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Old 06-01-2016, 09:55 AM   #1
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Interior Pop Rivet alternative substitute?

I have SIX popped rivets. These were the result of the Marathon 15" tires. So nothing had changed from the factory to be responsible, other than the original stock Airstream from Jackson Center.

- Two were located on the curve to the inside right of the door.
- Two were located on the curve in the cabinets above the stove.
- Two were located on the same side to the right of the shower wall just above a compartment built up from the floor, at the end of the bed.

These were all that were noticed totally missing.

I am experimenting with my interior skin with missing pop rivets using, as someone had hinted, unorthodox method rather than the proper pop rivets.

Builder Teks LATH SCREWS #21500 'For attaching lath to wood or metal (26-22 gauge) #2 Philips, #8 x 1/2", point style 'sharp', Thin: 260 quantity at a cost of $5.98 from Lowes.

If you just look at the Lath Screws, you will notice they have a heavy flange pressed onto the head and sharp point for a hole that already exists. When full tightened the screw is barely noticeable and blends in with the aluminum skin.

When using your hand held screwdriver, you will need to be square with the hole of the missing rivet.

- Some screws went into the missing rivet hole and tightened without effort.
- Some screws must have encountered the other fragment of pop rivet and you had to be careful getting the threads started. Once the threads caught, it pulled tight and snug. (You want to avoid applying pressure and the screw and philips bit may slip and ding your aluminum next to the rivet hole. Not that you would notice, but be careful. Two of my six resisted the initial process of tightening the screw and snug against the interior skin.)

Yes. This is unorthodox.
Yes. Our interior will not be 100% pop riveted.
Yes. These obviously are areas with excessive stress or shearing rivet areas.

These Lath Screws come in different lengths. The 1/2" appear to be long enough to grip well. Maybe a longer screw would work, but may be unnecessary. This is my attempt to find a handy durable substitute.



Once secure these Lath Screws are not even noticeable. They blend into the skin and I will be watching them closely this season.

You can try this yourself or let me be the tester. I am confident this will work for ME. I do not care if they are not 'factory looking pop rivets'. There is a reason why the pop rivets are failing. I am not taking any chances by leaving the popped rivets missing.

This is my substitute to a pop rivet. These Lath Screws are tough. I will be on the road again this Weekend for the Summer months. These will be tested and I will look for additional failed pop rivets versus my substitutes.
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Old 06-01-2016, 10:08 AM   #2
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The aluminum pop rivets will shear if the movement of the panel is strong enough. The steel screws will not shear, but the aluminum panel may tear away from the screw. I would stay with the aluminum pop rivets and work on the causes of the movement that shears them. Or add a lot more rivets or screws than the few that are presently holding the panel (which I would not do).
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Old 06-01-2016, 10:11 AM   #3
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Our 1987 Avion had 6 Marathons on it when we picked it up in October 2013. Brought it home 1000 miles over roads that were pretty rough at times. Since then, we have replaced the Marathons with other ST tires and have towed over more really rough roads. To this day, we have not lost any rivets, and I see no evidence of any being replaced in the past ( not sure I could really tell, if it was done correctly. )

How do the Marathons account for popped rivets?

( I like your fix, though )


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Old 06-01-2016, 10:28 AM   #4
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This may surprise some but on this one I agree with Doug. The pop rivet is the fail point. If you replace it with something stronger you run the risk of moving the fail point elsewhere.

A common cause of interior rivets failing is the tension load put on them by the panel being pull into place. If the installer does not install the rivets in sequence he runs the risk of having the panel between installed rivets float off the rib. When the additional rivets are installed they may be pulling against the panel and thus will fail in time.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:14 AM   #5
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Thanks Howie, were have a minor disagreement on w.d. hitch brands but good Airstream maintenance is common ground for many of us.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:15 AM   #6
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I agree about the pop rivet as the fail point. No argument from me. Both of you are 100% correct. I am taking my new International and will find a permanent repair to failing rivets and moving stress points.

