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Old 09-29-2010, 08:43 PM   #1
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Major Frame Problems!

Hi All, So we are virgin Airstream Owners and have just purchased a 1968 24' Tradewind. We expected to be doing a good bit of work but this has us a little rattled. The overall condition of the coach is pretty good. Not a lot of rot from what I can see and seems to be mostly intact except the small things. However we got hosed by the seller and found that the Frame just aft of the hitch had been bondo-ed and painted (did a really nice job too) but it has holes big enough to put my finger though on the vertical outside of the channel. We aren't ready to give up and are in it for the long haul if the cost to repair the frame is less than say the 3000$ range. I am a professional Aircraft mechanic so I can handle much of what this resto is gonna through at me but I don't know diddly about welding. Any one have any info, opinions experience with this.
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:30 PM   #2
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Sounds like someone bondo'd up the holes previously used to mount a friction type anti-sway device.... I have some of those on my trailer; haven't welded them up yet and they don't seem to hurt anything after three thousand miles of towing... take a deep breath.

Seriously, the top and bottom of the frame are the heavily loaded portions; the central web isn't highly stressed. You can have it welded at your leisure if you care. Remove the load from the tongue, back up the holes w/ a brass block and fill w/ weld. Grind smooth w/ flapper wheel, prime and paint to match... now it's really hidden .

- Bart
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Old 09-29-2010, 09:32 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Althea68 View Post
Hi All, So we are virgin Airstream Owners and have just purchased a 1968 24' Tradewind. We expected to be doing a good bit of work but this has us a little rattled. The overall condition of the coach is pretty good. Not a lot of rot from what I can see and seems to be mostly intact except the small things. However we got hosed by the seller and found that the Frame just aft of the hitch had been bondo-ed and painted (did a really nice job too) but it has holes big enough to put my finger though on the vertical outside of the channel. We aren't ready to give up and are in it for the long haul if the cost to repair the frame is less than say the 3000$ range. I am a professional Aircraft mechanic so I can handle much of what this resto is gonna through at me but I don't know diddly about welding. Any one have any info, opinions experience with this.
First... Welcome to the Forums! Glad you could join us here. Now as to the frame work issues. Is the hidden damage to the tongue A-frame severe or could it just be holes that were poorly patched from where a bolted sway control or tow package mount was removed? Pictures are always helpful when trying to desect these issues. If it is mounting holes that are in the vertical portions on the a frame you can always have them cleaned out and welded closed with no real structural issue to the frame itself. If the frame is broken or badly rust damaged you may have to patch repair or look at having someone qualified build you a new A-frame using the existing one as a pattern. I would think any good welding shop would give you an estimate and show you how they could either repair/replace the A-frame damage. Let us know what you have done. Happy Trails, Ed
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Old 09-30-2010, 08:24 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Althea68 View Post
Hi All, So we are virgin Airstream Owners and have just purchased a 1968 24' Tradewind. We expected to be doing a good bit of work but this has us a little rattled. The overall condition of the coach is pretty good. Not a lot of rot from what I can see and seems to be mostly intact except the small things. However we got hosed by the seller and found that the Frame just aft of the hitch had been bondo-ed and painted (did a really nice job too) but it has holes big enough to put my finger though on the vertical outside of the channel. We aren't ready to give up and are in it for the long haul if the cost to repair the frame is less than say the 3000$ range. I am a professional Aircraft mechanic so I can handle much of what this resto is gonna through at me but I don't know diddly about welding. Any one have any info, opinions experience with this.
Take a picture. This will really help.

It is probably what Bart and Ed said, but a pic will really help determine this.
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Old 09-30-2010, 04:32 PM   #5
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Well once I figure out how to attach photos I'll insert them.
I am heartened somewhat that after more inspection. The majority of the frame may be intact. The A frame is probably shot though. But the frame that is exposed behind the drop down step at the entry door which has been exposed probably the life of the coach is smooth and black, weathered but still in relatively good shape. I believe the 2 belly skins that run the length of the trailer are original and don't appear to have any holes through them. So I'm hoping this is a good indication that the frame hasn't been exposed to the elements for the last 20 years or so.

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Old 09-30-2010, 04:53 PM   #6
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So all of the Pics I've taken are over 2.0 mb so this site won't let me upload them. I'll try to take more when it gets darker maybe the file size will drop. Do you have to use a camera with 5-6 megapixels or what?
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Old 09-30-2010, 05:13 PM   #7
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I'm no PC guru, but I can post a pic by opening the pic with Microsoft Office Picture Manager then select EDIT, then RESIZE. You can save it as resized or keep the master and save as a new smaller renamed pic.

