I am starting to think about my battery set up. There are a lot of things to think about (absorbent glass mat vs. other materials, amp hours, 12v vs. 6v, etc.), but it’s hard not to think I might just start with a $79 12V Marine/RV Battery from Costco. The cost just can’t be beat and that battery should be 120ah (other deep cycle batteries in that range go for at least $200). I certainly don’t have $1,800 for a multi-6V Trojan set up right now, so why not just spent eighty bucks to “get by” for a while?
You’re not supposed to use “starting” batteries for powering things in your Airstream (you should be using batteries specifically for “deep cycle” use), but for this price, I can’t imagine not going this route, at least for a while. And I believe these are actually engineered for both deep cycle and cranking/starting, so I should be fine.
I know I have lots more to learn about batteries, etc. and I will be doing a lot of research before selecting and installing all the components of my solar array, but for the time being, it just seems like this battery can’t be beat for the price.
Our Airstream came to us with the exterior running lights already wired (a mixed blessing: they don’t look as cool as I’d like, but I didn’t have to do anything with the lights to drive it home). Some (not all) of the lights had been replaced with LED, but the housing on those new LED lights doesn’t have a gasket at the base; rather, it looks like it’s missing a gasket around the base of the light.
Evidently this is how they are supposed to look, but I wish it looked a little more integrated. I’m going to leave them as-is for now (they work and they don’t let water in), but maybe someday I’ll make them a little more “fancy.”
Today I removed, cleaned, and reinstalled a VistaVue Window. Someone had tried to “repair” the leaks in the window with about a gallon of silicon (only a slight exaggeration). Don’t EVER use silicon to “fix” leaks on an Airstream. It looks awful and is impossible to remove if you need to redo the seal. The only place you should use silicone is to adhere weather stripping gasket (around doors, windows, and hatches) and where glass is in direct contact with something (meaning, a window gasket). Instead of using silicone, use a polyurethane caulk. I really like TremPro 635. Parabond comes in a container that’s more like a toothpaste tube, so it might be easier to take with you for mobile repairs.
I drilled out all the bucked rivets, removed the tons and tons of silicon and other adhesives from the resulting hole in the Airstream as well as the window bracket (the aluminum around the glass), then I went the extra step and removed the bracket from the glass and cleaned the gasket that was in between the glass and aluminum frame. Getting the frame off of the glass can be tricky. There are actually metal pins in each channel where the two pieces of the frame come together in the center.
The bottom pins had rusted away completely from water sitting inside the window frame, but the top pins were still there (and very strong). I ended up prying the two frame pieces apart slightly with a chisel, then I cut the two pins with a Dremel cut-off wheel.
These pins will slide in their respective channels (though it’s hard to move them), so I ended up leaving them in place, then pushed them back over to function as they original did once I put the two pieces of aluminum frame back together. One half of each pin will still work even though they are shorter now from being cut. I thought about trying to get the second half of each pin out to use on the other side, but they are in there REALLY tightly and the small channels for the pins in the other side were too badly corroded to accommodate the pins anyway.
I used a brass wire brush (gentler than steel so it doesn’t deep-scratch and ruin the soft aluminum) to clean the big stuff off of the aluminum surfaces of the Airstream body and window frame, then mineral spirits and a rough rag to remove the smaller left over gunk. I used a razor blade to carefully remove silicone from the surface of the glass, then went over the glass with mineral spirits and a rough rag. I also found that if I was gentle I could use super fine (0000) steel wool to help get off the really tenacious stuff without scratching the glass.
I washed the gasket with warm, soapy water.
The gasket had hardened a bit on the lower side (where water and minerals had sat in the frame), but there was only one small split in the actual material, so I decided to reuse the gasket instead of ordering more and having to wait for it to arrive (VTS: 70’s Window Gasket). This also meant the gasket would be a single, continuous piece and already sized for the window so I didn’t need to worry about over stretching the gasket material.
