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Old 02-04-2003, 12:10 PM   #1
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Restore 1979 or Buy Another A/S?

I have lived full time in my 1979 31-foot Airstream Excella 500 for two years. It looks as though the former one-owner sideswiped something all along the right side (opposite side from awning and entrance), then did a repair of the skin toward the front right side. I can live with this.

I asked the dealership where the sales manager knows and has worked on Airstreams if he thought it would be worth restoring this 1979. He said no, that it would cost more than buying a newer one. I have already spent $3,500 this last month on replacing the dead bolt which quit turning, repairing busted water lines, new Bravura toilet, overhead light repaired, new shower fixtures, caulking where a leak has been in the back under the window, a couple of hinge replacements for cabinets, new gauges (not sure what you call them) for the two propane tanks. I am having a beautiful vinyl flooring put in next week. The owners before me replaced the hot water heater so it is very new. They also upholstered the couch and put in new curtains throughout.

The unit is beautiful on the left side where the door and awning are.

I think the things left to do would be: new awning material, stoneguard, new refrigerator (the fridge is not an RV one but one from Circuit City). new tires, new stripes, polishing (maybe), new propane heater, brakes checked.

I really love the way the interior of this trailer looks and the left side looks new except for the stripes.

I guess the fact that it is a '79 would be the only thing keeping someone from refurbishing it. I want to retire in 5 years, buy a good truck, and travel with my trailer to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, Oregon and California, Florida and stay in those states for a long while each (maybe a year or even more in some). I plan to travel in it for at least 30 years or more

Are all my repair/travel plans right for this 1979 trailer? Or is it asking too much of one this old?

Kathy
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Old 02-04-2003, 12:59 PM   #2
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I think if you love it, and you can do what you want to get it to the condition you want it to be for your enjoyment, then don't worry about the salesperson. He might be thinking of the commissions on a new unit for you, not giving you the advice you seek.
Look within these pages at the number of us who are in a constant refurbishment mode making our Airstreams better and more personalized. The only consideration is if yours was deemed unsafe for any reason, and that it was beyond reasonable repair. Otherwise I say go for it!
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Old 02-04-2003, 01:12 PM   #3
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The list price of a new 31-foot Excella is about $65,000. You can do a lot of restoration for that!
If the body, frame and running gear are in good order it will not cost any more to maintain your current trailer than a new one.
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Old 02-04-2003, 01:59 PM   #4
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I wondered how much a new one was. I thought it was about that

I know a lot of you men (maybe a few women?) are doing a lot of the restoration yourselves, but I don't think I would know how to do all this and will be taking my A/S to the dealer whose service manager knows and has worked on Airstreams.

The RV vinyl installers are going to put underlayment (approx. wt. 200 lbs.) on top of the 5/8" marine floor (I believe that's what is under there from various forum members here) and then lay the vinyl over this.

I have had a pretty bad leak at the back of the trailer under the large rear window and there is a lot of rotted wood there. I was trying to find out about this leak and so I cut out the carpet that is presently in the unit and got down to the rotted flooring. I dug it out and when I finished I created a hole in the floor. The rot was that bad.

How will I know if there are leaks happening under this new underlayment/vinyl flooring? I understand that if a leak is not stopped it could damage the frame.

The one thing I would really like to be able to do is caulk for leaks. I am afraid of heights so don't know about working on top of the trailer, but I could learn about caulking for leaks on the sides, underneath, etc. I want to become an expert on leaks even if I can't do other repairs yet . . . maybe I'll learn to do other stuff on down the road.

