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Old 02-14-2021, 10:00 PM   #1
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1972 31' Sovereign
Tucson , AZ
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First Airstream - Kids haven't named her yet

Ran into this beautiful 1972 31' Sovereign International, Twin Bed, Rear Bath, from Cerritos on my 10-hour drive to pick up an Argosy. At my overnight stop I was overcome with anxiety and regret as the thread I had started on advice for this Argosy was a total flame war, airforums.com Vs. That old Argosy. Couldn't sleep, and then my wife sends me a 3-day old Craigslist Ad for a "27' International 1972 Airstream" that was sitting 8 minutes from my hotel. Talk about a weird coincidence. These things in our price range (<$10k) are rare, especially ones that aren't gutted or obviously falling apart. Called late and scheduled a showing for 7:30am. I jumped on the bumper and it didn't separate. Some dry rot in the floor under a window and around the bathroom. A quick consultation with my father-in-law and 9-yo son who were with me and we decided not to look at the Argosy and instead hooked this thing up and started to drive it home...



Here's where I expose how little I know about what I am doing.

I thought I bought a 27' Overlander but when I decoded the serial number... I31T2-S1513... Oops! I guess that explains why it seems so roomy!

We've got to move it about 450 miles. It's a pretty straight shot on the interstate. Seller said he has been pulling it. It took a little to get the trailer wiring hooked up. He messed around with the wiring a bit to get it hooked up to our Tundra but couldn't get the 7-pin working so hooked it up to the 4-pin and off we went after driving around locally and testing the brakes and getting some practice turning (Albuquerque streets are kinda narrow!)

Hopped on the interstate and just cruising along at 65 in the right lane, wondering if there's some secret wave that Airstream owners have, kinda like how Jeep and motorcycle riders do... Then, 75 miles in, the right rear brake locked up as I slowed to pull off in a rest area. Thick, blue smoke billowing out from something out of my rear view and I'm freaked out there's a fire. Turns out the tire is locked up and we smoked our tire down to the inner steel. It didn't blow, but it's a lame duck. I disconnect the brake and move forward but now the other side is skidding, too. I learned that Good Sam membership is different than Good Sam Roadside Assistance. We were 18 miles out of Socorro, NM, mid-day on a Saturday, and there are a couple tire shops open so I disconnect the brakes from that tire (it immediately rolls without skidding once brakes are disconnected) and limp into Socorro to Luna Tire, which has a 4.7 Google Review Rating. We pass the other tire shop which has a 3.5 rating, lamenting the fact that it looks nicer and cleaner than Luna. Despite appearances, I pretty quickly found out why the high rating.



There is a saint in Socorro named Leonard. He works at Luna Tire.

Leonard hops out and asks if I'm the guy on the phone, and I tell him what happened and asked if he can recommend someone to look at the brakes. He mumbles something and then he jacks up the Airstream, pops off the tire, pulls off the cap, the pin, the castle nut, and we're looking inside the brake drum and he's holding up a broken spring.




Replaces the spring, cleans up the brake pad, and puts the tire back on. He finds another broken spring on the other side and gives me a Brakes/Bearings/Axles/Springs 101. After about 4 hours on this baby and a new tire, he tries to charge us just $200. I mean.. 4 days ago my freaking Toyota dealership tried to charge me $411 just to replace the tow hookup receiver bracket, a little 4-inch bracket under the hitch connected with two screws. Finally, we pulled the Airstream around Socorro and laid up at a hotel.

The brakes are VERY sticky now that he's cleaned them up. Almost locking up when I tap the brakes. I'm thinking it's partly a consequence of being hooked up with the 4-pin so I took today to figure out the 7-pin connector. Plus the Tundra doesn't have a brake controller even though it has a tow package, so I'm trying to figure that out as swell.