I have read on other blogs that people have forgone the gasket and just set the glass inside the frame after applying liberal amounts of silicone, but I like that I don’t have to worry about the glass touching the metal frame, and the gasket gives it a firmer hold (it is tight in the frame channel).
After washing the gasket thoroughly and cleaning out the window frame channel with a brass wire brush and mineral spirits, I squeezed clear 3M Marine Silicone (purchased at the local big box store) into the gasket and slipped the gasket over the edge of the window glass. I then squeezed a liberal amount of the clear silicone into the two pieces of window frame and slid the two pieces of the aluminum frame over the glass and gasket.
You need to clamp the frame onto the glass while it dries. I used a ratched strap for the long axis, and cheap Harbor Freight grip clamps for the shorter axis.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of clamping the center of the frame too tight and ended up with a slightly “bow tie” shaped window frame; the added bonus here was that the center holes no longer lined up to the skin for riveting. What this means is that the corners of the frame are not snug against the glass, thus you shouldn’t try to make the center of the frame snug against the glass or you will end up with the bow tie like I did.
I solved the problem by using a clamp (reversed) to stretch out the center of the frame and am just crossing my fingers that the seal holds up (I re-siliconed the gaps where the gasket pulled away from the frame, but I’m hoping there was enough silicone in the channel that it wouldn’t have leaked anyway).
Butyl tape (that stuff is GREAT) was placed around the perimeter of the window frame before riveting the window back in place. I am leaving the butyl tape “squished out” for a while so it can shrink and expand in the sun, then I’ll trim it with a utility knife.
Hopefully the leaks are now banished forever! See the complete photo gallery from the job below.
Here are some links to other Airstream renovators who’s posts I’ve found helpful. There’s no way I could do what I’m doing without these people having posted their experiences (and advice). I’ll try to keep adding to this list as I find and use more and more threads/blog.:
- 1956 22′ Safari (InsideOut on Airforums.com)
- 1961 Ambassador
- 1972 31′ Sovereign
- 1972 25′ TradeWind (Olielulu on Airforums)
- 1971 21′ Globetrotter Full Monte (Aerowood on Airforums)
- 1973 25′ Tradewind (Tony S on Airforums)
After installing a brake controller in the tow vehicle and then having the Airstream professionally checked for mechanical integrity, having the bearings packed, and having the electric brakes inspected (turns out they were brand new!), the maiden voyage of the Zeppelin has been completed: 1,200 miles from Indiana to Colorado, with minimal negatives to report.
The biggest “bad” was that I lost one of my 40 pound aluminum vertical propane tanks. Luckily no one was hurt, but it was brand new, full, and the replacements cost $200 (without the fuel). The weird (lucky) thing is that only ONE tank fell out. They were mounted correctly using the t-bar screw down holding system, but the failing point was a weak cotter pin holding the vertical bar in place (in retrospect, we should have used a bolt, perhaps even drilled a larger hole for a stronger cross-bolt, but the existing hole was really tiny, so we used a cotter pin that eventually failed). After a bit of bumping (well… many hundreds of miles), the cotter pin began to bend and slip within the cylinder that holds the vertical support, thus allowing the tanks to rattle free.
I still can’t believe the tank fell in such a way that I didn’t even notice it was gone ’til I stopped for gas. How did it NOT hit the tow vehicle or Airstream?! How did it NOT hit another car (luckily there’s no one on the road in Kansas at 3am)?! How did it not EXPLODE in the absolute dark of the Black Kansas Night in some kind of Jerry Bruckheimer glory?!
At first I thought it must have been stolen by a meth head, but in going over the situation again and again in my mind I realize it was missing as soon as I pulled up to the pump, so there wouldn’t have been enough time for a theft. Good to note though… these things should really be locked down so nobody can snag them. They are pricey in the first place, and the larger 40 pound tanks are “extra-special” to crank heads, who use propane tanks to hold the anhydrous ammonia used in the production of their product.
