Bigfoot propane tank cover mod - Fiberglass RV

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Old 05-01-2013, 06:48 PM   #1
Senior Member
Name: Mike
Trailer: Bigfoot 17' DLX
Posts: 347
Bigfoot propane tank cover mod

Hi all,

You may recall from this thread

New tread for my Bigfoot 17

that I was on my way to Alaska for the work season and that I would be doing some work and upgrades to my 17-foot Bigfoot once I got here.

Well, I made it here without incident last week but the weather is still too cold to dewinterize the trailer and do any significant work on it. Besides, it's partially buried in a frozen snow bank in the storage lot I left it in so it will be a little while longer before I can yank it out and get to work on it.

In the mean time, there is one thing I have been wanting to do and I figured since it could be done indoors, there was no time like the present. Following the advice in this thread, I installed a couple deck plates for easy access to the propane bottle valves.

Bigfoot Propane Bottle Cover Access

I also decided to take the opportunity to experiment with cleaning and refinishing the fiberglass so I would have some first-hand experience later on when it comes time to clean and polish the whole trailer.

I bought a couple "4-inch" deck plates from West Marine. They didn't have the "off-white" color ones, and it seems like this color is pretty much on the way out with the manufacturers of these types of things, so I decided to try to paint them to a close match. A pic of the exact deck plates I used is attached.

I marked the locations for the deck plates on the propane tank cover then removed it from the trailer and took it home where I could work on it indoors. First I drilled the pilot holes to properly locate the hole saw, then I used a 4-1/2 inch hole saw to create two nice, clean, round holes.

One thing I discovered is that the hole saw tended to want to jump and chatter a lot but the solution was to just reverse the drill motor and let the saw teeth do the work in reverse. It takes a little longer this way but the teeth are sharp enough to cut even in the wrong direction and it goes slowly enough to prevent the blade from jumping and chattering.

After making the holes I used a small drum sander chucked up in the cordless drill to smooth out the openings and get them just right so the deck plates fit the holes snugly.

After that I took the cover into the bathtub and using the hand-held shower head, a sponge, and some Barkeeper's Friend cleanser, I went to work on cleaning the gelcoat.

This is probably one of the most abused parts of the trailer and mine was no exception. I don't think the PO ever cleaned it. What I discovered after a few minutes is that the cleanser and sponge were barely making a dent in the stains in the gelcoat. So after awhile, I switched up to one of those "magic eraser" sponges, actually the Home Depot "HDX" brand, which come six to a box.

This made a HUGE difference in the cleaning process. After a few minutes of vigorous rubbing and plenty of water, the stains and scuffs started lifting and before long, the cover was pretty darned clean.

I have to say though that I'm not looking forward to doing the whole trailer this way later this summer. It's tiring, tedious work and these sponges deteriorate quickly, requiring one new sponge, which was worn to oblivion, just to clean this cover. I can only imagine how many it will take to clean the whole trailer and at around 65 cents per sponge, it could turn into an expensive project.

But at least I know what works so off to the next phase I went. Once the cover was clean and dry, I test fit one of the deck plates to confirm that the bright white plastic was just too far off from the almost cream color of the fiberglass gelcoat. As I suspected, it was which reaffirmed my decision to paint the deck plates.

In the mean time, I started applying coats of Red Maxx floor polish to the cover to shine it up and while each coat dried I worked on painting the deck plates.

The deck plates are glossy ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate) plastic so I wanted to use a plastic-compatible paint to get good adhesion between the paint and the part. Krylon Fusion paint has worked well for me in the past so that was the direction I wanted to go but the only "off white" color they make is called "Dover White", which someone had recommended to me as a possible match in another thread here unrelated to this project. But for my '89, Dover White is too white and not a very good match.

But after cleaning the deck plate parts with dish soap and warm water and drying them thoroughly, I decided to spray the Dover White Fusion paint as a base, then put something closer in color on top of it. So I sprayed the parts and stuck them in the oven which was warmed to the lowest setting. Once the oven reached the desired temp (about 175 degrees F) I shut it off and left the door slightly ajar. The oven would cool over time while I was putting a new coat of Red Maxx on the cover, then I'd come back and warm up the oven again, turning it off as soon as it reached the right temp. I wanted the paint to get "baked on" but I didn't want to melt or distort the plastic deck plate parts so I was very conservative about the exposure of the parts to too high a temperature.

