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Old 03-23-2019, 01:58 PM   #181
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1978 31' Sovereign
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Tank Design - Sort of.

What I’ve learned about tanks so far.
Up to this point in Faith’s progress, I have reported that the work is not difficult and that nothing I have encountered required significant skill. That is until I got to the holding tanks.
If you have been following this thread and my more recent posts, you know that I have been thrashing around seeking advice and getting input on replacement tanks. The existing tanks are warped and woefully small. The black tank holds 20 gallons and the gray tank holds 16 gallons.
Pic1949

My options are:
1. Custom Tanks ------Have custom tanks made that are identical to the factory INCA tanks only made 2-3” deeper. The tanks would fit into the existing stock supporting pan, and all the existing plumbing will hook up without modification. This is the easiest, best solution and the most expensive. Sullivan Plastic in Maine, quoted a ball park of about $1100 per tank plus shipping.
2. Replace Existing Tanks-------INCA, the original manufacturer, reports that they no longer make those tanks. They suggest tank H191, a 17 gallon that has basically the same footprint as the original but holds 3 gallons less than the original. And they suggest H56 as a gray water replacement which holds only 13 gals, 3 gallons less than the original. This is going in the wrong direction since the tanks are dismally small as it is. In their view, these are the tanks that most closely resemble the original. This is a $700 option
3. Use Off the Shelf Tanks --------In this option, you research tanks from Inca, Inland RV and Vintage Trailer Supply and find something that could be modified to work. This is a $700 option.
4. Composting Toilet or Dry Flush Toilets-------This option would eliminate the black tank, reducing the complexity of the plumbing. And would make more room available for gray water tanks. This is a $700 to $1000 option. I have a friend who flips AS’s who swears by the dry flush toilets.
5. Make your own tanks.

Narrowing Choices
I’m eliminating the first option just on cost alone. $2200 plus shipping for two tanks is way outside of my budget.
I’m also ruling out option 2, following INCA’s tank recommendation. While the tanks they recommended most closely mimic what I have, tank capacities are smaller than original.
I’m also ruling out option 4 – tankless toilets- because as it is with most RV appliances and equipment that sits for months at a time, you tend to have issues or problems. And once the flooring is all down and the space built out, if you ever wanted to go back to a tank system you would have to tear the camper apart again to do so.
I’m also ruling out option 5. This is a skill I do not possess, and I have no interest in learning how to do it.
That leaves only one option: find replacement tanks off the shelf and design my own system. I was sincerely hoping that custom tanks would have been a viable alternative, but $2200 to $2500 is too steep for me. So it is off the shelf. And this is where things get a little complicated. When you start to change the tanks and their location, there are a lot of things to consider.
Here is a picture on the plumbing going into the original tanks.
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Things that I had to consider designing a new tank layout:
1. Both holding tanks have to be vented.
2. If you move gray tanks forward, and you’re retaining a rear bath, you have to find a way to drain the sink and shower in the bath.
3. If vent pipes have to be moved, you have to find a way to run them so they are hidden and don’t interfere with other things like heat ducts, walls, beds and cabinets, etc.
4. You have to find tanks that increase holding tank capacity that fit inside frame members.
5. If you change the footprint of the tanks, the tank covers on the underbelly have to changed, be moved, or a new tank cover has to be made from scratch.
6. Location of hot water heater.
Getting Help
I was hoping to be able to get help from one or more of the suppliers on how to accomplish my goals. I sent pics and measured drawings to several, and the response has been disappointing, until I recognized that coming up with a design takes time, time that suppliers don’t have. While they may have a willingness to help, it falls to the bottom of their priority list when their goal is to sell things and make money, as it should be.
Where I have gotten help, is from Air Forums from Ian, David, Chris and Kay, Bubba, Zero, My3sonsdad and others. Each of them has offered suggestions that have helped me develop a plan.
So I have adapted a design suggested by David where the gray tank has been moved forward into the next bay.
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You will notice that my design is not computer aided, and old school. David used an Inca H435 (30 gal) tank for his black tank and an H136 (27 gal) in the next bay forward for his gray. I went with the H435 for the black tank, but have chosen the H151 (32 gal) just to get some more gray water capacity, and since I’m building a frame from scratch, I have the ability to move a cross-member forward an inch or two to make room for a larger tank.
I left the black tank in the same rear compartment because I could not find a practical way to drain the bath sink. David decided to drain his bath sink into the black tank. I thought that was a good solution since the bath sink is the least used fixtures in the camper and that the black tank size in his design was enlarged from 17 gals to 30 gals.
Before I order tanks, I wanted to run these design thoughts by everyone and give an opportunity for suggestions to improve what I have. I’m wide open to input.

