Outer skin repair

Tom's RV Message Board: VAC Discussion List: Topics N - P: Outer skin repair
By Mark Seawell on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:33 am:

Hi folks,

I been subscribed to this list for over a year (I think). But I've been fairly sparse about posting. Now I need some advice. (That's right you only here from us when we need something.)

To make a long story short, this recent snow here in North Carolina brought down the shelter I had built to protect our Airstream (a '67 25' Tradewind). The Airstream sustained severe damage to the roof. I know without more detail it's difficult to say but typically are major dents in the roof repairable?



By Lashway on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:34 am:

For what its worth. I am assuming the damage is on the roof only and consists of dents or depression on the outer skin only . You might do a couple of things. The indentations may be able to be pulled out using a simple toilet bowl plunger- stick it on, get a grip and pull up. I'd do this after it sets in the sun and the skin heats up a bit. If that is not succcessful try a similar tool that is used by body shops to pull out dents. This is a more powerful tool. If this doesn't work you can consider that perhaps the horizonatal (front to back) framing members under the skin have been bent and as long as they are bent and the skin it is riveted to them will not pop out. Understand that many of support members running from front to back exists only to support the widith of skin riveted to it. They not connected to any vertical structual members. It is riveted to the outer skin only to provide backing support to sheets of aluminum. It is not riveted to the inside skin. I should also say some inside skins have that the same feature and are only attached to inside skin to provide support.

If you cannot pop out the outer skin it may mean you will have to remove the inner skin so you have access to the "backside" of the outer skin. You can then see what you are realy dealing with. If some of the suports are bent take them out by drilling out the rivets. Replace them either with some factory material or get some aluminum angle form local hardware or whomever and rivet it back in place after you get the skin popped out or pushed out .

A number of folks on this list have delt with begger dents then I have and hopefully will jump in with their suggestions. Last but not least don't panic over problems of removing an interior panels. All the rivets holding panels can be drilled out and panels can be replaced the same way.

Enough for now.


By Mark Seawell on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:35 am:

Thanks for the reply Roy. The bad news is that the inner skin is damaged also. There is now way the dent will be pulled out. The aluminum is actually "crimped" for lack of a better word.



By Lashway on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:38 am:

Sorry to hear that. Appears you need to take off inner skin and work on the outer in any case. The following I received some time back from an experience aluminum skin repair person. It may be useful to you when to can get at outer skin. Maybe this process will give you something you can live with, hopefully your dent is up high and not readily seen.You still maybe able to pull some of the dent out and then only deal with the "crimped area" using the below approach. The only other option appears to be new skin panel, if you can find them. I guess a further option also is to straighten out as much of the panel as possible and then rivet a patch over the unsightly part, maybe cover the whole panel if you could find aluminum to match. Drilling out an replacing rivets is not very difficult.

Since you have SKIN OFF inside, you should be able to remove the dents. You'll need the following:First, you need someone to give you a hand - this takes 2 people to perform!

Sand Bags - 2 each - 6 x 12 =} 1 ea. 12 x 12 inch Aluminum Sheet - .40 to .062 - OR
2 Bags of No. 10/No. 12 Shot - at Firearms Reload Center.

1 Strong Magnet

One Short - 2 x 6 (12" long)

Go inside Bubble with Magnet. Place it in Center of Dent. Have someone on outside, find Center with a 16 Box Nail Head. Once this is found - place a Bag 'x' on it. Have your helper place aluminum sheet over dent, place Sand bag on Top and apply about 30ft pounds pressure. Place YOUR Sand Bag over Dent, put 2 x 6 on Center and hit with hammer. A couple of hits should remove Dent.

A Heating pad - taped on surface for 30 minutes BEFORE, should help this operation.

It's NOT a good idea to use a torch. You can burn the surface and turn a Brown tint into it Permanently, that WILL show Big time - after Polishing!

By RJ & Krista Dial on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:40 am:

Unfortunately aluminum is unforgiving once creased, and doesn't pound out worth a hoot. Bondo is not an option. The good news is that the panels are small can be drilled out and replaced, either from a boneyard donor (it doesn't have to be the same year, and for many panels, even the same model). Some A/S dealers may have replacement panels still - a call or fax to each one listed in the WBCCI directory will turn up almost any part you need. There is always the airstream factory in Jackson Center Ohio. Their craftsmen may be able to duplicate the needed panels. Also, check with:
http://www.airmarktools.net/services/index.html#airstreamrepair They, and other A/S dealers throughout the US specialize in skin panel replacements.

'65 Caravel

By Mark Seawell on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:47 am:

Hi All,

I a few weeks ago I wrote about damage to my '67 Tradewind that occured when the heavy snow here in NC collasped the building on top of the A/S.

How much trouble will it be to replace outer skin panels? Will I have trouble with them leaking? I would have to replace 3. The three on the top roadside half in the front of the trailer.

Is this a job I'd even want to consider myself? And the big question where could I get replacement panels? Anyone know of a junker with good front panels?



By Johnny S. Sandoval on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:48 am:

Mark, sorry to hear about your misfortune....... I own a 1963 Globetrotter that I had one segment replaced by an authorized Airstream Dealer in California. I consider myself above average when it comes to twisting a wrench. But after much research I conceded that the best person for this job was someone who has replaced segments before. Besides requiring a special rivet installer and head shaver, the rivets themselves are available through rivetplus.com.

You might find a segment from Inland RV in Corona, CA. They purchased most of the older segments from Airstream. Their number is 800 877-7311. Best of luck.......

VAC# 4063

By Steve Hingtgen on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:49 am:

Johnny and Mark,

Actually, the Bulb-tite rivets can be installed with a quality standard pop rivet tool. For a volume job, you will want to buy a head shaver. As an alternative, I have heard of some people installing the rivets themselves and then taking the trailer to an Airstream authorized repair facility to have the rivet heads shaved.

Steve Hingtgen
WBCCI #2669

By RJ & Krista on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:50 am:

Biggest problem will be getting the skin panels made as they need to be formed and sheared to just the right size to prevent gapping and preload. Donors from a junker will have the holes in the wrong locations, but they could be double-flushed and plugged. Might want to look into professional help on this. Many Airstream dealers specialize in skin repairs. Check out these guys for an estimate, too: http://www.airmarktools.net/services/index.html#airstreamrepair Belly skins and rivet replacements are about the limit for most do-it-yourselfers unless they have prior experience in sheetmetal and the tools.
'65 Caravel

By Johnny S. Sandoval on Tuesday, March 28, 2000 - 10:51 am:

Sorry Mark, I left the "s" out of rivetsplus.com. Try it again, you can also find them under Crest Fasteners. Just do a search with Crest Fasteners.

VAC# 4063

By Mark Seawell on Wednesday, March 29, 2000 - 04:13 am:


Thanks for the reply. I could not find a site called rivetplus.com. And as for the panel/segment replacement, I've pretty much come to the same conclusion as you. I'll probably try to have everything else removed so all the dealer has to do is replace the panels.



By Ray Plumlee on Wednesday, March 29, 2000 - 04:16 am:

Mark - screwed up previous post - correct adderss is "rivetsplus.com"

By Mark Seawell on Wednesday, March 29, 2000 - 04:18 am:

Thanks everyone for the corrections. I have found NOS panels (or skin segments) and am just trying to decide who I get to do the repair or if I'll attempt it myself.

Thanks again,

'66 Trade Wind

"Wayne A.Moore" wrote:

Hi Mark.
try this Link