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Old 06-18-2002, 03:48 PM   #1
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What do I have to get to tow?

Hi I am new at this airstream stuff. We just bought a '77 excella 31' and will be towing it with our trusty 87 buick le sabre wagon. But I have no idea what I need to do to the buick to prepare it for towing. Can anyone enlighten me? We don't even have a tow bar as yet. The airtsream is awaiting our arrival in NH and the previous owners sent me a hose that the owner before them had installed, my husband says it must have air brakes... and that our car is not equipped...anyone familiar with what I am talking about? Also if anyone can recommend service techs in Norfolk area of VA to do all the work I would greatly appreciate.

One more thing, we have yet to personally inspect the airstream. As much as I hate buying something sight unseen (though we did have pics) I had to buy something quickly as we just found out we are moving to NJ in August and the military doesn't cover what it would cost to rent up there so we went for the campground option. My question is this, is the '77 31' excella known for being a bad year or the lemon of the airstream crop? I am pretty sure it falls into the rear bath nightmare period. Anyone who can advise I would greatly appreciate your knowledge. We paid $4000 for it. Is it likely that it is worth this much? All appliances work apparently. Here are the only photos I have. It's a wrod document so I hope this works ok!!

Thanks,
Virginia
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Old 06-18-2002, 03:49 PM   #2
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sorry no photos!!

The word doc I saved the photos in must be too big...if you can help and are interested in taking a look I can email my pics.
Virginia
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Old 06-18-2002, 05:10 PM   #3
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1977 31' Excella

Hi Virginia,
First find out how much weight your Buick can tow, then find the empty & gross weight of the trailer. If you determine your buick can safely tow the trailer you will need to install a hitch on your Buick and get a weight distributing hitch and sway control for the trailer side for starters.

The hose could refer to vacum or hydraulic brakes which I'm not familiar with.

The Airstream dealer in Virginia is; Safford Dodge, 5202 Jefferson Davis hwy., Fredricksburg, VA. 540-898-9305.

There are no bad year Airstreams so you dont have to worry about that, if you have the rear droop you will see the skin bulging just behind the wheel wells. $4000 is a good price I think.

John
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Old 06-18-2002, 06:46 PM   #4
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Virginia,
I bought my '77 Excella 500 31' April 2001 and towed it back from AZ. to TN. in May 2001. I can help you with your situation since Andy from Inland RV was kind enough to help me before I started out on my trip.

The hose is a vacuum hose that plugs into a female 1/2" coupling mounted under the rear bumper IF YOU HAVE THE HYDRAULIC-VACUUM DISC BRAKES. This coupling should have a barbed tang that filts inside airbrake hose (I will have to see what size I used)that should be routed under the vehicle (I did mine inside the frame rails) up to the engine. Do not use hydraulic air hose because it will collapse, mine did. Find a full vacuum source off the engine manifold (may be a plug on the manifold or T into the hose going to the vacuum booster of the brake system) and attach a fitting with a barb on one end so it can be fitted inside the airbrake hose. I ran the hose appx. 12-15" away from the engine then placed a check valve with barbs on either end so that it could be placed in line with the airbrake hose. Look for an arrow on the body of the check valve and point it toward the engine. This is the vacuum flow direction. I took 2 rubber lined clamps, placed the checkvalve in between them and mounted it on the firewall away from engine heat. This checkvalve is nothing more than the same thing used in water lines to prevent water from backflowing. I got mine from www.inlandrv.com but you could probably find one locally. The checkvalve is then connected to the airbrake hose going back to the rear of the vehicle. You now have a source of full time vacuum which energizes your brake booster sitting between the tongue rails behind the propane tanks. The hose you were sent plugs into the female coupling previously mounted and then goes to the brake booster. When not towing, you need to place a male plug in the hose's place otherwise a leak will effect the engine like any vacuum leak will. Now you need a brake controller.