Good luck with the frame.
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Old 09-30-2010, 05:41 PM   #8
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I'm no PC guru, but I can post a pic by opening the pic with Microsoft Office Picture Manager then select EDIT, then RESIZE. You can save it as resized or keep the master and save as a new smaller renamed pic.

Good luck with the frame.
This is the one I use on XP:

Resize digital pictures quickly

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Old 09-30-2010, 06:45 PM   #9
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What Barts said is my guess

If the rest of the frame is intact, a new front section could be welded on. Much less than a $3,000 repair.
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Old 09-30-2010, 08:46 PM   #10
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So even more inspecting and disgruntled mumblings of despair. I peeled away the bondo and some very questionable past repairs are now visible. It appears the A frame is already a replacement. Its been reinforced several times. I was pulling out rust from inside the belly skin by the handfull, more than a handfull is no good here either. Could I remove the front sofa and a liners and floor only in the front section and remove the belly skins and expose the frame this way and have a welder come in and cut the frame as far back as needed and weld in new channel and make a new A frame? Anyone see any trouble here? Is theoretically possible but not realistic? I am going to try and resize these pics and get em up for all of you to examine
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Old 09-30-2010, 10:24 PM   #11
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This is the one I use on XP:

Resize digital pictures quickly

Gary
Hi, this is exactly what I use on my desk top with XP, but I can't figuer out how to do the same thing on my wife's lap top with Vista.
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Old 09-30-2010, 10:50 PM   #12
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So all of the Pics I've taken are over 2.0 mb so this site won't let me upload them. I'll try to take more when it gets darker maybe the file size will drop. Do you have to use a camera with 5-6 megapixels or what?
One option is to upload your picture to a site like Picasaweb or Photobucket and then past a link into your post on here. If thinking about that makes your brain hurt, you may want to look at the shrink-your-photo links pasted in this thread, I realize I'm a professional computer geek and what seems trivial to me isn't to everyone. The time of day and amount of light isn't going to make a big difference in the size of the image your camera captures, just in how much of it is black.
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Old 10-01-2010, 12:33 AM   #13
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Pics

So here they are?
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Old 10-01-2010, 12:41 AM   #14
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So here they are?
Hi, that frame looks really bad. Bondo; What a dirty trick.
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Old 10-01-2010, 07:40 AM   #15
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Yikes.... but it's hard to tell where those last two pics are shot from. Honestly, it looks like this trailer was from the EAST coast, or stayed along the sea or sound for awhile, the way it's rusted. I'm shocked that the Aframe didn't collapse on the pull home.

I'd get some cheap electric shears from Harborfreight and cut the center panel of the bellypan off (leaving about 12" or so of wrap down the sides) and check it out.
So sorry.... is this a tandem TW or single axle?

The good news is that the frame construction is really quite simple... the bad news is to really rebuild the frame or make a new one means you probably will gut the trailer and lift the shell.

Marc
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Old 10-01-2010, 08:35 AM   #16
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The frame can be fixed. I doubt the rest of that trailer is in as gooda shape as you think it is either. I'd want a look at the rest before I called the welder. Now'd be the time to re-sell it if ya don't want to rebuild it.
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Old 10-01-2010, 08:56 AM   #17
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Actually fertilizer runoff, being around agricultural areas, can be worse than being ocean-side (if they don't run their trailer through the actual surf at Daytona Beach)... And the folks who run away from winter weather a little late and track through ice-melt chemicals set up problems just like what you are seeing there!

Good luck, don't let your momentum wind down half way into it if you decide to proceed!
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Old 10-01-2010, 01:45 PM   #18
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On the grand scale of things, this is bad, but not The End.

If you were looking at making light repairs to get a usable trailer, you have ended up with a full restoration project.

If you were planning on a restoration that involved floor work, yes, this adds a couple of steps, and some additional costs but in the grand scheme of things it probably isn't a deal-breaker.

The quotes normally bandied about on airforums are of retail about $3000 to replace the frame with a new one. Often, people have (or make) strategic friends with someone who can weld, who can then either heavily repair the frame or make a new one with measurements from the old one. In those cases, materials are the main cost, and the main material is beer*

If you can accept the idea of a shell-off restoration, this is merely a bump in the road.

An alternative is that you could donate the trailer to someone willing to do a full resto, and set the loss against your next tax return as a true loss. (Any tax professionals here to advise?)

*do not provide the beer prematurely, or workmanship will suffer, and you may end up worse off
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Old 10-01-2010, 05:11 PM   #19
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Building a new frame is fun and it gives you peace of mind.
SEPERATE, BRACE, LIFT, PULL OUT, BUILD NEW STRONGER FRAME,
NEW SUBFLOOR, REATTACH
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Old 10-01-2010, 06:27 PM   #20
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