Jimber's 1965 Tradewind
Picked up a 1965 Tradewind from my neighbor down the street. Just got it back from the local RV dealer and what started as a $225 pre-maintaince check turned into a $1000 invoice. Wasn't thrilled but hey, lesson learned.
I am a noob to the RV lifestyle but the airstreams have always fascinated me. I am looking forward to learning everything I can about the trailer and consider myself somewhat capable of doing the work. So let's begin.
It started with a porch light...
The trailer has a "scare light " on the outside of it that wasn't working. So I removed the light housing to check the wiring, and down the hole I went. The light has a switch inside and when I opened up the cover plate I noticed the switch housing was completely rusted out. Which then lead me to trace the wire to the sconce lamp it was being fed from. I removed the lamp and notice soot behind the fixture. The cladding of the wire had melted exposing the solid aluminum wiring. Traced that to the light fixture centered above and once again, more melted wire. This is also where airstream (or someone) had created a junction feeding the 2 wall lights and a vent fan (that had been removed and wire left coiled inside the skins). There is also another wire hanging inside the cabinet above the banquette, no idea what that's for.
Anyways, I started removing some rivets just to see what wire feeds what. I promised my better half I would not go to deep until we have had the opportunity to enjoy it a couple of times out. But, I was thinking of eventually rewiring the entire trailer. Not a fan of aluminum wire. It's a safety concern for me. Anyone have any pearls of knowledge to give? Everything I've read leads to either removing interior skins entirely or creating chases through millwork. I prefer to do it right but my interior skins run continuously front to back with seams only at the bathroom and over the banquette.
Once the weather warms up, I plan on resealing my exterior seams and penetrations. I've read alot of everyone's post and appreciate any advice or criticism.
Welcome to the Airstream neighborhood. I understand where your better half is coming from on wanting to enjoy a little camping first. But, to me safety trumps all. Electricity that has melted some wiring, that bothers me. You may want to ring out all the circuits to see if there’s continuity. Get a volt meter. At any rate, it looks to be in great shape and I would be chomping at the bits to head out to a campground. Good luck and ask the questions if you have any.
Congrats on that rabbit hole. We've all been down the same one. It's quite the keen adventure.
I've lots to learn but can tell you that is not a 1965 trailer. (Unless you have a one of)
1965 is the only year of rear taillights that were "outies" and did not work out to well so they changed design.
Your taillights are not 1965.
Check your serial number on the tag by the door and that will be coded with your trailers year.
I had the same concern regarding rewiring. My dad and I are working on my trailer together.
We are rewiring but only taking the lower skin from the end caps off which is due to floor rot and frame repair. We will likely run wire under the trailer and inside in hidden areas. We have a professional electrician friend that is retired and will do the work for us for almost free. We did not want to gut the trailer which you seem to have likely learned is the only way to rewire completely behind the skins since the wires run through grommets in the ribs.
I spoke to 66Overlander and he is wrapping up work on a trailer where he partially removed skins and fished wire from the ceiling by removing rivets from one side of the roof piece that goes down the entire trailer and pulling it down. He then only removed minimal skins.
If electrical is your only concern you could camp in it and plan to not use the electrical and run wires for a light from the site into the trailer to enjoy it a bit as a metal tent and determine where you might want to change the existing electrical to fit your needs. Other issues include whether you have need a axle (is it original or replaced but more than 20-25 years old) or do you have frame issues like separation in the rear (rusted cross members completely disconnected from the floor).
Our wiring works but we plan to update it. I never plan to sell my trailer (61 Trade Wind) so we are avoiding wiring from inside the skins so that the project does not overwhelm us (my dad refused). It's a personal choice and resale is not a concern to me since I hope to use it myself another 50 years. If you do take off the skins though, you can reseal from the inside for more leak protection.
Good luck and I am excited for you.
Thanks everyone for the feedback so quickly.
Bubba, I agree with your concern. I have put a meter on several of the runs so far and pulling good voltage on the DC (12 v) and AC (120v). I've read it's not neccesarily the wire that's the problem, more so the connections. I currently have the shore and battery disconnected. I will continue to research the best way to move forward for the time being.
Hitten, you are correct about the tail lights. I believe one of the previous owners (3 I believe prior to me) switch these out at one point. Some of the exterior skins had been replaced ( which I noticed later cause Olympic rivets used and after researching of course) along with some other alterations. I recieved a plethora of sales receipts and documentation when I purchased the trailer, including the original owners manual and receipt where the trailer was purchased. Some good info in there. Question: do you know why the protruding tail lights were a bad design? I like how they look and thinking about ordering some from VTS.