The service manager at the dealership has had all the back window and lights, etc. caulked. They are going to do the water test next.
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Old 02-04-2003, 03:32 PM   #5
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You are a fulltimer so essentially you should be treating your A/S as your house. All trailers, Airstreams included, need to have extensive (and expensive!!) repairs just as a house. If you want to travel in it you need to have a somewhat different mindset as to the scope of the repairs. For instance a 120v apartment fridge would probably not work well on the road without a constant source of a/c voltage. Putting down 200 lbs. of underlayment for the flooring would probably not be such a good idea either. And then you get into tires, brakes,axles, shocks, etc. It gets to the point where if you don't want to spend a lot of money your A/S will probably be better off just set up in a park, never to see the road.

Yes it is a sad thought but somewhat inevitable.

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Old 02-04-2003, 04:10 PM   #6
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I am prepared to put in an RV refrigerator when I get on the road. I would rather spend money on my Airstream and continue to live in a $475/month park with all utilities while I apply that extra $300-$400 that I would pay in apartment rent to the A/S.

Is it a bad idea to put down underlayment?

I thought some people were putting in Pergo flooring. Isn't that just about as heavy?

The people putting this flooring frequently install carpeting, etc. in motor homes and in trailers for the RV dealership here in Atlanta. I can tell them not to do this all throughout, just in any rotted areas like in the back, if this is really a bad idea.

Also, I need to tell the service department here whether to do an all-over seal on the Airstream to catch any and all possible leaks. Is this a very good idea? I fear I will not be able to see the leak if it is still there when they put in the vinyl.

I would appreciate knowing what to do about this all-over seal so I can tell the service manager whether to do or not.

Thanks for all the help.
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Old 02-04-2003, 04:28 PM   #7
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It would depend on how thick it is. I would mainly be concerned about the extra weight. Pergo is not as heavy as 3/4 " underlayment if that is what they are using. I wouldn't want to lose any headroom and you will possibly need a taller toilet ring ( if you have a floor mount toilet) and you may have problems getting the fridge installed if you add too much thickness to the floor. If you have a weak rotted floor that gets wet I wouldn't just cover it with underlayment, underlayment is usually pressed wood, very heavy particleboard which will swell considerably if in contact with water.

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Old 02-04-2003, 06:39 PM   #8
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Kathy, before i would add 200 lbs to the trailer, I would consider using only in the bathroom what is called Tile Backerboard or wonderboard available at Home depot in 3'x5' -1/4" and 1/2" thickness.
It's made from cement and unaffected by moisture. If the hole is not too big, even the 1/4" material would be strong enough to span the area. Then you could have the edge filled to create a gentle slope to the rest of the wood floor before installing the new vinyl.
Finding and eliminating the cause for leak would still be my first priority.
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Old 02-04-2003, 07:25 PM   #9
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The installers have already come out to the dealership's service dept. and installed the vinyl under the toilet. The service department had to take the toilet out so the vinyl could be installed under the toilet. Had I known about the other way you are mentioning, I would have asked them about that, but it does look real good now.

When the trailer is back to the RV campground, the installers will come in and install the rest of the vinyl. But now I'm going to talk to them about this underlayment deal mentioning all the stuff you guys have said about the weight, etc.

I am thinking of having the entire trailer sealed if not too costly. Wouldn't that fix any leak for good?

Since I pulled out all the rotted wood where the water from the leak appeared and created that hole, the water wasn't soaking the carpet in that area anymore when it rained. That means it's going straight to the underbelly. I really don't understand how the dealership can determine if it is still leaking now that I created that hole. He said he could run water on the trailer and then look down into the underbelly with a flashlight and see if water was down there.

I think just to be sure I will ask the vinyl installers to just put plywood in that area until I am sure the leak is totally gone. Then I can see if it is still leaking. They may be able to leave some vinyl for me to install myself. It is just a little area at the back (that would be on the side of the double bed). They will have to piece the vinyl together anyway because the space around the side and foot of the bed is less than a foot wide, I think.

How does this plan sound?


From reading all the posts and replies on these forums I realize this is supposed to be fun, refurbishing an Airstream. I have been so worried about the leak that I have probably taken some of the fun out of it for myself. I'm sure I'm being too serious about this. After all, some of the members here have much older units with many more things to fix that I have and evidently, with an Airstream, just about anything can be repaired!

