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Old 11-29-2012, 07:43 PM   #1
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1971 27' Overlander
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Jumping in the deep end

Progression just completed: Coveting an Airstream - spending unjustifiable amounts of time reading this site (is there an Air Forums Anonymous?) - purchasing a vintage model - facing the music on what needs to be done.

After inspecting, I am glad to say I can find no problems with the floor, closely checking all the typical trouble spots. I can't find any signs of leaks (yet). The cabinets are in the best shape I've seen on a 40+yo AS - aluminum frames with woodgrain vinyl - but we want to redo all of that. Belly pan intact except for two small areas, one related to a problem listed below. Furnace is missing, ductwork intact; gas heater mounted on wall is the only heat source and needs to go.

Questions: 1. The step is severely rusted as shown in pic, and I'm not sure what the forward frame member it attaches to is going to require. As best I can tell, all the surrounding frame is solid. The floor above is fine. Is this common?

2. What are the criteria for axle replacement? Age alone?

3. When we redo the galley cabinets, I will probably replace the fridge (which looks almost new, btw) with a smaller, possibly electric-only type. What is under the exhaust housing behind fridge that remodeling will have to contend with?

4. What was originally in the larger, rectangular middle skylight opening? Mine has a flat piece of plexiglass pressed into dark caulking material.

Many thanks for any help on these and future issues.
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Old 11-29-2012, 08:43 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TennTex View Post
Progression just completed: Coveting an Airstream - spending unjustifiable amounts of time reading this site (is there an Air Forums Anonymous?) - purchasing a vintage model - facing the music on what needs to be done.
Welcome

Quote:
gas heater mounted on wall is the only heat source and needs to go.
Yup

Quote:
Questions: 1. The step is severely rusted as shown in pic, and I'm not sure what the forward frame member it attaches to is going to require. As best I can tell, all the surrounding frame is solid. The floor above is fine. Is this common?
Not sure, all I know is that the step itself is expensive.

Quote:
2. What are the criteria for axle replacement? Age alone?
If they're original you need new ones. If the trailer is sitting low, you also need new ones.

Quote:
3. When we redo the galley cabinets, I will probably replace the fridge (which looks almost new, btw) with a smaller, possibly electric-only type. What is under the exhaust housing behind fridge that remodeling will have to contend with?
Most experienced Airstreamers would recommend that you retain a propane fridge unless you plan on parking the trailer somewhere more or less permanently rather than traveling with it.

That said, once you pull the fridge out, there's not much behind it.

Quote:

4. What was originally in the larger, rectangular middle skylight opening? Mine has a flat piece of plexiglass pressed into dark caulking material.
Depending on the year there should maybe also be a dome over it.
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Old 11-29-2012, 10:40 PM   #3
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Thanks, Jammer. I sort of guessed the axle work would be on my short list. Thankfully, the posts here explain that project pretty well.
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Old 11-30-2012, 08:52 AM   #4
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Unless you plan on traveling with the trailer in the near future, I would not spend the money on the axles just yet. Judging from the photo of the step, you could have serious frame problems. A through inspection of all systems as well as structural integrity is in order.

If you decide to keep and use the refer, the trailer should be kept level.
Good Luck
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:34 AM   #5
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[QUOTE=TennTex;1232669

Questions:
2. What are the criteria for axle replacement? Age alone?[/quote]

This article will help you.


The Dura-Torque Axle


Quote:
4. What was originally in the larger, rectangular middle skylight opening? Mine has a flat piece of plexiglass pressed into dark caulking material.
That rectangular cover is called an "Astrodome". They are available in white, solar gray and brown fiberglass. Obviously, a soft light is the ideal color. That cover was held in place by two vent lift operators, one at each end.

Andy
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:09 PM   #6
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Q1. The step is severely rusted as shown in pic, and I'm not sure what the forward frame member it attaches to is going to require. As best I can tell, all the surrounding frame is solid. The floor above is fine. Is this common?

