Airstream Forums

Airstream Forums (
-   Repairing/Replacing Floor &/or Frame (
-   -   Frame access and repair (

toga 09-23-2006 06:46 AM

Frame access and repair
I have a 1978 30 ft. Sovereign. I want to access frame from below. Am planning to jck trailer, remove trim strip, bananna skins and bottom aluminum. Can anyone provide detailed instruction on how to proceed and what to watch out for?


CanoeStream 09-23-2006 07:36 AM

It sounds like you have a pretty good idea about getting to the area. Note that the copper propane pipes run below the belly skin and you'd be into a fairly major job. What are your objectives in this project?

toga 09-23-2006 12:48 PM

Thanks for the reply! This is my first thread and I had some problems getting onto forums.

The objectives of the project are to repair the frame as practical and as necessary to rejuvenate the trailer and ensure its longevity. I bought the trailer about 10 months ago with little knowledge of potential problems. It appears in reasonable shape overall, but on getting it home I noticed a bit of floor rot behind the gaucho couch. I tore out the first plywood subfloor panel - quite a job - and then observed the the frame outriggers toward the front were rotted with the exception of the heavier peice of angle iron that seem was the most substantive part of the outrigger. They look like they can be reinforced. I want to see the whole trailer frame to see if it is practical to save so that the trailer can be towed into the future or is it best just to set it up on blocks somewhere. I am willing to put the time and effort into saving it if it is within reason.

So overall my objectives at this time are to get the frame exposed and access to it from the bottom to weld if practical. It looks like the first step is to remove the lower trim strip then the bannana skins, can you advise if this is difficult? My mechanic suggested using an air shear to shear the lower bottom skins into accessible panels for removal, then when putting them back on just splice them at the sheared seams - seems (a pun?) reasonable way to reconstruct the bottom skins.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

ALANSD 09-23-2006 07:51 PM

take a look at the thread posted by Pizzachop, he did a major floor repair on his...might have to da a little bit of searching to find this

PizzaChop 09-24-2006 03:38 AM


The long belly pan can be be a pain but I wouldn't cut it because if you did put it back that way, you would want some overlap in your joints. (If I was replacing it, I'd probably do it that way with new metal)

To remove the belly pan is not difficult but isn't exactly fun either. It is held in place with either rivets or screws (or both) through the main frame rails and the cross members ever 24" I think. (My front belly pan is off at the moment as I have some major rust/corrosion at the freshwater tank area.)

You will have to remove front jacks if you are so fortunate to have them.

To remove the banana wrap, you must remove the belt line first. Carefully drill out all of the 1/8" rivets to remove the belt line and then drill out all the rivets holding the banana wrap to the floor channel.

It really helps to put the unit up on 6" blocks or something to create more work space.

Here's a link to my pics

LI Pets 09-24-2006 04:37 AM

What I did to avoid removing the beltline, is just remove the rivets at the bottom edge of the belly pan and flex them down that gave me great access.

I removed the bad insulation, wire brushed the chasis and POR'd buttoned it back up.

toga 09-25-2006 05:54 PM

Thanks for the info PizzaChop and Lipets. I actually had seen PizzaChops photos on the forums before I got your comments - greatly appreciated.

I am a bit aprehensive about what I am potentially getting into. I took a look at Thomas Glassers rebuilt and his original frame looked a mess. I have been able to see that at least one middle cross member between the frame rails is good (still has original paint on) and am hoping most of the rest is reasonable, although I can also see at the front the the front outriggers are in definite need of replacement or major reinforcement.

Anyway, I plan to proceed. Regarding removing the lower trim line and banana wrap versus not removing and just flexing them down, I am thinking of removing at this time just to increase exposure and access to the frame. Is it a big problem to remove and reinstall or maybe I should just flex them down for now to assess the frame.

Anyway, first step will be to raise the trailer up on 6 inch blocks as suggested by PizzaChop. I understand that I should jack on the axle mount plates based on review of info on other posts (particularly from Andy at Inland RV). How is it best to proceed - the trailer is roughly 5000 lbs so would a 2 ton hydrualic jack do with a wood block between the jack point and the axle mounting plate do, then jack each side a couple of inches at a time to avoid flexing the trailer?


LI Pets 09-25-2006 06:28 PM

1 Attachment(s)
keep it simple drive up

LI Pets 09-25-2006 06:30 PM

the skins don't really flex down, they hang straight down, I'll post a pic soon

PizzaChop 09-25-2006 07:25 PM

I was thinking of driving as well. You can build your own ramps by staggering 3 2x8s leading up to a 6 x 6.

toga 09-26-2006 05:04 PM

Yes - driving up seems the sensible way to go. Although I don't have a tow vehicle I think I can get some one to back it onto the blocks once I get them made up.

