Yet another rivet question - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-06-2016, 09:57 PM   #1
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Name: Ginny
Trailer: '09 Scamp 13' w/ Bath
Oklahoma
Posts: 97
Yet another rivet question

Ok wise forum wizards

Next project is to inspect the rivets and maybe replace a few. Most of my rivets are missing caps, and most of the washers the cap attaches to are at least partially broken. (see pictures below)

So, here lies the big question... do I:
1. Leave them be. They aren't leaking, so don't mess with it.
2. Order caps and glue them on.
3. Drill out the rivets and replace them all.

I know this is a frequently debated topic, but I would love some input.
Rivet Pictures in this photo album:
https://goo.gl/photos/1U5Y5jr3jbrYxnAA6
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Old 08-07-2016, 10:47 AM   #2
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Old 08-07-2016, 11:25 AM   #3
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Name: Gordon
Trailer: Scamp (16 Std Layout 4) with '15 Toyota Sienna LE Tug
North Carolina
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IMHO, unless the plastic UNDER the rivet head is deteriorating, leave it be. (But of course you can't really see it under the head very well). And unless you detect a leak.

The part of the snap cap base under the rivet head will help seal the hole. I would add a dab of sealant in the center of the rivet head (as it appears is done in at least one of your photos). That will stop leaks through the center of the rivet (at least for a few years). I think the cap serves two purposes, leak prevention through the rivet's center and it just looks better. Poor appearance I can live with but you can stick the cap onto of the sealant if you want. Perhaps a good adhesive type sealant will keep the cap on for a while.

Again, this is just IMHO.. No doubt others will have differing or maybe even not so humble opinions.

I just replaced one of my rivets yesterday and I can tell you, things can go wrong. So why fix what in effect is not broken?

In my case I had a rivet installed on a new Scamp where it did not grip the acorn nut very well where it attached the bathroom wall to the shell, so the acorn nut fell off in a few months after a few thousand miles. It also appears the hole in the fiberglass wall of the bathroom wall might have been widened by wear from the rivet. Note that the holes did not line up so the rivet was angled up a little from outside to inside.

This was not an immediate problem except it was holding the bathroom wall to the shell, so the wall separated a little and the sealant in the shower opened up. I don't use the shower but if I did, water could go through the separated sealant at the corner of the interior wall.

The rivet could actually be pushed out with little effort so I did that, and got what I think is the longest rivet that Scamp uses (#16). Well, this one was a little short and did not grip the acorn nut at all. And due to my inexperience I kept pulling the rivet until it made a secure connection, but ONLY to the shell. The bathroom wall did not get fastened to the shell. (Note to virgin riveters below).

So I drilled off the head and tried to remove the rivet that now was not doing anything other than sealing the hole in the shell. This is when things got worse. The rivet was expanded between the shell and bathroom wall and I could not get it out of the way to put in a new rivet. I eventually had to stick some wire cutters in between the bathroom wall and the shell (covered with rat fur too making it even harder). Between cutting the rivet here and prying and pushing I finally go it out.

I installed the next # 16 rivet with a washer on the inside instead of an acorn nut because the rivet was still not as long as it should be and the hole might have been too large. Actually I tried to use the washer and the nut but only the washer got grabbed by the rivet. I also had to use a brace to push the bathroom wall against the shell, doing it carefully as to not do any damage.

It turned into a four hour project but I finally have the rivet installed with a washer. But even now it appears that the grip on the washer might be tenuous so I will have to see if it becomes unfastened. In that case I need a longer rivet, or might even go with a bolt and nylock nut for this troublesome location.

But that was just one rivet... if you choose to replace yours, maybe it will go smoothly.

Note for newbies at riveting: You need to have someone inside the trailer holding the acorn nut tight against the rivet and you start to pull it. I think I would suggest that the person with the rivet gun outside yell out the count for pulls.. ONE! TWO!.. etc.. and the person inside should watch to see if the acorn nut get grabbed. If it does not in one or two pulls of the lever, yell STOP and then reevaluate to see if your rivet is the right size. Hopefully you can stop a failed install before it becomes a hassle to remove the rivet.
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Old 08-07-2016, 12:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by TappyGee View Post
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Old 08-07-2016, 12:50 PM   #5
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Name: Gary
Trailer: Casita 17 SD
Texas
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Contact www.littlehousecustoms.com for a rivet kit . It's a simple job but you need one person inside to hold the cap nut on the rivet head. Use a socket to do this.

