I know what you’re thinking. This Youtube video is riveting. “Thank you! Thank you very much!” — in my best Elvis voice. I can’t take all the credit though. I have to give most of the credit to my co-star, Mr. Pneumatic Rivet Gun, from Harbor Freight. It did most of the work, and I much appreciate it. Actually, my arms GREATLY appreciated it. (If you have ever used a handheld rivet gun, you know what I mean.)
But really, let’s talk Rivets for a bit. Exciting huh?
We learned from other Avion owners that you should often check your underbelly for loose or missing rivets. Not something we were thinking about at the time, but we’re sure glad we listened to them. When I climbed under our trailer to check the underbelly, I made a scary discovery. We had a TON of missing rivets. I guess it’s something to expect since the trailer is 47 years young, but since I was new to Avion ownership, it was not on my mind to repair it.
This advice probably saved me thousands of dollars of damage or even a possible accident on the highway if the belly pan would have fallen off while driving. That’s why I want to share what we learned with you. I think it’s an important safety tip when traveling with an aluminum trailer or any trailer. Always take the time to check for loose screws, bolts and/or rivets, as well as essential components of your trailer to ensure a longer life for your trailer and safer travels for your family.
This video shows you what we used to replace the loose and missing rivets in our 1973 25′ Avion LeGrande belly pan and how we did it. To reiterate, checking your belly pan for missing rivets is something I highly recommend. If you have a vintage aluminum trailer, like an Avion, Silver Streak, Streamliner, Boles Aero, or Airstream, you will eventually have loose rivets. This video shows you the steps and tools you will need to complete your riveting project on your trailer. I will also include a list of tools and supplies you will need for your project.
Most trailers use rivets in some form or fashion, and unfortunately, this information may not answer all your riveting questions because there are multiple types of rivets out there. However, all pop rivets (or blind rivets) work in the same way, which is the type we used in this situation on our vintage Avion travel trailer.
Tools & supplies you will need:
- Pneumatic rivet gun
- Aluminum Rivets (We used 3/16″ x 5/8″ Large Diameter Aluminum Rivets because we are securing the sheet metal to the trailer frame.) *See below for tips on choosing the correct rivet.
- SikaFlex 221 sealant
- Air compressor
- Safety goggles
- Cordless Drill & Drill bits (3/16″ or #11 drill bit with these particular size rivets) *Be sure to figure out what size drill bit you will need for your specific size rivet.
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Steps to install rivets:
- Drill out existing loose rivets if you have them, or drill new holes where you plan to install the rivets.
- Make sure the hole is the proper size for the rivets you purchased. *If 3/16″ rivet, use a 3/16″ or #11 drill bit to make the right size hole.
- Apply Sikaflex sealant to rivet head.
- Insert rivet into the gun and then pop rivet through the new hole in the trailer.
- Compress rivet gun trigger, and “Wala!”…You’re Done!
It really is super easy to install pop rivets. The hardest part for me was figuring out if the aluminum sheet metal was supposed to be secured to another piece of sheet metal or the trailer frame. But luckily, I found one video on a Facebook page that cleared that question up for me. A good way to figure that out is to start poking around if you can’t see both sides of the pieces you are securing together. It should be able to tell the difference between the frame and other material simply by the resistance you get when pushing on it.
I hoped you found this video and information helpful. If you have more questions, please leave a comment below. We want to help you complete your trailer projects, and get you on the road. Safe Travels!
*When choosing the right rivet for the job, there are a couple of things you need to take into consideration.
- What type of metals are you fastening together? Keep in mind that dissimilar metals can lead to corrosion and cause those parts to break down and fail. In our case, The Avion trailer body is made of aluminum. With that being said, we got aluminum rivets instead of stainless steel to prevent the possibility of Galvanic Corrosion between the two different types of metal.
- Establish the exact type of rivet you need; pop rivet, buck rivets, etc. We choose pop rivets for the underbelly, but we will probably need something more like buck rivets when replacing any rivets on the roof. This part of the project will require a little research to ensure you have the right fastener for the job.
- Also, consider the size rivet you will need for each project. We chose the 3/16″ rivet because we had to drill out old rivets. We chose the 5/8″ length because we need to ensure the rivet would fit all the way through both pieces of metal to create a better bond. And we picked the large head rivets because they will withstand more travel and road vibration and last longer.
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