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Old 06-04-2020, 06:27 PM   #1
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Airstream Survey

I just got a survey from Airstream regarding services and other issues. They had an open ended question at the end where we could give them any other feelings we had. I sort of got on my high horse and told them what I thought about their product direction.

I probably should have copied that to paste here but I thought I would throw this on the table for discussion to get more feedback.

My biggest concern quite honestly is the level of complexity of the components used in the new trailers. I'm happily still using my 2004 30' Classic Slide out and I feel other than for some appliances and some mechanical issues, I still can manage maintaining my trailer. It will be the last Airstream I will own in my lifetime (I'm 72) and quite honestly when I bought it new back in the fall of 2003 I really felt this was going to be my final trailer.

One of the things that is nice is that I have truly have had minimal visits to my dealership for service. The last one being probably about 3 or 4 years ago when a brake assembly fell apart within a brake drum. It caused damage to the drum so it was a complete replacement of braking components on that wheel and the drum itself.

With that in mind I was following some information released by Consumer Reports who noted that while the major components of automobiles, engine, transmissions, drive train components have gotten very good as time has progressed, the Achilles Heel of vehicles today have become the electronics. All those bells and whistles. Those components amount to much of the warranty claims today.

I think the fact that Airstream keeps putting in many of these components into their higher end trailers, we are losing the ability to maintain our trailers and in some aspects pushing more work onto the local dealers. The woes I have read about the heating systems, the automatic awnings, power shades, drop down TV screens, and other electronics quite honestly will cause more service needs and make it harder for many to get timely service. Maybe I'm showing my age, but it also ups the complexity of servicing the trailers. With labor rates between $100-$125 an hour I'd be seriously be thinking hard about the long term costs of owning these trailers.

Jack
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Old 06-04-2020, 08:46 PM   #2
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I agree with what you are saying. Some of the latest technical advances are wrought with problems that are not easily correctable. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that most Airstream dealers' service centers are not very competent.

We have learned over the years to fix most problems ourselves. With our extensive travel schedule, running to dealers is not a viable option.

Brian
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Old 06-04-2020, 09:37 PM   #3
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Well said!

My '2012 Airstream Avenue Suite class b is my first rv. All manual switches fall readily to hand and I wouldn't dream of needing a touch screen to help me manage the lights or appliances in my rv.

The only touch screen is my Navigation system. It makes me wait while things "boot up" and is slower and more distracting than if it worked by regular knobs. Thank goodness it is not integrated into the chassis electronics so can be easily replaced if it fails.
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Old 06-04-2020, 09:45 PM   #4
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It all about one-up-manship

The problem as I see it is "one-up-manship" between RV manufacturers. Not Airstream alone.

If you've ever been to a RV show or the RVIA convention, then the next model of any SOB or Airstream will have more features than the next model repeat repeat repeat. If Keystone has a LED in the shower then we have to one-up that. If Winnebago has the ability to launch Space-X then we do too.
The industry is feeding on itself. I see no end in sight.

When I'm at rallies and caravans, being one of the old guard, quite expectantly the new guys depend on me to help them fix/find solutions to some of the typical problems mentioned in this forum. Well that was great until all this sophistication out-striped my knowledge/ability to resolve it. It's getting where I have little to offer. I don't have a clue about radiant heating or Blue tooth controlled everything. And let's don't get started about 'connectivity.'

Just this week, a friend with a 2020 30' Classic had a light strip above his recliner not turn on. To make a very long story short. It wasn't the switch at all - which was replaced. It has to do with the integrated computer system in his rig. It controls this light. What?? The dealer couldn't figure out this new problem (I think they are at the same skill level as me). It wasn't until my friend pressured Jackson Center extensively that they admitted that it was a 'module' causing the no light situation. They told the dealer and he was able to resolve it.

I can only imagine a few years down the road that when some or most of these sensors and modules fail; it will wreck his camping experience.

For now, I'll just stick with my analog trailers and camp with fewer problems.

Travel safely.
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Old 06-04-2020, 10:10 PM   #5
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Airstream Survey

Yup. I’m a very high tech guy, infamous for ‘Overkill Engineering’ and made a career of high tech computer-driven stuff that darn near violated many of the laws of physics at every turn.

