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Old 03-31-2020, 07:17 PM   #301
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Wrong jacking points?

Hi David, All,
I jacked up the rear portion of the Ambassador frame, and I am pretty sure I am doing something wrong. My first guess is that I jacked it up too far back on the frame, and I also cranked up one side without raising the other. Not great...

Several photos follow, including while the rear of the coach is perfectly level but the shell (especially on the door side, photo 2) looks like it has overlapped the floor by over an inch, while the other side is barely covering the subfloor (photo 1).

When I realized that something was off I lowered the door side of the frame and raised the non-door side so that the rear cross member was not buried, as it was when the coach was level (photo 3).

The last picture towards the shows my error most clearly -- the door side was raised at a different rate than the non-door side, so the coach was slightly twisted -- at least until I lowered that side a bit, as the view past the bumper clearly shows (it is a straight on shot)...

So what should I be doing differently? Should I put a piece of steel underneath but across the frame so that it lifts both sides? I can still place the jack towards one side so that it lifts more... Jack at a different spot? Or???


Color me Confused,
David
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Old 04-01-2020, 08:09 PM   #302
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Conifer , Colorado
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We jacked up the Sovereign on level concrete. We jacked it from each side about an inch or so at a time. We would raise the tongue jack as we went to keep the thing level front to back, and side to side. We jacked it up on the axle plate behind the rear axle. We used heavy duty jack stands to support the frame.

With the trailer on "three points": left and right side behind the rear axle, and the tongue jack, we could see how much the rear of the trailer was sagging. Quite a bit actually. We were always walking "downhill" to the bathroom. We then started jacking up the rear of the trailer until the frame rails were level front to back, maybe within a half inch or so.

From this position is where we started welding additional strengthening metal to the frame from the axle plates back. We welded the new rear cross member in position. Then we made our subfloor repair and new body hold down plate and bolted the thing together.

I make special note that our trailer had 9 rusty outriggers. Those things serve as the bolt holes to hold the body to the frame. If they are rusty and lost strength, so does the "semi monocoque" construction of an Airstream. So we replaced the rusty outriggers and bolted the body tight to them. The last photo shows our simple stabilizer screw jacks we cranked up to level the rear of the trailer to the front of the trailer.

Result, the Sovereign no longer has a bathroom "down the hill". The floor is much more solid. The trailer sits level.

I consider the rear frame rails like 15' long "diving boards". They are basically supported by the axle plate and then held up by the body. Without the body "lifting them up", they are quite flimsy.

More confusion?

Colorado David
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Old 04-01-2020, 08:37 PM   #303
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On my ‘63, I had to jack one rear corner and weight down the other to get the shell aligned.

‘des thangs ain’t skrate...

40,000 miles later it still gets down the road.
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Old 04-02-2020, 08:38 AM   #304
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Hi David, Hi,
Thanks for the replies! David, I jacked up the low side today by placing a flier jack behind the back wheel and now have a more clear understanding of what you meant by the “diving board”. I definitely needed to also jack up the very back end.

Hi, I also see what you mean about this thing not being completely straight. I am going to go ahead and fasten the floor, C channel, rear hold down and whatever else I can do to help make this coach more solid-feeling.

More news tomorrow :-)


Thanks,
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Old 04-02-2020, 09:31 AM   #305
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I meant today...

Hi David, Hi,
I meant to post last night, but did not hit "submit". I will have more updates later today, after I spend some time trying to find the stash of elevator bolts I bought :-)


Thanks,
David
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Old 04-02-2020, 09:47 AM   #306
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Proper leveling

Hi David,
I also meant to write that your description is really helpful. I do a lot of carpentry and woodworking, and have a laser level at my disposal. I will easily be able to see (after jacking up as you describe -- in fact, my floor jack is already in the exact position you wrote about, and the coach now just needs to be leveled slightly front to back) how much the rear is sagging.

In my case, I am pinning some hope that the semi-monocoque construction will help keep things "on the level" as the Airstream is returned to the Earth... now it's back to trying to find those pesky elevator bolts :-)


Thanks,
David
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Old 04-02-2020, 01:49 PM   #307
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Just finished reading the whole thread: fascinating and full of great, useful info. As a single, elderly female, I don't expect to be actually making these kinds of repairs myself personally, but to understand the issues and be able to understand the issues of a possible purchase or what someone else is doing to my coach this is essential. Thank all of you very much!

