Replacing Airstream/Argosy Window Weather Stripping
The weather stripping on our '78 Argosy was in pretty bad shape. It was hard and cracked and you could see light through certain points. So, I decided to replace it.
The following article documents the procedure I used to do this.
Equipment & Materials:
- Replacement weather stripping. See below for details
- Weather stripping adhesive. See below for details
- Lacquer thinner
- Putty knife
- Old tooth brush
- Single edged razor blade
- 1/2" socket or box wrench
- Small (1/4" or so wide) paint brush
- Small disposable container to hold Laquer Thinner
- Cloth rags (NOT paper towels)
I purchased the replacement weather stripping from Out-of-Doors Mart. I believe that Inland RV sells it as well. If you have a local Airstream dealer, you might check with them as well. It cost about 80 cents per foot. The side windows on my Argosy each required about 9 feet, the front and back windows required more.
Here is a photo of the cross section of the weather stripping:
After asking around on the Vintage & Airstream mailing lists, I determined the best adhesive to use is 3M Super Weatherstrip Adhesive: (NOTE Packaging color and design has changed since this photo was taken)
You can purchase this at many auto part stores. You can find a dealer near you at the 3M Web Site. It comes in yellow or black. I chose yellow because that was the color of the old adhesive. The 5oz tube cost me around $5.00.
While 3M recommends their "Adhesive Remover" to remove the old adhesive from the window, I have found that lacquer thinner works just fine, is inexpensive and can be found at any hardware or paint store. A quart will be more than enough to handle all the windows in your trailer.
Lacquer Thinner and the adhesive are extremely flammable and should be kept away from any potential source of ignition. They should both be used only in well ventilated areas as prolonged exposure to the fumes can be harmful to your health.
Step 1: Remove the window:
In order to replace the weather stripping you have to remove the window from the trailer.
Open the window to the maximum position.
Using a 1/2" socket or box end wrench, remove the cap nut on the end of each of the arms that hold the window open:
While holding the window open, pull the arms out of the brackets on the window.
Open the window further towards the top of the trailer and it will eventually disengage from the drip channel. Note the angle the window is to the trailer. You will need this information when you reinstall the window.
Take it to your well ventilated basement, garage or someplace you don't mind getting dirty. Cover a workbench with an old towel or rags to protect the glass (or plastic, in the case of my Argosy).
Be very careful not to bend or damage the hinge along the top of the window. If that gets dinged up or bent you will never be able to reinstall the window.
Step 2: Remove the old weather stripping:
If your windows are like mine, the old weather stripping will be all dried out, cracked and smashed down:
We need to remove this. To do that I used a putty knife to help strip out the old weather stripping:
You want to remove as much of the old rubber as possible. Some areas, such as corners and around the rivets along the top will be tougher to do. Don't try to scrape it all out, just do the best you can without resorting to major scraping. It should look something like this when you are done:
Pour some of the lacquer thinner into a small bowl or container. Use a toothbrush to liberally apply the lacquer thinner to the area you are cleaning and let it sit a minute or two. Then use the toothbrush to scrub the area, removing the old glue and any remaining rubber:
Repeat this until all of the old glue & rubber have been removed. You may need to use the putty knife as well to remove some of the larger or more stubborn glue spots. The toothbrush will get gunked up with old glue & rubber, so be sure to clean it off with a rag occasionally.
Once all of the old glue has been removed, wet a clean rag with lacquer thinner and completely clean the inside and outside of the window frame. Make sure that the area where the weather stripping goes is not sticky. The results should look like this:
Step 3: Apply the adhesive:
The adhesive is a contact cement. This means you apply it to both of the surfaces to be joined, let it dry then assemble.
Before touching the adhesive, take the weather stripping and run it around the window, taking care not to stretch it. Cut it about 1" longer than you need.
You need a way to support the weather stripping so you can apply the adhesive. I happened to have some scrap 1/4" panneling, so I put the weather stripping upside down on the edge of the panneling:
It's important that the weather stripping is clean so the adhesive will adhere to it. Take a clan rag and wet it with some lacquer thinner. Clean the weather stripping with the rag.
The adhesive dries very quickly, so working in short (6"-10") segments, apply a THIN bead of the adhesive and then spread it out with the small paint brush:
Do the same for the edge of the window:
Let the adhesive dry. This normally only takes 15 minutes or so.
Step 4: Glue together:
IMPORTANT: You want to install the weather stripping so that the "tall" side is towards the window and the "short" side is towards the outside edge of the window frame.
Gather up the weather stripping, being careful that the glued surfaces don't touch each other. Place one end of the weather stripping at the middle of the bottom of the window frame and slowly lay the window stripping around the frame. Be careful at the corners that you don't stretch the weather stripping. Note that I have been told that the Airstream factory says to place the joint in the middle of the top of the window, but mine all started at the bottom. I suggest you use whatever location the old weather stripping used.
Once you get back around to the beginning, trim the end of the weather stripping with a single edge razor blade to fit snug up against the starting end.
Now take your finger and press it in between the two "fingers" of the weather stripping. Press down hard. Do this all the way around the window frame:
Check to make sure that the weather stripping is attached all the way around the frame. The corners may tend to pull up at first, so if they do just push them back down. If an area still refuses to adhere, just take a small amount of adhesive on the end of a toothpick and spread it around in the gap, getting the adhesive on both the weather stripping and the frame. Then press down again.
The finished result should look like this:
Step 5: Re-install the window:
Clean the window and the window frame on the trailer.
Now the "fun" part. You have to install the window's hinge inside the gap in the underside of the drip rail. You will notice two little brackets riveted into the rail. These are the stops that are on either side of the window's hinge.
It helps to have a helper on this step. Stand on step stools on either side of the window. Tilt the window up to about a 45 degree angle to the top half of the trailer (about the same angle it was when you removed it) . Insert the hinge edge into the gap in the underside of the drip rail. While holding the hinge in the gap, slowly rotate the window towards the closed position. If you are lucky, one end of the hinge won't pop out :-)
Once you have the window in place, re-install the openers into the brackets and install the cap nuts.
You may have to readjust the window latches to account for the now thicker weather stripping.
This entire process should take you 1-2 hours per window, depending on how stubborn the old weather stripping is to remove and how difficult the window is to reinstall.
I would like to thank Dan at Out-of-Doors Mart and Charlie Burke for the information they provided.
I hope you find this information useful. If you have any comments or questions or have information you want to add to this please feel free to Contact Me.
If you enjoyed this article, please pass it on to others. And be sure to check out my other Airstrean & Argosy Restoration Projects