4 Airstream trailer maintenance myths

We spend a lot of time writing about the things you need to maintain on your Airstream trailer. So let's take the opposite view and discuss what you don't need to worry about.

Airstreams have continued to improve over the years, as have many of the components that go into them. This means that some of the old rules of maintenance have become obsolete. Some others never really made sense at all, but they got repeated so much that they became folklore.

Let's bust a few common myths we still get asked about:

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1. You need to check the torque on your wheels (or "re-torque" them) before every trip

This idea probably emerged from the fact that whenever you take a wheel off an Airstream you need to check the torque at least 3 times over a period of about a hundred miles. That is true. But once you've done that, the wheel should be settled into position, and it generally stays there.

If you like checking the torque on the lug nuts regularly, go right ahead. It won't do any harm as long as you use an accurate torque wrench set to the correct number. But it's overkill as a maintenance item if you've properly tightened them in the first place.

Myth icon

2. You should replace the sealant on the roof after a few years

I see this one pop up from time to time, when someone writes to me and asks why they got an estimate from a service center for $2,000 to replace roof sealant on their late-model Airstream.

The short answer is: Unless there's a real problem with the sealant (gapping, cracking, known leak) or you've broken the sealant to replace something, there's no routine maintenance needed. Any offer to replace all the sealant at once should be regarded with skepticism. 

I discuss this topic more extensively in "The (Nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance" on pages 80-84, and in this blog.

Myth icon

3. You need to re-pack the wheel bearings every xx miles

A good friend of mine, having heard this, took his Airstream to a local service center to have the wheel bearings re-packed. The service center told him, "You don't need this because you have Dexter Nev-R-Lube bearings on your trailer." (We had a laugh about this.)

This may not be a myth for every Airstream owner, because it's still true that conventional wheel bearings need periodic service. But most newer Airstreams have Nev-R-Lube bearings, which as the name implies, don't need service or re-packing.

The only maintenance need for Nev-R-Lube bearings is to inspect them every 12,000 miles (or once a year) to make sure they haven't been damaged. The inspection procedure is in my Maintenance Guide, page 139.

Nev-R-Lube bearings are installed on:

  • Airstream Classic trailers with disc brakes, starting 2006
  • All trailers 25 feet and longer, starting 2010
  • All trailers except Sport, Basecamp and Nest starting 2017
  • All trailers except Bambi, Basecamp and Nest starting 2020

Myth icon

4. You need to use special RV toilet paper to protect your Airstream's plumbing

Nah. Lots of people have debunked this one. Any toilet paper marked as "septic safe" and even some that aren't (like Scott's Single Ply) will be fine. Our friends at "A Little Bit Unhitched" did a test and a short video about this.

The real key to maintaining your black tank is to only give it water, tank chemical, and things that you've previously eaten. We talk more about this in another blog.

 

You've got enough to think about when preparing your Airstream. Take these 4 things off your list!  

Photo credit: Photo by Tekton on Unsplash

6 comments

Larry Rose

Larry Rose

Regarding your third topic, does that mean a 2019 Basecamp wheel bearings should be repacked? And if so, how often?

James

James

Can Nev-R-Lube bearings replace standard bearings on older trailers…like a 2008 Bambi?

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Larry, yes, your 2019 Basecamp has conventional bearings that need repacking periodically. The interval is variable depending on the amount of use and the conditions under which the trailer is used/stored. Airstream recommends “every 10,000 miles or 6 months”. I think that’s massive overkill, but you should make your own decision. I personally repacked the bearings on my 2005 every two years.

James, the only way to change the bearing type from conventional to Nev-R-Lube is to replace the entire axle. The convenience is probably not worth the expense.

Ella Menendez

Ella Menendez

Rich,
Ftr, there’s been scuttle on the Basecamp FB group pages about checking individual axle serial numbers to confirm which type a trailer has. The axle manufacturer allegedly can confirm standard vs Nev-R pack based on this. Thoughts? Thanks for your help. Ella

Jeffery Hammonds

Jeffery Hammonds

In my Airstream that “required” repacking the wheel every 6 months/10,000 miles, I followed the recommendation as stated in the owners manual, but everytime I had them serviced the mechanic would tell me that they were fine and hadn’t needed servicing. The only advantage I see in the Nev-R-Lube axles is that they are fitted for shock absorbers.

Rich Luhr

Rich Luhr

Ella: Airstream says the Nev-R-Lube bearings have not been installed on Basecamps.

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