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Old 01-03-2015, 06:46 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by atz View Post

As far as visual inspection from the outside….that is OK as far as it goes, but frankly it does not go very far. Read around on here just a bit and you will see many stories of trailers with a health visual that had death damage underneath. If you have something broken under there, it likely will show, but you can have extensive corrosion but not yet broken you will not…which is what happens a lot. But 10 hard bumps and 1,000 mile later…bingo.

Interesting that I also have one seller who has decent frame shots taken as they were doing work on the trailer two years ago and it looks fine….i guess i would have posted those in the ad. I guess that goes to the point that some (many?) don't realize the importance of this…kind of dazzled by the beauty…happens in human love too. Twice for me….well maybe three times.
The best indicator I think would be how much maintenance the PO has done to keep the trailer up. If he/she kept up with leaks and the interior and exterior looks cared for, then you will probably be ok, even if they have never popped a rivet down under. The guy who owned my trailer did maintain it, even though some of it was misguided (gobs of silicone on the rivets on the roof for example).

The gooseneck camera can show you problems, but it may miss them as well. With a 3 foot reach, it will only get as far as one section of the cross members. If there is lots of the spun fiberglass hanging down low, it will have a hard time pushing it out of the way or you just won't see much on the small monitor. If I had one, I would bring it for sure, but I would still rely on a visual inspection from the outside and looking inside for the telltale signs of staining on the subfloor. In a 40 year old trailer, you're going to have some damage unless it was stored inside all its life.

Looking for one in the Winter is good in terms of keeping the price and competition down. Good luck on the search.
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Old 01-03-2015, 07:58 AM   #16
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My opinion is to stick to your guns regarding getting the best inspection of the frame you can. If at all possible, drop as much of the belly pan as possible to see what is going on. I just finished a long, long, long repair of the frame on my 77 Sovereign. I knew what I was getting in to, and for a trailer purchase price of only $800, I was prepared for the worst.

Dropping the banana wraps will give you a pretty good idea as to what is going on, however... my first Airstream (72 Overlander) had a serious elongated hole in the main frame right next to the water tank that could not be seen until everything was opened up. There was obviously a constant leak from one of the hoses. A lot of uncomfortable welding in awkward positions, and it was fixed.

I have a HF inspection camera that works very well with the LED light on the end and have tried it in my own Airstream... just for fun. With wet nasty insulation to poke through, I was not able to get a decent picture of what was going on with the frame, and I knew in the end I was going to strip it all down anyways.

As has been said before, one of the best indicators of problems is to simply look around in the rear bumper compartment. You can quickly see if there is rust across the back metal plate. It is very difficult for anyone to disguise this problem. Of course there are varying degrees of rust and decay, but it will be apparent whether or not you will have some serious repair work to do.

Another easy place to look is through the cut outs for the entry steps. It is easy to see in there and that is a common place for rust and decay.

Looking under the bathroom cabinetry through the cutouts in the floor for valves and plumbing is a good place for the inspection camera.

Good luck!
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Old 01-03-2015, 12:16 PM   #17
atz
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Well, I found a really nice one at a decent price.

Owner says has floor rot aft and a sagging frame. Wants to limit inspection to the outside….

Is there any way that the sagging floor does not mean some serious frame problems…can the back sag be caused by something else…..not likely, huh?

So, I pass on this…too bad. I wonder who will buy this with this stuff obvious…in fact posted in the ad. Are their people who just see it, like it, see that the water and A run and plop their money down?
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Old 01-03-2015, 06:17 PM   #18
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Hi atz, welcome to Air Forums. I'll bet you have all the skills necessary to renovate an old Airstream based on your hot rod hobby.

I like to say an old Airstream with a good body and good frame is worth $5000. I understand the 70s Airstreams had thinner material in the main frame channels aft of the axles. This may be one of the reasons for the rear end separation. The other is the poor seal between rear body and floor. This led to water leaking into the plywood subfloor and the angle iron support causing it to rust out and the subfloor to rot away.

I purchased my old 1966 Trade Wind with the idea of renovating it to "travel ready" status. I was lucky the frame was not rusted. I was able to inspect the frame at the rear bumper storage compartment, underneath the folding steps, and the A frame. I saw surface rust, but no serious metal etching. I crossed my fingers, dropped the belly pan, pulled out the old insulation, and found the frame in good shape. Whew! But actually, nothing a MIG welder won't fix.

It seems outriggers are more prone to rust, but are easier to repair or replace.

Here is an old Trade Wind where this enthusiasts repaired the frame, replaced the subfloor, new axles, and generally now sound, ready for a new interior. Now he wants to sell. Take a look if you like:

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f116...ct-105682.html

Good luck in your search. Just be ready for whatever the old trailer throws at you.

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Old 01-03-2015, 09:39 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atz View Post
Well, I found a really nice one at a decent price.

Owner says has floor rot aft and a sagging frame. Wants to limit inspection to the outside….

Is there any way that the sagging floor does not mean some serious frame problems…can the back sag be caused by something else…..not likely, huh?

