Archive for the ‘Maintenance’ Category

Wash and wax, tricks and treats

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

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.

Safari shine on harvest moon

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Washing the dirt and salt deposits off our awnings after the trip to the beach was the prelude to our annual big wash and wax job before the start of our fall camping season.  Over time dirt and salt deposits can weaken the awning fabric and shorten the functional life of trailer awnings.  See Zip Dee’s video, “Cleaning Your Zip Dee Awning Fabric“.*

DSC_0118 Washing Zip Dee awning

A fabric bead strip attaches the awning to the trailer via the awning rail…

DSC_0100 Streetside bead strip

and when the awning is closed, this strip forms a trough that collects and traps dirt.

DSC_0094 Awning trough

I am always amazed how much dirt is flushed away when I extend and wash the awnings.

DSC_0103 Canvas attaches to trailer

Our fall camping prep continued with a midsummer cleaning and repacking of our Safari’s wheel bearings and having the brakes adjusted.  Last week as the Harvest Moon rose*, we ate Moon Cakes in celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Cool, fall weather arrived just in time for my big wash and wax job of the entire Safari trailer, including the roof (white wax dust particles are seen in the photo above).

I washed our trailer with Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash and on the following day I sprayed Boeshield T-9 on any areas of aluminum that had first shown signs of filiform corrosion (that was stopped in its tracks years ago by this product).  Only a light coating is needed (spray on and wipe off before it dries) as this product penetrates any breaks in the clear-coated aluminum and helps to block salts and oxygen from corroding exposed aluminum.  I then applied my favorite wax, Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Polymer Sealant #20 (the dry residue easily wipes off and the protection lasts over a year).  I then applied 303 Aerospace Protectant to the rubber seals of the Fan-Tastic Fan and windows and doors (keeps them from sticking and prevents UV damage).

DSC_0076 Our trailer protectants

Leaves are starting to fall from our Ginkgo tree and the nights are now cooler as we anticipate our early October return to the Cuyamaca Mountains.

DSC_0090 Autumn leaves (Ginkgo)

It was a bit of work, but by using quality protectants annually this nearly seven-year old Safari still shines and is ready to resist the elements, which makes me smile and want to sing and dance!*

DSC_0080 Safari shine

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Getting my bearings…

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

We were first time RV owners when we picked up our brand new 2007 Airstream Safari, six years ago, so from the start, I tried to get my bearings on its operation, function, and care by reading the Owners Manual.  I found much of the information to be useful and valuable, but some of the service schedule guidelines did not seem practical to me, such as “Every 10,000 miles or 6 months – Inspect, adjust, or replace brakes as necessary [and] Clean and repack wheel bearings”.  I understand that now Airstream recommends every 10,000 miles or one year for the above items.

I have read that one reason to repack bearings* every year is that condensation can occur in the hub and cause deterioration of the grease.  But some say, “If you live in the dry Southwest, you can probably go 2-3 years between repacks.”  Even though our Airstream has only accumulated 9,500 miles (and stayed in San Diego County), I knew we were overdue for the first repacking of our bearings, so when I read the recent AirForums’ thread, “Bearings went bad and hub is damaged“, I was motivated to take action.

After reading the 14 steps of  “Wheel Bearing Maintenance” in the Owners Manual, ’77 Overlander’s “Bearing Repacking” guidelines, “Bryan and Dave’s Greasy Adventure“, and watching, “How to Repack/Grease Trailer Wheel Bearings“*, I realized that this is a science and art beyond my capabilities and tools.  I found excellent reviews of a local RV mobile serviceman, Abe Hernandez of RV Mobile Service 2U, and made the appointment.  I found him to be positive, knowledgeable, and eager to share his knowledge and experience. He allowed me to take photos and thoroughly answered my questions.  First, he showed me where our Airstream’s jack points are located, as mentioned in the Owners Manual, a label with the word “JACK” in blue letters and an arrow points to the jack point, a 3″ square plate riveted to the mainframe rail.

DSC_0053 Airstream rec

DSC_0029 Aluminum service jack

DSC_0035 Hubs off

Tools and supplies included an aluminum service jack and smaller jack stands, dust cap remover, seal puller, bearing cleaner supplies, bearing packing tool, Diamond Grip latex gloves, new seals, new cotter pins, seal driver, hammer, various pliers, tire wrench and torque wrench.