I’m still not sure what the Airstream weighs sitting empty and gutted as it is (well, filled with parts and pieces but no cabinets, furniture, flooring, etc.), but hooked up directly to the Jeep’s ball hitch and using an electric brake (Tekonsha 90160 Primus IQ), it was pretty easy towing. I averaged around 60-65mph and got nearly 18 mpg (oh, yeah, baby –I love my Liberty CRD!). Late at night when the temperature dropped and the wind started blowing in KS, I could definitely feel the gusts, and I quickly learned how to prepare for passing a big rig or having one pass me, but it wasn’t too bad. Looking forward to seeing how a good WD/Sway Control hitch changes the feel of the tow.
At one gas stop I took the turn too sharp and scraped the side of the AS on a yellow guard pole, but I noticed right away and the damage was minimal (I got most of the paint off the aluminum simply by rubbing it with a rag). It was a good way (not too much damage) to learn the lesson of “PAY ATTENTION EVEN WHEN GOING SLOW” and maneuvering in tight spaces, and the only real pain I suffered was having the hill-billy with the three four wheelers on the trailer behind his pickup look at me with disdain (“How about a toothbrush, there, fella?”).
I also had a bit of overheating going on during the journey. It never reached a point where any alarms went off, but the Jeep was certainly running hotter than normal, and I’m definitely installing the auxiliary transmission cooler I’ve been considering.
It was a little painful having a trip I typically make in under 18 hours take well over 22 (including my initial “stopping at every rest stop to check things out”), but once I’ve got company in the tow vehicle it’s going to be great!
The nastiest thing I have to deal with regarding our already gutted Zeppelin is the interior skins. I’m sure they were pretty nasty to begin with (nicotine build up since 1972 and the adhesive on the back side), but they’ve also been stored on the floor of a barn for quite a while, so they’re covered in goat and chicken sh*t, and the resultant mold and other weird goos, fuzz, and oozy things that have grown on top of that.
Still, I will consider myself lucky to have the panels, as these metal skins are part of the the monocoque design and strengthen the trailer by riveting to the interior of the ribs.
I still haven’t decided if I’ll end up painting the interior side or trying to remove the vinyl covering to reveal the bare aluminum, but first things first, I need to see what’s there and get them cleaned off for the drive home.
At first thought a dishwasher might seem like an “extreme luxury” for an Airstream, but it’s actually a smart move when considering water conservation. Study after study has shown that a dishwasher (especially high efficiency ones like the Bosch in our home kitchen) use far less water than hand washing in the sink. The models I have listed below uses around 3 1/4 gallons for a full load (6 place settings plus whatever else you can Tetris in there).
Not to mention, it stores your dirty dishes (until you’re ready to run the cycle), so you aren’t stacking dirty dishes in the sink (cluttering up your surroundings, preventing you from using the sink, attracting flies, etc.).
I first had the idea of putting a dishwasher in an Airstream when I saw a custom-ordered Fischer and Paykel unit on clearance at Lowe’s. I now really wish I had bought it; I think it was marked down from $1,000 to $200. Since it was designed for home use, it was probably too heavy and power hungry for an Airstream though (I will let these sour grapes console me).
After searching “Airstream Dishwasher” I first learned about the Koldfront PDW60EB via this post:
It’s around $211 in white, another ten bucks in black, and $240-$260 depending on which “brand” in silver (I wonder how close to “stainless” it really looks).
Koldfront, EdgeStar, Midea, SPT (the actual manufacturer?), Sunpentown (old name for SPT, I assume), Danby: judging by the item descriptions on Rakuten (they are pretty much word-for-word), I am assuming these are all “rebranded” versions of the same unit. There are some slight variations in the controls (knobs vs. buttons, number of buttons, digital readout, etc.), but the functionality/specs seem to be the same. The models are things like PDW60W, PDW61W (newer), DDW611WLED, SD-2201W, SD-2202W (newer); the W stands for white in these models; other models use B for black and S for silver. It looks to me like the PDWW61 and SD-2202 are second generation models and they added the ability to delay the start time for up to 8 hours.
