It must be stated from the outset here that I in no way desire to be part of or even worse, instigate a controversy on this or any other Airstream subject.
Below, in front of a Gardner Bender "hardware store switch", is a picture of a Leviton 4-position switch that was in my '73 Sovereign
and it matches perfectly every single switch that I've replaced in both my '72 Overlander (3 ea) and the Sovereign (4 ea). I have always assumed that it was the original "factory" switch.
(The Airstreams were both produced at Jackson Center but have lived, as far as I can tell, had two completely different lives.)
Am I wrong in my assumption? (Has anyone else found these switches in their Airstreams?)
Had my commercial electrician brother-in-law over last night and the issue came up. He examined the old Leviton switch and compared it to the Gardner Bender (hardware store switch). The amperage rating on the GB is twice what the Leviton was (3 amp @ 250vac, 6 amp @ 125vac vs 1 amp @ 250vac, 3 amp @ 125vac). (I knew this when I went shopping for it.)
His conclusion was that the GB switch was a lot safer than the Leviton, just from the amp rating alone. (It certainly runs a lot cooler, which is very noticeable to the touch.) The Leviton has been in there for years, I'm quite sure of that. And again, they were throughout my Overlander as well.
However, in an effort to be absolutely safe, we're going to put a meter up to it in the next week and test to see how many amps are being drawn with those 6 bulbs.
I'm all for OEM equipment when it is available, not too inconvenient, has no other acceptable market substitutions, and is reasonably priced. But like many forum members, I don't have an Airstream dealer accross the street from me. (The nearest one is 2 hours away.) And, like many "non-purists", I am looking for acceptable, safe solutions to 30 year old problems.
The energy conservation aspect of the Airstream switch is enticing (one rotation instead of three), but not really enough for me to go that far out of my way to purchase it. The modification required with the GB is a small inconvenience that I'm willing to bear. (After installing new Dexters this weekend, it seems extremely insignificant.)
My solution is not for everybody (proceed at your own risk), but one thing I do know is that the new switch is much safer (about 2 times) than what was there before. We will follow through with the current test within the next week and will post the results for anyone interested.