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Old 08-14-2012, 05:11 PM   #1
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They moved the head stones...

but not the bodies!



Poltergeist reference of course, but it fully illustrates a point I want to make.

Everyday I read about someone purchasing a "Vintage" trailer that "appears" to be in great shape. With tremendous excitement, they immediately jump in to new curtains, cushions, decorating and long camping trips. Personally, I am jealous that they can do this without any safety paranoia. Sure, the tires may have been changed and the bearings lubed. Brakes checked? Perhaps. But I venture to guess that not many take the time to remove a few rivets, drop a banana skin and see if the frame is still in one piece.

I recently read a post about a fellow Airstreamer coming home from a long trip and finding that the frame had snapped and come up through the floor. The trailer was trashed and they deemed it worthless at that point. I am very sorry to hear that this happened to anyone, but just an afternoons worth of digging around could have prevented this from happening and salvaged a great trailer, and prevented a possible tragedy on the road.

I am not an Airstream expert by any means, but am currently fixing my second Airstream trailer. The first was a 72 Overlander, and the "new" one is a 77 Sovereign. At first glance, both trailers appeared to be pretty solid... until I pulled the belly skin off. The Overlander had no black tank supports at all! The tank was ready to drop through the belly skin and send brown trout on to the highways. (sorry for the visual) In addition, tucked way up next to the water tank was a 2-1/2 foot long hole in the frame where water had been dripping for years. Totally hidden and somewhat structural. Aside from one obvious area on my current trailer (obvious because the rear banana wrap was falling off) everything looked good. Upon further inspection, I ended up redoing almost 20 outriggers, some holes in the frame, and am currently working on the dreaded rear end separation. YIKES! All artfully hidden away behind my nice banana wrap and belly skin.

Even if you have a newer trailer, it is worth taking a look at. After all the posts I've read about cracked frames on the newer trailers, it is certainly worth the time to look.

I didn't post this to antagonize anyone, or suck the fun out of their new purchase, but rather to advise you to take a few minutes and make sure you have a safe trailer. It will benefit you and your investment for years to come. If you aren't handy, find someone that is and take a look down below. Even if you have owned the trailer for years and feel that it is solid. Check it out.

Don't move the head stones and not expect to be haunted later on from below!

Ok, so maybe the Poltergeist reference wasn't the best choice. Maybe I should have used... "You can't judge a trailer's structural components by looking at it's skin". Nah, doesn't sound as ominous, and this problem is!

Regardless... You get the point!
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Old 08-14-2012, 07:00 PM   #2
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Great post Barry! I hope that it doesn't get lost in the quirky subject title. I agree with you 100%. You have no clue what you've got until the belly pan hits the ground.
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Old 08-14-2012, 07:01 PM   #3
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Good title, excellent points made. And, for any brand, IMO, do all the road safety stuff first -- tires, wheels, axle rebuild & alignment, brake rebuild/replace, safety chains, breakaway switch, 7/harness, clearance & signal lamps to LED, etc -- as "the budget" gets strained soon enough. And most all of this is neither expensive (relatively), nor difficult.

Sort of like a roof on a house . . the time to install new drywall and flooring is after the thing doan leak, no mo'.

Roadability should always be the first issue.

.
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Old 08-14-2012, 07:42 PM   #4
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I could take it a step further and say that you don't really know the frame condition until you pull out the floor.

just pulled mine recently, and revealed that the tops of the c-channels were pretty badly rusted; the rust was going from the top-down, though, so this was not visible from underneath, w/ the belly pan off. everything looked fine from down there. When I pulled out the ply, it revealed that the insulation that was sandwiched between the floor and frame was holding water against both the top of the c-channel, and the bottom of the ply. The plywood had a rotted slot in it that is the exact size and shape of the frame.

So I guess it either takes x-ray vision, or a full-monty to really know.
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Old 08-14-2012, 07:55 PM   #5
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Excellent post Sneak'.

I too see lots of threads by newbies excited or thinking they will be when they find their $1,000 or $10,000 vintage trailer. After a while a lot of them seem to disappear. I wonder if some of them are passing the same trailer from person to person.

Yeh, a portable Xray would be helpful.

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Old 08-14-2012, 09:11 PM   #6
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Thanks... I don't post often, but felt this was worth saying.

An Xray would be great!

When I first got my most recent trailer I bought a digital inspection camera from Harbor Freight to see if it was possible to inspect the frame without dropping the pan. Mostly out of curiosity as I intended to break it all down anyway. I ended up returning the camera. It worked well, but because of the insulation it made it impossible to really see what was going on. I was able to detect some problems with it so for someone inspecting a potential trailer purchase, if you can poke it in around some gaps in the belly pan it might save a lot of trouble in the long run.

I will probably buy another one later on to use occasionally on my trailer. I replaced all the pink stuff with foam board and will be making a few areas on the belly skin to poke it in there once in a while to see what is going on.
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Old 08-14-2012, 09:24 PM   #7
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Innocence (or denial) is bliss...

