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Old 05-30-2016, 03:30 PM   #1
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Pre-newbie

So my wife and are city folks - though we both have camping experience- me having led canoe trips 45 years ago and she learning about camping from me - but we are city folks - and I am not mechanically inclined - in fact my wife is far better than me - but we are in love with the idea of getting a big AS - maybe the Land Yacht or bigger and a truck to match (drive a mini here in the city - so even this is a big change) - have been following AS forums for about four months - and if there is one thing that concerns me most about taking the AS plunge it is that you all sound like Mr. Fixits - dealing with all the various mechanical problems that seem to pop up on every trip - So my question is - are we getting in over our heads if about the handiest we are is being able to use a hammer and a screwdriver every once in a while?
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Old 05-30-2016, 03:57 PM   #2
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Welcome the wonderful world of wishing for an Airstream.

When you say you are not handy, what do you exactly mean?

Where do you fall on this scale from 1 to 10?

10 -- you have power tools, car tools, tools that belonged to your father. You have never paid for an oil change or plumber. You own a voltmeter.

7 -- you can fix a leaky toilet, install a light fixture, and change a car tire. (you might choose not to, but you could) You own a drill. You might own a sewing machine. You own a socket set.

5 -- you can assemble furniture from Ikea. Like a bookcase or lighting. With instructions, and help from You Tube. You own a ladder, you own a level.

3 -- you can paint and hang pictures, clean gutters, and unclog a backed up drain. You own a tape measure.

1 -- you have a screwdriver, duct tape, and a hammer that you borrowed and didn't give back to your college room-mate

I would say that if you are truly 3 or below, then you might do well to find an outstanding dealer with a full service shop that is close enough to help you out for things. And do lots of studying on You Tube and the forums before purchase so you gain an understanding of all of the different aspects of trailering and towing, and how it all essentially works.

If you are a 5 or a 7 (where I consider myself) you will do fine.

And that lots of 10s post on the forum and are super nice and helpful in answering questions and giving advice.
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Old 05-30-2016, 04:05 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum. As you have already seen there are lots of people willing to share their experiences.

I was going to make a comment similar to that made by Piggy Bank. Some people enjoy the fixit idea and some are quite handy and wish to save some money. If you are not a fixit guy and have the money to have someone make the repairs you should be fine, provided you can find a reputable dealer with good service techs.

If you buy a new AS many of the issues will be flushed out (pun unintended) during the warranty period.

I'd say go for it. I'm an almost newbie, getting a 2009 International last summer. We have had a few issues but nothing major!
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Old 05-30-2016, 04:16 PM   #4
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You are right, so many here have amazing skill sets. The nice part is they share exceedingly well and don't charge for the advice.

You too can do this!
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Old 05-30-2016, 05:47 PM   #5
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If you are willing to learn there are many things you can do for yourself.
The problem with finding a "reputable" dealer is they are very few and they are far between.
Just because someone says they are an RV tech it doesn't mean they know what they are doing.
Lewster is very knowledgeable and one of the best in the business.
If you don't want to tackle the problems yourself. At least educate yourself enough to know if the person you hire knows what they are doing.
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Old 05-30-2016, 05:50 PM   #6
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Everyone was a newbie, at one point. And, how "expertly handy" you want to become is totally up to you.

You will discover that, even while out there camping, there are a lot of experienced people who are always willing to help another camper in need. Campers are really nice people.
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Old 05-30-2016, 06:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SMWASONMYMD View Post
and if there is one thing that concerns me most about taking the AS plunge it is that you all sound like Mr. Fixits - dealing with all the various mechanical problems that seem to pop up on every trip - So my question is - are we getting in over our heads if about the handiest we are is being able to use a hammer and a screwdriver every once in a while?
We're not all Mr. Fix-its. You know how some people are "all thumbs"? I'm worse— all toes! And problems don't pop up on every trip, either. It's just that here on the Forums, we seldom report on the trips that go flawlessly.

