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Old 09-05-2011, 07:36 AM   #1
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1967 17' Caravel
Cadillac , Michigan
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I was afraid of the belly pan

I've read so many posts about the thrills and chills of opening up the belly pan that I had my self scared to death to look in there. Too many posters have found dead snakes etc... That was my biggest fear.
Well yesterday I bit the bullet and opened up the back end of the 67 Caravel under the bath. Figuring that it may very well be the worst part what with all the water in that area.
Thank goodness, no snakes, mice, or even mice nests. I did remove the old insulation, which was bone dry.
The black tank and all of the plumbing looks to be in good shape, and the tank was as clean as a whistle.There does not appear there have been any plumbing leaks in the past.
I do see some floor rot at the outer edge of the floor behind the toilet and some on the outer edge near the water heater. There was a little rot where the bumper cover lets water in but not much. Nothing like I thought that I may find though.
I am going to button it back up today. I have a couple of roof vents left to replace before it gets really cold here. And have an electrician coming to take a look at the electrical system.
Then I will spend a long Michigan winter preparing my plan of attack for the Spring. Floor replacement, (this has been on the list since I got the AS) new axle etc... Since the Caravel is 98% original the plan is to keep it that way.
I'm certain to run into problems along the way that the forums will no doubt help me through.
I hope to be towing and camping in her next year at this time.
My only words of advice are "Don't be afraid of the belly pan! "
Thanks for all of the great posts on this site!!!!
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Old 09-05-2011, 08:54 AM   #2
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Wow, I was just about to post the exact opposite report after spending almost 6 hrs dropping my 31' pan! We finally got a day below 100F(96F) so I jump in. Drill out 80 + rivits, had to grind most off after they spun. As I dropped fom the rear got 50 lbs of acorns, mummified squirrels, nested insulation along with the requsite waste.
Now I have to file a Capitol gains for all the nuts, check in with the EPA for the Bio Hazard Waste and call the Antiquity Commision to see if these are Egyptian hieroglyphics on the frame or just scratchings of a desperate rodent! Found the brake wires chewed up but oddly found an empty Crest tube along with the various straws and other artifacts. Ramses XXI skull dd have nice bright incisors but lower left 3 & 4 looked worn. He had more than enough acorns to take him to the Afterlife and must have thought the Airstream was the best vehicle to get him there. After seeing what I have spent on this project so far I'm thinking the same thing. I had failed to see the memo that the pan must have been put on before the axles are mounted and could not pull the pan out so I ended up cutting out and around the mounts.
After I get the new tanks in & plumbed I may have to break down and let the trailer shop put in the new pans,
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Old 09-16-2016, 04:21 AM   #3
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6 years later and the new belly pan is going in.
Was I ever wrong about the floor rot. The front of the trailer was powder it was so rotted.
I ended up replacing all but one crossmember and every outrigger. New floor is in . Wiring is done but the list is still long.
It is nearly an aluminum tent.
Maybe next year for the 50th birthday the Caravel will be camping.
It's a good thing I'm not in a hurry. 😉
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Old 09-16-2016, 09:09 AM   #4
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Dingo your thread is right on time. And a great reply Bermo.

Just got home with our 61 Globetrotter and the first new thing will be axels and tongue safety and umbilical cord.

Talked to Colin Hyde about the axels, need to get some good photos and a measurement as its a young 61(year of changeover from spring to torsion) so we can get new axel's ordered.

Stopped at trailer shop to see if they're on board with doing another set of axels for us. They are but we told them we'd take the belly pan off ourselves this time and they were really happy about that and said it would save us a bunch of money. That's great since we should be attempting to do the axels ourselves and save even more money but "not".

So, great timing.

Going to take belly pan off as soon as our temps drop a bit more, leave it off for some time as gray tanks will happen also and when belly pan does go back on were going to consider using something other than rivets based on a recommendation by Kip (aircraft man) on another thread. Rivnutscrew thingy, he showed a picture of it.

