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Old 02-17-2010, 12:54 PM   #1
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rear end separation

I have been reading about this subject on the forums. Everything from bad axels to a bike rack (mabey 100#) can cause this. I am a new owner, and I have owned a few other brands. I love my AS but I have wondered if I made a good decision. Other Trailers drag boats around and my AS will break in half if I stick 100# on the back or mabey even if I hit a really big bump. Is the frame really this bad?
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:02 PM   #2
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No, the frame isn't that bad, it's just that people keep AS trailers forever. How many people do you know that have a 1969 trailer...?

What other TTs drag boats around!?
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:09 PM   #3
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I have a '69 Safari rear-bath and it just seems that this particular year/rear-bath (is yours?) just displays a bit of rear end "droop" sometimes. I notice it when I'm parked and walk back to the bath but its not enough to make me want to get rid of the rig as it was a very good price and value. When I put a new axle on it raised the whole rig a couple of inches, which was good, but I still need to use some ramp boards to back into my steep driveway from the street. I see it as a small price to pay, really. Just about any vintage trailer is going to have some issues. I have noticed, though, that the AS veterans here really know what year/model combos to be on the lookout for and those are usually ones with the minimum amount of built in issues. The benefit of experience...
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:09 PM   #4
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That is true, and I really did'nt think much about it until I read about new ones and fornt end seperation. Is this the same or something different? I think if I read too much I'll be afraid to pull it
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:17 PM   #5
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Mine is arear bath and if I look at it long enough I think it's down in back, but I can find no real evidence that it is. When I said trailers draging boats I should have said fifth wheel. I guess it surprised me to hear something as lite as a bike rack could do damage!
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:20 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by lahrfarm View Post
I have been reading about this subject on the forums. Everything from bad axels to a bike rack (mabey 100#) can cause this. I am a new owner, and I have owned a few other brands. I love my AS but I have wondered if I made a good decision. Other Trailers drag boats around and my AS will break in half if I stick 100# on the back or mabey even if I hit a really big bump. Is the frame really this bad?
Is there any chance we could change the title of this thread?
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:22 PM   #7
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It's primarily late 60s/70s, 27ft > models with rear baths with waste tank(s) in the rear. Traveling with full waste tanks and bad axles will cause this problem, the moment arm effect. Keeping the area sealed with Vulcum between the rear bumper and body is a must, too.
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:22 PM   #8
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What other TTs drag boats around!?
It's called triple towing and generally done only with 5th wheelers. And regs vary from state to state with about half the states not allowing it at all.

lahrfarm -- separation outcomes can be quite variable. The frame aft of the axles can fail after a couple decades even with normal loads. And you'll find archival photos of Wally Byam with bicycles on his back bumpers -- I suspect he didn't have to worry about traveling with Airstreams more than a year or two old.

Distance back to a bumper gives a long moment arm that amplifies bouncing forces. Hold a dictionary out at arm's length -- after 5 minutes and you're starting to get tired -- now jump up and down...

Gen Disarray had a bumper box and no end of problems. He took it off in the spring of '08 -- approximately covered in posts between here and here -- but he's had a lot more to say than just that!
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:24 PM   #9
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The semi-monocoque construction does not lend itself to holding up to loading; one does not tow a trailer tacked onto the fuselage of an airplane tail, it just isn't done.

Part of the shell flexing scenario is wood rot or otherwise induced movement - damaged outriggers, out of balance running gear, undisclosed prior accident damage.. it all adds up to seek out the weakest link and that's what the stories read of in these forums - cause and effect...
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:29 PM   #10
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Mine is arear bath and if I look at it long enough I think it's down in back, but I can find no real evidence that it is.
Try some different lighting conditions. Stand at the front corners of your Ambassador and sight along the skin just above the wheels. You'd like to see fairly flat sheet metal above & just behind the wheel wells. You may have separation if you see waves in the skin just behind the wheels.

Or: Put down your stabilizers and put a smallish person on the back bumper while you look closely at the shell-bumper junction. Have them jump up and down. There is a problem if you see the bumper move in relation to the shell. The rear shell-bumper junction is a weak design point in Airstreams anyway. Water leakage & floor rot at the rear rim is a fairly consistent finding and results in significant effort to make it right.

