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Old 09-03-2015, 01:15 PM   #1
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1978 24' Argosy 24
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Is rewire necessary for 1972 airstream in almost perfect condition

I have found a 1972 Airstream in almost perfect condition I am considering buying. Apparently, it has been kept in an enclosed shop it's entire life (I need to verify this, but that is what the seller states and it does look perfect). From my understanding this old of an Airstream typically needs some frame work, subfloor work, and needs the insulation and wiring replaced which basically requires the Airstreams to be fully striped and refurbished. Therefore, we have been looking for an Airstream that we are going to fully refurbish or one that has been partially or fully refurbished. This Airstream is obviously a special case. The frame, subfloor, and insulation are basically in perfect condition as is the body and interior. The sellers are asking a lot for an Airstream that has not been refurbished, which may be fair if it doesn't need any work. What I am concerned about is the age of wires. Does this trailer need to be rewired for safety? Does the interior need to be striped anyway to rewire the trailer? Obviously there are other issues to consider like lack of grey water tank and future issues with keeping the original insulation (I won't be keeping it in an enclosed shop), but I am most concerned about the electrical. Thoughts?
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Old 09-03-2015, 01:21 PM   #2
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My '72 Trade Wind never needed anything done with the electrical system. It worked perfectly fine and never presented any safety issues. Plumbing was another thing altogether though. But where I live the pipes were subjected to freezing during winter and this really did a number on my system.
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Old 09-03-2015, 04:35 PM   #3
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Certainly not an AS expert, but why would it need to be rewired? If the electricity works, you're good.
Electrical things that will likely need to be looked at are the Univolt (battery charger thing that supposedly breaks and modern technology is better for the batteries) and the intervehicle connection wiring may have changed over the years.
Also it will likely need tires and axles.
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:00 PM   #4
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If the trailer is in as good shape as you say, I would not worry about wiring. You will want to change out the original Univolt converter for a new "smart converter". The new converters are much better for the battery. You may need to replace the axles. Check out the forums on how to evaluate their condition. It basically comes to your choice of using it as is and enjoying it or spending lots of time and money replacing systems that are working just fine. I would spend my time and money on fuel and campground fees. I don't think I'll get many arguments that redoing an Airstream will take 4 times longer and 3 times the money that you think it will. Finding one in good shape, and spending a little more on the front end, can be the best deal.

My 68 does not have a grey tank. Yes, it would be nice but we use a Thedford Smarttote "blue boy". Serves us well when were are at campgrounds with no hookup at the site.
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:25 PM   #5
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If everything works, there is no need to rewire a trailer.
You may want to do some component upgrades like replacing the univolt at some point. But there is no technical reason you need to replace wiring that's not damaged.
The people you see rewiring like this typically are already tearing the trailer apart for other reasons and do it since it's the best time to do it since it's accessible. Even then it's not typical to replace all the wiring.
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Old 09-03-2015, 05:56 PM   #6
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nrgtrakr, 68 TWind, HiJoeSilver

Everything works electrically, but it seems like the wiring is typically redone when restoring an Airstream, so I figured there must be a reason for that. Based on HiJoeSilver's comment my assumption was incorrect.

One of my concerns is that the insulation surrounding wires often gets old and brittle. We are talking wires that are over 40 years old. I would think that this is especially becomes important in a vehicle, as opposed to a house, where the wires are exposed to vibration and movement. This assumption may also be incorrect.

I have also read on a forum that "the old fabric wrapped 110 wires do not have a ground. Without a ground, you have the potential of getting a shock from various things in the trailer as well as the trailer itself. And you can not install any GFCI (Ground fault interrupter) circuits or outlets, which is a safety issue for any wet area like the kitchen and bathroom." I don't think this is true for a 1972 Airstream, but... That is partly why I am asking. I am not sure if this is wired in a way still considered safe.
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Old 09-03-2015, 06:35 PM   #7
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Is rewire necessary for 1972 airstream in almost perfect condition

CoreyH I appreciate your concerns for safety.
In 1971 I was 15, my first vehicle was a 41 Ford pickup - the 30 year old wires were fine. Wire made in 1971 was even better than the wire in 1941.
The Army trained me to repair everything (to include electrical and electronics) on an air defense missile system. Later in life I was a stationary engineer working on sometimes 60+ year old circuits. I've inspected the wiring on our 75. It's functionally safe, even without GFCIs (I have no plans of showering with the wife's hair dryer or seeing if the coffee maker floats). However, if I ever gut it, I'll rewire it and update everything.
The AC in your AS is likely 12-2 romex house wire (at least that is what is in our 75) which means there are three wires - hot, neutral and an uninsulated ground. Pretty sure you can put a GFCI outlet on if you like.
You could hire someone to inspect it, but I would only use licensed electrician or a certified RV technician.
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Old 09-03-2015, 06:41 PM   #8
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The fabric wrapped wires were used in the 50's and maybe the 60's. If you have three prong outlets, like a house, you have grounded wiring and if everything works, you should be good to go. You can also take the cover off the circuit breaker box, after unplugging the trailer, and inspect the wiring for grounds.

