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Old 11-15-2003, 09:24 AM   #1
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New AS owner with questions

We've recently bought a 1978 31' Excella which is the first travel trailer we've owned. We live in Kansas City which does not have an Airstream dealer but wanted to get the trailer checked over. The first place I tried told me they did not work on Airstreams. When I said I just wanted some items checked out that were common on lots of trailers the lady was very rude and just repeated (loudly) that they didn't work on Airstreams. The 2nd place I called I just told the service manager it was an older trailer and what I wanted done. He said bring it in. When I was checking in the lady said they didn't work on Airstreams but then checked with the service manager & they went ahead and took it. They called yesterday to tell me they had done everything on my list except for packing the wheel bearings and I would have to take it to St. Louis (4 hours away) to have that done. I asked her what was different about Airstream wheel bearings and was told "they're just different". I'm wondering if this is common among non-Airstream shops and why. Also, does anyone know of someone in the KC area where I can get work done when needed. Thanks in advance for your help.
John
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Old 11-15-2003, 09:41 AM   #2
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1993 30' Excella
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sob shops

sorry to hear about your bad treatment....I take my rig to a sob shop and theyre happy to take my money....bearings are bearings, you shouldnt have had that problem.... since i bought my a/s i have noted your problem...a/s have parts not readilly available...or so ive been told..on my last trip out west...i got the same treatment....buck up bucko you are now part of the elite....
norby
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Old 11-15-2003, 09:49 AM   #3
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Give me a break..........


A trailer is a trailer is a trailer - as a duck is a duck. I've heard this before that Airstreams are "different". There not - same appliances, same axles, wheels.

Would be interesting if you brought in a HiLo - they use the same axle as Airstream.

The reason shops will say they are different is because they don't sell them - they want to sell you a new trailer. Anytime I hear "Airstreams are different" I do a quick about face and walk out of the place.

Keep calling around - you should quickly find someone who would be glad to work on your trailer.

Urgggggg


Ken J.
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Old 11-15-2003, 08:33 PM   #4
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As much as I hate to work on anything mechanical anymore I have been forced to do it myself because many of the shops out there just blow you off. Wheel bearings are not that big of a deal to repack or replace. Roll up your sleeves and pull them hubs. You will be glad you did.
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Old 11-15-2003, 09:03 PM   #5
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Pack your bearings.

Tinselloaf is right!
Here's a linkpack your bearings
One personal note: I bought a 'bearing packer'-two cones which let you pump grease into your bearings-rather than using the palm method. I think I made more of a mess and got more grease on myself with the bearing packer than if I'd done it the old way.
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Old 11-16-2003, 04:08 AM   #6
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New AS owner with questions

Greetings John!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!

The attitude of Brand X dealers in my area toward servicing Airstreams varies greatly, and early in the ownership of my Airstream I encountered many with the attitude that you describe. To make things worse, one of the first Airstream dealers (the one actually in my home state at the time) that I contacted about servicing my trailer backed out of my appointment when he learned that my Overlander was more than 10 years old.

The only reason that I can think of why a Brand X dealer might have for avoiding servicing the wheel bearings on a coach would be if it were equipped with the Excella Hydra-Vac Disc Brakes that were on many Airstreams of your coach's era. Not that there would be anything terribly unusual about servicing the wheel bearings on one of these coaches, but the lack of first-hand knowledge of such a system could quite possibly scare off a Brand X shop.

In Kansas City, you are probably nearly equi-distant from the Airstream dealer located in metropolitan St. Louis as well as Ace Fogdall RV in Cedar Falls, IA - - both shops have received praise from Vintage Airstream owners for their capability to handle Vintage Airstrem Repairs. I have first-hand experience with Ace Fogdall, and am a VERY satisfied customer - - in fact they are installing a new axle on my Minuet and getting it ready for a planned trip to Alaska next summer.

Good luck with your new acquisition!