Oceana, there is a splice running down the center that looks similar to an S drive my mechanical contractors use to splice hard duct. I figured if I remove that, I can remove some additional rivets holding the panels up to give a little in order to pull new wire. Maybe its feasible maybe it's not, dont know till I try it. What's the worst it can do...
Question: I wanted to reseal the exterior seams and around windows and such. I picked up some tempro 635. Is this the right product?
Thanks for explanation.
The 65 lights were made of a hard plastic and decayed over time from exposure or being hit. Most have holes or cracks in the plastic often on the upper side. Those holes allowed the elements to get inside the housing.
They were also inserted or installed on the trailer from the inside with a interior flange against the backside of the outer skin. So to replace them you had to dismantle some interior skins and come from inside the trailer. And if you replaced them with round lights you had to patch the outside from the remaining large holes left behind.
Over the years we've seen a variety of fixes and patchwork. It was quite exciting when VTS recently started carrying the 65 light pieces. There are obviously a great number of 65's out there to warrant manufacturing these.
I looked closely at your backend image and did not see any indication of the modifications so that's why I wondered.
That is a question I no longer ask, as the answers have never been to my liking.
This trailer is confusing, tail lights look like pre-65, interior looks like my 65, but roof vents look like 66-on! Maybe a California trailer.
Greetings from Colorado and welcome to the vintage Airstream "slippery slope". Golly, that is a nice looking Trade Wind you have there. I had a 66 Trade Wind which had the same tail lights as yours, but completely different windows. Mine also had aluminum wiring and you are right, the 120v wiring to the outlet connections could corrode. I did grease them up but did not change out the wiring.
I renovated my 66 to make it a bit more modern. Fixed subfloor rot in the rear, installed new waste water tanks, installed new plumbing, rebuilt the funny bathroom, fixed leaks, new furnace, new water heater, new axles, etc, etc. I have a special place in my heart for the mid sixties Trade Winds. Here are a couple photos just for fun and comparisons. I survived the slippery slope.
I have followed several of y'alls threads before acquiring the trailer. A labor of love for sure. I got a lot of insight from the post/pictures ya'll uploaded. Touringdan, dbj, and slats (and his alter ego) have been a tremendous help wrapping my head around future projects.
I think I will proceed with the plan of removing the top splice and some of the rivets to check the wiring runs for anymore damage. Replace as necessary for now and clean connections at 120v receptacles. I'm also working on new tires, repack bearings, and check brakes. The axles (from what I can tell) appear to be in decent shape, no signs of deflection.
Just trying to get the trailer road worthy for now. Again, thanks everyone for the feedback.
Welcome to the insanity. Looks like you found a very good 65 Tradewind. That is always my advice to people- buy the best one that you can find. You will be much better off in the long run.
I understand your electrical concerns but I wouldn’t do anymore repair work than is absolutely necessary. I would absolutely recommend not removing interior skins and rewiring the trailer. I have aluminum wiring for the 12v system of my 66 Tradewind. It hasn’t been a problem at all. You are correct the problem is usually with the connections. This hasn’t been a problem at all on mine. Fortunately the 120v wiring is copper and is grounded as I recall. I just installed new switches and receptacles and cleaned up the connections. One advantage to the new led lights and possibly a new furnace is that they use less current than the original stuff.
If your axles are original I would strongly recommend replacing the axles, brakes and shock absorbers. The roads in many parts of the country are terrible and your Airstream will thank you.
Yup, time to go camping now so you can get to know your Airstream.
Congratulations you’ve managed to attract expert advisors on the sixties five panel(exterior end-cap segment). Truly, the sixties TradeWind is one of Airstream’s most robust and lightweight tandem axle trailers, ever.
One thing you’ll find is that there’s no exact year for a particular feature. There’s overlap, so not everything advised can be an absolute to 1965. “Generally” you have a 1965 Trade Wind.
While it’s often assumed that Airstream owners of this era live in constant fear of spontaneous incineration, the little known reality is that there is no recorded incident, and yes, if your terminals and connectors are snug, aluminum wiring is is OK if it isn’t over-amped.
My 68GT has aluminum electrical wire for both 120VAC and 12VDC. The wire is shielded 10gauge Kaiser. The 12V is 2/wire black and white, and the 120V is 2/wire black and white with bare ground. If you have experience with residential wiring colors, and automotive wiring colors, trailer wiring colors will be confusing at first.
What I found in my 68GT is that none of the duplex outlets appear to be rated for aluminum wire. There should be a Cu-Al mark on them to be residential code. Oversight, ignorance, cheaper, take your pick. I would verify all existing wiring condition. I made my own wiring map from what I deduced with a VOM. Find out why your wires burned, and repair. I use antioxidation dielectric grease too.
