Vintage DIY Help

May be you have a vintage trailer that has been sitting around your backyard, and unlike some very creative people, you can’t think of what to do with it. So it sits collecting dust (mold, mildew, and dry rot)

or may be you just have an older trailer that needs some repairs.

I found a resource, actually they found me first on Twitter, that has a collection of everything you might need to find parts, learn how to for some of the common repairs, or sell what you think is just junk in your backyard. It’s the Tin Can Tourists.

As I started to click through the pages I was impressed with the wealth of information and the amount of helpful links I found. It’s a great site if you’re looking for help with a vintage travel trailer.


Hail No

I was searching the RV forums and found one talking about a trailer that was hit by softball size hail. The question led to a discussion on the quality and craftsmanship of RV’s. The following comment gives some good advise that I felt was worth repeating.

“Looks to me like you have all the information to buy a unit that will satisfy your quality concerns.  Nothing like maintaining a vehicle for a period of time to point out poor design, or poor quality.  Looking at a new rig at the dealer (I always suggest a show where side-by-side comparisons are easier) and really inspecting it can give you the information on quality.

A few things I’ve learned to look at – Does the wiring look neat and organized, or are their bundles of wiring behind the sink or converter, wiring pulled across underside that should have been secured?  Are wood braces cracked by screws or staples?  Is there excessive caulk covering poor fitting trim.  Are their screw-heads dog-eared out from poor workmanship?  If you stand back and look at the rig, are lights, trim, windows in line and mounted straight?  Are the axles sized with enough extra capacity or are they the minimum for the weight of the trailer?  Are the axles provided with shock absorbers?

I’m a professional QA/QC person, and travel the country (and a few places outside the US) to buy transit vehicles, commuter rail cars, locomotives, and subway cars.  My experience is that if it “doesn’t look right” it most likely isn’t.  Finally, it is possible to make and sell a perfect RV.  Problem is no one can afford it.  Quality is what we, as consumers are willing to accept.  You may want a Lexus, I may think a Ford is fine, both of us will be happy if our expectations of quality are met, neither if the vehicle is a lemon.

No travel trailer is made to withstand softball sized hail. Your best plan for that is store it under cover, and make sure you have insurance coverage.  How often does hail like that appear anyway? I’ve never seen or heard of it in the West.

There is wisdom in knowing what you are buying and a quick look for quality control will give you a pretty good idea of what you are getting into.


DIY: Replace a RV Marker Light

As I have mentioned before my Trailer is a 1986 model. UV rays and temperature changes take their toll on plastic over time, and marker light lenses are no exception. The lenses on my trailer are cracked, faded, and letting water inside the housing.

I picked up some new marker lights at Walmart for less than $3 ea. I will walk you through the process of changing the entire marker light. It’s pretty simple. First remove the 2 screws, and then the red lens should pop off.

The only thing holding the housing to the trailer at this point is some plumbers puddy. Gently pull on the housing and it should pull away from the trailer, be careful the wires in the back should have room to pull out, but could catch. You don’t want to break a wire and have it stuck inside the wall where you can’t reach it.

I’m not sure if all trailers use the same color coding for their wires, but on mine green is for the power side of the marker light and white is the ground. If you are not sure you can pull off a taillight and see what colors are connected to the bulb and what color is grounded to the trailer body.

I replaced the yellow wire nuts with new ones because the old ones were rusty inside. I also put some electrical tape on the wires to keep them together (RV’s bounce and rattle going down the road). I placed some plumbers puddy on the upper edge of the marker light, this lets water run down if it gets inside, but makes a nice seal on top. It is also being used to keep the housing mounted even and tight.

I screwed in the new marker light housing, and put a liberal amount of caulking around the housing. I did leave weep holes on the bottom side to allow for water drainage.

I snapped the new lens on and it’s good as new. The entire process took about 20 min. It’s as easy as that.

