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Old 08-27-2003, 09:57 AM   #1
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Factory rivet vs. repair rivet

Is there any difference (structurally or aesthetically) between the riveting done on the production line while an Airstream is being built vs. the repair riveting done when damaged panels are replaced?

I need a panel replaced on my unit and have been given a choice of riveting options. I was told that a repair-panel job done from the outside of the Airstream uses a different riveting process than the production line (where the panels are riveted from the interior of the Airstream) but that it wouldn't be noticeable to me.

Has anyone out there had a panel replaced using the exterior riveting process? What are your thoughts on this?
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Old 08-27-2003, 10:09 AM   #2
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First of all.....why do you need a panel replaced on your new trailer??!!?

the "repair" type rivets are actually pop-rivets, with rounded heads, so they look like the factory rivets (pretty much) from the outside. They actually work like a "toggle bolt", such as you would use to hang something heavy on drywall. when you're pulling on the stem of the rivet with the rivet gun, these 3 legs stick out on the inside and grip the inner side of the sheet metal....very strong. Do a search on "olymipic rivets" or "rivet shaver", and you'll find pictures.

the problem with these is that you need a spendy tool to finish them off reall purty its a special drill attachment, with rounded cutters that grind down the stem so that its perfectly flush with the head. From a distance, you can't tell them apart from a factory rivet....but if you look close, you can see the difference plainly.

The original factory rivets are a different thing entirely, and my understanding is that its a 2 man job to install them...one guy on the outside, one on the inside. The guy on the inside has to hold some sort of backer on the tail end of the rivet while the guy on the inside uses a special rivet gun that "squishes" the rivet so that it expands in the hole and holds the panel in place. I'm a little confused by this, as I saw a film clip of a guy at the A/S factory riveting a shell together, and it didin't look like he had any help at all...and was moving really fast with the gun, as if he was putting in screws with a screw gun.

Anyway, I think that to use the originals, they may actually have to remove the inner skin (and anything in the way) to get at things, which could increase the labor cost significantly.

If you need to make a decision about this really soon, and you want to see what a professionally finished olympic rivet looks like, come over to my house and look at my trailer. I can see olympics holding my front window in....must have been out of the trailer at some point.
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Old 08-27-2003, 10:27 AM   #3
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We have a panel that was replaced (very well I might add) sometime during the previous life of our trailer. We actually didn't notice it until we started polishing this spring. It has Olympic rivets that are shaved (with that expensive little tool) and they blend in very well. You do see a small grey circle in the center which is where the stem is pulled through when tightened, but it's not noticable unless you are looking for them.

OTOH we just had some poorly installed (by PO) rivets replaced and new bucked rivets (the kind the factory uses) put in by our front door. They have a solid head and they do have to be accessed from both sides when installed. In this case, since they were near an edge they could be done by one person...but we watched! No extra charge...

The aesthetic difference between the two rivets is:

Olympic style rivets have the three legs like a toggle bolt as Chuck mentioned

Bucked rivets have a solid stem that expands and flattens when squashed making a mushroom shaped extension on the backside.

Pop-rivets are a third kind of commonly used rivets. These are the kind readily available at your local hardware store. They also have a hole in the middle that the stem pulls through but they can't be shaved, the hole will always show.

It takes alot more pressure (air tools) to install a bucked rivet than an Olympic one which can be done with a hand tool. The difference is the Olympic pulls through the head, the bucked rivet is solid and is reshaped when installed.

Strengthwise, for a trailer, I believe Olympic rivets will be fine although if it were an Airplane, only bucked rivets could be used as they are more structurally sound.

I'll try to take some pictures to post this evening to show the difference...but I think the subtleties won't be seen...I'll try.

Shari
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Old 08-27-2003, 10:37 AM   #4
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In reply to Chuck's questions:

The reason why I am pondering this question is because my Airstream is currently at the factory undergoing warranty work. Part of the warranty work was to re-coat a panel with the clear coat because the original clear coat was peeling in strips. The factory is planning on replacing the panel (instead of recoating the original panel) because the areas where the clear coat peeled has turned a different color than the rest of the panel.

The factory offered me the two options: replace the panel from the outside (less work but different riveting process) or replace the panel from the inside (much more work). I'm not paying for this but don't want my whole interior ripped out if the outside-rivet solution is viable. My only criteria is I want it to look good (like it was never repaired) and be just as structurally sound as it was coming off the production line.

I'm not in a hurry to get this done now as the panel replacement won't happen until this winter so I have time to research this further. When I pick up my Airstream this week, I am planning on asking Airstream to show me an example of a outside-repair.