Will keep you posted on progress although it will probably be few weeks before I get it on the blocks - and then we are getting into cold weather.

toga 11-26-2006 07:17 PM

Oops! Anyone Know Price and Availability of 1978 Water Tank

Finally made it back. I seem to be going backwards. Did not have a tow vehicle so tried to jack trailer. I can tell you how not to do it. (One comment; Andy at inland rv is right - JACK AT AXLE MOUNTING PLATES ONLY; I did and despite myself ended up with limited damage that was totally due for the most part to my ignorance, i.e. trailer sliding sideways on jack stands).

Used a six ton bottle jack under each axle mounting plate and bteween wheels (think I got this much right anyway). Had two 3-to jack stands - one at each end of axle mounting plate. I would jack one side a bit, then raise Axle stand a notch, then alternat to other side. First attempt, trailer slid sideways off axle stands. Tried again a bit more carefully - had the trailer up a ways then the same thing. Only this time looks like I damaged my water tank as whne it slid off one of the bottle jacks punched into the metal cover pan and water starting leaking out.

The jacks are more unstable then I would have thought. Guess it doesn't take much to deviate from the center of gravity along the jack axis. Anyway I am still at square one although probably even further behind because now I will need a new water tank, anyone know where one is (1978 Sovereign) and how much?

So, try this again? I'm wondering. If I do I will jack then block incrementally maybe with 2x6. Any comments? Alternatively, preferably will find some wide planks and find someone with a truck to try the ramp method; should have tried this first but again I don't have a tow vehicle. Thinking of minimum 2, or maybe 3 full dimension hemlock 2x8" stacked and bevelled on one end to run trailer up. what is needed for clearance? Is wheels on 4 inch ramp thickness enough or would 6 be minimum. Would jack with careful blocking be better as it would lend itself to variable height.

I think I am in for a long project at this rate.

Thanks for any comments.


PizzaChop 11-26-2006 07:46 PM


You may be able to repair the tank. I'm not familiar with the '78 but on my '73, there is 1" thick plywood supporting the tank with aluminum skin on it.

Can you tell how far the hole went and are you sure you punctured the tank?

I think it is more likely that something came loose (fitting or hose or possibly copper plumbing which is in the same area) but you won't know until you disassemble.

Bottom line is you'll have to remove the tank anyway, to assess the damage and there are patch kits available for that type plastic. (At least I've seen them somewhere.)

I think I would beg, borrow, or steal a 1/2 pick-up and back it up onto blocks at this point. What you're doing sounds dangerous.

Good luck!

Here are pics of my water tank back in place, although I think it is located forward of where yours is. You can see how it sits between the frame rails on plywood supported by a box frame.

toga 11-27-2006 05:26 PM


Thanks for the encouragement. I hope I can repair the tank if it is damaged.

Will be picking up some 2x8s for use as ramps. I notice in your water tank picture it looks like you had 3 planks; were they 1.5 inch or full dimension (2" thick). Did they give you enough space underneath to get all the work done. I think I will be removing the water tanks and waste tanks as well as into some frame welding.


toga 03-07-2007 06:36 PM

Well I am back after somewhat of a hiatus due to various factors. Finally making some progress. Had some help getting the trailer up. Used scrap 2x6 blocking from scrap ends obtained from a lumber yard. Worked very well, was able to jack incrementally getting in one peice at a time at each blocking point. Blocked it in six places so it is quite secure.

Past weekend got the rear belly pan off from the waste tank on back. Overall the frame is good inside the main frame rails but still have not seen the outriggers on the other side. Also, the rear cross member is in very bad shape, and rear floor section looks like it warrants replacement.

My plan is to drop the wate tank and pan, the water tank and forward belly skin. Also to remove beltline and bannana skins. Any ideas how long that should take to get all the belly skin, tanks and bannan skin off? Also, what is a reasonable time to expect to get it back on? How difficult is it to get the tanks off and back on - I am a bit apprehensive once I end up with all these peices to get them back together?

Once the frame is exposed I plan to get an experienced welder to do the rotted outrigger repair, and the rear cross member I have seen so far. There will probably be more. Is it possible to patch/weld framing in areas which still have wood floor above or near? (I am hoping to only have to replace front and rear floor sections).