My test is to avoid having another rivet fail and creating the stress moving to those pop rivets near those that have failed, causing them to fail. This will be my test, on my trailer, at my risk of damaging the interior skin. My thought is that EACH AIRSTREAM when built have identical stress points and some made with misfitted panels as a possible reason for chronic rivet popping on other trailers. Each are hand built are never 100% identical.

On the Tire Threads it has been common to blame the tires and tire pressures for popped rivets. That could be true. That may not be true. I changed our tires from 15" Marathons to 16" Michelins and will report ANYTHING out of the ordinary that could be the tire change. Now Airstream is using Michelins as an upgrade. Somehow something has changed. Six popped rivets with the Marathon and trailer break in period... Now the tire issue may be tested, as I type.

I hear about stress on Airstreams from various Hitch Brands, until my nose begins to run. Again... I have an Equalizer Hitch. I do not intend to have three or four hitches to test 1/2 cent Lath Screws, but that is why the Forums can be very entertaining.

IF the Lath Screws fail... it is the need for more pop rivets within the interior. The weak links fail first. It seems from previous pop rivet reporting that the SAME areas need some improvement in rivet numbers. More pop rivets would also catch the eye of those individuals who want fewer pop river 'blemishes' within their aluminum skinned interiors. So there is a reason fewer rivets are used, than more. In my opinion.

I am have taken the option of using an alternative to replacing failed pop rivets with pop rivets. If a simple Lath Screw works and does not alter the diameter of the holes in the interior of popped rivets from movement... it could be an easy solution to those that do not have experience with pop riveting, but know how to operate an hand held screw driver.

So far, these lath screws seat solid. This Summer there will be hundreds of miles of Wyoming and Colorado highways for this... test. There will be many miles of BLM and Forest Service road use. If this is a fool's errand... I will admit to the mistake.

The screws look 'better to me' than the pop rivet missing or current pop rivets in the interior. But I defaulted not to 'looks' but to FIXING a problem and permanently.

Sometimes doing it the 'old way' may not be the best for the interior. I now have SIX test Lath Screws placed where pop rivets failed.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:21 AM   #7
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Just for the record, the only thing easier to use than a screwdriver is a pop rivet tool. Takes one second if you're slow on the trigger.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:30 AM   #8
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Doug and Ray will have a Pop Rivet versus Lath Screw competition... depending on how this all goes. This contest will use trailers supplied by any Airstream Owner following this thread.

I have years of battery powered screw driver experience. If a screw will not fix it, throw it away.

I have ZERO pop rivet experience, although owned one or more that I never had a need and let them go to Goodwill.

The lath screws could also be considered 'interior decorating', as well.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:45 AM   #9
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Ray you are missing the point. The rivets failed because there was a load on them. Yes the vibration from the road or tires may be the dynamics that caused them to fail but they would not have failed if there was not a load on them.

You can determine if that load was there very easily. While the rivet is out of the hole put a needle into the hole and see if there is a separation between the hole and the surface of the rib. If you detect a separation while the panel is relaxed the tension on the rivet to pull that separation down is the load that caused the failure.

Pulling the panel in with a screw will cause the panel to tare in time as the panel now becomes the fail point.
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Old 06-01-2016, 11:52 AM   #10
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Not fair Ray. Since I got my w.d. hitch adjusted to the soft coil suspension of our Ram 1500's and lowered the air pressure on our balanced Michelin tires I have't used the pop rivet tool in a few years. Totally out of practice.
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:09 PM   #11
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THE Lath Screw and Pop Rivet... challenge begins

Doug... I still like the idea of using other's Airstream's popped rivets for practice. Maybe some time in the future. You brush up on Pop Rivets and I will get my arms in shape by tossing some Horseshoes for some dead ringers.

Howie... you and I still are in the competition. Pop Rivet versus Lath Screw.

You tell me how your Pop Rivets are doing over time and I will tell you how my Lath Screws are doing.

Nobody can argue the point that Latch Screws have never been considered as a Pop Rivet alternative on this Forum. No one wanted to paddle upstream using a rivet gun.

