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Old 10-19-2013, 06:17 PM   #1
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1973 23' Safari
Buffalo , New York
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1973 Safari odd rear exterior lights issue

First ever post in Air Forums, but I have been poring through this wealth of info for close to a year and it was here that made me realize I had to own an Airstream. Thanks to all who contribute. It's really amazing.

So my problem is an odd one.

I purchased a 1973 Safari from someone I found here on forums who cleans up, renovates and sells them. Good guy, pretty solid Airstream and some nice work on a lot of the renovations.

Upon pickup, we connected the Safari to my TV (a 2007 Jeep GC) and found that there was something wrong with the rear exterior lights. Certain ones weren't lighting: specifically passenger side turn signal wasn't operating and the driver side running light wasn't on at all.

The seller insisted that everything had been working and sure enough when tested it on one of his vehicles everything worked fine.

My buddy (with more experience towing) took care of the drive back home and I furiously got on my iPhone to go through posts here and on some Jeep forums hoping for some hits on the issue. We tried replacing some fuses on the way, but no dice. Some reading made me think it might be in one of the relays on the Jeep.

When we arrived back in Buffalo, we disconnected and hooked up to his 2003 GMC Yukon. Again, all the lights worked fine connected to his Yukon.

That made me think it was in the Jeep but I found out that wasn't the case other day when it came time to move the trailer to my storage space.

Instead of the Yukon, we hooked the AS up to my buddy's vintage custom Chevy van (circa mid-70s) which he uses it to pull his camper regularly without any issues.

This time when we connected the Safari to the Chevy van and the driver side running light was not working and the passenger side brake light went out completely when brakes are engaged but as a turn signal it still worked. We make the relatively short drive anyway and I blocked him following close behind to avoid any issues.

Once we get to the storage space, we try hooking up to my dad's 2013 Ford F150. This time the result is the ENTIRE passenger side panel of 3 lights (backup, brake/turn and running light) are all out.

So that's four different TV's with three completely different results.

Upon searching forums again my best guess is that it could be a ground somewhere or (perhaps less likely) in the 7-pin umbilical, but I wasn't able to find anyone close to this specific problem. I an absolute newbie with less than minimal knowledge of AS electrical systems.

Any help or insight is greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Donny
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Old 10-19-2013, 10:26 PM   #2
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2005 19' Safari
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Sounds like a chassis ground problem. Some older travel trailers used the trailer ball for the ground return for running lights and turn signals. Try temporarily touching or connecting a separate ground wire from a bare metal spot on the chassis/bumper of your tow vehicle (TV) to bare metal on the trailer tongue or chassis; then try your turn signals, etc. again.

If the lights work OK, check the ground connections for your TV and Airstream umbilical connectors to make sure they are connected to clean bare metal and all terminations are tight.

Otherwise, if the problem remains, post here again; and we can suggest some other things to check.
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Old 10-20-2013, 06:03 AM   #3
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1975 31' Sovereign
1980 31' Excella II
Sprung Leak , North Carolina
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It sounds like a grounding issue... however, we use Ford and Chevy trucks at work. We have 6 different trailers, Fords have always been plug and play with minimal issues, everyone of the Chevy's had to be rewired to make them play nice with the trailers. We have rewired all the trailers using a full ground wire back to the umbilical, frame/skin grounds can go out of ground very easily, due to slight corrosion or a loose wire.

Aaron
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Old 10-21-2013, 12:40 PM   #4
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1973 23' Safari
Buffalo , New York
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Thanks much for the insights, Phoenix and Aaron.

Hoping to dig into it in the next week and find some resolution. I will update when I do.
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Old 10-21-2013, 01:28 PM   #5
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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I just played living freakin' heck getting my '73 to work with my tow vehicle. Some things I have learned in the process:

The original wiring in the trailer will not match any conventional color coding for trailer wiring. You have to either get the wiring map out of the maintenance manual (I have it), or figure at which pin goes where--I doubt if this is your problem--just some info in case you dig deeper.

There is a white ground wire that attaches to your plug and runs the length of the trailer. You ought to be able to find the far end of the white wire somewhere in the rear passenger side corner of the trailer--this, or the back side of the plug in the front is likely to be where you have an intermittent ground.

Do you have replacement LED lights in your trailer, or the original incandescent? My tow vehicle, for instance, does not recognize there is a trailer attached unless it "sees" the resistance of the conventional light bulbs. If you have LEDs, this could be part of your problem (as Jeep and MB may have been sharing technology at the time your truck was made).

Gooc luck!
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Old 10-21-2013, 03:25 PM   #6
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Ringoes , New Jersey
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short

Welcome! Also check the ground between the taillight bezel and the trailer. Mine had one "loose" A rivet hidden in the blue relief into the body made a big brightness difference. Oh, and we love pictures!! MPJ
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Old 10-21-2013, 07:15 PM   #7
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1973 23' Safari
Buffalo , New York
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More great info. Thanks, Belegedhel and moparjohn.