Other news - finally picked up a tow vehicle although I may be a long way off before I finaly get the trailer repaired. But is was a good price for Canada, 1995 Suburban K1500 LS 4x4 for $3,100.00. It is actually pewter color with red base, so if I ever get things on the road combination should look okay.

Hopefully get some pictures posted once the bottom is exposed.

Any comments appreciated.

LI Pets 03-07-2007 07:53 PM

To take it all apart to get to the frame figure about a full day.
That assumes you have a rivet removal tool, without that......well a long time.

Also air tool for all the bolts holding the tanks is nice but not absolutly needed.

You can buy the outriggers for $15 ea then have the new ones welding easy.

welld.geo 03-08-2007 11:09 AM

Fixing that tank
Hey toga, I'm in the same boat with my outriggers as you are, except I've lost the ones next to the step. As for fixing the plastic though, I've found a great material to use for most plastic repair is 3M's 8115 Automix Panel Bonding adhesive. If you go this route, you'll need a larger piece of plastic or fiberglass than the hole to use as a patch for the outside of the tank. Also, you'll need to spray their Adhesion Promoter 5907 before you apply. Sand the plastic w/80 grit paper, clean with soap & water, allow to dry, spray with adhesion promoter (let set 10 minutes), mix adhesive as you would body filler (pallete & spatula), apply to both tank & patch, apply patch to tank (hold in place with tape until dry, 90 minutes) - done. Hope this helps. Erik

toga 03-08-2007 03:23 PM

Bob/ Erik,

Great information, thanks - I am encouraged I can get things off in a time frame of a few days.

First the rivet removal tool - what is that? I have been using a battery powered drill. Is there something specially designed? Is it readily available? As for the tank bolts, I had to remove a few to get the rear belly skin detached from the waste tank pan. Not too bad even though it was mainly by hand ratchet. I have a snall impact driver I think will be useful for lots of bolts.

Erik - thanks for the info on the tank - may be a while before I get that far. -40 windchill here the last few days but spring is coming.

Thanks again.

malconium 03-08-2007 07:23 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Rivet removal is typically done by drilling the rivets out as you seem to be doing. Once in a while you will find one that starts to spin and will not drill out. What I did was to use sharp stiff paint scraper to just chop off the offending rivet. Works great. The photo shows the general type that I mean. They are readily available at most any hardware store or Lowes and Home Depot. The pointed end is actually helpful for taping a chopped off rivet through the hole too.

If you do decide to take off the rub rail and remove the banana skins one word of caution - make sure you keep the rub rail pieces in a safe place. I managed to step on part of mine and bent it too much to fix. They don't make this stuff anymore and it is a bit hard to find used pieces in nice condition. By the way leaving it on a letting the banana wrap hang down does expose pretty much all of the outriggers with the exception perhaps of the ones at the very ends of the trailer. Because of their molded shape they don't hang down. If you do take them all off I suggest a couple of things:

1. There are several different pieces - make sure you label them all.

2. Consider putting a strip of masking tape on the body just above the rub rail before you take it off and put a few marks on it to help you align the pieces when you put them back on.

3. You are likely to find that the banana skins overlap on the outside of the body skins which has a tendancy to let water leak into the edges of the floor. I suggest you glop up the seam thoroughly with Vulkem before putting the rub rail back on.

4. One place for a lot of potential leakage is where the rub rail goes across the back. That area has a piece of aluminum attached to the hinged lid of the bumper storage area that slips under the floor panel. Take a look at the photo of the way mine was when I took it out. I was able to rivet on a new strip of aluminum to repair it just fine. The whole area tends to wick in water and needs to sealed up carefully. I had more floor rot in that back area than anywhere else - and I have heard that others have found similar problems.

5. The typical rivets used to hold the rub rail on are standard aluminum 1/8" pop rivets of the type that Lowes and Home Depot carry. You should make sure to get long ones (about 1/2"). Once in a while I found that I had an enlarged hole and had to add a larger pop rivet. You may not find that to be the case though.

6. One of the best buys I have made relative to AS tools is my pneumatic pop rivet tool. This is what I bought from Harbor Frieght:

Harbor Freight Tools - Quality Tools at the Lowest Prices

If you happen to have a store near you print out the sale price from the Internet and they will honor it at the store even if it is not listed on sale in the store.

I hope all this helps you get started. Keep asking questions - there are lots of people here on the forum with plenty of good advice.


LI Pets 03-08-2007 07:36 PM

1 Attachment(s)
You can leave the beltline and all the rivets at the top of the bannana skins and save a ton of work.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:15 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.