They are 'modern'.
They look good compared to pop rivets.
They are solid steel and not aluminum and plastic.
They are decorative and really have a nice eye appeal about them.
Had someone on the Titanic had Lath Screws to FIX the 'leak' history would be changed.

So... I have SIX failed pop rivets today. I have SIX decorative and stout Lath Screws as replacements. I will have over 50 Airstream people on Adventures this year to examine my handy work and check out my theory. Most can be considered reliable and upstanding within the Airstream community. Some, like myself, have been able to avoid being detained at the Wyoming Territorial Prison at Laramie, Wyoming, as far as I know.

Lath Screws beat a Pop Rivet every time, any place and will keep an Airstream from popping more rivets over time.

Read the Lug Nut Threads... this will convert you and anyone to Lath Screws on this Thread immediately. Why use bad lug nuts over and over, when good ones will do?
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:42 PM   #12
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Ray no one is questioning the ability of the screws. All I was noting was the possible reason for the rivets to have popped. If the rivet has an artificial load on it because of a gap between the panel and the rib that is the problem.

My trailer is 21 years old with well over 200,000 miles on it and I have have 2 rivets that failed in the living room. I have never replaced them for the above reason. I have a screw in the bathroom that comes out once a year and one holding the spice cabinet to the wall that come out every 2 or 3 years. Those I tighten down.
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Old 06-01-2016, 01:33 PM   #13
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Ray make sure you buy a lot of those Lath Screws. Since the stress will likely release someplace your chances of more popped rivets may have gone up. Add more Lath Screws and it may be a logarithmic progression.

Which makes this suggestion viable. Just drill out all of the pesky rivets and replace with Lath Screws. Of course the outside skins might start trying to deform and depart but hey, they have bucked rivets which should at least hold onto the edge of the panels while the panel is ripped away in the roaring wind at highway speeds.

As to the prison, well maybe they just didn't .....
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Old 06-01-2016, 01:38 PM   #14
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Howie.... I am just having fun with this. No complaint.

Our trailer is new with SIX failed rivets. All on the door side of the trailer. Hmmm. And these have been easy miles with no Off the Grid traveling. Much like those that had Frame Fractures on their Airstreams... I am taking this Thread... using Lath Screws.

I used SIX lath screws and have 254 left in the carton.

I am no longer a Rivet Master... but a Lath Screw Master at the present. I have no remorse for the change of title, if properly worded.

OK Gary... I will supply the Lath Screws for your new Classic. A limit of ten.

You are not on the Wyoming Adventure... did you know Butch and Sundance? It will be between you, myself and the Prison Superintendent.

You are riveted if you do and riveted if you don't. As long as this does not lead up to Toilet Paper and Black Tank clogs, we will all be better off following screws and pop rivet issues. Easier to work with.
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Old 06-02-2016, 11:48 AM   #15
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Pop Rivets...Horse Buggy and Wagon Wheel technology?

There was a day when the entire civilized world believed the world was FLAT. Nobody wanted to 'test it out' and discover it was not.

Log cabins in the 16th and 17th Centuries of the early USA were burned to the ground to recover any 'iron nails' that were used to hold them together, over the wooden pegs that were popular on Airstreams at the time. These are examples of good logic, gone wrong. The State began paying the settlers on the move to not burn their cabins down for the iron nails... solved the housing problem.

There was a time on the Airforum that Marathon and other Trailer Only tires were good. Other tires would shake a trailer apart, a rivet at a time. Now they are optional or standard on some trailers.

Hitches... almost as many opinions as choices of toilet paper for a Black Tank.

Now... Lath Screws and the Pop Rivet horse buggy promoters.

My trailer will be the Lath Screw experiment Airstream. I have met more people who knew everything and accomplished nothing outside what they knew. I know nothing and admit to it.

I have 254 reasons to continue my experiment, even with being reminded that my interior will tear itself apart like an aluminum beer can.

