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Old 08-04-2006, 05:21 PM   #1
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1979 31' Excella 500
Edmond , Oklahoma
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Question Belly Skins?

Some of the rivets have worn through the belly skin on my 79 Excella. I see that Vintage Trailer Supply has large large flange rivets, does anyone have any experience with them? Do you seal the rivet with something when installing?


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Old 08-04-2006, 06:27 PM   #2
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I've used the large flange rivets with success. They seem beefy. Butter them with Silkaflx or Parabond.

Hope this helps.


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Old 08-04-2006, 06:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Dano57
Some of the rivets have worn through the belly skin on my 79 Excella. I see that Vintage Trailer Supply has large large flange rivets, does anyone have any experience with them? Do you seal the rivet with something when installing?

You can use large flange rivets. They hold panels with hogged out holes much better. I have also used regular rivets with rivet washers before, works just as well.
There is no need to seal belly pan rivets, unless they are up near the lower trim, where water entry would be at floor level. You do not have to apply sealer to rivets for the belly pan below the flooring level.
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Old 08-04-2006, 10:21 PM   #4
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1984 31' Excella
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Belly Skins

This is how I repaired mine.
The skin was corroded almost through and the rivets had pulled through. The pan was very loose.
1. I located the center of the frame rib (steel) all the way across the bottom.
2. Took a chalk line and pooped a line across the bottom.
3. Took a small piece of the aluminum strip and made a guage (made a center line down the middle of it. Held the center line on the belly skin and with a pencil marked the front and rear of the strip with a pencil.
4. Layed out and drilled the holes in the patch strip.
5. Had a friend help hold and align the strip between the pencil marks on the belly pan on each side of the rib.
6. Drilled the first holes in the middle and worked out from the middle. This will prevent bunching or puckering that will occur if you start at one side and work all the way from one side to the other. A very sharp 1/8 inch bit is necessary.
worked out from the middle until finished.
See picturers at
I did not seal the rivets or the patch because if any water gets on top of the belly pan you want it to seep out. However if the steel rib is showing, place electricians tape on rib to prevent the aluminum patch strip from touching the steel. The reason the aluminum corroded into at the ribes in the first place was due to dissimiliar metal corrosion. The tape prevents the aluminum from touching the steel rib.
I have local supply of the large headed (aluminum pop) rivets here in Norfolk if you are interested.
Good luck.
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Old 08-05-2006, 12:19 AM   #5
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Hey Beginner! that supplier wouldn't happen to be Tidewater Industrial Fasteners would it? Those guys are IT when it comes to fasteners.

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Old 08-05-2006, 02:49 PM   #6
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Belly Skins

Personally, I dont go there. The last four times I called there looking for fastening devices(that covers a lot) I'd call first. Then when I got there they would tell me that they had made a mistake. In reality they couldn't bother to get up off their dead #####(rear end) and go look.
They made me feel that unless I bought fasterners by the box, they didn't want me there.
Fastenell has better customer rappor.
I havent been there in 5 years or better.
I go to a little hole in the wall place called American Maintenance Suppliers (AMS)(757 420-0711). I got all the pop rivets there, I buy stranded wire in all guages and colors, crimp on wire terminations, Automotive trim fasteners, grommets, chain, convoluted tubing(wire loom) and any fastener I have been able to ask for. They also get up and look and appolige for not having it. Just wonderful people to buy from. And whats even better, their prices on the whole are usually 30 to 50% less that Tidewater Industrial Fasteners. They, AMS, remain open on Sat til 6:00 PM (1800 hrs).
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Old 08-05-2006, 07:46 PM   #7
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Thanks , folks. Beginner, I like what you did as I believe in overbuilding and I think that certainly fits! Great idea, but I am curious, I have always been told to never use pencil on aluminum as the vibrations will cause it to crack there. Have you any experience along those lines.

Does American Maintenance Suppliers have a web site?

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Old 08-06-2006, 12:09 AM   #8
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Belly Skins?

Pencils are made with clay so no problen with disimmiliar metal corrosion.
Metal, when scratched say like with a scribe if put under repeated stress (vibration, twisting Etc.) will crack and break much sooner at/along the scratch line than metal without a stratch on the same place.
That being said I drag the pencil lightly, just hard enough to produce a line. If your pan is corroded a as bad as mine you will have to barely touch the aluminum and the pencil will leave a mark.
just a pencil line on say the afterburner nozzle sections of any fighter attack aircraft with afterburners will cause a crack and a segment of the section with the crack will break and fall off.
The crack is caused by thermal shock. Heat glass unevenly and it will crack. The same applies here. As the line burns off when the afterburner is lit the temperature of the burning line is quite different than the normal segment with the afterburner on. This difference in temperature will cause a crack.

AMS apperantly does not have a site. I called them with the phone number in the other post just to make sure it was a valid number.
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Old 08-06-2006, 05:23 AM   #9
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Pay attention to Uwe

Belly skins & riveting for same require no sealer, Vulkem, rivet gaskets, etc. Look at how the original construction is overlapped aluminum only. This area needs air circulation to dry effectively after driving in weather.

Various methods were used to seal the junction of the side sheet metal with the banana wrap at the level of the floor. This is important.

5 meter Langford Nahanni

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Old 09-24-2006, 05:13 PM   #10
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I have not seen the actual fabrication details of the belly to frame of many other Airstreams, but those I've seen have direct contact of the frame components to the belly, effectively eliminating any significant airflow and promoting entrapment of moisture.

My 6-yr old 2001 19ft Bambi has had severe corrosion where the aluminum belly contacted the steel frame, crossmembers and outriggers. In addition, many of the aluminum rivets had corroded away, losing their head flange and the belly pan dropping away. In some areas the belly aluminum completely corroded through exposing the underlying frame at the underside- all this in only 6 years.

I'm at the start of the rebuild phase of my restoration, and am browsing the forum to see what others have done and how those techniques have worked.

The bellypan material I've purchased is type 316 stainless steel sheet. Type 316 stainless steel machine screws will be inserted into tapped holes in the frame to attach the bellypan.

The bellypan will be segmented to allow removal of sections for maintenance and inspection as necessary. The bellypan will be mechanically and electrically isolated from the steel frame members with an isolating tape- I haven't decided on which type.

I haven't figured out how to provide proper venting from the belly segments to the outside. Maybe there are some solutions other trailer manufactureres have used that others know about?

One of the biggest issues I have to face is how to prevent moisture from getting into the belly area from the wheel-wells. My Bambi has large gaps between the glavanized wheel-well and the exposed outriggers and frame channel. I'm looking at having a plastic fenderwell fabricated to be inserted into this area which will help keep any direct spray from the road or wheel coming into this area. It's an open design issue for me.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated.
Marshall Swartz
2001 19-ft Bambi
2013 Honda Ridgeline RTL
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Old 09-24-2006, 08:43 PM   #11
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The replacement rivets for Airstreams are called Olympic rivets. The are similar to the original rivet in looks when done, but the difference is that they don't need access to the inner side of the rivet to be installed. They are true and make a great seal. They make a tool that smoothes off the rounded head of the rivet to look just like original. Just make sure (as was said earlier) not to let the aluminum touch steel or you'll get galvanic corrosion.

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Old 09-24-2006, 09:41 PM   #12
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I Tried But I Can't Resist

MSWARTZ - read your post over and over again. Here is my humble thought:

If I have a 2001 Bambi - lord only knows what you paid for her - and she has the problems you discribe....

My next weeks vacation is a trip to Jackson Center Ohio to have the problem corrected for FREE.

We have a 71 that has it's share of problems but nothing like your post...

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