Replacing the Hehr window operators

I did warn you that the next few weeks would be mostly about Airstream maintenance, didn’t I?

The job list on the Safari is pretty long, so I’m trying to tackle at least a piece of a project every day.  The past few days Eleanor has been helping me with preliminary bits of the rest of the storage cabinets I started before our last trip.  We’ve figured out how we want to assemble the cabinet and glued up some trim pieces with aluminum strips, as Kyle and I did before.

I’ve also had the countertop made by a local wood shop. It’s black walnut, measuring about 18″ x 69″.  You might think that would be monstrously heavy, but I had it planed down to 5/8″ thick so it’s just 19 pounds.  Not lightweight, but reasonable for solid wood. We think it looks fantastic, even before final shaping and finishing, and I am really looking forward to seeing it finally installed. I’ll post pictures in a future blog.

One of Saturday’s little tasks was to tackle one of those common annoyances in the Safari-class Airstreams.  Those trailers used a type of Hehr window that opens at the bottom third of the glass.  The window operators (cranks) are made of cheap pot metal and they eventually strip and fail.  We’ve got two failed window operators in the trailer and a few others showing signs of imminent failure.  (You’ll know because you have to spin the window crank quite a while before it finally “catches” and starts to move the window.)

This is a job that the dealer will probably charge an hour’s labor to do, but you can do it yourself in less time.  The trick is finding new replacement window operators.  They’re called “torque operators” and they are Hehr part #008-192 if you’ve got the window knob on the right (as seen from inside the trailer).  I found them online for about $8, and bought three figuring that we’d need a spare soon.

Replacing the torque operators only requires two tools, a Philips screwdriver with a narrow handle and a regular (flat-bladed) screwdriver.  The job is a little tricky, and I was wishing someone would document it, so photos are below to illustrate most of the steps. In short:

  1. Inside the trailer, open the window fully if it still works.  Remove the black knob by removing the screw in the center.
  2. Outside the trailer, remove the two small black screws in the hinge just above the movable part of the window glass.
  3. Open the window (if it didn’t operate by the knob) and pop out the C-clips on the arm hinges (one on each arm).
  4. Pop the arms apart using the flat bladed screwdriver (one on each side).
  5. Now you can lift the window all the way up and either pop it out of the hinge or slide it sideways until it comes out of the hinge.
  6. Again using the flat screwdriver, pry the lower end of the spring off the upper arm so that the arm can move freely.  Be careful not to puncture the screen with the spring.  Do this on each side.
  7. On the right side, remove the screws that hold in the mount for the round bar.  The top one will be hard to get to, so this is where the narrow handle of your screwdriver is crucial.
    replacing Hehr window operatorOn the left side, remove the three screws that hold in the torque operator.  Again, the top one is a pain to get to.
  8. Drop the round bar down on the right side, then the left.  It should come out now, with the torque operator attached.  Might take some wiggling and cursing.  Don’t let the springs and arms fall off, because that will just make your life harder.
  9. Remove the torque operator and note what a piece of crap it is.  Scratch your head and wonder why they didn’t make it out of more durable material.
  10. Replace with a new torque operator, and wiggle the whole assembly of bar, springs, arms, and operator back into place.
  11. As they say, “installation is the reverse of removal.”  Riiiiiight.

Getting the top screw back in on each side is a pain. I taped the screw loosely to the driver and that helped, or you could use a magnetic bit.  Getting the window back in the hinge is a hassle too.  It takes a little force.  A helper would be useful here, although I managed to do it myself in a few minutes.  The rest is pretty easy.

I’ve still got one more torque operator to replace on the other side, but with the Airstream in the carport I can’t get to it right now.  That will be an on-the-road repair sometime in May or June.  The third operator will sit in the box of spares until the Window Failure Lottery is complete and we have a known loser.  And now we can open up a window in the bedroom and let in the air again!

 

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine