Don’t get me wrong, I love my trailer which is my home and castle. The list of things I love about my Airstream is a long one but not everything about our Airstream is perfect. There are certain issues that have proven themselves to be less than awesome over the course of a year living in it full time. Before I get started, keep in mind we live in a 2016 International and every year and brand will have its own peculiarities. That said, in the interest of a better brand and the joy of kvetching, here are 5 things I don’t love about my Airstream.
#1: The window opening mechanisms
Nearly all the windows on an airstream open up, which is great. But the mechanism that opens them is not great. Like many trailers, they lift up like a flap, attached at the top. This is controlled by two “arms” on either side of the window. A knob on each arm sticks out inside the trailer and you push up on them, levering out the window. The advantage of the design is it can get the windows open pretty far and the lever arms seat into a plastic track holding the window open at a selection of angles.
But there are many problems. First among them is that the seals on the windows are somewhat sticky and the way the levers are designed you have a mechanical disadvantage opening them. The combination of weak pushing force and sticky seals means you can’t open them much of the time. I’m a big strong fellow and I just can’t do it much of the time. The bug screens on the inside prevent you from pushing on the window directly to break the seal. We have to go outside and use a key or screwdriver to pry open the bottom of the window to get them open most of the time.
The dealer warned us of this and suggested silicone lubricant. We bought some, applied it liberally, and they still stick if left closed for more than a day or so. It helps a little, but not much. It’s not like they are glued shut, but the weak force of the levels just isn’t enough to push them open. Much like trying to open an oyster from the hinge end of the shell. Making matters just a bit worse, the handles for the levers stick out such that when you close the blinds, you will often run into them and loose your grip on the blind pull causing the blind to snap back up. Not a big deal but it drives you a bit crazy when it happens.
#2 The External Shower Faucet
Our Airstream has a little compartment on the outside that contains a hose with an attached shower head and two handles to run hot and cold water. While I don’t often feel the need for a hot shower outside the trailer, it’s not a bad idea and I could see if I were boondocking or just needed a hot water source outside for cleaning, it could be a handy feature. Unfortunately, it is badly designed and manufactured.
The problem comes when you try to put it away. You have to coil up the hose and stuff it in the compartment then close the hatch. The two water knows are super easy to turn and the hose has to be wound up around them and the shower head pushes up against them to close it up. The result of this is that trying to put it away constantly turns on the water flow. There is no shut-off switch on the faucet or the shower head to stop this. I spent a good 20 minutes trying to get it closed and not have it dribble water out of the hatch. Worse is if you put it away with your pump off, then turned it on later, you would never know you were bleeding water out the side of the trailer.
Again, our dealer was well aware of this problem, but in this case, their best offer of a solution was to replace it with an aftermarket faucet or just never open it once you got it closed. I took the latter advice and have not touched it since my initial encounter with the beast.
#3: The kitchen cabinet black hole
Under the kitchen counter, there is a space where the plumbing gas and electrical wires and pipes are found. It is partly screened off by a plywood wall about 3/4 the height of the cabinet. It has a gap so you can, to some degree, access these things. The problem is that some of the drawers are higher than this barrier and things can push out the back of the drawer and fall in. Same goes for some items in the cabinet under the sink. Once they fall down there, they are very hard to get out because of the divider wall designed to help keep things from getting back there. It’s too narrow for a hand (at least mine), too far back to easily reach, and too high to look down into.
We’ve had a few items fall into the black hole and getting them out involves a lot of trial and error with a long pair of kitchen tongs grabbing blindly until you luck onto the thing you are searching for. All in all, I think it would be a lot better if the barrier were shorter and transparent or no barrier or one that was more completely covered the space. Or perhaps just a guard on the drawers that stopped items from falling out the back of them.
#4: Half way to the digital age
Airstream has taken some steps to make their modern trailers fit a modern life. There are many outlets in the trailer and even a few USB plug including a set on either side of the bed. There is a DVD player that is connected to the TVs and has blue tooth capabilities so you get a kind of mini entertainment system. Two flat panel TVs have all the appropriate hookups for modern devices. All that is pretty decent, but it falls short in some important areas.
Firstly, there just are not enough USB ports for this mobile age. The outlets in the dining area and lounge should all have two USB ports so you can plug in a phone wherever you happen to be spending time. Secondly, there should be an easy way to run antenna lines up to the roof of the Airstream. Getting a good cell or wireless signal isn’t easy inside an aluminum tube. Signal boosters are an easy solution except that there is no easy way to get an antenna up on the roof. You have to pay someone to put custom holes in your roof or wind a cord through the door or the refrigerator vent or some other hack.
