Airstream Window Repair - Vista View Windows, Part Deux
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
OK, so here we go with the procedure that includes busting out one of the panes. It's recommended to remove the INNER pane, because it is often slightly thinner than the exterior pane. However, if like us, you have inadvertently busted an OUTER pane, that's alright too.
I made quick work of removing the inner panes by shattering them with a center punch (the pointy kind, like SO). Carefully, tap-tap with a hammer on the punch to shatter the glass, and remove the shards with some pliers. WHERE GLOVES, obviously, and make those gloves some kind of cut-resistant type as well. After the big pieces are out, I vacuumed all the tiny shards up real good.
As shown above, we used a small flat-head to dig out this main sash gasket. This is the gasket that originally goes around both panes, so it's substantial. Once you get enough out to grab it with your hand, you can carefully pull the whole thing out. Starting from the end of the window, as above, is KEY. The gasket will stay intact enough to come out as a full loop. Keep in mind that at this point, there's only one pane in there, so there's a lot of slop around the glass to work with and after that gasket is out, there's a LOT more. It will be clanging around in the frame at that point.
The tools above are some of our favorites to remove the gunky mess that you find between the panes. The pane will be loose enough to shift to the outside of the frame to clean the inside, and vice-versa. Once all the gasket material is out and the frame is semi-clean with the one pane remaining and loosely trapped in the frame, we move on to adding the sealant and gasket that will convert this window to single-pane.
Above, I'm squeezing a healthy bead of THIS in the frame for the glass edge to be sealed to the frame. This is Step 1. We got a healthy bead all around, but tried not to get the sealant in the way of what is coming next, which is a gasket that is squeezed between the front of the glass and the front of the frame. You may recognize this gasket. It's the same one that is used many other places on the windows and doors all around the Airstream. As always, VintageTrailerGaskets.com is the place to get it: HERE. Keep in mind, that this is NOT the intended purpose of this particular gasket, but it worked perfectly. The last step is squeezing a spacer BEHIND the glass. The idea is that we're squeezing the glass between these two pieces of foam, so the glass is sort of floating between these two pieces of foam. This spacer seemed to be perfectly sized for the job. Because it will be out of sight, we chose to put the seam for this spacer and the gasket on the bottom of the window. We glued the ends together at the seams with THIS loctite vinyl adhesive which comes highly recommended by Airstream folks for this exact use.
We used a good old paint scraper and a little power sander (240 grit) to clean off what you see above.
Once it's clean enough (Don't go nuts, no one will ever see this, just clean it well enough to make a good seal with the window frame.), we applied a small bead of the same sealant as above and held the window frame in place with cleco fasteners. These cleco fasteners aren't a cool idea, they are absolutely REQUIRED and they are extremely helpful. The trick is getting them in the right size... I ordered a bag of 1/8" cleco's and they worked great, for 2 of the 3 windows. Apparently, the previous owner had drilled out the third window to 3/16" holes all around and reinstalled it with larger rivets at some point over the last 50 years. So, I ordered some 3/16" versions and we were in business. Shout-out to Amazon Prime! Note also, that the cleco fasteners we got came with the tool that installs and removes them. They're super easy. Squeeze the pliers, insert cleco, release pliers. It's that easy. And the magic of these things, is that they don't just hold the two pieces together, they pull the frame and Airstream skin together putting the perfect amount of pressure on our sealant as it dries. Which we let happen for a full 24 hours. Our reasoning was that if we got the sealant to set up well with no rivets, and then riveted the pieces together it would be a super tight water-proof seal.
This is about how many cleco's it took for us to feel good about the window being held to the Airstream nice, straight, and firmly.