Upgrading Speakers while Retaining the Original Trim (Speaker Housing)

I’ve been using a portable Bluetooth speaker in the Airstream, but with as much time as I’m spending in there these days, it’s time for something a little more “serious.”  The 5.25″ speakers from 1972 are unlistenable, and I really wanted to keep the original trim (the speaker covers), so I hopped online to  research car speakers that would work.  I didn’t need anything “crazy,” and was happy to find a set of Infinity car speakers (REF-5022cfx) with great reviews for $50.

When they arrived, I placed them in the original speaker housing, and while the diameter was a perfect fit, the “tweeter” portion of the speaker protruded too far from the “woofer” portion, and thus pressed up against the grill of the housing.  This was a pretty easy fix, but it did take a little while to scavenge the perfect objects to use for stand-offs/spacers (rubber grommets).  I tried both plastic and rubber, and rubber was definitely the way to go.  Not only does it have some give, but it also helps reduce vibration between the speaker and housing.  I also ended up using rubber washers to replace the original nuts that hold the speakers in place.

The new speakers were already quite a bit deeper than the originals (larger magnets, deeper cone, additional tweeter component, etc.), so I knew I would need to cut away quite a bit of the insulation behind the speaker housing to accommodate the new speaker depth.  I cut away the existing 1.5 inches of polyiso insulation, then TremPro’d a 1/2″ sheet of polyiso panel to the exterior skin behind the speaker hole and sealed everything back up with 3M foil tape to make sure there wouldn’t be any drafts from behind the speaker grates.

Because all this insulation is foil-faced, and since I used foil tape to seal everything up, I made sure to cover the posts on the speaker with electric tape so there wouldn’t be any metal-on-metal contact.

Before placing the speakers back in the wall, I hooked them up to take a listen, and was extremely disappointed by the thin sound, especially since so many of the reviews specifically commented on how great the bass was for these 5.25″ speakers.   I realized that actually placing them on/in the wall would increase surface area and create more vibration and reflection, but I didn’t realize just *how* much of a difference placement would make.  They actually sound great!

So now I have permanent front speakers that I can use with my temporary audio set up (a 12v powered Bluetooth receiver/amp that I feed with either my phone or the television) until I decide what I will be using for the whole-house media system.  (More on that in a future post!)

 

Bookmarked Airstream Articles and Information

Just some links I’ve found useful…

 

Boondocking

http://wbccicaravan.wbcci.net/boondocking-with-your-airstream/

 

Plumbing

http://vintageairstream.com/plumbing/

https://www.trekwithus.com/the-complete-guide-to-rv-water-filtration/

 

Propane Lines and Quick Connects

http://www.introductiontoeverything.com/2017/03/connecting-my-lp-generator-to-my-rvs-lp-port/

 

Tripping

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/campsite-pics-174884.html

Dinette Table Base

I am always baffled when I see Airstream interiors with a couch or two chairs under the panoramic window.  What a waste of space!  The dinette with seating that wraps around a table is obviously the way to go, so one can maximize on seating, have a decent table at which to eat, and also to collapse into an extra bed. Not to mention all the extra storage in the dinette bench seats!

However, I can’t believe how hard it is to find a decent telescoping base for a dinette table!

Most of the choices come from yacht outfitters, and are thus astronomically priced.  The few “RV Specific” bases I have found seem to be poorly reviewed as a result of being poorly constructed (weak materials that lead to wobbling and bending).  The two companies that come up most often in a search for RV dinette/table bases are Springfield and Garelick.  The products from each company look to be fairly similar, but for what it’s worth, the reviews for the Springfield products are much better than those for the Garelick.  This means that either the Springfield bases are a superior product, or Springfield has a better social media and internet team.

Through Deck vs. Surface Mount

Since I’m rebuilding from scratch, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue for me, but it definitely does lock you in to the position you originally install (since it telescopes through a permanent hole in the floor, and sticks out into the belly pan area).  I think most people will want a surface mount base, and since there isn’t much difference in availability between surface mount and through-deck, I’m just going to stick with surface mount (which is ultimately an easier install anyway).

The surface mount, telescoping pedestal base that seems most solid, best reviewed, and within price range (though still more expensive than I would expect at around $400) is the Springfield 12″ – 28″ Anodized Air-Powered 3-Stage Table Pedestal.  There are three slight variations that included differences in lift range and finish materials, but this one has the lowest price (by about 40 bucks) and the highest reviews.  It’s also conspicuously similar to the base pictured in the Airstream brochure photo above, so there’s that.

