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Old 03-28-2006, 10:25 PM   #1
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Questionable Airstream Engineering

I have a 1987 29' Sovereign that is going through the replace, repair syndrone on its major operating systems.

I am really unimpressed by Airstream's engineering of the overall coach and fitment of the operating systems. I realize that 1987 was at the end of the Beatrice Foods period but, I suspect they are still doing many of the same things today. Their engineering is about even with GM, Ford, & Chrysler and we all know what is happening to those three. For example ---
(1) The furnace is stuck under the oven and impossible to service anything without removal & hard to remove.
(2) The water heater is near impossible. Under the bathroom cabinet, cabinet front screwed in from the inside, shelf stapled in, sink drain & trap not removeable from shelf, outside skin & inside skin opening not to Attwood dimensions,(heater is installed before coach is finished)
(3) Nearly impossible to change a bypass valve.
(4) Nearly impossible to change a thetford water control valve.
(5) Cheap trailer plastic plumbing.
(6) Kitchen faucet by mystery manufacturer. (manual says Moen or Delta, plumber says not)
(7) Plastic end caps split due to being restrained during cold weather.

I was told by one of Camping World's mechanics that they hate to see an airstream come in because they always shoehorn systems in to the point where they can't be worked on. I would suspect that has a lot to do with their charges to service a coach.

I was replacing the water heater today. You couldn't afford to pay me to do yours.

I am looking forward to fixing the fresh water tank leak.
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Old 03-28-2006, 10:33 PM   #2
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Beatrice sold Airstream to Thor in 1979. Your trailer is the eighth year of Thor ownership.

Bill
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Old 03-28-2006, 10:34 PM   #3
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I agree.

I see it as an opportunity to gut mine and redo everything to my own standards.

I couldn't afford to pay you to do mine. On the other hand, if Airstream built them to my standards, no-one could afford to buy one. Fortunately my labor is cheap.
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Old 03-28-2006, 11:13 PM   #4
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Wingfoot 321--I have replaced most all of the items you mention, on my 1973 27' Overlander and, as with you, find the Airstream most difficult to work on. Seems next to impossible to find any room to get at anything that needs to be unbolted, unscrewed, uncoupled, or just plain pulled out. We do however find our Airstream easy to live in. Everything seems to be in just the right place for people in a confined place; a design well thought out over time. When I start a repair project, I know it's going to be all the things you mentioned, so I allow plenty of time, figure it will take 3-times longer than I thought, and think about all the fun we've had on Airstream trips. By the way, all 3 of my faucets are Moen. Hang in there, you'll make it.--Frank S
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Old 03-29-2006, 04:11 AM   #5
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Airstreams are no better no worse than most of the other units out there. Besides show me any other trailer that can last 30 years with minimal maintenance or in many cases total abuse and still be fairly usable. I made a small fortune back in the late 70's rebuilding rear baths on Wilderness trailers, you could not get to the toilet to remove it to rebuild the entire rear wall that rotted out. Airstream uses the same components as the other TT manufacturers, and I agree a lot of the stuff is junk. I look at, inspect, and research RV's on a constant basis...hobby of mine IMHO the best built RV on the market in what I would call a "reasonable" price point is the Heartland Bighorn/Landmark fith wheels. They have done their homework! Airstream could do better but they are owned by Thor and profit driven, bottom line is king! I love my Airstream with all it's faults and yes I have cussed the engineers and designers for some of the stupid stuff they have done. But my trailer is 31 years old this month and has not had the best of care. But is still in servicable shape, and repairable.

