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Old 08-31-2004, 01:26 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2004
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What is A/S annual maintenance costs?

I am in the market for a 345 or 350 A/S motorhome and want to know what to expect for annual maintenance costs. I know it depends on miles driven but I read about a lot of scary repairs in this forum about rebuilding motors and trannies all the time. So here is my short list of questions:
1 How many miles can be had out of a 454 motor
2 How many miles can be had out of the transmission
3 How many miles can be had out of the tires
4 How many miles can be had out of the brakes living in the pacific northwest.
5 How many miles can be had out of a regular tune up.
6 How realiable are these motorhomes when compared to other motorhomes of similar size?
7 And what do these repairs typically cost?

I am not mechanically inclined for motor work and brake work but could manage all the things inside the coach. So all the things listed above will need to be farmed out to a shop.
Input from various owners would help get an idea of what I can expect.
Thanks a lot!
Hoping to be an owner real soon.
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Old 08-31-2004, 03:17 PM   #2
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1978 31' Sovereign
Texas Airstream Harbor , Zavalla, in the Deep East Texas Piney Woods on Lake Sam Rayburn
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Loaded Question


Welcome to the Forums -

You certainly hit the membership with a loaded list of questions with your first post!

The simple answer to most of them is "it depends" - sooooo many variables.

To put things in perspective - you are dealing with a rolling chassis for any classic MH that is at least 10 to 25 years old.

Look at how many automobiles are around from that vintage.....not many.

But look at how many small airplanes are still flying with that much age....almost all of them.

A lot depends on the level of maintenance the mechanicals were subject to.

Originally Posted by rixan
1 How many miles can be had out of a 454 motor
2 How many miles can be had out of the transmission.
The motor and tranny are subject to the same loads - and usually the same level of maintenance. Depending on the model of MH you are looking at, the total weight the drivetrain is accelerating (and stopping) could be between 8,000 to more than 16,000 pounds.....compared to the weight of an auto or unloaded pick-up at 4,000 to 6,000 pounds - the point being that when it is working, the drivetrain is ALWAYS subjected to "maximum" loads. Compound the hardship on the engines due to the fact that they "just sit" - sometimes for long periods - between use. If I remember correctly, Time to First Overhaul (here on the Forums) - has been reported as early as 40,000 miles to as much as 120,000 miles. For what it is worth, I think that any engine bobble over 80,000 miles should constitute a full overhaul/replacement. Pretty much the same for the transmission. Engine replacement (with the "parts" that should be replaced when the engine is out) could range from a low of $4,000 to $10,000 on up - depending on which replacement engine you go with.

Originally Posted by rixan
3 How many miles can be had out of the tires.
I think that most of the tire manufacturers recommend replacement at 5 to 7 years - regardless of the mileage. Age related failures could do a great deal of damage to the motorhome. Most users will have to replace the tires due to this time limit as opposed to wearing the tires out.

Originally Posted by rixan
4 How many miles can be had out of the brakes living in the pacific northwest..
Brake jobs are not that big of a deal, given the greater picture of overall cost of ownership. The P-3X chassis has many shared parts with the Chevy/GM line of medium duty trucks. Remember that most miles are highway miles, not around town miles - plan and budget accordingly.

Originally Posted by rixan
5 How many miles can be had out of a regular tune up..
Pretty much the same response as (4) above - tune-ups are not as big of a deal as "maintenance related failures" and the subsequent search to find what REALLY went wrong -- and fixing it.

As an example, do a search on "fuel pump" - you will find that the rear electric fuel pump (or lack of it) could be blamed on most any power plant related woe.....

Most all of the "classic" MoHo's are pre-computer, and the real world being what it is, "time and money" will have to be expended to keep an (almost) antique on the road.

Originally Posted by rixan
6 How reliable are these motorhomes when compared to other motorhomes of similar size?.
As far as the "road" equipment goes, a HUGE percentage of 1980 era Motor Homes were built on the Chevy P-30 or P-32 Chassis. All the running gear is essentially identical. Some will argue that the "dynamic shape" of the Airstreams will lead to increased longevity - bottom line is that there are SO MANY variables that running gear breakdown is truly a Monte Carlo timing.

