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Old 05-09-2012, 01:48 PM   #1
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Rear End Separation Short term fix?

Well I know that this is a post that might get some folks fired up a bit, but here it goes. I have slowly been repairing my 1969 29' Ambassador (rear bath.) New front frame, axles, Etc.. After our last trip to Fort Wilderness, I hit a RR track a little too fast, the rear frame broke free. We have some camping trips planned for this summer and early fall, so I want to keep using it until the winter of this year. I live in Florida so winter is the best time to jump into a major project. The floor in the bathroom needs to be replaced, so I know the only correct way to fix the rear end separation is to removed most of the bathroom, drop the belly, and replace the floor. So a full bathroom, plumbing, and some electrical rehab will need to be done. I will not be able to get to the bolts without removing sink, tub, and seat area of the bath room. I don't want to jump into this huge project now, so I wanted to get some ideas about a short term fix.

I'm looking for some ideas on how to reattach the rear frame without going through the inside wall. Some of my thoughts so far, was to use some heavy duty 2" self taping screws, replacing the rusted brace that lines up between the frame rails and under the back hatch area, then attaching it with the screws. Then drop the side belly pans in the back, weld a piece of angle iron along the main frame rails and lag bolt it through the floor. Just some ideas, but I'm really looking for other ideas, from smarter men and women on this great forum..
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Old 05-09-2012, 02:30 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by keithgrowe View Post
Well I know that this is a post that might get some folks fired up a bit, but here it goes. I have slowly been repairing my 1969 29' Ambassador (rear bath.) New front frame, axles, Etc.. After our last trip to Fort Wilderness, I hit a RR track a little too fast, the rear frame broke free. We have some camping trips planned for this summer and early fall, so I want to keep using it until the winter of this year. I live in Florida so winter is the best time to jump into a major project. The floor in the bathroom needs to be replaced, so I know the only correct way to fix the rear end separation is to removed most of the bathroom, drop the belly, and replace the floor. So a full bathroom, plumbing, and some electrical rehab will need to be done. I will not be able to get to the bolts without removing sink, tub, and seat area of the bath room. I don't want to jump into this huge project now, so I wanted to get some ideas about a short term fix.

I'm looking for some ideas on how to reattach the rear frame without going through the inside wall. Some of my thoughts so far, was to use some heavy duty 2" self taping screws, replacing the rusted brace that lines up between the frame rails and under the back hatch area, then attaching it with the screws. Then drop the side belly pans in the back, weld a piece of angle iron along the main frame rails and lag bolt it through the floor. Just some ideas, but I'm really looking for other ideas, from smarter men and women on this great forum..
Patching is still a patch, no matter what way you do it.

The rear end separation, can be fixed, without taking anything out of the bathroom, except maybe something that's damaged.

You must remove the bottom portion of each rear quarter panel.

How? Easy.

Remove the bottom belt line molding. Cut the panel in half in the center of where the molding was located. You will also need to remove the rub rail, and all the rivets in the center rear panel, that includes the access door, up to but not including the bottom of the window.

Then you can remove the rivets from the rear end of each of the quarter panels.

Next, remove the rivets on the front side of those quarter panels, but only from the bottom to where you cut the panel.

Then VERY CAREFULLY, have someone hold the panel away from the trailer, just enough where you can get at the back side of the panels, and shear off the blind rivets that hold the front edge of the quarter panels to the last main bow, with a putty knife.

You will then see the issue.

Locate on this Forums, the previous method that I posted that's the next step.

When your ready to put the quarter panels back, attach a small strip of metal to the bottom of the quarter panel section that remained on the trailer. Use some Vulkem and 1/8 pop rivets.

Then you attach the top edge of the quarter panel, that you previously cut, to that same strip. Again use plenty of Vulkem and 1/8 inch pop rivets.