Why Aluminum wire? Rising copper price was not the false cause “bullets for Viet-Nam” myth as perpetuated by mining company to shield corporate greed. Copper miners living in squalor and pollution went on strike for equal pay and benefits to iron and other mineral miners.The copper magnates had the pull to get the government to Taft-Hartley the workers, so the miners lost, and copper was back. There was never a shortage of copper, There was plenty in reserve, it was corporate manipulation that increased price. It’s all to be read in the court transcripts.
So, of course, Airstream cheaped-out, and I don’t think they upgraded their terminals and connections commensurate to aluminum wire. There’s Airstream original, factory installed,common residential wire nuts connecting Al to Cu throughout my 68GT. So, that’s an area we need to be attentive, and possibly the root of your wiring’s evil. Where your wiring appears “hacked”, it’s probably original..
As the scare light goes, my lens looked like the Dali painting “persistence of memory”, and it was equally melted inside. The installer didn’t know the difference between two wire lamp and single wire lamp, or maybe didn’t want to walk two more steps to the correct bin, or “nobody thought”, so used a turn-tail fixture connected to the 1157 brake side and melted everything. It’s now rewired and LED.
Eventually, you’ll remanufacture all systems and construction, but don’t start today. I agree not to pull skins to replace wire, as you can un-rivet and pull back skins to get troubleshooting and bypass access. Do safe mending and back out of that hole for now.
Reward and encourage yourself with a shake-down tour and get a feel for what suits you. The easiest thing to change is yourself. Get all your safety stuff working and go tin-tent camp.
It’ll be hard to find a better quality wheelbearing than the 1965 Timkens you already have. Mine were absolutely mint and the surfaces looked new. NAPA can match your seals.
You can assess the condition of your axles by taking before and after measurements. If they’re level at rest, compress, rebound, and drop an inch and a half with trailer elevated, you don’t need to replace them today.
Electric drum brakes actuate with a sound you can listen for at the hub, and can be observed to be working with a gravel road test when setting your brake controller. They’re sensible and strait-forward.
That bike gizmo hanging on your bumper can only exacerbate separation damage.
We all have interest in your success, and have fun...
Aluminuminum: Thanks for the background on why aluminum wiring. I had heard it was war related and that's why aluminum. I didn't have electrical problems with my Trade Wind, and as mentioned I just checked the hand full of outlets in the trailer, including the fridge and converter outlets.
Here is a photo of a "bad axle" on my 75 Overlander 27'. Some guys can spot a bad axle from across the campground as the ride height of the trailer is usually lower. The swing arms on my Overlander were horizontal, not at a negative 22 degrees downward as from the factory. Old axles have hard rubber rods in them that have taken a set. New axles have good rubber and much better suspension action. Axles last about 30 years.
(Head exploding). So much information, thank you guys for the knowledge! The pictures especially help for me, seeing something helps me wrap my head around it. I'll check out the axles once I lift trailer up to change tires, repack bearings, check brakes, and etc. I originally just looked at the axles why they were resting to see any deflection. That diagram Aluminuminum uploaded really helps along with Dan's photo.
I will upload more photos of my wiring issue but I believe the cause was from water getting into the scare light switch juntion box. My 120v circuits also appear to be aluminum wiring. Like I said before, not a huge fan of aluminum wire but in the meantime, I will heed yalls advice, check connections, and replace the wiring where the cladding has melted. Just not entirely sure yet where to buy aluminum wire, haven't searched online but I'm sure I can find it on the internets.
Once again, I can't thank everyone enough for the pearls of knowledge. Everyone on here has been so helpful and I appreciate your time responding to this thread.
There's an event down my way in York SC coming up and plan on making an appearance. Not taking the tin can down there, just to see other trailers and speak with people to pick their brains.
Gee, I'd hate to see your head explode. Better get a tight fitting football helmet to keep it all together.
I spent two years working on my Trade Wind and enjoying it. TouringDan does it right. One improvement project at a time.
You are right. There is just a ton of information about your trailer here on these Forums. Since you are now wearing a helmet, here is some more information about your trailer. Airstream Inc posts archived documents on their website. Here is a link to model year 1965. And here is a link to Vintage Airstream Resources with pictures of 65 Trade Winds. Pardon me if you have all ready seen it.
Pump the brakes
So I got a little work in this weekend between the periods of rain to mainly focus on removing the wheels to get new tires placed. I think the ones on it were from 2002 so it was time to get started. 3 out of 4 of the adjuster springs for the electric brakes were busted. I think I have found replacements on etrailer...my other option was advanced auto parts where they sold me a packet of various size springs and told me to cut to fit. Not the way I want to go. Will be returning. Anyways, while I have the trailer jacked, I looked at the axle and it appears to be resting in a good position (photo 1). Little surface rust but plan on cleaning that up and applying some POR 15 where I can. I will probably replace the axles in the near future but not this year, still trying to get it on the road this summer for a couple of near by trips. Will also replace brake assembly later on. Works for now.
