Go Slow When Falling in Love with Cute Trailers! - Fiberglass RV

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Old 08-07-2007, 07:22 PM   #1
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Penney H. & Mike E.'s Avatar
Trailer: 2005 17 ft Escape ('Turtle')
Posts: 388


When we purchased our 1987 Burro ten years ago, a few months earlier we had a very cold tent camping experience and decided it was time, due to my health problems, to get off the ground. We were naive about trailers, had looked at a few tent trailers, even gone to an RV show, when we saw and fell in love with a Burro that was for sale. The owner told us the propane heater didn’t work but my husband is a propane technician so that didn’t worry us. Everything looked clean, no apparent damage to the shell inside or out. We tried to look at what we thought we should - water came out of the faucet, lights went on, cushions looked good. It was a sunny day and the trailer was open and airing. We asked a lot of questions. I did a little research into the manufacturing of Burros, which at the time was still in Iowa but not really happening. The next day we paid cash and it was ours. The seller was anxious to immediately deliver it to my husband’s work place, since we needed to get a ball hitch on our van before hauling it home.

Once we brought it home (it had sat through a summer rain by then), I opened the cupboards and felt moisture, we then unzipped the cushions, which where black with mildew. There was mold and mildew everywhere, but it was concealed. Once it dawned on us how serious the damage was, I just sat in it and cried. It had been a big purchase for us and I couldn’t believe we were so stupid! With so much damage it was not worth what we paid for it.

We discovered the damage was caused from a leak around the seal of the top vent, which instead of leaking directly into the trailer (we did look for signs of that) had caused water to seep between the two fiberglass shells. Probably the worse thing that can happen to a fiberglass trailer, since there is no way to get between the layers. We didn’t want to try to sell it to someone else, passing on a “lemon”, so we did what we could to make it useable. We threw away the cushions, replaced the doors on the cabinets, (which smelled, though the mold/mildew wasn’t apparent), using solid wood from old kitchen cabinet doors, replaced the covers over storage areas, took everything out that comes out, scrubbed it and let it thoroughly air out and dry. Lots of repair work on damaged electrical, plumbing (there were leaky connections), replaced top vent, etc. etc. After a few trips the water pump broke and we replaced it. The only thing that did work, which we have never had to repair, was the heater! Apparently the previous owner did not know how to use it properly.

We reconfigured the interior by removing the flimsy upper fold down bed above the “couch”, making that a sitting and sleeping area. We are both tall and having two separate sleeping areas works best for us, so we permanently made the larger eating/sleeping area into a bed. I took the metal brackets that held the metal post for the table and attached them to two small solid wood boards, one for a base and one for a tabletop. This made a nice take-apart table which we store in the closet. It poured rain on our first trip and windows leaked, partially due to the window drainage gutters not working properly. We tried many ways to repair leaky windows and finally replaced the plastic windows, which didn’t set right, with glass – the biggest expensive of the renovation.

We took a long trip to Montana a year after we bought it and thought the extremely hot dry weather would “bake” out the mildew and mold. It didn’t and it still smells of musty mildew, but not nearly as bad. Using scented oils or incense before a trip clears it up for the time we use it, but when it sits unused, which is a lot, it gets that musty mildew smell again. Of course we’d rather it didn’t have this hidden mold and mildew, which is actually in the fiberglass, something I didn’t think could harbor mildew, but it is very useable in spite of this problem. It is not luxury RVing, but it gets us off the ground, our goal, and keeps us cozy.

When we travel people often look at us with smiles and sometimes ask to see inside. Because we are tall I think they wonder how we fit in it! With new the wooden doors, new curtains, colorful new bed cushions, it is quite cute and cozy inside!

THE LESSON: Our trailer apparently had not been used much so did not have obvious wear and tear and looked great, but it also had not been well maintained, and sitting out in our rainy northwest weather (we keep it under a roof shelter and remove the cushions when not in use), moisture getting in over time caused significant damage to all the systems, not cosmetically obvious, but more insidious. Had we looked into storage areas, checked hoses, come back to look at it on another day, unexpectedly, when it was not aired out, we would have discovered some of the hidden damage.