I have a Hayes-Lemerez Energize III controller. It is an inertia type which senses the tow vehicle's braking effort. When you put the brake on, it sends an elec. signal through a wire back to the rear of the vehicle to a 7 way male plug. This goes through a 7 way female plug and to the booster braking system. I can't get too technical with the correct names here because my manual is at home but the elec. signal causes hydraulic fluid to move the disc brake caliphers against the disc brakes thus hydra-vac brakes. Some people hate them because of lack of parts throughout the country but (like Andy of Inland RV) I love mine.

Someone locally can help you with installation of a brake controller and wiring for towing when you mount a class 3 or 4 two inch hitch. I can tell you what wires go where if you need me to. Inline circuit breakers are recommended for several of the wires going to the controller. I also have pictures of my brake controller, hose routing, hydraulic couplers, etc. if you would like me to email them to you. I went nuts taking digital pictures of all this stuff.

Make sure you buy an equalizer hitch for your 31' Airstream, you will need it. It consists of a bar coming out of the vehicle hitch, a 2 5/16" ball mounted on a platform, 2 equalizer bars with chains and 2 mounting devices which fit over the tongue frame rails. An RV place could recommend a proper unit for your trailer.

Last, get an owners manual from Helen Davis, Secretarial Services in Calif. (I also have her # at home) at a cost of $35-$36 for an zeroxed copy and also a service manual. These are really necessary. Set up your vehicle well before you pick it up. I had to stay in AZ. an additional 5 hrs. redoing part of my brake set-up because I used the wrong hose and did not have the proper heigth equalizer hitch bar.
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Old 06-18-2002, 10:44 PM   #5
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Virginia,
I have access to my material now so let me add a few things here. I have a brass elbow threaded into the back of my manifold into which a 3/8" threaded barb is screwed in. Appx. 18-21" of 3/8 " I.D. airbrake hose is attached and a hose screw clamp holds it on tight. Another 3/8" threaded barb is connected to the other end of that hose. A brass adapter 3/8" X 1/2" female-male connects the barb to the brass check valve. The valve is part #16503, was around $18 last year through Inland RV and is female threaded on both ends. I use teflon tape on all connections. Next is a 1/2" X 3/8" male-female to which another 3/8" male barb is screwed into. Screw clamps hold the hose on each side of the check valve with barbs. The 3/8" airbrake hose headed back to the rear of the truck is connected to that male barb. I purchased 22' of airbrake hose but didn't use it all. At the end of the hose underneath the bumper I slipped in another 3/8" male barb. Before putting the hose on the barb, fabricate a mounting bracket for your 1/2" female hydraulic coupling. I used a galvanized bracket designed to hold 2 pieces of wood together with nails or screws. I drilled a number of holes so that a 1/2" female to male adapter could fit through a round hole for that purpose. I sprayed the bracket black then mounted it underneath and to the left of my 7 pole electrical plug. I slipped the adapter through the hole from the back side and screwed it into the 1/2 female hydraulic coupling. I tightened the connections then slid the airbrake hose on and clamped it with another screw clamp.

A little tip, use dishwashing liquid lightly on the barbs to make the hose slip over the barbs easier. Don't forget to buy a male 1/2" hydraulic coupling to place in the female end when not towing. There is a check valve built it but this keeps dirt out as well as pretty much assures there is no air leak. Let me know if you want me to email the pictures of my setup to give you a better idea of what I am talking about.

Inland R.V. Center, Inc. is located in Corona, Calif. and can be reached at (909) 734-8130. Andy is thoroughly familiar with your braking system and has parts for it. Also, should you decide to change your system over to electric brakes, the factory in Ohio charges over $1,000 to make the conversion. Andy is familiar with a system that eliminates the need to route a vacuum hose or use vehicle vacuum by adding a vacuum pump called the "Air Braker" to the trailer tongue but it is expensive.

Hope this helps. Craig
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Old 06-18-2002, 10:51 PM   #6
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Oh My goodness!!!

Thanks for all the info Craig, I printed it all out and am giving it to my husband.