Thanks Dingo, you took half my trepidation away.
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Old 09-17-2016, 03:39 PM   #5
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Just an aside. I used broad head 3/16 inch rivets from VTS to put in the belly pan. I also bought a rivet gun to help with the job. Once the aluminum was cut and fitted, installation went pretty quickly. I marked where the cross pieces were so I could drill accurately. At the rear, I used self drilling screws to hold panels in place while I worked on plumbing, then drilled and riveted when I was through with the drains.
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Old 09-17-2016, 05:44 PM   #6
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Well Dingo Girl, I very much doubt you are afraid of the belly pan monsters anymore. Your trailer was in better shape than mine. There is nothing like pulling the belly pan and insulation to really see how good a deal you got on the old Airstream. My floor was mush under the toilet and some under the shower drain. But the rest of the trailer was pretty dog gone good, at least goot enuf.

I think using the trailer as an aluminum tent is a great idea. Bonding, and finalizing the next project plan while you listen to the night rain on the aluminum.

David
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Old 09-17-2016, 05:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dingo Girl View Post
6 years later and the new belly pan is going in.
Was I ever wrong about the floor rot. The front of the trailer was powder it was so rotted.
I ended up replacing all but one crossmember and every outrigger. New floor is in . Wiring is done but the list is still long.
It is nearly an aluminum tent.
Maybe next year for the 50th birthday the Caravel will be camping.
It's a good thing I'm not in a hurry. 😉
Good job!
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Old 09-17-2016, 05:59 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bermshot View Post
Wow, I was just about to post the exact opposite report after spending almost 6 hrs dropping my 31' pan! We finally got a day below 100F(96F) so I jump in. Drill out 80 + rivits, had to grind most off after they spun. As I dropped fom the rear got 50 lbs of acorns, mummified squirrels, nested insulation along with the requsite waste.
Now I have to file a Capitol gains for all the nuts, check in with the EPA for the Bio Hazard Waste and call the Antiquity Commision to see if these are Egyptian hieroglyphics on the frame or just scratchings of a desperate rodent! Found the brake wires chewed up but oddly found an empty Crest tube along with the various straws and other artifacts. Ramses XXI skull dd have nice bright incisors but lower left 3 & 4 looked worn. He had more than enough acorns to take him to the Afterlife and must have thought the Airstream was the best vehicle to get him there. After seeing what I have spent on this project so far I'm thinking the same thing. I had failed to see the memo that the pan must have been put on before the axles are mounted and could not pull the pan out so I ended up cutting out and around the mounts.
After I get the new tanks in & plumbed I may have to break down and let the trailer shop put in the new pans,
No posts in 3+ years so he probably won't see this but I love when people can spin good yarns like this.
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Old 09-17-2016, 06:21 PM   #9
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HiJoe I thought the same thing, good story teller.
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Old 09-17-2016, 06:48 PM   #10
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Perfectly timed.

I had plans to pull the belly pan sometime over this coming winter. I got my frame/floor/belly section home yesterday from getting detached from its top half and stuck it into my long section of the garage. What I noticed that I hadn't noticed from leaving it outside was the smell. The rain I brought the trailer home in rehydrated the critter "left behinds" and stinks something fierce. Not really a stink but that chemical ammonia smell that burns your eyes.

So, belly pan coming off.
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Old 09-18-2016, 06:11 AM   #11
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There is only the small back section under the bath and the bumper compartment bottom pan to be done. The worst part is over, I think.
The 2 big sheets were like wrestling a really flat long eel.
I got the VTS large flange rivets as well. They look like they should work well. A much larger head than what Airstream used originally.
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Old 09-18-2016, 06:21 PM   #12
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It's great you are nearly done. Your last sheet was my first sheet. I guess I'm a little backward! It is like wrestling with an eel, one with sharp edges I might add. You used the same rivets I did. I did get a sore shoulder from poking all those 3/16 dia holes. I needed an upside down drill press. I gave thought to rigging one with a bottle jack, but never did it.

Do you suppose anyone is going to get on there hands and knees to look at your fine new belly pan?

