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Old 04-26-2014, 10:21 PM   #1
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Help- Servicing an A/C unit on an Airstream

I have friend who's a full-timer living near Alamorgordo, who's legally blind so she can't drive her A/S anywhere. Temperatures are rising toward the 90s.

Problem- the A/C unit seems to blow air, but not cold air. Most likely needs servicing for freon. Problem is, nobody seems to do that! She called an RV shop, they brushed her off & told her to call a HVAC shop. HVAC shops told her they don't work on Airstreams. I live multiple states away so it's not feasilble to drive on over to work on this.

Any insight here? Once again, she CAN NOT drive the Airstream anywhere, nor has the ability to get anyone else to do it. I'm trying to help but just don't know Airstreams too well.

Thank you, everyone.
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Old 04-26-2014, 11:59 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Midwest_RVer View Post
I have friend who's a full-timer living near Alamorgordo, who's legally blind so she can't drive her A/S anywhere. Temperatures are rising toward the 90s.

Problem- the A/C unit seems to blow air, but not cold air. Most likely needs servicing for freon. Problem is, nobody seems to do that! She called an RV shop, they brushed her off & told her to call a HVAC shop. HVAC shops told her they don't work on Airstreams. I live multiple states away so it's not feasilble to drive on over to work on this.

Any insight here? Once again, she CAN NOT drive the Airstream anywhere, nor has the ability to get anyone else to do it. I'm trying to help but just don't know Airstreams too well.

Thank you, everyone.
What year is the Airstream, and what make and model AC?

Andy 15.3
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Old 04-27-2014, 05:33 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Midwest_RVer View Post
I have friend who's a full-timer living near Alamorgordo, who's legally blind so she can't drive her A/S anywhere. Temperatures are rising toward the 90s.

Problem- the A/C unit seems to blow air, but not cold air. Most likely needs servicing for freon. Problem is, nobody seems to do that! She called an RV shop, they brushed her off & told her to call a HVAC shop. HVAC shops told her they don't work on Airstreams. I live multiple states away so it's not feasilble to drive on over to work on this.

Any insight here? Once again, she CAN NOT drive the Airstream anywhere, nor has the ability to get anyone else to do it. I'm trying to help but just don't know Airstreams too well.

Thank you, everyone.
Many RV air conditioners lack the necessary valves to add Freon; they're sealed units. It's a major operation to cut the lines, insert valves, pressure test with compressed air, purge the air, and add Freon, all on the roof of a trailer that dents if you step wrong. Not to mention, if the system is still sealed the Freon never goes bad and never runs out; needing Freon means there's a leak in the system somewhere, and that has to be found and fixed as well.

If having air conditioning is that critical, replacing the air conditioner with a new one might just be the fastest solution. And given what I said above, buying a new one may just be cheaper than fixing the old one!
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Old 04-27-2014, 11:12 AM   #4
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She has a 1976 Sovereign Land Yacht 31' with a Center bath & rear twin beds.

I will probably be buying it for her since she's on a drastically fixed income. Also, would she need to take the trailer to an RV shop to install it? How long? This is not really an option.

She has two dogs so that's where some difficulties come in. Could this be something an RV shop could install on her location? It's about 15-mins away. Once again, she's legally blind and has little mobility, funds, and little to no help from anyone else.

Thank you everyone.
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Old 04-27-2014, 12:49 PM   #5
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Could this be something an RV shop could install on her location? It's about 15-mins away.
It can be installed on site. It'll be expensive either way, but seems like the only option. If she's lucky it may be something simple like a blown fuse. An AC tech will need to determine the exact cause of the problem and whether there's a cheaper fix.
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Old 04-27-2014, 12:49 PM   #6
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As Protagonist said, these are sealed systems, freon probably is a lost cause. Could be compressor capacitors...

The situation is difficult, the need is going to require that someone is found to work on the unit on site, or finding someone to pull the trailer to a shop.

