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Old 01-23-2021, 07:36 AM   #1
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1994 30' Excella
1992 35' Airstream 350
Austin , Texas
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Rivet *The List*-Roadtrip parts/fixes

In anticipation of the biggest Classic Airstream Motorhome gathering in the 21st century or possibly ever (Oct 11-18 2021 ), I want to start a list of Real Breakdown causes and fixes we have experienced and dealt with in the past. I am not talking about the "thousands" of perceived breakdowns that can haunt you, lets isolate the real gremlins.
Please stay on topic, Older Motorhomes (1974-1996) only


#1 fuel filters in all possible locations, incl the inline cylinder type at the carburetor- fix: in most cases i carried a spare
#2 Starter motor- fix: carried a spare AND the tools to install it.
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Old 01-23-2021, 08:50 AM   #2
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1974 20' Argosy 20
Richmond , Kentucky
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We experienced one big breakdown that was rather scary. While passing a semi on a 3 lane wide stretch of Interstate we lost all of the v-belts at once. First indication that something was wrong was the power steering started getting a little stiff. Fortunately I quickly realized we had lost power steering AND power brakes at that point. We were traveling about 65 mph at the time and due to traffic my only real option was to accelerate past the semi, move in front of it and then off to the shoulder. Trying to slow down from 70+ mph without power brakes on the shoulder of the interstate is not fun. Let's just say I had to actually stand up while gripping the steering wheel and mash the brake pedal as hard as I could while using the steering wheel for leverage. I don't think I bent the steering wheel.....

Anyway, we didn't have spare belts on hand but were close to an exit where there was an O'Reilly's parts store. After making various calls to figure out what belts we needed we called O'Reilly's and they actually delivered to the side road next to the interstate. We had to hope the fence to get the belts but I didn't quibble over that

Anyway, replacing belts on the shoulder of the interstate on a hot engine wasn't the most fun thing to be doing. My take away from all of this was to always make sure I had spare v-belts AND a diagram showing how they were to be re-installed along with instructions on how to do so.

I don't really know what caused the first v-belt to break but what happened was the broken one road down around the pulley forcing the others off. I only found a few bits and pieces of the old belts. Not enough to know what size they were. Hence all of the phone calls.

Make sure you have the right tools to get to the power steering and alternator pivot bolts. Tensioning the power steering pump can be particularly challenging when you've never seen how it mounts before and your only view is from above or below.

Brad
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Old 01-23-2021, 11:21 AM   #3
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1984 31' Airstream310
Honokaa , Hawaii
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Our breakdowns that required calls for help and tow trucks were both for failed ignition coils on two just-purchased coaches. Started out as a miss under load, got worse as the motor heated up and eventually quit completely. Really easy fix if you have the part and know what the problem is, more complicated if you are clueless on a busy Vegas offramp or it's Sunday in small town Montana.

Our 310 had a relay in the starter circuit that I did not know about, it failed.

Dead misses from failed spark plugs and burned plug wires.

Otherwise, we have been lucky. Drove from Delaware to Montana thinking that we had a drivetrain vibration that was actually a bad tire, for example.
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Old 01-23-2021, 11:25 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Waipio Rim View Post
...
Our 310 had a relay in the starter circuit that I did not know about, it failed.
Are you talking about the solenoid mounted up by the air cleaner housing? That one can certainly be a mystery. I noticed it on my 310 and it took some researching and a bunch of reading to finally figure out what it was for.

Sure would have been nice to have a well documented set of schematics for the coach
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Old 01-23-2021, 03:04 PM   #5
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Are you talking about the solenoid mounted up by the air cleaner housing?


That’s the one. Mine was a mysterious plug-in relay that a good shop could not find a replacement for. Currently running with the socket jumped, a new “mean green” starter doing the work, and a Ford relay in my luggage ready for the next time we get to the coach.
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Old 01-23-2021, 03:38 PM   #6
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1976 31' Excella 500
1974 31' Excella 500
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I've since found that packing blankets that shippers use can be very handy for spreading out on the ground.
My advice regarding these blankets: DON'T use the ones from Harbor Freight. After a couple months the blue exterior material starts to deteriorate and soon there is blue powder EVERYWHERE. If you have a long compartment somewhere (under a bench, etc.), a rolled piece of commercial exterior carpet is excellent for this purpose.
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Old 01-23-2021, 06:03 PM   #7
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1994 30' Excella
1992 35' Airstream 350
Austin , Texas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Waipio Rim View Post
That’s the one. Mine was a mysterious plug-in relay that a good shop could not find a replacement for. Currently running with the socket jumped, a new “mean green” starter doing the work, and a Ford relay in my luggage ready for the next time we get to the coach.