I fell in love with the Airstream the first time I ever stepped into one and never want anything but an Airstream so I intend to stick with it. I am learning so much on these forums. Everybody goes into such detail about solving a problem.

Thanks for all your help.
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Old 02-05-2003, 10:29 AM   #10
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FWIW: pergo weighs about 30 lbs per box; each box covers about 20 sq ft.

In my little trailer, I figured I used about 3 boxes, and added about 90 lbs to the trailer. But then I'd have to subtract the weight of the carpet and pad that I pulled out of there. I don't know what 60 sq ft of carpet weighs....probably not as much as the pergo, but it does weigh something.

one neat thing about it is that as it is the "snap-together" type, the outer planks can be removed, and the sub-floor can be inspected where it meets the walls, which is where leaks will show up.
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Old 02-05-2003, 11:59 AM   #11
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I went by the installers this morning to discuss the underlayment.

They already have ordered and now have the big roll there of vinyl I have paid for. I'm going ahead with this. He said the underlayment is 1/4" thick and there won't be any padding, just the plywood floor underneath. All told, it will probably weigh less or not much more than Pergo flooring, which of course is beautiful flooring.

Since I intend to keep my Airstream for the rest of my life I can always put in new flooring in about 10 years or less if this doesn't work out for some reason. I really want to restore my A/S in every way.
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Old 02-05-2003, 05:27 PM   #12
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Restore 1979 or Buy Another A/S?

Greetings Kathy!

RE: Underlayment

I don't think that you will regret going with a thin, luan underlayment material. When the Fowlers restored the interior in my '64 Overlander that is just what they did in the installation of my new Congoleum sheet vinyl flooring. That was nearly two years ago, and it resulted in a beautiful job with less than a 125 pound weight addition over the old carpeting.

RE: Sealing Exterior

I too have a fear of height and avoid ladders at all costs. My solution was to become acquainted with a reputable Airstream dealer who is Vintage friendly. I made an appointment well in advance and took my coach in and had their service department seal all of the exterior seams as well as around plumbing stacks and other devices that protrude through the skin. It wasn't a cheap experience, but it was quite successful.

Good luck with your restoration/refurbishing!

Kevin
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Old 02-05-2003, 08:17 PM   #13
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Keven,

Thanks for the encouragement!

I'm afraid I've run out of money and time (almost a month at the dealership). The service manager says he feels the leak has been sealed. I am going to be very aware of any new leaks and then soon take the A/S back and have this all-over sealing done. I will be taking it in for further upgrades in the future (frig, awning material, stone guard).
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Old 02-06-2003, 05:56 AM   #14
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Kathi,
Everyone we know who has "upgraded" their trailer or motorhome has suffered from buyers remorse. Either they wish they had kept their older trailer in addition to what they now have or wish they had never traded up. If you love your AS the way we do it is worth the trouble and you know exactly what you have. We did almost get rid of our 1972 overlander when we got the 1985 motorhome and my husband thanks me everyday for not letting him get rid of our trailer. The older models have more character and are better made. I know you have to replace things and be careful but it is worth it. I can't tell you how many times I have heard. "Be careful this is a 25-31 year old trailer!!!"
Every year things need fixing but we know what we have. Nothing makes the winter up here go faster than driving to the storage lot and visiting our babies.
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Old 02-06-2003, 10:39 AM   #15
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I also love the looks of my older trailer. The interior is so beautiful. Over the couch area is a yellow ceiling area, and white roll-up overhead sheves. I am getting a beautiful light golden design vinyl and putting cheetah and leopard throw rugs in the hall and living room. Now, I need a little larger picture of the charging bull elephant like the one I have in my bedroom to put in the living room over the cabinet.