Bill
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Old 03-23-2019, 03:18 PM   #182
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We drain our bathroom sink into the black tank also. Shower goes to grey. We also ganged our vent for black and grey tanks together, so only one vent for those 3 (in our case) tanks.
Grey tanks fill much faster than black tanks, in our experience. We can go a week on the black tank for the two of us, but only about 4 days with grey.
We have met people (actually the just past president of WBCCI) who full time. They told us that when they are really trying to conserve their waste tanks, they capture water from shower (as in when they're running water to get hot to the faucet before a shower) in a bucket, and then use that water to flush the toilet. We haven't tried that (yet). Point is, there are definitely ways to conserve water while camping.
You will want your toilet to be stationed over your black tank, so that waste drops straight down.

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Old 03-23-2019, 07:47 PM   #183
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Hello from Colorado: You asked about sensing fluid levels of new waste water tanks, and even the old fresh water tank. I highly recommend the SeeLevel system from Garnet. Airstream and many others use this system on their new trailers. The system costs about $250 and is easy to install while renovating your trailer. Harder to install with the trailer all together.

The system comes with "stick on circuits" that are the level sensors for the tanks. The circuits are "daisy chained" together to the readout device mounted where you might like it. Then you have to run a 12v power and ground to the instrument too. SeeLevel likes this to be a dedicated circuit to reduce noise and the like. The system also reads battery voltage standard. For a few dollars more, you can also get the parts to read the LP tanks too. I've no experience with that option.

I installed one in my old Trade Wind, and now in the Overlander. Here are some photos. First is a view of the stick on circuits on the tanks while still on the bench. I positioned the circuits on the deep end of the tanks close to their drain bosses. The second is the SeeLevel readout I mounted in my "defunct" control center. I wish I had ordered the next model up that comes with a water pump switch. I elected to use the old control center switch as the wiring was already there. Mistake on my part.

Hope this helps...

David
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Old 03-23-2019, 08:11 PM   #184
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Well, I reviewed your sketch. You certainly have added water capacity. As we discussed earlier, you don't want to tow very far with that much water weight in the rear. Make a note to always empty the tanks before hitting the road, except for maybe 5 gallons in the black tank.

My Overlander had a "north-south" cross member between the rear mounted black and grey. The purpose of this cross member was support for the bath subfloor. You should give consideration to adding such a cross member in a new location to accommodate the black tank. I used an oak board because I don't have a welder. See photo. Metal would have been better.

The larger grey tank is a good idea. I think draining the bath sink into the black tank is perfectly okay. I think you can tee the black and grey street side vent ports together and then up the stack to the roof. Remember you likely have a vent or two on the curb side. One might be on the galley sink drain line, and one might be on the shower drain line. Connect these vents to their respective drain pipe also. Drain lines like vents.

Using the rubber grommets will make drain plumbing easier going into the new tanks.

You are right. Taking an old Airstream apart is easy compared to figuring out how to put the thing back together. There will be many challenges ahead. Your project thread has many vintage Airstream enthusiasts following along as you mentioned. Keeping the faith, pretty soon you will be making your maiden voyage in Faith.