Finally, I’d love to see the trailer have a blue tooth system for monitoring the systems in the trailer. I’d love to be able to check tank levels while I am outside rather than having to hop into the trailer, then get out again, then hop back in to check again. The hard wired one is probably essential but it would be great if all the data fed into an app. Then I could see the battery level, the faults in the electrical and so on, even control the TV radio. Most modern cars come with features like this now and I think its time for Airstream to step up their game.
#5: Manufacturing Defects
Nearly everyone buying a new trailer of any brand is going to run into a few issues, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about them. We have had three that rise to the level of highly irritating.
The first was that the interior seals were not properly installed. This led to an invasion of yellow jackets in the first week of parking our trailer. While it made for a great story, it was a simple mistake of just not installing things correctly and then not catching it on inspection.
The second issue is that our main entry door just doesn’t quite fit as well as it should. It requires a fair bit of force to seal it up tight. We noticed this quickly but our dealer and another we took it too insisted it was just that the trailer wasn’t quite level. Well after a year of having the trailer it consistently has this problem no matter how level the trailer is or isn’t. We either have to get a whole new door (if we can convince a dealer it doesn’t work right) or just live with it. We just live with it for now. I broke more than one door handle early on trying to seal it from the inside until we developed a technique for slamming it shut using speed rather than power.
Last but not least, we have had persistent low-grade issues with the electrical system in the trailer. Two dealers have had a go at fixing it. Each time thy think they fixed it, and each time some underlying problem slowly reasserts itself. The result is our LEDs and USB outlets burn out on one side of the trailer and at one point the furnace was knocked out of commission.
You mentioned you got a “good deal”. Can you tell me what that concept is? I mean, usually the price is jacked up so it can be discounted, or go “on sale”. You know how america is. Please educate me. (Ive never gotten a good deal in my life. Always payed MSRP. Doh!)
I’d say that a good deal is one you are happy with and where you are paying less than others who don’t try to get a bargain. I never expect the dealer to lose money on a deal (though I imagine that happens occasionally) they deserve to make a living like any of us. MSRP is almost always jacked up beyond what the dealer expects to get but it is a kind of baseline to negotiate from. The dealers I’ve visited usually have a list price at around 10% off the MSRP to start with. A lot of folks will just buy at that price. You can almost always get that price down or negotiate some extra features without adding to the cost. Mind you, not everyone wants to bargain, it can be kind of awkward. Personally, I didn’t dicker for price so much as use the technique of waiting while keeping a good relationship with my dealer. She knew I was looking for bargains so she kept an eye out for opportunities. I promised she’d get my sale if she found something to satisfy me.
Very late to the party here, but I wanted to echo the recommendation for using 303 on the window seals. I use it one or twice a year and rarely have windows sticking.
For the cell booster, I use a WeBoost connected to the interior through the satellite jack (next to the cable jack).
I took out the DVD player and plugged a Fire Stick into the HDMI the DVD was using. The Fire Stick remote is RF so you can use it from the lounge or the bedroom.
We recently purchased an Airstream Sport. It has a queen-size bed. We ordered the proper mattress pad and sheets.
Is there a GOOD way to go about putting them on the mattress? If you have not done it, please do not comment . .. Dressing our bed was not a good experience.
Kay W. Yount
Sticky windows can be fixed with a conditioner like the one found on Amazon 303 Rubber Seal Protectant and Conditioner for Weather Seals. Lubrication only makes a protective coating, it does not soften the rubber so it’s more pliable for window seals. Conditioners soften the rubber and protects it. You can also use Thetford 32778 Slide Out Rubber Seal Conditioner also from Amazon it also works on window seals. Hope this helps with your sticky window problem.
Thanks so much. I wish the folks at the dealer had clued me into that. They gave me the advice to use the silicone lubricant on them and I took it for the gospel. I’ll definitely be trying this out!
Thank you so much for your posts. We’re getting ready to dive into an AS in the next year. Do you have a sales person recommendation for Airstream Adventures NW, Seattle? We are starting our search there soon. Thanks so much!
You are very welcome Noel. Thanks for reading. 🙂
I’ll give you the sales person we worked with. She was very nice, not pushy, and we got a good deal. My recommendation is to make an appointment to meet her at the dealership to do some window shopping. Then ask her to keep an eye open for good deals for you. She can then clue you into any good opportunities that come up. We eventually bought ours at an RV show. We’d been talking to her for a while and while at the show she gave us a very good offer on pretty much exactly the model we were after. Giving yourself a little time to find the right deal can help you get the best price. Basically, we promised to buy from her if she could find us a good deal and that worked out well for us.
