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Old 01-25-2020, 08:38 PM   #1
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Sioux Falls , South Dakota
Join Date: Jan 2020
Posts: 10
Possible to fix/replace frame without removing interior?

Hey everyone,

I've looking everywhere on the forums and youtube, and maybe I'm just dumb, but I can't figure out the answer to this question.

I know that chassis/frame condition is critical when buying a vintage AS. I'm in the market for a renovated AS, and was wondering what my options were if the chassis/frame turned out to need work, either reinforcement or full replacement.

Thanks to the forum, I already know how to check around for clues to the frame's condition (bouncing on back bumper, etc). But I'm worrying about a worst-case scenario.

If the rest of the AS is in perfect condition, is it possible to repair or fully replace the chassis without gutting the entire AS? I'm fine with shelling out for a frame replacement, but don't know if it's even possible without ruining the rest of the reno.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Cheers!
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Old 01-25-2020, 09:36 PM   #2
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1966 22' Safari
1955 22' Flying Cloud
Fredericksburg , Texas
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If the rest of the AS were in perfect condition, what would lead you to believe the chassis is not? Is this a hypothetical question? I know there are trailers out there that someone has polished and painted the inside to make it appear to be perfect. What era AS are you looking for? The earlier Airstreams had a different design at the outrigger/belly pan attachment area than later models. Many vintage ASs has the subfloor bolted through the C-channel with elevator bolts. Even if you dropped the majority of the belly pan you still have all the points of attachment through the subfloor into the chassis. I guess anything is possible. I just donít see how you could do a premium job without removing some of the interior. Maybe someone has experience in this to answer your question. Good luck
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Old 01-26-2020, 12:00 PM   #3
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1972 25' Tradewind
1976 31' Excella 500
Denver , Colorado
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It would be extremely difficult (not worth it) to remove the chassis from an intact shell and interior. Too many places where the shell components (including ribs, cabinets, etc.) are attached to components attached to deck and thus frame.

If you're going to go to the trouble of removing the frame/chassis, you are to the point where you should just "go for it" with the rest of the frame-off restoration. The added bonus at that point is being able to upgrade the insulation to make it a 4 season trailer (not to mention upgrading wiring and getting rid of decades of vermin excrement and rotted bat insulation inside the walls).

If this isn't something you want to take on, you should definitely find a trailer that doesn't need chassis repair (and the only way to *really* know if that's the case, unfortunately, is to remove the belly pan).
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Old 01-26-2020, 02:32 PM   #4
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1973 21' Globetrotter
Houston , Texas
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If you are shopping for a rennovated trailer, and someone sells you something they claim to be fully rennovated (get it in writing), and then you find out soon after, that the entire frame needs to be replaced,you should be hiring a lawyer and demanding your money back.

A complete frame replacement is relatively rare, but would require a complete gutting and disassembly of the trailer to do it--there is just no other way to do it without taking shortcuts. The subfloor and frame go hand-in-hand, so it is hard to imagine that someone would go to the effort to replace the subfloor, and not repair the frame. If you find rotting subfloor, you can pretty much guarantee that the frame needs some repair as well. If you have rotting subfloor and a damaged frame, then a shell-off is in order.

If the frame only needs repairs, there are certain things that could be done with the body attached, and other things that could not.

So, your goal while shopping for a rennovated trailer should be to get good and educated as to what "good" looks like, know what questions to ask, or what evidence to demand from the rennovator/seller.

My opinion is that practically every trailer that is more than 30 years old is a likely candidate for a shell-off, if only because the subfloor will be rotten. If someone is selling you a "rennovated" trailer that has not had a complete subfloor replacement, proceed with extreme caution.

good luck!
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Old 01-26-2020, 11:04 PM   #5
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1958 26' Overlander
Battle Ground , Washington
Join Date: Jun 2013
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I agree with the comments above. Just on the chance this helps you visualize the situation. The bolts the fasten the shell to the frame go up through the frame and C channel into the shell between the inner and outer skins.

Those of us that did a shell off to do frame repairs/replacement and/or sub-floor replacement had to remove the lower inner skins just for access to these bolts. Most of us then removed all the remaining inner skins to upgrade wiring, deal with any leaks in windows or outer skin before rebuilding the interior.

In addition, there are elevator bolts (they have a flat head) to secure the sub-floor to the frame cross members. These are accessed through the belly pan.

https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Find-Fas...70655157&psc=1

I'm not trying to scare you off, just want you to make informed decisions.
The end product can provide a great deal of personal satisfaction. Airstream rallies and even vintage trailer raillies (if you go for the older models) will lead you to some fantastic adventures and a lot of great people. Hope you join us alumiholics soon.
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