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Old 08-02-2003, 09:08 AM   #1
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Angry Cold Weather Camping

We like camping in the Fall and Winter due to our interest in hunting and just being out at that time of the year. Although we were vexed with the "common" design/workmanship problems of the Airstream Safari (refrigerator gas flame would not stay in service during travel, hallway door to toilet falling off, supports for jacks were inadequate, sewage discharge hose would not fit inside the sewage hose storage tube, storage door between beds (two bed model) would come, fall on the floor, due to faulty anchorage of side boards, etc.) we have corrected all of these (without any assistance from Airstream in spite of our requests). Our present problem is water lines freezing while camped. We cannot claim this is a "design" problem, however, I suspect the workmanship might not have been the best as to location and insulation. When we speak of "camping in cold weather" we are speaking of temperatures down to 0 degrees F. (Yes, thats "zero" degrees). Actually, we are well pleased with how everything works, especially the furnace, during these periods. We were comfortable and the heating of the trailer was pretty uniform throughout it's length. One exception to this would be the area at the far end of the trailer (head of the bed) where it became colder due to the lack of supply of heated air. (A GREAT improvement in Airstream design would be the elimination of the single-pane windows, being replaced with double-pane glass. This would be of as much improvement in the Summer as in the Winter.). Now, FINALLY, my question: Has anyone else had the problem of the water lines freezing while they were camped? I am speaking of the supply lines from the storage tank via the battery operated pump to the faucets - we were not hooked to an outside, pressurized water source. Since the lines freeze at about 20F degrees, we have to go without running water until we relocate. I would like any information one has about the method to "access" the lines from the storage tank to the kitchen and bathroom. Once accessed, I can re-route the lines to a more heated zone and thoroughly insulate each line.
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Old 08-02-2003, 09:24 AM   #2
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Water line locations

A/S puts all the waterlines ABOVE the floor so that they are in the interior of the trailer. If you have an external water hose attached, it would have to have electrical heat tape wrapped to prevent it from freezing which would allow the freezing to travel up into the trailer plumbing. In thinking about how to prevent freezing, the trick is make sure that the warm air in the trailer circulates into the cabinet area where the plumbing lines are located. You could install some 12V boxer fans behind round grills with a fan pulling at one grill and another other pushing at the other end of the cabinet. This would ensure circulation and these fans draw very little power. You would probably want to install a series power resistor to slow them down and lower the noise level.

It is always sad to hear of quality problems and unfortunately all of us with new A/S seem to have more than what should be expected. Write Mr Regel (A/S CEO) and tell him everything that was wrong with your A/S. He is VERY interested and upset in the poor quality over the last few years (he only took over about a year ago)
david & bret
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Old 08-02-2003, 09:38 AM   #3
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What you describe sounds to me like a warrenty issue. Airstream makes a big deal out of the fact that all holding tank areas are heated via the furnace to prevent just what you describe. It could be that a line was routed improperly, or that some insulation was left out during assembly.

Of course, you do have to use the furnace as opposed to a catalytic heater or some other point source heater.

Like you, we like to use our '87 Sovereign in cold weather, and it has never had any of the coach water lines freeze.

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Old 08-02-2003, 09:49 AM   #4
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Cold Weather Camping