Another interesting and slightly less expensive (around $250) option from Springfield is the lever lift Springfield Marine 1660203 Polished Aluminum 12-25 Inch Adjustable Hinged Boat Table Pedestal, though it’s quite a bit bulkier, and I see lots of opportunity for pinched (or even lost!) fingers.

Penguine Eng LTD looks great and has a lot of selection, but it’s in Great Britain, so there’s VAT and shipping on top of already “luxury” pricing.

Motorized Pedestals

Motorized is great for the “wow” factor, but my philosophy is, “The more you motorize things, the more opportunity there is for mechanical failure.”  If you can make something function well without sacrificing ease of use, that is the way to go.  Can gas/air systems fail?  Of course.  Will they fail as often as something that uses electricity, plastic gears, wires and solder, etc.?  Nope.  If gas/air makes it easy to lift/lower a table (vs. a completely manual system which is difficult to slide up and down and lock in place) while minimizing the chance of mechanical failure, then for me, a gas/air lift telescoping base is the superior choice.

 

Have you found something else that you like or think works better?  Leave a comment and let everyone know!

My Homemade English Wheel

What started as a joke has become an indispensable piece of equipment.

I had been stalled for months with completing the belly pan, which meant I also could not attach the lower interior skins, since the C Channel on the floor/deck must be exposed in order to buck rivet the belly wraps to the Airstream properly (buck riveting requires access to both sides of the thing being riveted).

The original banana wraps (the curved pieces that go at all four corners of the belly) were extremely beat up.  I had a lot of trouble finding new ones, as I didn’t want to use the black plastic ABS banana wraps that are now being utilized on new-build Airstreams.

I made several attempts at smoothing out the original banana wraps with rollers, sandbags and hammers, etc., but nothing was making them look like they needed to.  I started researching English wheels to shape sheet metal, but they are incredibly expensive.

The aluminum banana wraps are quite soft (which is a huge part of why they are so banged up), so I knew I didn’t need a “proper” English wheel used to shape and form steel.  Thus, I started thinking about what I had lying around that might work in a similar way.

I have these huge, ancient casters that came from my grandfather’s farm.  I always thought they’d end up going on an industrial style coffee table or cart, but I realized they would be great for flattening aluminum.  As a bonus, they are made from really hard rubber, so they don’t cause creases or dents at the edge of the wheels like hard metal might.  I had an extra vice laying around, so I cobbled together this contraption:

It worked!  And while it wasn’t perfect, I was able to get the job done.

For this job, I placed the weights in the following picture over the wheels to get the pressure I needed, but a second vice on the opposite side of the current one will obviously be a more elegant solution.

 

Things I Learned on Roadtrip #2

I keep taking The Ghost of Ohio out well before she’s ready.  Some would say I’m a glutton for punishment, but I think you “learn things better” when you experience them first hand.  Traveling with an Airstream that is under renovation, though it’s not the most luxurious situation, contributes greatly to improvements in design, layout, use, and materials.

The first road trip (at least the end of it) was a pretty miserable failure.  My kid will always have fond memories of breaking down in the middle of nowhere and being stranded for a week, and he swears that Worland, WY is his favorite place on the planet, but there’s no denying that the end of that trip (post breakdown and what it led to), was one of the worst experiences of my life …and that’s saying something.

So here I am on the second “case study” road trip.  Just me and my 5-year-old driving from Denver to Northwest Ohio.

Use your tire covers (especially when your Airstream is sitting for extended periods).

Tire blow out.  Likely the result of UV damage (covered-side tires were far less deteriorated).  I quickly learned that it is difficult to find trailer tires while on the road, and most places simply will not put anything but an ST (trailer rated) tire on a rim meant for a trailer (liability).

Luckily we had a good spare, but that also reminded me how important it is to check your spare before you leave on a trip!

Having things fastened down and contained is key.

We don’t have cabinets or permanent seating (with storage) yet, so currently everything is in bins (or loose). Even things that seemed like they would never move or slide were all over the place.  Every time we stopped, it was an adventure (and a pain) getting everything back to where we could make sense of and access our stuff.  If it’s an option, even just screwing a 2×4 to the subfloor to create a rail to keep bins from sliding is a good idea when traveling while you’re under construction.

