Fixing leaks - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-09-2009, 11:11 AM   #1
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So our 2003 Scamp 16' deluxe that I picked up last week has been stored uncovered outside on a waterfront lot (Chesapeake bay). Perhaps as a consequence, I am finding some leaks that I need to deal with. I have been reading lots of threads here on caulking/rebedding and replacing rivets, so I think I am on the way to being able to give this all a try -- some right away, and some in the spring/summer.

1. The fantastic fan vent is actively leaking, so I want to deal with it right now. I have pulled the inner plastic cover and see some wetness in 2 corners of the interior wood frame. I need to figure out how to remove the wood frame and then get the whole vent assembly out. Based on what I have read here, I plan to rebed it with butyl tape around the edges in hopes that will solve the problem. Any tips/advice for this project? What should I watch out for? Do I need to replace the wood frame? Also, I am having trouble finding butyl tape locally. No luck at Home Depot, so I am going to try the closest RV dealer (Reines in Manassas). They have both butyl tape and butyl rubber tape listed -- I think I want the former but if anyone can confirm that would be a big help. Here is the parts page: Reines parts

2. There is a leak somewhere in the front of the trailer, and water seems to collect on the shelf where the top bunk rests/connects, under the front plexiglass window. I can't feel water around the window itself, although that seems the most likely source of a leak. I also see no evidence of water in the upper (wood) cabinets, so I don't think it's any of the rivets/screws up there. Any suggestions on how to track down the source of the leak? I imagine I will need to remove and rebed the front window, and perhaps the rock guard as well. All advice would be greatly appreciated. One question I have is whether to use butyl tape around the window in addition to the beading and lockstrip sold by Scamp in their parts section?

3. Some of the rivets look pretty tired, and many do not have caps (and the plastic washers are trashed). I guess I will need to replace most or all of them in the spring/summer. I have been reading up about this process in many old threads here, and I think I will stick with aluminum rivets and the plastic/washers/caps used by Scamp originally. My main question is what do do with the screws (not rivets) that I believe are used to hold the wooden cabinets to the fiberglass shell. I can post pictures tomorrow, but I imagine that because of the solid wood cabinets in the deluxe, Scamp uses screws instead of rivets. The problem is that they are now well rusted and the plastic washers between the screw heads and the shell are coming apart (no caps on any that I have noticed). Is it best to stick with screws for this application? Maybe I should call Scamp and ask. Has anyone with a deluxe tried to replace these? Should I just leave them? (I don't see any evidence that they are actively leaking, but I worry that there may be a leak behind the wood cabinets and I wouldn't find it right away; also, the rusted screw heads look pretty awful).

4. The license plate bracket tabs (molded extensions from the drivers' side rear light base) have snapped off. I plan to install a basic metal bracket using the existing screws that hold the light base to the shell. I think I will need to use some kind of waterproof caulk in the screw hole -- any advice on what to use there (obviously not silicone, but??).

5. Perhaps not directly related to the leaks, but much of the exterior hardware (door hinges, rock-guard hinges, and the like) is thoroughly rusted. I suppose I need to order new hardware from Scamp, remove the old parts and install new using rivets, right? Any suggestions for avoiding rust in the future (we do not live near salt water, so hopefully removal from that environment will help).

I am very grateful for all the knowledge and advice offered by the participants in this forum. It has been helpful to me as I looked for a trailer, and now I am relying on it even more as we care for our new camper.
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:11 PM   #2
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Hi Tom,

Congrats on your new acquisition!
You'll want the buytl tape, stuff is fantastic. I normally order mine online, but occasionally an RV shop may stock some. The Depot only carries butyl caulk in the paint section which I've found useful for a few things, but not as good as the tape. I also don't use silicon products anywhere on the Scamp. Only use 3M Marine sealer which is available at Ace or the Depot. They have a slow cure and fast cure version of the Marine product.

Item 2: Most of the time, but not always, the leak you mention is coming through the seam where the two pieces of window rubber butt together at the bottom of the window. Get some black windshield adhesive any auto store and make sure that seam is thoroughly sealed and then test.