I also have worked for someone for many decades that did things outside the common knowledge circulating at the time... myself. I learned one thing very important. If I still wanted to be working my entire life to do what everyone else believed... do what everyone else finds within their comfort zone.

Common sense tells me that Airstream uses pop rivets for the exact reasons posted on this Thread. When did Airstream test other options...? Never?

- Each Airstream will have stress points differing according to how the panels were installed. No two are exactly identical in fitting panels or cabinets. Although it appears these 'stress points' are chronic at some locations.

I will watch how Lath Screws handle the new stresses. I will report anything that occurs in the process. It could be that Pop Rivets are a vestige of the technology of the horse buggy and wagon wheel.

Proving me wrong is easy. Proving myself correct is more of a challenge. It would not be the first nor last time.

Has anyone else tried a substitute to pop riveting the interior aluminum panels. Also, what was learned and was it the kind of substitute or the frame of the aluminum shell that is the problem?

But then again... Airstream may find that Lath Screws were not that much more expensive from this test and use them on upgraded interiors. The additional cost of $5 per trailer was not the bitter pill the accountants said would ruin the company. First Michelins. Second... Lath Screws.

I will offer 250 extra Lath Screws as a starter set, keeping 4 in the event other pop rivets fail.
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Old 06-02-2016, 12:13 PM   #16
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I tried using those lath screws once. They caught up the insulation inside the wall and wound it up in tight little knots everywhere. So now I have all these knots of fiberglass insulation where it shouldn't be and no insulation in the areas between the screws where it should be but isn't. I guess if I had upgraded to some of that new fangled Prodex or Relflectix insultation it wouldn't be a prob but them I guess I should have done that when the walls were out and then we wouldn't be having this discussion. At least not my part of it.
So the lesson here is beware of unintented consequences.
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Old 06-02-2016, 12:37 PM   #17
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Mark... those must been rather heavy duty screws.

I opted to use the shorter 1/2" over longer options, as they are shorter and one I found in a drawer at home worked fine as a test. When I removed the first found Lath Screw to measure the length, no insulation was to be found when removed.

The rivet holes are smaller in diameter than the Lath Screws I am working with. I do not expect much movement due to this and the screw will not be backing out with normal use.

The 1/2" is from the TOP of the head to tip. Leaving less than 1/2" for the threading and then the unthreaded tip. The tip will nest into the interior rivet hole and the threaded portion does seem to have plenty of friction to keep it seated.

These are the thin lath screws, which I am using. A thick lath screw, that has a cutting tip to thread, is the other option. Gauges vary from 12 to 26. The thin uses 22 to 26 gauge. My carton says #8 and no gauge mentioned. No doubt, lost in translation.

I would expect those restoring the interior of an Airstream would use pop rivets. If anyone uses something other than pop rivets, it would be interesting to hear from either option.

Since these are Made in China, they may be aluminum and match all of the components used in our Airstreams. I will find a magnet to eventually test these to discover they match the interior so well being... aluminum. This no doubt will encourage those who prefer 'aluminum' only construction.

Added: The indent that the pop rivets leave when tight, appear no different from my Lath Screws indent. I do not force the screw beyond being tight. I cannot get my finger nail between the head and aluminum skin. This is a well thought out option looking for solutions. Took asking a Lowe's Representative to say... 'Lath Screw' and the preliminary research was completed.
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Old 06-02-2016, 01:10 PM   #18
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Be careful Chinese aluminum is magnetic so the magnet won't tell you much.
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Old 06-02-2016, 01:15 PM   #19
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Not taking any sides; screw va pop rivet.

However, for those in the screw camp, you may want to look into using a JIS screwdriver or bit. It fits a Phillips head screw better and reduces the incidence of the tool "cramming out" and messing up the screw head.

Just Google JIS screwdriver. Downside is that they are somewhat difficult to find.


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Old 06-02-2016, 03:05 PM   #20
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High quality rivets are available at Fastenall. My bet is that once replaced, it's not likely to pop off again. There is a difference in rivets!
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