We live in a rural county with one incorporated town and occasionally see the guy who sold it to us. He never looks at us or asks about it and I still hold a grudge, which my husband says I need to get over! We have enjoyed our trailer and are happy to own it.

We have rescued dogs, cats, plants, but never thought we’d be rescuing a trailer! But that’s what love at first sight can do! Beware!

(We did not have the advantage, 10 years ago, of this great web site with information on what to look for when purchasing a trailer. Check it out if you are a new buyer.)

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Enjoy our travel photos at: Turtle Travels
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Old 08-08-2007, 09:52 AM   #2
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Sandra L's Avatar
Name: Sandra
Trailer: 2009 Escape ('Suite Escape")
Posts: 122
Thank you for that information. As I am still looking, I would never have thought of that!

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Old 08-09-2007, 06:39 AM   #3
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Trailer: Love Bug / Chevy Astro
Posts: 225

My brother and I have an understanding that if either of us is making a major purchase, we check the item out for each other before completing the sale. I have talked him out of 3 seperate motorcycle purchases and he talked me out of a car. This inspection is very thorough and the sellers sometimes get annoyed.

I have looked trailers & RV's for many people also and recently told the Pastor of our church to walk away from an RV that he just had to have. I probably saved him a couple of thousand dollars on repairs that he didn't WANT to see. I think that his wife is still mad at me.
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Old 08-09-2007, 10:25 AM   #4
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Trailer: 13 ft Perris Pacer
Posts: 127
A wise man told me when I started looking for a FGT - there are three important things that MUST be perfect to even consider buying a trailer:

1. structural
2. structural
3. structural

The shell is the heart, and every square inch must be assessed and evaluated before making a purchase decision. Holes, cracks, cut/cannibalized panels, soft spots, dry/hard/flaky spots, moisture and everything else needs to be evaluated. Cushions, cabinets, appliances, lights, luster, shine, sheen, electrical system, etc.... while nice to have, look great and definitely do add a seductive element at the moment of decision can all be replaced, overhauled, and/or reconditioned. It's only money.

Now I see why he was so adimant about all this.

Hopefully your story will make others take warning and think extra hard while considering a "compromise" on a purchase that may be slightly less than perfect. Sounds like through all the aggravation and headaches you've stuck it out and made the best of the situation and are still enjoying your trips in the Burro. That's the important thing.
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Old 08-09-2007, 12:21 PM   #5
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Name: Ruth
Trailer: Scamp 13
Posts: 31
We have gone thru similar things in our first stick rv and had some small problems with this one but our 13 scamp was so hard to find in our price range that wasn't beat to death that we were thrilled to get it and bought it through a telephone deal and made a 1000 mile round trip to pick it up. I know when we are stuck with a busy life and can't get away for a couple months it can get a little musty. I try to put in Dri bags they hang on door knobs and have a clean laundry smell and you can replace them when the crystals are gone and the bag is full of water just remember to remove before driving, if its not finished put it in the house or garage and bring it back when you get home. Good traveling Ruth & Jim
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Old 08-10-2007, 06:54 PM   #6
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Name: Per
Trailer: 2000 Burro 17 ft Widebody towed by Touareg TDI
Posts: 863
Penney and Mike:

Your tale brought back thoughts of what happened in our Burro saga. It was virtually brand new when we got it, but after a while stored in Portland weather I happened to pull up the carpet to check on a possible path for some wiring when I noticed a considerable amount of water under the carpet.

As you know this water could have been coming from almost anywhere, migrated under the interior shell and under the carpeting without anyone knowing about it.

It took weeks of detective work trying to locate the sources of the leaks (main one was the "outer" portion of the refrigerator which should have been sealed from the interior and provided with a drain.) I had a spare dome-type light which I wired in under the kitchen sink area with a switch which turned it on whenever the cabinet door opened. The plywood support for the water heater had moisture around the base of it, apparently a good place to check for results of a leak from several of the usual suspects. With a bright light shining on it it became possible to check for moisture there at a glance. There were additional leaks, mostly brought on by silicone sealants which failed. No more of that.

