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Old 09-17-2006, 07:36 AM   #1
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Metal Experts - PHOTOS - Rust Damage

I am moving my request to a different Forum subject because it is very model/year specific and I was not getting any help from it's original location.

My comments are about my 1976 31ft Sovereign Intl. that I recently purchased.

This started out as a project to replace the Black water tank dump valve and it led me to uncover a much bigger problem..... MAJOR rust damage!

When I removed the bumper and the plastic compartment that holds the sewer hose, I discovered that at some time in the past there had been an undetected SLOW black water tank leak. The leak no longer exists but the caustic contents from the leak started a rusting process that has done major damage to the rear part of the holding tank support pan and also the metal cross member that spans between the two main outside frame rails. You can see this in the photos. This cross member provides the support for the rear of the tank pan that extends all the way to the rear bumper (the pan is bolted to it by several bolts). The pan supports the weight of both holding tanks. As you can see, the bottom part of this metal cross member is badly damaged and eaten away by rust. Also, the pan itself is eaten away in several places forward and aft of the cross member. This is not easily seen in the photos.

I am very undecided as to the best approach for a permanent fix. This is where I need advice, suggestions and ideas.

Depending on how far forward the pan has been weakened by the rust would detemine if it can be successfuly patched. Will I have to remove the pan to determine this? It will be a "BEAR" to remove and it's a 2-man job. It's held on with approx 30 bolts, each one a self-tapping bolt and rachet tight until the last thread just before they fall out!

I plan to phone Jackson Center tomorrow to see if the pan is available, it's price and how much to install.

But the cross member will have to be repaired FIRST! Where and how do I get that done?

Anybody had this problem before. All advice will be appreciated. Thank you, Bill
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Old 09-17-2006, 02:57 PM   #2
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Link to a rust rehab

I ran across this man's restoration project, including repairing the frame and the rear end, including the black water tank and frame. His web site is very nice looking and easy to navigate.

http://www.six55.com/AS/rear.htm

Cheers,
Anne
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Old 09-17-2006, 03:32 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lebolewis
My comments are about my 1976 31ft Sovereign Intl. that I recently purchased.

Depending on how far forward the pan has been weakened by the rust would detemine if it can be successfuly patched. Will I have to remove the pan to determine this? It will be a "BEAR" to remove and it's a 2-man job. It's held on with approx 30 bolts, each one a self-tapping bolt and rachet tight until the last thread just before they fall out!

I plan to phone Jackson Center tomorrow to see if the pan is available, it's price and how much to install.

But the cross member will have to be repaired FIRST! Where and how do I get that done?

Anybody had this problem before. All advice will be appreciated. Thank you, Bill
Hey Bill,

No worries....just a little rust.

You will have to replace the pan, by taking it to a metal fabrication shop and having them make you a new one. It is not a very hard job, and shold not be very expensive. Mechanical shops do this all the time for A/C installations. The pan should be galvanized sheet metal?

As far as the rusted cross member, it is hard to see from the pictures what the extend of the damage is, but is seems to be concentrated to the lower part of the structure.
If that's the case, then a 1x1xwidth steel angle bolted or welded to the existing crossmember should suffice. If not, go up one size to 2x2. This of course after cleaning and treating the area with POR15 or equivalent.
This is a common failure, which my compadre Murray and I have seen several times.
It is a bit of work, but easily handled by a handy person.
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Old 09-17-2006, 05:23 PM   #4
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rust

Backing up the advice UWE gave I would also like to add some rust converter on the metal while you are in there> They sell it everywhere. and if you have a little rust on some metal but it is still sound then you can flake off the loose stuff and paint it on there. It useually looks white while painting it on the turns the rust Black, In about 24 hours. The your good to go I use a product by Klean Strip rust converter they sell it at auto zone otherwise your local paint supplier will also carry it
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Old 09-17-2006, 07:59 PM   #5
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Great site and revealing photos

Quote:
Originally Posted by seattlebound
I ran across this man's restoration project, including repairing the frame and the rear end, including the black water tank and frame. His web site is very nice looking and easy to navigate.

http://www.six55.com/AS/rear.htm

Cheers,
Anne
Thanks for the reference, Anne. This guy does GREAT work! His photos tell the whole story. I have bookmarked it for future use. Bill
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Old 09-17-2006, 08:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uwe
Hey Bill,

No worries....just a little rust.

