Tuesday, October 28, 2014


The Airstream Interstate is legendary for being rough and bumpy in the rear while driving (e.g., see this Air Forums thread and this other recent thread on suspension upgrades).  Even during our brief ownership, I've already had issues with stuff launching off the rear table while the vehicle was in motion.

As a simple way of minimizing this tendency, I modified an idea that I found on a general RV forum (I would link to it if I could remember where I read it).  Several users suggested making table place mats out of grippy shelf liner to prevent dishes from skidding around while traveling.  
This stuff.  It comes in many, many colors now.  Not your Grandma's shelf liner.

Thumbnails screengrabbed from Amazon.com  
I took that good idea one step further and made an entire table topper out of it.
Like this.  The color is so close to our actual table that you don't even really see it unless you look carefully.  
Just trim to fit with sharp scissors.  Nothing hanging over the edges to get accidentally dragged off by someone squeezing into the "booth".  
The other thing I did was make a similar protective cover for our countertop.  We have the recessed sink and stove which have glass lids (seems to be standard on newer Interstates but only some of the oldest ones have this option).  It's a configuration that makes for a great continuous large task space, except working directly on top of the glass would likely result in it getting scratched to pieces over time.  Furthermore I worry about chips or breakage if small objects are dropped onto the glass when no padding is present.  
So as a workaround for that, you can either cut a single piece to fit the whole counter, or just cut smaller pieces to fit directly over the glass inserts.  I did a piece for the whole counter and I'm very pleased.  
Anyway, there's one more small make-your-life easier option that costs almost nothing and helps to address a specific situation.
I am looking forward to the day when we can ease off our DIY and upgrades to the point where we can just take a small trip and I can sit in the back doing nothing except relaxing and sipping tea.  However, grippy table topper or not, I may have to swap this fragile assembly for one of those really squat Asian sets that would tend not to tip over in heavy road turbulence.  Perhaps in cast iron.

Monday, October 27, 2014


We noticed while shopping for our Airstream Interstate that newer models already have light-emitting diode (LED) coach lighting, but our 2007 model still had the original halogen bulbs throughout when we bought it.

There is an Air Forums thread on this subject but it dates back several years (commencing a decade ago, in fact).  There is also this Airstream Life article on the same subject, but it's also a few years old.  This technology is constantly changing, so I thought I'd publish an update here.

There are two related reasons why an upgrade to LED is desirable:
  • Most importantly, halogens pull too much power.  Using LEDs reduces that demand substantially.
This is watt I'm talking about.  Bulbs in the 10 - 20 watt range can be replaced with 3 watt LEDs.  Screengrabbed from a Google search page.  
  • Halogens are correspondingly hot in the enclosed space of an Interstate.  We live in the subtropics, and every bit of heat reduction helps.  

Do you see how unfortunately close that halogen is to this bin door when it is raised?  I had already noticed that the bulb is cooking that door.  Left over the long term, I bet I would end up with wood damage or at least finish fading here.  This just happens to be the bin in which I intend to store most of our dishes (hence the cup inside the athletic sock, a storage tip I picked up from a general RV forum), so I expect it to be raised frequently and for longer durations.   
I had a third reason why I wished to replace our lights:

  • The existing halogens were too dim for me (I have very bad eyesight).  Furthermore, after evaluating several brand new 2014 Airstream Interstates on dealer lots, I found that the LEDs currently being used by Airstream were also too dim for me (I assume that those for sale through the Airstream store are the same as those being installed in new Interstates).  Therefore, those were not going to be our choice.  

This is the replacement product that we decided to try instead:
They are about $3.50 each!! Prices certainly have fallen in recent years!

