I wanted to post up on the forum about a project I was able to complete earlier this fall. To start with we purchased our third Airstream, a 1994 30’ Classic from a very nice couple in our WBCCI group. I had seen the trailer before and knew it had some problems in the front end. There were several “pop rivets” installed where there should have been buck rivets and there was a crack in the center panel skin. Also one of the previous owners (we are the third), ran over some stuff on the highway that dented and cracked both front quarter panels. My guess is that this crack was caused by lack of rivets or potential front end separation. The cracks would also allow water entry. The right front quarter panel had a large dent though the wrap protectors covered over the dent pretty well.
When I took the banana wraps and lower belt line off the trailer it revealed a “pop rivet happy” trailer – I guess someone was trying to hold down the front of this trailer. They made swiss cheese out of the lower channel.
This is a trailer that we really like and hope to keep it for awhile so I wanted to fix it in what I thought was the correct way. I’m certain there were ways to fix the problems with patches and I could have called it a day but I decided to take the hard way out.
I studied several threads on these forums, listened to the VAP for ideas and assess: how to do the project, if I could do the project, what type of tools were needed and general costs involved, etc….
Two weeks before I was to start I drove up to Jackson Center and picked up two front quarter panels, a center panel and some wrap protectors (these were factory seconds). On Labor day weekend I tore into the project. Let’s just say that I was very intimidated when I first tackled the project because you only get one chance to make cuts and drill holes in these EXPENSIVE panels.
Here is the trailer are all torn apart.
Notice the black stains on the front floor due to the battery box leaking. I have replaced front floors in two previous trailers due to the built in battery boxes leaking moisture. There must be a lot of flexing in this area of the trailer with plastic battery boxes and heavy weight of the batteries. I decided to do away with the leaky built-in battery boxes and put them on the trailer tongue like other modern Airstream trailers. My friend Karl has 25’ FB Airstream and he allowed me to take some measurements and pictures of the FB’s trailer tongue. THANKS KARL!
Here is the 12 ga. Painted steel hold down plate installed.
The vertical ribs in the front of the trailer had been torn away from the bottom channel. I used the rear stabalizers to push the front of the trailer back into place and buck rivet the ribs back to the channel.
By Monday afternoon I was feeling much better though exhausted and stressed from my first attempt at panel replacement.
I put three rows of buck rivets in the new front hold down plate.
My 80 year old Dad helped me with the buck riveting.
Here is an interior shot of the work. I used a piece of scrap aluminum to back up the hold downs for the wrap protectors. Also I had to stop work for awhile to catch up on some other duties so I let the trailer sit outside in the rain for a few weeks to identify if there were any leaks around the panoramic windows.
YES THERE WERE LEAKS!
The old battery box holes on the interior were covered with some scraps cut from the old center panel.
New Perko 12 volt
battery disconnect switch.
Another upgrade was to the wiring coming from the umbilical cord. There was a nest of wires and connectors sandwiched between the two front walls. A definite nightmare if you ever need to troubleshoot wiring problems or change out the umbilical cord. I installed a Grote junction box (part number 82-1000). All the 12 volt
umbilical cord connections are now accessible. The grounding lugs were also replaced. My opinion is that Airstream should install this junction box on new trailers!
Some new paint to match the factory color.
New battery box easily holds group 27 batteries. I think it will be easier to maintain the batteries.
Relocated the LP regulator, made a new regulator bracket and installed new hoses. I used full flow fittings on the new LP hoses.
Here is the finished product. The new wrap protectors (factory seconds) took several hours to re-work to get them to fit properly – trimming and re-riveting etc…., not perfect but the best I could do with them. Also new lower belt line trim and center belt line trim.
A finished product.
We made it camping one more time in early November before winterizing. Notice the flags flying from the winds of Hurricane Sandy. It didn’t fall apart. YEAH!