Airstream Restoration Step 3 & 16: Belly Pan

Airstream Belly Pan Removal

old fiberglass insulation from belly pan removal during airstream restoration

Removing the belly was straight forward enough. The seam of the side panels and banana wraps is under the rub rails, so we took those off first by drilling out the pop rivets with ⅛ drill bit.

breaking drill bits is very common during airstream restoration

Before this project I hadn’t ever used a power drill…. I kept breaking drill bits and annoying my husband, so that was fun.

There was old sealant there (like there is everywhere…I’m so glad to be done scraping old sealant.) Anyway, we used a plastic scraper (TIP! to prevent scratching the soft aluminum, use plastic scrapers and razor blades, never steel!!) to break the seal, then went back later with a plastic razor blade and aircraft remover to clean it up.

airstream outriggers and frame after removing old belly pan during restoration

Then we removed the aluminum pieces under the belly by drilling out the rivets. It was simple in the sense of it not taking a ton of skill, but it wasn’t easy, it sucked. When drilling under the trailer there is little hope of avoiding getting aluminum pieces blasted in your face. When we took down the old pieces, the nasty insulation fell everywhere including all over Tom. The week we did this project happened to conveniently be super windy so we were chasing pink fluffy down the street, into the neighbor’s yards and into the park…hopefully we got most of it (sorry earth.) We labeled and saved all the old aluminum to use as templates to cut new ones.

removing old propane lines during airstream restoration
removing old airstream belly pan with fiberglass insulation during airstream restoration
airstream belly pan banana wraps

New Airstream Belly Pan Installation

The belly stayed off for many months. Once it was off we were able to treat our frame, replace our floor and put in new tanks and plumbing. Once we were finally ready to button the bottom back up we ordered a 48″ wide roll of .025″ 5052 H32 Airstream Belly Pan aluminum for the main center belly section, and .032 2024T3 Alclad Airstream aluminum to recreate new banana wraps as our old ones were quite damaged… We ordered the belly pan aluminum from Airparts Inc. as we found their prices to be the best, and their customer service was great! We used the old pieces as templates and cut the new pieces with metal shears from Harbor Freight. Some people use strong scissors but that seems terrible, so I recommend the tool.

5052H32 Aluminum for Airstream belly pan
Airparts 5052H32 Aluminum for Airstream belly pan
metal shears cutting airstream belly pan aluminum

It’s worth noting that not all the pieces fit exactly the same as the originals so if you’re on this step be sure to check the old piece and determine adjustments before cutting a new piece from the template. We insulated with Havelock wool in our airstream AND belly pan one section at a time and used pop rivets to put it back together starting with the large pieces in the middle, then the skirts and banana wraps and finally finishing with the rub rail. We sealed the top of the skirts and banana corners with Trempro and sealed the rub rail with Acryl-R. We did not seal the rest of the pieces under the trailer. The hope is that water doesn’t get in but if it does it needs a place to get out. So by not sealing the bottom water can escape out the seams. 

fastening new belly pan aluminum for airstream restoration with rivet gun
new belly pan aluminum for airstream restoration being fastened with rivet gun

We had the belly open for almost a year as we completed other projects. Finally putting it back together felt like a huge accomplishment and was worthy of a celebration.

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