Airstream Central - Info for Airstream Owners -
Renovating Wing Windows On 70’s Airstream
I am a restorative engineer of some 30+ yrs experience. I now run a company that specialises in the restoration of vintage travel trailer caravans in the UK. 
By StreamerUK
Published on 07/26/2008

Are your wing windows fogged up or looking like gold fish bowls?  Here's a repair solution used by many.

Not a job for the faint-hearted

This is a job that takes time and patience but the rewards are well worth it.  This is how we deal with these problems in the UK. While this is a UK perspective no reason why you can’t use this method anywhere in the world. It works, it’s economical and you CAN do it yourself with care.

Over the other side of the pond we have the same problems but often have to tackle things differently due to the lack of spares both second hand and new.  New bits can be ordered from the USA but add the cost of shipping and import, the time it takes and the difficulty in getting exactly the right parts and the cost is often prohibitive. Although I should say that thanks to folk like Inland RV and Vintage Trailer Supply this is becoming much easier.

Our process involves reducing these wing windows to single glaze units.  It is possible to rebuild these as double glazed but is more difficult and, here in the UK is not necessary.  We think that the trouble that is caused by these units does not warrant the extra time and trouble to rebuild as double glazed.  This is a process that not only works but is trouble free once the conversion has been carried out correctly.

This job will take 2 days so pick a time with fine weather or find somewhere under cover to carry out this work (especially in the UK!) and make sure that you have all the tools, sealants etc to hand.

Tools and supplies needed:

  • Power drill with plenty of sharp 2mm and 4 mm drill bits
  • Center punch
  • Hammer
  • Small block of hard wood
  • Stanley knife (box cutter)
  • Screw drivers
  • Impact driver
  • Masking tape
  • Rubber seal
  • Sikaflex (DO NOT try to cut corners using a cheaper type of sealant as this will lead to tears)
  • Sikaflex primer for glass
  • Sikaflex primer for aluminum
  • Solvent cleaner
  • Olympic rivets (please, please, please don’t use ordinary pop rivets as this will also end in tears and a very big bill when you need to have the botched repair fixed.
  • Sharp side cutters
  • Rivet shaver

Removal    Drill the heads off all the rivets.  Use a 2mm pilot drill and take great care to get the drill central, follow that with a 4mm drill and drill the rivets out.  There will be about 50 per frame.  Knock the divider bar between the wing window and the center window up with a block of wood and a hammer.  Take care; it may be helpful to run a Stanley knife (box cutter) down each side of the divider bar first to break any sealant that has been applied.  Don't pry them off because this will damage them and new ones will cost and have to come from the States as they are unobtainable in the UK.  Remove the plastic trim from inside the window.  It will be necessary to remove the centre trims first as the trims for the wing windows have fasteners behind this.  Cut and peal away as much of the old sealant from the inside of the window as you can. Now the window frame will come out with gentle pressure applied from inside.

Renovation    The frame comes apart by removing the two screws on the flat frame side in each corner which attach the straight vertical frame section to the rest of the frame. Take out the screws, (you may need to use an impact driver to loosen them), remove the straight frame section and slide out the glass sandwich.  Use a knife or cheese wire to part the two pieces of glass.  They are stuck together with butyl tape.  Be careful and DO NOT try to pry the glass apart as it will shatter.  The outer glass can then be cleaned.

After cleaning the glass and the frame, place a line of masking tape on both sides of the outer glass approx. 3/16 inch (4.5mm) in from the edge of the glass.  Mask off the outside of the frame.  Prime the inside of the frame and the edge of the glass and leave to dry.  Apply a bead of Sikaflex to the inside of the frame, place the glass in the frame and reassemble. Gently push the glass against the sealant towards the outside of the frame and push in the new, one piece, rubber seal on the inside edge.  Leave for approx 8 hours to allow the Sikaflex to dry.  When dry carefully run a knife around the edge of the outside of the glass to cut the excess sealant and the masking tape.  Peel away the excess and masking tape taking care not to pull the sealant from between the glass and the frame. Check for continuity of the sealant and spot fill as necessary.  Remove the masking tape from the inside of the glass and ensure that the rubber is bedded properly.

Replacement    Make sure that all the rivets have been completely removed and that all traces of sealant on both the hull and the window frame has been cleaned away.  On the hull mask around the outside of the window frame opening (use the mark left when you removed the frame as a tape line).  Put a good bead of Sikaflex on the back of the window frame, prime the back of the frame first but not the hull and leave to dry).  Next, hold the frame in place and place new Olympic rivets in the holes through the frame and the hull skin.  Apply a small amount of Sikaflex to each rivet body as you put them in.  Pull the rivets up evenly around the frame making sure that they securely pull the frame and the hull skin together.  Apply a small amount of sealer to the divider bar and gently tap it back into place with a block of wood and hammer.  Seal the top edge with a little Sikaflex. Clean any excess sealant from the rivet heads, cut back and shave the heads to finish. Replace the inner trims.

Finally, stand back and admire your new panoramic clear view windows, give yourself a pat on the back and a beer (you’ve deserved it).  Oh and don’t forget to supply some new fun for stray cat next door as you have now removed its main source of entertainment.