Good luck to all of you in persevering with the "saving" of these wonderful Airstreams. Stay home and work on them, and stay safe.

Vivian
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Old 04-02-2020, 06:05 PM   #308
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Hi Vivian,
Thanks very much for the kind words! The older I get, the more I am finding that I need to sometimes refer back to my own thread to see what in the world I was going to do next :-)

I have been very fortunate along the way to have received great advice from scores of people with much, much more experience than me. It has been very humbling (I've made many more mistakes than I care to mention as well as rewarding to go through this journey, and I would say that being an elderly female would not slow you down in the least if you desire to get involved with this community. Everyone has been amazingly helpful along the way, and I expect it would be the exact same for you :-)


All the Best from California,
David
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Old 04-05-2020, 09:53 AM   #309
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Scary thoughts...

Hi All,
I thought my effort to replace the last 4 feet of subfloor was going to be fairly straightforward since a somewhat late section of the belly pan is gone at the rear of the coach.

Well, not enough is missing...at least not enough for me to simply reach up and drill new holes through the subfloor and attach it via elevator bolts, if I want to start at the seam (and I do -- it makes sense to work my way rearward from that seam, which is around 44 inches from the rear)...

This means that I need to remove more of the belly pan, and for sure the BAL stabilizers if I want to be able to get to the underside of the floor.

Of course, this brings up the obvious topic of "while you are at it..." I am SO not looking forward to what I find down there...

And a quick question: As I remove the fiberglass insulation, it is advised to get it out from between the subfloor and frame. What is done with the resulting gap -- or is there no such gap?


Thanks,
David
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Old 04-05-2020, 06:18 PM   #310
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BAL Stabilizers, and the first peek into the void

Hi All,
I removed the bent stabilizers (pic of one below) and set about drilling out enough rivets to pull down more of the belly pan in order to get beneath the new subfloor. Grossness ensued, and I have a very bad feeling that this quest (cleaning up the belly pan area as I reattach the rear section of subfloor) is just beginning...

The next photo is my first "peek into the void". Yuk.

And the last pic is of a dip in the long frame member at the junction point with a stamped steel frame member. Can't figure to how that happened.


Thanks,
David
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Old 04-05-2020, 07:21 PM   #311
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There is nothing better in the vintage Airstream hobby than drilling out belly pan rivets and having the yuk rain down on you. I've done that 4 times now. Makes me giggle with delight.

Airstream installed insulation on the subfloor and dropped the whole mess onto the frame, thus the insulation under cross members and frame. I don't worry about the gap as there isn't much I can do about it. Others pull off the body and build a new frame. Problem resolved.

The kink in your lower frame rail flange at a cross member is likely the result of rear end separation where the frame rail sagged a bit. That compresses the lower flange and stretches the upper flange. Our Sovereign project has some of these, as well as a buckled axle mounting plate.

Just due the best job you can in leveling the frame rails and repairing the rear crossmember, body mounting plate, rear subfloor, and rusty outriggers. We also welded frame stiffeners to the frame rails to strengthen them. We're feeling pretty solid now.

Colorado David
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Old 04-06-2020, 10:28 AM   #312
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Remove belly pan in sections?

Hi David,
Thanks very much for the response -- it is great to hear from you! My desire to remove the belly pan and rid it of its nastiness grows...

As I inspected the belly pan yesterday, I saw at least one section that is torn a bit cross-ways. I can see through the gap in the pan that it is beneath a cross member.

That made me wonder... is there any reason to not remove the pan in sections? I realize that finding the attachment points for the re-installation may be slightly more difficult, but I am hoping to add some angle iron to the bottom edge of those cross members to give myself a little more room for error and to slightly stiffen the cross member. And I would use rigid foam insulation underneath the subfloor, set off by 1/8" or so to create an air gap and not trap moisture. I would then rivet most of the pan back on, and use screws for the piece that will cover the tank box, so I can get at the tank if needed.

