U-Haul tail lights and window sealing - Fiberglass RV


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Old 12-19-2013, 10:24 AM   #1
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Trailer: U-haul 1985
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U-Haul tail lights and window sealing

Hi all --

Two years ago, I purchased a 1985 U-Haul VT-16 that had lived it's whole life in AZ.

When I took the unit to Colorado, I discovered some significant leaks in the rear of the unit during rain and snow. The rubber rear tail light assemblies had dry rotted to nothing and the lens covers were in pretty bad shape as well. I contacted U-Haul in Phoenix -- even managing to get in touch with the senior executive that had started his career with the design of these trailers -- but tail light and most parts are now long gone. As the U-Haul design is very close to that of Burro's, it was suggested that I contact them, but they appear to be out of business as well. I'm assuming that these tail lights were probably something that existed in the auto market and the profiles of the fiberglass trailer bodies were designed to fit them.

Does anyone have an idea what kind of assemblies might have been used on these units, and where to source them now?

Also, I think that I want to pull the rear windows and reseal them. Any insight as to how to best approach this would be most welcome.

Thanks!

Jonathan
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Old 12-19-2013, 12:21 PM   #2
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Trailer: 1984 u-haul ct13; 1996 Casita 17 Spirit Deluxe; 1946 Modernistic teardrop
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The Uhaul tail lights are unique to them only as far as I know, and no parts are available. I recently saw another Uhaul that had the tail light area fiberglassed over, and standard trailer lights mounted on the surface. Someone else made a filler piece and flush mounted an oval light in the area. Something like either of these ideas may be your best solution. Any of the light areas on these trailers are typical leakers. I have an extra set of lights on the rear because of a bike rack, they help to supplement the marginally visible original lights. If you are having the typical leakage problems with the side windows, there is some good info in the document center on rebuilding them. Also check the drain holes at the bottom of the glass channel.
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Old 12-19-2013, 12:53 PM   #3
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Thank you! Should I assume when you say check the drain holes you mean the horizontal slots at the bottom of the frame, and to check for something plugging them?
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Old 12-19-2013, 01:21 PM   #4
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It is possible the butyl putty behind the window is dry rot, like your tail lights. Any rv store carries the tape, you remove the window screws and the window comes out in 2 pieces, the inside frames holds the outside glass. Clean the old putty, install new and reinstall.
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Old 12-19-2013, 04:12 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Jonathan Wright View Post
Thank you! Should I assume when you say check the drain holes you mean the horizontal slots at the bottom of the frame, and to check for something plugging them?
Exactly!! Also the channel that the glass slides in wears out and water will wick up over. Apparently window leakage was a common problem with these trailers when Uhaul still owned them because in the service manual there are directions for caulking them. Also info in the document center about a source for replacement rubber weatherstrip that holds the side windows in place. Let me know if you go that route as there are more details to the installation. The weatherstrip that Uhaul used, and the replacement part available are not exactly right for the wall thickness and that of the window frame, and I believe that contributes to the problem.
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Old 12-19-2013, 04:25 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
It is possible the butyl putty behind the window is dry rot, like your tail lights. Any rv store carries the tape, you remove the window screws and the window comes out in 2 pieces, the inside frames holds the outside glass. Clean the old putty, install new and reinstall.
The Uhaul side windows are not the clamp ring type, they use a rubber weatherstrip with a lock strip, like windshields of trucks of the 60's. The front and rear windows do use the clamp ring, and those windows can be removed and resealed with the butyl tape. Be sure to get the real butyl stuff, black is what you would want. Our Uhaul has been a real BIG pain in the A with leaks. Roof seam, tail lights, marker lights, door hinges, and all the windows. I've replaced both side windows. Replaced the rear window with one from Scamp. Found the front window not only leaked around the frame edge, but also by a tiny crack in the rubber that holds the glass in the frame. Finding the source of the leak is the big problem, especially with the double wall, because the water will travel before you see it. Lot of time locating and repairing leaks. I have yet to remove and seal some of the marker lights. For the tail lights, if the plastic lens is useable, you may be able to make new gaskets out of sheet rubber. There has been discussion about someone reproducing the lens, but no results yet.
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Old 12-19-2013, 07:21 PM   #7
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Jonathan:Welcome to The VT family You now make the 14th owner that I have a record of. PM me and I will send you the list. there is also a Cross reference parts spreadsheet in the document center that may be useful or I will include it with the owners list if you wish.
The tail lights and windows are problematic. You can reset the three clamp ring windows with good Butyl tape and rebuild the glass runners and do a pretty good job at sealing them. I used the rubber specified in the spreadsheet to seal the kickout window in the back and the "dreaded" black silicone rubber which is used to seal leaking windshields after installation between the rubber and fiberglass and have had no issues. I have rebuilt or helped rebuild windows for a CT and a VT and found that the CT had thicker fiberglass in the window cutout than the VT so that may account for some of the disagreement as to what cross section to use. C.R. Lawrence( the manufacturer ) indicates that both will seal if the correct lock strip is used.
The tail lights rubber can be temporarily repaired using black silicone rubber if the lenses are not cracked too bad. As soon as I have some time I will get some tooling made to mold some replacement gasket modification part, I have figured out how to do it and what to make it out of , just have to do it. I have seen the moulded replacement lenses used by "higginra" and they looked pretty good.I priced the tooling and production in India and it was pricey. I would contact him and see where he got his.
I replaced the marker lights with LED ones from Arrow and sealed them with the good gutter cement that stays flexible. I felt that this was an area possibly prone to leaks. I also completely rewired the 120V system as the insulation was brittle and replaced the hose piping with PEX. Replace the elevator bolts holding the body to the frame and go with 5/126" instead of the 1/4" at least around the perimeter, I found the center ones to be pretty good and didn't mess with them.
We really like ours especially the front dinette and the fact that I can see through it while I am towing
Michael J
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Old 12-19-2013, 09:07 PM   #8
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On an episode of "American Restoration" on the History channel they made a tail light lens for a motor scooter by making a mold with the original lens and pouring plastic into it. Looked easy, but probably more involved than what was shown.
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Old 12-19-2013, 09:49 PM   #9
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My suggestion for the taillight area is to cut about 1/2 of the dry rot away. Then create a new seal with some window moulding and tighten the lens against it.