David
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Old 09-19-2016, 03:39 AM   #13
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I started with the 2 big sheets since I can tuck the last small piece that is under the bath in under the two big sheets. Like fish scales. :-)
My shoulder is very sore as well from the drilling . 20 more holes or so and it will be done.
The light at the end of the aluminum tunnel is getting a bit brighter.
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Old 09-19-2016, 11:12 AM   #14
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After I was done I sprayed all the rivets with cold galvanizing spray paint to protect from corrosion. Had it and figured it couldn't hurt. I noticed when taking my original belly down some ofvthecsheet below the rivet heads was gone in an exact circle matching the rivet head. Corrosion or wear I couldn't tell so I figured I'd do something.
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Old 09-19-2016, 06:40 PM   #15
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All three belly pans I've replaced (ugh) had corrosion around the rivet heads. The son's belly pan actually dropped down while towing and wrinkled up under the trailer. I thought he might have hit some road debris, but no, it was corroded rivets eating away the aluminum.

You have to get your readers on, but if you look closely, you will see some "big" holes where the rivets were.

David
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Old 10-02-2016, 07:46 AM   #16
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What size rivets do I use to attach the sides of shell that curve up under the outriggers in the wheel well area ? It seems like these areas are under a lot of pressure. I don't want the rivets to tear out .
The new belly pan is riveted in place.
once I get the curved sides attached I hope not to have to spend much more time under the Caravel. Even on a creeper it's not been pleasant.
Next time, shell off, shell off, shell off.
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Old 10-03-2016, 12:35 PM   #17
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5/32" Olympic rivets if you have them. Originally they were 1/8" bucked rivets. You can use 1/8" or 5/32" pop rivets if you fill the holes in them in with sealant. The olympica are better obviously since they get shaved down. They'll be covered by trim. So can't stick out to far.
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Old 10-03-2016, 01:22 PM   #18
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Hi Dingo Girl, My 66 Trade Wind side skins wrap around to the belly pan area. My 66 had thin about 2" wide steel strapping welded to the outriggers that the wrapped skins attached to. You are right, there is some tension on these skin wraps, and I "guess" that's why Airstream provided the steel strapping. One of mine was rusted through, so I had to replace it. Maybe this photo looks like your trailer.

I believe HiJoeSilver is correct that Airstream provided 5/32" dia rivets for this attachment. My rivets were pop rivets, not bucked rivets. I can't see how to get a bucking bar behind the skin wraps. Some of my skin wrap rivets had corroded through the aluminum. Imagine that!

My new belly aluminum extended a couple of inches past the steel strips. I wrapped the skins around the outriggers and pressed them snug to the steel strips with a 2/4 and my floor jack supplying the pressure. I drilled and pop riveted with 3/16" dia large flange rivets. But I'm sure 5/32" would work well also.

Hope it helps.

Ain't installing a new belly pan working under the trailer on your back fun? Shell off and flipping the frame sure makes the job easier, but getting to that point is sure harder. I don't think it would save any time.

I'll bet you breezed through your rear corner belly pan "compound curve" pieces with no problems. I really struggled with those even though I had the old ones as templates.

David
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Old 10-03-2016, 02:41 PM   #19
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Thank you for the responses.
I will use 3/16 large flange rivets, I over bought so have plenty.
When I put the new outriggers in I put straps in the same places that the originals had been. Now I'm wishing I added a couple of extra.
Unfortunately none of this step has been breezed thru. I wish... I'm not sure if the killer for me is the drilling or the riveting while horizontal.
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Old 10-03-2016, 04:33 PM   #20
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We bit the bullet and had Bob Jones RV install our new fresh water tank and axles earlier this year. At our request, they dropped the gray and black tanks for us. We thought they needed replacements. Turned out those tanks were in great shape, which was fortunate since our '79 center bath is impossible for replacement tanks. We put those tanks back ourselves, along with the belly pan, which was also in good shape. Our pans are bolted on. Not sure if that was original or PO change. It was still a pain in the patookus. While trying to wrestle everything back in place, started wishing we paid to have them put back. We have some small panels that need to be reinstalled and have to put on the new drain plumbing. Should be a piece of cake!
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