79 Trillium 4500 Where do I start!? - Fiberglass RV

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Old 08-11-2009, 12:19 PM   #1
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Trailer: Trillium 4500
Posts: 157
Hi, I'm new here and also the new proud owner of a 79 4500. This is my first RV and I'm a little overwhelmed. This little buddy's history is extremely murky, the guy I bought it from new pretty much nothing. The exterior looks great, windows and screens are all there and functional, new tires, bearings packed, newish upholstery carpet and blinds. From here it starts to go down hill; the stove works but I don't know anything about the other systems, and I got zero manuals with it (I downloaded the Trillium, and fridge manuals from the FGRV doc. center THANKS!).
The furnace is a Duo-Therm 65810-2, it looks fine but I cant find a manual for it and don't really know where to start.
The electrical system is a mystery to me (no power); it has a power converter but the 110v resettable breaker on the left side is broken off (was it a switch or a button?) Can I open up this unit and replace it. It seems like there should be a battery with this system right? If so, where does it go.
I haven't checked out the fridge yet, like the stove and heater, it looks clean. Any advise?
The propane bottles look old and probably don't have OPV's so I'm going to replace them.
Haven't tried the H2o system. Should I just filler' up and see what happens?
I'm pretty sure that this trailer has been in storage for a bunch of years and I'm not sure what I need to do start up all these old systems.
The dining table is broken in a bunch of ways. I'm planing to use the old hardware and just replace the broken chipboard with new, better, wood. It seems like this would be a common problem, but I can't find anything about it in the forums here. This part of the project I feel pretty comfortable tackling, just thought someone might have some trick tips.
Thanks for any help you guys can give me! I live on the west side of BFE, so this site has already been a huge help and will probably be my lifeline for the remainder of this project.
In the future I hope I can be a source of information instead of just a sponge!

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Old 08-11-2009, 02:41 PM   #2
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Booker B.'s Avatar
Trailer: 1976 Trillium 13 ft
Posts: 983
Congrats Scott, still trying to find a 4500 in my area.

The tires/wheel bearings would be the first things to make sure are in good condition as well as all the lights (safety first).

Check inside the furnance as there should be instructions inside there. Generally there will be gas on/off valve, a primer push toggle and then a twister striker to spark the furnace flame. Same idea with the fridge and instructions should be on a little label. The stove's on these pretty much always work - not much to go wrong in the them. The propane on the fridge is a biggy as the fridges are expensive to fix.

You may or may not have a battery system - my 1976 did not and I had one installed when I replaced my converter. I am not sure which converter you have - is it the Power Matic one?

I have never used our water tank as we cook outside 99% of the time.

The table is fairly easy to replace using the existing table as a template so that's why there probably there isn't much on here about them.

Don't forget to post some pictures of your trailer - we all like seeing somebody's new gem

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Old 08-13-2009, 09:48 AM   #3
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Trailer: Trillium 4500
Posts: 157
Booker, thanks for the advise.
Tires and wheels are great, exterior lights all work with the exception of the rear, side running lights; both of these were missing their covers and non functioning.
I just got the furnace working! I'm lettin' er run while I type to burn off the funky old smells. Simple, quiet, and warm.
I dug up the H2O holding tank; seems Ok but while I'm in there I might just replace the lines if I can get to all the connections.
Also dug up the electrical system (if you can call a mess of wires an electrical system) there does seem to be the remains of a battery hook up. The power converter is a Progressive Dynamics, I'm still not quite sure what it does. Convert 12V battery power to 110 so I can use the outlets? As of now no power on the inside of any kind.
I'll post some pics. if I can.

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Old 08-13-2009, 10:09 AM   #4
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Booker B.'s Avatar
Trailer: 1976 Trillium 13 ft
Posts: 983
Nice Trailer!

Is that a large hole where your table sits? That's kind of odd, what did the previous owner do that for?

Yes, your convertor was designed to do a few things. When plugged into 120v it would convert the power to run your 12v lights and charge your battery. It would also power your 120 plugs in your trailer and power your fridge.

