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Old 04-16-2005, 01:32 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Rivets

Now I'm really going to show what a novice I am. We've done lots of projects with wood, but our AS is our first venture into metal repair. Have NEVER worked with rivets. We have small repairs to reflectors, marker lights & trim pieces. Questions:
1. I've read folks talking about grinding off the head of a rivet. What about the rest of it? How do you get it out of the body?
2. Or do you grind them out?
3. What kind of rivet tool do you use to put in replacement rivets? I've seen ads in Harbor Freight for a pop rivet tool. Will that work?
4. What size rivet do we use?
5. It's also been suggested locally that we use screws instead???

Thanks for any help you can give.
Gale
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Old 04-16-2005, 04:58 PM   #2
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This is one of the best rivet threads here on the forum...should clear up a lot of your questions!

Olympic rivet removal and installation


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Old 04-17-2005, 06:20 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by windyg
1. I've read folks talking about grinding off the head of a rivet. What about the rest of it? How do you get it out of the body?
2. Or do you grind them out?
3. What kind of rivet tool do you use to put in replacement rivets? I've seen ads in Harbor Freight for a pop rivet tool. Will that work?
4. What size rivet do we use?
5. It's also been suggested locally that we use screws instead???

Thanks for any help you can give.
Gale
The rivets that hold, say the molding in place, you should drill out wit a 1/8" drill, Just (carefully) drill out the center. (hold the bit as short as you can). What remains of the body of the rivet is not a concern.

You can get a POP Rivet gun at any good Hardware store.

You should try to replace the rivet with the same size as you remove. This will help re-align things back to where it was. I got my Aluminum rivets at a local Automotive place (like Napa)

You should refrain from using screws where rivets once were. There is very little material for the threads to grab and this would allow the screw to back out or distort the hole.

Hope this helps?
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Old 04-17-2005, 08:26 AM   #4
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Gale,

I think the folks who were talking about grinding rivet heads were actually installing them. One the exterior, the rivets have nice dome-shaped surfaces, kind of like aluminum buttons. Those are factory rivets, which are installed with a tool that shapes the heads from the inside and outside. But that means you have to have two people with complete access to both the inside and outside of the trailer. Unfortunately, with an assembled trailer, the inside skin prevents that from happening.

So, for repairs, there's a kind of rivet that can be installed from the outside that will look like a factory rivet--an olympic rivet. These are special rivets that have to be purchased from specialty rivet suppliers (airstream repair shops or places like airstream dreams, that cater to folks making repairs). Unlike regular hardware store rivets ("pop" rivets), there is one catch. When you use the tool to install the rivet, the wire that holds the rivet in place snaps off unevenly. So, instead of a nice, round button, you have a button with a bit of jagged metal sticking out.

There's a grinder that attached to a power drill that can remove this and make the olympic rivet look just like the smooth factory rivets. However, this tool is very, very expensive (more than $200!). So, folks use things like dremel tools to grind the heads smooth.

What balgrn says is pretty much on target. It's pretty easy to do, but be sure it's a rivet you really want to remove (with all the consequences) before randomly removing them.

I tend to start with a smaller bit, then move up in bit size. The smaller the bit I use, I figure, the less likely that I'll expand the hole. However, I have expanded holes and haven't had too much problem refitting new rivets. The neck just sort of expands to fill in the difference.

That harbor freight tool is probably fine. Rivet tools are pretty common (I got mine at Home Depot for about $12, iirc). They look like a wierd longhandled set of pliers with no nippers at the end. If you get serious with using them, you can always move up to a gun powered by an air compressor ($$$). For most of us, though, the hand cranked kind works just fine.

