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Old 03-04-2014, 01:10 PM   #1
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1966 22' Safari
Kirkland , Washington
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 13
Where do I start?!

I just spent the last hour poking around this site, and I'm more confused than when I started! So much information!

We purchased a 22', '66 Safari last year, had it made generally roadworthy by a "professional" restorer, then lived in it for 6 months. It was in really rough condition when we bought it, so we knew we were in for a project. Most of the interior is shot, so we're planning to re-build it to our needs and aren't worried about making it look original.

We're home now and ready to start doing some serious work. But I'm really not sure where to start. If any experienced folks out there could point me to the right threads for what I need to do, I'd be incredibly grateful!!

Right now the trailer leaks like a sieve. We've caulked the big gaps from the outside which helped some. But we still have water weeping in through the walls.

Here are my questions:

1. I think I need to gut the entire interior, remove the interior skin, find and fix the leaks, then replace the skin. Does this seem like the best way of going about finding leaks? Nothing is obvious from the outside.

2. The front of the trailer seems to be leak free. Should I (can I?) leave it alone and just work on the obviously leaking middle and back?

3. I think the trailer needs a new axle because we're popping rivets inside. I've heard that can be a symptom of a bad axle. Is this something any RV place can do? Is there anything I need to consider when choosing a new axle?

4. If I don't want to disassemble the exterior skin, what should I be caulking with?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
Thanks,
Karen (prone to reckless do-it-yourself optimism)
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Old 03-04-2014, 04:42 PM   #2
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1987 32' Excella
Nepean , Ontario
Join Date: Mar 2006
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If you gut the interior, then you can spray water on the exterior and physically inspect the interior to determine where water is seeping in.

After I had acquired our 1987 Excella about 2-1/2 years ago, I took it to Jackson Center as I had some mould inside. They determined that the water leaked in from a window seal (in fact it was the curved window behind the rock guard). After they replaced the window seals, they did the "water test" whereby they had multiple streams of water spraying the front of the trailer. It was then that they noticed that water was seeping in around the rivets where the end cap is attached to the body (fuselage). To fix this, they removed the interior panels, drilled out the rivets and hand bucked in new rivets. The trailer has been bone dry ever since.

If you decide to re-rivet, the chances are you will be using olympic rivets. If that is the case, make sure that you do NOT use the ones that have neoprene washers on them, as those will leak in time. Get Vulkem and place some around the underside of the rivet head first, as Vulkem will never harden and will retain its sealant capabilities. As well, read up on the precise size of the drill you will need for drilling out the old rivets - the hole must be snug for the new rivets to provide both the seal and the strength.

Good luck.
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Old 03-04-2014, 06:18 PM   #3
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1973 27' Overlander
Portsmouth , Virginia
Join Date: Jun 2012
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The most important things to fix first are the structural issues (condition of the frame, flooring and axle) and you must fix whatever leaks there are or the structural issues will soon be back. The rest of the the job is essentially cosmetic, new wall surfaces or coverings, new appliances, plumbing, furnishings, etc. And its always better to do the job right the first time or eventually you will be doing it again.
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Old 03-05-2014, 04:45 PM   #4
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1964 22' Safari
1962 28' Ambassador
enosburg , Vermont
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 297
Quote:
Originally Posted by aquinob View Post
The most important things to fix first are the structural issues (condition of the frame, flooring and axle) and you must fix whatever leaks there are or the structural issues will soon be back. The rest of the the job is essentially cosmetic, new wall surfaces or coverings, new appliances, plumbing, furnishings, etc. And its always better to do the job right the first time or eventually you will be doing it again.
That's about the best advice you're likely to get, spot on. When the basics are done and the exterior shell is re-attached to the deck, interior skins and filthy wet insulation gone set up a couple lawn sprinklers to cascade over the trailer. Sit down inside with a marker and beverage of choice and mark the leaks. Only way to do it. These rigs have a nasty quirk w/leaks. The water you see on the interior often enters many feet away on the exterior. With the interior out you can find the source, seal it right with little concern that it will show. Odds are most of the leaks are not where the alum sheets overlap but around window frames, vents ect. End result is leak free, no stink insulation, sound wiring.
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Old 03-05-2014, 05:12 PM   #5
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,199
Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkland1833 View Post
I just spent the last hour poking around this

Here are my questions:

1. I think I need to gut the entire interior, remove the interior skin, find and fix the leaks, then replace the skin. Does this seem like the best way of going about finding leaks? Nothing is obvious from the outside.

2. The front of the trailer seems to be leak free. Should I (can I?) leave it alone and just work on the obviously leaking middle and back?

3. I think the trailer needs a new axle because we're popping rivets inside. I've heard that can be a symptom of a bad axle. Is this something any RV place can do? Is there anything I need to consider when choosing a new axle?