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Old 03-29-2006, 05:11 AM   #6
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The best solution for many of these issues is my slim lightweight wife. In the past she has been able to reach broken drain fittings, thread wires and gain access to places my large hands and frame could never reach. In the future I may have a problem...........
We were replacing the rusted out water heater. After it was installed I needed to fit insulation all round it. Access to the rear of the heater is almost possible via a rear locker. With much contortioning, my wife was able to get completely into the locker, legs and all, so that I could close the flap on her if I so desired. I then passed pieces of cut foam insulation to her suggested measurements, and the job was going according to plan, albeit she was very cramped and uncomfortable. Until.................. she saw the scorpion, inches from her nose!
Nick.
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Old 03-29-2006, 05:38 AM   #7
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Old 03-29-2006, 05:54 AM   #8
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Questionable Airstream Engineering

As I recall the original post war work crew was laid off aviation production people(built fighters/bombers). You all seem unhappy about the lack of room on these units, but to any one that has had anything to do with NAVAL Carrier Aircraft, the room to work in these airstreams isn't too bad. At least you can almost see what you are supposed to be working on.
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Old 03-29-2006, 06:52 AM   #9
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I just had to chime in on this one......

It has been my observation that almost NO ONE engineers an RV from a service perspective. Engineers (and I have a Masters in Engineering) design these units and fit components in where ever they can after the 'designers' create what they feel is the most pleasing, marketable floor plan.

I've seen things that would have taken 20 minutes to repair/replace instead of 3 hours if someone had given it a little thought or had actually had to DO a repair first before designing the unit.

There lies the crux of the problem!! The folks who design these rarely if ever even use one, forget about actually having worked on one. RV's and cramped spaces, crammed in components and stupid design are just part of the business. That's why it's so great to see folks designing and outfitting their toasters in they way they see best!
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Old 03-29-2006, 08:30 AM   #10
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Maybe its just me

I too, have seen many of the problems you mention. But I just assumed it was the nature of the beast for the most part. This is our first RV of any kind so I just naturally assumed that when you try to shoehorn a home into roughly 200 square feet, things get tight.

I suppose I just look at things a bit differently. For example, the five Fords in my driveway have a combined total of just under 650,000 miles on them and an average age of almost 8 years. They have served my family well and I expect the 33 year old Airstream will too, once I've finished rebuilding it.

Just my 2 cents.

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Old 03-29-2006, 08:35 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beginner
As I recall the original post war work crew was laid off aviation production people(built fighters/bombers). You all seem unhappy about the lack of room on these units, but to any one that has had anything to do with NAVAL Carrier Aircraft, the room to work in these airstreams isn't too bad. At least you can almost see what you are supposed to be working on.
Beginner
all airplanes are like that, and for the same reason we have the problem w/ these trailers: the exterior shape is the "prime directive". Its all about the shape; if it wasn't shaped that way, it wouldn't fly...or it wouldn't be an "airstream" trailer.
My FIL talks about his time in the service as an aircraft mechanic...he was the lucky guy that got to do many of these maintenance items that no one else could do, because he was the skinniest one in the group.
same problem exists today on all airplanes, from small general aviation craft to big commercial birds...systems and components are stuffed in where they can be stuffed; future access is a secondary consideration.
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Old 03-29-2006, 08:36 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim & Susan
I too, have seen many of the problems you mention. But I just assumed it was the nature of the beast for the most part. This is our first RV of any kind so I just naturally assumed that when you try to shoehorn a home into roughly 200 square feet, things get tight....
I have to agree with Jim, doesn't make working on the dabblame thing any easier though.
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Old 03-29-2006, 08:56 AM   #13
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I have tried to get Camping World to work on my 78 Argosy on several occasions. They were always going to charge me EXTRA because it was an Airstream. For a new AC unit they wanted $750.00 to fabraicate a new pan because it was an old Airstream. I found an RV place that sold me a Carrier that didn't need the "pan" and installed it all for less than Camping World wanted for their "pan". Camping World does not sell Carrier. I know there isn't much room in these units, but when you have something that last and works for 30+ years, maybe that's not the important thing.
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Old 03-29-2006, 09:25 AM   #14
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Airstream is just about the same as everything else in the world. The guys who design and engineer our products don't have to think about fixing them. I owned a Kenskill travel trailer in the '60's, and I know it was built to be used a short time and passed on, but little thought was given to maintenance. I appreciate the frustration of replacing a 30 year-old item, but think about someone 30 years from now who tries to fix one of these new automobiles!
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