Item 3: I replaced 95% of all my rivets with stainless steel machine screws and locking nuts. The plastic snap caps can be ordered for the correct size of bolt or screw you use and work great. Ace is a good source for SS selection locally, but online sources will probably be cheaper.

Item 4: Use the butyl tape on the back side of the plate holder near the hole and wrapped around the bolt so it goes down and fills the hole when you attach.

Item 5: Again I'd use Stainless Steel machine screws to attach and not rivets, seal with butyl tape under hardware. The hinges you might be able to rub some kind of protective stuff over, but not being a coastal fella I'll leave that to someone else. One caution: new hinges from Scamp don't always align well and you sometimes have to make adjustments to get the door, etc. back in correct position. Yours being a pretty late model, hopefully it wouldn't be a problem.

Everyone has their own methodology so I'm sure you'll get a number of different approaches....
Enjoy your new trailer.
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Old 12-09-2009, 04:31 PM   #3
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I agree on the screws. One question: I assume that Scamp installs wooden cleats, and then the cabinets are (inside the camper) attached to the cleats? Can you tell if the cleats are attached with wood screws (in other words, the point of the screw is buried in the wooden cleat) or machine screws (there would be a nut inside, probably exposed).

In either case, I would replace with stainless steel. If you want more rust resistance, go with grade 316 (typical stainless is 304 aka 18/8). You can get any fastener you want, usually the next day, from www.mcmaster.com Very nice online catalog, too.

I would want to remove all of the rusting screws. If they are machine screws (w/nuts), then replace in kind but with better material. If they are wood screws (pointed), then you could replace with like, or, potentially, you could replace with machine screws (for example, if any don't seem to be holding well, and you have an opportunity to get to the back side to install a nut).

If you do find some fastener holes that are stripped or have a bit of rot, there are ways to combat/repair that. I won't go crazy describing that now, but if you do find anything like that maybe you could describe what you're finding and we could decide what some fix options would be.

In the case of other rusting exterior hardware pieces, I would replace them, and consider what the Scamp parts are made of before replacing with similar. Not that it's always Scamp's fault, but sometimes they do choose to use mild steel when I think they should use stainless (for example, the fasteners they sell in the door hinge rebuild kit). Other times, it's just that RV stuff can be kind of low-end, and they stock the same stuff as everyone else.

Sometimes you can replace those things with either marine-specific items (often stainless, sometimes 316) or just better/stainless from a place like McMaster Carr.

Raya
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Old 12-19-2009, 11:27 PM   #4
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I ordered a new gasket and installation kit from the company for my fan. The previous owner had tried the butyl tape trick but it's still leaking. I wrote the company and they sent me a kit. I'll keep you posted on my results.
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Old 12-20-2009, 12:27 AM   #5
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Davie,

I'm just curious what butyl tape "trick" the previous owner of your trailer tried? Did he or she just stick it on top of the frame, or around the edge? Or did he/she remove the vent, clean and solvent wash the fiberglass, put the butyl under the flange, and then re-fasten properly?

If he/she did the latter, and it's still leaking, I would suspect either some odd flaw with the vent (cracked flange or something), or perhaps a problem with the trailer roof (flexing or ?).

That said, I would think that the vast majority of times it's improper re-bedding that causes the leaks to remain. Butyl tape on a flange is a pretty effective way to seal.

Raya
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:22 PM   #6
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Quote:
Davie,

I'm just curious what butyl tape "trick" the previous owner of your trailer tried? Did he or she just stick it on top of the frame, or around the edge? Or did he/she remove the vent, clean and solvent wash the fiberglass, put the butyl under the flange, and then re-fasten properly?

If he/she did the latter, and it's still leaking, I would suspect either some odd flaw with the vent (cracked flange or something), or perhaps a problem with the trailer roof (flexing or ?).

That said, I would think that the vast majority of times it's improper re-bedding that causes the leaks to remain. Butyl tape on a flange is a pretty effective way to seal.

Raya
I'm just starting to remove the tape but it appears that she just taped over the outside of the flange and the roof. The were some bubbles in the tape and when I cut into them, water ran out.

The Fan-Tastic folks sent a new gasket, some magic cleaning stuff, and a bedding goo for the gasket along with new screws. I'm thinking that the builder not using the proper gasket, using only using 1/2 of the mounting holes, and using rivets instead of beveled screws, was the cause of the problem.