How do you like the mean green starter, awesome isn't it? Its very costly but has not failed me. I installed it on the second classic MH, I owned.

https://www.mean-green.com/1973-2000...?categoryId=-1
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Old 01-24-2021, 07:13 AM   #8
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1974 20' Argosy 20
Richmond , Kentucky
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kidjedi View Post
My advice regarding these blankets: DON'T use the ones from Harbor Freight. After a couple months the blue exterior material starts to deteriorate and soon there is blue powder EVERYWHERE. If you have a long compartment somewhere (under a bench, etc.), a rolled piece of commercial exterior carpet is excellent for this purpose.
In a 20' Argosy finding space for anything is a challenge. Maybe not quite so bad in my old 310. I think most of my packing blankets have been bought through Amazon and so far no issues with the material.
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Old 01-24-2021, 10:03 AM   #9
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1991 25' Airstream 250
Oxford , Oxfordshire
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Alternator crapped out
Starter crapped out
Front brake hose collapse
Burnt brake oil from mountain driving =. failure in braking system
Faulty knock sensor, which turned out to be the wrong part. It turns out there are two for a 1991 vintage. They look and fit is identical, but different ohmage.

I've a 1991 TBI with the 4L80E. I have contemplated getting a spare ECM and chip because if that ever died you wouldn't be going anywhere. In terms of preventative maintenance, on the TBI, I've had the throttle body cleaned and rebuilt, TPS, MAP sensor, IAC, EGR (I think) - all replaced with new.

I wish I was able to attend the rally, but I'm between roles work-wise, so it's tricky. Have the best time and post lots of photos!

PS It's a snow day here today, so children very excited.
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Old 01-25-2021, 06:45 AM   #10
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1994 30' Excella
1992 35' Airstream 350
Austin , Texas
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 4,519
Images: 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boom Sounds View Post
Alternator crapped out
Starter crapped out
Front brake hose collapse
Burnt brake oil from mountain driving =. failure in braking system
Faulty knock sensor, which turned out to be the wrong part. It turns out there are two for a 1991 vintage. They look and fit is identical, but different ohmage.

I've a 1991 TBI with the 4L80E. I have contemplated getting a spare ECM and chip because if that ever died you wouldn't be going anywhere. In terms of preventative maintenance, on the TBI, I've had the throttle body cleaned and rebuilt, TPS, MAP sensor, IAC, EGR (I think) - all replaced with new.

I wish I was able to attend the rally, but I'm between roles work-wise, so it's tricky. Have the best time and post lots of photos!

PS It's a snow day here today, so children very excited.

Nick,

What did you in the above scenarios? Spares on board? wrecker? Dump it in the Channel??
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Old 01-31-2021, 09:22 AM   #11
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Nick,

What did you in the above scenarios? Spares on board? wrecker? Dump it in the Channel??
Towed on fairly short flatbed....
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Old 02-04-2021, 10:16 AM   #12
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choctaw , Oklahoma
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Dang my *list* is long.
I think the first (happen on the first road trip) was the plug wire melted off #7 plug. Got to a shop in Shamrock, TX where the 'mechanic' said it was the distributor. Replaced and on the road again only to realize the problem returned. In Las Vagus, NM on a Sunday morning I found the shield to the #7 plug wire wired to the manifold and the #7 wire with what was left of a 45 degree socket that the shield wouldn't fit over. A napa store was open down the street and I replaced the wires with a set that was extra long.
After that I can't recall the order but:
2) 454 Allison transmission died less that 100 miles for home so AAA pulled me home.
3) fuel pump by tank failed, twice ( later found it to be a wire problem)
4) battery cable shorted to the frame, called AAA
5) power steering pump failed, called AAA waited 6 hours
6) fuel injector pump failed, called AAA
7) 4L80e transmission failed, called AAA
8) after replacing electric fuel pump it failed again, which I found to be caused by loss of 12V to pump. wired pump to clearance lights till I got home.
9) dropped #8 valve just south of Las Cruces. NM. Called AAA. Spent 5 weeks in Las Cruces with Bogart's Auto rebuilt the motor. Ran like crap for rest of trip. After getting back home engine quit again. called AAA. replaced POS 454 with 5.9 Cummins.
10) blow injector out and broke fuel return manifold just north of Grand Rapids MI. Drive into Grand Rapids Cummins the next morning and got the part. Was back on the road before bunch.

I'm sure this isn't a complete *list* it's just all I can recall at the moment from the last 23 years.
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:17 PM   #13
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1991 30' Airstream 30
Cape Elizabeth , Maine
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1990 Classic 300LE, gas. Been towed 4 times.

First time was for a bad electronic ignition control (Back when we first owned it and I didn't know anything!)

Second was for a blown inside rear tire. Second one of the day so spare had already been used. Needless to say all tires were replaced the next day.

Third time was for a faulty radiator temp sensor and MAP, caused system to think engine was not warmed up so it continually poured gas into injectors.

Last time was yesterday. Bad alternator, we are currently stranded in Suphur Springs TX waiting for another alternator to arrive Tues AM. This one really bothers me because a spare alternator was the only part I didn't have. The one I ordered arrived the day after we departed Maine headed for San Diego. We couldn't wait as we have a hard arrival time. Towing company was not good, left us at the campground and refused to reinstall driveshaft. Since they ruined one of the u-joint retainer straps am now looking for this parts. The good news there is a retired truck mechanic who lives here full time. Campground owner brought him over and he will make repairs and in the process replace driveshaft u-joints and grease all the fittings. We are at the Shady Lake RV Park, the owners are Tony and his wife, they are great people, very accommodating.

