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Airstream Chronicles - Chapter 8

For those who are not bothering to read my blog (and who can blame you?), here is chapter 8 that got posted a couple of days ago.

The Airstream (Name TBD) has both failed and exceeded my expectations in various ways. Much of the cabinetry is still solid, the elecrical system looks good (I haven’t actually tested it yet as there is neither a 12-volt batter nor a 110VAC to 12VDC converter), the exterior skin is remarkable for its age, and the interior skin is cleaning up nicely. The frame, on the other hand, not so great.

The previous owner (“PO”) ripped apart the bathroom, then left me to rebuild. I think I know why. The rear frame members are badly rusted.

This section of frame is also supposed to have angle iron pieces that hold the black water tank pan in place. Of those two pieces one is simly gone, the other was so rusted I just pulled it out by hand.

On Monday, I spent a little time with a wire brush removing the flaking off rust and some of the dirt on the frame in the rear, the rear bumper and the “A-frame” (for us non-trailer folk, that’s the part up front where the hitch is located). Generally, I ended up with stuff that looked like this:

Let me tell you, using a steel brush to remove rust, climbing around on the ground to remove a sewage tank, and prying up moldy plywood is not exactly glamorous stuff. But this is all necessary, not because I will end up with a perfectly restored trailer, we won’t, but because we will end up with a trailer that at least is not going to be dropping pieces all along the highway.

As my kids were helping me with some of this I explained to them how when I was a teenager and we wanted to fix up a rusted out old car we had to scrape, and sand every last bit of rust away because if we didn’t, the rust would just grow like a cancer under any new coat of paint. Chemistry has advanced since those ancient times when I was a teenager working on some friend’s ’67 Valiant. Today, we have products like POR-15, a rust treatment and paint all in one that, according to reviews encapsulates the rust, prevents its spread, and can be topcoated with the color ofyour choice. I bought just a pint (as it is VERY expensive stuff) to play with, and having done so I have already ordered another quart.

On Tuesday, the exposed portions of the rear frame where I need to reinstall the black water tank received a coat:


I also pulled up what were obviously the replacement subfloor in the front of the trailer. I was not able to just assume that the PO did the job correctly and I could ignore whatever was under those floors. Glad I did. What I found was soaking wet insulation, and the start of mold and mildew. Although we live in a dry climate, it would have taken at least weeks and probably months for this to dry out and in the meantime, dry rot (which, despite its name is caused by water) of the wood would have started, and the rust in the frame would have gotten much worse. After some work with the POR-15:


I had just a little bit of my pint left after doing as much of the front frame as I could easily reach at one time, and the rear frame, so I used the last bits of it to start on the rear bumper and A-frame:


That shows the propane tank holder completely coated, and just the tops of those frame members with a coat. If nothing else, when the spring rains come to Boise (and they always do), I’ll have slightly more protection for the frame.

While waiting for paint to dry, I gave some thought to how I’m going to reinstall the black water tank. While running some other errands I stopped by a recycling palce that also sells steel and got some angle iron. The original angle iron was bolted to tabs that were welded to the frame. The tabs rusted away along with the old angle. So, not being a welder, I decided to make my own tabs that would bolt onto the frame. I cut some roughly 1.5″ pieces of angle iron, with my reciprocating saw and a metal cutting blade.

A little work at the drill press and I had four of these:


Not bad work for a couple of weekdays.


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