One of the issues most people run into when buying a vintage Airstream is there are likely to be several areas of exterior aluminum that need to be patched or replaced. Fortunately, Sweetie had no large areas of aluminum that needed replacing, but as we removed kitchen vents and gas lines, we created a few holes that needed patching. Most people patch small holes like this with aluminum tape for a quick temporary fix, then, when they have the time, they use a small square patch of exterior grade aluminum.
After giving Sweetie a good look-over, I measured out how much aluminum we would need to patch up all of the holes, and it ended up being quite a bit, which meant that I had to special order a roll of aluminum from an airplane parts store (my airplane-building uncle would be so proud!).
The poor UPS guy delivered this super-heavy package that had the huge roll of aluminum inside.
Once we unrolled the aluminum, I started cutting out the various sizes of patches that we would need.
Now, remember when I said “most people use small squares of patches”? Well, I am not most people, and squares are boring. So, I decided that Sweetie’s patches would be in the shape of a star.
After I cut out all the patches, we began to attach them to the exterior of the Airstream. We started by cleaning the area around the hole so that the adhesive would have a good surface to bond to.
Next, we filled the hole with insulation, to make sure that no warm air could leak out during our chilly winter months.
Then we used the same silicone sealer that we used on the windows to create a seal under the patch, near the outside edges.
Next, Davey drilled holes through the star and the already existing exterior aluminum.
Then, we inserted our rivets and used our riveting tool to squeeze them tight until they popped (which means they had completely sealed).
Since we couldn’t use flat head rivets — because we don’t have a rivet gun like Rosie the Riveter did — we had to come back with the dremel tool to cut off the remaining rivet rods.
And that’s all there was to it — for that one patch.
Now, repeat all those steps 18 times and you’d have some wicked sore biceps like we did!