Other than being towed I have been stopped by what I thought was a bad alternator but turned out to be a bad battery(You would think I had learned my lesson! I had a spare that time)

Twice for exhaust collector gasket leaks, ran fine but sounded like hell.

On cross-country trips I usually have to replace at least one battery.

Spare parts I carry include all ignition components (don't have a distributor though), plugs and wires, belts, vacuum hoses, exhaust gaskets and bolts, a variety of hose clamps, radiator temp sensor, all kinds of JB Weld and other things I can't think of right now. I carry a lot of tools and a good volt/ohm meter.

I have never posted much on this site because everything I have experienced has already been covered. I would like to thank everyone who posts mechanical issues and repairs. I do not start any repair on mine without first searching this site looking for advice and it has always been excellent.
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:40 PM   #14
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Quote:
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1990 Classic 300LE, gas. Been towed 4 times.

First time was for a bad electronic ignition control (Back when we first owned it and I didn't know anything!)

Second was for a blown inside rear tire. Second one of the day so spare had already been used. Needless to say all tires were replaced the next day.

Third time was for a faulty radiator temp sensor and MAP, caused system to think engine was not warmed up so it continually poured gas into injectors.

Last time was yesterday. Bad alternator, we are currently stranded in Suphur Springs TX waiting for another alternator to arrive Tues AM. This one really bothers me because a spare alternator was the only part I didn't have. The one I ordered arrived the day after we departed Maine headed for San Diego. We couldn't wait as we have a hard arrival time. Towing company was not good, left us at the campground and refused to reinstall driveshaft. Since they ruined one of the u-joint retainer straps am now looking for this parts. The good news there is a retired truck mechanic who lives here full time. Campground owner brought him over and he will make repairs and in the process replace driveshaft u-joints and grease all the fittings. We are at the Shady Lake RV Park, the owners are Tony and his wife, they are great people, very accommodating.

Other than being towed I have been stopped by what I thought was a bad alternator but turned out to be a bad battery(You would think I had learned my lesson! I had a spare that time)

Twice for exhaust collector gasket leaks, ran fine but sounded like hell.

On cross-country trips I usually have to replace at least one battery.

Spare parts I carry include all ignition components (don't have a distributor though), plugs and wires, belts, vacuum hoses, exhaust gaskets and bolts, a variety of hose clamps, radiator temp sensor, all kinds of JB Weld and other things I can't think of right now. I carry a lot of tools and a good volt/ohm meter.

I have never posted much on this site because everything I have experienced has already been covered. I would like to thank everyone who posts mechanical issues and repairs. I do not start any repair on mine without first searching this site looking for advice and it has always been excellent.
Welcome to the forum!
Sounds like you need to dig into whats causing your batteries to go bad. After you get that alternator of course.
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:44 PM   #15
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1991 30' Airstream 30
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I agree, although it has been 5 years since last long trip. I'm pretty sure this last one was because it was drained to 2 volts by the time we got off the highway.
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:53 PM   #16
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.
Third time was for a faulty radiator temp sensor and MAP, caused system to think engine was not warmed up so it continually poured gas into injectors...

Hi and glad you are joining the conversation. Every ones experience helps all of us. Interesting that a faulty temp sensor and Map flooded your engine, since my faulty MAP starved it. Maybe a combo of the two is the difference. We just have been looking for the Rad temp sensor. Where is it located on your 300?
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:54 PM   #17
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Issues I've had that left me on the side of the road or came close: listed chronologically

1. Oil leak while driving, noticed the gigantic cloud of smoke in the rearview mirror. Oil pressure dummy sender failed internally and sprayed oil everywhere, including on the exhaust headers. Fixable if you have tools to remove the T it was on, or a 1/8npt plug.
2. Throttle cable stuck at wide open throttle. Fixed with a knife to cut the plastic sheath off that was getting hung up.
3. Valve stem extension leaked. If you ever need to reseat a bead on the road, carry a ratchet strap. Also, don't use valve stem extensions, and installed a TPMS.
3. Brand new fuel pressure regulator diaphragm failed after 100 miles. Not applicable to most on here.

And everybody do your ball joints, let's not forget that picture of Mayco at an interstate rest stop with his wheel laying flat on the ground, that scared the bujeebuses out of me, especially since our coaches are close to twins
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Old 02-09-2021, 08:47 PM   #18
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1991 30' Airstream 30
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Hi and glad you are joining the conversation. Every ones experience helps all of us. Interesting that a faulty temp sensor and Map flooded your engine, since my faulty MAP starved it. Maybe a combo of the two is the difference. We just have been looking for the Rad temp sensor. Where is it located on your 300?
I think it is on the top of the radiator, but not sure. We have been back on the road for 2 days trying to make up time. When I have a chance this weekend I'll look for it and take a picture.
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Old 02-14-2021, 05:30 PM   #19
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Thinking about it it must be on the block somewhere. When I have the air filter off to install a new alternator I'll find it.
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Old 02-14-2021, 05:59 PM   #20
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Usually either on the outside of one of the heads or on the intake somewhere, I think
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