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Old 07-15-2019, 06:59 PM   #1
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1985 29' Sovereign
Knox , Tennessee
Join Date: Jul 2019
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Question 1985 29' Sovereign New Airstream owner and not sure where to even start!?! help

We just bought our first Airstream 1985 29' Sovereign. I am attempting to get it cross county travel ready in the next 6 weeks - pulling it 6000+ mile from east to west and back again. I am looking for advice on what I should be looking at to get fixed asap.



The airstream seems in ok condition though there is a few water leaks around some of the windows which looks like is do to poor or old caulking. I am getting some trempro 635 and plan to real seal the seams.

I am getting the 30lb propane tank re-certified and then will be turning on the gas to check the central heat system, range stove and hot water heater.



Next I plan to start checking the bathroom shower and toilet. The shower looks like it needs to be re caulked but I have no idea what I am about to get into with the toilet/black water system. I am going to see what is does and then go from there. There is a little switch that lights up red neat the bathroom outlet that I do not know what it does.


I found most of the outlets in the rear of camper do not have a working ground - I am going to pull the covers off and see if there is even a ground wire connected - I assume I can run a wire from the wall frames to ground the system but I am not sure if campers are grounded that way.


Next Ill be pulling the wheels off and then pulling the bearing and replacing them and Ill be looking at the breaks to see if I need to replace them also. Anyone have any info on what bearing I should be buying? I cant find in the air stream book any info on what part numbers I should get. I know I can pull them and take them into auto store and they can help me match them but it would be nice to get them order off line from a quality vendor.



I plan to replace the lights with LEDs and I am installing two sealed golf cart batteries to be able to boondock for a few days. The converter (AC to DC) box up front feels like it gets very hot and it looks like the orignal converter - I am thinking about upgrading that to a modern converter to make sure it properly charges the expensive golf cart batteries and not catch the air stream on fire.



Any advice would be helpful. I have searched the forum for some of this info but am having a difficult time trying to understand if what I am reading about is relative to the 1985 model that I have.
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Old 07-15-2019, 07:27 PM   #2
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1986 31' Sovereign
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The switch with the red light is the on/off for the water heater. You switch it on, it goes red, when it lights off, the light goes out. You should hear the igniter ticking away until the light goes out.

If you call out of doors mart or Inland RV, they will tell you what bearings you need and will cheerfully take your money. You will need some 4 new grease seals as well... If you need brakes, just buy the whole back plate assembly -- 4 bolts,mtwo wire nuts and you are in business...

The original converter does get hot and it is noisy. Not a particularly good unit and will overcharge your batteries if left connected. Look up Best Converters and Randy will hook you up with a multi-stage converter for less money than you think.

When you fire up the reefer, be aware that it takes hours to cool down so don't assume it is dead until proven.
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:01 PM   #3
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1985 29' Sovereign
Knox , Tennessee
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Thanks - I was just looking a the water heater. It looks like it has an electric heater element also - how do you turn that on/off? and make sure the gas heat and electric heat are not both on?


Also I looked up both Inland RV for bearings and Best Converters and it looks like they will have what I need.



One thing I cant figure out - the chassis and frame area made out of steel? I see rust holes in the wheel wells and and on the frame. I thought most everything was Aluminum on an airstream?
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:41 PM   #4
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1985 29' Sovereign
Knox , Tennessee
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What about the propane/gas detection system - could that still be good after 34 year or do I need to look at a replacement? I plan on installing a battery power CO2 detector and replacing the smoke alarm.
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Old 07-16-2019, 07:39 PM   #5
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Hello from Colorado: We have an 86 Limited, similar to your 85 Sovereign. These old trailers generally have lots of needs. Mine has been renovated and is travel ready, but most need work. It sounds like yours needs work.

You need to do a thorough assessment of your new Sovereign. Below is a link to the Airstream inspection check list. Methodically go down the list and inspect everything. Keep a list of all you find amiss. Then get to work.

The part numbers are generally stamped into the bearings. Bearings are built to a common spec no matter the manufacturer. I bought my bearings at the local car parts store. You also may have a trailer shop in town than can help you also. Bring the grease seals too.

You can inspect the brakes and do what is needed there while you have it apart to pack the new bearings.

Rust holes in a frame member is concerning. The frame is steel. The floor is plywood, and the body is aluminum. All three major parts need to be sound for the trailer to have max strength.

There is a lot to learn. Just take it one step at a time. Rain water leaks are very common in Airstreams and can do significant damage to the plywood subfloor.

David
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:35 PM   #6
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Fort Collins , Colorado
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While the wheels are off check tire dates; should be less than 6 (maybe less than 5) years old. If the axles haven’t been replaced, they’re probably due. You can tow it with old petrified axles, but it will be a rough ride and probably pop some rivets and shake up/loosen other stuff.