You will have to replace the pan, by taking it to a metal fabrication shop and having them make you a new one. It is not a very hard job, and shold not be very expensive. Mechanical shops do this all the time for A/C installations. The pan should be galvanized sheet metal?

As far as the rusted cross member, it is hard to see from the pictures what the extend of the damage is, but is seems to be concentrated to the lower part of the structure.
If that's the case, then a 1x1xwidth steel angle bolted or welded to the existing crossmember should suffice. If not, go up one size to 2x2. This of course after cleaning and treating the area with POR15 or equivalent.
This is a common failure, which my compadre Murray and I have seen several times.
It is a bit of work, but easily handled by a handy person.
I have limited resources here in Cullman, but I found a place in the yellow pages that does all kinds of welding AND fabrication of metal. I will give them a call tomorrow and explore this whole repair job. I hope that they can also provide the labor and tools to remove the pan! That is my current "burning" problem. It's just more than I can do by myself. You need an "air wrench" to get those self-tapping bolts out! I've thought about it some more and I'm thinking that if the fiberglass holding tanks are completely empty and all plumbing, vents, and gate valves are still connected, then wouldn't they stay in place long enough to lower the pan and get a board or peice of plywood up under them supported by jacks of some type? With the pan off, then you could "see" how to do a good repair on the crossmember. The old pan could then be used as a template for the new pan.

Is this a bad idea? What am I missing here? Bill
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Old 09-20-2006, 07:16 PM   #7
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Update

I talked to AS, Jackson Center and they encouraged me to try to get this repaired locally by a welder/frabricator. We have limited resources here in Cullman, but I got an estimate of $650.00. That includes a NEW frabricated galvanized pan and the welding to repair the crossmember, labor materials, etc.

For about $150.00, I can buy a new 4 1/2 inch Angle Grinder for cutting and preping the metal, a 1/2 inch Air impact wrench for getting at those self-tapping bolts that hold that BIG pan on (I have a 6 gallon air compressor that I think will suffice) and the materials I need or the repair. I would just drill and screw/rivet/bolt new metal to replace the rusted out stuff, then paint everything......no welding.

Pretty big project, though. Thinking about it. Any comments? Bill
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Old 09-20-2006, 08:24 PM   #8
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The pics never reveal as much as a guy could see in person.
Are your frame parts silver? With that little bit of rust at the bottom?
If I'm looking at things correctly I'd say your frame looks pretty good.
As the others have said put some of that rust neutralizer on it and you will be fine.
As for having it done or buying the tools.
I've always been a believer in getting the tool.
Then you can do this job and many more in the future for the same price.
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Old 09-20-2006, 10:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lebolewis
I talked to AS, Jackson Center and they encouraged me to try to get this repaired locally by a welder/frabricator. We have limited resources here in Cullman, but I got an estimate of $650.00. That includes a NEW frabricated galvanized pan and the welding to repair the crossmember, labor materials, etc.

For about $150.00, I can buy a new 4 1/2 inch Angle Grinder for cutting and preping the metal, a 1/2 inch Air impact wrench for getting at those self-tapping bolts that hold that BIG pan on (I have a 6 gallon air compressor that I think will suffice) and the materials I need or the repair. I would just drill and screw/rivet/bolt new metal to replace the rusted out stuff, then paint everything......no welding.

