Diagnosing and Repairing a Leaking Airstream
Over time, an Airstream can develop a leak after being exposed to the elements. However, all RV’s can develop leaks over time and an Airstream is probably less likely to leak than any other RV of a similar age. The good news is that repairing most leaks is fairly simple, but the bad news is that it can be difficult to find the leak. Routine inspection is the key to ensuring a leak free Airstream.
It can be difficult to find the area of a leak due to the double wall construction of an Airstream that allows the water to enter in one area but to leak into the interior in another. The first step to finding a leak is to carefully examine the outside of the structure. Often, leaks will develop in areas where there is exterior damage. The area that is leaking may be stained due to the sediments from rainwater building up at the specific site of the leak. Another method of finding a leak is to spray a small area of the Airstream with a garden hose and then look inside for leaks. This can be a tedious process but can be helpful when looking for a small leak.
Airstream roofs are most likely to leak around rooftop structures and repairs. For example, places where vents, bolts or screws go through the roof are likely to develop leaks. Gaskets around doors and windows are also prime sources of leaks. In most cases, the metal roof panels themselves are unlikely to leak unless the panel is damaged or badly corroded. However, roof seams are a potential location for a leak to develop. Any area on the exterior where water pools is also a potential source of a leak.
The many joints and seams of an Airstream are sealed with caulking or some other sealant. Leaks on these joints and seams are generally due to the failure of the sealant, which is common with age. To repair these leaks, the old sealant needs removed and the sealant replaced. A plastic putty knife is great for removing the old sealants and will not scratch the Airstream’s metal exterior. Leaks found in gaskets can sometimes be fixed by adding a silicone sealant to the damaged or loose area, but often the gasket itself will need to be replaced.
As most Airstreams have a floor made of plywood or a similar material, it is important to keep an eye out for leaks. If water is left in contact with a plywood floor, the floor will quickly begin rotting and warping and will require replacement. By catching leaks early and having them repaired before floor damage can develop, the expense and hassle of a floor repair can be avoided.