Screengrabbed from this Amazon listing.  
As of October 2014, the Airstream store listed three products with different color temperatures (5500-6000K "bright white" for about $15.00 each, 4500K for $20.00 each, and 3500K "warm white" for about $15.00 each).  You can see that there is a substantial cost difference, as well as one or two other distinctions.
If you read the specs, you'll notice right away that the non-Airstream product has a slightly larger diameter and has visibly longer pins.  I'll show how to deal with that below.  
We first bought a sample two-pack tested this product against the existing halogens to determine how the brightness and the color compared, because we've had some bad experiences with LEDs in certain experimental home applications lately - the technology has come a long way but quality issues still don't seem to have fully shaken out yet.
This is me lying on the floor looking straight up at the Fan-tastic and amidships ceiling section.  It's difficult for me to show you comparison photos because modern digital cameras tend to act strangely in extreme contrast scenarios, even if they are set to manual.  However, this is fairly indicative of the impression one gets when comparing these bulbs.  Those are two LEDs on the left, and two of the original halogens on the right.  The halogens are more yellow (which I don't like because the orange wood already throws an abundance of warm tones) and to my surprise, the LEDs are actually a bit brighter (dimness was the bane of LED existence up until recently).   
To replace the halogens, one must first use a very thin blade to pry off the glass cover of the puck light.
Once the blade begins to loosen it, you can use your fingers.  I was wearing gloves because I didn't want to get any body oil on the halogens.  Just in case these aftermarket LEDs don't perform, I want to be able to retain the halogens for use until I can get different LED replacements.  
This is what the halogen looks like nested in its socket:
You can tell right away that this socket was designed for a conventional-shaped bulb.  
Now for the issue of the slightly longer pins on these LED pucks.

It's just a millimeter or two in length difference, but that's enough to cause a problem, as this photo below shows.
If you leave the pins long, they won't extend all the way back into the holes, and you won't be able to replace the glass cover.  
For that reason, you have to use wire cutters and nip off a millimeter or two.  
Once you do that, the LED puck will nest sufficiently well in the socket.  Notice that it's not perfectly centered.  That doesn't really matter to me because nobody stares up at an Airstream ceiling puck light and thinks, "Hmmm, that's not perfectly centered." 
When you replace the glass cover, you need to do two things:
(1) Line up the wider channels with the support struts for the fixture.
(2) Pop it back into place by pushing only on the thin metal rim, not the glass.  If you push on the glass, it will come unpinned from the frame.  
See what I mean?  Not perfectly centered due to the original configuration of the fixture.  No biggie. 
LOL - try doing this with a halogen bulb - an acutely unpleasant surprise will be yours.  The LEDs remain much cooler.  
Brighter than it's ever been:  Again, this broad-daylight type of effect might not appeal to many of you whose eyes are in better shape than mine are.  But I'm quite pleased.   
In a future post, I'll talk about retrofits for the rear reading lights and also the three fluorescent lights (two over the sofa / bed, one over the sink).  We pulled off the fluorescent light covers and were amazed (in a bad way) at how hot the ballasts were.  Unnecessary heat sources must be rooted out and banished from the subtropical RV!!

As always, this is a noncommercial blog presenting personal opinions only.  No retailer has provided any consideration in exchanged for being cited.

Friday, October 24, 2014


In Part 1 of this series, I described the separation that had occurred between the grey water tank and its lines on our 2007 Airstream Interstate mid-bath motorhome.  I'll now describe how we dismounted our tank so that we could repair that plumbing, and I will also include some peripheral rehab in this post before proceeding to the main retrofit and re-install in the next post.

Please see BIG FAT DISCLAIMER regarding DIY safety.  Also please realize that not every Interstate is configured identically - even if they are the same model and same year, they may have been built with different options, causing alterations in equipment placement.  None of this procedure given below has been approved or endorsed by Airstream.  Prior to beginning this work, my husband called Airstream technical support and asked if there was a service bulletin on how to repair this problem, and he was told that there was not.

You should realize in advance that, if your grey water system proves to be constructed like ours, then it was a permanent install never intended for removal (an exceptionally poor design).  If your three lines have already sheared off the tank as ours had, that's a moot point.  But if one or more of your lines are still attached, you will shatter your remaining connection(s) by removing your tank.  It's a one-way trip into Repairsville from that point - you won't be able to re-install the tank as it was.  

Step 1:  Make sure your gray water tank is empty of all water.  It's heavy when full or partially full, and you don't want it to come crashing down on your skull.

Step 2:  Download a copy of Airstream's "Interstate Motorhome Parts Book" for your model year (if that link does not work, go to the Library of All Things Airstream start page).  Familiarize yourself with your system lay-out, which might look something like this:
The bottom photo shows a view of the tank removed from the vehicle, angle similar to line drawing but rotated upward.
Step 3:  Drop the "heat shield" described in Part 1 by removing the three nuts on the vertical all-threads (red circles above) and unscrewing the bolt at location 1,6,4 in the diagram above.

Step 4:  Disconnect the water level sensor, which in our case was an old-style telephone line plug.

Step 5:  Cut the heating pad wire bundle.  Shame that this thing had to be hard-wired instead of incorporating a plug, but it can be repaired later.

Step 6:  Detach the fitting that connects to the dump valve.  Ours was a square-end connector with screws in it.

