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Old 08-31-2019, 01:55 PM   #1
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Airstream problems - Issue roundup

Thought it would be helpful (especially to new or prospective owners) to compile a list of known, long-standing issues common to Airstream Trailers, in one convenient thread.

The idea here is not to bash Airstream or Thor per se, but as a helpful source of things owners ought to know going in. Of course no brand is perfect, no trailer is perfect, and any given coach will have its own unique issues. This thread is limited in scope to list on-going, never-fixed design flaws or problems common to the iconic travel trailers Airstream is known for, and not necessarily for any of the motor homes, BaseCamp, or (nest).

So, what are the issues you wish you'd known about beforehand (or did already know, but purchased anyway, knowing you could work around)

I'll start with a few of the more well-known issues:

Plywood subfloor: The main issue here is that eventually, this floor will rot. If you are purchasing new, you may get a decade or so of use out of your floor before this becomes an issue, unless there was a major water event. Those looking to purchase used should inspect carefully at the front and end of the trailers, the bathroom floor, under the galley, around the wheel wells and at the main door for soft spots and rot. Don't be at all surprised to discover that portions or even the entire floor will need to be replaced, it is a very common issue for all trailers (and especially for those made in the 1980s when they used OSB board for the subfloor, so the return to Plywood was actually an improvement!) Airstream could elect to use an Aluminum floor or a composite material like Coosa Board, but they don't, for whatever reason (many of us suspect because they decline to increase the cost of production)

Rear Bumper Water intrusion: So, the way the rear bumper is designed allows rain and road water to seep back into the rear floor of the trailer and eventually cause floor rot (see above). Why AS has never fixed this design flaw is a head scratcher.

Suicide Doors: Many (but not all) models have a door that swings open to the rear. The issue is that when (not if) your door latch fails during a bump at highway speeds, the door will fling open violently and destroy the door, along with other possible damage like broken hinges, windows, etc. And of course the interior is then exposed to the elements, resulting in a wet and rotting floor (see #1 above) Why a AS does not do like most every other builders of travel trailers and design the door to open forward, such that a latch failure during transit will be a relatively minor incident is another mystery. Owners typically fashion door wedges and other work-arounds to counter this design flaw.

Poor insulation: AS travel trailers are not four-season trailers. Even if AS put in better insulation in the walls (they use just a few inches of pink fiberglass-type) there would still be substantial thermal transfer from the Aluminum outer skin through the Aluminum ribs, to the Aluminum inner skin. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Those are a few of the most ubiquitous issues common to all the iconic travel trailers over the past eighty years. Feel free to add to this list, but please try to keep the bashing to a minimum, the idea being to inform buyers beforehand, so they know.
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Old 08-31-2019, 02:07 PM   #2
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Sorry to disagree, but I think you have just scratched the surface. Having read posts for 7 years, I do not think that there is any real way to consolidate problems in one thread. Some people never have some of the problems, some have many problems. I think the best way to get a real feel for what you are buying or thinking about buying is to spend a lot of time reading past threads and posts. No shortcuts.

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Old 08-31-2019, 03:08 PM   #3
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Although there are limiting characteristics of Airstreams, your issues are not universal. My 2011 FC23FB, for instance, does not have a ‘suicide door’, nor rear bumper water intrusion. Also, you can’t have ‘a few inches’ of insulation in a two inch thick wall. True, it is not a ‘four season’ trailer, but that should be obvious to a discerning buyer. (Note: we actually use ours in all four seasons.).

I’ve corrected or improved many areas on our Airstream, but three items are beyond practical after-market improvement.

1. Plywood sub-flooring. A inexcusable cost savings. Water intrusion happens. (Thankfully we live and store in a very dry environment.)
2. More modern construction techniques with thermal barriers between structural elements and better insulation material.
3. Improved windows. Airstream windows are architecturally pleasing, but a PIA to operate and a safety hazard to anyone walking close to the trailer.

Alas, I seriously doubt that Thor is seeking input.
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Old 08-31-2019, 07:42 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lsbrodsky View Post
Sorry to disagree, but I think you have just scratched the surface. Having read posts for 7 years, I do not think that there is any real way to consolidate problems in one thread. Some people never have some of the problems, some have many problems. I think the best way to get a real feel for what you are buying or thinking about buying is to spend a lot of time reading past threads and posts. No shortcuts.

Larry
Well said, Larry.

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Old 09-01-2019, 11:50 AM   #5
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Airstream problems

I agree with all prior posts except one issue is missing and the is rivet popping. The belly pan needs constant attention as well as inside rivets if you have al interior. I just had to replace 15 interior rivets after returning from Florida. It’s not a great problem but should be watched and repaired immediately
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Old 09-01-2019, 11:56 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by SteveLande View Post
I agree with all prior posts except one issue is missing and the is rivet popping. The belly pan needs constant attention as well as inside rivets if you have al interior. I just had to replace 15 interior rivets after returning from Florida. It’s not a great problem but should be watched and repaired immediately
I've had 2 trailers and have had one rivet pop out and that was on delivery to my dealer. Why are yours popping out so often? To stiff weight distribution, tire pressure, etc. ???? Why not admit you have a problem?
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Old 09-01-2019, 12:53 PM   #7
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i hate Slippery Sliding on Ultra Leather!

We were ready to pull the trigger on a beautiful 28FB International Signature and I just couldn't get past the annoying sliding and slipping on the crappy Ultra Leather.
Settled for a slightly used Safari 2006 SE 25FB with Custom Fabric Cushions! Ultraleather saved me about $90,000! Thank you Ultra Leather!
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Old 09-01-2019, 01:07 PM   #8
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We purchased our first AS in Feb and have been following the forum since then. For me, the biggest surprise is the number of complaints about floor rot.
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Old 09-01-2019, 01:13 PM   #9
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Filiform corrosion for certain years, the thread of the year a few years ago.
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Old 09-01-2019, 02:15 PM   #10
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Based on my experience with my 2017 International Serenity 27FB, and on what I've read in threads here, the major issue with Airstreams--more important than anything else--is sloppy workmanship.