Space to move around is a major consideration.

While it’s fun figuring out just how tightly you can cram everything into a space (Tetris-ing seems like the most efficient way to organize and store your stuff), using the Airstream with all that stuff crammed in there makes me realize how important negative space really is.  After visiting my parents, we also took on extra cargo that contributed to the issue.  Trying to move around while living became a nightmare.  This is a good lesson to learn and will definitely contribute to future layout design.

Be judicious with your preparations.

I have a problem.  I am waaaay too concerned with making sure I’m “prepared.” And to me, prepared means over-prepared, usually to the detriment of getting on the road in a timely fashion.  I also enjoy figuring out how to make my tool collection most efficient for any and all possible situations, but I’m still taking way too many tools.  Take tools that are good for emergencies and can do double-duty, but don’t waste time, space, and weight with tools for a “project” that you might undertake while on the road.  In fact, make your life so much easier and your trip so much more enjoyable by NOT doing ANY of your resto/reno projects while on the road.

A brake controller is a nice thing to have.

I realize now that I had no brake controller all the way from Denver to Indiana.  On the upside, it means the tow vehicle can handle braking with the Airstream if the controller or trailer brakes fail.  On the downside, it certainly wasn’t ideal as far as safety goes, and I’m sure I need new brake pads now.  Be sure you are familiar with your controller and how it works before you head out on the road, so you aren’t figuring out what things mean and how things work while you’re towing.  My controller looked to me like it was doing its job, but I realize now that it wasn’t hooked up properly.

Hensley Hitch Issues (know how your hitch works and travel with spare parts if you can!)

The safety chains go BETWEEN the leveling bars.  I went back and forth on this when hooking up the trailer, and I should have just taken the time to consult the manual.  It seemed like the chain would be in the way of the bars if “threaded” through the middle, so I laid them on the outside of the leveling bars.  Big mistake.  On the return trip, I actually bent one of the struts to nearly a 90 degree angle.  The struts also pinched and dented the head (the part that holds the ball hitch).

I spent almost a whole day trying to find parts to make the hitch work for the return home, but finally just threw in the towel and ended up rolling with the Airstream attached straight to the ball (Hensley Hitch removed).

Additionally, and even though I actually did take time to think about it and try different routing paths, be sure your trailer electrical connector doesn’t get pinched by the hitch.  My cord was pinched at some point (though I’m still not sure how), cutting several of the wires.  I lost my running lights; luckily the brake and turn signal wires weren’t damaged, and those things continued to function.

Materials and routing are important things to consider.

Aluminum conduit (obviously) conducts heat, and the back of your 3-way fridge gets INSANELY hot!  I had a temporary 12v line run up the wall, and it shifted and lay across the refer cooling coil.  I’m surprised it didn’t melt anything (including the wires inside).  I grabbed the conduit to move it, and it burned me good enough to blister. Idiot.  [update: I have since had a similar issue where the conduit fell across the coil again (not my fault!) and the wires inside did actually melt and blew a fuse]

Pay attention to the message other drivers are trying to convey to you!

While driving, the rear side hatch blew off (not really sure how, most likely didn’t get shut and latched properly).  When someone drives by waiving their arms wildly, sometimes they are just admiring your awesome Airstream.  However, more often than not, they are letting you know that something is flopping around or that you’ve lost something (and hopefully it didn’t hit their vehicle).

The biggest fridge isn’t always the bestest fridge.

I tried out a larger fridge on this trip, and I didn’t have it hooked up to propane.  While it’s nice having that extra space, if you are going for significant amounts of time without being able to power the refrigerator (in my case, being able to plug into 120v), you will have problems keeping things cold.  Not only will the larger fridge lose it’s cool faster than a smaller one, but it also takes longer to get it back to cool.  A smaller fridge is easier to use like a cooler (placing ice packs in it to keep it cool).  Just something to consider when deciding on fridge size.

Carry plenty of hand sanitizer and wet wipes (especially if the plumbing isn’t hooked up yet!).

Even if you have plenty of bottled water or jugs, it isn’t always convenient to haul them outside just to wipe your hands.  Wipes and sanitizer are SO much more convenient when you’re on the go (literally and figuratively).  I have also since learned that a pump container of Gojo (pumice hand cleaner) and a good rag is really nice to have if you are continually working on things covered in grease, diesel exhaust, etc.

There are armadillos in Missouri!  Lots of them.