Inexpensive Update For Old Trailer Flooring

My trailer is a 1986, it’s old but it’s paid for. The floor itself was in good shape, but the floor covering was not great (honestly half of it was really bad – the carpeting). We decided the carpeting had to go, and the linoleum could use an update. I know how to lay down sheet flooring, but the thought of working around all the corners and cabinets seemed challenging. We thought we would try stick on tiles. We found the cheapest tile @ $.29 a square and it had a 80’s look too. I wasn’t sure if the sick on tile would stay stuck with the temperature changes. It’s stayed in place for over a year now.

Here’s what you need to do:
1. Remove the carpeting (linoleum is installed the entire length even under the carpeting, do not remove)
2. Make sure there are no staples or tacks. I pulled most but had to pound a few down and grind a few.
3. Remove items that you can like the toilet or tables.
4. Use a product like TSP to clean the linoleum. It gets rid of wax and dirt.
5. If you have any tears in the old linoleum you can use a skim coat to level out the flooring. Any bump or dirt will show up with the shine of the new linoleum.
6. I started my first row at the door way. Remember you need to keep tiles square (a little bit off shows up way off on a long run) existing cabinets & walls should be square.
7. Slide the tile close to the wall leave about a 1/8″ gap. I found these tiles need a little room for expanding and contracting.
8. Slide the next tile snug against the previous tile. Start with that edge pressing down working your way to the next edge.
9. You can cut the tile with the protective paper still on as you perfect the fit around items like cabinets. Remember to leave a little room for the tiles to expand.

Here’s my final product.

Basic Awning Tip

This tip may-be extremely basic. I wish someone would have told me what to do on my maiden voyage with our trailer. On our first trip we pulled out the awning, it was a beautiful day. The awning provided great shade. That night the rain rolled in and the water pooled. In a trailer you know it’s raining because you can hear it, but unlike tent camping you don’t have to get out of your warm comfortable bed. If you roll your awning out level, like I did, you will find out how strong your awning is. The next morning I noticed the awning canvas was sagging. We’re not talking a small amount of water. Fortunately the awning held up, but it could have easily buckled or ripped.

Now when I set up the awning I always leave one side just a little lower than the other it allows the water to run off that side of the awning. Look at the ground to figure out if their is a better side to lower  that will allow water running off the awning to drain away from the trailer.

Anyone learn this lesson after your awning broke?

Sanitize the Water System

Update: This post was written before I started living in our RV. I now sanitize the fresh water tank about every 3 months. I’ll update the process soon.

There are a lot of great tips to be found on the web. I was reading the top 10 RV tips.  I’m one of those RVer’s who doesn’t use the fresh water tank for drinking water, in fact the majority of the time that tank is empty. So I never gave much thought to sanitizing the fresh water system. I know..Gross…Don’t tell my wife. The site recommends every 6 months sanitizing the entire system. Is this a good rule of thumb for an RV that sits over the winter with the drain valves open. Is an annual cleaning good enough or should it be more often. What do you do?

Furnace Repair?

Our gas furnace stopped working over the winter. I’m not sure if this is a simple cleaning or a major overhaul. The blower and thermostat are working but we don’t get any heat.
I’m not a furnace repair guy, but I understand the concept necessary for it to work properly. I’m pretty sure it is either a fuel delivery issue or an ignition issue. Since the stove and frig. are working on propane, it should be getting fuel too. I’m going to do a little research on the net to find out if there are any common furnace repairs. I’ll keep updating this as I learn more.

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After letting this project sit for a few weeks I got back to it today. I removed the furnace cover & looked in the peak hole and noticed no spark in the combustion chamber. I removed the control panel to get a better look (see pic below).

I removed the igniter.

I discovered that I was getting spark, but it was all around the porcelain, which is usually a strong clue that the insulating porcelain is cracked.

This is the old ingniter.

I purchased a new igniter, and tested the spark by leaving it out of the the combustion chamber. Worked great! While I was working on the furnace I figured now would be a good time to clean it up. I was surprised by the number flies and bees that were inside the combustion area.

After a good cleaning I put it back together. Guess what the furnace still won’t light.

I tested to make sure the circuit board was getting power. It is. I can hear the valve open to let gas into the chamber, but I don’t think the gas is actually making it to the combustion chamber. Now I have to figure out how to test the valve. More to come later.