That said, all my critical stuff, like lights, fans, etc are controlled by simple switches and relays and the high-tech toys are either not in evidence or there is a quick disconnect that returns humanity to total control. No wiz-bang stuff that can’t be overridden when I need to. And the hand crank is kept conveniently close at hand. Plus the master power disconnect only takes a twist of the wrist to stop the fire...

I’ve seen highly complicated systems do weird things when I was testing them. I was often accused of ‘who the hell would do that to a system’.

Well, guess what, when you build a better, fancier, highly complicated system, Mother Nature comes up with either a better fool, or sends in our buddy Edsel Murphy, or the local pack of Mogwai** comes up with a boundary condition that causes a massive malfunction nobody thought of or planned for.

Dunk a cheap O-ring in a glass of ice water, and see how easily it snaps. Then consider a certain Space Shuttle at T+73 seconds into its mission. That event is burned into my memory, for one. Nobody thought to test for that condition. Feynman demonstrated that root cause issue without using any words.

Then let me know where I can get a fresh copy of an obscure operating system and code after the manufacturer of the system goes out of business and shreds all the records and source code. MS-DOS 6.22 any one? Or try for Windows 1.4? Yeah, I’m probably the only idiot that has a copy buried somewhere, but I doubt any of that will run on current hardware. Hollerith cards anyone? DR-DOS or good old C/PM On a hard-sectored 8” floppy, anyone? Try finding the hardware to even read the data.

Ten points for each item anyone remembers using...!

**Mogwai, the actual Cantonese Chinese word for a “Gremlin.” The movie was all too true, IMHO.
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Old 06-04-2020, 10:29 PM   #6
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Consumer's Report also had a podcast where they discussed "muscle memory" as a safety factor when stating why buttons and knobs were more intuitive and less distracting than a screen menu on modern cars. Completely separate from their reliability concerns.
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Old 06-04-2020, 10:38 PM   #7
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I guess I echo JCANAVERA - we have a 2004 International 25 CCD - it's simply to maintain. furnace is on its control, the A/C is on a separate control etc. The only electronics is the Volt/amp meter I installed. I can fix just about anything. Like JCANAVERA this is my first and last AS (I'm 75 years old). Don't get me wrong here - I like bells and whistles the latest and greats cell phones, computers, TPMS, Rear View Camera the list goes on. However, I like simple when it comes to trailers because I like to have control over my fun and adventure. When I go boondocking I like the fact I can fix anything. I don't want electric windows, awnings, stabilizers - heck I never use the auto features on the Fantastic Fans because they use more power than they're worth. Well I will get off my hobby horse just MHO.
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Old 06-05-2020, 12:17 AM   #8
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Hi, OK I'll join the crowd. My 2005 Safari was purchased new in September of 2004. This is my one and only trailer / Airstream. I'm a young 37 years old. [for the second time] The only thing High Tech on my trailer is the tank monitor which basically has never worked properly and not at all for over ten years.
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Old 06-05-2020, 04:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBERTSUNRUS View Post
Hi, OK I'll join the crowd. My 2005 Safari was purchased new in September of 2004. This is my one and only trailer / Airstream. I'm a young 37 years old. [for the second time] The only thing High Tech on my trailer is the tank monitor which basically has never worked properly and not at all for over ten years.
Try the bleach, Calgon water softener, Dawn dish detergent cocktail in your black tank. Might bring the sensor back to life... course a flashlight and a.peek down the hole is even more reliable.
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Old 06-05-2020, 05:45 AM   #10
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Jack,

I'm grateful for appliances that I can poke around in and hopefully find the issue. Maybe a bit old school stuff by today's standards but yes, these older furnaces, water heaters and not having a master electrical control panel allow for me to troubleshoot stuff with a good meter and hand tools. And I spent some time looking into each of these just cleaning and taking a good look see at the parts, various connections etc. just to learn a bit more.

And as Jack, mine is a slide out and even that system CAN be opened and retracted manually if needed. Never had to though.

Glad to have the limited technology that my rig has.

Stay safe.

Gary
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Old 06-05-2020, 06:29 AM   #11
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Thanks Jack...