Maybe this can get done by hiring a tech for a "side job".

If you explain the situation maybe someone will have compassion and allow one of their techs to do this.

Alamogordo is a funny town, but I am sure there is someone there who will do this job, the issue is finding this someone.
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:05 PM   #7
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Thank you for everyone's timely response. I'm so new around airstreams that I wouldn't know where to begin. If I may ask a few more questions, I will research this further upon your insight.

1. What kind of A/C would work on this 1976 Sovereign? Price? Model?
2. Should it be ordered online or through an RV shop?
3. Installation costs? Time-frame of installation?

I have no idea how much this will cost but want a solved solution for this lady I know. She has a brain tumor & 2 brain aneurysm which has affected her eyesight.
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Old 04-27-2014, 02:16 PM   #8
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I know that SOME earlier Airstreams that used at least some Armstrong units used a unique size hole in the roof which makes replacement with a modern unit more difficult.

I don't know if 76 was one of those years, and if so, if it might have already been swapped out.

I know, more complicated...

Someone here will know when the size of the hole changed though, I imagine someone will chime in.
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Old 04-27-2014, 03:51 PM   #9
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...

I will probably be buying it for her since she's on a drastically fixed income. Also, would she need to take the trailer to an RV shop to install it? How long? This is not really an option.
...
Look for a mobile RV technician that will come to the site and find out what is really wrong. If a replacement is required, then the better mobile RV technicians can do this on site, if the RV park permits such work on site.
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Old 04-27-2014, 05:24 PM   #10
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Most 1976 models used the air conditioner that was riveted or screwed to the roof. Anyone installing a replacement will have to build a frame for the air conditioner to mount to.
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Old 04-28-2014, 06:29 AM   #11
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When my a/c went out in the middle of summer last year, I bought a used window unit for $70. I took out a side window screen and within an hour I had cold air.
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Old 04-28-2014, 12:52 PM   #12
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I replaced the AC on my 75 TW at the Vintage Restoration Rally a few years back. As Terry said, the old unit is riveted to the outer skin which makes this no simple task. Make sure that anyone who takes this job on knows what they are getting into before hand. A frame will need to be fabricated and installed between the outer and inner skins.
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Old 04-28-2014, 09:40 PM   #13
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one very important question to ask is whether the trailer has the original aC unit or not. if the ac has already been replaced once before, then a second swap can go pretty quick. if its the original, then a lot of work may be necessary to remove the old unit and prepare the trailer for the new install. A brand new rv style roof mounted ac will cost around $600, no frills, non-low profile, etc. Installation could cost several hundred dollars depending on the amount of time required.

good luck!
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Old 04-29-2014, 12:38 PM   #14
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I have friend who's a full-timer living near Alamorgordo, who's legally blind so she can't drive her A/S anywhere. Temperatures are rising toward the 90s.

Problem- the A/C unit seems to blow air, but not cold air. Most likely needs servicing for freon. Problem is, nobody seems to do that! She called an RV shop, they brushed her off & told her to call a HVAC shop. HVAC shops told her they don't work on Airstreams. I live multiple states away so it's not feasilble to drive on over to work on this.

Any insight here? Once again, she CAN NOT drive the Airstream anywhere, nor has the ability to get anyone else to do it. I'm trying to help but just don't know Airstreams too well.
Hiya

So the first thing to do is figure out what you've got. Either it's one of the original Armstrong air conditioners that are, well, complicated to replace -- or it's one of the newer style that just fits a standard 14x14 square opening.

If it's a newer one with a 14x14 square opening then the thing to do is call a mobile RV repair technician and have them come out and replace it. If you call campgrounds around the area in question, that cater to seasonal campers, they should be able to give you the name of a good tech.

If it's an older one then it probably makes more sense to get it repaired. I would suggest calling commercial refrigeration contractors or appliance repair shops. Many will not take the job but all you need is 1 who will.
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