Good idea? Bad?


Thanks,
David
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:17 PM   #313
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Well, I see you are sliding down that slippery slope of vintage Airstream renovations. Some call it "while I'm at it". Your project is going to get much bigger. Kinda like our bellies as we get older.

Speaking of bellies, dropping the belly aluminum is a good idea, both from a cleanliness perspective as well as a thorough inspection of the frame. I think it best to use new aluminum if the budget allows.

I too will use foam board insulation under the subfloor. I think much better than fiberglass batting. I haven't determined how I will attach it yet. I too will form an air gap between floor and foam board.

Belly aluminum is typically 5052 aluminum ,025 thick. It costs about $400 for a roll big enough for the bottom of an Airstream. I buy it in a 48" wide roll, and then cut off pieces about 70" long. Then I attach it side to side instead of trying to man handle a long, floppy piece of aluminum. Every piece you cut needs trimming around this propane line, or than axle plate, or some other obstacle. It is a pain. Then you gotta drill about 70 holes for the new rivets. Such fun. I've done my wife's Limited 34', my former 66 Trade Wind 24', my son's 69 Globetrotter 21', my 75 Overlander 27' and I will soon do my friend's 76 Sovereign 31'. I hope I never have to do another one.

Here are some photo of things I've used to make the job slightly easier. My "upside down drill press" saves shoulder pain, a floor jack with a piece of plywood attached to it makes lifting the floppy aluminum into position easier, a cow magnet will find the center of a hidden cross member for accurate drilling, and the last photo of the new belly pan coming along one piece at a time.

Colorado David
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Old 04-06-2020, 08:31 PM   #314
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Hi David,
As usual, such great information! I hope to use as much of the existing belly pan as possible, but if need be, my buddy is an aircraft mechanic and can get the right material for the job.

I love the devices to help make this job happen, and will borrow heavily regarding those tips, including COW MAGNETS to find the steel. I used to have those when I was a kid in Wisconsin. That really takes me back... I will definitely need to find some... 😃


I plan on using an air cutoff tool or an angle grinder with a cutoff disk to cut/create the seams. I am now actually looking forward to this, at least a little bit...

Thanks,
David
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Old 04-07-2020, 12:33 PM   #315
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Do sections of belly pan need to overlap?

Hi David, All,
As I ponder the removal of the belly pan, I am more and more inclined to take it off (and reinstall it) in sections. I hope to cut it at the frame cross members and reinstall it at the same. Of course, I would have two rows of rivets at each seam -- one per side.

Is this doable? Folly? Do I need to overlap if I am attaching to the cross members?


Thanks,
David
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:07 PM   #316
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Airstream installs the belly pan while the frame is upside down. This is like step two in the Airstream construction process. They install the axles with the frame upside down too. It is easier, and maybe one of the advantages of a body off renovation.

Me, I just drilled out all the old rivets and drag out the old belly pan. I think doing it in sections would be harder. I do overlap about an inch as I install one section at a time. The overlap faces rearward so as not to scoop up rain water while towing in the wet.

I bought this power nipper that really helps cut sheet aluminum. Saves time, but you don't get a good grip workout working the hand shears.

David
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:46 PM   #317
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Hi David,
Great points — thanks! Maybe it will be best to remove the pan as one piece and install in sections....


Thanks,
David
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:55 PM   #318
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Hi David,
I just realized that every single seam will be off if I try to cut this pan and overlap.

How daunting is it to re-attach the whole thing? I am already missing the last 4 feet...

Thanks, David
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Old 04-08-2020, 11:01 PM   #319
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hello David, hats off yo you and all AS owners who suffered through nasty insulation in the face! not to bad on my 80, but my 70 GT was way nasty. i lucked out; my belly pan was in good shape, so i reused it. good luck. kurt
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Old 04-09-2020, 08:11 AM   #320
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Belly pan was way nasty! Best to just get it out of the way all at once. We had to replace ours as it had deteriorated. We did as David suggested, in sections overlapping joints. Started in the back and worked forward. It worked well for two of us to do it: he drilled holes, and I riveted. We held it in place with jack stands as we worked.

Kay
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