I realized that if I wanted to keep the unit I would have to solve the leak situation. Since all the leaks I found eventually migrated to under the carpets I decided my new carpet would be cut so that a check would be a 3-second lift of a strategic seam. Solid flooring such as vinyl, tiles, or wood would not be in my plans. I was determined to not provide moisture with a hiding place.

After resealing (butyl tape) several items and each time thinking I had it solved it suddently went dry, to my delight. Since my trailer had no previous and undetermined history I have every reason to believe that there is no hidden moisture that has escaped me. I do believe it requires vigilance.

Your traumatic experience takes it to the next level, because long-standing moisture found its way between the shells, and that adds greatly to the difficulty of fixing it. I hope you have solved it to your satisfaction. If I were to evaluate an old trailer for purchase I would look for evidence of leaks as the first order of business. This past camping trip I took along a temp/hygrometer unit from Radio Shack to monitor the inside humidity, and the way it reacted leads me to believe that it could be an important tool in detecting unwelcome moisture in such a small space.
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Old 08-11-2007, 07:43 AM   #7
Trailer: No Trailer Yet
Posts: 81
I just bought one with a car axle on it What would help is if the forum had a resource section with detailed pics of what each manuf/year/model is SUPPOSED to look like.

I'd be game to take pics of my '93, top to bottom. Even Casita's site is hush hush on actual pictures, so few buyers have anything to compare to when looking for used ones.
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Old 08-11-2007, 07:52 AM   #8
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Name: Donna D
Trailer: Escape 5.0 TA, 2014
Posts: 24,584
I just bought one with a car axle on it What would help is if the forum had a resource section with detailed pics of what each manuf/year/model is SUPPOSED to look like.

I'd be game to take pics of my '93, top to bottom. Even Casita's site is hush hush on actual pictures, so few buyers have anything to compare to when looking for used ones.
I think that's what the basis of starting the Albums was all about. Pictures of "as close to original" trailers as possible. Sorry, don't think there are any of the frame/axles in any of them. Wouldn't matter anyway as most older trailers need some sort of frame/axle work anyway.

Based on what I've read/heard about members of FiberglassRV, even those that purchase brand new trailers only leave them original for about 15 minutes.... let the mods begin!
Donna D.
Ten Forward - 2014 Escape 5.0 TA
Double Yolk - 1988 16' Scamp Deluxe
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Old 08-11-2007, 08:50 AM   #9
Trailer: No Trailer Yet
Posts: 81
Based on what I've read/heard about members of FiberglassRV, even those that purchase brand new trailers only leave them original for about 15 minutes.... let the mods begin!
true! lol

here's an example of a '16 casita search in the albums


not quite enough to make an intelligent decision
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Old 08-11-2007, 12:03 PM   #10
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Name: Roger
Trailer: Y2K6 Born Free 32RQ on the Kodiak chassis, 1995 Coachmen 19' B-van
Posts: 5,009
Hi everyone! This is an excellent thread. Having bought and sold a number of fiberglass trailers either sight unseen or from photos, and all for personal use in the past few years, I think I am marginally qualified to address this subject!

The watch words in buying fiberglass RVs are Caveat Emptor... let the buyer beware!

There are a number of ways to try to safeguard yourselves against buying a lemon... first is to buy low and sell high. If you can get your trailer for little or nothing, then you can only expect to get what you pay for, and if it's in better condition than that then you got a heck of a deal! If it IS in the shape you thought, you didn't pay more than it's worth, and you don't want to deal with whatever it needs, there'll always be someone out there who is willing to do the repairs, and you'll be able to recover your investment.

Second, always listen carefully to the seller. "I've had this trailer for years, but I've never used the plumbing" ought to send a red flag up immediately. While the plumbing may be just fine, and truly never used there may be a reason the plumbing was never used and it may not be immediately apparent. For each of those little red flags, you should devalue the trailer by as much as the repairs will cost to that system. All of the windows will undoubtedly need to be removed and re-sealed... and who knows what shape the floor is in until you see it in person with the ice pick to probe those dark corners. And yes, unzip the cushions and see what shape the foam is in. Slide your hands in the space between the cupboards and the outside shell and see if it comes out black with mildew.