So, I pass on this…too bad. I wonder who will buy this with this stuff obvious…in fact posted in the ad. Are their people who just see it, like it, see that the water and A run and plop their money down?
I'm not sure what the owner may mean by a sagging frame. It sounds like he is being honest by telling you it has floor rot, which is common. If it has rear end separation, that would be a symptom of the rot but might not mean there is significant rust in the frame. Mine was like that. The upper superstructure needs to be tightly bound to the frame through the floor in order to make a rigid box. When that connection is lost with the rotten wood, both the frame and the fuselage can move enough to cause the flex. If that is what he means by sag, there may only be minimal rust to deal with.

Of course it also means you will probably have to tear out the rear bath to replace at least a section of the floor in that trailer. That was my first winters project with mine. If its a real bargain, it may still be worth it.
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Old 01-03-2015, 10:58 PM   #20
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For what it's worth, I bought a Harbor Freight Inspection camera to try inspecting the frame on my 51 Silver Streak Clipper with the pipe frame. With all the furniture out and carpet removed I drilled a few 2.5" holes to take a look. I went half way between the wall and the pipe frame, so I had plenty of reach on the camera to see both ways. The holes were to small to be able to depress the insulation and reach the camera wand in. The insulation is a problem. Also 2.5 " makes for a tight bend with the wand. The camera works best when up close to what you want to see. My opinion is if you drill a few 1/2" holes in the belly pan, don't expect to see much. It was very cold when I did this and when it warms up I will cut some larger holes to get a better assessment. I do believe you can evaluate the frame well with this method.
Once I get a good look, I will post my findings.
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Old 01-04-2015, 07:52 AM   #21
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Thanks to all for comments…really helpful in starting to draw a picture of what I could face and how the trailer is put together.

The blog by Motor BoatN was really informative for me…not about the rebuild stuff but clarifies a lot about the underneath and shell attachment. I may want to do that some day and had I seen this before it was sold might have bid on it as the inside looks a lot more straightforward and could do it when ready as he did one heck of a job underneath. One thing it did reinforce is that i do want want to get into that now….so need a pretty clean trailer. Another time maybe.

Thanks for the info on "separation". Obviously I do need to look underneath to see if anything and how bad. I have 3 of the 4 people I asked if I could open the belly seam and look saying yes. I will do that even on the ones with no sag or visible rust as worth the investment considering what could lurk (and, as this forum seems to indicate often does).

I am leaning toward need to open as the scope seems like it may not work as well as I thought it would..insulation mainly.

alex
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Old 01-04-2015, 07:54 AM   #22
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Anybody got an idea of how much an RV place or repair guy will want to open up the belly seam…just in the middle seam...on the part rear of the axles to the end of the frame and then do a good job of closing. And how long that might take?
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Old 01-04-2015, 05:23 PM   #23
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Hi atz, I'm glad old motor boat thread was informative to you. It is one of many showing how an old Airstream is rebuilt from the ground up. Someone got a very nice Airstream to begin the interior work. It is a good trailer, so that's why it sold quick.

I was luckier than some as my frame was solid as found. I did not have any welding to do to the frame or outriggers. So Airstreams are available not needing a frame rebuild, or have had a frame rebuild already. I'll go out on a limb here. I think the 70s Airstreams have more frame issues than the 60s or 80s. You might consider a nice 1980s Airstream where there might be less frame issues to deal with.

Okay, my estimate to drop the rear belly pan to inspect the frame from the axles to the bumper. There will be about 40 rivets to drill out. There may be two stabilizer jacks to remove. There may be a water heater propane line to remove. When the belly pan comes down, so will most of the old ratty insulation. If the trailer has a rear bath, and many of the old ones did, then there could be a tank cover to remove.

Then a guy would want to install new batting insulation, and maybe replace the belly pan aluminum if it is too corroded to mount back up. The potential seller should be pleased to get new insulation and new belly pan material for the risk of having his trailer inspected in this manner.

I bet a good RV tech could do this work in 6 hours and maybe $200 in materials. Figure 100 an hour shop rate, so I estimate $800.

Other, more experienced Airstreamers may be able to more accurately estimate the cost of rear belly pan removal and replacement.

Here is a photo of my rear belly pan down. Dirty, dirty job! Should be on TV!

David
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Old 01-04-2015, 05:49 PM   #24
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If you can find out the history of the trailer it's a good hint about what to expect. A humid environment near salt water will cause a lot of rust. A dry environment like the southwest will probably have a lot less rust. Surface rust is normal and OK. Penetrating cancer type rust probably means some repairs.
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Old 01-04-2015, 06:09 PM   #25
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I sure do understand you wanting to find one with as little frame damage as possible. Unfortunately if you are looking at a sixties/ seventies trailer like that in the northeast, they are as rare as hens teeth. You would have to find one that has been undercover for most of its life. We just don't have a climate that's friendly to steel.

Go out west, or in an arid climate and it's a different story.

I think you best bet would be to find a project where someone has already done frame/ floor restoration ( with pictures to prove it ) and then given up on it.
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:59 AM   #26
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Thanks to all…lots of good advice and thoughts. I have not located the right one yet, but I am taking some of the above advice and upping my budget a bit in hope that a newer one presents fewer problems. Patience is the key here…..not one of my strong suits. Someday I will try a rebuild (there sure is lenity of info on that and I am good at learning from those things)…but for now I want one I can hit the road with!!!
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