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Old 08-07-2014, 01:30 AM   #1
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1969 31' Sovereign
Everett , Washington
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Smile Where do I begin?

Hi everyone. We've just bought our first Airstream and this is my first post. I'll try to upload pictures if that would be helpful, but I'm about as tech-savvy as I am Airstream savvy (next to nothing), so that may not happen right away.
We bought a 31ft 69 Sovereign (rear bath/center twin beds) and don't have a clue of where to begin with inspections to determine what work needs to be done, or how to do it. Well, I guess we do have the first clue - which is getting on air forums. The last owner had started a renovation on it and then had to move and abandon the project. I'm wondering if he got a little gung-ho with wanting to make it look cool inside without first doing the nitty gritty…?
Here's my questions/areas of concern:
Electrical: the lights work inside except for the center of the 3 lights on the ceiling. He had also installed a new stainless fridge/freezer, but had an extension cord running to it from a different outlet because of issues with the fridge outlet shorting out and he didn't want to blow the fridge. And the external lights (blinkers etc.) aren't working and need replacement of the plastic reflector parts too. (Forgive my lack of knowledge of terminology etc.) He had temporary tow lights in the back window for towing it home.
Plumbing: He never used any of the plumbing (kitchen or bathroom) so he didn't know if it worked or anything about it. There is a new kitchen sink in place but I don't think he ever actually hooked it up and ran water through it. The bathroom is all the original and looks to be in pretty decent shape, but I have no idea how to check it to know if anything works or leaks? I have zero experience with anything rv related, let alone airstream.
The kitchen is pretty much what he had focused on (he installed a new counter, recessed overhead lighting, sink, stove, wine cooler, and fridge). And he gutted and painted the front room and put in laminate flooring from the front, back to the bathroom door.
I read that you can poke around the edges of the floor to check for rot, and there don't seem to be any signs of that in the bathroom where the floor has been stripped to the wood. The bathroom floor looks ugly but maybe ugly is fine and not a sign of past leaks? (we did determine in the last rainstorm we had that 3 of the windows do leak a bit).
Frame: The front and rear portions of the trailer (bumper and tow hitch areas) have significant surface rust but they seem solid and aren't flaky or soft. I did the stand on the bumper test (had my heavier than myself brother do it), and there was no movement or shifting that I could see. The tow part (sorry - not sure what to call it - can get a picture if needed) has been painted, and he included a new part to put on it which makes me wonder…
The belly pan seems to be in good shape but I don't know what to look for, and the last owner never removed it. He said he had pulled up the front 4 feet of flooring and replaced it because of some rat damage from the inside, and said that the frame looked fine from what he could see in that section. My concern would be more under the bathroom though.
SO, I would love to start doing the fun part of making it pretty inside, but I'm guessing things like wiring and plumbing need to be addressed first. Is it possible to address electrical/wiring issues without gutting the inside? And plumbing? Can we just hook it up to a hose to test the sinks, tub, and toilet or do we need to have holding tanks in place and be hooked up to septic or something?
It would be great if we could do a few things like put in the bamboo flooring we want in it, fix the window leaks, and install a composting toilet, so it would be somewhat useable soon, and then be able to tackle other issues later as we go. But it would be a bummer if we would end up having to tear out the flooring/toilet etc., to do whatever else may need to be done.
Also, if we have no clue on the condition of the frame (aside from the front 4 feet that he could see when replacing the floor), is it dangerous to tow it right now? He did put new axles and tires on it, and it seemed to tow just fine on the 90min tow home.
I'm sorry if this is a confusing, rambling post of unclear questions. That's kind of how I feel (confused and rambling) when I walk into the airstream every day and want to do something but don't know where to begin!
We don't have a lot of money to throw at this right away, so we would like to tackle the most important things first, as well as the things we can do ourselves. We have plenty of elbow grease we can put into it.
Any advice would be much appreciated!!
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Old 08-07-2014, 04:38 AM   #2
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1966 17' Caravel
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First you will have to stop any possible damage from leaks so check the windows and look for signs of leaks along the walls! As for the pictures make sure that your memory chip (thumbnail) for your digital camera has lots of space and then take pictures like a CSI! the more the better! Most of the pictures you will save for reference purposes and some you will post with questions or to show progress. yours is much bigger than mine but first do the visual with all of the plumbing then functional. Look at the water lines under the cabinets, under the beds and in the bath looking for spliced lines and patches. Get an Ice pick or screw driver and check the floor for weak spots (water damage not rat damage). You may find that the PO repair of the floor needs to be redone or just done correctly as some have just covered the rot with more plywood (that is NOT a repair) and there are places in the rear if your Airstream that you can remove a few rivets and check the frame! Vintage trailer supply, Inland RV, and Out of doors mart all have tools parts and pieces that you may need and Harbor freight will have the tools for cheap but they work! Buy the 10 pack of 1/8 and 3/16 drill bits because you will break and dull a few. You tube can show you how to buck or use pop rivets! Replace damaged water lins with PEX (Lowes, Home depot) and yes you tube can show you how to and how not to! Welcome to the forums and the 60's Airstreams rock!
Cliff
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Old 08-07-2014, 04:40 AM   #3
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Oh yes the 3 supply sources I listed are on line!
cliff
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Old 08-07-2014, 06:07 AM   #4
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I have a slight difference of opinion with RM66caravel regarding what has to be done in what order, mainly as a result of working as an engineer in operations and maintenance for the past 30-some years.