To reinstall the front end of the quarter panels, use Vulkem and Olympic rivets. On the rear end of those quarter panel,use a few 1/8 pop rivets.

lower the rear center panel, add some Vulkem and use Olympic rivets to refasten itand at the same time the rear portion of the quarter panels.

Use plenty of 3/16 inch pop rivets to fasten the interior quarter panels to the floor channel, and do the same at the bottom of the quarter panels as well as the rear panel.

You will probably find the rear floor channel broken in 2 places. It the must be completely removed and welded back together.

There are some small steps I have left out, but the above will get you started.

Anything short of doing the job as described above, is a patch job, that will fail in short order. That's from 46 years of Airstream rebuilding experience.

Andy
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Old 05-09-2012, 02:41 PM   #3
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The only thing I can think of that would work would require you to bolt/rivet some sort of strap to the rear of the back skin and attach that to the frame. This is going to put some permanant holes in your skins though. Other than a total rebuild, I don't see many options. I would not put anything in the holding tanks. Use the bath house and an external gray water tank.

Perry
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Old 05-09-2012, 03:02 PM   #4
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Please explain a little more what you mean when you say the rear frame broke loose. I assume you mean that the shell and the frame are no longer secured together, and you can jump up and down on the bumper and observe a gap opening and closing between the frame and shell. A picture would also help.

thanks!
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Old 05-09-2012, 03:22 PM   #5
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Correct, the bumper area of the frame had about 3 bold left holding it up. Now it is loose and you can move it up and down a little with your foot. If I remove the storage compartment, I should be able to acess the bottom of the bolts and pull them out, and cut out the rusted cross member and replace it. I will try to get pics today and add them.

There is a Hatch door on the back were you access the battery, sink plumbing, and univot. The frame rails and that cross member are below the hatch.
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Old 05-09-2012, 03:26 PM   #6
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Just use it this summer as is and dive into it in the winter. I doubt any quick fix is going to hold or make any difference in your use of the trailer for a few months. Just take it easy towing. I'm probably going to get chewed out for my suggestion but the reality is what it is.
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Old 05-09-2012, 03:30 PM   #7
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Temp fix

You could drill through the lip of the back hatch and the cross member and install bolts. However, the door hatch frame is not that well attached to the skin and the skin around the hatch will likely tear when you hit the next bump. I have also seen really long bolts used all the way up to the window frame. That is not too good either. Airstream used to cut the skin around the back seams to get access to the c channel. They then put some reinforcement to the C channel and bolt through it to the cross frame. Most people call this the elephant ear fix.
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Old 05-09-2012, 03:36 PM   #8
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Just use it this summer as is and dive into it in the winter. I doubt any quick fix is going to hold or make any difference in your use of the trailer for a few months. Just take it easy towing. I'm probably going to get chewed out for my suggestion but the reality is what it is.
i'm geussing there's a few out there that have this problem that the owner doesn't know about, i'm re-building mine at the moment and my body builder says he does not care what happens after the axles!! so if you don't crease your body and when you stop you support your rear end a bit (as the floor is doing the work at the moment i geuss) you should be alright
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Old 05-09-2012, 08:50 PM   #9
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You could drill through the lip of the back hatch and the cross member and install bolts. However, the door hatch frame is not that well attached to the skin and the skin around the hatch will likely tear when you hit the next bump. I have also seen really long bolts used all the way up to the window frame. That is not too good either. Airstream used to cut the skin around the back seams to get access to the c channel. They then put some reinforcement to the C channel and bolt through it to the cross frame. Most people call this the elephant ear fix.
Thinking about shell, c channel, floor sandwich, does the shell have a metal lip/right angle that presses against the c channel on the top?

How much strength does the hatch frame give that area. Could three 3/4 " holes be cut through the bottom of the frame to have access to place 3 .5 " bolts? Would that sandwich area be strong enough with no floor there?