Exactly why I still have a 2003 Classic, that and the fact that I would NEVER spend 100k+ on a new 2021 Gizmo Classic.

Bob
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Old 06-05-2020, 06:41 AM   #12
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Simpler is best, in my opinion.

More complex, more high tech, equals more things to break.

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Old 06-05-2020, 06:42 AM   #13
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I just want to say that I totally understand all of your points and can agree to an extent.

However as the owner of the 2018 classic I want to say that the majority of my issues have not been with the new technology. However it has been with the poor craftsmanship that Airstream has built the product with.

The other day my bathroom lights would not come on and after troubleshooting the new technology with Firefly on the line it turns out it was a loose wire due to poor connections that the factory made. They just throw the wires and electronics under dinettes and countertops without securing them. That led to the issue. I found the problem and fixed it but only because I have good electrical knowledge. I don't all the money on this trailer expecting excellent craftsmanship and man was I disappointed.
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Old 06-05-2020, 06:53 AM   #14
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^
Ck back in 17yrs..
😂

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Old 06-05-2020, 09:27 AM   #15
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Thanks for the affirmation. As I noted I let Airstream know on their survey and I realize in many cases market competition drives a lot of these changes. Quite honestly I am a technophobe. I lived technology all my working career. I still continue to update and add technology at home...and I sometimes live with the headaches. But once I'm on the road, the only technology I deal with is getting the satellite dish out and set up. Bought my first EMS power protection unit last year. But that's about it.

The point about the dealer service staff, the technology is difficult for them. In many cases Airstreams are sold by dealerships who carry various brands of trailers. As this technology advances in all trailer lines, the dealerships are hard pressed to maintain training for their workers. And in most cases their work is seasonable so income streams from service bay work is not consistent as in the automobile industry.

Those of you with the smarter trailers who have no issues, I'm happy for you. The last thing I want to deal with is the failing technology as these newer trailers age. In many cases it will be interesting to watch if excessive technology blunts the sales of these higher priced units.

The ultimate test of technology to me is coming up with water and holding tank monitoring system that will remain reliable over the years. Personally I've not run into one yet. It's usually the first piece of technology in a trailer to fail, and typically is the piece that never gets resolved.

Jack
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Old 06-05-2020, 10:46 AM   #16
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Jack...
Tank monitors...

I used the Geo Method one time 15 years ago when the sensors first went haywire.
I now use Happy Camper , flush the tanks regularly and add an 1/2oz of Dawn after every flush.

SFSG...

Bob
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Old 06-05-2020, 04:05 PM   #17
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Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done. Wasn't it Wally Byam who said something like "We don't make changes - we make improvements." Some people will argue that an electric motor on the tongue jack, rather than a hand crank, was a change, not an improvement, but I think most of us would rather have the electric motor. I suspect that most of us full-timers don't need any sort of monitor to tell us when we need to fill and dump. We KNOW how long the tanks last with our usage.
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Old 06-05-2020, 04:35 PM   #18
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Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done. Wasn't it Wally Byam who said something like "We don't make changes - we make improvements." Some people will argue that an electric motor on the tongue jack, rather than a hand crank, was a change, not an improvement, but I think most of us would rather have the electric motor. I suspect that most of us full-timers don't need any sort of monitor to tell us when we need to fill and dump. We KNOW how long the tanks last with our usage.
Is that why Airstream has no 5th wheel?
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Old 06-06-2020, 12:25 AM   #19
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Try the bleach, Calgon water softener, Dawn dish detergent cocktail in your black tank. Might bring the sensor back to life... course a flashlight and a peek down the hole is even more reliable.
Hi, Paula. I have tried some of those things, but even the fresh water tank doesn't read. Only the battery part of the meter works. I now have a fancy electronic panel for my water pump switch.
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Old 06-06-2020, 05:09 AM   #20
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Oh boy.. We traded our simple 2011 for a 2020 25’ Globetrotter. So far so good with about 50 nights in it, but I do wish it had manual awning, and jacks. Other than those two items, it’s still pretty basic. It’s our last AS (famous last words). Retired last August, just a pup here at 65. I’m not super technical or an electrical engineer. The rest of the components are the same as what we had in our 04. Only maybe not made as well, but replaceable.
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