The descriptions state that an internal water heater gets the water temperature to 149 degrees Fahrenheit (not very high compared to the Bosch in my house, but still much hotter than hand washing). I am a big fan of the stainless interior (and not just because it matches the Airstream!). The unit also has an automatic rinse agent dispenser, which is nice for keeping your glassware spotless (I plan on serving quite a few cocktails!). These units also have an internal pump for waste water, so you don’t have to rely on gravity.
They are made to simply attach to your kitchen sink faucet and can be removed when not in use, but I plan on “hard wiring” mine to a water and drain line.
Water consumption (normal wash): 3.5 gallons • Input voltage: 120 V/60 Hz • Power: 1160 W/10.7 A • Weight: 48.5 lbs • Dimensions: 17-3/16″ H x 21-11/16″ W x 19-11/16″ D” • Noise level: 55±3dB • Six (6) standard place setting capacity • Includes dish rack, cup shelf, and cutlery basket • Holds plates up to 10.5″ in diameter • Six (6) wash cycles: heavy, normal, light, glass, speed and soak (I’m assuming I would only ever use the “heavy” cycle, but still…)
User reviews state that the heaviest wash takes around an hour and forty five minutes and the “soak” setting is around 10 minutes (the other settings are just variations on time). It’s best to make sure the water is running hot from the tap before starting the unit (so you get the hottest water possible and put less stress on the unit’s internal heater). The biggest complaint seems to be the unit does not dry your dishes, but that seems to be expecting a bit much (the unit won’t do your laundry either). Some people have mentioned just opening the unit’s door slightly right when the cycle is finished and the retained heat of the things being washed will allow everything to dry (though you’ll be venting steam into your living space).
Finally, a little humor from the Airstream forums. This is what GeocamperAS posted regarding Airstream dishwashers:
I have been searching high and low for a RV dishwasher.
Not just any RV dishwasher, but one that meets my criteria.
I finally found one.
It is small so it doesn’t take up much space.
It also uses very little water.
It can be used on electric mode when you have hook-ups.
I can be used on non-electric mode when boondocking.
And even though it is small it can clean the largest pot you have.
I’ve been thinking about using a utility sink (often referred to as a “slop sink” or “mop sink”) for our Airstream’s shower pan. I was at an architectural salvage place last week, and they had a high-end, black kitchen sink. PERFECT. It looks cool. It’s very sturdy. And it’s a single basin with a kind of “step” for dishes that will now be an actual step!
There are two holes (faucet and soap dispenser) that will either get plugged, or maybe I’ll actually run copper pipe through the holes as part of the shower design.
This “designer” sink obviously looks waaaay better than a plastic slop sink, even though it weighs a bit more (though, that comes with being much more durable than thin plastic). I think having a shallower sink (vs. a utility sink) will be better too. It’s still deep enough for a kid to take a bath, but it won’t be such a pain to climb in.
This “Master To Do List” might be a stupid idea (depressing to look at in a couple of years, when I still haven’t installed a sink!), but it’ll help me keep track of ideas and maybe link to the posts covering these topics.
- Have brakes gone over (before hauling from Indiana to Colorado!) DONE! 10-7-15
- Brake Controller for Tow Vehicle DONE! 10-8-15
- Purchase/install Weight Distribution Hitch (EAZ-Lift? Reese WD Hitch? Husky HD? –Hensley would be great, but it’s just way too pricey for where we are in life)
- Inspect and repair exterior skin leaks DONE! 11-15-15
- Fix Vista Vue Window Leak DONE! 11-5-15
- Clean and coat underside before installing wires/tanks/plumbing and belly pan
- Belly Pan
- Exterior Shower
- Door Lock and Deadbolt
- Microwave/Convection Oven
- Kitchen Sink and Faucets
- Bathroom Sink and Faucets
- Retractable Dining Table (converts banquette to bed)
- Bunk Over Banquette
- Water Heater
- Water Filter
- Waste Tanks
- Fresh Water Tanks
- Interior Skin
- New Rims