My Burro 17' I bought sight unseen from a want-ad in the paper, for a heck of a good price (IMHO), and did the negotiations over the phone. According to the P.O. they only used it to sleep in, and it had been stored for seven of the nine years they owned it. They'd never used any of the systems, and couldn't vouch that the water tank even held water. I bought it anyway, and at a price I knew I could afford to replace everything. I ended up replacing plumbing, electrical, the refrigerator, propane systems, curtains, tires, wheels, and the axle. When I sold it, everything worked, and I addressed every system with the new owners and what had been done and what yet needed attention. I made money on it, and the new owners got a very nice trailer that they're happy with today. We both got good deals on that one.

I bought a UHaul CT13, a Trillium 4500, the Burro, and two Scamps, a 16' and a 19' over the phone and from photos. What made the sale each time was the P.O.'s willingness to discuss at length what they knew and didn't know about their trailers, and my knowledge and ability for undertaking repairs. In each case I knew that I'd gotten a good enough deal that should there be problems, I could cover them and still not be overextended financially in the trailer. A frame-off restoration, I'm NOT willing to undertake. Pretty much anything short of that is OK for me, provided that the price is right.

When buying a fiberglass trailer from an individual seller, the information the current owner is willing to disclose is critical to my decision about whether or not to buy; especially if I can't physically inspect the trailer myself prior to buying it. A thorough personal physical inspection is always the best way to do it, and having someone knowledgeable inspect it may be even better if you're not experienced in determining the actual condition of the trailer yourself. I have passed on a number of them because the seller either didn't know or wouldn't talk about their trailers, and weren't willing to reduce the price adequately to compensate for the potential risk I was taking. That's not to say their trailers may not have been worth what they were asking, I just wasn't in a position to verify it for myself and wasn't willing to risk paying the asking price for it.

Happy hunting!

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Old 08-11-2007, 09:59 PM   #11
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Trailer: 1989 Bigfoot 17 ft and 1989 Li'l Bigfoot 13 ft
Posts: 538
Just another little thing for buyers to keep in mind when looking. Check the backside of the tires too! I'm looking for a replacement for my 'new' spare tire already. Looks like it was turned around and the weathered side was hidden on the back. Trailer was still a solid investment so far, but just another little thing to watch for. This tire looks perfect on the side facing out, but the sidewall is toast on the backside (and for some reason after two days of rain the whitewall is dripping off of it?)
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Old 08-12-2007, 06:31 AM   #12
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Trailer: No Trailer Yet
Posts: 87
Black mold?

There CAN be a significant health risk where black mold is concerned.

You may want to use an air purifier to minimize the airborne particulate,


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Old 08-13-2007, 09:54 AM   #13
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Penney H. & Mike E.'s Avatar
Trailer: 2005 17 ft Escape ('Turtle')
Posts: 388

It is great that our story has generated so much information to help others when purchasing a trailer. I apprecaite reading others stories, thanks Per for sharing your leak saga. When we are ready to upgrade to a 17' rereading all this advice will be helpful. For now we'll enjoy our little "resuced" Burro, since we paid too much we have to get our monies worth!
"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Enjoy our travel photos at: Turtle Travels
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Old 08-15-2007, 04:49 AM   #14
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Name: Roy
Trailer: 1972 boler American and 1979 Trillium 4500
Posts: 4,967
Black mold?

There CAN be a significant health risk where black mold is concerned.

You may want to use an air purifier to minimize the airborne particulate,
An air purifier won't get rid of the cause though.

There is a product called CONCROBIUM that can help with the mold. You can use it with a fogger to get into every nook and cranny possible. I'm thinking with the double walled construction of a Burro that maybe a few well placed holes to allow access for spraying (like the car rust proofing guys do) and using a garden sprayer might help.


We bought some at Home Depot

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