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Old 03-21-2017, 03:26 PM   #1
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1975 31' Sovereign
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Replacing exterior end cap panels

I'm having quite a bit of trouble finding "how to's" on replacing exterior end caps. I know replacement parts are available but HOW is the best way to go about this, if I end up ordering the parts and attempting to tackle this myself.
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This is what I'm working with
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Old 03-21-2017, 03:41 PM   #2
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Their is an individual on Ebay that has a 71 Safari that lives in Ohio that is selling parts off of their Airstream, I sent him a message to sell the panels and not cut them up, you might try him.
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Old 03-21-2017, 04:03 PM   #3
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Thanks, It's worth a shot for me to message him and see what he will do. My main concern right now is the how- will I even be able to tackle this? Is it too big of a job for someone like me? I have no concept of judging something like this. Is it only a matter of removing rivets, drilling new holes, reriveting and maybe some tempro? Heck if I know!
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Old 03-21-2017, 04:18 PM   #4
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There are two ways of making the repair:

Option #1--From the outside only:
1) Drill out the rivets from the outside
2) Use a putty knife or oscillating tool to cut through the 30 year old sealant that is on the inside/in between the segments.
3) Remove the damaged segment
4) Install new segment, gooping up the overlaps with trempro, noting that getting the segment into position from the outside only is going to be a CHALLENGE.
5) Drill matching holes in the new segment, and drop in Cleco fasteners to keep it in place.
6) Fasten in place using Olympic rivets.
7) Shave the heads of the Olypmic rivets to make them look like a solid rivet head.

Option 2, having access to both sides of the shell
1) Remove all furnishings, interior skins, and insulation from the damaged area--this may require substantial disassembly, as the ABS interior end cap will have to come down
2)Follow steps 2-4 above with the exception that with access to the inside and outside of the shell, it will me but easier to get the new segments in place properly.
3) Drill matching holes in the new segment, and drop in Cleco fasteners to keep it in place.
4) Fasten the segment in place using solid "bucked" rivets.
5) Goop up the inside of the seam and rivet heads with vulkem.
6) Repair or replace the damaged interior skins/end-cap.

This isn't rocket science, but similarly, it is a big job, and not really for the faint of heart. With the level of damage shown in the picture, I would suggest using the second, "bucked" rivet option above, as there is bound to be so much damage to the interior that you are going to end up disassembling it anyway. There is equipment needed for buck riveting, ie., a pneumatic rivet gun, air compressor, clecos, rivets, and bucking bars. Similarly for Olympic rivets, you will want a pneumatic blind rivet gun, and the olympic rivet shaver is a high dollar piece of hardware, that you can sometimes rent or borrow.

good luck!
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Old 03-21-2017, 07:08 PM   #5
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Having access to the inside isn't really an issue as it was already gutted and the interior end cap has been pushed down anyway, I think I may try to go for option #2 when I can find a week that doesn't have rain in the forecast. I appreciate the input.
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Old 03-22-2017, 11:42 AM   #6
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If it is already gutted, then Option #2 is definitely the way you want to go. Two other points of caution:

You can buy replacement formed segments directly from dealerships like outofdoorsmart.com and Inland RV. The shipping cost is ridiculous, so it makes sense to order all the segments you need in one go, so they can stick them all in one box. Unless you get some kind of new-old-stock parts, the new version of these segments are made of some other aluminum alloy than your originals are. The new alloy is softer and less dent resistant, and may not have the same appearance in terms of shine/patina. The new parts come without rivet holes so that you can drill your own and get them to match.

If you buy used parts from a similar year, you will probably get the same alloy (there was some experimentation with different alloys in the mid 70's). The problem here is that the used parts will already have rivet holes, and these aren't likely to match your existing holes. This isn't a big deal unless they are close, but not quite a match, in which case you may end up with new holes and old holes close enough together that there isn't much metal for the rivet to grab.

Another option that might save you some cost would be to remove your damaged segments and take them to someone who knows a little bit about using an English Wheel. It might be possible to massage the deformation out of your segments well enough, and then you can just rivet them back in place using the existing holes. This could solve your rivet hole issue described above as well as the mismatching alloy issue.

Good luck!
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Old 03-22-2017, 01:11 PM   #7
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Do you have sheet metal experience? You may want to consult a Airstream repair near you. There are many Airstream refurbishing shops across the nation one maybe near you. Airstream can send you new end caps which is where in got mine. The problem will be the tooling and experience in sheet metal repair. It only take one mistake with a rivet gun to ruin everything.
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Old 03-22-2017, 03:23 PM   #8
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Oh poo that's intimidating, definitely no sheet metal experience here.
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Old 03-22-2017, 04:49 PM   #9
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I would not attempt this without a helper
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Old 03-22-2017, 05:13 PM   #10
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Take a look at this thread, repaired the skins, damage a bit more that what you had, since PO tried to fix it with a hammer. Also I have some metal working experience and still had a few surprises.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f381...el-155270.html

Good idea to keep the Airstream under a cover to protect the skins, keep the sun off, and keep it dry.
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Old 03-23-2017, 10:21 AM   #11
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If you really want to do the work it will take a little practice. We would have scraps of aluminum to practice riveting together back in school. Drilling rivets, bucking rivets just takes practice. I'm old school aircraft mechanic and believe solid rivets are the best correct option. Plus there are other things when they riveted the Airstreams together I believe they should have done. The lack of Sealant applied between the panels before riveting is big one for me. You may check locally for aircraft sheetmetal mechanics at airports near you wanting to earn extra money.
Google airstream refurbishing, restoration in your area. Olympic rivets are good for a small repair but this job calls for solid rivets and two people. Please keep us posted.
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