As I indicated, we were not hooked up to an external water supply. The problem wasn't on those lines; the problem is on the lines internal to the trailer. We have had a lot of experience living similar situations since we lived in a mobile home several years ago in northern Iowa. One Winter, there, the temperature never got above 0F degrees and two nights got down to 30 degrees below zero. The water lines in the trailer did not freeze as the designer/installer had the foresight to place the lines along the top of the heat ducts.
Yes, I have had conversation with Mr. Regel. He was cordial, but in a manner of speaking indicated that Airstreams were not designed for this type of service. I won't disagree with that position, I'm just seeking a solution to the one problem we experienced since everything else worked satisfactorily.
Yes, I tried fans. I tried re-directing the back heating duct into the passageway below the floor. I inserted my wife's hairdryer into the cavity below the bathroom sink. Nothing worked.
This Fall, when the weather is a little cooler, I am tearing into the trailer and I'm going to solve this "potential to freeze" problem. I'm just wondering if anyone else has torn into the bottom of the trailer and if they have, what problems they experienced.
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Old 08-02-2003, 09:06 PM   #5
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Try putting a little Florida air in there this winter.
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Old 08-02-2003, 09:16 PM   #6
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I just want to keep the lines from freezing - I don't want the water in them to BOIL.
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Old 08-02-2003, 10:11 PM   #7
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I may be looking at spending some time this winter in my Airstream. Any info on what to expect would be greatly appreciated. I expect that I won't be using the water due to temp? How long will a 30 lb bottle last with the heat going in the winter?
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Old 08-02-2003, 10:37 PM   #8
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You may find this Winter Living thread an interesting read, especially into January & February....

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Old 08-03-2003, 08:15 AM   #9
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To: Overlander76,

We used about 15# of propane each day. I set the regulator so the supply was shut off from one bottle while the other bottle was being used. That way I always knew when one bottle was empty. After switching to the full bottle I would have the empty one refilled & the whole process started over again.

All of the threads I have looked at on this site that describe "cold weather camping" are talking about temperatures of 25F to 30F. To us, that's not "cold". We camp where the temperature quickly gets down to zero degrees. Permanent type provisions (such as underpenning with insulation board, etc.) cannot be made because we move every two or three days. And believe me, if it's going to freeze, it will freeze when you move down that highway!

I started this thread hoping that someone has had experience in "exposing" the waterlines of a Safari. Apparently no real Winter campers have read the thread - or they camp "in the dry"

I will make a post later this year, after I tear into the trailer, expose the water lines and make the necessary modifications.
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Old 08-26-2003, 10:29 PM   #10
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I haven't been out in temps below the upper 20's so I really can't help you much on the freeze ups. I assume that you have no auxilary heat that you are using (like a heat pump, heat strip, or other electrical heat). I know on my SOB when I got down in the low 20's, I would start opening up cabinets and other doors which confined the areas of water lines. I'm assuming the freeze up is not coming in the piping above the floor. One area I'm wonder about is the area of my water pump which is below my double closet on my 27' Safari. No direct heat here although the heat duct does pass by. I'm not sure if the kitchen lines pass through this compartment. If you have a Classic trailer the floor in the closet lifts up. Not in the Safari (at least mine) and the only access is by unscrewing the kick panel and heat duct covers and then removing or cutting the wood trim.

Quite honestly Airstream doesn't build the standard trailer with extreme temperatures in mind. (Nor do most trailer manufacturers.) They do have a winter pack insulation option that you can order at build time. That higher R factor insulation is also used in the "Limited" model trailers.

The refrigerator blowing out is an issue that has been going on for a few years now. I think at least back to '99. Dometic blames it on Airstream and vice versa. The fix has been to either add a baffle in the refrigerator compartment or add a small furnace filter on the door. I don't know how the '03 trailers have fared on this issue. My dealer added the the baffle and since then I have had only lost the flame once, and that was pulling in some pretty heavy cross winds.

The sliding bathroom door issue is not new either and I have heard from others on that door coming off. I take care to check that occasionally. I've not seen any signs of anything loosening at this point.

The jackstands used on the modern Safari's up and through the 2001 model line were a joke. I had mine retrofitted to the same style as those on the Classic line trailers. One issue that has come up with some folks is the round pad dropping off the jack due to a wing nut working loose. Again I have checked mine and have found no signs of that.

I'm not quite sure what your sewer hose problem was unless you had some type of defect in the storage pipe. I'm curious as to what was going on there.

We have twin beds in ours and my wife now regrets that choice. In cold weather you have the cold coming off the walls and back and side windows. The queen bed would have limited that cold to the head of the bed only. Again lack of insulation is the culpret and single pane glass is the issue. If I used the trailer in extreme temperatures I probably would add that shrink plastic on the windows.

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