Pretty big project, though. Thinking about it. Any comments? Bill
Unless you have prior knowledge of metal working, and ALL the associated tools, do yourself a favor and get it done, especially for $ 650.00. Seems fair to me for parts, labor etc. You might end up spending at least half of that for tools you don't know you need yet, plus the materials. Granted, you get to keep the tools, but when will you need them again?
It isn't very difficult, but you will need a sheet metal brake etc. to do a nice job that lasts and looks right. I believe that it is too big a project to "get your feet wet".
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Old 09-20-2006, 10:46 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uwe
Unless you have prior knowledge of metal working, and ALL the associated tools, do yourself a favor and get it done, especially for $ 650.00. Seems fair to me for parts, labor etc.
Limited resources and you got a bid for $650? There is nothing inexpensive about an old trailer, old pickup or old house. If you have above average skills, a covered and dry place to work, and time, and you don't mind spending more than $650, I'd say go for it. Metalwork is a trade skill much like welding. I can weld, but not enough to properly weld a hitch together. I'd sub out the tough work, and I'd do the wheelbearing, electric brakes, and maybe even the torsion suspension. If you decide to do it, at least you have friendly opinions here.
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Old 10-03-2006, 01:19 PM   #11
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Progress

More PHOTOS!

For several reasons this has been a sloooow process .....but I've made some progress...I put the Airstream up on wooden ramps and got the pan off! It was not easy....if it hadn't been for that electric impact wrench that I borrowed and the help of my Nephew, it would have been too much for one person. There were thirty something, self-tapping bolts that held the thing on! I had to tie up the empty tanks before I could lower the pan. The tanks sit in the pan, except for plumbing connections, there is no other support.

As you can see from the photos, the inside of the pan is badly rusted. This was caused by a previous leak somewhere around the tanks, plus a leak from the main tank sewer vent (top of the trailer). It was cracked and decayed and had been leaking for years. I repaired all three of my vents a couple of months ago. This leak alone created quite a bit of rust and water damage. SO CHECK YOUR SEWER VENTS....this is a costly problem!!

The front part of the pan is not too bad....it's recoverable with some rust preventative and paint. But the rear half is in bad shape, eaten through in several places, and will need to be partially replaced. I plan to cut and replace a large section and secure with rivets and Vulkem. I bought myself a 4 1/2 inch Angle grinder......this thing is a wonder, but you have to be very careful with it, it's dangerous......must wear face shield, gloves and long sleeves, but it makes quick work of many tasks, including cutting metal. I should of had this thing years ago!

I have scraped the loose rust from the pan and frame and my next step is to apply 3 coats of a rust stop product called RUST MORT that I bought at an auto parts place. After that, I will do the cutting and replacement of metal on the pan and the trailer frame and then paint everything.

More later......... Bill
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Old 10-03-2006, 01:34 PM   #12
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That's very helpful information, Bill. Thanks for posting the pics. Could you get a shot from underneath of the configuration of the pans and plumbing above the pan?
Anne
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Old 10-03-2006, 01:39 PM   #13
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Same story on mine I just caught it sooner, had a sewer pipe leak at the roof gasket.

I just put it all back over the weekend, and took today off it's like 75 degrees here and just spent 3 hours fiberglassing the entire wood floor, it will never happen again!

Can't wait to walk on it tomorrow to see how much stiffer the floor is!

Do you need a new pan or are you going to clean it up and POR it?
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Old 10-03-2006, 02:26 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seattlebound
That's very helpful information, Bill. Thanks for posting the pics. Could you get a shot from underneath of the configuration of the pans and plumbing above the pan?
Anne
Anne, my digital camera is a "cheapie" and has a 50mm fixed focus lens and I cannot get any closer to a subject than about 4 feet and still be in focus. So, that means I cannot take photos from underneath the trailer. Theres not much to be seen under there. The tanks cover up everything. The two holding tanks sit side-by-side, with dump valves and sewer exits in the rear, with a metal "C" beam between them that runs front to rear. They had 2 each 1/2 inch styrofoam pads of insulation under the bottom and 1/2 inch on all sides. Each tank sits on a big plastic slope pad, then the insulation and then the pan. Bill
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Old 10-03-2006, 02:45 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lipets

Do you need a new pan or are you going to clean it up and POR it?
I will have to replace about 1/3 of it. I will try to get the same guage galvanized metal for the big patch. This pan is made of much heavier metal than regular "heat/AC duct" galvanized metal. Then, I will use a product called RUST MORT on any rusted parts that are left, then paint the whole thing with silver Rust-oleum.