Ordered a new tongue jack and clearance lights, they were tired. Also, I was able to pull through some 12/2 romex for a temporary fix for the electrical issue with wiring (see photos). The original dual can light I believe is shot though. The one on the driver side looks identical but is newer. Does anyone know where to find these? I'm still toying with the idea of rewire through top splice. Only 2 120v circuits, still working on DC diagram but doesn't seem like a lot. Also looking into a new distribution system to add the AC and DC in one location. I've seen some online, ie furion, didn't know if anyone has gone down the route or has any suggestions/recommendations. One more thing: in the cabinet above the banquette, there is a DC wire just hanging out of the wall. Any idea what this could've fed?
Thanks as always for any feedback!
Let’s hope that’s the extent of your wiring problem, and you can move on to the “clean” wiring and your electrical design.
I successfully grafted some copper wire onto existing aluminum 120V circuits and added a couple 120V circuits, and added many 12V copper circuits stemming from my converter. There is a variety of alcu connectors, some better than others. I used purple alcu wire nuts and grease with No issue. The whole mess comes together by the entry door where I can observe and switch any system without entering the trailer, just reach in.
It’s a bizarre network of what I figured would work, and I wouldn’t explain it to anyone, but here’s what it looks like “so far”, and it’s hillbilly cheap. I call it “Del Centro”. I can isolate and pick and choose whichever system I like operating at a time. Nothing is automatic. The volt and amp are on moment switches and the propane detector is switched so the system has zero parasitic draw. I wired a switch into my converter so I can turn it off while the Yamaha 2200 starts the Air Conditioner. It’s archaic compared to the elaborate solar-lithium systems, but works quite well enough for a small camper and I have very happy batteries. None of my wires have ever lost their smoke.
It always bugged be that airstream called their panel “central control” because it’s a “monitoring panel” and there’s very little to control besides its panel light and waterpump switch.
The all-in-one 12VDC/120VAC converter/fuse/breaker box is nice if you can fit it into your wiring harness and have cabinet space. Mine’s a 35amp wifco, 10 inches from my battery compartment which has room for three group 27s.
Sometimes you can go “on wall” with flexible conduit where it doesn’t show or in areas where protection is deemed.
Seems my wiring is an eternal "work in progress"
You’ll figure it out, It’ll be fun...
and remember to duck!
I was looking at “Del Centro” and thought someone might think that some idiot used box-store light switches. They’re not. Levitron makes double pole 600VAC 40 amp welding switches that fit residential switch boxes.
Also, Most everyone loves marinco and blue sea for 12V switching, but I’ve never had any problem with the NASCAR/SCCA/IMSA approved battery switches from the autoparts store.
There’s no “polarity light‘’, ‘cause you check that at the pedestal BEFORE you plug in. If it’s more concerned, you can keep your little residential polarity checker plugged in somewhere observable.
My airstream manual says that if your “central control” polarity light is on, go back out to the pedestal and turn your plug over! That’s actually impossible. Probably reprinted from 1953. I think you might smell the problem before you see the light.
I use a portable surge protector, seems more versatile than hard-wired.
Everyone agrees that internet electrical advise is only worth what you paid for it. Learn electricity for yourself. There are dozens of instances where a certified electrician has wired a 30A 120V RV pedestal outlet to 240VAC.
Holy Cow! I plug my trailer into a 30 amp receptacle I know nothing about all the time with confidence . Wiring a power pedestal to 240 volts requires a calamity of multiple errors and gross negligence. I guess I trust my breakers in the trailer to save the day.
My old Trade Wind had a polarity checker at the battery. My Overlander has a light that was wired to the power distribution panel and mounted to the exterior skins. You can see the wiring to it on the left side of this photo.But like you said, we now have plugs and receptacles that only connect one way, the correct way. I too have one of those $10 "120v circuit testers" plugged into an outlet in the trailer. Life is better with modern safeties.
You have a good on - off switch in your del centro. Me, well I'm kinda old school. Pull the plug it is off.
I think Jimber knows his stuff.
The sad bit is that the ordinary circuit breaker in a travel trailer of any sort WILL NOT protect you from a miswired power plug. It takes a EMS/surge protector to do that. Don’t leave home without one.
120 volt hardware exposed to 249 volt power has a serious problem with smoke leaking out of it, and as we all know, when the smoke leaks out of electrical stuff, it generally quits working.
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