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Old 08-01-2011, 08:08 PM   #1
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2012 30' Classic
Bigfork , Montana
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Panel Replacement

Several months ago I reported here on filiform corrosion and how it had tarnished my Airstream. Though expensive I believe my best option may be to replace all affected panels, but before committing have two questions I hope someone can answer.

Replacement will be extensive and Ive heard that when originally built, riveting was performed by technicians working from both the inside and outside -- so that rivet flanges hold from both the inside and outside. Apparently, however, rivets on replacement panels hold from just the outside.

Is my understanding correct, and if so, would my trailer lose overall strength? I may need to replace as many as eight to 10 panels.

I know I could have the trailer completely buffed, but in the future if I ever needed to replace a single panel Id then have to return to the one or two skilled companies and have that singe panel buffed to match the rest of the trailer.

Question two: I live near a large RV dealer who sells Airstreams, among many other brands. Generally, they have a good reputation.

This company says they can make repairs, but would my interests be better served by biting the bullet and making the four-day drive to Jackson and having Airstream make repairs? I want this job done right, and if this is a job that really requires some of the best in the country then I will make the trip.

Ill appreciate any thoughts. Bert Gildart
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Old 08-01-2011, 08:14 PM   #2
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Sounds cheaper to polish it..
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Old 08-01-2011, 08:24 PM   #3
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Bert the short answer is yes it will lose strength. The shell was originally built using solid rivets. They have the bulb head on the outisde with a shaft that is inserted into the hole in the shell. Once installed the part of the shaft inside of the shell is mushroomed or flattened against the interior of the shell.
Replacement panels are installed with Olympic rivets which are essentailly the same as pop rivets. They are inserted from the outside and tyhe shaft is pulled back out to flatten out the rivet. It creates a stem that must be shaved to fill in the space between the shaft and the base.
They weaker and are often a source of leaks as they don't seal as well as solid rivets.

Replacing panels this way is creating more potential problems than it is solving.
Just polish the shell to solve the filiform.
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Old 08-02-2011, 11:55 PM   #4
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Hi, I did read your earlier post about the corrosion problem, and I have often thought about it, so when you posted again, I pounced on the opportunity to post some thoughts.

Maybe you could take it to an aircraft maintenance hangar and ask them to strip the clearcoat and polish it for you. They have access to all the right chemicals and equipment (the Cyclo polisher); or, find someone whose main backyard hobby enterprise is polishing Airstreams, or often thinks about it, like me .

I visited P&S Travel Trailer Service in the other Helena -- Ohio -- a couple of weeks ago. They do a great job of polishing and repairing and repurposing Airstreams. Have you visited Lake Erie lately? Maybe it's time. Actually, it is a good time -- the Chinook will begin their journey through the lakes any day now, beginning in Lake Ontario, and I've even had reports of catches in Lake Michigan. It's also not terribly far from there to Jackson Center, OH, another fun place to visit, and you already mentioned that possibility.

But, I realize I am jumping the gun -- do newer Airstreams have polish-able- to-a-mirror-shine finishes, like the vintage ones do, once the old clearcoat either rots, like mine, or gets removed with serious aviation-grade paint remover, like mine? I don't know!

Replacing panels seems a bit extreme to me, especially considering how you, or someone you hire, really would have to take it down to the ribs, which would entail removing most of the interior fixtures to get the interior skin out, then remove the insulation, and carefully negotiate all the wiring and such, and then get the right kind of permanent rivet work done, and then get everything back in just right -- to have long term integrity of the monocoque construction, and leave you pleased with the job. I love Olympic rivets for small repairs here and there, but whole panels really should, in my opinion, be bucked.

All of the above polishing and panel replacement options seem even more extreme since you don't even have a vintage Airstream

I mean, why don't you take it back to the source, to Jackson Center, and see if they can help you out. Especially since they don't really want to work on vintage Airstreams very much, anyway, and a new one is bread and butter for them. Take your trailer home to the Mother Ship!

But, this is really what has puzzled me all these months: wouldn't you just have to do either option over again later, as all sorts of factors, environmental and electrical and metallurgical and so forth create filiform corrosion on many surfaces made of aluminum, so why would new panels be an exception? Which would be easier to bear? Repeating polishing or repeating panel replacements? What do people with aluminum airplanes do?

If only some panels are filiform afflicted, would that possibly be a good discussion with JC? Here and there, not throughout, right? That would be a problem for me. I'd want to know what sorts of production problems might be going on even earlier upstream.

Good luck. Go, vintage!

Please keep us (me) posted in this thread. I'm very curious about the outcome.

Anne

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bert Gildart View Post
Several months ago I reported here on filiform corrosion and how it had tarnished my Airstream. Though expensive I believe my best option may be to replace all affected panels, but before committing have two questions I hope someone can answer.

Replacement will be extensive and Ive heard that when originally built, riveting was performed by technicians working from both the inside and outside -- so that rivet flanges hold from both the inside and outside. Apparently, however, rivets on replacement panels hold from just the outside.

Is my understanding correct, and if so, would my trailer lose overall strength? I may need to replace as many as eight to 10 panels.

I know I could have the trailer completely buffed, but in the future if I ever needed to replace a single panel Id then have to return to the one or two skilled companies and have that singe panel buffed to match the rest of the trailer.

Question two: I live near a large RV dealer who sells Airstreams, among many other brands. Generally, they have a good reputation.

This company says they can make repairs, but would my interests be better served by biting the bullet and making the four-day drive to Jackson and having Airstream make repairs? I want this job done right, and if this is a job that really requires some of the best in the country then I will make the trip.

Ill appreciate any thoughts. Bert Gildart
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1968 Airstream Trade Wind
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