You can really have fun decorating. A lot of people (not RVers) don't understand how I can live full-time in a 31-ft RV but because it's an Airstream, I feel like I'm living in luxury. I actually feel thrilled many evenings sitting in my Airstream because of its uniqueness and beauty. The small space doesn't bother me at all and I know I can pick up and go anywhere, not like when I lived in that expensive apartment.
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Old 03-24-2003, 06:44 PM   #16
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I am on my way into my first A/S - part of what motivates me is exactly what all of you are saying...the love and admiration of the design! The dealers I spoke to tried to talk me into one of those other square things...no way! I'm thirty-one...I want something sexier that one of those boxes! So, I've committed to an A/S...a big move for me- I still haven't committed to a marriage- and from what I read here, the A/S may prove to be my longest lasting love. I look forward to the adventure. A
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Old 03-24-2003, 06:47 PM   #17
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Damn Alt,

I'm 32 and I could not have put it better myself! I'm roughly in the same boat!

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Old 06-23-2003, 06:53 PM   #18
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Alt...

I read a sticker somewhere, "Not all men are idiots...some are still single". LOL
At 47, I'm having a blast now that I'm divorced (she wanted it).
Now please folks, don't chastise me for this. I've been there and done that. It's just that when my ex saw my A/S, she said she would never go on a trip in it if we were still together...she insists on 5 Star room service.
I love my Airstream!
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Old 07-23-2003, 12:03 AM   #19
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Maggie-

I know this is an old post, but I found it looking for information on a problem I've had with mine, and I think you could be having with yours.

All that rotted wood in the back of your coach might NOT be from the window. The water is likely getting in between the rear bumper and the shell. Go out and look at the bumper where the hose carrier is. If there are any gaps in the seal between the bumper and the back of the shell where the lower rub rail is located, water will cascade into that space and rot your floor from the bottom up.

This is also associated with a problem called frame separation. Basically the rear of the coach comes unattached from the rear frame. Apply pressure downward on the bumper and see if it moves down independently of the rear shell. If so, you're going to need to have that fixed. This is called the "Elephant Ears" fix--you have to cut open the shell on both sides and it leaves behind these tell-tale patches. Cost is $1500-2000 from what I've been told.

If there are any gaps there, in the meantime, have your dealer seal them up as well as possible to prevent more water entering.

The water also gets down into the insulation, soaking it and then causing the frame to rust out--as you mentioned you were already concerned about.

Just an FYI. Hope that it's not the case, but I'd check it out to see for sure.

Good luck!
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Old 07-23-2003, 10:21 AM   #20
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Thanks for this information. It's been raining so much for the past several months that I might not be able to see where the water is coming in from. I wanted to finally do a hose test to ascertain the water's entry. I will press on the bumper and see what it does. I hope there is no separation.

Also, there was water seeping in around where the oven top meets the formica at the small strip of counter top at the back of the oven top. I went behind and everywhere and couldn't see how water could be coming in there.

Before this there was water coming in at the seams near the A/C. I talked to the RV repairman who will come out to my campground and work on my A/S. He said the seal around the A/C needs sealing.

I am to the point where I feel like I could just save and buy another Airstream, although I really love the one I have. It is so discouraging to have all these problems, and worry about rusting frames, detached frames, etc. I've already spent $5,000 on repairs (new toilet, water hoses, etc. being replaced, etc.). I tried and tried and practically begged this dealership to try to find the leak in the back. They never once did the hose test. All they did was let it sit outside when it rained and then notice with a flashlight, looking through the hole to the floor, that no, all the sealing around the windows, etc. didn't stop the leak. I just gave up trying.

Is this the right method: Take a flashlight, look down the hole into the underbelly and if the underbelly looks dry, then take a hose and spray on the bumper area, and then look again down the hole and if there is water, then that's it. And if no water, do the same around the window. No water, do the same where? How long would it take the water to travel if it were say coming in through the TV antenna? I think they sealed this, they said they did.

Thanks for your help.
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