David
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Old 03-24-2019, 10:42 AM   #185
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More tank questions

David - More questions. When I look at your black tank installation
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I note the supporting frames that you built in the above picture. The main frame is 5" thick and the skid plate is 3". That gives you 8" (from the top of the frame to the bottom of the skid plate) to work with if you want skid plates to protect you tanks. There is a floor support above the tank that takes up an 1 ¼” which now leaves 6 3/4" to install the H435 tank, which has a depth of 6 1/2 inches. Ah a 1/4 of an inch to spare.
But then you added the metal supports, in the above pic, to the tank which appears to be 1 1/2" X 1" tubing. Now with the tank support framework installed, the tank assembly hangs down below the skid plate by 1 1/4" to 1 1/2".
Did you increase the size of the skid plate to protect the tank and supports you made? Also with the tank supports, it also appears that the tank cover as currently configured won't fit, because now it is too shallow.
The H136 tank that you installed in the bay forward of the black, is 7 1/2" deep. That bay was previous covered underneath by the belly pan. With H136 installed it now hangs 3 1/2" below the 5" frame, taking away 1 1/4" for the floor support framing. How will you cover that? Will you extend the skid plate further forward to protect it?
This is the only part of Faith’s new tank layout that I don’t have a good picture of, how to protect and then cover both tanks.
Thanks, David, for your help with this.
To Kay – Thanks for your observations on creatively living with small holding tanks. Like all things in Life, you adjust to the environment, you make it work. We love the RVing experience and have been all over the country since I retired early 20 years ago. If you aren’t adaptable and flexible, RVing is not for you. That’s what I love about it. Every trip is a new experience and when things break or cease to work, you adjust and make the best out of it. I am enjoying the Minno project and look forward to your posts.

Bill
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Old 03-24-2019, 08:04 PM   #186
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Good Morning Bill: I'll hack at answering your questions. I might add that I welcome input from the others following your thread. Having a good "design review" can save major headaches later.

1. Did you increase the size of the skid plate to protect the tank and supports you made? Also with the tank supports, it also appears that the tank cover as currently configured won't fit, because now it is too shallow.

No I didn't. You mention a 1 1/4" "floor support". My trailer didn't have such a thing. My tank top is tight against the plywood floor. My tank supports rest on the skid rail on the street side, and the lower frame rail on the curb side. I made that jog so my grey water tank drain pipe has room to run right along the curb side skid rail. I won't be using tank pans for either my black or grey tanks.

2. With H136 installed it now hangs 3 1/2" below the 5" frame, taking away 1 1/4" for the floor support framing. How will you cover that? Will you extend the skid plate further forward to protect it?

The floor support framing confuses me. My grey tank is also flush with the subfloor. I will extend the skid rails to provide the 8" depth space I needed for the larger tanks. My grey tank is hung with angle irons so I don't need a pan or tank supports. I will install a little insulation around the tank frame bays and then install belly pan aluminum over the whole mess. I have thought to using steel sheeting to cover the pans and actually purchased the material. But right now I think the aluminum sheeting is good enough.

Maybe you have a picture of the "1 1/4 floor support" for my better understanding. Things could be built very different between a 75 trailer and a 78 trailer, or an Overlander 27' versus a Sovereign 31'.

David
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Old 03-25-2019, 01:00 PM   #187
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Pic of Floor Supports

David

Here is a pic of Faith's frame. Notice the tubular frame members that run from front to back. They are flush with the frame and are about 1 1/4" thick.

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Let me know what you think

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Old 03-25-2019, 08:34 PM   #188
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Wow. Now I understand. My 75 Overlander doesn't have these "extra frame rails". Maybe by 78 Airstream figured out the frame on the big trailers was too flimsy. Our 86 Limited 34' does have a "floor support" of sorts. I did re-insulate and install a new belly pan, but never installed a new tank under this trailer. I did drop the fresh water tank to fix a plumbing leak, but don't remember a floor support. Here are a couple of pictures of the 86 frame. The floor supports looks like a piece of sheet steel that is welded to the cross members.

So now we are all screwed up. It might be your frame fabricator has some ideas where we could accommodate the tanks you want and maintain frame strength. I mentioned earlier that your frame builder can weld in a "floor support" north south supporting the bath floor (heavy use there) kinda like I did with the oak board.

I assume your subfloor is 3/4" plywood. Many folks sing the praises of expensive Coosa board. It is lightweight and very strong. Maybe a well anchored Coosa board subfloor to the existing cross members would provide adequate strength.

And you can have the floor supports everywhere except the last two frame bays. That might be adequate.

I'm trying to salvage the tank plan. These floor supports are new to me. The tanks selected won't work within the 8' of frame depth minus the 1 1/4 "floor support" square tubing.