An Airstream Dealer in Atlanta tried to get a new pan for me from the Airstream factory, but they don't make them anymore. He recommended frabricating a new one. I got one quote from a metal shop for $350.00, but after seeing the detail of how this thing is made, I was not sure I would ever get one made that would fit. So I decided to make the extensive repairs to this one. Bill
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Old 10-03-2006, 02:54 PM   #16
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Thank you for the description. I think your story and others raise a dilemma for a vintage owner -- I mean, owner of a vintage AS :-) -- to open up the cover of the frame or not. Maybe traveling cross-country would tip the balance in favor of opening up to take a look. I think maybe like a surgeon, if you look long enough, you're sure to find something.

Question: did you look into using one of the air-powered metal shears I have heard about? Is the grinder best for heavier metal, like the frame members vs. skin? How did you decide to go with a grinder?
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Old 10-03-2006, 03:27 PM   #17
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Howdy seattlebound!

To use POR-15 all one is expected to do is remove loose rust and dirt, degrease the metal and paint away. It isn't like auto paints where 100% of rust must be removed!

A knee-jerk reaction to the word "grinder" - every spec of unrusted metal is precious on our older airstreams. An abrasive wheel "grinder" is just too fast at removing good and bad alike on our trailers! However, a cup style wire brush in a angle grinder, or a sander with the many flaps of fine sandpaper or perhaps my first choice, a 3M corporation product that is 2" or 3" biscuits of scotchbrite thats been dipped in some gnarly abrasive. The holders are about $12-15 and each biscuit is a buck or two.

And some shameless bragging now; just replaced the rear BT support and tacked in two bottom panel braces just in case the sheet metal wants to settle, I am sealing the plywood between the frame rails w/ Kilz exterior to seal up smells left from the worst squirrel, rat, mouse, wombat and ground sloth infestation I could imagine. I am ready to put foil-foam-foil R-14 insulation up & I purchased two sheets 5' X 12' .032 aluminum yesterday (55 pounds at $2.25 a pound, $125 after taxes) and PLAN to get frame rail sections closed up soon!!

I discovered the worst damage on my unit was caused by no caulk at the rear trunk lid hingle plate ath the shell seam, any water on the hinge plate just crept into the trailer and wicked through the fiberglass almost 10 feet up the frame rail. Keep that seam well caulked!
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Old 10-03-2006, 03:59 PM   #18
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Hey, Wabbiteer,
Thanks for the tip on the trunk lid hinge plate and the sanding options. I was trying to describe POR-15 to someone and instead said POS-15. That is NOT my true feeling about my new Airstream!
A.
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Old 10-03-2006, 05:04 PM   #19
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Angle Grinders

Quote:
Originally Posted by seattlebound
Question: did you look into using one of the air-powered metal shears I have heard about? Is the grinder best for heavier metal, like the frame members vs. skin? How did you decide to go with a grinder?
Anne, I got the grinder for several reasons. It was recommended by another Forums members. Also, every "Metals Shop" I have recently visited had several of these....they come in different sizes......and they are not that expensive. My 4 1/2 inch unit cost $35.00 (made in china, arn't they all!!) but works great and has the power, speed and features of the more expensive units. They are very good for cutting light weight metals and grinding/finishing metal for just about anything. There are several wheels available for different jobs. A welding torch is best for cutting most heavy metals.

Initially I purchased an air-impact wrench....thinking I could run it with my 6 gallon, 1 HP Air Compressor. Well, NIX that! It wouldn't work!! It takes a very large capacity Air Compressor to run "AIR" tools. So, "Air Powered" anything is out of range for me.

After spending 2 hours and breaking many little cutting wheels, I finally cut a small access hole in the pan with my "Dremel" to get at replacing the main tank gate valve. That's what led me to discover all the rust damage....and that seems like "light-years" ago!! That access hole would have been a 5 minute job for my new Angle grinder. Bill
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Old 10-03-2006, 05:12 PM   #20
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Just one last point, use POR-15, others have tried other products and they have failed over time.

You don't want to do this again do you?
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