4. If I don't want to disassemble the exterior skin, what should I be caulking with?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!
Thanks,
Karen (prone to reckless do-it-yourself optimism)
My thoughts on your questions:
1) This is the "brute force" method. If you intend to do the "full monty" and really make this trailer a work of art, then you will probably want to gut it all the way to the inside of the outer skin anyway, but if you have no need to remove inner skins, then tearing them all out to find leaks is creating a lot of work. People track down leaks all the time without completely disassembling their trailers. One mechanism to do so is to remove one of your roof vet lids, and rig up a blower to blow high volumes of air into the trailer. This is refered to as a "positive pressure" test. You can then take a spray bottle with soapy water and spray all the seams and seals from the outside. Mark where you see bubbles. There are a lot of obvious leaking spots like seals around AC units and vents, windows, doors, and plumbing vent pipes. I would hate to disassemble my whole trailer to find that it is one of these that is leaking, not the rivet lines.

2) See 1) above--disassemble as little as possible.

3) Axles are one of the easier DIY projects on a trailer. The biggest risk to success is getting the right axle, and that can be handled by ordering it from a knowledgeable source (Inland RV, C. Hyde, etc.). After that, its a matter of jacking up the trailer, supporting it safely, and removing 4 big bolts. Installation is the reverse of removal. If you don't want to tackle it yourself, then, yes, an RV shop that knows something about Airstreams can do the job. When you say the trailer was made "generally roadworthy," do you know exactly what was done? It could be that your trailer already has a new axle, but a wheel is out of balance. You could also have a broken frame--that would result in some interior rivets to pop. You might also be running too stiff of weight distribution bars, or using too brawny of a tow vehicle. Again, find out how much of your trailer is original before changing parts, and investigate thoroughly to make sure you are fixing your problem, not just changing parts.

4) Most people use Vulkem for big gaps, and parbond or similar for seams in the skin. Again, a lot of leaks get fixed without separating panels and putting sealant in between the sheets. When you say "big gaps," are there dents and tears in your skin?

Good luck!
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Old 03-05-2014, 05:21 PM   #6
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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Advice on how to move forward:

Assess the damage--get a "buyer's checklist" and work your way through the trailer and decide what is serviceable, and what isn't. As you mentioned, your interior may be a throw-away, shell is leaking and your axle suspect.

Work from the ground up: Treat the trailer like you would a house. when you are confident you have a good foundation (running gear, frame and subfloor), you can turn your attention to the leaking shell. If your floor is so rotten that you need to do a shell-off, then you might as well throw a shell removal party, and worry about the leaking shell when you get closer to putting it back in place.

Work the body: Now its time to do the body work. If you have dents and punctures in the shell that are contributing to the leaks, then you may as well repair it all correctly, after the floor and frame are fixed, and the shell is set back in place. That is about a year from now...

Good luck!!
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Old 03-05-2014, 06:10 PM   #7
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1978 31' Sovereign
Texas Airstream Harbor , Zavalla, in the Deep East Texas Piney Woods on Lake Sam Rayburn
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Where to start? - The Search button above.

This has been discussed recently - see the thread below:


http://www.airforums.com/forums/f44/...signature+line

Ask around about the factory guarantee on rubber torsion axles - it's not long, about 5 years or so. Your almost 50 year old axles are almost guaranteed to be shot - i.e. your shooting interior rivets.

Certainly your trailer will not self destruct on a 50 mile pull, but, if you are like most of us, you will continue to enjoy your trailer for many years in the future.

If you intend to keep the trailer and pull it fairly often, by all means, start at the bottom. Pull the belly pan and inspect the frame and floor - especially at the frame/floor/shell interface.

If the trailer has been leaking for a while I would put money on a shell off renovation...do a bunch of searching on the forum for "shell off". After a couple of weeks of reading you will understand the importance of the frame/floor/shell interface...the few inches around the outer perimeter of the trailer is what holds the whole thing together.

A shell off is really not that difficult - break it down to one step at a time. It does require a place to do it, and a bit of resourcefulness in working with tools and fasteners. Use simple pop rivets on the interior, buck the exterior skin wherever you can get to the backside.

Don't hesitate to ask questions - especially ask the people who have actually done a shell off. Check out the closest WBCCI Vintage rally - usually these people really know what they are talking about. PM those people here in the Forum who obviously have preceded your renovation.

Most of us have made the trailer "better", rebuilding to suit the tastes and desires of the rebuilder rather than strictly adhering to original.

One thing I would specifically recommend is to mount as many gray, fresh, and black water tanks in the frame as you rebuild it. A 20 gallon black tank should last two people a couple of weeks. A 30 gallon grey tank is stretched to the limit over a three day weekend. Fresh water is easily expanded by multiple tanks.

Triple the money and quadruple the time you now expect to finish the project. Think of the work as Therapy and Bonding. Walk away for a week or so if it seems like a task instead of fun. The rewards of a good rebuild are manifold.

If you have any doubts ask specific questions here on "your" thread.

Good luck in your endeavors.
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Old 03-05-2014, 06:10 PM   #8
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1981 31' Excella II
New Market , Alabama
Join Date: Sep 2011
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As far as the leak issue is concerned there are RV places that have a big blower that they put on a roof vent etc and pressurize the trailer. They then spray the trailer down with soap and look for leaks. If you are going to remove the interior, it is not much more work to remove the skins on the walls so you can see the leaks. You want to remove the insulation as well. As someone else said, leaks don't appear where they are coming from. Water runs between the skins and then to the C-channel (gutter) and then runs out gaps in the C-channel.

The structural issues with the floor and frame are important but you want to fix the leaks before you put new stuff in there to rot.

Perry
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