Know What You Don't Know - Fiberglass RV
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Old 10-25-2018, 11:33 AM   #1
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Name: Jeanne
Trailer: Bigfoot
Washington
Posts: 18
Know What You Don't Know

I decided to post this to all of the new buyers of used fiberglass trailers in hopes that it will help others in their decision making process. First this post is in no way criticism of the seller. It is simply ďlessons learnedĒ after I bought my 2001 Bigfoot 17CB 2 months ago.
Understand what you expect from a used trailer - and what you canít manage when problems arise. It can be expensive being an owner.This site has wonderful resources (and I believe a checklist) for evaluating your potential purchase.
First and foremost DO NOT buy a trailer (like me} sight unseen regardless of your belief that the seller is kind or has intimate knowledge of the trailerís shortcomings. We donít always know things that could be wrong - particularly if it has not been used for some time.
If you are not a savvy mechanical person (like me} NEGOTIATE AN EVALUATION OF THE TRAILER. I did not do this but decided to take mine to an RV dealer for a 45 point check up afterward. I did this to be more comfortable with any potential problems. The converter did not work and the electrical cord was not safe in the opinion of these evaluators. The awning had a broken handle which prevented it to stay up.
CHECK THE TIRES - As people on this site repeat that just because the tread looks great the inside has the potential to shred. This did not happen to me but on a very long and steep pass my tire became flat. The stem, according to Les Schwab was weathered and cracked creating a slow leak. The tire was four years old. The spare, while looking great was the original (year 2000). I left with two new (better) tires and the good four year old as my spare.
If the previous owner assures you the WHEEL BEARINGS HAVE BEEN PACKED recently be sure that is the case. When Les Schwab was fixing my tire they were alarmed with the lack of attention to the wheel bearings and showed me basically a "rust on rust" situation. My wheel bearings are now NEWLY packed.
Ask the buyer if they have RECEIPTS for work they have had done. I am fanatical about keeping receipts for my car and now the trailer so that it any question comes up I can answer it.
I am one of the buyers that didnít know what I didnít know - but actually knew that. I took precautions AFTER THE FACT and it could have been more to my benefit had I not. As it stands I will never get the 2,000 extra I have spent ( including the weight distribution bars but not the sales tax in my state which was approximately 9 percent) back from a future sale but I can at least say I am safe and sound. Well, sound might be stretching it given my lack of knowledge.
There are a lot of ďWell, heck what did she expect from a used trailer" critics here but I believe there are a lot of people who canít wait to get their fiberglass trailer and hope this gives both buyers and sellers some thoughts about the purchase process.
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Old 10-25-2018, 11:47 AM   #2
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Name: Jill
Trailer: in the market
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well *I* surly thank you!! i am one that thinks (or thought) that if it pulls, it's ok Yea, thats how newbie i am ;( At times, i want to just go for a new one just for the assurance because of my "dont know what i dont know" self. Im learning, and half the fun i figure is the 'setting up' after purchase, but the bare bones of it is going to have to be in darn good shape. thanks for the reminder!!
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Old 10-25-2018, 01:04 PM   #3
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Name: Fredrick
Trailer: Escape 21C
Tennessee
Posts: 317
used TTs

While having my TT wheel bearings serviced and wheels balanced last July, [b4 our long trip to VT], I got in a discusasion w the 'service guru' at our local RV shop. He told me the story of so many folks in the area(horse country here in ctrl TN) who A. just leave the ranch w horses in trailers they have left sitting "in the field" for months, or B. folks who spend thousands rebuilding an old "retro camper" but do not even check the axles , wheels OR replace the bearings!! He said his biggest headache has been failed wheel bearings.

