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Old 11-05-2015, 03:14 PM   #1
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1976 31' Sovereign
Jacksonville , Florida
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 58
new owner - campability

Hello all,

First off, I would like to say I have always liked AS's and always will! Thank you for all your hard work and experience to help make this a little smoother. My wife and I just bought our first a month ago, which is a '76 Sovereign 31'. It is all original. I would like to list concerns and problems if I may.

1) I don't know how long it has been sitting. I know to check the axels. But how.

2) I have a few rust holes in the frame. by the bumper, wheel wells, and behind the stairs. I pulled the carpet and found very little wood damage. Very little. So how would you go about checking the rest of the frame without dumping gobs of money into it? (I don't want to pull the shell.)

3) The previous owners said everything works. How do you recommend checking the LPG system? Or who would I call to have it checked?

4) The steps don't come down. this is partially due to the front bracket that the slides glide down is rusted away. Do I need a fabricator to build a new one?

Well that's it for now. What are your thoughts?

Thank you again!
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Old 11-05-2015, 04:15 PM   #2
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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Welcome to the Forums!

Here are my quick and dirty answers to your questions (your questions in red, answers in black):

1) I don't know how long it has been sitting. I know to check the axels. But how.

There are many threads here on the Forums describing how to check the axles. The search function built into the forums is not the best, but if you open another browser window, and do a google search for "airforums check axle" or some derivative, you should have several hits. The method I used was to jack up the trailer (jack against the plate that the axles are mounted on) and watch how much your wheels move relative to the body before coming off the ground. There should be ~3 inches of travel. On the other hand, if you do not know that your trailer has ever had the axles replaced, then they probably are the originals, and need to be replaced. The rubber rods in them only last around 20-25 yrs, so we hear.

2) I have a few rust holes in the frame. by the bumper, wheel wells, and behind the stairs. I pulled the carpet and found very little wood damage. Very little. So how would you go about checking the rest of the frame without dumping gobs of money into it? (I don't want to pull the shell.)

Well, if you are seeing rust holes around the wheel wells, you are probably looking at a rusting away solid outrigger. The outriggers support the shell. In order to get a good look at your frame, you are going to have to see behind the aluminum that covers the bottom (the "belly pan"). You might get on a mechanic's creeper and roll underneath and see what is available to be looked at. There may be holes in the bellypan, or sections of it missing/loose that can give you a glimpse inside. You can also open up the bumper trunk and remove the piece of aluminum that forms the back "wall" of the trunk. It is just a matter of removing a couple of rivets. This will give you a glimps of the rear most cross member, which is likely to be rotting completely away. You shold probably also check for the dreaded "rear end separation" while back there. Just step up onto the rear bumper and watch the relationship of the shell to the bumper. There should be little, if any movement between the two.

I bought my trailer near Destin, FL. I ended up replacing the last 4 ft of my frame, a foot or so at the front, three cross-members, and repairing most of the outriggers. Something about that humid Florida air, I guess.

3) The previous owners said everything works. How do you recommend checking the LPG system? Or who would I call to have it checked?

They all say that! You could take the whole rig to an RV repair place and have them go over the LP system. Or, you could hook up some propane bottles, open up the valves so that propane is going into the system. Make sure everything that uses propane is turned off and then get a paintbrush with some soapy water and check every connection inside and outside the trailer to see if you find bubbles.

4) The steps don't come down. this is partially due to the front bracket that the slides glide down is rusted away. Do I need a fabricator to build a new one?


Only if you want to use the stairs! Again, those brackets are also outriggers that support the shell. If you have too many disintegrating outriggers, pretty soon your shell and frame are going to part ways. Look on the "portal" tab, and find and download the "buyer's inspection checklist." Go through your whole trailer with the checklist, and at the end you will have a better idea what you are up against.

Post some pictures of your rust holes and we can give you the long distance calibrated eyeball.

good luck!
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Old 11-16-2015, 03:08 PM   #3
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1976 31' Sovereign
Jacksonville , Florida
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Thank you.
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Old 11-16-2015, 03:09 PM   #4
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Old 11-16-2015, 04:45 PM   #5
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Without wishing to sound alarmist, how much did you pay for that trailer? Because, that's more than just a little rust hole.