You will definitely save money— and aggravation— if there are things you can fix for yourself rather than hiring it done. But there is room in the Airstream community for all levels of mechanical expertise, even the level of zero expertise. You won't stay at that level forever, and you'll gradually learn to fix the more common problems for yourself, even if you still have to hire someone for the major items. You'll just have a longer and steeper learning curve than your more adept brethren, that's all.

But one thing for sure, if you're not mechanically inclined, buy an Airstream that is either new or lightly used so you can start enjoying it before you need to work on it. Don't jump straight into a shell-off restoration (to cite an extreme example) or you really will be in over your head.

As for finding reliable techs, look for RVIA certification. An RVIA-certified tech has the training and experience, and the documentation to prove it. There are many good technicians who aren't certified, but there aren't many bad ones who are. And beware of dealerships and repair shops that claim to have RVIA-certified techs, because there may only be one certified tech in the whole shop.
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Old 05-30-2016, 11:33 PM   #8
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Thanks - this is encouraging- I am a 3 at best and maybe my wife is a 4 but we are good learners - and if there is one thing I have learned from these forums it is that you need to find a good dealer. We will buy new. We are located in the Midwest and if need be will travel to do business with a reputable dealer. The one closest to us is located in Joliet Illinois- they rent towards a purchase - and they talk a good service game - but recommendations are welcomed - with something this important we will travel to get a good dealer - shucks - isn't that what this is all about? Hitting the road?
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Old 05-31-2016, 06:35 AM   #9
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We who only buy used salute you for your monetary sacrifice to bring future used Airstreams into the world. Thanks!
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Old 05-31-2016, 06:54 AM   #10
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I would also say join a local WBCCI club. Here in Oregon (unit 90) we have all skill levels represented all the way from hammer and screwdriver to those who buy old Airstream shells and completely restore them. Most club members will go out of their way to help someone fix a problem and get them back on the road.
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Old 05-31-2016, 07:32 AM   #11
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We've had amazing luck with our new unit. I would say you're making the right move. Opposed to something like a diesel pusher or a cheaply made "some other brand".

Like Protagonist said, we're not all so mechanical... and I also think, on the other hand, big boy toys brings out the "tinkering kid" in many.
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Old 05-31-2016, 07:52 AM   #12
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There's all kinds on the forum

One thing I thought of is that some city folk have issues with storage, which also translates to issues with a place to work on the trailer.

Some here treat the trailer and working on it as their hobby. I see camping as my hobby. I paid to have a lot of things done. Some to save time, some things were over my head;

About the learning curve…you can and will learn some things. I feel like fixing one thing will prepare you to fix others. Perhaps just giving you the confidence, perhaps you will learn how to figure out, how to figure out how something is supposed to work, why it's not working, as well as how to fix it.
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Old 05-31-2016, 08:17 AM   #13
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Just Remember

An EXPERT is just a former drip.... now under pressure!

You are welcome here. HINT - really LEARN how to put up and take down an awning. You see a lot of them badly done and a lot of people struggling. If you can help someone position the arms correctly and know that there is a 4th notch... you gain an instant "wow" factor.

Paula
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Old 05-31-2016, 08:29 AM   #14
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I wouldnt think to far into it- i didn't and last year took a '58 slightly renovated caravanner installed tons of solar and have full timed in it for a year so far. mostly urban boondocking so i've spent nothing really on rent, just insurance at the tune of 68$/mo. Sure there are things to fix after each move- something falls off the wall or you realize you should stow things better.

i'd say take the plunge and i've learned over some time now to just say F!@ it and not let your life disappear into wishes of what you could have done...

go to home depot and get a drill and a 125 piece tool set and have fun!
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Old 05-31-2016, 05:41 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SMWASONMYMD View Post
we are city folks - and I am not mechanically inclined - in fact my wife is far better than me - but we are in love with the idea of getting a big AS. . . .So my question is - are we getting in over our heads if about the handiest we are is being able to use a hammer and a screwdriver every once in a while?
Working on an AS is like working on your house, except you don't have as much room to work in. Same basic systems and infrastructure, so same issues--leaks, blown electrical circuits, toilet plugs, things that go bump in the night. So if you can handle those things at home, you've got a handle on them in your AS.

