Reno's Gone Wild - Exterior Access Doors - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-30-2010, 03:25 PM   #1
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Well, Donna and I were talking a couple of weeks ago about the lack of storage in our 74 Boler. We have the bed always set up with a mattress on top, and I pointed out that the the main storage compartments were unavailable because it was too inconvenient to push everything aside twenty times a day. Maybe we should put access doors from the outside so we could get at those spaces?

We had talked about this when we first bought the trailer 2 plus years ago, but then we liked the look of the trailer and didn't want to mess with it. Now, however, it is a different story.

So, after some digging I managed to find a local RV place that had one locking storage compartment access door for an RPod trailer in stock. They brought it in for a warranty repair that was never done. They sold it to me for $45, new. By the way, prices for these things vary wildly, from $45 to over $120 depending on where you look. One RV place offered me a used one for $50. It pays to shop around.

Anyway, I took the dinette seats out of the trailer to make room, which turned out to be much easier than I thought, since there were only 6 screws holding each one in. On the kitchen side, the plumbing for the sink and water tank would be in the way, the trailer wiring was a mess, and the rubber insulation on the exterior walls was either coming off or torn.

So, I started out by drilling a hole from the inside of the trailer at the bottom point where the hatch could go. My Boler has an interior edge of what looks like steel about 1 inch curving up from the floor. The exterior shell of the trailer is outside of that, hopefully bonded to it. The drilled hole told me where the bottom edge of the access door should be. Then, I drew the outline of the hatch with a pencil on the outside of the trailer, using the bottom hole as a guide. I then cut out the hole with an electric jig saw, using a wood cutting blade (actually two since the first one got dull quickly) and making the cut just barely larger than the outline. After some finicking, I got the access door in the hole. I put putty all around the edge of the door, and bolted in into place using 6/32 stainless steel bolts and lock washers.

This all worked great and so I decided to do the other side. I went back to the RV place and they fortunately had another door in stock (same key, too), so I got it too and similarly installed it in the other side of the trailer. I then had to move the rear running lights, which was not a big problem.

A successful job, but wait... Since the inside was already apart, we decided to try some new things.

Pictures are attached here, and I will continue in the next post. You will notice that the access doors are installed upside down. After some discussion, we decided to do it this way because it makes access much easier when the doors are open. The way the door seals, it did not seem to make any difference whether it was up or down, except possibly for an accumulation of more water on the hinges than would be the case if it was up top, perhaps leading to extra rust years from now. We decided it was worth that slight issue, if it should ever come up.

Rick G
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Old 05-30-2010, 04:04 PM   #2
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Part 2 - Well, then we started thinking ... Since the seats were out anyway, why not replace the flooring and wire up a new light on the door side of the trailer? The Boler had the original dark brown wood grain vinyl flooring, and Donna wanted to update it. We found a light brown lino that would work. We thought about wood floors and other options, but light weight and ease of maintenance are our primary concerns, so we went with lino.

But before installing that, I had noticed that the body seems to be held onto the frame by about 7 screws (on each side) screwed into the frame, 4 at the back, one at the wheel wells, and two at the front. Maybe there are more, but that was all I could find. I had noticed in the past that these screws always work a bit loose. So, I decided to lock them into place with Loctite, the normal grade. I had to replace a couple of the screws, but the Loctite seemed to work great. The next day I could not loosen them, which I think must have been the intention. You can see one of the original screws in the floor with a big washer in the picture in the first post of this chain.

Before installing the new flooring, I decided to repaint all the furniture (so that any spills would mark the old floor, not the new one). Our cupboards and counter had been painted flat black by the previous owner, which looked OK but was getting quite worn. Donna wanted a glossier look, so I painted it with black semi-gloss Tremclad, which worked great. I had to paint it twice, because the first time I used a brush and you could see the brush marks. So, the second time I used a small foam roller, as others have described, and it worked much better.

So, then I installed the new flooring in the back section, gluing it down right overtop of the old floor (which was glued down and would not come off). It is a light sand brown colour which goes nicely with the curtains Donna made a couple of years ago and the interior colour a previous owner had painted the walls.

