Perhaps one of the first projects often taken on (or at least put on the “to do” list) when purchasing an Avion is replacing the vinyl rub rail around the midline of the outside of the trailer. We have written the following article mostly specific to 70-80s years of Avion’s. Some models and earlier versions of Avion’s have different rub rail needs or no rub rails at all. We encourage you, if you have this scenario to reach out to similar model year owners on one of the several Avion Facebook groups or forums for answers/information/resources. Our experience has only been with our ’73 and now our ’87 Avion’s.
Often the original (many were black, some years were an orangy/red) has shrunk, become faded or in some cases- especially near both sides of the door, it is missing. This is very common. That can be due to mere shrinkage of the vinyl over time due to sun and weather conditions as well as not being maintained. (Yes, it does need to be maintained for optimal life expectancy!)
Below is a slide show of typical 70’s-80’s Avion’s. These are samples from existing or replaced rub rails from other Avion’s to give you an idea of various states of condition. (In full disclosure…we have had to priority projects and while we have our vinyl replacement strapping simply have not had the time to do the project yet! Ours is missing about 14 inches from each side of the doorway due to shrinkage over its 34+ yrs)
NOTE: the closeup photos of the black rub rail is of our Pewter Palace 1987. The ones that show a few small strips with green, blue and navy is ours too where we are missing vinyl due to age shrinkage. What you are seeing is actual sample strips we ordered from the two resources we list below. We drove around with them in place in 2022 to decide what color we liked the best- we have decided to go with the navy to match a stripe in our awnings.
WHERE TO PURCHASE REPLACEMENT STRAPPING FOR RUB RAILS?
Sunniland sells 16” lengths so it is advised if you are not sure which color you want order the colors in 16inch to see before ordering a whole roll.
PatioFurniture sells sample pieces of color choices. The samples are only about 2 inches long. if you want a better idea how it will look then you would need to actually order a specified length you wanted, we did 12″.
****Both companies sell the identical product. Even the color swatch numbers are the same as of this blog posting. It boils down to pricing at the time and shipping costs to your destination.
WHAT COLOR SHOULD I CHOOSE?
Both companies offer a literal rainbow of colors to choose from since this product is actually manufactured for vinyl strapped pool and patio furniture. Color choice is really entirely up to you. If you want to go traditional to what was originally used then the choice is really a black or an orangy/red, or red. Just remember that any color you get will fade from sun exposure over time, so factor that in. We went with a navy color to match one of the stripes in our awnings. The original on our ’87 was black since we believe the rig was sold with the traditional black and white stripped awnings. Earlier 60s and 70s models may have had the red or orange/red inserts.
Towards the end of this post we have a slide show of a unique project undertaken by Christie Ann and her husband on their 70s era Avion. She decided to SPRAY PAINT her existing rub rail because it was all in great condition. This certainly is an option as well! Check it out!
TIPS ON INSTALLING THE REPLACEMENT RUB RAIL VINYL
- Install in warm weather so that material is flexible but do not stretch the material at all when installing! Over time the vinyl material will shrink due to sun and weather, so you want to actually push back on the ends a bit to leave it as tight butted up to your beginning and ending points as possible. Two people is best, one to feed into the track and the other to pull it through. OR even better some have found they can insert it by pinching the warmed strap edges together and using a tool, perhaps a small hard plastic putty knife to help push it into the track as you move along- thereby omitting the need to “pull it thru”. The latter may be the optimal way to insert.
- Using dawn or similar dish soap in the track or rubbed against edges of strapping may help it to slide into the tracks easier
- Start at one side of the door and work your way around in one continuous strap. Avoid seaming the product if at all possible (no seams in the original installs). Some have used a set screw to anchor the ends of each strap if your original triangular metal tabs have been removed or broken off.
- To maintain the suppleness of the vinyl it is suggested you go over it with a protectant like Armorall or T-9 Boeshield (which is also a great at least annual lubricant for your Awning hardware). Avail on Amazon.
- We have had to use a heat gun to warm our vinyl strapping and used a pair of pliers on one end that is used to help pull it thru the track. It should be a tight fit so that the vinyl stays in place though. See diagram of the correct profile below which is achieved with the 1.5” width of strapping. This matches the original install best.
WHAT SHOULD IT LOOK LIKE WHEN INSTALLED?
Here is an illustration we have made to show a side profile of what the rub rail insert should look like when installed properly. Notice it does have a “bulge” to it. This is correct—it is truly supposed to act as a “rub rail” and prevent things from bumping up and scratching the side of your Avion. Sadly, it does not really work that well- so be careful when driving near tree limbs/branches, or when carrying your ladder or equipment near the outside! Thankfully those of us with anodized exteriors have the benefit of a much harder surface so we don’t scratch from tree or bushes quite as easily as Airstreams do!
OPTION!! SPRAY PAINT YOUR RUB RAIL INSTEAD OF REPLACING!
Our friend, fellow Avioner Christie Ann and her husband own this 70s era Avion and chose to do just that since the vinyl rub rail was in good shape. We met them and saw the finished project in person at the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in Elkhart, IN in 2020 and it looked great! They did a great job! Christie Ann can be found on the Avion Facebook groups if you want to reach out to her directly.
MAINTAINING YOUR RUB RAIL
Just like all other parts of your Avion (inside and out) there is maintenance that should be done. The rub rail is no exception. It is plastic, vinyl and therefore subject to climates, sun, temperature variations, wind and weather. To keep it in top shape, obviously if you can keep your Avion under cover or in a garage that will no doubt prolong its life. But many of us don’t have that option.
Regardless of how pampered your Avion may be, putting a protective coating on your rub rail is something that should be done at least 1 time per year, perhaps in the spring as part of your annual spring prep.
There are a number of products that can be carefully applied to the vinyl rub rail by hand and a soft cloth. Here are some suggestions
303 Aerospace Protectant https://www.303products.com.au/product-range/universal/303-outdoor-protectant (this is what we use!)
Armorall original protectant https://www.armorall.com/ca/product/original-protectant/
Armorall Plastic Restorer https://www.armorall.com/ca/product/outlast-trim-plastic-restorer/
Boeshield T-9 https://boeshield.com/rv-trailer/
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