Unfortunately, the ones we saw were all dead and lying on the side of the road.  My five-year-old and I are also convinced we saw a dead platypus (duck bill and beaver tail, no question!).  Yes, I know they only live in Tasmania and a little bit of Australia’s southern coast, but we saw one (shut up), so it must have escaped from a zoo.

Trucks have all kinds of weird diesel pumps these days.  You are not always allowed to use them.

I actually came across a station that advertised diesel, but would not sell me diesel (because I didn’t have a semi-truck). It was incredibly frustrating, especially when running on fumes.

BAL Stabilizer Jacks for Leveling Airstream

When you park your Airstream, it’s rarely on perfectly level ground.  Chocks and blocks of wood or rubber under and around the wheels can help even things out and keep the trailer from moving, but stabilizer jacks are best for keeping your home on wheels from wobbling all over the place while you walk around inside.

The Airstream part number for the original jacks is 400093-A, and the manufacturer’s number for the replacements (which are pretty much identical) is 20-8-T.

You can weld the jacks to the frame, but it’s much easier (and equally effective) to simply bolt each jack to the frame of the Airstream (be sure to bolt to the appropriate cross members).  I used self-threading bolts and drove them directly through each jack’s 1/4″ holes and into the Airstream frame.  The bolts are really only holding the jacks to the frame; once opened, the jacks stay in place because the weight of the trailer is bearing down upon them (gravity!).

You will want to be sure you are getting jacks with the extended operating arm, as it protrudes farther to the edge of the trailer than the “normal” operating arm.  If you have the shorter arm, you will have to crawl under your Airstream every time you need to extend the jack.  The operating arm is turned by a crank, but I plan on keeping a socket in my Airstream toolkit so I can operate the jack with my drill (manual cranking is for chumps).

installing stabilizers

installing stabilizers (they are on blocks because the entire Airstream is currently lifted for working on the tanks and bellypan)

20151208_110345

I have heard many tales of people forgetting to crank up their jacks when they leave a site.  As you can imagine, this could cause some pretty serious damage to your trailer’s underside, not to mention destruction of the jacks themselves.

Also, NEVER use your jacks to lift the trailer.  They are rated for 2,000#’s (static load) each, but they are NOT meant to lift your Airstream off the ground.

Manual:
Deluxe BAL “T” Type Stabilizing Jack (20-8-T) mounting and operation manual via Norco Industries
http://norcoind.com/bal/downloads/manuals/T-Type%20Stabilizing%20Jack%20%2820-8-T%29.pdf

Purchasing options:
http://www.vintagetrailersupply.com/BAL_Deluxe_Stabilizing_Jack_p/vts-739.htm

http://odmrv.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=369

Discussion:
http://www.airforums.com/forums/f43/bal-stabilizer-jacks-7640.html

Master To Do List

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
  • Insulation
  • Belly Pan
  • Layout
  • Toilet
  • Shower
  • Exterior Shower
  • Door Lock and Deadbolt
  • Refrigerator
  • Range/Cooktop
  • Microwave/Convection Oven
  • Kitchen Sink and Faucets
  • Bathroom Sink and Faucets
  • Lighting
  • Retractable Dining Table (converts banquette to bed)
  • Bunk Over Banquette
  • Speakers
  • A/C
  • Heater
  • Water Heater
  • Water Filter
  • Waste Tanks
  • Fresh Water Tanks
  • Interior Skin
  • Floor
  • New Rims

The Wishlist (Purchasing Plans)

This is some of the fun stuff we’ll need to buy (not necessarily a “to do” list, just some of the things that will make this Airstream extra cool).

Inside

  • Dishwasher (this will actually SAVE water)
  • Washer/Dryer Combo (?eventually?)
  • Full (-ish   …yes, I realize that sounds an awful lot like “foolish”) Size Fridge (?eventually?)
  • 4/5 Burner Range (I will be doing some serious cooking in this thing!)
  • Microwave/Convection Oven
  • Tankless Water Heater (for those long showers when we’re hooked up to city water!)
  • Point of Use Water Heater for Kitchen
  • Composting Toilet (still trying to make sure this is what we want)
  • Component rack for computer and speaker amplifier 

Outside

  • Awning
  • Solar Panels
  • Exterior Shower (no hunching over when it’s warm outside!)
  • A/C (possibly a split?)
  • Front Window Rock guard (why do I think these look SO COOL?!)