DSC_0036 Bearings & tools

The brakes were cleaned with NAPA Brake Cleaner, and inspected and adjusted.

DSC_0040 Brakes

The bearings were cleaned and repacked with high temperature red grease.

DSC_0041 Repacked bearings

DSC_0042 Bearing packer

New seals were installed.

DSC_0044 New seal installed

The wheels were reassembled with special care to ensure that the spindle nut (castle nut) was not over tightened.

So now I’ve got my bearings and hopefully, for some time down the road, they will be easy riders!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Aye, there’s the rub rail

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

A rub rail covers the bottom edge of the exterior aluminum panels, along with the bottom line of rivets that attach the panels to our 2007 Safari trailer.  This rub rail area is susceptible to water in at least two places, especially in the rear of the trailer where much rain water and dew run down.  The trailer was only two years old when we found part of the chrome/vinyl rub rail insert hanging down during a trip.  Moisture can loosen the self-sticking adhesive backing of this vinyl insert.  We reattached this vinyl strip using 3M Plastic and Emblem Adhesive #08061 and details are posted here.

Click on the image above to enlarge it and you will see that the factory applied sealant along the top edge of the rub rail bracket.  The integrity of this seal is important, because if enough water gets behind the rub rail it could lead to floor rot.

Last summer, I found areas of cracked sealant along the top edge of our rub rail.  In one respect, we are fortunate to have a relatively dry climate in San Diego, but we do get plenty of dew.  So after I replaced our Marathon tires in September, I sealed the rub rail cracks with Acryl-R and applicator from the Airstream Store.

Actually, I put a bead of Acryl-R along the top edge of the rub rail around the trailer, and then the trailer got its annual big washing and waxing.  For the occasion, I got a new, sturdier stepladder and more of my favorite wax, Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Sealant #20.  This sealant, along with the nail polish that I applied last year, has prevented any further growth of filiform corrosion.

So now that the trailer is washed and waxed, and presented with new tires (and new AGM batteries last May) it seems happier and ready for our fall camping season. We celebrated by observing the Chinese Moon Festival, also called Mid-Autumn Festival.

Larry set up a display featuring the many symbols of this festival, including mooncakes with an egg yolk in the middle.

We gazed at the full moon as our Chinese paper lanterns seemed to dance, and the Tillandsia secunda (in the foreground) seemed to wave in the breeze, and we remembered the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess who lives on the moon, a love story.

A marathon experience

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Our Marathon tires became six years old (from date of manufacture) during our summer of ’12 and we knew that, even though they looked OK, they were already beyond the expected lifespan of a normal trailer tire and needed changing.  The tires that came with our newly built 2007 23′ Airstream Safari trailer (Goodyear Marathon ST215/75R14) have served us well and have had no problems with our routine of going on monthly 200 mile round-trips, mostly from San Diego to our nearby desert areas, from October through April, and one last trip of the season to a nearby state beach in May.  In addition, I make sure they are at the specified pressure of 50 psi cold just before starting and I monitor them with PressurePro tire sensors. When the trailer is parked, the tires are immediately covered (sun protection). We typically travel at the posted speed limit for vehicles towing trailers in California (55 mph) and rarely go over 62 mph. Upon return to San Diego, our trailer and tires rest on plywood boards placed on top of the cement pavement and the tires are covered.  So, even though there is much discussion about tires and tires sizes on the forums, we chose to replace our tires with another set of Marathons!

I obtained our 5 tires locally from SD Tire and Wheel Outlet, used a 4-arm lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts, and used the F-250’s tire jack to raise the trailer.

I was surprised to see the curbside hub dust cap covers (aka grease caps) were not attached, but just inside the exterior hub cap!  They could have come off during a trip, or might never have been properly installed at the factory, but the visible area of the end of the hub looked clean, so the dust caps were installed with the help of Larry holding a board while I tapped with a small sledgehammer.

The street-side grease caps were in place as expected.  So all tires were replaced with recently manufactured Marathon tires, including the never-used spare tire.  A torque wrench was used to tighten the lug nuts, and will be used to recheck them at intervals on our first trip out to the desert.

