Resealing our Airstream plumbing vent

Last month,  I posted about our annual “Wash, wax and treat II” job and mentioned that I used a ladder to wash and wax the roof of our 2007 Airstream Safari trailer, while inspecting the roof seals for any signs of deterioration.  Five years ago, I resealed the Fan-Tastic Fan and bathroom air vent seals.  This time around, the plumbing vent pipe seal was cracking and in obvious need of repair.

DSC_0056 Cracked plumbing vent seal

This job needed to be done before the beginning of our fall-winter-spring camping season, so I consulted Rich Luhr’s The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, and read that Sikaflex 221 is a good general multi-purpose sealant, especially for roof work such as around vents.  I was reminded that the shelf-life of sealant is relatively short (12 months from the date of manufacture), and of course, my old tube of sealant had solidified.

Airstream Life's Maintenance Guide p

I ordered a new tube of Sikaflex-221 Multi-Purpose Polyurethane Sealant/Adhesive from Amazon and once it arrived, I checked its expiration date (12 May 2016) and gathered my tools: a caulk gun, plastic scraper, isopropyl alcohol (see note below) and…

DSC_0166 Resealing tools

a sturdy ladder (Little Giant*).

DSC_0157 Removing old sealantPlease note that this time inquiring readers should feel relieved that I am standing on the second step from the top and not the first, per the American Ladder Institute.*

Our plumbing vent is near the trailer’s edge, but if I needed to get up on the roof, I would review Colonial Airstream’s video and maintenance tips, “How to climb onto a roof of an Airstream Travel Trailer.”*


I used a plastic scraper (putty knife) to remove the old sealant that was softened with isopropyl alcohol.

(Note: alcohol can prevent the polyurethane in Sikaflex from properly curing, so care must be taken to remove any traces of alcohol by washing, rinsing and drying the prepared surface before applying Sikaflex.)


DSC_0170 Cracked sealant removed

The flange of the Ventline plumbing vent was intact (no cracks adjacent to screws) and new sealant was applied with the caulk gun* and smoothed by my finger.

DSC_0174 Sikaflex 221 Sealant

Now it’s time to get on the road again!*

*Note this is a link to a YouTube video.

F-250 dual battery change

Some people have said a 3/4 ton truck is overkill when towing an Airstream trailer, but I am very happy that we chose a 2006 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×2 Crew Cab diesel truck when we purchased our 2007 23′ Airstream Safari trailer nine years ago, especially every time we travel from near sea level to 5,000 feet elevation over the often windy mountains to our favorite campground in the desert.  It gives us a great sense of confidence, security, and peace of mind under the stars.

DSC_0057 F-250 & Airstream trailer

The truck has been virtually trouble free and only needing the routine scheduled items listed in my service manual, and the routine tire and battery changes.  This truck requires two 12-volt batteries to turn over the diesel engine and my original batteries lasted 5 years before dying.  In 2011, I replaced these batteries with Costco’s Kirkland Signature batteries, 65-850, which had a 100-month limited, prorated warranty.  I was hoping that these batteries would also last 5 years, but a few weeks ago, I noticed that the engine was slow to start.  I first thought this was due to old fuel sitting over the summer (our off-season for camping).  But reality set in when it would not start in a parking lot last week and required AAA to do a jump-start!

I returned to our local Costco and bought two new batteries.  The battery brand, Interstate, has now replaced the Kirkland Signature brand, but both are made by the same company, Johnson Controls.  For the new batteries, Costco now provides a non-prorated, 42-month warranty.  My new Interstate batteries cost $89.99 + battery core charge (deposit) of $15 each.

I returned my Kirkland Signature batteries to Costco and since my $85.99-batteries lasted 50 months, Costco gave me 50% back (credited to my credit card), along with the battery core charges.