[on edit: that jump test & the stabilizers down? doesn't make complete sense. maybe see what you can see under different conditions]
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Old 02-17-2010, 01:45 PM   #11
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I had separation on my 68 Trade Wind, that was inevitable given a previous owner had extended the frame and added a storage box. The real issue is that the connection between the deck and the shell did not go all the way around the rear in those days. Hard to fathom why, it would have cost next to nothing to do it right. If you are handy you can proactively go ahead and apply the fix by adding some brackets that connect the rear end better. If I were buying another rig of this vintage I think I would most probably do so before it becomes an issue. You can search some and find the fix.
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Old 02-17-2010, 02:08 PM   #12
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I know you all get tired of the same old ?? from new owners. Do I understand correct that the shell is structural with the frame and when it comes loose due to rot then you have seperation as the frame settles away from the shell/floor.So you should fiix rot as soon as it starts in the rear compartment.Thanks for the help and patients!!
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:38 PM   #13
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I know you all get tired of the same old ?? from new owners. Do I understand correct that the shell is structural with the frame and when it comes loose due to rot then you have seperation as the frame settles away from the shell/floor.So you should fiix rot as soon as it starts in the rear compartment.Thanks for the help and patients!!
Well, you have half of the problem: rot. The second part is that AS didn't connect the shell all the way around in back, hard to believe, but there it is. You can take the preventive step of adding additional brackets between the deck and the shell in the rear strengthening the poor design. BTW, there is a guy in OKC who does this work. It aint cheap, but did pretty good work on my rig. If you are handy, you can do it yourself.
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:06 PM   #14
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After a long inspection I understand and I dont have seperation but I do have the beginings of rot in the 4" at the rear. I will move this to #1 on the list that really never seems to shrink. This does'nt look like the hardest thing I've ever done. Thanks for all the help! I actually feel much better now that I fully get it. I was worried that there was something really bad back there, it' not as big of a deal as I imagined. Of course that depends on what you compare it to.
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Old 02-17-2010, 09:11 PM   #15
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yes the shell is structural. It holds up the frame and not vice versa. That is why, when the bolts between the frame and the shell corrode or break or whatever, the shell stays where it is and the frame droops. ... pretty much, anyway.
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Old 02-19-2010, 07:57 PM   #16
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Ok, after inspection. 4 inches of rot, bolts are still in-tact, no seperation, however I could'nt quit thinking about it so. I have removed the bath, the lower wall panels, the rotten floor, and the rusty bolts. Tomarrow I will begin to replace wood and rebolt.
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Old 02-19-2010, 09:39 PM   #17
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Ok, after inspection. 4 inches of rot, bolts are still in-tact, no seperation, however I could'nt quit thinking about it so. I have removed the bath, the lower wall panels, the rotten floor, and the rusty bolts. Tomarrow I will begin to replace wood and rebolt.
You can add brackets to the outer part of the frame, underneath the banana wraps, to further increase the holding strength.

A drawing was posted on that subject, not long ago.

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Old 02-19-2010, 09:56 PM   #18
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Thanks! I have figured out a way to do that. My intent is for it to be much better than before. The info I have recieved here is going to save me alot of heartache later I'm sure. After this it's on to tires, brakes, bearings, and a close look at the axles.
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Old 07-09-2010, 10:27 PM   #19
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You can add brackets to the outer part of the frame, underneath the banana wraps, to further increase the holding strength.

A drawing was posted on that subject, not long ago.

Andy
Hey Andy, can't find the drawing but have found a reference to Airstream Bulletin #146. On another thread, I think, you said that the "elephant ear" repair is not of much value. This drawing you speak of is it #146 or another more up to date version? My rear is drooping, the Airstream too, and I need to start looking at a fix. I tried to search the forums and found a lot of references but no images. Any suggestions?
thanks, bill b.
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Old 07-10-2010, 12:18 AM   #20
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Hey Andy, can't find the drawing but have found a reference to Airstream Bulletin #146. On another thread, I think, you said that the "elephant ear" repair is not of much value. This drawing you speak of is it #146 or another more up to date version? My rear is drooping, the Airstream too, and I need to start looking at a fix. I tried to search the forums and found a lot of references but no images. Any suggestions?
thanks, bill b.
What I'm doing is:

0) remove inner skins at rear of trailer, rear belly pan, banana wrap trim, banana wraps if needed.
2) remove all bolts holding C channel to frame
2) remove storage compartment door support from under plywood
3) drill out rivets holding rear hold down plate to C channel
4) replace rusty steel hold down plate with formed stainless steel one, with added row of rivet holes (standard seam spacing) across the top
5) add aluminum doubler behind skin and down over rear cross member to prevent further water intrusion.
6) replace damaged floor
7) use a couple of temporary pop rivets to locate rear hold down plate hard against C channel
8) drill holes through new plywood floor into C channel
from underneath through existing holes in rear crossmember. You'll add some holes in C channel, since plywood hold down bolt tops were flush w/ top of plywood.
Caulk heavily between plywood and skin w/ Vulkem where it crosses frame members.
9) lift both ends of frame w/ jacks to bring rear
crossmember up against plywood & C channel.
10) replace bolts with stainless steel bolts w/ self locking nuts - use square pieces of 1.5" square 1/8" aluminum plate to fit down inside C channel as additional washers to spread load. Original small bolts were #12 - use 1/4" hex head instead.
11) From inside, drill out through prepunched holes in rear holddown plate, through douple and original skin starting at ends. Add Clecos to hold things in place. Rivet once holes are drilled.
12) drill out holes in rear flange of C channel from inside, rivet from outside through C channel, rear hold down plate, doubler and skin.
13) remove jacks
14) Add caulk where needed, replace trim.
15) Fabricate new storage compartment lid.
16) replace interior skins
17) fill screw holes and epoxy floors ( 2 coats), paint w/ polyurethane paint.

I'll try and take some pictures tomorrow.

- Bart
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