I decided against the added expense of Centramatic Balancers for these 14″ wheels based on how we use our trailer and how our tires showed no uneven wear in over five years.  And the rubber valve stems never gave us a problem with our tires (maximum pressure cold of 50 psi), but I do like the new ones on our new tires with the metal tips.

Putting on five new round tires is a perfect way to start our fall camping season and the first of the new year celebrations that we enjoy observing, in this case, with a delicious round challah (a sweet egg bread) that Larry made with Craisins.

Roundness and sweetness are perfect symbols for the start of Rosh Hashanah, along with the apple that is sliced, and dipped in honey!

Summer of ’12

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Summer began by my thoroughly rinsing off all of the salt deposits that accumulated on the trailer during our beachside outing last May.  An important part of this annual process is to fully extended our three awnings and wash off the accumulation of salt and dirt.  The details of our trailer awning care are seen in my post, “Trailer Awnings“.  I am always amazed at the amount of dirt that accumulates along the very top edge of canvas where it attaches to the trailer (and can’t be seen or washed away until the awning is fully extended).

Diesel prices rose to $4.599/gallon this summer and the cost to fill up the F-250 tank was an even $100 here in San Diego, but the upside of living here is that we don’t have to go far to enjoy the great outdoors, even our backyard is a tropical oasis.

Summer projects included Larry’s application of finishing touches to our trailer sun shade screen seen in my last post, “Drift and the land yacht“, and in my research into replacing our six-year-old trailer tires.

San Diego’s Old Town is a great place to work and play.  Larry and I put on our Victorian era attire and went to Old Town State Historic Park where Nick & Dave were photographing anybody for free as long as they were wearing vintage clothing.  Nick & Dave do tintype photography using the wet plate collodion process.

(Photo credit: Joe O’Dell)

They took our photos, showed them to us and, after they applied the finishing application of clear lacquer, we returned in two weeks to pick them up.

Nick & Dave’s assistant photographer Joe O’Dell took pictures of us with his Nikon camera and used Photoshop to make the image below showing us with the backdrop of Bodie, a ghost town in California.

Our Renaissance faire friend, Jim M., died in late summer, reminding us that life is fragile and brief and of the importance of cherishing and sharing each day with our loved ones, from season to season.  Summer is now over, the leaves are beginning to fall, the air is cooler… but love endures, along with our memories of the summer of ’12.

Desert flowers and devils

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Just before departing on our last desert trip this spring, a late winter storm was bringing wind, rain and snow to our local mountains and much needed moisture to the desert.  I wore long johns during our first night at Agua Caliente County Park, but by mid-afternoon the following day we had the air conditioner running as outside temperatures soared into the 90’s and continued to do so throughout the week.  I got on the park’s Moonlight Canyon Trail early before temperatures peaked and was pleased to find Desert Agave and ocotillo in bloom.

According to Wikipedia, Desert Agave, Agave deserti, also known as Mescal and Century Plant, was used by desert dwelling Indians to make cloth, bowstrings, and rope.  It also provided author Marshal South and his family with materials for fuel, food and clothing in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Ocotillo (below), Fouquieria splendens, had bright crimson flowers, but its stems did not have a robust display of green leaves due to the below average spring rainfall.  Marshal South also used the ocotillo for fuel.

Upon return from my hike, I enjoyed a shower and one of Larry’s delicious sandwiches with chips and beer.  I then settled in under the patio awning for an afternoon of reading while enjoying a light breeze… and then I heard the devil coming… it seemed to come out of nowhere… but I’ve felt and heard its breath before at this site.  I immediately leapt out of my chair and held onto the front awning rafter arm as a dust devil sent the nearby table setting and hanging paper lantern up and over our trailer. It was over in 10 seconds.  “Well, I better put the awning in for the day,” I thought, and then noticed that it did not go in as easily as before because the rear rafter arm bar on was now bent!  Together, we got the awning back in and secured.

According to Wikipedia, “Dust devils form when hot air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler, low-pressure air above it.”  Certain conditions increased the likelihood of dust devil formation on that day, including clear skies, light wind, cool atmospheric temperatures, hot near surface air, and the flat desert terrain that stretched out to the east of our trailer.  It seems our favorite site here is located in dust devil alley! (See this BBC video clip on YouTube, “Dust Devil Blows Away Campsite.”)

