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Old 01-22-2015, 12:34 PM   #1
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Interior Rivets, what do they hold?

It's a 2012 International Signature that I've owned since new in 2011.

Last year the A/C died and had it replaced at a non-Airstream RV shop near home. I just noticed four rivets forward of the A/C interior unit are sheered off. I can see that body of the rivet still in there.

I'm pretty terrified of drill up into the hold to try and get the rest of the rivet out. I do have a pop rivet gun and would like to fix this. What I'm curious about is what is being held together by all the hundreds of interior rivets in my unit and if I can safely replace these, or for that matter is it just cosmetic with the heads missing but the rivets doing what they were designed for.

Thanks....
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Old 01-22-2015, 12:39 PM   #2
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They are THE fastener pretty well everywhere in the Airstream. Holding aluminum panels to each other, or hold the panels to the aluminum crossbeams, supporting cabinetry, the list touches a lot of stuff in your trailer.

The best thing to do it to post a few photos so we can get a better look.
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Old 01-22-2015, 12:58 PM   #3
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The rivets that you see on the interior of your Airstream are holding the interior skin to the aluminum rib frame to which the exterior skin is also attached on the outside. The exterior and interior skins along with the aluminum frame and the floor (and steel sub-frame) all work together to keep your Airstream structurally sound. If you lose too many interior rivets the structural integrity of the Airstream can be compromised. Note that the loss of four interior rivets is not enough to bring the house down. However, once you start to lose interior rivets, there can be a tendency to lose more and more until it does become a problem. There is no problem drilling out any popped pop-rivets to get out any of the remaining material from the old rivet. Just be careful not to drill so far as to puncture the exterior skin (3/4 to 1 inch deep is fine.) Use a 1/8" drill bit to drill out the old pop rivet and then use your rivet tool to replace with a new pop rivet. You may find that the rivets you install don't stay put, if that happens, try a slightly longer rivet until they stay put.
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Old 01-22-2015, 01:00 PM   #4
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Oh, and to the other part of your question, a broken (or popped) rivet is no longer doing any good in terms of holding the panel to the frame. So no, the heads are not just cosmetic, they are doing the actual fastening.
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Old 01-23-2015, 01:52 PM   #5
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Rivet machine

Bob,

I have never riveted anything, but I am handy with most any tool. Can you recommend a riveting tool, and tell me what size rivets I should be using?
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Old 01-23-2015, 02:16 PM   #6
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You will probably need to go up one size of rivet. What happens is when you drill out the old one, you'll probably enlarge the hole a little bit. Maybe you can drill it perfectly straight, but typically you wobble a little going through it.

So not a big deal. But if the OEM was a 1/8" rivet, you'll want to drill it out with a 1/8" bit. Then after it's out, the hole will probably be slightly elongated. "Chase"' it with a 5/32" bit, then install an ALUMINUM 5/32" pop rivet. (I believe the proper term is "blind" rivet.) For this project, you can probably get what you need at Lowes.

If you find that you can in fact drill it out nicely with the 1/8" bit, then simply replace with a 1/8" aluminum pop rivet.

Note that the rivets on the outside are NOT blind rivets. They are driven or bucked rivets. For those, you need a real rivet gun and a buddy to hold the bucking bar on the inside while you drive the rivet from the outside. I like Chicago Pneumatic rivet guns. They aren't cheap, but you get what you pay for.

For your project, a nice $20 Pop rivet set from Lowes should do.

Don't use steel rivets....you'll get dissimilar metal corrosion.

Once you do this project, you'll be ready to build one from scratch

Best of luck,
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Old 01-23-2015, 02:27 PM   #7
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Ok, so one rivet went missing on the interior of our 2014 Sport 22FB. I know this is a warranty claim, but for one lousy rivet, I would rather just handle it myself. Is the procedure described in this thread the appropriate solution?


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Old 01-23-2015, 02:49 PM   #8
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Easy!

Our local Airstream dealer gave me a good tip for replacing rivets without scratching--just put a little painter's masking tape around the area. That way, if the rivet tool should jerk when the rivet pops, the tool's head won't scratch your interior.

We do a rivet patrol pretty often when we're towing. Once we locate rivets with loose or missing heads, marking them with the tape makes it easy to find them again--especially if you have one in one part of the coach and another elsewhere.

Cheap, fast and easy--and it works!
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Old 01-23-2015, 03:40 PM   #9
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Got it done - thanks.

Thanks everyone for the tips.

Got them all done, actually there were four in the ceiling and two on the wall of the bedroom.

