After reading Rich’s new book – Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, our guess is that a lot of folks will say, “I wish this had come out sooner.” The good thing is, it’s out now, and newbies as well as long-time Airstream travelers will find useful tips and hints on how to keep your Airstream in good condition. Also, props to fellow Chicagoan Brad Cornelius for the illustrations!
When we bought our first Airstream in 2009, we had no idea what we were doing (but to be fair, we still don’t know what we’re doing). We bought used and while we tried to do all our homework before purchasing, we missed some things — nothing too big, but back then it would’ve helped to have a more extensive list of things to look for, and catching problems at the time definitely would’ve saved us some money in the long run. Right off the bat, we think that Rich’s chapter on Learning to Inspect can help both current owners and future buyers to do better inspections of their own Airstreams, and any used models they might be checking out.
Making our way through the book, we found chapters on Plumbing (thankfully we haven’t had any problems there), Aluminum Body Repair (oh, that crash in ’09), Electrical, Propane Systems (what’s that smell?) and all the appliances — just to name a few. The chapters are then broken down into subcategories — with some topics addressing vintage models as well.
The information is clearly organized with simple basics — for example, getting on the roof (which can go badly if you do it wrong), how to replace rivets, and how to winterize. The broad categories are then broken down to specifics like how to remove and replace sealant (along with a list of tools needed to do so), how to determine the exact age of your tires, and detailed instructions on how to check for propane leaks.
Overall we found 216 pages of useful info — even if all of it isn’t useful to you right now, it will be at some point, like when you need to figure out how to get to your spare (pg. 124) or replace your lights with LEDs (pg. 171).
We think this book could also help you save money on repairs. We had a problem a few years ago that required a mobile repair service tech to come to the park, which cost a fortune. The problem was a very quick fix, and one we could’ve done ourselves if we had known what to look for. Our water heater ignition wire was cracked — it’s one of the things Rich suggests looking for in the chapter Water heater, subchapter Inspecting the gas orifice, ignitor, and gas valve. That’s $100 back in our pocket.
For me, this book also provided great suggestions for preventative maintenance which I never thought of, and frankly, never do. For example, I have never lubricated the awning arms, I have never checked my smoke detector to see if it’s expired and I have never cleaned and lubricated my Fan-Tastic fan screens (in 5 years!). But I will now, and it will probably save us some heartache down the road.
Back in 2009, we also relied on the kindness of strangers when it came to having the right tools. We’d meet people on the road, ask them questions and take photos of things they recommended we have. This wasn’t the most comprehensive way of doing it, and we always were missing something, or didn’t have the right tool for our model. Rich put in a Tool Kit list which is great for those of you wondering if you have everything you need. I was also excited to see instructions on how to recalibrate the tank monitor. You know yours doesn’t read correctly!
As we all know in the Airstream community, everyone has their own idea of what works and what doesn’t (one look on Airforums will undoubtedly provide 10 different answers to the same question). Rich’s book isn’t a fix-it guide, it’s a maintenance guide. He’s not telling you how to repair, he’s guiding you along so hopefully you won’t have the breakdown in the first place. Because do you want to be here:
with no internet and realize you don’t have a clue how to get to your spare and replace your flat tire? (Note: this is my biggest fear after running out of gas.)
Maybe some of you who’ve remodeled numerous Airstreams yourselves might be familiar with a lot of the info already, but for people like us, even after having lived in ours for a few years, we found some useful tips that will hopefully keep our Airstream running well for the long haul.