Upon return home, I called Awnings By Zip Dee to order a replacement for the bent arm and they asked me for the model and year of my trailer and then guided me to their Parts List on their web site and asked me to click on the PDF, “Contour Hardware Installed 1989 to Present Parts,” where I identified the needed Part #5, Satin Rafter Arm Bar.  Several days later, I noticed the Rafter Arm Tube had a bow in it, so I also ordered Part #6, Satin Rafter Arm Tube Assembly.  They also encouraged me to see one of their excellent Instructional Videos, “Straightening a Bent Arm on a Zip Dee Awning.”  The parts arrived one week later, as promised.

Before installing the new parts, I lubricated them as shown in their Instructional Video, “How To Lubricate a Zip Dee Awning.”  As it turned out, the bow in the Rafter Arm Tube disappeared when it was removed from the bent arm bar, so now I have a spare part for the next encounter with a dust devil… or Mariah.

2011 Wash, wax, and treat time

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Upon return from our beachside camping last May, the trailer got a thorough rising off of salt deposits, and the awnings got their annual washing.  I opened the awnings and flushed off large amounts of dirt and debris that especially like to accumulate where the fabric attaches to the trailer.  I then followed the recommended method of washing the fabric as mentioned in my article, “Trailer awnings“.

This past summer I broke with tradition and waited two weeks before the start of our fall camping season to do our annual wash, wax and treat job.

I avoid getting onto the roof by using a step ladder and tools with an extended arm for both washing and waxing the trailer, including the roof.

This is also a time when I inspect for filiform corrosion and take appropriate protective and treatment measures.  Protective measures include using good quality wash and wax materials.  I particularly like Meguiar’s products, especially their Mirror Glaze Polymer Sealant #20, which I have applied every summer.  Since using this sealant, the filiform growth found on the edges of some of my aluminum panels and rivets has been stopped in its tracks.  The below photo of my “dragon” filiform corrosion was taken last month and shows no growth from its original photo taken in 2008.

Treatment measures that have worked well for me (with the exception of the taillight bezel housings) include Boeshield T-9 Rust and Corrosion Protection and CorrosionX.  I also apply 303 Aerospace Protectant to rubber seals such as those around windows and the FanTastic Fan Vents (protects and keeps them from sticking).  These products are currently available at the Airstream Store.

The taillight bezel housing fixtures presented a more difficult problem. Even with the treatments mentioned above, filiform growth continued unchecked until I stopped it last week, using more drastic measures.  My guess is that the clear coat on these fixtures is thinner and more fragile, so when filiform starts to grow here, it appears to lift and break the clear coat, allowing the filiform to be nurtured with more air, moisture and salts.  Filiform lesions on the taillight bezel that once looked like this in 2008, now looked like my mom having a bad hair day.

Up until now I have believed that it is best not to disturb clear coat finishes on the trailer, but these taillight housing filiform lesions needed to be excised.  I adapted a method of filiform removal devised by a member of  Instead of a Dremel, I used a small screwdriver to gently scrape away the crumbly clear coat and filiform lesions.  I then used wet sandpaper in incrementally finer grits from 320 to 600, along with mineral spirits, to smooth the lesions.  (I eventually found even finer grit of 1000 to 1500 at a local auto parts store.)  After cleaning once more with mineral spirits, I applied two coats of a good quality clear nail polish.

The “bad hair day” lesion is gone, only its ghost is seen, along with a few diagonal scratches from a Dremel tool, which I quickly stopped using.  I cleaned up all of the other lesions on the taillight housings in the same manner.

Nothing is permanent in life, and as time passes, it is good to enjoy and savor every moment… Just ask Andy Rooney about time… and passages… but not while he’s eating!


Fall Safari prep

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

If you have read my previous article, you know that I’ve been Barefootin’ about this summer in San Diego.  And if you have not read the 12+ comments to this post, you have not read the rest of this story.  But now summer is coming to a close and the June bugs are winding down their wild mating rituals.


And our pond water is now warm enough for Tasha’s first swim test.


