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Old 10-21-2012, 08:22 PM   #1
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2012 16' International
Jamestown , Rhode Island
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,271
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A quick little project...

It was Sunday one week ago, I had been aware of some strange behavior in the stereo on our Airstream, radio locking up, high current draw, settings changing when just turning the radio off etc. The issues seemed to come and go and although I knew something was amiss I chose to ignore the problem until last weekend.

First thing I decided to do was replace the factory Collins powered subwoofer so I purchased a Kicker 11HSB from Chrutchfield. I know this had nothing to do with the radio’s strange behavior but I just did not like the sound of the Collins. While wiring the new subwoofer/amp I noticed that it turned on immediately when plugged in, “Hmmmm, that is strange” I thought. I began my diagnosis by removing the radio to see if the problem might be in the head unit itself. Nope, amp is still seeing power when the radio is unplugged.... very strange.... hmmmmm. For those in the dark, the subwoofer has two 12 volt power wires, one has always got power as it is tied to the battery directly but the other is only powered when the radio is on. This prevents the amplifier from consuming power when it is not needed. I had now established that the subwoofer control (12 volt switched power from radio) was always hot, even when the radio was unplugged. Clearly the wire was shorted to a power source somewhere in the trailer....

Next I needed to see what circuit was providing the “short” so I proceeded to
pull fuses one at a time to determine the source. When I got to the radio power fuse (in the distribution panel of the converter) I found the culprit, the radio power black wire (always hot by design) somehow was getting into my nice blue with white tracer amp remote wire thus making it always hot too. This explained why the radio was freaking out at times, back feeding the blue with white tracer amp power wire was driving it to distraction....

Next up, exactly where did Airstream hide this harness? I did find the problem! Someone (I have learned that an outside vendor makes the harnesses for Airstream) soldered a junction of wires together and then wrapped the still hot joint into a bundle with tape. The hot wire melted through the insulation of my blue with white tracer, thus the short.

Only problem is that in order to find the short I had to remove the entire bathroom, all overhead light fixtures, A/C unit, tv antenna control, two 4’ by 7’ interior aluminum panels, several hundred rivets.... This is when Dorsey walked out to see what I was doing.....
Girls just don't understand a boys desire to take things apart....

I learned; how the Airstream was assembled, how to pattern cut and replace the aluminum panel I damaged ($700 ouch!), how to run a very nice silicone caulk bead (much nicer job than the factory did, by the way). I bought a new pair of sheet metal electric shears to help cut the new aluminum panel to shape, I learned about Cleco's, found and corrected the short and only had to sleep on the couch for one evening! Dorsey is pretty forgiving but she was annoyed with the mess in the trailer.
All in all, a very successful way to spend a week doing what should have been returned to the dealer for warranty repair. I just can’t help myself, I like to fix things..

Let me add that both Colonial Airstream and Airstream customer support did a wonderful job in providing me access to whatever information I needed to complete the job as did Collin Hyde who answered my questions about templating the new panel from the damaged one.

Would I do it again?
You bet! Next time would be a walk in the park....

One more thing, these trailers are nicely built things. I now have a better understanding of exactly how much work and care goes into assembling one. I had to work slowly and carefully to achieve the same level of fit and finish that Airstream did when they built it. As for my caulk lines being neater, I took an entire day to get it right....

Oh, now the radio behaves properly, I took the opportunity to provide the radio with a real memory power supply that can not be switched off (no more lost radio settings when I hit the battery disconnect switch), the new sub sounds wonderful and I installed a second shower drain and a way to divert the sink drain so that we can now connect grey water to an external tank if we want (our 16’ has a single 23 gallon black/grey tank). Project complete!

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