A1. You will at least have to replace the outriggers that the step mounts to. You can still buy these from places like Outofdoorsmart.com. The repair will require removing some of the belly skin, cutting off the existing outriggers, and welding new ones in. The difficulty is that the end fo the outrigger is bolted to the C-channel that attacheds the shell to the frame. In order to get at the other side of the bolt, you have to pull off some of the interior skin. With this kind of dramatic rust on these outriggers, there is a good probability that there is hidden disintegration of you rother frame members. You will only be able to see this by removing the bell pan, at least partially.

Q2. What are the criteria for axle replacement? Age alone?

A2: With age, the rubber rods int he axles lose their elesticity. If your trailer is on its original axles, they are almost certainly in need of replacement. There are various threads on the forum that discuss the criteria for replacement. The rule of thumb I use is based on the amount of travel I see in the axle arm when the trailer is jacked up. Should be 3-4 inches, if I recall correctly.

Q3. When we redo the galley cabinets, I will probably replace the fridge (which looks almost new, btw) with a smaller, possibly electric-only type. What is under the exhaust housing behind fridge that remodeling will have to contend with?

A3: I would recommend sticking with the RV style fridge, especially if the one you have is near new and working properly. If you change out the RV fridge, then you should put some kind of patch over the chimney/vent hole in the ceiling and a patch over the air linlet venting in the floor. The removal of the plastic cowl shouldn't reveal anything more than a hole in your counter top and a grimy wall (and a bunch of rivet holes in the inner skin).

Have you checked for rear-end separation? It is hard to tell if you have rotten floor in the rear end, as it is covered up by bathroom plastics.

Good Luck!
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:41 PM   #7
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Agreed on keeping the propane option for the fridge. You never know when you might take a yen to visit places without hookups. Such as the great majority of western National Park and National Forest campgrounds.

But yes, AS forums and AS camping in general are highly addictive.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:56 PM   #8
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My husband repaired the rusted out step bracket by welding on a splice. No outriggers were involved in the rust, just the plate with the cutout for the step support pin.
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Old 11-30-2012, 01:05 PM   #9
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IT's good that your doing your research. Most here that have vintage airstreams have been in your shoes.
I don't want to rain on your parade BUT; With the rust in the step area and the belly wrap pulling away from the outrigger I would spend some time inspecting the frame. The separation of the wrap from the outrigger allows moisture into the frame area, which has fiberglass insulation sandwiched between frame and subfloor. This insulation absorbs the moisture and holds it next to the frame, rusting the frame.
In the case of my airstream, I inspected and came to the conclusion ONE sheet of Plywood repair and I would be camping.I dropped the belly pan and was shocked to find the entire frame rusted through from one end to the other.I had to weld up a new frame from hitch to bumper. In retrospect I am surprised I make the 50 mile tow home after purchase.
Here is the ironic thing, the plywood subfloor ( except for the rear 12") was in perfect shape, the production date and code on the plywood looked like it was stamped yesterday and all was solid.
I now realize the only way to inspect condition of a vintage airstream is to drop the belly pan and inspect the frame. After all without a secure foundation nothing you bolt or rivet on will strengthen a rusted out frame.
Check out the condition of your frame and then devise a plan, hopefully minor welding and then the interior restore.
Good Luck,
Jack
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:53 PM   #10
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TG Twinkie - I agree, further frame inspection (removing belly pans, perhaps some flooring) comes first on priority list. Trying to make a game plan.

Andy - thanks for being such a resource of info on this site.

Belegedhel and Webspinner- I may replace these slotted-for-step outriggers with standard ones and cover the whole thing up (assuming surrounding frame integrity). Anything I need to worry about there?

Len N Jeanne - Good advice; never know where we'll be going after we get our feet wet. (Probably poor choice of words!)

195Pilot - Stories like yours do worry me re soundness of the frame. The belly pan has two large lower sections, one forward and one aft, that are bolted on. I'll start there and see what I find. If I'm going to do this, it needs to be right.

Many thanks to all for your expertise and encouragement. The reassurance that comes from helpful experience is the motivation for going ahead with this project.
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