You don’t say what you’ll be towing with. Lots of opinions on weight distribution/sway control hitches, and there are a lot of good ones out there — Blue Ox and Reese come to mind. Good axle and tongue weights needed to get the right hitch. We like our prodigy brake controller. And look at ratings for tow mirrors if your TV just has the standard mirrors.

Good luck with all!
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Old 07-19-2019, 06:50 PM   #7
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1985 29' Sovereign
Knox , Tennessee
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Thanks for all the replies. Tires look like they are 10 yrs old and I am getting new ones - looks like Good Year Endurance for $130... The current tires say 7.00-15 on them which I am having a hard time converting over but I think I am getting 225/75 on 15 rim. I am going to discount tire tomorrow and let them match it up to ensure I am getting right size. I also am picking up a spare from them and I think I am going to make my own under frame mount.

Got the bearings off and they are all different manufactures but I should be able to get them matched easily enough. Anyone use buddy bearings? I like to grease my wheels after a few thousand miles without taking everything apart. I see that these have center wheel caps that cant come off until you get the wheel off so I might look at leaving them off.

I am also going to replace the converter with a 4 stage converter for my AMG golf cart batteries.

Got the aluminum 30lb propane tanks inspected with no problem.

Oh and I am replacing all the break assemblies. Most are almost all the way worn on the back side. And it look like the shocks have seen better days so I am seeing if I can go ahead and replace them.

In the wheel well I see some rust holes that I am going to caulk up and then spray paint everything in there.

Ill post back what converter and tires I get and anything else I do just in case anyone is interested.
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Old 07-19-2019, 08:49 PM   #8
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Bearing Buddies are a no-no on axles with brakes. It's too easy to force grease through the seals and then onto the braking surfaces. See if you can get the self-adjusting brake backing plates. They are a few $$$ more but it eliminates having to often adjust the shoes by crawling around under the trailer. But - as Dan and Liz said - you will likely need new axles. If so buy them with the self adjusting type already in place. Remove the old sealant on seams and windows as much as you can. A heat gun can help. A paint stir stick sharpened or plastic putty knife will also be useful. The Trempro is a good product for sealing the areas you mentioned. I used masking tape to keep the seams neat and orderly. Wear vinyl gloves but be prepared to get sealant all over yourself. Have plenty of shop towels, etc. on hand - as well as - mineral spirits to do a clean up. It's a lot of work - but you will be glad you did it !!!!


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Old 07-21-2019, 07:50 PM   #9
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1999 28' Excella
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Not to drag this discussion into the weeds, but how do you know of the axles need to be replaced? I have a '91 Excella and have only replaced brakes and bearings.
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Old 07-21-2019, 08:19 PM   #10
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1985 29' Sovereign New Airstream owner and not sure where to even start!?! help

Measure the height from center of the hubcap to the edge of the wheel well. Jack the trailer frame on the jack points and measure the drop. If the wheel moves down less than 2-3 inches the axle rubber has hardened and gone bad. Not repairable, time to replace.
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Old 07-21-2019, 08:19 PM   #11
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1972 31' Sovereign
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Originally Posted by Kmvd View Post
Not to drag this discussion into the weeds, but how do you know of the axles need to be replaced? I have a '91 Excella and have only replaced brakes and bearings.


Have you pulled it a lot?

The "springs" on these axles are rubber rods forced into the housing when the axles are manufactured.

They get hard, then crumble, then the suspension collapses. At that point your trailer has no springs and the ride is tough on the trailer.

I put off new axles for a while and the rear of my trailer dropped, (i.e. it bent down behind the axles). I had to repair that when I installed new axles several years ago.

Yours might still be ok on a 91, but the chances are less for them being good on a 85.
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Old 07-21-2019, 08:42 PM   #12
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1972 31' Sovereign
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Muddenjeff View Post
We just bought our first Airstream 1985 29' Sovereign. I am attempting to get it cross county travel ready in the next 6 weeks - pulling it 6000+ mile from east to west and back again. I am looking for advice on what I should be looking at to get fixed asap.



The airstream seems in ok condition though there is a few water leaks around some of the windows which looks like is do to poor or old caulking. I am getting some trempro 635 and plan to real seal the seams.

I am getting the 30lb propane tank re-certified and then will be turning on the gas to check the central heat system, range stove and hot water heater.



Next I plan to start checking the bathroom shower and toilet. The shower looks like it needs to be re caulked but I have no idea what I am about to get into with the toilet/black water system. I am going to see what is does and then go from there. There is a little switch that lights up red neat the bathroom outlet that I do not know what it does.