Step 7:  Locate the steel brackets that attach the tank to the chassis.  If your Interstate is like ours, they might be showing considerable rust (discussed below).  Release each and remove the tank.

Here are a few photos showing our tank and some of the prep work we did on the shield and brackets prior to tackling the challenge of retrofitting the tank itself.  The plumbing retrofit and re-installation will come in the next blog post.
This is the removed tank nested in its "heat shield" (which is lined with pink insulating foam), both sitting on the ground.  This orientation is the same as it would have been if I had been facing the port side of the vehicle with the tank still installed on the underside of the vehicle.  You can see that the tank was very dirty on top because grey water had been spilling out over it instead of being delivered to the inside of the tank as the design intended.     
One of the first things I did was to scrub the entire tank clean, because it was gross.  I also flushed the inside of it with clean water.  That plastic wrap you see around the line at the bottom of the photo was my attempt to keep water from getting into the severed heating pad line.  

By word of mouth I was told that these tanks can be replaced for about $350.  However, as I noted in Part 1 of this post, this system had been so poorly engineered to start with that we were worried about the efficacy of conventional repairs.  Therefore we decided to try DIY.  Besides, nothing seemed wrong with the tank itself.  Just the way in which it had been plumbed.   
Tank markings, just so you can compare to your own.  
Alien hieroglyphics??
Close-up of heating pad info.  
Heat shield, with one of the main tank support brackets visible at upper left of center (square U-shaped metal piece). 
This heat shield is made of an inexpensive sheet metal tack-welded together.  It appeared to have had some kind of a surface coating that had degraded considerably.  Given that we had gone to all the trouble to drop this thing, I felt some rehab was in order here.  The old material sanded off easily using a medium-grit paper (be sure to use respiratory protection - this sanding process creates an airborne mess, and you will need a shower afterward).  
Sanding completed.  
I see no need to spend extra money on this kind of a mini-job. We do a lot of DIY and have plenty of old paint left hanging around from other projects, so I just used some of whatever we had available.  
Newly-coated shield exterior.  
This quarter-inch foam on the inside of the shield... I wanted to remove that and also re-coat the inside of the shield, which had receive a lot of the grey water leakage.  However, as of this blog post, I was having trouble finding a replacement source of this foam (I can buy it, but not in sufficiently-small quantities).  We may do that part in a future effort. 
Art shot, close-up of one of the heavily-corroded support brackets.  Why would Airstream put its iconic (and resurging) reputation on the line by producing this high-end Interstate, which was a six-figure vehicle when sold in 2007, and then use such crummy quality in some of the parts??  What did they save by using a cheap grade of steel in these support brackets? A buck or two?  Penny wise pound foolish because then, a few short years later, someone writes a blog post calling attention to these questionable decisions.  I just don't understand that kind of mentality.  Do it right the first time so that DIYers don't have to re-do it later!!

Similar situation with the all-thread down-rods that support the shield.  My husband replaced those with stainless steel because the originals had corroded.  
We blasted, ground, sanded, coated, and otherwise rehabbed all the support brackets for the grey tank system so that corrosion would no longer occur.  Here you see this black one re-installed at photo center.  The orange thing you see toward the bottom of the photo is the fiberglass underside of the port side running board, which I will discuss in a separate post.    
Stay tuned for Part 3 in which a troublesome tank is retrofitted with rubber boots and re-installed.
Devotion to DIY, in our case.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


We were in the process of replacing our electrical converter when we noticed something strange on the underside of our recently-purchased 2007 Airstream Interstate.
Water began coming out from where it should not have been.  We were draining stale water from the fresh water tank and had just barely run a bit of water through the wet bath shower drain when we noticed that it started dripping immediately.  

Furthermore, the discoloration and corrosion visible around this bracket opening suggested that leaking had been occurring for some time.  Mind you, this was a vehicle with just 26,000 miles on it, very lightly used (the previous owners reported little use of the water system).

Here is a wider view of the same structure (pic taken before the leak began), just so that you can get oriented.  Remember, this is a 2007 mid-bath - the grey water tank might be in a different location on other models and other model years.  That's the right rear tire in the background.  The "heat shield" is actually more like a cold shield because it was intended to protect the tank and provide some insulation, assisting an integrated heating element to prevent the gray water tank from freezing in cold weather.   
The situation demanded investigation and, boy, did we get a surprise when we took a closer look.
My husband removed the "heat shield" and crammed his cell phone up in the space above the tank to get these pics.  All three lines had separated from the tank at the point of joining.  
The first obvious questions are as follows:

(1)  What the heck happened here?  