Changing my batteries was relatively easy (since I took notes last time and am now documenting them here for future use, but note that the steps below are how I went about changing my batteries and are not intended to tell others how to change their batteries).  As a refresher, I viewed “How to replace dual batteries on a Ford F-series diesel“.*

DSC_0150 F250 6

DSC_0154 Interstate 65-850 battery

Our F-250 diesel truck requires two 65-850 batteries (65 is the group size and 850 is the cold cranking amps (CCA).  On the top of the battery is a sticker indicating the manufacturing date (10/15) and a label to scratch/mark the installation date.

First I assembled my tools: 5/16″ hand wrench and a 8 mm socket with wrench extender. Then (and most importantly), I disconnected the black, negative (ground) cables first from both batteries (the clamp nut is loosened and the clamp is worked back and forth while pulling up).

DSC_0151 Disconnect black:negative cable 1st

Important: only after the black, negative cables are disconnected, did I disconnect the red, positive cables!  Then I unsnapped the street-side battery cover by pushing in the tabs on each lower side while raising the cover off.

DSC_0152 Driver's side battery & cover

A 8-mm socket wrench and extender were then used to remove the bolt and clamp holding the battery in place and the batteries were removed. The battery tray was inspected and cleaned (of dust and sand) and the new batteries placed and secured with the clamps and bolts.  The street-side battery cover was re-secured. The cables were then attached in the reverse order of how they were removed.  The red, positive cables were connected first, followed by the black, negative cables. I was careful not to over-tighten any of the nuts.

So now our Ford truck is a perfect fit and should be good to go (for at least another 4 years), and I guess you could say, “I’m a Ford truck man!“*

HPIM2824 Ford truck man

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Wash, wax and treat II

This week I completed our annual wash, wax, and treat (filiform) chores on our 2007 23′ Airstream trailer prior to the beginning of our fall-winter-spring camping season in our wonderful coast, mountain and desert parks in San Diego County.  Rich Luhr, in his newly published book, The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance, says, “Most of the maintenance associated with the aluminum body and clear coat is simple cleaning.”  This guidebook includes pertinent “Exterior Cleaning and Appearance” and “Filiform corrosion” sections.

My blog’s web site stats show that my post “Filiform corrosion” gets the most interest and views, which is understandable because many people would like to know how to protect their Airstream trailer.  Modern Airstream trailers*, such as ours, have an exterior body of clear coated aluminum sheets that can corrode beginning at the cut edges and rivet holes.  Using tools and techniques, such as some of those seen or listed below, I have stopped most filiform and protected our Airstream for the past eight years.  Can you spot the filiform in the image below?

DSC_0113 Wash, wax & treat tools

Yes, it is on right side.  Air, water and salts can corrode exposed aluminum and travel as filiform threads under the clear coat finish.  (Other white areas shown below are from protective sealant residue.)  This filiform has not progressed since 2008 when we started treating with Boeshield T-9* (seen and listed below).

DSC_0118 Filiform close-up 2015

Important general note:  This article is my report on how I went about washing, waxing and treating my trailer.  It is not intended to tell readers how to wash, wax, and treat their own trailers.

Important safety note:  Even though I am seen (in a photo below) standing on the first ladder step from the top, be advised that there are a warnings on the ladder such as: “CAUTION: DO NOT STAND ABOVE 2ND STEP FROM TOP… YOU CAN LOSE YOUR BALANCE” and “DO NOT OVER-REACH.”

My tools:

Sun protection for my skin: wide brim hat (except for photo shoot), long sleeve white shirt, long pants, sunglasses, shoes (rubber soles for safety) and sunscreen (Think sport SPF 50+, recommended by EWG).

50-foot garden water hose, 6-foot step ladder, 5-gallon pail, Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash (label states, it “removes loose dirt and contaminants without stripping wax protection… Dish washing detergents strip wax protection”), extendable car wash brush, vinegar & water (to remove hard water spots), Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Sealant, Long Lasting Protection #20, (label states, “A unique blend of polymers, resins, silicones and imported waxes… safe for clear coats.”), extendable wax applicator (I used my crutch), cloth-covered waxing sponge, two hand buffing mitts, detergent & water (to clean waxing tools), Boeshield T-9 (label states, “… a combination of solvents, lubricants, and waxes designed for penetration, moisture displacement, lubrication, and protection.”), soda, and a cooler.