Kevin
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Old 11-16-2003, 04:44 PM   #7
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The trailer does have the Hydra-Vac brakes. The guy I bought it from had never hooked them up, just hauled the trailer without brakes and said he never had a problem. That seems dangerous to me but I don't know what my alternatives are. Any thoughts on the brakes?
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Old 11-16-2003, 05:33 PM   #8
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1964 26' Overlander
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New AS owner with questions

Greetings John!

There are basically three schools of thought on the Excella Hydra-Vac Brakes.

The first, and probably least costly, is to rebuild the system. While some parts may be a bit difficult to find, most are still available. It may be difficult to find a Brand X dealer who will be willing to work on these brakes as they were more or less exclusive to Airstream. When they are in functional condition, they are among the most respected trailer brakes of their time. The two things that will be required are a vacuum connection to your tow vehicle (may be a problem with some diesel powered tow vehicles), and there is one particular brake controller that is preferred for the Hydra-Vac brake system.

The second method of dealing with the situation is one that I have only been reading about rather recently. There is a new disc brake system that can be retrofitted to coaches equipped with Hydra-Vac brakes that mounts some type of electric vacuum pump on the trailer to run the hydraulic/booster system that according to my understanding does not require a vacuum connection to the tow vehicle. If my memory of what I have read is correct, the retriofit kit is in excess of $800 for the parts - - I believe that there is a discussion regarding this system elsewhere on the forums.

The third method of dealing with the situation is to convert to the more commonly seen drum brakes - - this may actually be a less costly solution if the coach happens to need new Dura Torque axles. This particular conversion isn't particularly cheap - - especially when done by a dealer - - I believe that I have hear prices mentioned in the range of $1,000. The one advantage to this solution is that the brakes will be those commonly used by many RVs so parts and repairs when traveling will be available with somewhat greater certainty.

Good luck with your project!

Kevin
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Old 11-16-2003, 05:53 PM   #9
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Just make sure you get brakes, whatever you do! It is illegal in Mo, and all adjacent states to pull a trailer of that weight without trailer brakes. There is also a chance you will void your insurance coverage, if there is an incident. And finally, it is dangerous.

Mark
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Old 12-03-2003, 05:45 PM   #10
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I want to thank everyone for their replies to my post. I'm picking up my trailer tomorrow where I got a new furnace, batteries, and hitch as well as a few problems solved. Then I'm taking it to get new propane valves and then to a trailer place where they say they can retrofit the hydra/vac brakes to hydra/electric brakes. We'll see if it happens. I had hoped to be able to use the trailer before winter sets in but looks like I better just plan on being ready for the spring. Again, I really appreciate all the help.
John
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Old 12-03-2003, 05:56 PM   #11
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Don't give up that easily! I'm just down the road in Springfield, Mo., and we plan to take a short vacation right around New Years. Granted, that assumes 1) the roads here are safe for trailering, and 2) that the weather someplace we can reasonably drive to is good enough to make it worthwhile. But it could happen.

Come spring, you have some of my favorite camping sites just at your doorstep - Watkins Mill, Weston Bend, and Arrow Rock come quickly to mind.

Mark
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Old 12-03-2003, 06:25 PM   #12
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brakes on excella

John
I have a 78 sovereign land yacht with the same hydra-vac brake system. Just 3 weeks ago I completed a bebuild on my brakes. I agree that they are awesome brakes once you get them working. I removed the booster vacuum lines and master cylinder and had them rebuilt by a local fellow who was more than happy to tackle the job. HE helped me greatly by explaining every nuance of the system and how advantageous the system is. Having the service manuel helped as well. Anyway I was going to take your approach if I couldn't find parts but my brake man said that the booster and master cylinder were common Midland brand brake parts. The sync valve was the only part he was unsure of and I believe that can be rebuilt at Inland RV in Corona CA. If the conversion does not work out I think you can still get your old system working if you desire it. Let me know if you need more info on the overhaul. My costs were around $350.00 plus 8hours of my time removing and reinstalling and replacing old vacuum lines and fittings and bleeding the system. I am not very mechanically inclined so if you are figure on half the time.

Wayne
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