The house unit is another question - of course, all fabrics deteriorate over time - but in the end, quality always shines through. Consider the "cardboard and staple" construction of SOB's (Some Other Brands) as opposed to wood cabinetry and premium construction techniques employed by Airstream. Another (and really important) point is the inevitable leaks that occur along the roof lines of SOB's. Wood construction will rot anytime it is exposed to water - observe how many era-comparable SOB's exhibit water damage at the roof/side joint.

Originally Posted by rixan
7 And what do these repairs typically cost?.

I'm just gonna' say...."It ain't cheap". I think you have done your homework on the Motorhome Ownership thing - explore the Forum a bit more, and then take your most probable scenarios to a mechanic you trust AND one who would work on an older Motorhome for an estimate. You might be surprised as to just how few mechanic shops will take an older Motorhome on. Too many variables, too many years of neglected maintenance.

Don't want to scare you away, just preparing you for some real life experiences. Again, carefully scan the "Motorhome" section of the Forums, and pay particular attention to threads containing postings of members experiences with mechanics - and the things that could and do go wrong.

Originally Posted by rixan
Hoping to be an owner real soon.
Again, welcome, and please post what you find - you're up against a very common conundrum which we all have faced at one time or another......strength in numbers - common sharing of knowledge for the betterment of the hive - resistance is futile!

Happy Airstreaming!

"Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time."

WBCCI # 1113
AirForums #1737

Trailer '78 31' Sovereign

Living Large at an Airstream Park on the Largest Lake Totally Contained in Texas
Texas Airstream Harbor, Inc.
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Old 08-31-2004, 04:48 PM   #3
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Thumbs up A Loaded Answer

Wow! I knew I was asking a lot but you sure gave some great answers. I like the comparison to an airplane. I'd hate to pay the bills on one of those though! At least with a MH one does not have to worry about falling out of the sky.
I can now build these costs into what I will need to allow each month for future repairs so I am not stuck without the funds when the repair time comes.
Thanks again for the great answers
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Old 08-31-2004, 06:42 PM   #4
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I have a 1985 345 for sale with under 6k on tires, engine, shocks, airbags, and 0 hours on rebuilt generator , it has Alcoa's and it what you may be looking for look at pictures at or go to and look for it or look in the classified section of this forum for it too!
I am in NC.

I have it advertised for $21500.00, but will take a fair offer.
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Old 08-31-2004, 07:22 PM   #5
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1986 34.5' Airstream 345
Louisville , Kentucky
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Welcome to the forums. Dennis really did a good job of putting classic motorhome ownership into perspective. I would add only a few things to his comments:

The way I look at it (perhaps to justify owning and old AS, to con myself, or just simply denial) is that buying an AS MH gets you a coach with a solid foundation, on an a common, popular, easy to maintain and repair chassis with systems and amenities found only in the higher line motorhomes produced today. Except that you can purchase if for a fraction of what a new top of the line class A gas motorhome would cost you.

Now, having said that...the trade off is that these things are old. While the airplane makes a good analogy, airplanes are maintained on a "religious" schedule which is designed to replace parts before they break and to inspect for trouble on a pre-determined schedule. These maintenance schedules make old airplanes safe. But old RV's are very different; think "old boat" bolted to an "old truck".

As Dennis said....everything depends on the condition of the MH, the previous owner(s) maintenance plan and how much has already been repaired/replaced when you take ownership. Obviously, a late model, $35,000, well maintained 345 with a new motor/trans should have fewer problems than a $10,000 backet case. You will spend the difference either's just one way will take a little longer.

Items like engines and transmissions are big ticket items for sure. But there are many many nickel and dime and dollar and ten sport repairs to keep the coach reliable and enjoyable. Foretunately these typically involve a $50 bill and a trip to the nearest parts store (unlike a trip to Onan or the RV Dealership for Cummins/Spartan work) but two new AC units and a generator can cost far more to replace than an engine.

While many members happily own these rigs with limited mechnical skills, I for one am glad I know my way around a wrench. If I couldn't do the work I wouldn't own the MH.

Lastly, I work within the RV Industry and spend a lot of time at difference dealerships around the US and Canada. I've certainly seen my fair share of brand new basket cases that cost their owners a fortune in payments and maintainance. I'll stick with my AS.

PS - My 345 has 180,000 miles on far.
Steven Webster
1986 Airstream 345 Classic Motorhome
AIR 1760
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