There is a solution here somewhere. Let's see what the others say about it.

David
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Old 03-26-2019, 12:44 PM   #189
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Sub Floor

David - my subfloors are 1/2” not 3/4.”
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Old 03-26-2019, 07:46 PM   #190
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Holy cow! Hard to imagine Airstream would do that. It certainly explains the need for floor supports. Maybe they thought the floor supports strengthened the frame and thus less need for thicker plywood.

I wonder if any other renovators of 78 Sovereigns have found the 1/2" adequate, or have changed to something else. Half inch ply just seems so inadequate to me. My 75 Overlander is 3/4" plywood, and the wife's 86 Limited is 3/4", although it is the dreaded OSB material.

My buddies 76 Sovereign has rear end separation and subfloor rot back there. It also is rather spongy by the entry door toward the center of the trailer. We can't explain it until we drop the belly pan next winter. I wonder if his is 1/2" plywood. I didn't notice the subfloor thickness.

Now what? Can the subfloor be changed to 3/4" material so certain floor supports in the back of the trailer can be dropped or modified? Since the "floor datum" is the c-channel around the perimeter of the body, the whole body would be 1/4" higher in relation to the frame, but not in relation to the floor. So all cabinets, door heights, etc would be the same. Increasing the floor thickness would take some serious thinking.

Otherwise, different tanks need found. I hope others will chime in.

David
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Old 03-26-2019, 08:32 PM   #191
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1/2” Plywood and C channel.

David - C channel is only wide enough to accept 1/2 “ plywood. I’ve read where folks have used a router and rabiting bit to reduces the edges of 3/4 plywood to 1/2”, but the additional 1/4 “ in floor height means a lot of adjusting everything that sits on the thicker floor. You wouldn’t think a 1/4” would be a big deal, but it creates a ton of issues.

Since my frame is being made from scratch, I am able to adjust cross members to help with tank fitment. Also the axles I ordered have a down angle of 30 degrees instead of the 22.5 degrees of the stock axles. This will raise the frame height 1”. This means I can increase the size of the skid plate to 4” which gives me more space to install the larger tanks: a 9” space.

More tomorrow after I sleep on it.

Bill
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Old 03-26-2019, 09:00 PM   #192
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It appears you are on a solution. That's great. I didn't think of lifting the ride height with the axles. I think with that, you can fabricate tank compartments deep enough that will work with the floor supports in place, and 1/2" ply subfloor.

As you said, sleep on it.

David
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Old 03-26-2019, 11:25 PM   #193
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My 79 30’ Argosy has 1/2 plywood and from what I can tell from patching a rear floor rot section has similar frame support. It’s still a fairly squishy feeling floor when stepping between the frame supports.
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Old 03-29-2019, 03:00 PM   #194
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Hey Everyone.

With the frame 60 miles away, I’ve turned my attention to the vista windows and othe shell issues. They are held in by 50 rivets per window. One window had Olympic rivets and the other two buck rivets,

But this is where I could use help. I’ve read somewhere in the forum that when you reinstall to drill the hole 5/32 instead of 1/4” and use a 5/32 rivet.

My window,that someone replaced buck rivets with Olympic, was leaking but not from the rivet.

Here are the questions.

1. Instead of a 1/8” rivet, do I install a 5/32?
2. If I go with Olympic rivets, where is the cheapest place to purchase?
3. Is there a particular length that I need?
4. A good friend lent me a air powered buck river gun, but 99 percent of the time I work alone and when installing using buck rivets it is a two person job.

Can anyone help?
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Old 03-29-2019, 08:34 PM   #195
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Hi Bill: There are so many more knowledgeable Airstreamers than I here on these Forums. Let's hope they will join in your project thread.

Here is a thread I'm following about Olympic rivets. It may help a bit. There are many others on these Forums.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f381...ts-193705.html

My Overlander has had some replacement work done using Olympic rivets. Olympic tri fold rivets are not my favorite, but I have used a lot of them. They are considerably weaker than a pop rivet, and much weaker than a bucked rivet.

I believe every exterior rivet in your 78 is a 5/32 diameter solid, or bucked, rivet. Many folks, including me, drill out the bucked rivets when making a repair or doing some disassembly. You have drilled out several yourself. I use the 5/32 diameter Olympic rivet.