While doing that I decided to update the trailer tail/running light wiring. I did that and moved the trailer wiring up around the edge of the trailer above the access doors, so that whatever we put in that space would not hit the wires. In the picture below, you can see an orange extension cord wire, which is the wiring for the other side of the trailer, as well as some red and white 12V wires. These were fastened down to the dinette seats on the inside when they were put back on, again to be out of the way of cargo. The tail/running light wires go up over the wheel well and along the top of the compartment. You can also see the new flooring in the back section and a bit of the dark brown old flooring at the far right of the picture. The 2X2 on the floor by the wheel well is for the compartment wall. I made a thin wood wall there, covered with an extra bit of the new lino, so that stuff that we put into that compartment would not bang up against the plumbing. There is a similar cross piece along the underside of the seat, and the wall just screws onto the top and bottom supports.

Once the flooring was installed in the back section, I decided to install a light switch and light at the entrance door, so that when you enter the trailer you can turn on a light, at least when we have 110V hookup. I had previously installed an electrical outlet in the dinette seat bench by the closet, so I simply ran that wire up the interior of the closet to a switch, then up to the light. The wire was held in the corner by doublesided tape, which seems to hold well. While we were at it, we took out the 3 shelves in the closet and fixed them up, as last summer we had spilled dish soap in that space while travelling and never really got it cleaned out completely.

We found a great fixture at the Rona store, which kind of looks like our trailer. They come in black or white. Because it takes a standard light bulb, I could put in a compact fluorescent bulb, not to save electricty but to cut down on the heat generated by a standard light bulb.

Well, that would be OK, but there was room in the fixture to put another light socket, so I decided to make it work on both 110V and 12V. I got a standard 1156-type socket out of a car dome light, and installed it into the fixture using plastic electronics stand-offs so that the ground wires would not touch. I then ran the 12V wires from under the kitchen counter around the back of the trailer and up inside the closet similar to the 110V wire.

This worked great. Now the main light switch controls the closet light when we have shore power, and the same fixture has a 12 V light when we run off the battery.

I could have quit there, but then we had more ideas. Some more pictures are below.

Rick G
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installed_door_inside.jpg  
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Old 05-30-2010, 04:24 PM   #3
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Part 3- Well, then we started thinking ... We liked the light fixture so much, why not replace the kitchen fluorescent lights with another one? We previously had two of the strip-type fluorescent lights above the sink and the stove, which gave off light but were ugly. We decided to dump those things and install another of the same type of outdoor fixtures as was over the closet. I also decided to again make it work on both 110V and 12V, the same as the previous light.

But, then we had a controls issue. I wanted to have better switches on the kitchen counter. We originally had a switch for the 12V lights on the counter, and a 110V socket. I decided to remove those and put in a triple electrical service box, which would contain a 12V switch, a 110V switch for the new light, and the 110V outlet. There is also a 12V cigarette lighter type outlet on the counter, but we decided to leave that alone. So, I cut out a hole for the triple service box, which was just slightly smaller horizontally than the space taken up by the two original components with a space between them. I had to put in a small piece of plywood as a backer for part of the box anyway, so I put Bondo on the front of this to fill the 1/8 inch or so gap, then painted it. It looks good.

The 12V light switch orginally controlled a light over the kitchen counter, plus two more lights at the ends of the overhead cupboard that shone onto the rear bed and the front bunks respectively. I decided to install switches on those two lights and wire them up to run independently, so they could be turned on or off any time the battery was hooked up. The new light over the kitchen counter would run of the light switch, as well as the 12V section of the closet light fixture we had installed earlier.

more to come.

Rick G

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Old 05-30-2010, 05:12 PM   #4
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Cool

Part 4. But, then we started thinking ... Before I could install the new light fixture, I had to install the TV and DVD player, so that the new light would not be in the way.

We like to watch movies on less-than-ideal camping days, and we usually watch on Donna's laptop with extra small speaker. This has been a pain because, with our teenage son, it is hard to find a comfortable space for all of us to sit in. So, looking around in the trailer we decided that the best place for our viewing would be if the TV was attached to the wall directly above the sink. That way we could watch it comfortably in bed, and our son or whomever could watch from the lower bunk/front seat. For those rare occasions where we had the dining table set up, we could still watch.