Was your Airstream rivet repair done by the factory?
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Old 08-27-2003, 10:44 AM   #5
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I don't know who did our replacement panel repair...it was before we owned the trailer. The bucked rivets we just got, we had done by an airplane mechanic, now friend.

BTW, they were $5 each...

Shari
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Old 08-27-2003, 12:54 PM   #6
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if jackson center is going to do the repair and gave you the option of which process they use i would go with the way it was made . buck rivits and not worry about any thing else..they will fix it and you wont know the difference.
i wouldnt tell them how to fix it just fix it like a new one ....
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Old 08-27-2003, 03:16 PM   #7
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Unfortunately, the panel that needs to be replaced is the largest panel on the Airstream (along one whole side on the bathroom/kitchen side of the Airstream). The reason I'm on the fence about choosing the factory-rivet option is because 1/2 of the interior needs to be ripped apart to gain access to the panel from the inside. My fear is that something else will break or not be right afterwards. I know I can have it fixed again but it is a long distance between my home and the factory -- 1800 roundtrip X 2 (one trip to bring it out and one trip to collect it).
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Old 08-27-2003, 03:27 PM   #8
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That IS a quandry.......the factory may use something different, but the olympic rivets that I mail-ordered aren't even the same size rivet head as the factory one's. I think it would be noticeable. You'd really have to see it in-person at the factory to make that judgement.
The other thing I'm thinking is that these people put your trailer together...they'll take it apart, and put it together the same way they did it the first time. Its not like a car, that is assembled in a sequence that makes removing many things nearly impossible after its complete. If they still make the A/S's the same way that they used to, everything inside it went in through the door, after the shell was built. so everything can come out the same way...and go back in again.
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Old 08-27-2003, 03:33 PM   #9
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Hey! Speaking of "rivets"...how come you have four rivets and I only have one!!!
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Old 08-27-2003, 03:41 PM   #10
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Rivet decision

Yukionna,
\
We have a 2001 Bambi and the front four curved panels needed to be replaced do to some metallurgy problem that Alcoa identified. I took it to Jackson Center to have the work done. They used the outside method with the different rivet. I can tell you that you would have to be told that these panels were replaced. You cannot see any difference in the finished rivets in size, finish etc. I felt that and so did the technical team that it would be better to leave the rest of the coach alone and keep intact the integrity of the original build. I felt good about it and decided to go that route. It has been a year and no leaks, changes at all. I think jobs like these need to be done at the factory regardless of which way you go. The technician that worked on our Bambi had 42 years at the plant. The least experienced technician had 12 years. What ever way you go, I think you will be pleased with their workmanship.

Bob Caldwell
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Old 08-27-2003, 03:51 PM   #11
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If I would have the choice covered by warranty, I would demand bucked rivet installation. Since I have done extensive panel replacements, I can walk up to any trailer or Mh and see the olympic rivets.
Your trailer being practically brand new, resale value should be considered.
Some dismantling of the interior is required even with the 'exterior' replacement
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Old 08-27-2003, 04:14 PM   #12
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While I was on the factory tour they showed us a trailer that had not even left the factory before it was damaged. Just so happens it is the same panel that yours is. They were repairing it with the panel over method form the out side, they did not remove the damaged panel, just glued the new panel to the old and put in new rivets. When they were done you could not tell that there had been any damage. If I had to have the repair done I'd go that way as the interior is not touched in any way at all.
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Old 08-27-2003, 04:16 PM   #13
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Quote:
Hey! Speaking of "rivets"...how come you have four rivets and I only have one!!!
-because my trailer is bigger than yours???

-because I replaced 4 olympic rivets on my trailer over the weekend?

0r...maybe its just because I've been hanging around here a long time, and I talk too much.

maybe all of the above....
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Old 08-27-2003, 05:00 PM   #14
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Thumbs up I agree...

If it's your call and they'll fix it however you tell them to...go with the bucked rivets! Although the Olympics are "acceptable" the bucked rivets are definately better.

One of the pitfalls of polishing our trailer is it was difficult to get a clear picture of the rivets...the camera would focus on the reflected image...not the rivet!

Here's the best I could do (I know, they're dirty!), hopefully this will help:

Top Row:
Left: Good shaved Olympic Rivet
Right: Bad Olympic Rivet (stem broke off)

Bottom Row, Left to Right:
1) head of bucked (original) rivet
2) back of bucked rivet
3) reflection of bucked rivet
4) pop rivet with Zolotone on it

Shari
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