As many of you are probably aware, I found multiple threads on the 7-pin vintage Airstream connector. It was a bit of trial and error to get the red and white lights working properly with a new generic 7-pin connector. I'll admit it was kind of comical to hit the brakes and have all the lights go on and the right turn signal cause the reverse lights to blink... I never was able to get the running lights going and I'm still not sure if the brakes are activated, even though the lights are. I finally figured out the right wiring diagram and, importantly, the orientation. I kept getting the left/right swapped since I was working in the back of the Airstream plug but the diagram is front the front.

I read somewhere that one way to tell if the brakes are actually working is to take a compass and hold it up to the brakes and have someone press on the brakes. Does that really work? I'm going to try the magnet trick tomorrow and hopefully that works or I'll have to pick up another multi-meter.

Here's the tow hookup that came with the trailer and the new tow hookup before I figured out where all the wires went.




I also got a brake controller for the Tundra. The tow package on the Tundra does provide a wiring harness to install an after-market brake controller so at least I don't have to splice in. I picked up a Tekonsha P3 but haven't installed it yet. Will do tomorrow before I leave but I'd like to know the electronic brakes on the trailer are working.Nothing in Socorro has the Toyota harness, though, unless Napa (which was closed today) does. Otherwise, I can manually do it with a variety of disconnect terminals.


Anyway, thus ends Day 2.
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Old 02-15-2021, 07:51 AM   #2
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Good for you. Everything on the 72 is fixable. At least you and your family is safe. Start a reno thread and ask the questions. Good luck and stay safe.
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Old 02-15-2021, 08:24 AM   #3
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Welcome! Quite the adventure getting home. We love love love our renovated '72 that we towed home from Mississippi. Sounds like ours was in worse shape then...
Keep reading on the Forums for info, but also keep in mind that everyone has an opinion. Over time you will figure out who you can trust. Bubba is one.

Keep us informed on your progress with your new baby. We love pictures (hint hint)


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Old 02-15-2021, 08:44 AM   #4
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Congratulations! You’ve done your homework, the smiles tell it all, you survived the trip home... I predict a happy ending.
As for a name, given the first trip, Rolly Po’ly?
Happy camping!
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Old 02-15-2021, 08:52 AM   #5
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Welcome Aboard👍

Just finished reading the Arg Thread...Good decision.

I'll advise just one thing... if the axles are original REPLACE.

Here is one good way to tell. This is pic of our first AS, a '63 Safari. Notice where the upper edge of the wheelhouse is in relation to the tire.
Uneven edge ware on the tires is another indication, along with marginal travel and down angle & travel on the spindle arm.

BTW new axles will arrive with all new brakes.

Sweet Streams

Bob
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'Cloudsplitter's new axles...👍
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Old 02-15-2021, 09:09 AM   #6
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Hello neighbor! Glad you are rolling again and be careful on the rest of your journey home, I see there is severe weather all the way down to and beyond Las Cruces. Good luck with the P3, some of those small town NAPA stores have a lot of stuff.
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Old 02-15-2021, 12:39 PM   #7
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1972 31' Sovereign
Tucson , AZ
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We are Going to leave this trailer in Socorro to have them install new brakes, bearings, and shocks, and maybe fix the hitch wiring. Good people, no regrets in giving business to the C Bar D, and it will give me peace of mind towing it home in two weeks.

This place is the second place that told me not to replace the axles. First was a tire specialist and second was a trailer specialist (but not an Airstream specialist). Whats the reason people are replacing their axles if they are straight?
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Old 02-15-2021, 01:10 PM   #8
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It's not how straight the axles are. In fact there typically is an upward bow as part of the wheel alignment.
The axles are torsion axles. Unique to Airstream at the time. There are rubber billets inside the axle tube that provide the spring action for the wheels. Original billets were made of natural rubber and will deteriorate over time. As they deteriorate they loose their spring action. This can be diagnosed by how low the trailer sits relative to the tires. The lower the body sits the worse shape the rubber billets are. Typically 20 years is about as long as they last. Airstream used to offer a rebuild service but they stopped doing that. So replacing the axle is the current fix. With a side benefit of updating your brakes to new.
This illustrates the basics of a torsion axle.
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Old 02-15-2021, 02:11 PM   #9
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1977 31' Sovereign
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aaryno View Post
We are Going to leave this trailer in Socorro to have them install new brakes, bearings, and shocks, and maybe fix the hitch wiring. Good people, no regrets in giving business to the C Bar D, and it will give me peace of mind towing it home in two weeks.

