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Old 07-07-2010, 07:26 PM   #1
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Bremerton , Washington
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Airstreams and leaks

I have read extensively all the comments on leaks and how to repair them. We were in the market for our first used airstream but after reading about the chronic leak problems, I am not so sure now. It seems that all airstreams leak, old or new. Many question the quality control at the factory. I really love the look of the classic american trailer but don't want to spend every minute searching for the leak location and then trying to seal it. Is this a legitimate concern or am I over-reacting? We had considered a fifth wheel also but do not know if they are susceptible to leaks like the AS. A new AS is out of the question, so we were looking in the 1990 range, a 27-30 ft model. I realize that older trailers can be restored with new "things" but the leak issue seems to be ongoing.

Any information or advice will be appreciated. Like Harley owners who are loyal to Harley, I'm sure there are AS loyalists too.
Julie, Bremerton, Wa
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Old 07-07-2010, 08:14 PM   #2
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Julie B

I have a new 27FB. I read tons of reports on leaks in even the new Airstreams. Got all freaked out about them. I can tell you that I haven't had one leak so far. At least none that I can see or discern. Do some leaks turn up in older models? Yes. But ANY trailer is going to need sealing and resealing as the sun, atmosphere, changing weather conditions, etc., play havoc with sealing products. Just a fact of life. I've only had my AS three months, but I will tell you that you are buying more than just a trailer with an AS. It is a way of life. And a pretty neat one at that.
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Old 07-07-2010, 08:16 PM   #3
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I don't think you're overreacting when you live in an humid area with 52 inches of rain per year.

I think Airstream trailers have some advantage over traditional trailers-they have aluminum walls and ceilings. But as you know the floor rots and there are reports of leakage.

In an area like so. CA with spotty rain, I'm sure many leaks go undetected, and the damage progression is much slower.

Personally if I lived in an area like yours, I'd look for molded fiberglass trailer with encapsulated floors, or floors of non traditional material. I don't know whether anything is available in your size range along those lines. Standard white box trailers are no better, and probably worse than the Airstream.

Probably your best bet is to chat with Airstream owners in your area, or hope someone here responds from a similar climate to yours. My experience with RVs is they tend to leak. Perhaps you could put it on a yearly pressurized leak test schedule.
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Old 07-07-2010, 08:33 PM   #4
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I think all camping trailers have issues with water leaks. I grew up being told that the Airstream design made them easy to tow and virtually leak proof. Their curved shape and overlapping panels meant that the water ran straight off. Imagine my surprise when I started reading all of the leaky trailer posts. Apparently all Airstreams are either leaking now or will leak in the future. But, I think that can be said about all trailers - all brands.

Roger
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:05 PM   #5
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Dummy jumping in here

Hi,
Read these posts to my husband. He mentioned if you are up in Washington, at 52' per year, you are in the dry part, heh heh. Anyway, he said what really causes problems is the constant temperature changes from hot to cold and cold to hot etc. He also mentioned when you do or have to caulk or seal, DO NOT SKIMP AND BUY THE CHEAP STUFF!!!!!!!!!!!! So with drastic temp changes it is very wise to keep that in mind. I agree about talking to other AS owners, but he thinks the design of the AS is the most compatible design for all kinds of climes.
This is from a hubby that is really getting exposed to the AS as he is fixing the plumbing totally from his own neglect
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:15 PM   #6
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I have had many leaks. Since the warranty ran out, now I have to fix them myself. I am sure all RV's eventually leak, but some of Airatream's problems result from poor workmanship. QC at the factory is not good. A new trailer may not leak for a while, but time works it's leaky magic eventually.

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Old 07-07-2010, 11:10 PM   #7
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Interesting - as anyone who has visited the Airstream factory sees the "Deluge" each trailer is subjected too - leaks found and fixed with sealant before the interior aluminum pieces are installed.

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Old 07-07-2010, 11:26 PM   #8
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Hi, after several years of use I had two problems. The rear vent cover was blown off in a heavy wind. I got on top of my trailer and found the vent cover was broken. I put in on and duct taped it in place. That night it rained like crazy. My front vent dripped a few drops of water. I thought it was condensation. But when I got home, I found that the front vent leaked. The sealer used on the vents gets hard and dry and cracks. I had to replace my rear vent cover with a new one and reseal the front vent and plumbing vent. This will have to be checked and/or resealed every few years.
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:38 PM   #9
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Our trailer is a few years old, we live on the "wet coast" where it rains daily. Initially we spotted some leaking under the panoramic window that was easily sealed. Since then the trailer has been dry, knock on wood.

Jackie
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Old 07-08-2010, 12:01 AM   #10
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Seems like the newer ones leak, if you go and get yourself a project vintage trailer, keep it under a tarp while you indefinitely work on it in your side-yard, you won't have anymore trouble with leaks. . .