You needn't worry about grip length as the tri fold rivet will accommodate anything we have on our trailers.

Olympic rivets seal rainwater better than a pop rivet. But not as good as a bucked rivet. So use a little sealant under the head of each rivet.

I have the "shaver tool" to form the rivet head after the rivet is pulled tight and the mandrel breaks. I have also ground off the mandrel with a dremel tool. Slower, but works when I'm too lazy to set up the shaver.

I have a window re installed with Olympic rivets. It was a little heartbreaking to discover this after I had the trailer home. Why was it replaced? I don't know. The window is tight, not leaking, and not a worry right now.

You can buy Olympic rivets on line. Vintage Trailer carries them (sometimes) and I have purchased from them. I also got some from a rivet distributor on line. Trigger warning: Olympic trifold rivets are expensive.

Good luck with your window project. I've never done that job.

David
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Old 03-29-2019, 09:28 PM   #196
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Bill,
I’m going through this process with my 31” window addition (i cut through a rib to add it). After reading through what others recommend, I plan to use a combination of both buck rivets and Olympic rivets. I decided not to take all my interior skins off so I don’t have interior access to the top & bottom segments of the window frame - I’ll use Olympic rivets here. On the side segments I have interior access to use buck rivets. Buck rivets would be the preferred solution all around the window if you have access to both sides AND have a bucking partner.

The exterior rivets for windows are 5/32 rivets. The buck rivets come in different lengths depending on how much aluminum you are binding. I order all 3 lengths of from VTS but plan to use the longer rivets for my windows. If there is concern about the strength of an 5/32 Olympic rivet, there is a larger 3/16 Olympic rivet that best I can tell from the VTS specs has the same strength as a 5/32 buck rivet. You can use a regular pop rivet installer or if you have a friend or plan to a lot of interior pop riveting, a pneumatic pop riveter would be a good time/energy saving tool investment.

The Olympic rivets have a rubber seal that VTS claims has a 20 yr life...as David suggested, everyone recommends adding a bit of sealant around the rivets.

There’s a video on YouTube that shows the factory process and AS applies a layer of sealant over top of the buck rivets after they are bucked.

You will also need some cleco’s to hold the window tight as you seal/rivet to the body. I ordered from amazon but since found this supplier that had good pricing for used/surplus cleco’s. You should be able to get by with 1/8 & 5/32 cleco’s.

https://www.browntool.com/Listview/t...a/Default.aspx

Lastly, I suspect you will need butyl tape to seal the window. I ordered from amazon, but not sure if it’s quality. You may want to check what VTS offers. I used 1” butyl tape which was wider than the frame lip. I overlapped it on the frame side so that when the frame was installed on the body there was some of the butyl tape oozing around the edge of the interior body. Maybe that will help further seal for leaks.

Jim
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Old 03-30-2019, 09:24 AM   #197
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We used Olympic rivets extensively when redoing our trailer. She already had Olympics replacing a front side panel from a previous owner, that was water tight. We took the gasket off, and sealed with Trempro under each rivet as we put them on. We have had no leakage problems with these rivets. We also used Trempro to seal windows when we reinstalled as we didn't have butyl tape at the time available. It would probably be a good idea. Trempro does work well, though. Much of the sealant we scraped off the trailer when we resealed things and reinstalled was still pliable and in good shape, even at 40+ years old.
A pneumatic riveter is a good idea!

Kay
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Old 03-30-2019, 10:17 AM   #198
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Butyl tape

Thanks David and Jim,

My vista window had gasket material between the frame and body. Jim, did you use anything else beside butyl tape to seal the window to the body? Folding the butyl tape up on the interior edge I would think provides a good seal.

Do either of you know the length of the buck rivet used on the windows, and are they the same length as the ones used to hold the shell to the C channel?

Bill
Keeping Faith
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Old 03-30-2019, 01:36 PM   #199
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The standard for buck rivets is the thickness of what you are riveting plus 1 and 1/2 the diameter of the rivet .
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Old 03-30-2019, 03:00 PM   #200
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Here are the specs from the VTS order page for both buck & Olympic rivets.Click image for larger version

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