Sent from my XT1080 using Fiberglass RV mobile app
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Old 08-07-2016, 01:20 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by fieldphoto View Post
Ok wise forum wizards

..
I know this is a frequently debated topic, but I would love some input.
...
Five pages of debate here alone!
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Old 08-07-2016, 02:40 PM   #7
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Name: George
Trailer: 1997 16' Scamp
Michigan
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Rivets

We have a 97 scamp and most all the washers are gone from the rivets. Every time I wash and wax the scamp I lose a couple of caps. It helps to put a finger on the cap and press while washing or waxing around it. I have been "gluing" the caps back on with a dab of white silicone adhesive or calk. I have found that if I drill a tiny hole in the center of the cap, a little bit of calk will squeeze through when I press it on. I wipe the excess and the cap seems to hold on a bit better. I have 2 size caps and pre-drill about 10 of each, probably enough to last a few years judging by the 3 years I have practiced this method.

It's a strange thing but the acorn nuts on the interior ceiling seem to draw condensation. A couple have discolored. We just wipe them in the morning. Condensation can be pretty fierce with 40 -50 degree nights.
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Old 08-07-2016, 06:26 PM   #8
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Once you loose the plastic retainer under the rivet you start a chain of events with a loose rivet. Once you start getting a few loose rivets everything that the rivets are holding starts shaking about when you are traveling. This starts compromising the rest of the rivets now your at risk of tearing the rivet holes larger and allowing water in. Its not a big deal to replace rivets once you get into it. In almost every case you will need a helper to do a good job of it.
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Old 08-07-2016, 07:00 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by stevebaz View Post
Once you loose the plastic retainer under the rivet you start a chain of events with a loose rivet. ...
Agreed that loose rivets should be replaced. But only one of the rivets in the OP's photos (the last one) appears to have a disintegrating snap cap base, and we can't tell from the photo if the rivet it loose.
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Old 08-08-2016, 11:50 AM   #10
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Related question... I'm doing some similar deferred rivet/snap cap maintenance this fall. Ordered new rivets, snap caps, and washers from Scamp.

Apparently Scamp currently only uses one size of washer and cap. My 2008 uses a smaller size for the curtain rods. The new caps don't fit the old washers. There is no reason to replace any of those 20+ small rivets to install larger washers. The rivets are holding tight, but the caps are pretty brittle from UV degradation.

Scamp's advice is to put the new larger caps over the old small washers with adhesive sealant. Good advice? What kind of adhesive sealant? Or should I look for caps elsewhere that fit the old washers? Or...?
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Old 08-08-2016, 12:07 PM   #11
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If you remove a rivet that is loose and then lose it, is it lost?
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Old 08-08-2016, 12:17 PM   #12
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Name: Ginny
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Oklahoma
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Jon,
I have heard good things about these rivet caps. Snap-Caps - Screw Caps, Screw Covers | Pro-Dec

Steve/Gordon,
The washers are not gone, however they have broken off around the edges. a dab of glue/sealant would probably keep them in place in terms of ensuring that they keep holding the rivet spaced out from the trailer.

I did have one lose one, and we discovered it at the time of purchase, but we were traveling and had to fix it on the fly. The dealer put a 3x3 square of heavy duty roof repair patch adhesive over the rivet to prevent water from leaking in (there was a small drip coming down to the acorn nut on that rivet).
I am happy with just leaving this as is, unless someone strongly suggests a change.

I havent looked closely, but I assume some of these rivets attach to the frame under the rat fur. I guess I would have to rip it out to get to these? This is some of my hesitation for undertaking this project. I am somewhat of an 'all or nothing' gal, so if I am going to set up and start popping out rivets, I would probably just do them all.

Further thoughts?
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Old 08-08-2016, 12:24 PM   #13
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Old 08-08-2016, 12:54 PM   #14
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I would not do all of them "just because." Some are in more stress-prone areas of the shell, and these are often the ones that fail. The upper closet comes to mind. Others may last decades without needing attention beyond routine cap replacement.

Not sure what you mean by "frame under the rat fur"? There is no wood frame in a standard Scamp*. Rivets attach fiberglass to fiberglass or hardware to fiberglass.

* There is wood in the floor, bunk and seat mounting ledges, and reinforcing for the spare tire/table at the back. Anything attached to wood uses screws, not rivets.
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