Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Snowball in August (or How Trailer Repairs Can Get Out Of Hand)

I know this has nothing to do with snow, but this project has grown like a snowball rolling downhill.

It all started when I noticed one of the seams across the front of the 5th wheel trailer, under the overhang where it meets the vertical front panel, would gape open when resting on the front landing gear and close when hitched to the truck. You'd think it would be just the opposite, gape open when hitched, close when resting on the landing gear.

That started an internet search which led to Lippert Frame Flex problems. Apparently it is not all that uncommon. In Lippert's defense, they do supply 80% or more of the frames to the entire RV industry. On the other hand, if you look at some of the welds they are definitely questionable.

I looked on our trailer where others reported having issues and lo and behold, I found the frame was cracked at the welds for the pinbox. Not the welds failing, but the frame metal itself is cracking.

Now back to the snowball reference. While gutting the bedroom to give the welder access to the frame to repair the welds and beef up the frame I found wood rot in the walls and floor. The bedroom slide room front outer corner is rotted top to bottom as is the floor where it attaches to the wall. I had found that leak a couple years ago and fixed it with eternabond tape but it appears the damage was already done.

Now it appears I also have some water damage in the front right corner above the overhang. This is probably why the front seam was gaping. There are a number of lag screws, both vertically and horizontally securing the side wall to the frame, and between rotten wood and frame flexing, the lag screws are either sheared off or not holding.

So far, as mentioned, I have the bedroom and closet gutted and the floor and part of the wall in the slide removed. I just purchased some lumber today and will be starting to re-frame the walls. I found a source for the 1" OSB board for the slide room floor (Midway Plywood Co.) and found an RV dealer (Paulsbo RV in Everett, WA) who could order the black vapor barrier cloth that is on the bottom of the flooring. Not easy stuff to find. Mobile home suppliers have it but it is only about 2 mil thick as opposed to the stuff on the RV which is more like 12 to 14 mil thick. There is also a special tape called floor scrim repair tape. I saw one person's repair online and he used the tape to reinforce the vapor barrier cloth where it contacted the rollers when extending and retracting. I think I'll do that, too.

I also removed the under belly panels. The ones that look like corrugated plastic. It's called Coroflex. I wanted to see what was under the trailer and look for any signs of water incursion from below. I also have some water damage to the big slide and surrounding floor and don't know if it is related to the water damage I described above, but water leaks are hard to track and I need to be sure I fix the leak or I'll be doing this again. Actually, no, I won't. I'll trade it in on a new rig.

We've already cancelled leaving for warmer weather in October to make sure we have the frame flex problem fixed and all the rotten wood up front taken care of. On the plus side. I've justified buying a bunch of new tools with some of the money we've saved by my doing the work myself. It's a little scary because I'm learning as I go but I come from a long line of DIYers so I've had years of experience doing the odd job.

I've started a photo album on PhotoBucket to document the project as it progresses.



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