This place is the second place that told me not to replace the axles. First was a tire specialist and second was a trailer specialist (but not an Airstream specialist). What’s the reason people are replacing their axles if they are straight?
Nice buy! I've been in since your Argosy thread.This trailer will fill your needs better than the little Argosy.
I knew you had the Big Boy 31, and that you would figure that out.
Good move staying in the right lane, but I wouldn't have been doing 65.Maybe 55, but probably 50.
The reason for that is the running gear on a old trailer, especially, that's new to being pulled, is untested.You found out how that goes.Many time they will smoke a bearing, or blow old tires that get heated up.Less heat, the better, until home.
The running gear is the most important part of any trailer.
It looks like it's sitting low on axles, but kind of hard to see.Those are original.The advice you got here on old torsion axles is correct.
But since your having them serviced, + new shocks, see how it goes.
Just keep cutting all the old junky wiring off, and replace with new.Same with plumbing/ etc.
I call these big old 31s the Battleships of the Airstream fleet.Almost biggest made, besides the 3 axle Excellas.
Lots more room for your big trip!
The tires, if possibly aged out, should be replaced.Theres a aggressive tred on those.Lucky that one didn't blow out, and tear up some aluminum.
If it were me, I would put some LT 235/ 75/R15s on it, (Like some Hankooks) if so.
Keep the new tire for replacing old spare tire.
My 31 Landyacht pulls like it's on a rail, with those more aggressive tires.
The floors on a lot of those old rear baths are rotted ,from leaks in bathroom hot water tanks/ etc.
Hope your luck holds out, you found your trailer, got some great help,and are almost home!
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Old 02-15-2021, 06:46 PM   #10
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1972 31' Sovereign
Tucson , AZ
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Left the Sovereign in Socorro. If you drive by, stop by and say hi to The good folks like Chris at C Bar D. Hes going to put on new Gabriel shocks, bearings, 10 brakes and assess the axles as well as clean up the hookup situation. The Airstream side of the hookup was very brittle with and all the copper contacts were loose and corroded so hes going to convert the Airstream side of the hookup to current RV standard so I can use a regular off-the-shelf cable and clean up some of the hitch elements (new lock and jack (old was sawed off))


Ok this is taking forever in my phone. Will upload some general photos from laptop.
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Old 02-15-2021, 08:09 PM   #11
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Hi: Thanks for the link to your "project thread". The "recovery" of a recently purchased vintage Airstream is always an adventure, and you are having yours. You can see from the replies that folks are interested in your trailer and the aventures you and yours will have with it. There are a lot of folks here that have had these trailers all a part and back together again.

You are lucky to find a good shop that can make repairs to your brakes and exterior lights. And you are wise to make these repairs before going further. Having a locked up brake can be quite a thrill ride.

Here is a photo of a bad axle from my 75 Overlander. The expected life from a dura torque axle is about 35 years. The axle creates a "suspension" by compressing 4 rubber rods inside the axle tube. The rubber rods get hard as hockey pucks after all those years. They take a set from the trailer sitting a lot. With hard rubber rods, the trailer rides rough. As Robert said, the ride height drops some with a bad axle. The starting angle of the swing arm from Airstream is 22 degrees down. A bad axle will have a swing arm almost horizontal as my photo shows. I also include a photo of the axle on a 69 Globetrotter I'm working in this winter.

But a rough riding Airstream isn't a major safety concern. It can cause damage to the trailer in terms of popped rivets and broken cabinets. New axles are about $1300 each.

Let's see, how about "Lucky" for a trailer name.