FWIW he was possibly trying to justify the service, but I really doubt it bks I came there asking for the bearings and balance work.
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Old 10-25-2018, 01:25 PM   #4
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Trailer: 2008 Casita 17 SD
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Jeanne,
Sorry you had to go through so many hassles and problems with your "new-to- you" trailer. As you found out, unfortunately "the hard way," there are a great many pitfalls and "aw-crap's" associated with buying anything used, but perhaps more so with neglected trailers. Hopefully, most of your appliances will work or can be repaired if needed, and that the floor isn't soft and rotten from old leaks. Pretty much anything else is either fixable or replaceable. You'll find lots of help and advice here to guide you through any problems or questions that come up. Welcome to owning a fiberglass trailer. At least it's infinitely better than an old "stick built" trailer.
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Old 10-25-2018, 01:37 PM   #5
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well *I* surly thank you!!

surly | ˈsəːli | adjective (surlier, surliest) bad-tempered and unfriendly: the porter left with a surly expression.
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Old 10-25-2018, 01:59 PM   #6
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Name: Francesca Knowles
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I'm surprised that the person you paid to do the inspection didn't advise you the rig was due for tires, at 4 yrs old they're within replacement advisory age of 3-5 yrs for trailer tires. That's a pretty basic inspection point to miss IMO.

Per the things they did name (and presumably were equipped to replace) :

I'm interested in their assessment that the converter "didn't work" and even more their view that the "electric cord was unsafe". I presume you mean the shorepower connection and can't visualize can have gone wrong with it, and in an evidently invisible way-? Had someone tampered with/changed the end that plugs into the post or patched/spliced it along the length? I cant think of much else that can render such a cord "unsafe". Even if it had somehow become loosely connected where it enters the breaker box that's a simple reconnect matter. As for the converter, if they couldn't plug the trailer in due to its "unsafe cord", how did they determine the converter didn't work? Its only job is to convert shorepower to 12v for the operation of the 12v things in the trailer.
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Old 10-25-2018, 02:21 PM   #7
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Name: bill
Trailer: 2013 Escape 19; 1977 Trillium 1300
The Mountains of North Carolina
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When I was looking for a vintage Trillium, I looked at a couple that failed my inspection. I first discussed with the seller what I was going to look at: soft spots in floor, rotted wood in the dinette, gaucho, or back side of the refrigerator, sagging near the front curbside, cracked frame, and any floor sag from the kitchen to the door. I asked that they take a look at these areas first, as it would be a waste of my time and theirs if there was a problem. I also gave a deposit in advance (vintage trailers can sell fast).


Based on sellers reassurances, I made the trips. One was a major drive.

I showed up with my pick up truck full of stuff for the inspection: ladder (to see the roof of the trailer and to check for sag), 4 foot level (for floor sag), flashlight, new replacement and mounted wheels and tires, floor jack, four way lug wrench, tarp (to lay on for inspection), generator (to fire up electrical stuff), magnetic trailer light kit, and more. It would take me an hour to do a full inspection, which was not necessary on the first two, as both times, floor was soft and lots of rot under the dinette (one even had standing water in it).

Trailer 3 took more than an hour for the inspection (no early failures), then I bought it. I had to swap out the 24 year old tires, at the same time, inspected the wheel bearings, and installed the temporary trailer lights.

The older the trailer, the more you have to check. And I assumed there would be some issues, I was just trying to avoid the worst of them.

I got my "learnings" through contacting list members with lots of experience with Trilliums, got advice on how and what to check, and so on. Really with the internet, there is no reason to not do a thorough inspection.


When I bought my F150 used, it was 3 1/2 hours away (one way). So I asked the seller if there was a nearby Ford dealer convenient to him. He agreed to have it inspected, at my expense. I called the dealership and made all of the arrangements. When I got a positive inspection result, I headed over and completed the deal.
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Old 10-25-2018, 02:39 PM   #8
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Trailer: 2004 13 ft Scamp Custom Deluxe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Francesca Knowles View Post
I'm surprised that the person you paid to do the inspection didn't advise you the rig was due for tires, at 4 yrs old they're within replacement advisory age of 3-5 yrs for trailer tires. That's a pretty basic inspection point to miss IMO.