Or has anyone ever removed that hatch door? There has to be 30 + buck rivits there.. If I pulled the door and the frame I should have access to the bolts.
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:09 PM   #10
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There is a piece of steel angle sanwiched between the outer skin and the c channel, the lower section of the angle is under they floor. The bolts run through the channel, floor and angle into a steel cross section between the frame rails. If that piece of steel is beyond rusted out like mine is i'm not sure there would b a quick, temp fix.
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Old 05-09-2012, 09:43 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ProWelder
There is a piece of steel angle sanwiched between the outer skin and the c channel, the lower section of the angle is under they floor. The bolts run through the channel, floor and angle into a steel cross section between the frame rails. If that piece of steel is beyond rusted out like mine is i'm not sure there would b a quick, temp fix.
Cool.. Great info, thank you. my steel cross section is busted, I think I can get to it pretty quickly. I was planning on cutting the old piece out and replacing it with .25 gal angle iron. The question is, how to reattach it to the shell. I can put in a weekend to patch it up, but can not do a full bathroom rehab and floor replacement right now. Would large self tapping screws, through the new crossmember, up through the c channel and floor have the strength to hold up?
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Old 05-10-2012, 12:09 AM   #12
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I wouldn't think that would work. You are actually trying to pull the frame back up so screws from the bottom would just pull back out. If you can replace the metal between your frame rails you will see how the hole rear is fastend down. There are bolts and screws running down through the channel, floor and the angle and this all bolts to the rusted frame center section you are talking about replacing. If you do get the rusted piece out and replaced you need bolts with nuts to sanwhich it all back together. You will have to remove the inner skin below the door to have access to the c channel to install your nuts on your bolts if you are coming up from the bottom. Will be easier drilling from bottom but be sure you are centerd in the c channel. Getting the little strip of inner skin will b a pain. Hope your rear is not as bad as mine is.
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Old 05-10-2012, 12:11 AM   #13
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Broken or having some failed fasteners? Or has the wood gone soft and allowed the major frame rail bolts and tie down plate bolts to have 3/4" of extra travel that you see as a gap?

I'd rather see you gasket plain (painted) mild iron against the aluminum skin with polyurathane vulkem caulk - in presence of common electrolyte water (acid rain) the thin pure coating of aluminum on the 2024 will lose the battle and then the alloying metals wake up to taste the zinc & iron too.

If it is the end panel tie-down, that angle piece can not be 90 to mesh with the angle of the aluminum shell - its more like 110-115 angle. And - if the iron is corroded plan to replace that aluminum sheet at some point as its probably damaged, maybe enough so it won't take rivets into the angle plate again...
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Old 05-10-2012, 08:34 AM   #14
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I wouldn't think that would work. You are actually trying to pull the frame back up so screws from the bottom would just pull back out. If you can replace the metal between your frame rails you will see how the hole rear is fastend down. There are bolts and screws running down through the channel, floor and the angle and this all bolts to the rusted frame center section you are talking about replacing. If you do get the rusted piece out and replaced you need bolts with nuts to sanwhich it all back together. You will have to remove the inner skin below the door to have access to the c channel to install your nuts on your bolts if you are coming up from the bottom. Will be easier drilling from bottom but be sure you are centerd in the c channel. Getting the little strip of inner skin will b a pain. Hope your rear is not as bad as mine is.
Pro Welder, Thanks for the good feed back. Yea I looks like I need to find a way of getting to the inside wall. Reading through Andy post, gave me some ideas. I hate drilling out all of those buck rivits, but is sure would be quicker than trying to remove the bathroom sink, and plumbing to get to that inner wall, so I can have access to were the bolts will come through. You are probley right about the self tapping screws.

To address another question.. There is about a .5" drop since the frame broke free, my guess is that there are still lag bolts hold the frame onto the floor section. Sadly I know there is wood rot under the sink, and at the hatch door for the hot water heater....

Has anyone peeled up that back section that the hatch door is attach to? If I remove the buck rivits up to the tail lights I might be able to bed it up and have access?
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