Anyway, I did this cycle about 4 times, then when the parts were slightly warm after the final cycle, I took them outside and sprayed them with a coat of Krylon enamel in a gloss Ivory color. Then I baked it 4 more times just as I did to the Fusion undercoat.

The finish turned out well, as did the Red Maxx polish, which took 6 coats! This was a good experience because I could see which techniques worked and which didn't without experimenting on the whole trailer. I noticed that the Red Maxx runs quite easily and these runs are highly visible once it dries. I'll have to be more careful when I do the whole trailer later this year, probably with thinner coats, but more of them.

Once everything was dry I slipped the deck plate flanges into the holes, lined them up the way I wanted them, and drilled holes for the mounting hardware. I used stainless steel #8 screws, ss washers, and ss nylock nuts.

As you can see the color match of the Krylon Ivory to the 1989 vintage gelcoat is pretty good. For anyone with an older "cream colored" trailer, I'd look at this color for a match.

Now that this is done, I just need it to warm up here a bit so I can install the new wheels/tires, then I'll be installing a new Atwood water heater, and all new PEX plumbing and a new kitchen faucet. I have all the parts, I just need this place to thaw out a bit more so I can drain the antifreeze and work on it in relative comfort.

More reports will follow as I get some of these other projects completed.

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Old 05-01-2013, 07:45 PM   #2
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carlkeigley's Avatar
Name: Carl
Trailer: 2013 Lil Snoozy #161 (SOLD)/2010 Tacoma
NE Oklahoma
Posts: 2,361
Thanks Mike for posting.
And good luck there in Alaska.

I'll be following for all the good ideas you come up with.

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Old 05-01-2013, 09:40 PM   #3
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Name: Donna D
Trailer: Escape 5.0 TA, 2014
Posts: 23,916
Wow, what a great write up! You have more energy and determination than I have. I wonder if instead of a Magic Eraser, a plastic scrubber and Awesome from the Dollar Store would work?

I'm going to follow your rehab along... interesting stuff!
Donna D.
Ten Forward - 2014 Escape 5.0 TA
Double Yolk - 1988 16' Scamp Deluxe
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:36 PM   #4
Senior Member
Name: Kathy
Trailer: 1987 Bigfoot B17
Posts: 562
We've been pondering some sort of modification for our Bigfoot's propane tank cover so that we can turn the tanks on and off without taking the cover off and weren't coming up with anything, but your solution is brilliant! I'm bookmarking this so we can refer to it again. And thanks for all your detailed info on how the process went.
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:07 PM   #5
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Name: Lora
Trailer: 89 Bigfoot 17G & 73 Compact II
Northern Neck, VA
Posts: 341
What a clever idea! We will also be following your mod adventures.
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:34 PM   #6
Senior Member
Name: Mike
Trailer: Bigfoot 17' DLX
Posts: 347
Thanks all, I'm glad my post provides some inspiration and ideas for other FGTT owners. As I mentioned in the original post, I have to give credit to member Tim D. for the deck plate concept. I was originally thinking about a rectangular or oval hatch but soon realized that the not-so-flat top of the propane tank cover wouldn't support a wide hatch without big gaps developing under portions of the mounting flange. So while searching for a better idea, I found Tim D's deck plate idea and basically did the same thing with a slightly smaller pair of deck plates than the ones he used. All I can really take credit for is finding a spray paint that is a good match to this old gelcoat. Nonetheless, I'll be happy to share the results, challenges, solutions, successes (hopefully), and failures (hopefully not) of some of my forthcoming mods and updates to this Bigfoot.

The very next upgrade will be a new tongue jack with a Fastway® Flip™ Automatic Jack Foot. My jack is original and the gears are shot. I discovered it's almost the same cost to just replace the jack with a new assembly than is is to rebuild the old one and a Fastway unit was already in the plans anyway. So a everything has been purchased and is ready to be installed as soon as I can get to it.

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Old 09-01-2014, 06:35 PM   #7
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