, because of it's design, holds up the frame. A bodyshop, as you described will have little to no knowledge as to the how's and why's of an Airstream, or it's frame.

Since your new to Airstreaming, your school has just begun. But many members on this Forums can help you with solid facts. The key is to make sure the information is "fact" and not just an opinion.

Andy
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Old 10-09-2011, 12:07 PM   #7
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Starter Supplies

I am now committed. I have gutted most of the trailer and hope to start putting things back soon. As always this is going to be a bigger project than I thought. I hoped to put in new cabinets and floor covering only but it looks like I will be doing much more.

The floor is not as bad as some that I have seen on other threads but the frame integrity is in question so I may be removing it all for inspection.

I have read so many threads I should be an expert but nothing can compare with experience. I need to order some supplies but the number of caulks, sealers and solvents I have encountered is overwhelming. Vulkem, olympic rivets, tempro, Defthane c-10..... Does anyone have a list of mandatory supplies that I can order all at once instead of getting stuck on the weekend without something I need? I would love to see a list of items and what they are used for.

I'll keep my progress posted.

Jason
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Old 10-11-2011, 09:45 PM   #8
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Almost have belly pan loose

Making progress. I almost have the belly pan out. The photo shows the gray tank in but I now have it out as well.

I priced marine grade plywood today and they say they can only get it in 1/2 or 3/4. $111.99 a sheet. If I am going to coat this with epoxy can I use exterior grade and skip the Marine grade?

I understant he correct thickness is 5/8. What if I use 3/4 and taper the outside edge to 5/8 with a router? Seems like this would work.

I'm getting deeper and deeper here. Some advice or encouragement would go a long way.
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Old 10-12-2011, 01:03 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by jslowery View Post
Making progress. I almost have the belly pan out. The photo shows the gray tank in but I now have it out as well.

I priced marine grade plywood today and they say they can only get it in 1/2 or 3/4. $111.99 a sheet. If I am going to coat this with epoxy can I use exterior grade and skip the Marine grade?

I understant he correct thickness is 5/8. What if I use 3/4 and taper the outside edge to 5/8 with a router? Seems like this would work.

I'm getting deeper and deeper here. Some advice or encouragement would go a long way.
That is exactly what I did. So far it's lasted one day. Phew....

I used 3/4" exterior plywood from a big box store. Stuff I got has 7 plys. I used a router to take it down to 5/8" around the 2" perimeter where the J channel would be. Then I added a roundover (slight) to the very edge to help jam it in.

Coated it with 2 coats of polyester resin all over, and a third coat around the perimeter and on cut holes and such.

There are many others who will say to only use MGP. It's your call.
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Old 10-12-2011, 04:12 PM   #10
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5/8" lap siding is widely available in 48-1/2" wide sheets. Cut & seal all surfaces and install.
Cheers,
Rich the Viking
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Old 10-13-2011, 10:46 AM   #11
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Thanks for the information. I thought the fresh water tank would be an easy removal. Unfortunatly the PO thought that "great stuff" would be great for filling the cracks around it. I did get it out finally. The floor looks pretty good on the front third of the trailer. I guess I will replace it all if I go back with 3/4"

I wish I still had all of the stripes and letters. I found this thread

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f379...o-20790-3.html

I can tell mine once had the orange stripes. PO told me everybody associated AS with the blue so he pulled them off and put in a blue belly stripe. I think I will have to polish since the top is fading real bad. If I want to re stripe should I polish first? I dont know how I would polish close to the stripes without taking them off but the shadow of where the stripes were is all i have to go by for replacing them. If I Polish they will be gone.
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Old 10-26-2011, 10:01 PM   #12
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Shell off / Almost

I am getting close to cracking this thing open. I have all of the interior panels removed and most of the belly pan and bannana trim removed. I can see that I have some frame damage so here is my plan.


Lift shell by jacking against the floor so that I can slip the plywood floor pieces out the side. I will use them for patterns with the new flooring.

Put spacers in place of the floor to leave the frame exposed for repair. Then lower the shell back onto the spacers.

After the frame repair is done reverse the above procedure.

My questions.
I can see some screws and 1/4-20 bolts holding the shell down. Is this all there is? I cannot tell what is holding the shell down at the wheel wells.

My concerns.
How likely is it that the shell would be blown off while it is sitting on the frame and not bolted?


Thanks for your input
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Old 10-28-2011, 12:21 PM   #13
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I don't know about the fastners holding the shell down on yours but the early models had some hidden rivets that a lot of people miss. If you can't find any more fastners and the shell still won't come off do a google search here for "hidden rivets"
The shell will blow off easily if you don't secure it. A couple of tie-down straps over the top and around the frame will help keep it out of the neighbors yard.
Cheers,
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Old 10-31-2011, 10:12 PM   #14
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Lift-off

I have the shell lifted. I think I am finally ready to start repairs instead of continued dissasembly. I have a couple of outriggers to weld back on and I have a lot of POR15 to apply. I have never used it but I have a gallon of black and a quart of silver ready to use. I guess I better read up on proper application.

I also have a pretty good droop over the axles. I think I am going to support it from the rear and box in the portion of the c channel that is open. The front portion of the frame is already boxed with 2-1/2" x 1/8" flat bar.

The original plywood is 15/32 and I was planning on going back with 23/32. Is this overkill? I could go with 19/32.
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