February 24th was our 16th week anniversary on the road, or 113 days today. Let's recap the repairs needed on our Airstream with the reputation of the best quality for a trailer. I read the Airstream forum extensively before embarking and a common thread was that despite the reputation, you can count on finding problems with any and all trailers including Airstream, BUT most of the problems found on Airstreams are minor, easily repaired by non-mechanical owners, and excellently supported by Airstream. The following is my perspective after 4 months of use.
Problems found to date:
Discoloration of bathroom sink – Within days of use, we saw the sink showing blotches of brown streaks. I tried cleaning to no avail. It looked to me as if it were remnants of a substance like glue that was on the sink. It didn't matter. Kathy at our dealer in Nashua ordered and sent us a new one, which I replaced easily enough with just a screwdriver.
The first time I tried to use it I noticed the light switch over the waste dump didn't work (no click or detent when pushed in). Kathy sent me a new one and I change that pretty easily, but I have had electrical experience. You would need to be able to strip wires and use a wire nut. Pretty basic unless you never did it – just need a wire stripper and a pair of needle nose pliers to twist the wires together.
Loose table leg. After only one or two stops I noticed the floor under the table had some small dings in it. I figured out they looked like the shape of the table leg. I then noticed the table leg was loose. Now we had not lowered the table to be in the lounge position in our travels, so the table leg was not being moved by us. The culprit was two loose philips head screws that go from the leg up into the table from underneath. The problem now was that the screws had dropped down into the joint where the leg bends and would not allow access to the screw heads to tighten them back up. Head scratcher for a minute. I ended up taking off the whole metal plate that the leg screws into. From there it was easy to remove the screws, flex the leg, and screw everything back in.
Important lesson that I haven't see covered anywhere. When traveling, especially on interstates, we have come to construction zones such as pavement stripping which causes a “bump ahead” that cannot be avoided. Of course we try to slow as fast and safely as possible, but we have encountered some unexpected bumps that I am sure cause the back end of the trailer to bounce and the table leg – being the one loose item in the trailer, to bounce onto the floor as well. Our immediate solution was to start breaking the table down to the lounge position every time we traveled. This is a pain when you have other things to do on break down, so another option that seems to work is that we take our small throw rug we use for the kitchen and fold it over once to make thicker, and then place it under the table leg. This seems to add just enough pressure to reduce if not eliminate any possible bounce, and if it does bounce, provides a cushion between the leg and the floor. After at least a dozen moves since, we have not seen any more dings in the floor.
Early in our travels I noticed the sub-woofer was bouncing around. That was caused by poor workmanship. There are only two little plastic “L” brackets placed on one corner of the sub that are in turn screwed to the floor. Problem was that one L bracket was screwed into a small edge that made the sub rise up from the floor. To fix, I repositioned the L bracket to a thicker edge of the sub so that the speaker sat flat to the floor. I also moved it slightly toward the center of the trailer.
The initial installation made it pretty much face the back of a drawer. A sub-woofer produces low frequencies which disperse widely and allow it to be place in pretty much any location. In homes you can place them behind or under furniture for example. But the initial location for us could result in a booming effect. In fact, during the re-installation I noticed there were a gain (think volume) and frequency controls on the sub. They were both maxed out which explained the annoying booming every time we listened to anything above a soft volume. I turned the gain down to about ¾ maximum and the booming stopped making the sound considerably better.
There is a round aluminum cover over an electrical cable access point just behind the seat by the door that keeps popping off. After review, I decided that the reason is that the whole was not cut clean or filed clean so as to not allow the cover to seat all the way. I can place it back, but I imagine any bump on the road will cause it to pop off again. There is nothing I can do.
After some weeks on the road I noticed a low spot on the floor between the fridge and the wardrobe. I called Airstream and they said that this is over the electrical conduit and that he had seen this in several trailer and not to worry about it. I am concerned because when I got down on my hands an knees I could see that the floor covering is not touching the sub floor at this area. Airstream said the covering is a single piece and this should not be a concern. I will show this to Airstream in person before the warranty runs out.
A screw holding one of the cushions to the wall has come out with no resolution yet.
The latch holding the bathroom mirror closed fell off after a few weeks on the road. I bought some wood epoxy to fill a stripped screw hole. Once dry I re-drilled and re-mounted the latch – probably better than new. Works great.
One of the maintenance manuals suggests using graphite lube on the locks. Just a week ago – about 15 weeks in – Sandy started saying the main door latch was hard to open. Then I noticed it. Finally it took me two hands to open! I unscrewed the three philips head screws and shot everything that moves with graphite lube, re-attached the latch and it worked as good as new! The improvement was amazing.
Problem made by me (but a better manual would have prevented)! After several nights of cold weather I checked the propane tanks and found that indeed one tank was empty as indicated by the red “flag” on the regulator and had properly switched to the other tank. The Airstream manual instructs you to turn the white knob on the regulator to the now operating tank. I tried. I tried pushing it in. I tried pulling it out. I could not get it to turn. I went back to the manual. It says to turn it. OK, I must be weak. It's a mechanical device – a valve – maybe I need to turn harder. I did and the white knob broke off in my hand. There is a tag on the regulator that is hard to turn and read but looked like a regulatory notice. Now I strained to read the back side. Oh! You turn it counterclockwise. In other words turn it towards the ground to go from left to right. As there were two other Airstreamers camped near me I asked them about it. One said they don't turn the knob and wasn't sure how it worked and the other said he had done the same thing as me. OK Airstream 3 for 3. Need better instructions.
A recurring nuisance (no solution yet), is that the kitchen faucet turns while on the road. Regularly when we started, we would find the faucet completely unwound and lying in the sink. When trying to rethread back on I noticed a great deal of tension from the flexible conduit under the sink. I believe the installer incorrectly connected the conduit to the water source and then twisted the faucet head on. This places a corkscrew like tension on the conduit. To remedy, I disconnected the conduit from the source, then screwed in the faucet head, after which I reconnected the conduit to the water source. This seemed to work fine for many trips, but on our last trip the head had fallen off again. We also see the end of the faucet may fall off during travel and have not found a solution.
Other Lessons Learned
Leveling and doors. True to the manual, the trailer is flexible, and doors respond to the level of the trailer and the amount of pressure placed on the underside of the trailer from the stabilizers pushing against the ground. We had noticed that the bathroom door at one campground did not close very well, and at the next one it closed better. We finally correlated this to the level of the trailer and I now pay even more attention to how I place the stabilizers. As the tech at the dealer told me, I just get them to touch securely and not place too much pressure on the ground.
When leveling, I find the bubble level on the hitch jack is not close to accurate. Using a 12” carpenter's level, going through the trailer nothing seems consistent. I found two things that work pretty well. It may be just on our trailer, but when leveling front to back I find that placing the level on the strip of aluminum molding that runs along the middle sides of the trailer works pretty well. If I see front to back level here, I will get a consistent mix of slightly up or down when I go inside and check other surfaces – floor, table, counter, fridge, etc.
Our verification check for leveling side to side now is to open the microwave drawer. On our first stop we noticed the drawer would slowly slide back in. Now, after I think we're set, we use the microwave test to verify that we are level side to side.
Our last level verification is to open and close the bathroom door. If the trailer is not level, or there is too much torque on one or more of the stabilizers, the door will not close properly. This is also true of the main cabin door, but is usually less noticeable.