There are three basic priorities in any rennovation, whether it's an Airstream trailer or a multi-million-dollar flood control pumping station.
1 - Make it safe. If there is anything unsafe, it doesn't matter what else you do to it, you won't be able to use it. For a trailer this includes running gear, electrical, propane systems, etc. As it happens, inside the trailer, this category of work includes most of the stuff that's inside the walls where you can't see it.
2 - Make it comfortable. Once it's safe and you're able to use it, the next step is to make it so that you want to use it. This is the step where you take care of leaks, floor rot, and the like, plus built-in furniture, appliances, and the like.
3 - Make it yours. This is where you add custom touches, and includes all of the things that aren't built-in.
You can also add a fourth priority, if you like.
4 - Make it pretty. Polishing the exterior and things like that. Leave this step for last so that you don't mess up the appearance while doing other work of a higher prority.

I personally know someone who was only just past Priority 1, and was already using his trailer. It was gutted to little more than a shell, that he used like a rigid tent, relying on campground bathhouses, outdoor cooking, etc, with sleeping bags on the floor and all of his family's clothing in backpacks and laundry baskets. He's now well into Priority 2, and it's beginning to look like an Airstream on the inside again as well as on the outside. As you clear each priority, your trailer becomes more and more usable. And by clearing each prioity in the correct order, you help to ensure you don't have to rip out something you've just done to go back and fix something you overlooked earlier.
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Old 08-07-2014, 06:40 AM   #5
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1966 22' Safari
Weatherford , Texas
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Water system

I can tell you from experience, hooking up water to the system to find the leaks results in a wet and massive cleanup job.

If you have access to an air compressor, rig up an adapter so you can connect low pressure (30-40 psi) to the water inlet. Then find where the air leaks out.

The water lines will be above the floor (in the heated space to keep them from freezing), usually tucked away behind cabinets at the outer edges of the trailer. For your year model they should be copper lines.

If they're damaged from freezing (previous owners failed to winterize properly) the copper stretches and replacement fittings won't go over the damaged part, so you probably will have to replace most or all of it.

PEX is the way to go. The job can be done without removing the cabinets, but it takes some planning. Figure out how the system works, draw a very complete diagram, and then remove the old copper.

We used the copper crimp rings for the PEX connectors and haven't had a problem with them in over 5 years. You do have to plan for space to operate the crimping tool. Build the system in smaller sections, outside the trailer when possible. Plan the last connections in locations where you have room to use the crimping tool.

Lots of threads here about installing PEX and about the various types of fittings. Sharkbite fittings and the like don't require a tool at all. Lots of choices, and probably most of them are OK.

Congratulations on your new-to-you trailer. Make it dry so you don't take damage with every rainstorm. Make it safe to tow. Make the electrical and propane systems safe. Go camping as soon as you can!
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Old 08-08-2014, 05:54 PM   #6
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Wow okay I agree with both of you but above all don't let yourself be overwhelmed
Cliff


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Old 08-08-2014, 07:42 PM   #7
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1967 26' Overlander
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Electrical system

Congratulations! It's great that you have new axles and new tires. Sounds like it's a nice trailer and the PO had his priorities straight.