I'll report back and may be looking for the magic tape if this factory recommended reinstall still leaks.

Davie
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Old 12-21-2009, 06:48 AM   #7
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I also had a leak in my fantastic fan. As it turned out, it was NOT around the edge of the fan but rather, the water was coming in the rivet holes. I removed the factory caulk and replaced it with a "special caulk" that's made to adhere to fiberglass. I got it from a RV dealer, it comes in a red tube ( a caulk gun is required) and it's called C type caulk. It is self leveling, sticks like a charm and it really works great . I HIGHLY recommend it. Ron
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Old 12-21-2009, 05:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
I also had a leak in my fantastic fan. As it turned out, it was NOT around the edge of the fan but rather, the water was coming in the rivet holes. I removed the factory caulk and replaced it with a "special caulk" that's made to adhere to fiberglass. I got it from a RV dealer, it comes in a red tube ( a caulk gun is required) and it's called C type caulk. It is self leveling, sticks like a charm and it really works great . I HIGHLY recommend it. Ron
I called the factory today about my leaking fan. They recommended taking out the rivets, epoxying some plywood strips inside the ceiling outside of the fan so that the recommended screws have something to bite into. I'm planning to do the job tomorrow and will post photos when I'm done.
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Old 12-22-2009, 09:39 PM   #9
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Forget the photos. It was a sun-up to sun-down and beyond kind of day. Getting the "eternatape" off was the most difficult part of the job. A heat gun and a scraper started the job. Goof-off finished it. A power drill and rotary tool got the pop rivets out. I drilled the missing holes, epoxied plywood strips on the inside, cleaned the flange and trailer top with acetone followed by 303, applied the silicone oil to the gasket and put it all back together with the screws from the installation kit.

I'm going to give it few days to set before I hose test the repair.
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Old 12-22-2009, 10:47 PM   #10
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Nice to have a job done I know how it is at the end of a long day - photos are the last thing you feel like spending the time to post!

I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind:

1) Can you explain more about the gasket/silicone oil system you used?

(Usually we are trying to remove silicone contamination from a previous repair so I'm not used to hearing about people applying it.)

2) What is the "303" that you cleaned with (following the acetone). I only know 303 as a plastic protectant that restores plasticizers when you apply it. (I do sometimes use Interlux 202, which is an acetone-like solvent wash - maybe it was that?).

Thanks,
Raya
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Old 12-23-2009, 09:25 AM   #11
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Quote:
Nice to have a job done I know how it is at the end of a long day - photos are the last thing you feel like spending the time to post!

I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind:

1) Can you explain more about the gasket/silicone oil system you used?

(Usually we are trying to remove silicone contamination from a previous repair so I'm not used to hearing about people applying it.)

2) What is the "303" that you cleaned with (following the acetone). I only know 303 as a plastic protectant that restores plasticizers when you apply it. (I do sometimes use Interlux 202, which is an acetone-like solvent wash - maybe it was that?).

Thanks,
Raya
Before I removed the big mess of rubber tape, I contacted the company and ordered a replacement gasket and installation kit for the Fan-Tastic fan. They sent a closed cell foam gasket, a bag-o-screws, two packets of 303 (sort of like Armor--all) and two packets of silicone oil (not caulk). There were also some wire and a couple of crimps.

Getting the rubber tape off the fiberglass was a job, but getting the silicone caulk off was really difficult.

After getting the crud off the fiberglass, I gave it a wipe with acetone, dried it off, and then followed the factory installation instructions.

They recommend using the 303 first, wiping on, polishing off. Then spreading the silicone oil on the gasket and screwing the whole thing down. I epoxied in some plywood eariler on the underside to take the screws. I used a non-silicone exterior caulk to cover the screw heads and to seal the side of the flange and gasket.

I'm about to go out and see if the rat fur and insulation is still glued to the ceiling.

The best thing about this method is that if I have to re-do it, it's just a matter of pulling off the caulk and unscrewing.

I have one photo from the inside before the rat fur went up and will post it later.
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Old 12-23-2009, 10:27 AM   #12
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Thanks for the additional info.

Raya
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