Darn rivets - Fiberglass RV

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Old 05-12-2014, 06:29 AM   #1
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Name: Tilly
Trailer: 1976 Boler 1300
Posts: 27
Darn rivets

Hello all
Hoping someone out there has the silver bullet response to this question; how on earth does one get the acorn nuts to stay on the rivet?

For more detail, I'm replacing some of the rivets that hold the shelving in our boler. I read on FGRV about the right size rivet for this (3/16" diameter, 1/2 " grip) and thought I had the correct acorn size (10 32) as well.

Nothing works. With one person holding the acorn tight to the rivet on the inside of the boler and another "shooting" the rivet from the outside, we are not able to hold it tight, and allow the rivet to expand into the acorn nut, thus holding it in place.

I understand this is merely cosmetic. But before I move over to SS bolts, and advice to try?

And to make matters more confusing, Oftentimes my rivet gun won't cut the rivet stem off! More grumbling...

If I do move to SS bolts, anyone know what length had worked for them (factoring the rubber washer outside, flat washer inside, then acorn bolt)?


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Old 05-12-2014, 07:52 AM   #2
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Name: Eddie
Trailer: 2014 Escape 21
Posts: 1,588
On Scamps with ensolite I use 3/16 x 5/8 rivets with acorn nuts. I have to verify the acorn nut size but I think I'm using 1/4" acorn nuts. With the rivet stems it sometimes happens. I cut the stems off with nippers and take a small flat file and file them flush with the top of the rivet. The 3/16 x 5/8 rivets are found in most hardware stores. You are using aluminum rivets? The longer rivet may help with the long stem issue.

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Old 05-12-2014, 08:36 AM   #3
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Name: Tilly
Trailer: 1976 Boler 1300
Posts: 27
Thanks Eddie. So glad to hear I am on the right track. Snips and filing may do the trick with that darn Rivet stem! Merci bien.
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Old 05-12-2014, 08:40 AM   #4
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Name: Paul
Trailer: '04 Scamp 19D, Tacoma 4.0L 4door, SB
ex VT, now CO
Posts: 1,372
Carefully check out the rivet gun. If it does not pull enough (which could be caused by the jaws being worn, or the anvil not properly assembled and adjusted) on each squeeze of the handle, it may not spread the rivet enough and it will also not pop the stem. Cutting the stems and filing them flush for a smooth finish should be the last resort. A boat builder loaned me a rivet gun once when I was replacing gunwales on my canoe, and I ended up fixing it for him after hours of frustration. I had to add a washer|spacer under the anvil.
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:02 AM   #5
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Name: David
Trailer: Bigfoot 25 ft (25B25RQ)
Posts: 298
Having owned an old over-the-hill Scamp that I used on very rough roads, I replaced a lot of rivets. Despite protests from purists, I eventually started using stainless steel bolts to replace broken rivets that were repeaters. I used a little Loc-tite. You still need two people to do this, of course. You can still use the same caps on the outside and the look will be the same as a rivet. Only stronger and more permanent. Conventional wisdom says a bolt will crack the fiberglass in a situation where stress would break a rivet. However, this never happened to my trailers. I also had a new Casita from the factory that broke a rivet the first day of towing. I replaced that rivet four more times because it broke every time I towed. Must have been an odd stress point. After putting a bolt in that spot, no more problems in the three years I owned the trailer. I pulled that trailer up and down the Alaska Highway twice. No gelcoat cracks around that bolt. So don't be afraid to use a bolt in an area where the rivet isn't getting the job done.
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:12 AM   #6
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Name: Carol
Trailer: 22' Airstream Formerly 16' Scamp
British Columbia
Posts: 11,730
Sounds to me as though the rivets you are using may be to long. There is no Silver Bullet as to what size and length rivet to use on each application and trailer. There can be a variance between every trailer as to the thickness of the fiberglass for example as well as the type of liner on the walls of it or someone may have drilled out the rivets previously and increased the hole size.

Here is a good example of how to determine the correct rivet size.

Basically the total thickness of materials to be fastened, plus the rivet diameter is equal to the ideal Blind Rivet length. Rivet length should be measured from under head (flange) to end of shaft, the head should not be included in the measurement.

In regards to getting the shaft to snap off - make sure you have the right sized rivet and keep it straight. You need to give it at least 2 pumps but make sure each time you pull that the head is tight on the face of the rivet - in other words release the handle and reset it so its flush with the rivet.

I personally wouldn't switch to using SS as it is stronger than aluminium. Would rather have an aluminum rivet break due to the trailer flexing than the fiberglass break. Have had over time a few rivets break during or after a long road trip on rough roads.
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Old 05-12-2014, 10:49 AM   #7
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Name: Frank
Trailer: Casita
Posts: 253
Harbor Freight sells a power rivet gun for $40.

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