David
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Old 02-15-2021, 08:14 PM   #12
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photo shows the tire level vs frame

Anyway, I guess I might transition to a reno thread now. I finally realized what a torsion axle is and why I need new ones.
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Old 02-15-2021, 08:22 PM   #13
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1972 31' Sovereign
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbj216 View Post

But a rough riding Airstream isn't a major safety concern. It can cause damage to the trailer in terms of popped rivets and broken cabinets. New axles are about $1300 each.

Let's see, how about "Lucky" for a trailer name.

David
I'll add your suggestion to the list. The family will vote soon, though now that I've left her and they are road tripping for most of March they may not see her for 5 or 6 weeks. Only one of the boys was with me. My wife and three other kiddos have only had the FaceTime tour.

I was trying to price out the axles and this is what I found. Is this the right item?
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Old 02-15-2021, 09:30 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aaryno View Post
I'll add your suggestion to the list. The family will vote soon, though now that I've left her and they are road tripping for most of March they may not see her for 5 or 6 weeks. Only one of the boys was with me. My wife and three other kiddos have only had the FaceTime tour.

I was trying to price out the axles and this is what I found. Is this the right item?
I used to pick up Dexter Axles at their plant in Indiana.Cheaper around there.
I priced some Dexters for my 31 here in WA. Last fall.They were like almost $900 each, complete W brakes/ bearings.About same price you are showing.
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Old 02-16-2021, 11:19 AM   #15
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Lift kit?

$900 seems like a bargain.

Would you (could you) add a lift kit while the axles are off? Might not be possible.
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Old 02-16-2021, 04:14 PM   #16
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I could do a lift kit while we’re at it. Is that recommended? I was just reading about the down angle of 32 degrees. How much more does a lift give and what are the implications for towing?
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Old 02-16-2021, 06:33 PM   #17
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You can excellent axel advice from Colin Hyde Trailer Restoration in Plattsburgh NY. Email or phone gets answered quickly (he was harder to get a hold of of previously) now. Even if you don't order thru him. I would not go with axels from Inland as they are struggling severely with customer service.

Great Argosy flame out led you to a great Sovereign.
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Old 02-16-2021, 08:22 PM   #18
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We like the 32 degree down start angle here in Colorado as we are always traversing steep inclines and descents to fuel stops, campgrounds and the like. The extra ground clearance is welcomed. I also ordered my axles with the "high profile" mounting brackets that gives about another inch of ground clearance.

Here is a photo of my friend's 76 Sovereign on the ground for the first time with his new axles. They are model #11 axles with 12" drums, 32 degree start angle and high profile brackets. No lift kit was installed. Maybe you can see how the wheel well body lip is higher on the tires.

Axles are just one line item on your list of trailer needs. When you get it home you can start inspecting and making a list of what it needs to get travel ready.

David
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Old 02-16-2021, 08:38 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbj216 View Post
We like the 32 degree down start angle here in Colorado as we are always traversing steep inclines and descents to fuel stops, campgrounds and the like. The extra ground clearance is welcomed. I also ordered my axles with the "high profile" mounting brackets that gives about another inch of ground clearance.

Here is a photo of my friend's 76 Sovereign on the ground for the first time with his new axles. They are model #11 axles with 12" drums, 32 degree start angle and high profile brackets. No lift kit was installed. Maybe you can see how the wheel well body lip is higher on the tires.

Axles are just one line item on your list of trailer needs. When you get it home you can start inspecting and making a list of what it needs to get travel ready.

David
That big vintage Landyacht 31 is sitting nice and high on those new axles.Thats how they should look.
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Old 02-23-2021, 08:44 AM   #20
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Lift kit

Lift kit would give you an extra three inches of ground clearance, which is great for going in to and out of gas stations, and for access to some campgrounds. There are quite a few threads here regarding lift kits. The overwhelming majority love them and find no impact to towing.

Full disclosure: The lift kit for my 2017 International 25FB has been sitting in the box in my garage for weeks. Seven weeks of body shop work on my TV and Snovid 2021 have conspired to delay its installation.
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