All came out with 1/8th inch drill bit and replaced them all with 1/8th rivet. I'd purchased the rivet kit a while back not really thinking I'd be using it. Glad I had it.
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Old 01-23-2015, 06:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HoffmanP View Post
Bob,

I have never riveted anything, but I am handy with most any tool. Can you recommend a riveting tool, and tell me what size rivets I should be using?
Paul, almost all of the interior rivets on an Airstream are 1/8" ALUMINUM pop rivets. They come in a number of different lengths and I would stock up on three or four different lengths, with a little bit of harmless trial and error, you'll figure out the right length to use in each situation. You can buy the ALUMINUM pop rivets and tool at Lowes or any other local hardware store. Pop rivets are quite commonly used in a lot of sheet metal applications such as heating and cooling ducts in a house so they are not hard to find. You can find many videos on YouTube about how to use a pop rivet gun. Here is one example () but by all means check around for other videos.

Purists will tell you to get aluminum pop rivets with aluminum mandrels which may be important for outside applications but on interior applications aluminum pop rivets with steel mandrels (which is what you are going to find at Lowes and nearly any local hardware store) should be fine. If you want to stick with aluminum mandrels, you will have to find a specialty supplier via Google or go to Vintage Trailer Supply (Vintage Trailer Supply - parts and supplies for vintage travel trailers and campers!. )

Good luck and do not be intimidated!
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Old 01-24-2015, 01:37 AM   #11
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One more thing...

XO,


You may also want to have someone look at your hitch setup. Sometimes if your hitch is not set up properly, it can cause undue stress on the structure causing rivets to sheer off. Not saying this is the case with you but it's worth looking at.
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Old 01-24-2015, 05:30 PM   #12
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Ok, so owner's manual specifies two different grip dimensions for the interior rivers. One is slightly less than a half inch, and the other is slightly more than a half inch. And I do mean "slightly". Big box store has 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch grip rivets, not the weird Airstream dimensions. I bought the half inch grip. Is this cool, will it work?


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Old 01-24-2015, 05:44 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cannonball View Post
Ok, so owner's manual specifies two different grip dimensions for the interior rivers. One is slightly less than a half inch, and the other is slightly more than a half inch. And I do mean "slightly". Big box store has 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch grip rivets, not the weird Airstream dimensions. I bought the half inch grip. Is this cool, will it work?


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You should be fine with the 1/2 inch.
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Old 01-24-2015, 07:38 PM   #14
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1/2" grip seems insanely long is that really what the manual suggests? Also in case it helps someone you can buy a blind rivet gauge, something like a CherryMax gauge to assess grip length needs rather than guessing or using trial and error, You could make something similar in a couple of minutes with a paper clip and save yourself the wasted time from installing a rivet that is too short or too long. Every big box store here in Canada sells aluminum rivets with aluminum mandrels and I'd bet it's the same in the USA.
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Old 01-28-2015, 10:21 PM   #15
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I was off on the grip. I was reading the "length below head" or whatever it is called. The grip is more like a quarter inch.


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Old 01-31-2015, 12:01 AM   #16
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JC sells an Airstream rivet kit which includes a variety of the rivets used, along with the correct numbered drill. The kit includes the riveting tool and can also include the shaver for shaving the heads of the Olympic rivets. I bought the kit with the shaver and have used the shaver several times (on friends' trailers - mine never needed any exterior rivets). https://store.airstream.com/product/...t-with-shaver/
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Old 02-10-2015, 10:23 PM   #17
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Ok, rivet report. Used the 1/4 inch aluminum rivets from Lowe's. Worked perfectly. Cannot tell it is a replacement. This is on the interior.

CAVEAT: someone posted a suggestion to put blue painter's tape over the hole and then rivet it through that so that when the rivet gun cuts it off, the stupid gun does not slide across the panel leaving a huge scratch. I used the tape and am darned glad I did.

Photo below.





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Old 02-11-2015, 06:59 AM   #18
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Perfect looks great. Thanks for the photo. I have not had to do that yet,however, I'm sure at some point I will.


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Old 02-11-2015, 07:56 AM   #19
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Point of clarification - are there some aluminum rivets with steel mandrels and some with aluminum mandrels, or do all aluminum rivets use steel mandrels?

If an aluminum rivet with an aluminum mandrel were available, I suppose it would be the best choice from the standpoint of corrosion /rust staining, but on the downside, it would generate much less clamping force.


Seems to me the only ones I have seen are aluminum rivets with steel mandrels - maybe that is the only practical type?

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Old 02-11-2015, 07:42 PM   #20
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I am not sure about the aluminum/steel mandrel issue, and I cannot check because the Airstream is stored 20 min away, and all the rivets are stored in it. Since it is on the interior, I did not think it would matter.


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