Thursday, June 1, 2023


9 special challenges of renovating Airstreams

By Cheri Sicard
The title of the video below on YouTube is a bit misleading as it asks, “Why is no one renovating Airstreams?”

I think it is safe to say that many people are, and have been, renovating Airstreams. But, that being said, renovating the classic silver bullet trailers do present some challenges that you are not likely to encounter when renovating other types of trailers.

The team from Kels and Jay, producers of the video, found this out the hard way during their own 1971 Airstream restoration project. If you are experienced you may not have all these challenges. But if you are an amateur RV restorer, taking on an Airstream can be an ambitious project for many reasons. Even if you have RV build experience like these two, if you don’t specifically have Airstream experience, expect some bumps in the road on your way to project completion.

What’s so difficult about renovating Airstreams?

Let’s explore:

  1. Tools: Working on an Airstream will require a fair amount of specialized tools that other types of trailers don’t require. Kels and Jay already had a well-outfitted workshop, but they still had to purchase a ton of tools to renovate their Airstream. For instance, our hosts spent more than $200 on rivet supplies alone, not counting the rivet gun. You’ll also need metal cutting tools, and a polishing kit.
  2. Trial and error: As there are no credible handbooks on how to do this, there is a lot of trial and error involved with an Airstream restoration project. This can be both time-consuming and frustrating. Reattaching the aluminum shell to the base proved a nightmare of a job, as shown in the video. It took trial and error, but the solution turned out to be simple.
  3. Inexperience can be paralyzing: The team experienced this phenomenon but advise that it is all part of the process and you just have to push through it.
  4. Everything is a slow process: As everything is riveted, restoring an Airstream is a slow, meticulous process.
  5. The process is painful if you are a perfectionist: The team, who do van builds for a living, had to let go of some of their perfectionism when it came to renovating Airstreams. They found adjustments are simply unavoidable. Even jobs they were familiar with became a struggle.
  6. Working with aluminum can be a pain: You will need to cut aluminum, drill holes, fill those holes, glue in place, then rivet (watch the video to see how it’s done).
  7. General build experience doesn’t matter: Kels and Jay had been doing RV van builds for more than four years, but they found that not a lot of that experience translated over to the Airstream renovation.
  8. Replacement parts are expensive and can be hard to find: This point is self-explanatory.
  9. You have to be a little crazy to do it: Kels and Jay admitted they qualified as a little crazy and even with all their challenges, they found their vintage Airstream restoration project worth the effort.

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Gary W.
1 month ago

At 10:20 in the video he put the lug nuts on backwards. Lol.

1 month ago
Reply to  Gary W.

Going to track that down right now and have a laugh…….tick, tick, tick.
OMG, he sure did. Didn’t see it the first time. That’s sooooo funny. You sir, have an eye for detail.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cancelproof

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