Our trailer does not have the support posts going up from the counter to the overhead cupboard, so that was not a problem for vision.

The RV place told me that they just buy their TVs from local stores, so there was no point in buying from them unless I wanted to pay more for the same product. I am starting to like those guys!

So, after more searching I found a 19 inch TV at Future Shop that ran off 12V, had both NTSC and ATSC tuners built in, and only weighed 6.5 pounds. I also got an HDMI upconverting DVD player at Walmart that only weighed 2 pounds. It ran off 120 volt, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Of course, I wanted this sytem to also run off both voltages, and I did not want to poke holes in the wall for this (although I am not sure why since the cupboards have lots of holes through the shell and I had just cut monster holes for the access doors).

So, the only real option was a ceiling mount attached to the underside of the cupboard over the kitchen counter, and some sort of stabilization at the bottom. Our cupboards are mounted through the shell using bolts and nuts, not rivets. I presume that some previous owner made the change, but it also gave me comfort that the cupboards could take the small weight I was going to put on them.

I found a small wall mount at Radio Shack for $12 and adapted it for the TV (picture below). The mount was 2 pieces, so that you could attach the top bracket to the underside of the cabinet and slide the piece attached to the TV in. This worked great, but the TV wobbled quite a bit with every movement. not good.

So, after much thought I decided to attach a stabilizer bar between the window frame and the steel pipe running up the center of the kitchen counter, the one that carries the wiring. I found a U shaped shelf bracket at Home Depot that I was able to cut and bend to fit, and then held it on with a screw at each end. I put self-adhesive foam rubber window weatherstrip in the U so that the TV would be cushioned, and also a bit of the same rubber on the back of the TV where it contacted the wall. This stabilized the wobbling, and also held the TV up so that it did not put any pressure on the cabinet underside.

The DVD player was attached by drilling holes through the casing and using small (but long) bolts through the underside of the cabinet. Of course, I took the DVD player guts out of the casing while drilling the holes so that it would not get bits stuck in it. The position of the DVD player in front of the TV also prevents the TV bracket from sliding forward, thereby making sure that the TV could not come off.

Then I had to wire it up. We don't ever watch cable TV while camping, but I installed a cable outlet in the same outlet box where the electricity goes into the trailer shell, just in case we ever want to, and ran the wire up to the TV through the same pipe as the electrical wires. The short HDMI cable from the DVD player to the TV was easy.

The main issue was electricity. I already had both 110V and 12V wires up in the cabinet. I arranged a double pole, double throw toggle switch in a plastic box inside the overhead cupboard, with just the toggle handle going through to the outside. I realized that the DVD player always required 120V, and the TV always required 12V. So, I decided to always supply 12V to both, and then put an inverter on the DVD player to bring it up to 120V. I got a small inverter at Canadian Tire for $20, and the TV came with its own power supply to convert from 110V down to 12V, which is why I wanted a 12V TV.

It is hard to explain without a diagram. When the switch is on the 110V side, the 110V gets converted down to 12 V by the TV power supply. This then goes into the switch, which sends it out to the TV and the inverter for the DVD player. When the switch is set to 12V from the battery, the switch again sends 12V to the TV and the inverter for the DVD. The output of the switch always goes to the inverter before it gets to the DVD player, to bump it up to the 120V that it requires.

So, no matter what the input source, the output of the switch always sends 12V to the TV and also to the inverter which then goes to the DVD player. Clear as mud? Anyway, it worked out well and gives the correct power for each device. This actually worked out simpler for wiring than if both components were 12V, which was unexpected.

So, after the TV was installed, I then found a good spot for the new light fixture and installed it, then put eveything back together.

Oh yes, somewhere in there I also put the new flooring in the main part of the trailer floor.

Whew, what started out as a small task quickly mushroomed out of control! Now we are happy with the result, and the trailer is both more functional and (we think) better looking than it was before. We had been planning to actually camp in the past couple of weeks, but with rain all Victoria Day weekend and snow this weekend (unbelievable!), it was a good project to get us ready for June.

