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Old 04-18-2006, 12:10 PM   #1
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Repairs & Maintenance

We're considering buying an RV, including perhaps an Airstream (new or used). I just had about 5 years experience driving and maintaining a "7 class" older BMW and the repairs and maintenance were increasingly frequent and costly. I finally traded it when we got our new Ford pickup -- for towing a trailer, naturally. Should we expect that owning an Airstream will be a similar experience when it comes to maintenance and repairs? Or is the brand so superior in construction quality so that the reverse might (hopefully) be true? And if one were to go with Airstream, what are the "usual" types of annual or seaonal maintenance and repairs that might be anticipated -- and the costs?



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Old 04-18-2006, 02:28 PM   #2
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1986 34.5' Airstream 345
Louisville , Kentucky
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Much of this depends on what you purchase, it's age/condition and what you plan to do with it. New units come with warrantees and after this period you should expect a long life of service before items begin to need replacement.

Vintage units are typically cost effective to purchase but will require some level of "investment" to bring them back to working (and safe) condition. Once restored they will again give you a long stretch without much in the way or large scale maintenance. If you can do the work yourself, it can be very cost effective. Even outsourcing larger jobs can still give you a very nice trailer for less than new, but if you don't know which is the business end of a screwdriver and end up taking it into the shop for every little thing you will feel about the same as you did with your BMW. If this is the case I would encourage you to consider a new or newer AS rather than a well used AS.

You didn't specify trailer or motorhome, but obviously anything with an engine and drivetrain will require a higher level of maintenance and a corresponding budget for repairs.

Again, what you do with it will determine your maintenance needs. Full timing in one, traveling every few weeks will place additional maintenance burdens on your internal systems and your suspensions, shocks, tires etc. Weekending in one will barely use anything in the coach.

Having said all of this, most of us believe in investing in these beauties because they can be restored and re-used over and over. Most other brands would have fallen apart long before the last restoration of any vintage AS.

The unique contruction of the shell itself will, without damage and with proper care outlasts just about any other brand on the market. After all, AS will tell you that's why most of the RV's they've built over the years are will on the road and in use today. Not bad for the oldest RV manufacturer in the country.

For us, we puchased a mid eighties motorhome in need of TLC. We bought it right, but invested a lot into it over the first two or three years. Since then our maintenance curve dropped considerably and now, rather than spending money on parts, systems and safety we're making the modifications and upgrades we want to make to it. At some point this process will be done and despite budgeting for major wearable items like an engine, tires, tranny, etc. we'll own a luxury RV motorhome with no payments that turns head wherever it goes. Even now it doesn't eat parts or require gobs of cash to keep on the road. (if you take fuel cost out of it .)

Despite everything we've invested, we're still well below what a newer, less exciting motorhome would have cost from another manufacturer.

Steven Webster
1986 Airstream 345 Classic Motorhome
AIR 1760
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Old 04-18-2006, 03:15 PM   #3
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1988 25' Excella
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Not as bad as BMW 7 Series...

At the usual risk of offending loyal BMW owners, I'd second Steve's remarks about Airstream being different and less expensive than BMW.. You did mention towing, which means trailer to me.. As new member, you search on various threads here like "new v. used" and vintage versus late model versus new...

Most of things on large BMW are expensive (highest repair cost and parts of major luxury brands..) and you can't do much yourself.. (I know the vintage BMW 2002 owners are rounding up flamethrowers about now...). Much you can do yourself, and maintenance falls into several categories or buckets...

1. Emergency Repairs - Things like failed water heaters or water pumps or tires and wheel bearings can and do occur, and they are relatively infrequent and not terribly expensive if you keep to scheduled preventive maintenance, like servicing bearigns and brakes every year or so, and checking tires and pressures weekly. The handier you are with tools and instructions, the less expensive these become. Much cheaper than BMW...

2. Long term replacements - Over time, things will need replacement. Refrigerators fail avery 20+ years or so, axles will gradually wear down and need replacing. Tires should be replaced every 5 years or so, regardles of tread.. Air Conditioner may need replacing. Many of these are independent of brand, and not really expensive either, relative to BMW. Even tires cheaper than new Michelins of Continentals..

3. Final category is upgrades. You may just feel the need for new upholstery, drapes, blinds, carpets, plumbing fixtures and faucets, mattress, etc. These are not terribly expensive, and are at least discretionary...

The real difference between A/S and other brands is (I feel..) in the quality of construction of shell, frame and integration of systems. They use axles, brakes, shocks, frame and shell/body designed to last longer than average RV's, and use better plumbing and electrical systems and components as well. The Worthington Aluminum Propane Tanks were good example. Lighter, more durable, more expensive and last forever... One of the best guides is to ask how many 20+ year old Fleetwood or Skyline or other trailers are on the market and being used regularly.

Most folks here do some "Re-hab" when they buy to get trailer up to their standards, and then spend relatively little keeping it going for quite a while.. I know that has been our experience with a used trailer we bought 3 years ago...

John McG

In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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