If you plug it in and you have no lights and your breaker is not resettable then you may have to get a new one. These older converters did a poor job charging the battery as they were single stage - they send one charge level to the battery and eventually over charge the battery/dry out the water. Newer converters do a 3 stage charge based on the level of the battery. I purchased this one as a replacement for my Progressive Dynamics one:

If you are setting a new battery system anyways you may want to look at something similar. The only problem I have had with it is the internal fan kicks on if more then 4 12v lights are on at a time.
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Old 08-13-2009, 10:54 AM   #5
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Trailer: Trillium 4500
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Hey Booker,
The large hole under the dinette is the access to the H2O tank (the rectangle in the hole). It's usually covered with a hinged piece of 1/2" plywood, I assume that this is factory and not a mod, otherwise there'd be no way to get to the tank.
I've got a lot some research to do with regards to the electric. Living in the SW I'd like to take advantage of the solar eventually so, what ever mods I make make to the electrical system now (new converter, battery, ect.) I'd like them to be basicly plug-n-play with a solar panel in the future. Is this realistic?
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Old 08-13-2009, 11:47 AM   #6
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Trailer: 1976 Trillium 13 ft
Posts: 983
Ahh, ok, I did not know that about the 4500's. My Trillium 1300 water tank is under the door table bench seat.

Yes, generally people will run the solar panel directly to the battery for simplicity - they are a fairly low trickle charge. However, there are other members who know far more about that then I do. We haven't tried solar yet as our 12v lights will hold up for a good 10 days of camping before recharging and switching to LEDs 12V lights can double or triple that time.
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Old 08-15-2009, 07:45 PM   #7
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Trailer: 92 Bigfoot 13.5 ft / 05 Freestar
Posts: 177
Ahh, ok, I did not know that about the 4500's. My Trillium 1300 water tank is under the door table bench seat.

Yes, generally people will run the solar panel directly to the battery for simplicity - they are a fairly low trickle charge. However, there are other members who know far more about that then I do. We haven't tried solar yet as our 12v lights will hold up for a good 10 days of camping before recharging and switching to LEDs 12V lights can double or triple that time.
Hi Booker,
I have solar(with an accurate monitor) and LED's and found the LED lights require .2 amps and incandescant bulbs use 1.4 amps so I can go 7 times longer on one charge. My 115 Watt panel produces 7 amps at 14 Volts in good sun with the panel lying flat on the roof(almost a 100 watts). Many battery chargers don't produce this much power. If you do the math 7 light bulbs at 1.4 amps require almost 118 watts so by changing to LED's you can almost eliminate a second panel. The moral of the story is reduce your power requirements first, then calculate solar panel size second.
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Old 08-16-2009, 08:05 AM   #8
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Name: Ed
Trailer: 1982 Fiber Stream and 2002 Casita Freedom Deluxe,The driveway is a Dark & Lonely Place now!
Posts: 1,719
Welcome and congratulations on the Trill'.

The electrical system is not too compalex.
The converter is really just a transformer that drops the 120vac down to 12vdc and there is a manual transfer switch that connects the 12volt loads to either the transformer or a battery.

The battery would be connected to the battery side of the switch directly and on my 4500 the battery and its wire was on the tongue when I got the trailer.

I moved it to the inside under the bench in front and installed a new battery in a battery box and strapped it down tight.

I don't remember if the converter also tries to charge/boil the battery but as it supplies only unregulated or timed dc from the transformer I would not use it to charge any way.
I imagine the battery was meant to be charged from the tow vehicle when connected.

I got a separate high quality but inexpensive charger and charged the battery from that.
I mounted the charger near the battery and wired it into the AC power outlet the fridge plugs in to.

All of this also means that the 120vac loads are not tied to the 12vdc loads except that they both are wired to the converter.
If the trailer is not plugged in to 120vac the 120volt loads will not operate.

So there is not really too much to it. It will be simple to get a charger and charge the battery from it and Solar would certainly be a charger like that too.

The water tannk in a 4500 is bizarre to say the least.Mine did not have one but I have read that if filled up all the way it will lift the floor under the table!
Considering that the under side of the trailer is sealed glass this did not seem like a great thing to me so I just put a tank under one of the seats instead.
I also put a hard surface floor in mine and then I did not have to worry about access t the tank either.

I think also if you spend time on this site you will realize that not having manuals is not too big a deal....the parts are all generic and any RV dealer should be able to help explain things to you if you have trouble figuring them out here.
There a lots of places in your area .

It looks like a great trailer you found and I know I love camping in the High Country around Telluride in mine.
We ahve a place in Gunnison and I was over in Montrose last week.
I have done the loop through Paonia to the Mesa and back a few times from Gunnison and all over the Gunnison Valley too.

Have fun
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Old 09-02-2009, 12:50 PM   #9
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Trailer: Trillium 4500
Posts: 157
Just an update here.
Got the furnace, fridge, and stove all working (the fridge could be colder on the really hot days). Replaced all the potable water hoses and hand pump. Built a new table. Installed an Allure bamboo floor. Replaced the belly moulding. Replaced a bunch of rivets and fixed some saggy cabinet doors.

