About half of all Airstreams sold today are bought by people who have never owned an RV before. And, I would guess, there's a lot of new owners who wouldn't define themselves as "handy" types.
Put the two together and that means a lot of you are thinking that if anything goes wrong on your new Airstream, you'll just take it to the dealer.
But oftentimes getting a service center appointment is like seeking an audience with the Pope—expect a long wait. And that's time you can't use your Airstream.
Fortunately, a lot of problems are easily fixed yourself. All you need is a little knowledge and maybe a few simple tools. Everything on this list can be done by almost anyone.
If you want more details on these procedures, pick up a copy of the 2nd edition of The (Nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance.
1. Fix counter edge trim that's come loose
It's not unusual to find a bit of the edge trim on the countertop or dinette table has come loose. It's just affixed with glue, and sometimes the glue fails because there wasn't quite enough of it applied, or from the effects of heat, vibration, or moisture.
The fix is fairly easy if you do two key things. The first is to use the right glue. Make sure the glue is recommended for wood and laminate. Avoid glues that expand (like original Gorilla Glue). Use just enough to coat the surface, and wipe up any excess so it doesn't make a mess.
The second is to hold the edge trim in place while the glue is curing. A few pieces of masking tape will do the trick. Just be sure the trim is nice and flat against the counter edge when you're taping it, and let it sit overnight before removing the tape.
2. Replace a screw so it won’t come out again
Screws that are in metal (like the interior window trim, parts of the screen door, and tiny set screws in the bathroom door handle) sometimes have a habit of vibrating out during travel. If they keep doing this, a dab of blue threadlocker on the threads of the screw will take care of the problem for good.
Threadlocker is sort of a weak glue made specifically for screws and bolts. It's one of the handy things included in our Maintenance Essentials Kit.
3. Fix a plumbing leak with Teflon tape
Got drips? Usually little leaks happen at the threaded connections of the plumbing (where one thing joins another thing). The easy and permanent fix is to put some Teflon tape on the threads. This is another item that appears in our Maintenance Essentials Kit.
To apply the tape, unscrew the leaking fitting and wrap the tape very tightly around the threads, 3 or 4 times. The tape should be stretched a little so it takes the shape of the threads and doesn't fall off.
4. Get the power back, by replacing a fuse
If the fuse that blew is somewhere other than in the main fuse panel, check out this "hidden fuses" blog and video for hints on where to find it.
5. Replace a broken or missing rivet
The interior rivets of the Airstream sometimes break and disappear, leaving a little hole. It's not a big deal. They're not enormously strong, so the loss of one or two interior rivets doesn't mean your Airstream is falling apart or that your tires are overinflated. It's pretty normal.
Replacing one is easy if you have a simple handheld rivet tool. For details, check out this blog and video. Read the "Blind rivets" section and watch the video just below to see how easy it is.
6. Stop things from squeaking
All of the moving parts in your Airstream should operate silently: window latches, door hinges, hitch ball, entry step, awning, etc. If not, it's time for a little lube.
Where and how should you apply it? Watch this "Stop the Squeak!" video on that topic. Get yourself a couple of good lubricants and make everything like new again!
7. Fix intermittent trailer lights or brakes
Getting weird random warnings from your tow vehicle that the trailer lights or brakes aren't working correctly? It's probably caused by dirty or corroded connections at the 7-way plug. You can learn more about the 7-way plug and how it works in this blog.
You can also fix the issue of dirty or corroded connections by cleaning and lubricating the pins of the plug. Our Maintenance Essentials Kit has the products and tools you need for that.
8. Test for a gas leak
Gas leaks: BAD. Fortunately it's dead easy to carry a little testing solution (AKA soapy water) in a spray bottle, and check for leaks yourself. The procedure is explained toward the end of this video.
If you want to know more about all the safety devices in your Airstream's propane system, read more in our blog "How Not To Fear Propane".
9. Replace a propane hose
Propane hoses don't last forever—in fact, you should plan to replace the hose every 2-3 years, or when they start to show signs of cracking. We recommend you carry a spare set at all times, so you can replace them on the road if needed.
The replacement procedure is shown in our GasStop Installation Video. Although the video is about installing GasStop, the procedure is nearly identical if you want to just replace a hose. You'll need to carry a pair of small wrenches along with your spare hoses, and some Teflon tape that's rated for gas use.
On a related topic – we've been asked a lot lately why we don't sell the expensive stainless steel braided propane hoses. My answer is simple: in an Airstream, they don't last any longer than the regular propane hoses. Yes, the stainless steel looks nice, but the interior of the hose is still the same plastic, and it will age and get brittle at the same rate as a regular hose. So, you'll pay more for the stainless steel braid, but you'll replace it just as often as you would replace a regular propane hose.
Stainless braiding is really only useful for deterring rodents, guarding against excessive heat (like on an outdoor grill) or when physical abrasion is a risk. But for most Airstreamers, save your money and buy regular hoses.