I've walked to my trailer at least 5 times this week to pull the belly pan. Then I find some excuse to turn around and go back inside. I get totally overwhelmed by the *what if's*... I have loads of parts, lists and drawings for the remodel after I get the rear end & floor inspected/repaired. But sometimes those dreams can't get me motivated to get started on the rest of the tough-stuff.

Laura
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Old 08-14-2012, 09:30 PM   #8
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Pretty much the same advice to purchasing any older machinery. I can't even begin to list all the stuff we had to rebuild or repair on the car, and it was a 78 model!

Lynn
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Old 08-15-2012, 05:35 AM   #9
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No doubt. It is overwhelming... and a bit frightening.

I try to divide and conquer and work on specific areas of the trailer, but each section overlaps in to the next. The only way I can force myself to keep moving is to know that when I get all the frame work done and the bottom buttoned up, then I can move on to what I consider fun. Designing and building the complete interior. Oh yeah, then going camping in it! Actually, once I get the frame work done, I may just use it as a very large tubular tent.
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Old 08-19-2012, 09:24 PM   #10
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I loved this post.
yeah I'm a newbie.I knew it was pretty yucky but once we started checking,well it's gonna more than one year of work for me.
I am just digging in and doing it it began with carpet removal to get musty smell and we found that the bathroom floor is bad but there was a sneaky leak at the front as well.
I just read and read from this site which helped us to remove broken window so we can replace that.
The windows were not broken when we bought it.
Where it was parked when we bought it a neighbor string trimmed rocks thru them accidentally!
Lots of mold! A friend of ours gave us a secret weapon fantastic followed by bleach and lots of open windows and doors brought the walls back to pretty.
Anyway thank you all for the valuable info much appreciated!
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Old 08-20-2012, 06:42 AM   #11
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Speaking of head stones, I don't plan on dying anytime soon, but if I do, here's a request of the next owner: If you find the set of keys that the Airstream mysteriously ate, please return them to my wife.

Lynn
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Old 08-22-2012, 02:17 PM   #12
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My head stone is going to read... "Just a few more small projects and my Airstream will be done!"

Actually, I have told my children that when I go, I want to be in the Airstream and sent off over the edge of the Grand Canyon. A fitting end for the both of us.

Runningbear... Just be patient and take it slow. Your trailer is worth the time it will take, and CONGRATS on checking it out and planning on repairing it.

Eubank... You can have my keys when I am gone.
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Old 12-13-2013, 07:44 PM   #13
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I just thought I would revive this thread again, as everyday I read about someone suddenly discovering that their trailer has dangerous frame issues. This goes for new owners, as well as seasoned owners.

Be safe! Check your frame once in a while.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Everyday I read about someone purchasing a "Vintage" trailer that "appears" to be in great shape. With tremendous excitement, they immediately jump in to new curtains, cushions, decorating and long camping trips. Personally, I am jealous that they can do this without any safety paranoia. Sure, the tires may have been changed and the bearings lubed. Brakes checked? Perhaps. But I venture to guess that not many take the time to remove a few rivets, drop a banana skin and see if the frame is still in one piece.

I recently read a post about a fellow Airstreamer coming home from a long trip and finding that the frame had snapped and come up through the floor. The trailer was trashed and they deemed it worthless at that point. I am very sorry to hear that this happened to anyone, but just an afternoons worth of digging around could have prevented this from happening and salvaged a great trailer, and prevented a possible tragedy on the road.

I am not an Airstream expert by any means, but am currently fixing my second Airstream trailer. The first was a 72 Overlander, and the "new" one is a 77 Sovereign. At first glance, both trailers appeared to be pretty solid... until I pulled the belly skin off. The Overlander had no black tank supports at all! The tank was ready to drop through the belly skin and send brown trout on to the highways. (sorry for the visual) In addition, tucked way up next to the water tank was a 2-1/2 foot long hole in the frame where water had been dripping for years. Totally hidden and somewhat structural. Aside from one obvious area on my current trailer (obvious because the rear banana wrap was falling off) everything looked good. Upon further inspection, I ended up redoing almost 20 outriggers, some holes in the frame, and am currently working on the dreaded rear end separation. YIKES! All artfully hidden away behind my nice banana wrap and belly skin.

Even if you have a newer trailer, it is worth taking a look at. After all the posts I've read about cracked frames on the newer trailers, it is certainly worth the time to look.

I didn't post this to antagonize anyone, or suck the fun out of their new purchase, but rather to advise you to take a few minutes and make sure you have a safe trailer. It will benefit you and your investment for years to come. If you aren't handy, find someone that is and take a look down below. Even if you have owned the trailer for years and feel that it is solid. Check it out.
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My 77 Sovereign Renovation
Out in the woods, or in the city, It's all the same to me.
When I'm drivin' free, the world's my home....When I'm mobile.



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Old 12-13-2013, 08:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sneakinup View Post
My head stone is going to read... "Just a few more small projects and my Airstream will be done!"

Actually, I have told my children that when I go, I want to be in the Airstream and sent off over the edge of the Grand Canyon. A fitting end for the both of us.
Is it strange that I have requested the exact same demise? Is this a common wish among airstreamers? I love the headstone idea!
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