Regards,
Rick G


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Old 05-31-2010, 07:25 AM   #5
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Nice, I like it, well done.
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Old 05-31-2010, 09:31 AM   #6
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How fun to read your adventures of fine tuning your trailer to fit your needs. Several years ago, we added two outside doors to our Burro to make more storage space that was easily accessible. We were very happy with the results and I think you will be also. The new flooring, lights, tv, etc. really has updated your sweet thing! Thanks for sharing. Happy camping.
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Old 05-31-2010, 11:31 AM   #7
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Nice updates! I would have never thought to put a TV over the sink but it's a great location.
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Old 06-03-2010, 08:54 AM   #8
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So funny!

Have you noticed how there is no such thing as a "quick repair or modification" when it comes to working on your egg?

I can't seem to do just one thing, cuz one thing always leads to another! Last night I meant to focus on reinstalling my oversized upper bunk, but the next thing you know I'm sealing running lights, changing out the door seal, playing with electrical.

I did get some of the bunk work done...
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Old 06-03-2010, 10:24 AM   #9
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Nice updates Rick. I'd love to see them in person. Are you going to the Prairie Egg Gathering at Macklin next month?

Dianne
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Old 06-03-2010, 11:28 AM   #10
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On a roll!

As I was reading along, I kept wondering if you were going to decide not to put the dinette benches back in. Since I keep that area set up as a bed, I have thought about taking the benches out (and storing them) and making some other type of bed support, thence having much wider access to the underbed storage from the center opening into the main floor area (without the benches protruding into it at the edges).

Another thought I had was one I've seen as an option on some later Bolers: Small doors on the angled flats of the benches that face into the camper. As usual, I'm noodling it for awhile.

Back to your renos: Thanks for the report and photos

Raya
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:02 PM   #11
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Quote:
On a roll!

As I was reading along, I kept wondering if you were going to decide not to put the dinette benches back in. Since I keep that area set up as a bed, I have thought about taking the benches out (and storing them) and making some other type of bed support, thence having much wider access to the underbed storage from the center opening into the main floor area (without the benches protruding into it at the edges).

Another thought I had was one I've seen as an option on some later Bolers: Small doors on the angled flats of the benches that face into the camper. As usual, I'm noodling it for awhile.

Back to your renos: Thanks for the report and photos

Raya
Good thoughts, and we did consider both those options. We decided to put the original benches back in for three reasons: first we didn't have a good outside storage place for them, second, a huge storage space across the back would be hard to get at efficiently from the outside hatches, and third we usually store our clothes and such inside the trailer under the dinette table in large plastic tubs, and I like having access from the inside for that.

As for the small doors on the angled inside face of the benches, I judged that these would be too small to put much into, plus on the kitchen side there is a bunch of plumbing/wiring that could be affected by access at that point, plus I already have a 110V electrical outlet built into one of those faces on the cupboard side which we find very convenient and would rather keep.

I have seen the small access hatches on another post in the last couple of years here, but we felt it wouldn't work for us.

Dianne, no we can't go to the Prairie Egg gathering this year, but hope to maybe next year. This year we want to go down to Waterton national park, where I have never been before.

Thanks,
Rick G
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:49 PM   #12
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Rick,

I'm working on the same project on my Boler. What size doors did you use? Thanks- Greg
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Old 10-23-2011, 09:41 AM   #13
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Excellent work on the exterior doors.

I am going to try something along that line with my Trillium. I will be leaving the benches in, I want to access that centre space from inside. I may add some interior doors, but, probably not.
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Old 10-23-2011, 08:11 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gacole2000 View Post
Rick,

I'm working on the same project on my Boler. What size doors did you use? Thanks- Greg
Hi,

For the Boler, I used standard access doors from an R-Pod, which were about 21 inches long and 11 inches high.

When I did the same project on my current Trillium 4500, I used the same size door for the driver side so that it would not run into the utilities. For the curb side I used a larger door, about 29 inches long and about 13 inches high. I could possibly have used the bigger doors on both sides, as it turned out.

The Trillium was even easier than the Boler, because the Trillium sides are flatter at that point and the doors went on without any flex at all. The only catch with the Trillium is that the rear bench seats are moulded in rather than screwed on like the Boler, so I could not remove them in order to do the job. It was no trouble anyway. Trillium pictures below.

Good luck on it.

Rick G
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