DSC_0055 Boeshield T-9

My strategy: Wash one day and wax the next day to not overwork my 68-year-old muscles and joints.

My procedure: I pulled out about 50 feet of water hose and hosed off dirt from the trailer top and sides while standing on the ladder.  I then put 4 fl. oz. of Meguiar’s Car Wash and 4 gallons of warm water into a pail.  I raised the TV antenna and scrubbed the trailer top, including the solar panels and AC shroud, using an extendable car wash brush while standing on the ladder (This also gave me an opportunity to inspect the integrity of  the topside seals.)

DSC_0050 Scrubbing top to bottom

The rest of the trailer was washed from the ground and I removed yellow insect stains with my thumbnail. The trailer was then rinsed off and hard water spots were removed with a chamois moistened in a pail holding 2 1/2 gallons of water and 4 fl. oz. of vinegar.

The next day I sprayed Boeshield T-9* to appropriate areas of filiform (It dries quickly.)  I topped off my 16 fl. oz. squeeze bottle of Meguiar’s Professional Sealant from my reserve 64 fl. oz. jug (About 12 fl. oz. covers our trailer.)  The sealant was applied to the trailer top and AC shroud (I believe it extends the life of the shroud) with an extended wax applicator, while standing on a ladder.  I used a sponge wax applicator to apply the sealant to the metal awning cover and the rest of the trailer.  The dried white residue was easily removed from the top with an extendable wax-buffing tool and from the sides by using a buffing mitt on each hand.  Wax applicators and buffing tools were then washed with a laundry detergent, rinsed, and hung to dry.

DSC_0046 Meguiar's wash & wax products

 The benefits:  From my experience, this sealant will last at least a year and the trailer will only need an occasional rinsing or light washing, especially after camping at the beach (to remove salt deposits), and the trailer will be protected.

So now I’m a happy camper and ready to be ridin’ with…

DSC_0068 Ridin with..


*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Propane gas leak and summer reading

(Updated September 6, 2015)

Last April, while doing our routine prep week chores before a camping trip, I lifted the propane tank cover to see if the gas regulator showed green (indicating that my active tank had propane) and I noticed the faint smell of propane.  I know that the first places to look for gas leaks in this area are the pigtail hoses that connect the tanks to the regulator, especially at the connection points.  These thermoplastic hoses become hard and stiff and often develop small leaks after a few years.  To find the leak, I used a small spray bottle filled with soapy water using liquid dish soap and spritzed the hoses and connections. (See Airstream Life‘s video, Detecting a propane leak.*)

DSC_0454 Propane pigtail hose leak

The leak was revealed by profuse bubbling at the QCC ACME Type 1 (green) fitting that connects the hose to the tank.  Since our OEM hoses were eight years old, I decided to replace them both.  The trick was to find the correct replacement hoses. Our OEM hoses were Model A4 made by Marshall Gas Controls in 2006.  Propane pigtail hoses are available in different sizes and with different fittings at the regulator end, such as male inverted flare and male pipe thread fittings (See The RV Doctor article, “Propane Pigtails Needed.”)  Our OEM regulator (Marshall Automatic Regulator, Model 250) accepts a 1/4 inch MNPT (Male National Pipe Thread) fitting.  I found that the easiest and best way to find my correct replacement pigtail hose (and not have to buy an adapter) was to take my OEM hose to our local RV supply store, San Diego Trailer Supply, which assured me they would have the right hose or make me one!  They matched my OEM pigtail with one off the shelf, a  Marshall Excelsior MER426-15, a 15″ pigtail with 1/4″ MNPT fitting.  My OEM hoses were 12″ long, but some believe the 15″ hose would be subject to less stress (See “It’s as easy as bungee jumping.”)  The hose on the left in the photo below is the OEM hose.