It sounds so complicated...hopefully when we sit down and do it it will run smoothly. Thanks for your time

Virginia
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Old 06-18-2002, 10:54 PM   #7
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Manuals

Virginia,
I forgot to mention that copies of owners manuals/service manuals can be purchased from Helen Davis as I mentioned earlier. The # is (937) 492-8885. I also have another # (937) 596-6111 so i'm not sure which one is correct. Someone correct me if I have given the wrong #.
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AIR #0078
'01 2500hd ext. cab, 8.1 litre gas, 5 sp. Allison auto
3.73 rear end
Mag-Hytec rear diff cover
Amsoil Dual by-pass oil filtration system
Amsoil synthetics all around
265 watt AM Solar, Inc. system
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Old 06-21-2002, 01:55 AM   #8
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Tow A/S

Virginia,
My 2 cents for what it's worth~
I was just looking in the papers here in New Hampshire,(THE UNION LEADER) and, came across this A/S for sales ad. Sounds almost like yours..But it's listed as a 76, 31' Excella 500 with a price tag of $3,200. listed telephone is 497-XXXX. does this sound like your's? (I believe you said '77 and, $4,000.)
If it is, I could check it out for you as it's a local to me.
The following is based on my own personal experience:
I have strong reservation about the use of a Buick LeSaber for a tow vehicle. It may be in great condition and, has been properly maintained but, as for a tow vehicle, the following questions comes to mind.
Actually, they're almost too numerous to list but, they include, the rating of your vehicle for hauling, the type of frame(if any), the size of engine, transmission, brakes(condition of same), the length of your car's foot-print~, extended tow mirrors, tow-bar receiver installed(proper rating), electrical hook-up between your car and the trailer. last and not all inclusive but, is the trailer road-worthy? Are the tires in need of replacement, have the wheel bearings been repacked recently and, are the brakes in proper working condition, are all the running lights working, is the A/S registered for the road? The lists just goes on and on...I'm not tryin to scare you off but, just don't want for you to have a bad experience with this~
Have..you thought of.. contracting a driver to haul it for you? Consider the distance from NH to NJ, at the most, it's what.. tops, 400 miles??? Most long distance RV haulers only charge $1.00 to 1.50 per mile~This works out to a whole heck less hassle for you. Since all you wanta do is get it to NJ, to live in it. Later, if you decide that you'd like to travel with it, you'd have more information and, time to consider what you need to travel with.
I can give you the name/number of any number of drivers who are in this line of business. If you wish.
plse let me know if I can be of any help to you and your family.
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Old 06-21-2002, 11:05 AM   #9
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Virginia,
Vern brings up a good point. If all you are going to do is park it and live in it, then why outfit your Buick wagon with three to four hundred dollars of equipment you may never use again? You definately don't want to tow that 31' without brakes which would not be legal nor advisable. A tow company could probably get away without the braking system in place due to the large trucks they may use. Would the military pay in part for the trailer to be moved? If so, this could be the approach you take in the future. Decide what you want to do with the trailer in the future and if it looks like you may want to travel with it or will move it numerous times then set up the Buick. You may find that at some point you want to trade up to a Ford F250 or Chevy 2500 3/4 ton truck to make towing easier. The vacuum hose system and brake controller can be switched over.
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AIR #0078
'01 2500hd ext. cab, 8.1 litre gas, 5 sp. Allison auto
3.73 rear end
Mag-Hytec rear diff cover
Amsoil Dual by-pass oil filtration system
Amsoil synthetics all around
265 watt AM Solar, Inc. system
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Old 06-21-2002, 11:26 AM   #10
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yes...vern's post made me think about getting it towed...now to find a good company to do it.
virginia
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Old 06-21-2002, 05:15 PM   #11
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Ref: tow

Virginia..
You'd be on track with an in-state driver, possibly save money.

One that comes to mind is:
RV America
Vic LaPorte
603-895-4099
800-895-4099
P.O. Box 14
Raymond, NH 03077
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