We’re newbies to the RV’ing thing, so we are constantly seeking out information about how our Airstream works. We decided we needed an Airstream guide.

Two of the most popular Airstream guides / handbooks are written by the same author – Rich Luhr – and provide incredibly helpful information to get started living the RVing life: The Newbies Guide to Airstreaming and The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance.

Both guides are available as handy spiral-bound guides, which make them easy to take with you on the road and access with or without Internet access.

Use one or both Airstream guide to help you enjoy your Airstream travels!

The Newbie guide is a more high-level, introductory type guide while the Maintenance guide goes into more detail in an Airstream’s technical operations. Both would make perfect housewarming gifts for new Airstream owners. We purchased both and have found them to be well-written and excellent sources of information.

Let’s Start with the Newbies Guide to Airstreaming

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Since it has our current expertise name in the title (i.e. Newbie), it seems right up our alley.

This quick start guide is just the right amount of content for newbies who may not have a lot of background experience in any type of RVs.

Even though our dealer spent time going over all the systems in Ricky (our Airstream) and how they work, I still left the dealer not knowing what I was doing and kept wondering whether I need to turn the water pump on.

The thousands of pages in the official Airstream owner’s manual is a bit daunting for entry level Airstreamers and not an easy way to answer common questions. Enter this 105-page guide to provide just the right amount of information to help get you started on your Airstream adventures.

Many fellow RV’ers will recommend that you video record the dealer as he/she goes over your new RV’s systems with you, which is great advice. However, even armed with these videos, you are still likely to have lots of questions.

This is where this guide steps in and would be helpful to anyone considering purchasing a new or vintage Airstream. It is filled with practical answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions about how an Airstream’s systems operate and why they operate that way which is complemented with over 30 illustrations for you visual learners out there.

The guide is organized in the following sections:

  • Get to Know Your Airstream Trailer: Includes details about the Airstream structure, propane system, batteries, stone guards, doors, locks, entry step (which can be surprisingly confusing to open and close!), awning, running gear, appliances, compartments, electrical system, water and sewer system, power converter and inverter, water heater, furnace, air conditioner, water pump, roof vents, TV antenna, and more.
  • Everyday Procedures: Includes details on planning your first weekend, trailer weight ratios, towing, sway control and weight distribution hitches, backing up (a challenge for most newbies!), leveling and chocking, filling up with water, dumping, and refilling the propane.
  • Camping and Traveling: Includes details on campgrounds, overnight parking, courtesy parking, boondocking, systems that use up your battery power, cold weather camping, and accessing the Internet while on the road.
  • Checklists: Includes several handy checklists, such as a departure checklist, arrival checklist, walk behind checklist, and emergency contingencies checklist.
  • Simple Maintenance: Includes details on sanitizing the fresh water system, tire maintenance, changing a tire, brakes and bearings, refrigerator maintenance, cleaning and lubricating your Airstream, winter storage (i.e. winterizing), battery storage, springtime de-winterizing, and a basic equipment kit.
  • Tips, myths, and Advice: Includes some expert advice for Newbies from an experienced Airstream’er.
  • Jargon Guide: Similar to my RV Glossary post, Luhr provides definitions for common Airstream jargon in an 8-page section of the guide.

Overall, the Newbies Guide to Airstreaming is a fantastic overview of how Airstreams’ systems work and is easily readable for non-technical folks like myself. It gives just the right amount of information to understand the basics without making your eyes glaze over with technical jargon or mechanic speak.

Once you’ve digested the Newbies Guide to Airstreaming, you’re ready for the more detailed and technical (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance by the same author.

Next: The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance

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This guide is over twice the length (219 pages) of the Newbie Guide and goes into far more depth about an Airstream’s technical systems and their maintenance. However, it is still written in the same accessible manner for non-technical people like myself.

One area in which this guide excels is in helping you avoid making costly mistakes.

Speaking from our newbie experience, we ended up having to replace our battery after a month of use as we let it drain too far without recharging right before a cross-country trip from Atlanta to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta.

Woops. Had we read this guide and the Newbie Guide, we’d have known the importance of proper battery maintenance.

A second strength of this guide is in letting you know what you as the owner can do to maintain your Airstream and when it is time to seek professional help.

The (nearly) Complete Guide to Airstream Maintenance is organized in the following sections:

  • Your Tool Kit: Includes details on a first aid kit and vintage Airstream needs for vintage owners.
  • Learning to Inspect: Includes details on when and why to perform inspections, including a storage inspection and on-the-road inspection.
  • Interior Cleaning and Appearance: Includes details on maintaining the interior of your Airstream, such as its curtains, windows, window blinds, countertops, stove and oven, ceiling and wall covering, vinyl flooring, shower, and minor furniture repairs.
  • Exterior Cleaning and Appearance: Includes details on the aluminum clear coat finish, washing your Airstream, getting on the roof, Zip-Dee awning, and belt line trim and front wrap protectors.
  • Aluminum Body Repair: Includes details on the rivets, fixing aluminum blemishes, polishing, and belly pan repairs.
  • Leak Prevention, Detection, and Repair: Includes details on leak detection techniques, roof inspection, sealants, and floor rot.
  • Windows, Doors, Locks, and Vents: Includes details on lubricants, entry door and screen door adjustment, Fan-Tastic vents, replacing window and door screen doors, and replacing the Hehr window crank.
  • Plumbing: Includes details on plumbing tools, sanitizing the fresh water system, common water supply problems and solutions, water pump, types of plumping, basic leak repair, drain system maintenance and cleaning, toilet maintenance, black tank maintenance, gray tank maintenance, and calibrating the tank monitor.
  • Running Gear and A-Frame: Includes details on the hitch coupler and ball maintenance, hitch receive maintenance, breakaway switch, power hitch jack, tire maintenance, accessing and maintaining the spare tire, changing a tire, brakes, drum brake adjustment, wheel bearing and brake service, troubleshooting electrical problems with brakes, axles, and shock absorbers.
  • Loading: Includes details on weighing before your trip and carrying bicycles
  • Storage and Seasonal: Includes details on choosing a place to store your Airstream travel trailer, short-term storage, potential rodent and insect problems, winterizing, routine checks while in storage, springtime de-winterizing, and expiration dates.
  • Electrical: Includes an electrical overview and details on fuses, circuit breakers, and Ground Fault Interrupters (GFI), troubleshooting electrical problems, replacing light bulbs, maintaining the 7-way trailer plug, battery basics (I wish we’d read this prior to killing our first battery!), understanding battery capacity, charging batteries, and the TV antenna.
  • Propane System: Includes details on inspecting your propane tank(s), checking for propane leaks, replacing propane “pigtail” hoses, filling the propane tanks, propane regulator inspection and adjustment, propane leak detector, and re-securing gas lines.
  • Climate Control: Includes details on the air conditioner system, furnace, and catalytic heaters.
  • Gas Appliances: Includes details on the refrigerator, stove and oven, and water heater.
  • Resources: Includes links to additional resources for more information.

It’s clear the second guide has far more detailed information about specific systems in the Airstream. It’s so packed with juicy details that this guide is really an invaluable resource for all Airstreamers, whether newbies or experienced owners.

Final Thoughts on Airstream Guides

Both guides are well written and well thought out with useful technical information in a highly accessible manner by an obviously experienced Airstreamer.

We also made some tweaks to our Airstream’s closet, by adding built-in shelving to our Airstream closet, but the instructions were not included in the guide books.

We’ve learned so much from these two guides and can recommend them both highly to all current and potential Airstream owners.