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Keeping the Airstream happy

For the past few days there has been a mysterious drip under the Airstream’s water heater.   At first I thought we just had a bit of condensation, but when it didn’t go away I realized we had a leak.   I’m sure you can see the irony of this coming on the heels of yesterday’s post about all the leaks in the house.

The leak itself was simple to fix, fortunately.   Water was seeping past the nylon drain plug.   I simply turned off the heater, shut off the water, and removed the plug (thus dumping 6 gallons of warm water, which I collected in a bucket).   Then I cleaned the mineral deposits out of the plug’s threads, wrapped it in Teflon pipe thread tape, and reinstalled it.   Problem solved.

But why did it leak in the first place?   Our Airstream has bumped over some pretty brutal roads in the past two years, and it never leaked.   Why is it that just sitting here in the driveway the water heater drain plug suddenly starts to drip?

I think the Airstream is telling us that we need to use it or lose it.   A sedentary life of sitting in the driveway doesn’t suit it.   The poor thing probably thinks it has been retired, like a greyhound after a few years of chasing rabbits at the race track.   The longer it sits, the more the little things may start to dry out, crack, discolor, squeak, and settle.

You may think I’m joking but really, these trailers are happier when moving.   They’re like people: a little exercise is good for them.   The motion of the wheels moving over the road helps keep the tire rubber and the rubber cords in the axle supple and strong.   Regular use of the air conditioner and refrigerator help them stave off early death from internal rust.   Gaskets on windows, doors, and even the toilet’s seal will all dry out if ignored; regular use makes it obvious when things need attending to.

When we are in the trailer and using it daily, we take care of it daily.   That may be a function of full-timing rather than the usual mode of vacation getaways.   I’m sure when most people are out in their RVs their mind is on escaping work, rather than servicing the rig.   We’re more accustomed to fixing things as we go, because up till now there hasn’t been any other opportunity.

However, we may have a chance to get some things done later this month, before we head out again.   My short-term “fix list” looks like this:

  • repair non-working heat pump (and possibly A/C)
  • replace bumper compartment cover and misc trim (damaged last month)


My longer-term list contains these items:

  • implement a solution for the problem of the front storage compartment leaking when towing in the rain.   We have several ideas but haven’t decided which path to take.
  • install the catalytic heater
  • install the replacement Fantastic Vent motor/control board. The one in our front bedroom has a problem which causes the motor to “surge” but Fantastic Vent sent me a replacement unit.
  • repaint A-frame — it is getting a little rusty.
  • unbend and repaint the rear scrapers (which are now U-shaped thanks to a gas station in CA)

And my “wish list” is:

  • add an external connection for a satellite Internet dish, which I have purchased but not yet activated (for travel in remote places)
  • install a second Vista View window in the front bedroom
  • upgrade the power converter to an Intellipower (for faster 3-stage charging)

My plan is to take care of the short-term list before we go, or along the route, because the heat pump will only be under warranty for another few weeks.   The rest can wait until we get to one of our favorite Airstream repair people — or to one of our handy friends in Florida, if we can recruit them.

Although the lists above may seem long, they are absolutely nothing compared to the lists we’ve been making of things to do for the house.   An Airstream is much easier to care for than a house, and much less expensive.   I’m rather impressed that with all the use we’ve put ours through, it needs relatively little to keep going down the road in good condition.

Preparing lists like this for the house can be depressing (all that money!) but in the context of the Airstream it is actually a little inspiring.   Planning upgrades and repairs means travel is on the   horizon.     And travel is our Airstream’s exercise plan.   When it moves, it’s happy, and when it’s happy, I’m happy too.

3 Responses to “Keeping the Airstream happy”

  1. Carol Says:

    One modification that Brad always makes is to replace the water heater’s nylon drain plug with an adapter and brass petcock to facilitate draining the tank each winter, and a tube could also be used to direct water away from the Airstream. Camco makes the kit.

  2. George Deitz Says:


    You need to replace the nylon plug with a sacrificial anode rod in the water heater. This will keep it from corroding.

  3. terry Says:

    Rich, if you can wait till you get to Florida, I think you can recruit some help for a lot of the repairs on your list.

  4. ปั้มไลค์ Says:

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