The state inspection on the Airstream ran out in August but I decided to wait until September in order to gain a couple of months on the sticker — and then got busy and it slid to October. I don’t know if police check trailer stickers but my mechanic friend says that he’s seen inspectors wander around gatherings of trailers at a county fair looking for outdated rigs — so even though I really only need it for a day next January when we head out of the state, I decided to schedule the inspection at a local RV dealer that I like, M’s RV in Berlin, VT. It’s a mom and pop operation but the owners are very knowledgeable and they’ve helped me with several problems: every time I go there I learn something.
The co-owner Marcel gives me heat for owning an Airstream – alluding to the “glamping” aspect of Airstream owners – knowing all along that our rig is modest and priced less than many of the trailers and fifth-wheelers he has for sale on the lot. Plus, I found out that he is quietly restoring an old Airstream Caravel in his work space.
Last week, I took the ten mile drive down through Montpelier, outdated sticker and all, and we got started on the inspection. Lights good, tires etc fine, but when we tested the brake controller, I got a “disconnected” signal. We tried and tried but nada. I explained that I had changed the 7-pin plug a while ago after problems and during our last trip, had a couple of “trailer disconnected” signals after a tight turn or a sharp bump. Everything seemed to work fine all the way home and since then – but we talked about how tough it is to connect each thick wire to the screws in the plug and how prone to coming loose they seem to be. We decided to try a better setup.
Joanne, spouse and co-owner, took me into their parts department and showed me the setup that Marcel could install to fix the problem. (I could do it but it seemed smart to let a pro handle it.) It involves using a new plug already molded into a long lead and a junction box to hold all the wires, getting away from the “rat’s nest” of wires in the plug. I left the rig and while they had a lot of winterization of trailers to do (It got down into the 20’s this weekend), they called the other day to say that it was ready to go.
Yesterday everything checked out great, Joanne slapped on a new inspection sticker, I paid the bill and was on the way. But first, Marcel gave me a lesson in using the brake controller to change settings as we travelled.
Wouldn’t you know, I went by three police cars waiting beside the road in the first three miles back to Montpelier. While no one seemed interested, it was nice to know that the Airstream was legal. More importantly, it was nice to know that the trailer brake system is working as it should as we face an 8,000 mile trip with some challenging climbs and descents. (Mendon Mountain, you’ll be the first.)