As far as the lens replacement. I have new ones that were poured.
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:12 PM   #10
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You can find directions on how to pour new ones online, but the directions are for simple ones.

I have looked into 3D printing and sent an email to a company in Chicago. It is possible according to the information I had previously looked into. No reply from the company though.

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Old 12-20-2013, 07:11 AM   #11
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Robert; you need to start production and make a pile of money selling them. I call first on the list.
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Old 12-20-2013, 07:25 AM   #12
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There's far more to building a tail light lens, than pouring plastic into a mold. Vehicles on the road have to follow DOT regulations. That's why lenses are stamped with a DOT number. While you may be able to get away with making one for your own use... it's your liability and possible traffic infraction, I wouldn't get involved in selling anything that's heavily regulated without following the rules of the DOT. YMMV

Secondly, I wouldn't use silicone of any kind on the exterior of my egg. If a tail light lens is leaking, I'd use Butyl. It can be built up in layers, squishes out to fill all body/lense imperfections and when needing replacement isn't a PITA to remove and replace. We seal windows, vents and all manner of openings in eggs with the stuff and when properly applied will remain flexible and last for years.
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Old 12-20-2013, 08:26 AM   #13
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Since the DOT number is raised digits, and a mold was perfectly made from an original lens and those numbers then show on a reproduction lens, would it be a legal lens. What if it was a two part mold so that the exact inner surface was also reproduced. What about that red lens repair tape that is available from Walmart and numerous other sources that you see holding smashed lenses together, is that DOT legal, and is the seller liable there. Just hypothetical questions here, not looking to disagree with you Donna as you are correct on above statements. Personally, I don't care for the original tail lights on our Uhaul, and don't know as if new original lenses would make a lot of difference, therefore part of the reason for me adding a second set of trail lights. I want to be sure anyone behind me can see me. I also have the DOT tape on the bumper and bike rack. The Uhaul that I saw recently with the light area molded over and surface mount lights seems to be the best solution. And don't forget about those aluminum adapters that Uhaul sells to convert to round tail lights. I have a set, but they are not nice looking so I would use them only as a last resort.
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Old 12-20-2013, 08:45 AM   #14
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With tail light lenses it's not the exterior surface, it's the interior prism. Check the inside, it's like a bunch of pyramids that gives a tail light a light refraction. When tail lights are created, they're not poured, they're pressed. Creating a tail light from an original and not making it exactly the same in all ways right down to the tiniest detail... wow, I wouldn't even try especially knowing you're fooling with the DOT.

Just because something is sold, doesn't mean it's legal. The web is full of that stuff. Walmart may be selling DOT- approved tail light tape, I don't know.. never needed that stuff.

I understand the frustrations for U-Haul owners, truly. It's a PITA. Whatever someone needs to do to be seen going down the road is very important. Personally, I'd do some fiberglass work and buy 1979 GMC C1500 Tail light Lenses, they're really cheap, available and about as close to the shape of the U-Haul lens as you're going to get. If the fiberglass work is done well, 99.9% of people viewing the trailer wouldn't know they're not original (if that's important to you).
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