I found most of the outlets in the rear of camper do not have a working ground - I am going to pull the covers off and see if there is even a ground wire connected - I assume I can run a wire from the wall frames to ground the system but I am not sure if campers are grounded that way.


Next Ill be pulling the wheels off and then pulling the bearing and replacing them and Ill be looking at the breaks to see if I need to replace them also. Anyone have any info on what bearing I should be buying? I cant find in the air stream book any info on what part numbers I should get. I know I can pull them and take them into auto store and they can help me match them but it would be nice to get them order off line from a quality vendor.



I plan to replace the lights with LEDs and I am installing two sealed golf cart batteries to be able to boondock for a few days. The converter (AC to DC) box up front feels like it gets very hot and it looks like the orignal converter - I am thinking about upgrading that to a modern converter to make sure it properly charges the expensive golf cart batteries and not catch the air stream on fire.



Any advice would be helpful. I have searched the forum for some of this info but am having a difficult time trying to understand if what I am reading about is relative to the 1985 model that I have.


If your pipes hold water you're ahead of the averages.

The first thing I would do is to check all plumbing for leaks...... that will go a long way in determining what you are going to need to take apart to get things working.

Then I'd check propane and electrical.. If you end up needing to do a lot of work inside, you'll want to make the air conditioner a priority.

You need to make a list of what works and what doesn't, then the forum can be of more help for you.

I have redone a 72, and patched up a 75, I spent a lot of time and money on the 72, not much on the 75.

There is a wide range of possibilities, yours might take a lot and it might take a little.... but, my experience with my 75 says you can get out fast and for fairly cheap if you try. (I turned the 75 in 14 days for about $1,500 including all new freshwater plumbing and a new hot water heater.
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Old 08-08-2019, 06:25 PM   #13
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1985 29' Sovereign
Knox , Tennessee
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UPDATE Aug 8 2019

Help - water leak with the fresh water holding tank. Is the tank "mounted" to the underside or it the tank supported and kept in place with the metal shroud? I want to take the shroud off and see if I can find the leak.

I cant tell yet where it is coming from but it is not the drain valve, it is somewhere else. I can see water down in the pan that covers the tank and it only leaks when there is water in the fresh water tank. I am concerned now the tank may have been damaged from an impact, freezing or dry rot BUT there is no visible damage to the protective shroud, no other evidence of dry rot on the rest of camper and so far everything has been adequately freeze protected.



First off I measured the the airstream and it turns out we have a 25' not a 29' which is actually better for my situation. I have put new tires, bearing and breaks on - the axles still have some life from what I can tell by looking at the arm position angles with and without weight. We took it on a 300 mile round trip on a test run and that went well other than my 2017 Expedition EL with the 3.5 Eco boost getting between 9-10mpg but it pulled well and we have a old weight distribution hitch that is working well. I also replaced the old converter with a new one - a Progressive Dynamics PD9260CV Inteli-Power 9200 Series Converter/Charger with Charge Wizard - 60 Amp and that seems to be much more quite and less heat - and we installed the the 2 6 volt amg batteries up front.

I have also temperately ratcheted strapped the spare tire down between the propane tanks and the front of the camper since I cant come up with a better spot yet.
One last thing - I think i want to replace the toilet since its pretty cheap ($120) and I have to pull the old toilet to replace seals anyways... and advice? looks simple enough and I have done many toilets in houses.
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Old 08-10-2019, 06:47 PM   #14
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We had a fresh water tank leak in the wife's 86 Limited 34'. At least so it seemed as there was water dripping from the tank pan. My trailer did not leak water with nothing pressurized except water in the tank. It did not leak with the pump on. It did leak with city water connected. There is a check valve in the pump outlet circuit to prevent backflow from the city water line.

Turns out the leak was from a broken plastic elbow in the polybutylene plumbing under the subfloor. It was impossible to repair under there, so I had to drop the fresh water tank.

The tank is indeed held up by the pan. It is also held in place a bit by the fresh water fill hose. I could drop my tank without removing the axles.

The tank has "spin welds" for the plastic fittings for the drain tube, the the pump suction tube. These plastic threads can work loose and start leaking in themselves. A potential leak source. My trailer had an inspection plate covering an access hole so you can see and repair the plastic threads into the tank. I used a goodly amount of pipe dope when reassembling the tank.

It would be highly unusual if the plastic tank was cracked. It is made from polyurethane and quite durable. It is possible someone before you was drilling holes under there to rehang a propane line or something and accidentally drilled a hole in the tank. It has happened.

Here is a photo of the freshwater tank and pan out of my trailer. And a photo of the grey plastic tubing they plumbed my trailer with. I have upgraded to PEX throughout the trailer. Lots of fun.

David
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