We cannot tell, other than to note that the the entire plumbing system appears to be ABS DWV pipe with solid fittings and no visible means of shock absorption designed into it.  We bought our AI second-hand, but it bears no evidence that we can find of rough handling or prior damage that might have resulted from an accident (and gosh knows we've crawled under the thing enough to know).  Upon removing the tank (I will get to that in our next post), I did note that the different break points had variable degrees of "dirty-ness" to them, suggesting that all three breaks did not happen at the same time or during a single event.  More likely, these failures were gradual and progressive.  I suspect that the repeated vibration and bouncing from normal road driving simply led to eventual breakage in a system that had no "give" in it, no way to otherwise absorb those applied forces except by breakage.

(2) How many Interstates does this (or will this) problem affect?

We have no idea, but we do know that we are not the only AI owners who have encountered this problem.  This thread on Sprinter-Forum describes exactly the same problem, although maybe not as advanced as in our case (that user maybe appeared to be dealing with partial rather than full pipe separation from his tank).

(3) What's the best way to fix it?

We can't say for sure, but we decided that we would DIY this one for a very simple reason - we were afraid that if we took it to a shop for repairs, we might end up with much the very same type of standard inflexible joinery that would proceed to fail a second time.  Therefore, we had to come up with a re-design that would be more robust, because we do not want to have to fix this twice.

If you are an Interstate owner with this problem, we do recommend that you get it fixed one way or another (either via DIY or by contracting with a vendor who is skilled in RV plumbing).  This system doesn't have a design contingency for chronic leakage.  There are no drain holes in the bottom of the heat shield, so leaked grey water tends to exit from the bracket and all-thread openings in the shield, corroding the sheet metal of the shield as well as the metal support structures themselves.  Even if you have just a small leak from a cracked pipe connection, left unattended it will make a bigger mess over time because of the extra corrosion it will probably cause.

In our next series of posts, we'll provide step-by-step instructions as to how we developed a gray water fix for our Interstate.

Edit 20170702:  Here is the corresponding Air Forums thread.
It's like everything else - it tends to be easy only in retrospect after you have scaled the learning curve.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I mentioned in this post that we noticed a few things wrong with our 2007 Airstream Interstate (AI) even before we finalized our purchase.  One of those was that the house battery was obviously in bad shape, failing to hold charge and not having enough current to even start the on-board generator.
Meanwhile, on board the starship Interstate:  I don't know who created this original meme or why, but speaking of DIY, did you know that William Shatner has a new DIY television show premiering soon?  It's not DIY centered on an RV but rather his own house.  One of the series announcement commercials is hilarious, with him peering through a busted wall quipping, "HEEERE'S BILLY!" as he channels Jack Nicholson in "The Shining".  
We quickly found out why there was no power.
The Battle of the Bulge:  The battery wasn't that old - we have a receipt from the previous owner suggesting that it was purchased three years before we bought the vehicle.  But something was visibly wrong nevertheless.  It was important to determine the cause and remedy it, because this is a $300+ battery and we wouldn't want the same bulging thing to go wrong with a new one.  
As I mentioned in this other post, we don't have a large local Interstate knowledge base upon which to draw, because these vehicles are rare in our area.  However, what we do have here is about ten million boats, by virtue of our subtropical coastal location.  And with boats come brick-and-mortar boat shops.  And with boat shops comes practical knowledge about battery problems, because pleasure craft use the same deep cycle batteries as RVs.

A local salesperson took one look at this battery and told my husband that the bulge and degradation occurred because the battery had been overcharged.  My husband did a some online research and decided that the best way to guard against a repeat of the same problem was to upgrade the AI's original single-stage converter / charger to a three-stage device that includes a temperature compensation function.

He gleaned much of his research information from this Best Converter website and also from Handy Bob's accumulated wisdom on general RV electrical system functionality.  Ultimately he purchased the Parallax Power Supply Model TCRU with TempAssure retrofit kit from PPL because it was available in-store.  Off-the-shelf was a big plus because my husband wanted to get this project completed quickly; this particular unit was selling for about $240 in the PPL storefront as of October 2014 (the price may be somewhat lower via a few other online sellers, assuming you can wait for shipping).
BZZZT!!  I would rate this project as "DIFFICULT" in terms of the DIY skills required, for the three reasons given below (hubster disagrees with my assessment and would instead rate it as "EASY" except for the stringing of the temperature sensor):

(1) It involves removing and replacing a significant component of the electrical system.  If you screw it up, you could injure yourself or burn down your RV.