Her name is Linda Henderson
Tel: 253-639-2007 Direct: 206-501-5264
Fantastic! Thank you so much!
I just wanted to say thanks once more for your recommendation from Airstream Adventures NW. I let Linda know that you had referred us. Thank you so much!
I would call airstream if Spokane very happ with them.
You mention the USB connection in DVD entertainment system and that it is blue tooth capable. Are you able to hook up a hard drive to the USB connection and watch movies throughout it? Thanks for your blog.
I don’t think we could have, it was a pretty cheap blue ray player. Eventually, we just removed the DVD player because its drawer became stuck open and we barely ever used it anyhow. You can use the cables there to hook up one that could or to put a different media device like a Roku in there. It would be able to play on all the TVs in the trailer.
We have little Chromecast dongles attached to the two TVs and we use our laptops or tablets to play movies and the like on the TVs. It’s how we had things set up in our house before we took to the road so we just continued doing it that way in the trailer.
You are very welcome and much thanks for the question and kind words. 🙂
Hitch (and Trail)
I truly appreciate all your work and brilliant information/blog as a resource for myself as I am also headed to the full-time airstream life. Regarding these troubling issues, have you forwarded this to Airstream and what are they doing in terms of design and development to improve. I equate the Airstream to a Gulfstream and can tell you that annoyances don’t go over really well with folks buying ‘the brand’ for either company. I’m convinced i’m buying AS and probably one very much along the lines of what you have now but I want SOLAR as well plus I will be totally annoyed if these issues haven’t been addressed by next years model. Not to mention coming up to the mark of the current techno age. Aftermarket conversions aside I’d much rather be able to be off-grid whenever possible and much more efficient without having to figure out the installs myself. I’m watching for those improvements and hoping that AS is reading ALL your blog. Great job.
We’ve done almost no boondocking so we keep putting off Solar, but it’s something we’ve been considering for quite a while. We use a lot of appliances regularly so we tend to look for shore power. But if you can go electricity light, then boondocking can save you a lot of money in the long run.
The main thing to understand about solar is it is a way to recharge your system’s batteries. The appliances run on the batteries, and the solar charges them over time. Typically the solar charging can’t keep up with any heavy use of the batteries. The idea is that you are only suing the batteries some of the day while the solar is charging them most of the day. It’s perfect if you spend most of the day out and about, then come home to charged batteries you can use for a while before bed and in the morning.
While modern Airstreams don’t automatically include solar, they are rigged up for it so that all you need to do is get the panels installed. All the electronics for them are already in place. Most dealers will sell you panels when you buy your airstream and install them. The only problem is they will usually just have one brand they specialize in.
Based on what I’ve learned, if I wanted to get serious about solar and boondocking, I’d not only get panels but also invest in more substantial batteries for the trailer so it could have a longer charge.
I truly enjoy your “Spot On” statements. I live in Southern Ca and I’m considering buying a trailer in the northwest and driving back home – 3-4 months. How would you rate the dealer you brought your Airstream? Also, have you a name for your airstream? Thank you!
Thanks E2, glad you liked the article. We got our trailer from Airstream Adventures Northwest: Seattle branch. They also have a dealership in the bay area according to their website.
I’d rate them as decent but not perfect. The sales person we worked with was very good and the sales department very helpful and respectful. The service department was less great and the sales and service side of the business didn’t seem to very integrated. Sometimes they were hard to get ahold of, other times they were confused about what parts to get to fix something. They weren’t bad, just less than great and with the Airstream brand I’m looking for great 9 times of 10.
On Balance, I’d rate them 4 of 5 stars overall with Sales being their strong suit and service needing a little work. Mind you, we didn’t finance and that can be a big part of the sales picture if you do.
Our Airstream is dubbed “The Yamato” after the Star Blazers / Space Battleship Yamato cartoon from Japan, which in turn gets its name from the Japanese Battleship from WWII. Both Trail and I grew up with the cartoon about a long and dangerous space voyage. The size of our trailer and the journey of going full time made us think of it.
No fast service appointments for those who purchased an Airstream from a different dealer. In other words, best to buy from a dealer who is nearby and be very picky prior to taking possession. Any service needed may take weeks if not purchased from your local dealer.
A good point. Your dealer will typically expedited service on the trailer you bought from them. Other dealers will have you wait in line like everyone else that didn’t buy from them. Once you are on the road, you need to plan ahead for service appointments.