Mary
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Old 04-17-2005, 09:01 AM   #5
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The folks who are grinding rivets are grinding the heads off, then taking a hole punch and punching the rest of the rivet through the hole. Not that best method as its hard to control the grinder - this might work on a roof vent where you are replacing the vent anyway. And they are talking about exterior rivets - you can't (unless you want to destroy everything) grind the interior rivets. The best way to remove any rivet is to drill them out as carefuly as possible to avoid making the hole bigger. If you replacing outside rivets, you probably need to go from a 1/8" rivet to a 5/16" rivet - still best to drill out with a 1/8" bit, then enlarge to the 5/16"

Also when drilling exterior rivets, it is best to not drill all the way through - drill into the head, then take a punch and punch the rivet out.

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Old 04-17-2005, 11:07 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken J
If you replacing outside rivets, you probably need to go from a 1/8" rivet to a 5/16" rivet - still best to drill out with a 1/8" bit, then enlarge to the 5/16"

Ken J.
Did you mean 5/32?
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Old 04-17-2005, 01:41 PM   #7
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Isn't that what I said? Yes 5/32 - thats what happens when I do things from memory.......


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Old 04-17-2005, 04:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by windyg
.....I've read folks talking about grinding off the head of a rivet. What about the rest of it? How do you get it out of the body?
2. Or do you grind them out?
I might have confused the issue....on the '78 Sovereign there were some HUGE steel rivets and Cherry Max rivets (steel mandrels) holding up various sections of the belly pan.....these would NOT drill (I tried).

...there were also some steel screws holding up the belly pan - the steel screws had degraded (rusted) so badly there was no hope of removing them conventionally - so I ended grinding most of the belly pan fasteners off. On all of the areas that could be “seen” the rivet heads were drilled, if necessary the heads were removed with a heavy duty putty knife, and the body punched out.
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Old 04-19-2005, 05:54 PM   #9
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Thanks for all replies. Besides learning about rivets, I've discovered that there are previous threads that I'd failed to research. You can spend DAYS reading. This is terrific. My husband was going to take a trip in to town (30 miles one-way) to research rivets. I told him that I could find better answers faster from you folks. Thanks for proving me right.
Gale
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Old 06-30-2005, 12:59 AM   #10
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i just bought 2500 rivets for $2.63 on ebay.... they are the same as i just returned to airstreamdream.he charged me $28 plus 6 bucks shipping.i sent them back weeks ago and never got a refund.....i guess they were lost in the mail.......i have 6 windows to replace and 2 segments............the best way is to get a rivet removing tool or use a piece of i/4 inch copper tube and put it over your drill bit,the tube will fit over the rivet top to prevent slipage.i use the rivet tool just to start the hole and finish it off with a bit. the tool gets too clogged up with rivet waste....
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Old 09-22-2005, 07:40 AM   #11
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Here is another question for the experts. Can you use aluminum rivets when you are fastening steel together like when working on a belly pan after valve repair?
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Old 09-22-2005, 08:38 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gene Wissink
Here is another question for the experts. Can you use aluminum rivets when you are fastening steel together like when working on a belly pan after valve repair?
I use aluminum rivets for just about everything on an AS. For the belly pan I used a large head rivet...it helps to keep the slightly corroded pan in place for the time being, also I can never seem to get the pan off with out making the hole in the aluminum bigger

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Old 09-22-2005, 01:18 PM   #13
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This stuff is maybe 20 gauge galvanized sheet metal, I had a hard time cutting the hole with avaition snips. I was wondering if there would be a reaction between the to metals.
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Old 09-22-2005, 03:56 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gene Wissink
This stuff is maybe 20 gauge galvanized sheet metal, I had a hard time cutting the hole with avaition snips. I was wondering if there would be a reaction between the to metals.
Okay Gene now I see (said the blind man) You were actually playing with the box that goes under the tanks. I would use Stainless Steel poprivets on that. I am not a big fan of the plain steel ones. Another possibility could be to use SS screws too. I have been replacing all of the rusted screws on the exterior of my unit with SS as I find them, places like the plumbing vent covers, porchlight, etc. and if you think you might need to get back into that area again screws are defintely the way to go.

Aaron
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