(2) It requires that a sensor wire be run from the house battery (which in our 2007 AI is located beneath the front passenger's seat) to this unit, which is located amidships near the fridge / microwave column.  That requires crawling beneath the RV to make the physical connections and also a lot of careful zip-tie of the new sensor wire to existing wire bundles and other secure chassis structures.

(3) The orifices in the underside of our AI were not large enough to accept the lead ends of the temperature sensor wire.  Rather than enlarging the holes (which would be bad for reasons having little to do with the electrical system), my husband cut off the end pieces and re-soldered them back together once they had been fed through, shrink-wrapping the connections as he went.  This requires yet another skill plus additional tools.

Despite the complexity of this task, the retrofit unit is sold with extremely detailed step-by-step, plain-English instructions that include photographs and line diagrams, so a DIYer with sufficient skills could successfully execute this job.
It is an explicit instruction set, six pages long, which I will not repeat in this post.  Here is an example excerpt screengrabbed from the pamphlet provided in the box by Parallax Power Supply; I cannot locate an online PDF.  
We worked on this project as a husband and wife team, with my husband doing the wiring and me calling out each step in the instruction sequence so that he did not have to drop his tools and get off the floor (or out from under the dark underside of the vehicle) every time he needed to hear the next line.  Our AI did not display any deviation from the expected configuration as it was described in those manufacturer's instructions, although my husband recommended that I inject this pointer:
Come to Papa:  Those red and white wires connect to the new unit in a slightly different place than they were on the original board.  You might need more slack to connect them, and you might not realize that until other stuff is already connected.  So you might want to dry-fit them in advance to ensure they'll reach.   
Everything seemed to work just fine when we got done with this retrofit.
Meme the mighty:  The new battery worked as expected and the generator started up immediately.  Ever since we completed this project, the battery appears to be recharging normally, knock wood.   
This project took about six hours cumulatively, including my husband's time in getting up to speed on the technical requirements, plus the installation (the main time sink was the feeding and fishing of the sensor wire).
One of the complexities with the AI is that the converter is so far from the battery.  Furthermore, a battery isolator and other house wiring appears to be routed under the driver's seat whereas the house battery itself is under the passenger's seat.  There is a wire channel in the Sprinter body between the two seats but attempts to fish the wire wasted several hours of effort before we decided to route the line through a drain hole and under the chassis instead.   
The issue with these projects is always the time spent on the learning curve - we could probably do the same project again in just two hours, now that we know what to do.

Of course, none of this addresses the question as to how our original fairly-young battery got itself overcharged (and therefore dead) in the first place.

As I understand it from general knowledge, temperature plays into this because at higher temperatures, the charging voltage required by the battery is lower.  If the temperature increases while the voltage remains the same, apparently it can result in overcharging.  Or something.
Tell it like it is:  I can't say for sure what the danged problem is, but I do know that motor vehicle batteries have been an ongoing pain in my rear end since the very day I moved to the southern US (I'm originally from "up north" where we did not have such problems).  They just don't last here for whatever reason(s), and I can't tell you how many times I've been stranded by a young-ish battery that reportedly checked out OK by a dealer, only to die a few days or weeks later.

The illustration above was adapted from a wall display I saw a few months ago at our local NTB service center.  I took these pictures because this represented the first time I saw any retailer be really explicit about the consequences of this annoying issue.  There is a huge variation in expected battery lifespans between hot and cold climates.
As always, this is a noncommercial post expressing personal opinions only and incorporating a BIG FAT DISCLAIMER.  No manufacturer or service provider supplied any consideration in exchange for being cited.  By all means, if you have anything to add to or clarify with this post, please contact us via interstate.blog - at - gmail.  We would greatly appreciate your comments and feedback.

Monday, October 20, 2014


You better believe that I laughed out loud when I read this Autoblog review of the 2013 Airstream Interstate.
This is why (circled price quote is from the same review).  Maybe I'm just too much of a stickler for detail, but I find it astounding that people are paying a buck and a half (i.e., more than what I paid for my third house which I purchased in 2002!!) for Interstates that are still as spartan up front as our recently-purchased 2007 is.  
Why not leather-wrapped, indeed?  I've been to Germany where Sprinters are manufactured, and they do have cows there.  Could they not scare up a few scraps of leather for a tiny bit of trim??
Zzzzz... As a female, I have a natural obsession with putting my personal stamp on my home (whether it's the wheeled or the fixed home), and this is what I call the antithesis of a focal point.  Our 2007 AI as it appeared prior to my fifty-dollar design intervention described below.  
Joking aside, a steering wheel cover was a practical priority for us, for three reasons:

  1. We recently cleaned and waxed our AI using Airstream's recommended product, which is called Rejex.  Not unexpectedly, we got a small amount of the wax on the plastic steering wheel, which made it feel like a slippery fish.  This is a big, heavy vehicle and I was uncomfortable with the lack of grippy-ness of that wheel to start with.  The wax made it worse and didn't seem to want to come off easily.
  2. We live in scorching-hot Houston, Texas.  An unwrapped steering wheel is a finger-burning steering wheel.  Leather's insulating property helps to minimize this.  
  3. I admit it - I'm a bit spoiled (but not so spoiled that I won't do my own vehicle repairs and upgrades).  I owned a Toyota Sienna with a factory-installed leather wheel and I simply prefer them.  

So it was an easy decision for me to buy a wrapping and retrofit the thing myself (this project's DIY skill level: Beginner, assuming you have patience).  After shopping around, I chose Wheelskins as my vendor.
If you input your make and model, it should feed back the correct size which in our case turned out to be AXX.    

Screengrabbed from the Wheelskins website.  
I chose the color "tan" to coordinate with the existing AI woodwork.  The website has word descriptions such as the above in case someone's computer is not displaying the colors accurately.  You can also order swatches if you prefer.  
The online reviews for DIY wheel wrapping products largely say the same thing regardless of vendor - this job is a frustrating, time-consuming pain in the rear end.  The Wheelskins instruction page that came with the product was quite good in describing how to go about the project (be sure to RTFM carefully, in other words).  Here is a photo sequence that illustrates and expounds a lot of the points that the manufacturer made.
It is time-consuming and very awkward in significant measure because you have to pull that entire length of cord through each and every opening with every stitch.  Plus you have to pull tight as you are proceeding, and you have to progressively massage the cover into place so that there will be no wrinkles or skews.  
This is important - notice that the first stitch on the bottom was pulled through from the inside surface of the cover.  This is so that the eventual tie-off will not be visible.  
Wheelskins' instructions advise using a band-aid on your needle-push finger to reduce the wear and tear on your flesh and bone.  Or you could simply use a thimble, which is a centuries-old device that provides the same protection.  I have a few sewing skills, so I know these things.  
This is a good photo pair to illustrate the tightness concept.  See how my thumb is holding the last tightened stitch in place even as I am pulling through the next stitch?  
And then with that next stitch, I'm pulling down before placing my thumb back on it to hold it tight.  And I'm giving it a pretty good yank.  It has to be tight if it's going to work.     
You should be able to get your stitches tight enough so that both sides of the leather meet in the middle and completely close that gap.  
With respect to the wheel support posts, I only left three "dummy" stitches at each crossing (see manufacturer's instruction sheet).  I wanted the wrap to lie as flat as possible even though it's not physically connected to the steering wheel in these spots.  
This is fairly awkward, surprisingly tiring work (or perhaps I'm just old).  The online product reviews recommend setting aside at least an hour to accomplish the work.  I'd say closer to an hour and a half.  You'll want to go slowly and carefully because you are going to have to look at this thing for many, many hours to come.  
This kind of stitching amounts to mind-numbing repetition, and so you are going to make mistakes such as this one.  No problem - just pull the cord back out again and resume.  
Coming up to the point of beginning, here is the aforesaid eventual tie-off.  Now you can see why it was important to start the first stitch on the back of the front side.  The last stitch emerges on the front of the backside, so that when you knot them, the two strands are pulling together rather than laterally.  
And here is your money shot - the finished product.  Feels much better on the hands.  Looks better, too (*I* think).  
You'll notice that not every one of my stitches is in perfect angle repetition - I reversed the force vector here and there, and in a couple of cases, I ended up pulling two stitches through the same back-side hole.  The main thing to achieve is a tight cover with no sags or wrinkles, and you might find that you need to re-orient your stitches on the fly so that the finished product won't look amateurish.  Natural leather is heterogeneous, with different areas being a little thinner or stretchier.  Especially in the vicinity of the wheel hub connection posts, you might need to experiment in order to make the final appearance turn out OK.

As always, this is a noncommercial post presenting personal opinions only.  No manufacturer or service provider supplied any consideration in exchange for being cited above.
I confess a personal weakness for these "first world problems" type of memes.  They give me a much-needed opportunity to laugh at myself.