But, different idea, why don't you rent an AS? Even rent it to take it home.

Do you have room for it where you live? And if you do, can you keep an RV on property without running afoul of the CCR's? Ultimately, will you have to pay for RV storage? Not if you rent.

Did you like the floor plan? No? You can try another.
Problems with this or that? Well, its not yours so you don't have to fix it.
Maybe you or another family member decides they don't like camping.
Perhaps you can rent from the AS dealer closest to your camping venue--drive your own car to his place so you don't rack up big mileage on your rental.
Winterizing? Not your problem.

So you can get an Airstream experience without buying one. My wife tells me there is an Airstream dealer that "rents-to-own", so your rental fees apply to your purchase if you decide to go for it. If only she remembered where! But she did see that here on Air Forums, so happy searching.


Good luck!!
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Old 05-31-2016, 06:19 PM   #16
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I would suggest visiting at least 3 dealers before any purchase.

You could look at Joliet/Chicago, and Bill Thomas in St. Louis. Maybe Milwaukee or Minneapolis or Ohio for another option.

Look for yourself at how much inventory they carry, what sort of prominence Airstream vs. other lines of business receive, how large is their service area, how long have they been in business, how long have they carried Airstream? Do they have a full service type of business? How knowledgable are they?

Try and have 5-8 specific questions to ask and see what the salesperson can tell you. Most dealers have websites that show their inventory so you can have some idea on that by looking online.

Here are some questions to consider:
How much do the waste tanks hold? How large is the fresh water holding tank?

Do you like front bed or rear bed models, and why?

How does the outside storage differ on these models?

What is the hitch weight and unit weight on these models?

How long is the bed in this model?

What kind of oven is on this model?

How large is the refrigerator on this model?

In my opinion, anyone who sells Airstreams for a living should have a pretty good idea on most of these without looking, or looking very long.

If you, after reading on the forums, have more knowledge than your salesperson, that tells you a lot.
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Old 06-01-2016, 04:37 AM   #17
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Thanks again to all who have weighed in - this is all very helpful and futher convinces me we are on the right track - camping was our main way of traveling pre-kids and we always preferred it to hotels and after 38 years of staying in hotels for work that's the last thing I want to do when we travel. Come to think of it, the canoes we used on the trips i lead were all aluminum (Grumans for those who know) and we had to fix them up every so often - so I now realize i have had experience dealing with riveted aluminum even if it was a hollowed out shell that floated and bubble gum was our chief implement - so we will be out there in the next year - thanks again.
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:39 AM   #18
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so I now realize i have had experience dealing with riveted aluminum even if it was a hollowed out shell that floated and bubble gum was our chief implement - so we will be out there in the next year - thanks again.
Airstreamers are a little more sophisticated than that. We prefer duck tape over bubblegum as the repair tool of choice.
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Old 06-01-2016, 07:08 AM   #19
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Something I haven't seen mentioned here is storage. Are you able to keep your trailer at home or need to pay for storage. If paid storage, will you have access to it on your schedule ?? Airstreams ( all campers) are nothing but a boat on wheels. They always need some attention. Sometimes it can wait and be done while on the road sometimes not. Most things are simple and I just put it on my list and get it done whenever I think about it. Some are more " NOW" things. Will you be able to plug it in during storage ??
If you leave it plugged in long term double check to make sure you have a multi-stage convertor so as not to cook your batteries.

Lots of experience here. Don't let it overwhelm you. It's a great lifestyle so enjoy it.
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