DSC_0458 Old & new hose, & tools

I gathered my tools, which included a 9/16″ wrench (an adjustable wrench would also work just fine) and PTFE thread seal tape (yellow coded for gas line).  (I did not use the pipe thread sealant seen in the photo above.)  I then wrapped the 1/4″ male pipe threads with 4 full wraps of the seal tape, wrapping clockwise.

DSC_0465 New pigtail wrapped with tape

The new pigtails were then attached to the tanks and regulator.

DSC_0470 New 15" pigtails connected

The job was finished by placing and securing the propane tank cover.

DSC_0474 Propane tank cover in place A green cable lock was applied to slow down would-be thieves!

This job was done by using just three tools: soapy water sprayer, wrench, and seal tape.

This job is one of many routine tasks covered in the hot-off-the press new book, Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance, by Rich Luhr, Editor of Airstream Life magazine.  Rich says, “You can keep your Airstream investment in excellent running condition for the rest of your life with just a little knowledge and a few tools. Most Airstream maintenance is simply a matter of inspecting, cleaning, lubricating, and easy adjustments — and this book will teach you how to do all of those things.”  In writing this book, Rich says, “I wanted to defuse the myths, clarify the facts, and point people to easy and correct options.”  This spiral-bound book has 219 pages packed with information, is well illustrated and the perfect size to keep in our Airstream, along with our traveling toolkit.

DSC_0486 Guide to Airstream Maintenance

Now that I have my current Airstream maintenance in hand, I can go back to my ongoing summer reading, Promises To Keep: On Life and Politics, by Joe Biden.**  Additional information about this riveting and moving book is seen in my latest post, “End of summer flowers, fruit, and promises,” History Safari Expresso.

DSC_0151 My summer reading

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

**This is a link to a CBS NEWS video.

Wash and wax, tricks and treats

Salt deposits had been washed off our Airstream Safari trailer just after we returned home from our last beach outing, and now it was time for our big annual wash and wax job prior to the beginning of our fall camping season.  The trick is to use a good quality wax that is easy to wipe on and off, and provides long lasting protection.  This is the eighth year that I have used Meguiar’s M20 Mirror Glaze® Polymer Sealant to wax the trailer and I have been treated with its ease of use, high gloss finish that makes it easier to rinse off dirt between washings, and its ability to prevent and/or control filiform corrosion.  The 16 oz. size nicely covers our entire 23′ trailer, including the roof and air conditioner shroud.  The trick is to get it on the roof, and I have a crutch for that, literally.

DSC_0004 Applying wax with crutch

This year, sun safety for my skin was provided by my wide brim plague doctor’s hat, and for a brief moment by a calavera mask, a calaca, a skull mask, often used in celebrating Día de los Muertos* (Day of the Dead).

DSC_0006 Airstreamer with Calaveras mask

A calaca of Catrina and other symbols of the season already decorate our dining room table and Larry will be baking Pan de muerto (Bread of the dead).

DSC_0013 Día de los Muertos table display 2014

For us, this season is also a reflective time for reviewing the past year’s events, the tricks and treats.  For example, last November our corgi, Tasha, had a herniated disc, and the trick was to find it with an MRI and to remedy it with a laminectomy, and the treat was that she went on to a full recovery.  Last June, we found the trick on how to stop paying $75/month for cable TV channels that we mostly don’t watch, and now we are treated to free TV by using an indoor antenna.  Last August, we found the trick on how to stop paying high prices for cell phone service that we rarely need, and we treated our selves to a new service provider, resulting in better service at much lower prices.  In August, we were also treated to the happy sight of our first pitahaya blooms, and last month, we were treated to the sight of our first fruit after bees and I (with a brush) performed the trick of cross-pollination.

DSC_0155 Our first pitahaya fruit

This exquisite dragon fruit was cut in half, scooped out and served with a dollop of premium vanilla ice cream.

DSC_0169 Cross section of our pitahaya

We are now ready to celebrate Halloween*, Día de los Muertos*, and our return to the Anza-Borrego Desert!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.