Bill

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Originally Posted by CoreyH View Post
nrgtrakr, 68 TWind, HiJoeSilver

Everything works electrically, but it seems like the wiring is typically redone when restoring an Airstream, so I figured there must be a reason for that. Based on HiJoeSilver's comment my assumption was incorrect.

One of my concerns is that the insulation surrounding wires often gets old and brittle. We are talking wires that are over 40 years old. I would think that this is especially becomes important in a vehicle, as opposed to a house, where the wires are exposed to vibration and movement. This assumption may also be incorrect.

I have also read on a forum that "the old fabric wrapped 110 wires do not have a ground. Without a ground, you have the potential of getting a shock from various things in the trailer as well as the trailer itself. And you can not install any GFCI (Ground fault interrupter) circuits or outlets, which is a safety issue for any wet area like the kitchen and bathroom." I don't think this is true for a 1972 Airstream, but... That is partly why I am asking. I am not sure if this is wired in a way still considered safe.
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Old 09-03-2015, 07:47 PM   #9
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One of the reasons folks rewire old Airstreams is to replace the aluminum wire used in the later 60's models. To rewire an Airstream all the interior panels must be removed, gutted. On my 68, I did not remove the interior skins and kept the aluminum wiring. I did remove each outlet box and checked for loose connections and corrosion. Only found problems on the outside outlet box. Airstream went to copper wire in the 70's so you should be fine.
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Old 09-03-2015, 07:47 PM   #10
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I think nrgtrakr and eke root hit your additional concerns. The insulation on your 12v wiring is 99.9% likely fine. The insulation on the wire in there is actually quite a bit thicker than the insulation on wire you'd find today. The wiring in my trailers was soft and pliable like it was new. The 120v will be romex and will have 3 wires. As mentioned you can look in/near the breaker box to see this. If you want some reassurances you could replace the circuit breakers with new ones, they do 'age' but it's probably not necessary. Depending on the breaker panel model you may be able to find gfci breakers to put in there, circuit breakers are panel dependent. Just not on the main breaker or air cond breaker. That will protect your outlet circuits. Putting one in the wall can be done but it's difficult due to the limited depth. I've seen boxes surface mounted next to the breaker box feeding from the box into a surface mount box holding the gfci then feeding the original ckt from the gfci, if that makes sense.
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Old 09-03-2015, 08:21 PM   #11
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Which reminds me - two electrical upgrades a PO made on ours are jacks for both shore power in (30 amp) and the inter-vehicle umbilical cord. I can't imagine life with those two cables hard wired.
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Old 09-03-2015, 09:43 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by nrgtrakr View Post
Which reminds me - two electrical upgrades a PO made on ours are jacks for both shore power in (30 amp) and the inter-vehicle umbilical cord. I can't imagine life with those two cables hard wired.
2 nice upgrades that can be done without completely gutting a trailer.
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Old 09-04-2015, 11:45 AM   #13
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what is the the inter-vehicle umbilical cord?
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Old 09-04-2015, 11:46 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoreyH View Post
I have found a 1972 Airstream in almost perfect condition I am considering buying. Apparently, it has been kept in an enclosed shop it's entire life (I need to verify this, but that is what the seller states and it does look perfect). From my understanding this old of an Airstream typically needs some frame work, subfloor work, and needs the insulation and wiring replaced which basically requires the Airstreams to be fully striped and refurbished. Therefore, we have been looking for an Airstream that we are going to fully refurbish or one that has been partially or fully refurbished. This Airstream is obviously a special case. The frame, subfloor, and insulation are basically in perfect condition as is the body and interior. The sellers are asking a lot for an Airstream that has not been refurbished, which may be fair if it doesn't need any work. What I am concerned about is the age of wires. Does this trailer need to be rewired for safety? Does the interior need to be striped anyway to rewire the trailer? Obviously there are other issues to consider like lack of grey water tank and future issues with keeping the original insulation (I won't be keeping it in an enclosed shop), but I am most concerned about the electrical. Thoughts?
Rewiring that trailer would be a waste of time and money.

Upgrading a couple of things are always new as technology changes.

Replacing the Univolt would be a good improvement.

Changing the exterior lights to LED's would add much night time visibilty to other drivers.

Changing the ceiling light bulbs to LED would save a lot of battery energy.

Change out the water filter system since the original filter is no longer available.

Check out the axles, since torsion axles only last about 25 years, or even less if parked for a couple of years or more.

Replace the exterior gaskets if not done, would be a must, especially the sewer vent pipe cover gaskets, that only last 2 to 3 years.

Bottom line is there are many things to check out, but the wiring is as good as gold, except possibly the 12 volt umbilical cable.

Welcome to Airstreaming.

Andy
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