In other words, stop using your trailer and just obsess over the IDEA of using your trailer. It seems to work for me.. . .
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Old 07-08-2010, 05:13 AM   #11
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A member of my family who bought an obscenely expensive new 5th wheel SOB a couple of years ago, loved to brag about the rubber membrane roof and how it couldn't possibly leak. Last month, they discovered it had leaked while in storage, destroying all of the cheap particle board cabinets on the curb side of the bedroom. This individual no longer has anything to say negative about my "old trailer."
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Old 07-08-2010, 05:50 AM   #12
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We had a 72 and now have a 2007. No leaks with either trailer.
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Old 07-08-2010, 06:46 AM   #13
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leaks

In my 66 tradewind, only had one minor leak and fixed it with minium calk. Now on my 89 345LE, have no major leaks. Only minor ones in some of the front window tracts as they get old. Have noticed the older units have substantially more rivets per inch than the new ones. Must help with containing the leaks.
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Old 07-08-2010, 11:56 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JFScheck View Post
Interesting - as anyone who has visited the Airstream factory sees the "Deluge" each trailer is subjected too - leaks found and fixed with sealant before the interior aluminum pieces are installed.

I've thought about that too. It may mean the force of the water isn't enough, or they don't do it long enough. Wind driven rain all day while driving in it has a lot more force than 20 minutes in the factory shower. The way they seal them may hold up to the factory test, but the seals don't hold up on some trailers for very long.

I had my rear fan sealed at the factory last year and I had to reseal it this spring. They sealed an area of the front window last year and it is leaking again. I tried to seal it and slowed the leak, but it is still leaking.

Gene
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Old 07-09-2010, 02:17 AM   #15
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Our '71 Tradewind had leaks from bad sealant on windows near the front door (minor 1 ft sq repair), and the usual problems in the rear;
  • Leaks from the taillight housings
  • Water seeping in underneath the plywood floor due to the silly design of the rear storage compartment cover. This caused problem with the frame rusting, rotting the floor over the frame and rear crossmember, and causing electrolytic corrosion due to the use of a steel rear hold down plate bolted against the aluminum skin and C channel.
I've replaced the floor in front, and am now finishing the more extensive repairs in the gutted bathroom; I replaced the steel rear hold down plate with stainless and am riveting that to the skin every 1.5 inches or so. Oh yes, and replacing several square feet of plywood. In addition, the entire floor will have received several coats of epoxy and a finish coat of moisture cured polyurethane paint... we're going for rugs rather than carpets so we can both clean more easily and find evidence of leaks long before they cause damage.

All boats leak - why should Land Yachts be left out?

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Old 07-09-2010, 06:13 AM   #16
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We have a 2008 model and have had a slight leak around the gasket in the front window. The local dealer couldn't find anything wrong. We tightened the fasteners to get a firmer seal and continually make sure that the gasket area is free of dirt and debris. So far that has solved the problem but we keep a close eye on it. In an effort to get to the core cause (or causes) we are also in the process of re-evaluating our hitch setup. It may be too rigid causing some slight torque in the front which could obviously alter the window seal. Don't know how it will be in a driving rain while towing, but with our upcoming trips, we will find out maybe.

Caryl
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Old 07-19-2010, 09:48 PM   #17
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I bought my 2001 30' Excella new in early 2002. I had one slight leak from the front 22" X 22" skylight in a very hard rain. In 2008, I had the entire roof checked and resealed at a local RV repair shop. In July 2010, we decided to replace the carpet with Mannington Adura plank vinyl. (This is AMAZING stuff). When I took out the front couch, the four bolts holding it in were rusted as was the bottom frame of the couch. I discovered wet wood on each side of the two black battery boxes under the couch. I checked the front lower outside seam and discovered a loose screw behind the vinyl insert trim. This had allowed the trim ring to pulled slightly away from the outside skin and water to seep behind it and then inside the trailer. I resealed with vulkem caulking and tightened the screw up then caulk in the vinyl trim insert. This seems to have stopped the leak to the inside but I will be monitoring it.

PS: The front skylight blew off on the way to WY International while driving in a heavy wind across Kansas. I ordered a new one and received it in Gillette, WY. I put the new one on and it is greatly improved over the old one in that the new one has an aluminum trim ring that installs with screws over the top of the skylight. It doesn't come with screws however. I pre-drilled and then used #10 self-tapping metal roofing screws that come with a rubber grommet and washer. Topped the screws off with sealant. No leaks so far.

My theory on leaks:
1. all seals dry and crack over time and have to be maintained
2. long trips and rough roads open seals and vibrate screws out which contribute to leaks
3. I wish A/S would use treated plywood on their floors or cover them with aluminum sheeting-at least up to one foot away from the inside edges.
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Old 07-19-2010, 10:27 PM   #18
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I work in a National Park and have found that RV's in general have issues with leaking - not just Airstreams.
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Old 08-14-2010, 12:53 PM   #19
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Think about it. This forum is loaded up with Airstream owners with trailers from the the 50's to 2010. My 72 Tradewind is 38 years old. People on this thread are commenting about 40+ year old trailers and the few leaks they have had to fix on their trailers. How many roofs would you replace on a 40 year old house?
Very few of the SOB trailers make it past a 10 year anniversary as they are cheaply made and the road vibration and leaks tear them apart. Last month at a state park a man with a 5th wheel told me that he's had to replace his trailer every 5 years as it falls apart and leaks. His brother next to him was in his 85 Excella. So you might go over to one of the other SOB trailer forums and post the same question and see what answers you get.
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Old 08-14-2010, 11:11 PM   #20
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Thanks RichHog,
I will check the forum for Montana fifth wheels as they are considered very well made.
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