I just want share with you the condition of my electrical system. First of all, my trailer was/is a complete mess and nothing works. I bought it with the intention of gutting it and doing a full renovation. I was able to examine the wiring as I removed the interior skins. Most of it looked brand new but there were 2 spots where the wire insulation was melted and bare wire was exposed and places where rodents had chewed the wires. Also, my wire is aluminum, which you think would be very cool in an Airstream, but it had to go because it's not safe. The wiring for the brake lights, turn signals, and running lights had been chewed through by mice in many different places including behind the endcaps! Yes, I found the mummified remains of mice in farthest reaches of my trailer. What seems like a minor electrical problem might require extreme measures to repair. I wish you the best of luck and hope your trailer lights just need new bulbs.
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Old 08-08-2014, 07:47 PM   #8
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1966 24' Tradewind
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I like to start formulating a trailer's needs from the ground up. Start with the tires, then brakes, bearings, axles and go on to the belly pan, peek at the frame where you can, and probe the floor perimeter for soft spots. Complete the "Airsteam bumper dance" to check for rear end separation. Then check the propane, waste water plumbing, fresh water plumbing, electrical and check all the appliances. Exterior polishing and interior decorating are usually the last steps. All Airstreams leak somewhere. Finding and repairing leaks is a major undertaking.

There are several Airstream inspection checklists that might help you. You will find lots of things your 69 needs. Most vintage Airstreams were projects at one time. Develop your plan and budget, and then dive in, one little thing at a time. You will likely get your dollars back but maybe not the time you spend working on it.

David
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Old 08-08-2014, 08:50 PM   #9
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You might want to find your local WBCCI unit (Wally Byam Caravan Club International), and see if there's some experienced vintage AS owners in it who would come and help you with an inspection and advice.
And, WELCOME!

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Old 08-09-2014, 04:25 AM   #10
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I did say welcome to the forums right? I hope that you enjoy your airstream and that the input does not overwhelm you! With cost and the sweat we put into them there is some pleasure or relax points in the accomplishments! Have a great day and post some pictures with your questions, this will help to keep suggestions to the area in which you are working.
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Old 08-10-2014, 12:27 AM   #11
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1969 31' Sovereign
Everett , Washington
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Wow - that's a lot of great info to get me going. Thanks all. I'm not able to get online to read & post consistently, and the reno is going to be a slow tackle, so if I'm not asking/answering/posting updates regularly, I don't want to seem rude. Just clarifying in case I unintentionally break forum protocol. :-)
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Old 08-10-2014, 06:15 AM   #12
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We want pictures of you Airstream "as found". It is always fun to share your trailer with others. A few shots of the exterior and interior are always welcome.

Bringing old Airstreams back to good health is a lot of work. But it's a lot of fun. You have the right idea saying it will take time. When you get one aspect of the trailer done, post a picture and a brief description of how you did it. We all learn from other's Airstream project adventures.

David
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Old 08-10-2014, 10:59 PM   #13
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1969 31' Sovereign
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I'll try to get some pictures uploaded in the next few days. We are now having a titling issue. We bought it from a guy who basically inherited it, and he has all the original paperwork and even an old picture of the original owner inside it (pretty fun to have - we plan to frame it and keep it on display). We met with him today to get a few more odds and ends that he had forgotten to give us (such as a Cyclo in case we're crazy enough to tackle a polishing). We've been waiting for him to finish the title transfer from the inheritance, so he could then apply for the new title in his name, which he would then sign over to us. A bit of a drawn out process, but he gave us a good deal on her because we'd have to put up with the wait for the title. Well now, it's turning into even more of an ordeal. The dmv said that the vin number is too short so they can't run it and approve a title until they can get a match that works. It's the vin/serial number off of the original purchase/warranty though, and he said the number worked fine when he ordered the new axles (with the company he ordered them from). We're not sure what to do at this point. He said he made their first available appointment (October!) for the screening of the vin number or something. If that clears it up, then it's likely a month from there before he'll even get the title in the mail to then sign over to us. He said he feels bad this is happening and offered us cash for the nuisance of us just applying for a lost title if we'd rather. Or we could just wait until October. (At which point, if they can't figure out the number it could end up being a lost title anyways). I'd rather wait for him to get it sorted out and not deal with getting a lost title, but maybe it's not uncommon with these and not that big of a deal? Does anyone have any advice? Do you know why the vin # would show up as being too short when it's the # off the original warranty? Thanks
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Old 08-10-2014, 11:26 PM   #14
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I forgot to mention that the number that is actually engraved on the airstream is so worn, that neither of us could figure out a few of the digits, so all we have to really go on is the original warranty.
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