The design is good. The materials (with the exception of the flimsy foam-backed vinyl flooring) are good. But the carelessness evident in every aspect of this trailer's assembly is appalling. I made the dealer fix some of the issues, and I fixed many myself... but two years after purchase, I'm still finding examples of blatantly crappy workmanship. To me, that is Airstream's single biggest problem.
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Old 09-01-2019, 03:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paprika View Post
Based on my experience with my 2017 International Serenity 27FB, and on what I've read in threads here, the major issue with Airstreams--more important than anything else--is sloppy workmanship.
.
I would wager that the majority of individual problem owners of brand new trailers often find can be traced to poor workmanship and/or lack of QC in general; be it sloppy caulking, loose screws, ill-fitting components, mis-routed cables, missing parts or incomplete assembly. The common thread in all of these is rushed assembly and the dealership failing to catch these issues (not that they should have to, in a more perfect world)
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Old 09-01-2019, 04:07 PM   #12
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Insulation in newer trailers is not the pink stuff of old. They use EcoBatt® insulation , made primarily from sand and recycled glass.
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Old 09-01-2019, 04:24 PM   #13
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I think the R value has not changed with the Eco Batt, but it is not very high to begin with (an R-4, I think) A sub-problem with this and the pink stuff is that it tends to attract nesting critters over time, as anyone who has removed their inner skins can attest. And when it gets wet, it looses it's insulating properties quickly.

AS did add a very thin foam double-sided tape between the outer skin and ribs, and it helps somewhat with thermal bridging, but not nearly enough, of course. There is only so much you can do in that small space with such a highly conductive material.

Perhaps something exotic like aerogel would make difference one could actually feel, but that material is still too expensive and has not been tested in this application.

Those who have added the Reflex type bubble wrap with an air gap between it and the outer skin report good results with keeping the interior cooler on sunny days, but it does not do a thing for the cold.

Those who have blown foam swear that gives the best results, and the newer foam does not turn to dust but it's a PIA to do and even bigger PIA to remove.
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Old 09-01-2019, 05:48 PM   #14
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In a strange way, reading this thread makes me look forward getting older, and to the day my memory diminishes to the point that I can tell the same jokes to my friends over and over and they laugh as if they've never heard it before, hear them tell the same stories again and again and sit in rapt attention, not knowing how it ends, and coming here to Airforums to discuss quality concerns about AS trailers as if I didn't just finish complaining about the exact same things the day before.
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Old 09-01-2019, 07:22 PM   #15
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Yup, you do know this is a mix-tape for the new fans who weren't here when the band first released this stuff in Hi-Fi, right? All the oldies from the original 8-track recordings!
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Old 09-01-2019, 07:34 PM   #16
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I’ll add something new (maybe!). Are trailers made in Europe, such as the Avia made by NüCamp comparable in quality to Airstreams? I know that they are beautiful and much less expensive - $60,000 for the 28’ Avia.
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Old 09-01-2019, 08:35 PM   #17
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Love these threads. I have only owned 2 Airstreams... a 2016 Sport 22 FB shortly followed by a 2016 Pendleton (saw it in person, and we fell in love). A close friend recently used the term "fragile" to describe Airstreams. I agree with that assessment and with many of the comments made here. I took the time to spend 5 days at the factory and watch the Pendleton being built from frame to finish. Almost finished anyway. But they do allow you to photograph your own trailer, other than that no photos allowed. It was obvious that much of the workforce was in training and there was clearly a manpower shortage. I believe the current facility is in the 400-500 thousand square foot range and they were running out of room. The new building, which I was able to see in the fall of 2018 is 16.5 acres, or nearly a million square feet. So even though demand is at an all time high, it's hard to maintain a quality workforce. Especially in rural west central Ohio.
Here's another issue, which are the sub-components that all manufacturers use and seem to fail all too frequently. See this article. It's long, and was written in 2016:

https://fifthwheelst.com/documents/R...ompilation.pdf

I've often thought that the outer shell (on the inside) should be coated with some type of stiffener, or insulating foam. I'm not an engineer but we have some minor hail dings, a bird strike and what looks like a stone ding on the front. Just a wee bit more thickness or a backing of some type would have protected it better. I do drive a bit to fast on the freeways but run Michelins on both the truck and trailer, rated at 106 mph... not that I ever plan to try that of course.
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Old 09-01-2019, 08:38 PM   #18
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I just finished reading about a new RV from Aluminum Trailer Company and love that they use a Aluminum Frame 100%...and a floor that will never & cannot rot. Sure wish Airstream would wake up !
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Old 09-01-2019, 10:58 PM   #19
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Everyone will have different experiences. I keep my Classic in covered storage and reseal it every five years after a SealTec test. No water damage in 15 years. I also camp in cold weather. For prolong stays, just get a large propane tank with auto fill. If I was staying in one place the whole winter I would consider an outer boot room at the entry door and insulated skirting. Also, I have used snow to bank up as a skirt. Otherwise, you could say no travel trailer or motorhome is a four season proposition. So much for 50 years of aluminum trailers. Three of them. They get a licking and keep on ticking. Borrowed from Timex. I helps to enjoy trailer maintenance.
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Old 09-02-2019, 01:23 PM   #20
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Avia is very close to the Caravel 22FB on interior size and about $10k less at list. Does have some nice features like the Alde heat/water system.
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