Autumn is approaching, which means that it is time to prepare our 2007 Safari Airstream for our fall and winter camping season.  Last June I washed the trailer after our beach outing and noticed a few drops of water had entered the trailer near the forward Fan-Tastic Fan.  It’s possible that I had manually not closed the cover all the way, but I also noticed that there seemed to be a gap in some of the exterior caulking around the fan and other places on the roof.


I have used Acryl-R for a small leak from a seam on one of the Vista View windows and Parbond on the top seam of the stove exterior exhaust vent, but I had not caulked anything on the roof before, so I searched and found abundant information on this thread, Caulking and Sealants.  For caulking Airstream roof seams, Vulkem (now called TremPro) and Sikaflex seem to be recommended the most (both are polyurethane sealants).  Sikaflex is now used by Airstream, Inc. on most exterior large seams and is available from the Airstream Store.  I decided to try TremPro (Vulkem) 635 in white for the roof and ordered this, along with a tube of TremPro 636 in aluminum color, from C & G Trailer Service (Airstream Certified Service Center in Bellflower, California).  TremPro is also available from Vintage Trailer Supply.


TremPro is made by Tremco, a company first started by William C. Treuhaft in 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio.  TremPro 635 is faster curing than 636.  Note that I used a standard, manual caulking gun (unlike the air-powered one used by John, resulting in an exploding tube of caulk, as reported by Lug in his “I Am Vulkem Man” posting).


I followed the directions and made sure the caulking surfaces were clean and dry.  (Our 2007 trailer’s caulking is still pliant, intact and did not have to be removed.)  I cut the tip of the tube at an angle and punctured the inner foil several times with a wire hanger.  Larry held the ladder while I went topside and applied the product, smoothing it with my dry finger.  Paint thinner (mineral spirits) easily removed the product from my hands.  While I was up there, I also applied 303 Aerospace Protectant to the rubber seal around the Fan-Tastic Fan, which I apply annually here and on the window seals to protect them and keep them from sticking.


I repeated this process around the rear Fan-Tastic Fan and bathroom air vent.


Success… now our trailer is as happy as a dancing robot under the Harvest Moon (Caravan Palace)!

Sunscreen safety

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Two years ago my “Sun safety” article discussed the importance of protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun by using protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen.  I thought I had made a good choice in using a broad-spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen, with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.  But now I am learning that there are many conflicting reports about the effectiveness and safety of sunscreen products.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its fourth annual “Sunscreen Guide” last month, which recommends only 39 out of 500 beach and sport sunscreens for this season.  According to EWG, many sunscreen products contain red-flag ingredients, like vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and oxybenzone.  The sunscreen that I had been using contained oxybenzone 6% as an active ingredient, so I now use one ofEWG’s top rated sunscreens.

Of course, the best sunscreen is a hat, shirt and a good pair of sunglasses, which I wore while doing our annual big wash and wax job on our trailer, upon our return from the beach last month.


The hat is Tilley’s broadest brim hat, the LTM2 Tilly Airflo Nylamtium Hat.  It is comfortable, lightweight, and comes with a tuck-away Wind Cord.  The white shirt is Silver Ridge II by Columbia Sportswear Company.  It is lightweight, comfortable and super-ventilated.  My extra-large SolarShield sunglasses are comfortable while providing Advanced UV Protection (and can fit over Rx glasses).  These items always travel with me when camping.

EWG points out that their “sunscreen database is dynamic, which means that the sunscreen ranking numbers may change based on evolving science, new information on UVA, UVB radiation and sunscreen ingredients, marketing conditions, or other factors.”  Light might be shed on the sunscreen controversy over the effectiveness and safety of sunscreen products if, and when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues sunscreen industry regulations, which they began drafting 32 years ago, according to The Huffington PostCongresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) has called upon the FDA to finalize sunscreen regulations.

One of the latest health concerns is the use of nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen products, as discussed in the AOL News article, “More Bad News About Sunscreens: Nanoparticles“.  This further underscores the importance and need for the FDA to develop and publish new sunscreen guidelines and regulations.

See this excellent YouTube video, “Go Green with Sunscreen“, for tips on staying safe in the sun.


Now I think I’m ready for those bright, sunshiny days!

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.