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Old 04-19-2011, 11:13 AM   #1
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1979 31' Sovereign
Milford , Ohio
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Repair a rusty outrigger?

When I bought my trailer about seven years ago I spotted some rust on the forward outrigger in the "driver's side" wheel well. It was a rusted through spot near the outter edge and towards the bottom of the outrigger, about 1/4" high and 1-1/2" long. I was new to Airstreams but knew something should be done so I sanded and treated the metal with a rust stopping chemical. I then stuck a small piece of aluminum flashing over the hole with some roofing cement.

Last weekend I was doing the annual repacking of the bearings and adjustment of the brakes. I noticed on that same outriiger that there is more rust-through. This would be in roughly the same location but between the old patch and the main frame rail.

After cleaning it up with a wire brush I've found that the outrigger still looks nice and solid, not rusted paper thin, however the back side is not accessible without removing some banana wrap.

I'd just assume patch the new hole same as the old one, but think it would be smart to remove the banana wrap and treat the backside with rust preventer first.

Just wondered if anyone has seen this before and what their repair was. I could probably get someone to weld a small steel plate over the holes if that would be helpful. Removing the banana wrap will be no easy task as the bottom edge of the fridge vent frame is riveted to it.

Some extra information is that all other exposed outriigers in the wheel wells and the step well look fine. I haven't checked for a diagram of the frame and maybe the rusted piece in the wheel well is not structural?

Christopher
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Old 04-20-2011, 04:40 PM   #2
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1973 27' Overlander
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I've seen what you describe and I'm afraid to mention it may be the tip of the iceberg as far as the state of health of outriggers...

Do you have black-rings around the rivets on any interior liner panels?
Any interior rivets that are/were missing?
Can you sight down the belly wrap trim and see it flexed off a straight line more than 1/2-inch or so?
Are the wheel well openings more than slightly puckered, flaring outward inbetween the shell curved cut-out area when sighting down the trailer side?
Is the interior floor slanted downwards toward the shell in places?
Is any of the ceiling liners dented above the extruded aluminum stanchions of the partitions or closets?

Yes, the above can be attributed to axles taken a set and out-of-balance running gear BUT:

It also happens from outrigger damage, weakened and settling sets of them, prior unrepaired outrigger strike damage covered up with new sheet metal, loose/missing shell through-the-floor bolts... blah blah blah - it adds up to movement of the shell where there should be none... and damage will telegraph away from the area of weak outriggers to the far asie corner, etc, from the shells semi-monoque construction.

I encourage you to open up the wraps to get a good idea on the health of your stamped steel - I found many with disappeared sections, or misinstalled (bolted to floor, not welded), or mangled from some accident not cut out and replaced but hidden by new sheet aluminum...
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Old 04-20-2011, 05:07 PM   #3
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1985 31' Excella
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I am beginning to think that the small 3' inspection bore scopes may be a great accessory tool for an Airstream owner. I am getting ready to replace around 8. I haven't brushed mine down yet but know I have 3 that are bad where they are against the wrap.
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Old 04-21-2011, 10:56 AM   #4
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Wabbiteer, I only have a few of the interior conditions you describe regarding a few rivets and minor denting of the ceiling. No floor slope or exterior puckers, bulging, etc. My axles were shot and I replaced them a few years ago.

The few times I've seen the frame, such as repairing some rotted floor at the front, replacing dump valves, and installing a semi-recessed spare tire carrier, I've been surprised at how little rust there was. Note I didn't see any outriggers which might be a different story, and any rust I found was light so I sanded and treated it.

I have thought it would be a good off-season project (too late to start now) to remove the banana wrap and belly skin for a complete inspection of the frame, sanding and treating rust, or repairing as neeeded. Having to remove LP lines under the trailer first complicates things even more.

Christopher
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Old 04-22-2011, 06:41 AM   #5
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Just a follow-up. I checked last night for straightness of the wrap and trim. Looks fine.

Christopher
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Old 04-22-2011, 08:09 AM   #6
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Very little rust means very little moisture, a good sign for sure!

I looked at my 29' parts trailer and found the same WW outrigger holed along the lower edge, and the 27' trailer had the same one showing 15% surface area holed too. Sandblasting from grit off the highway? Slightly cooler there with the refrigerator vent nearby so more condensation? More ground-hugging damp air drawn past it from the fridge chimney effect?

I did find the interior of the ladder frame in general to be rust free except for the holding tank area, the factory paint is almost a creosote wax paint so those spaces unrusted metal got solvent wiped and coated with rustoleum flat black paint for two thick coats.

I'd endorse not doing the rust conversion coatings but simply use POR-15, they sell half-pint cans for not much at auto speed shops and with a disposable brush you can't get into too much trouble. To protect that a $9 can of 3M spray undercoating to armor all four WW outriggers and where ever else you can think of thats getting sandblasted, axles, tow vehicle etc..

At some point the mechanical strength of a rusty solid wheel-well outrigger gets compromised since it is a road-hazard and tire blow-out deflector too.
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