I do plan to get some pics up soon.

Forums has been great and really pushed me over the top to take the Airstream plunge. The enthusiasm here is contagious and it's hard not to get caught up in it. I love the kind of passion folks here have for what they love!

My original intention was to get an AS as a project so I looked at a bunch locally (Western New York) but when I saw the conditions and what it was going to take to make them worthy, I decided to get a trailer that was little more ready to go from the start. I got to talking to Scott at Action Sales in Holmesville, OH via Forums. I decided a vintage Safari was the right size for us (me, wife, two kids and little dog) and got with Scott on what were looking for.

In the end Scott, his family and staff took care of getting the Safari in good running shape fixing stuff I knew I couldn't do (frame, brakes, electrical, plumbing, etc) but also did stuff I was planning on doing myself but knew would take a lot of extra effort (hardwood floor, dinette buildout, etc.)

Now my goal is really to get these electrical issues sorted out, do some interior redesign, new curtains, get the logos repainted, tint the windows and perhaps strip the clearcoat and go for the polished mirror-look finish. The way things are going I might not be able to do any real traveling in it until 2014 but that's cool. I've waited this long.

Already signed up for WBCCI and the closest chapter. I'm eager and ready to begin this journey!
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Old 10-21-2013, 07:28 PM   #8
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1973 23' Safari
Buffalo , New York
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I meant to add:

I am shocked that with the flow of information that exists on the internet and especially in this particular community that there is not a database of Airstream owner's manuals as PDFs available for easy download. I've done several Google searches and there are really none that I can find.

I realize that you can buy these from Airstream directly but - in my opinion - that's a total racket. I'm not sure if Airstream is throttling people like us trying to share vintage manuals freely because they are making a decent amount charging for them or if it's that people simply haven't taken to properly sharing them.

If you have a newer product - be it a printer or blender or lawnmower - the company that made it generally offers free downloads of the manuals online.

Similarly, over the years I have collected and worked on vintage stereo equipment as well as musical instruments and amplifiers and all of those manuals and schematics can be readily found via Google or amongst enthusiasts online.

Why is that not the case with Airstream stuff?

Guess what I am saying: if anyone has a PDF of the 1973 Airstream line owner's manual they'd be willing to share, I'd love to get my hands on it before I pay for a photocopied version on eBay or worse yet: drop $50 to get one from Airstream directly.

Hahahaha.
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Old 10-21-2013, 08:00 PM   #9
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I'm sure that manuals, like music, are copyrighted materials, and therefore, anyone assembling a database of unlicensed materials risks legal action. I agree, though,that it sure is nice when you can find manuals for modern products online for free, but there are costs to everything...

Anyway, before you worry too much about the manual, check with the folks who have done the work on your trailer and find out how "stock" it still is. If they have done much rewiring/replumbing, the shop manual may do nothing but add to your confusion.

Now, back to your wiring problem, You can get the "pin" diagram of of the vehicle end of your 7-way connector from eTrailer.com. You can then work your way back from the end of the whip that plugs into your tow vehicle, to the connections behind the front wall and check with a meter for continuity. Flex the whip, wiggle the pins in the connectors--try to find that intermittent connection.

good luck!
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Old 10-22-2013, 11:02 AM   #10
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So, I reread your original post, and with a little more consideration, I am doubting that your problem is a single major ground point. The wiring should work as follows:

A single wire delivers power to all of your clearance lights and the tails lights as "running" lights

A single wire delivers brake/turn signals to each of the assemblies (two wires total).

So, if you have running lights on all of your clearance lights and one of your tail lights, but not the other, then the problem is likely with the "dead" assembly itself, rather than the wiring in between the tow vehicle and the tail light assembly. Now, why does it work with one vehicle and not the next--mysterious--but start by removing the lens of the tail light and looking in there. If it is original, then the "can" is probably rusted and disintegrating. You might have an intermittent ground, or just a highly resistant ground. You can check the bulb assembly to ground with a volt-ohm meter and see if it has a high resistance. If so, repair the ground and try it again.

If the ground turns out fine, you can also check the resistance in the left turn and right turn pins to ground at the end of the whip. If you see high resistance on the trouble side then you must have a corroded connection somewhere along the way. Airstream did a bizarre thing in that they made plug-and-socket connections in many of the electrical lines behind the lights inside the wall. Looking at them, I don't see how you would ever access most of them without removing a wall, but you might have a chance of gently drawing the wire out far enough to find that connection--it could be corroded and highly resistive.

Maybe some of the tow vehicles are just putting out more voltage than the others. You should be able to put your V-Ohm meter to the plug on the back of the vehicle and check the voltage coming from each pin when you step on the brakes.

Good luck
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