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In the works: 1000W inverter, 100W solar panel, 2 T-105 6V golf cart batteries are in the mail. On the first outing I realized that the axle is toast, so while I'm replacing that I'll put in a 4" lift and 15" wheels.

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We will be almost strictly boondocking; hence the solar overkill, and the lift. The plan is for Mexico in the spring!
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Old 09-02-2009, 01:06 PM   #10
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Name: Rachel
Trailer: 1974 Boler 13 ft (Neonex/Winnipeg)
Posts: 3,014
Can you tell more about replacing the belly molding?

I'm a big Trillium fan, yet one of the features I'm not so fond of (of course all trailer brands have plusses and minuses) is how the belly band is anchored to encapsulated mild-steel plates. When shopping I saw numerous instances where these had rusted and swelled once water got to them.

Did you reinstall it with a different method? Or put a different banding on altogether?

I did look at one Trillium wherein the band had been replaced with a stick-on rubber molding that was from a GM truck. Not a bad idea since the band is only cosmetic anyway.

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Old 09-02-2009, 01:56 PM   #11
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Name: Scott
Trailer: 1975 Surfside TM14 (front kitchen)
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nice work, you're picking this up way faster than I did. Solar is my next venture too so please post bigger pics when you're doing yours. thanx
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Old 09-04-2009, 08:10 PM   #12
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Trailer: Trillium 4500
Posts: 157
Hi Raya,
The belly moulding I replaced was the super cheap, plastic that snaps into the alum. belly band. Took 10 min./one beer, cost 15$. I'm very curious about removing the whole shebang! The way I see it is that the alum. "band" was originally attached via rivets to ?, over time the rivets oxidized and failed, owners attempted to drill out and replace said rivets and ended up punching through the shell; Leaks! Now, in the case of my trailer, the owner "caveman caulks" above the alum. band. Looks like hell, but no leaks. What about removing the whole band, fill said disaster with glass, sand and paint? Is the alum. structural in any way? Sounds like a lot of work; the more I look, the more projects I find.
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Old 09-04-2009, 08:17 PM   #13
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Name: Donna D
Trailer: Escape 5.0 TA, 2014
Posts: 23,916
Scott, I'll butt into this conversation briefly. Somewhere here there's a picture of a Trillium where the owner did precisely what you suggest. Removed the aluminum trim, filled in the holes, and painted. It looked really good. The painted area was only about 2 inches wide and done in a contrasting color. But one thing for sure, no more leaks.

Back to your regularly scheduled topic.
Donna D.
Ten Forward - 2014 Escape 5.0 TA
Double Yolk - 1988 16' Scamp Deluxe
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Old 09-04-2009, 08:39 PM   #14
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Name: Rachel
Trailer: 1974 Boler 13 ft (Neonex/Winnipeg)
Posts: 3,014
Hi Scott,

Yes, the Trillium belly band is only decorative, not structural. The upper and lower halves of the shell are joined with fiberglass on the inside. Of course this leaves a cosmetic seam on the outside, which the belly band covers up. For the factory to fill and fair it would be a time-consuming job, and I suppose a bit of accent looks good there anyway.

The way it is installed is that there are mild steel plates that are on the inside of the laminate (it looks like they were placed on the shell inside before the fiberglass joining strip was applied). If you peeled back the Ensolite wall covering inside, you would see the bulges where the plates are. There is one plate for each rivet that holds the belly band on. So the plates are technically on the "outside" of the camper, but mostly buried.

Thinking about it, I would guess the shells were temporarily tabbed together, then the band was riveted through to the plates on the inside. After that the fiberglass joining strip would have been put on the inside sealing and mating the halves.

Some moisture would be able to get into the plates from the outside (not into the camper), and since they are mild steel they could then rust and expand. Then they could potentially break through the fiberglass on the inside enough to cause a leak. Or, more likely, the rivets could just "let go" from the deteriorated plates at which point an owner might try to re-rivet. It would be all too easy to have the rivet then go through the fiberglass joining strip and into the camper, piercing it. Then water could leak in. Then probably the caulking of the belly band started...

One could probably dig out the rusted plates and replace them with stainless or bronze. And if one were to break through when riveting to those plates it would not be that hard to apply a new strip of fiberglass banding to the inside to restore the integrity of the shell.

On the other hand, one could remove the band. Charlie C. (with the igloo avatar) did this on a Trillium he used to own. I asked about it and he said the molding was originally meant for a GMC truck, if I remember correctly.

You could also fill where the band was with something like thickened epoxy, then fair it smooth and paint. Or put on decorative vinyl striping, or...

Here is a photo of the Trillium with the adhesive rubber molding in lieu of the belly band. Sorry about the collage; it's the only photo of it I could find:

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