I would remove the belly pan, then carefully check my entire frame - truth be told I would have done that before handing over any money. The longer 70's area trailers are notorious for frame separation, as Airstream was using frames not quite strong enough for the trailer at the time.

Rebuilding a frame isn't the end of the world, but it is not for the faint hearted - I personally would need to get somebody to do this for me, with all the cost associated with such an enterprise, but you might have the requisite skills yourself.
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Old 11-16-2015, 05:43 PM   #6
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1997 25' Safari
1967 20' Globetrotter
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Andy 2, I think you understated the issue. Andy 1, how fast can you run? And due to geography, sorry. Jim


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Old 11-16-2015, 06:03 PM   #7
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:05 PM   #8
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1976 31' Sovereign
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:08 PM   #9
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1976 31' Sovereign
Jacksonville , Florida
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I paid $4500. Stupidly. I should have read this forum way before buying. But I'm not afraid to get dirty. I have half of the interior gutted. I've been reading Millertime's post. Good stuff. I believe I can do it at a reasonable price.
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Old 11-16-2015, 06:27 PM   #10
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I think you and Millertime are about in the same boat.

Attack the project, finish it, ant you can essentially negate the sting of the purchase price with added value and sweat equity.


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Old 11-16-2015, 06:30 PM   #11
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Then I think you can turn it into a nice Airstream that you will undoubtedly enjoy since you are having a can-do approach. Lots of help here from others who have been or are going through the same process. I admire your ability to make lemonaid. Good going. Jim


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Old 11-16-2015, 07:27 PM   #12
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1976 31' Sovereign
Jacksonville , Florida
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Thanks Jim! I have a wife and a 9month old son. I plan on keeping her, the trailer, for a long time. My wife as well!😁 I have always loved the look of ASs. That is abbreviated for Airestreams, with an s! Millertime is an inspiration and if he did it, I can do it! I have a lot of reading ahead of me as far as what everyone did and is doing to better their campers! This is one of the coolest ventures I have started! I love the info that everyone shares and the supporting group you all have become. You guys are amazing!
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Old 11-17-2015, 09:33 AM   #13
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That frame looks like a total rebuild. Thankfully, from what I can see from your pictures, the main riggers seem solid. On the sides, there's a fair bit of work to be done. I personally would remove the entire floor to make sure all the rot is gone.

It sounds like you've got the skills needed to tackle this, but there is of course always the option to sell the trailer, get most of your money back and buy something in better condition that needs less work.

I got three young kids and know how much time they take up - time that you could spend camping with your family, rather than restoring a trailer.
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Old 08-01-2016, 05:46 PM   #14
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1976 31' Sovereign
Jacksonville , Florida
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Hello everyone, it's been a little while since I have replied but I'm going threw with the full rebuild! The trailer is gutted lower interior walls are out and half of the insulation as well. I haven't touched the floor yet but plan to get to that next weekend. It is hot in Florida but I work outside all day anyways. What's a few more hours, right? I think I'm going to strip the vinyl walls to aluminum. Also the end caps are cracking every time I touch them and am thinking about making aluminum end caps as well. The wiring and insulation will be my next project because I'm brooding the trailer off at the fabrication shop and letting them handle the frame off part. I plan to replace all the plumbing with pex. I will need a new water heater and may need a new AC and refrigerator. I have double pane windows which will need to be separated, tinted and slapped back together. And the list goes on. Any tips so far?
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Old 08-01-2016, 07:26 PM   #15
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Have a large open wallet and refill it often.
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Old 08-02-2016, 06:28 AM   #16
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1976 31' Sovereign
Jacksonville , Florida
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Ha! Yea, I've had time to go threw the shock and awe stage. You know, the one where regret hits you and nothing gets done for a couple of months. But, I'm back in the saddle so to speak. We have decided against restoring and going towards making it ours while keeping in mind we might sell it one day. Gotta keep things neutral for all buyers. We have no intentions of selling her any time soon but you never know what the future holds.
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