Per the things they did name (and presumably were equipped to replace) :

I'm interested in their assessment that the converter "didn't work" and even more their view that the "electric cord was unsafe". I presume you mean the shorepower connection and can't visualize can have gone wrong with it, and in an evidently invisible way-? Had someone tampered with/changed the end that plugs into the post or patched/spliced it along the length? I cant think of much else that can render such a cord "unsafe". Even if it had somehow become loosely connected where it enters the breaker box that's a simple reconnect matter. As for the converter, if they couldn't plug the trailer in due to its "unsafe cord", how did they determine the converter didn't work? Its only job is to convert shorepower to 12v for the operation of the 12v things in the trailer.
Who's replacement advisory is 3-5 years?

Discount Tire has a policy to refuse to mount tires over 10 years of age.
Some tire warranties are 5 years or tread life.
Few people actually junk cars or appliances when the warranty expires.
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Old 10-25-2018, 02:58 PM   #9
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Trailer: 2008 Casita 17 SD
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Who's replacement advisory is 3-5 years?

Discount Tire has a policy to refuse to mount tires over 10 years of age.
Some tire warranties are 5 years or tread life.
Few people actually junk cars or appliances when the warranty expires.
Well, FWIW, I also subscribe to changing them every 5 years, and not because they're even remotely worn out. Rubber deteriorates with age, and I don't like surprises when I'm on the road.
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Old 10-25-2018, 03:32 PM   #10
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Name: Francesca Knowles
Trailer: '78 Trillium 4500
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Quote:
Originally Posted by floyd View Post
Who's replacement advisory is 3-5 years?

Discount Tire has a policy to refuse to mount tires over 10 years of age.
Some tire warranties are 5 years or tread life.
Few people actually junk cars or appliances when the warranty expires.
As a matter of fact, the first place I ever read that advisory was at Discount Tire's trailer tire facts page, (had to hunt through old threads here to find it again) see image. I see now they put the end date at four years, for the 3-5 I must have been remembering the time early this year when a fellow airing them up at Les Schwab noticed the dates and gave me the 3-5 "speech".

link to source https://www.discounttire.com/learn/trailer-tire-faqs
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trailer tire life.JPG  
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Old 10-25-2018, 04:30 PM   #11
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They sell tires, don't they? ��
I think a lot would depend where the tires spend their life and how the trailer is stored.
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Old 10-25-2018, 04:30 PM   #12
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Name: Daniel
Trailer: Sold it
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Originally Posted by Casita Greg View Post
Well, FWIW, I also subscribe to changing them every 5 years, and not because they're even remotely worn out. Rubber deteriorates with age, and I don't like surprises when I'm on the road.
There's a guy on a boat owners group I'm a part of who was told by a tire place they should be changed every 5 years as well. Gets costly for a tri-axle boat trailer but wouldn't want to lose a tire or load on any trip.
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Old 10-25-2018, 05:07 PM   #13
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Name: Francesca Knowles
Trailer: '78 Trillium 4500
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My trailer spends a lot of its life out and about and in some pretty brutal terrain. When it's home it "resides" in a carport with a concrete floor. I probably put on more than the average amount of miles for a recreational user, averaging 8k or more a year and am scrupulous about keeping them properly aired. The 3-5 life estimate has proven correct at least in my experience. I'm an err on the side of caution type and given our camping style prefer to replace after 3. Sidewall problems, the main way trailer tires fail, have surfaced pretty much on "schedule" those few rotations that kept them on much longer than that.
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Old 10-25-2018, 05:29 PM   #14
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Trailer: 2004 13 ft Scamp Custom Deluxe
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Originally Posted by Dan-NS27 View Post
There's a guy on a boat owners group I'm a part of who was told by a tire place they should be changed every 5 years as well. Gets costly for a tri-axle boat trailer but wouldn't want to lose a tire or load on any trip.
5 years isn't the same as "3-5 years" .
My Scamp has not ever had tires for five years yet because we use them up, but disposing of a tire arbitrarily at 3 years is just plain foolish.In fact the odds of getting a new tire with a factory defect is far greater than having a tire "dry rot" in only three years.


There is more to be said but I would be wearing off my finger prints and the letters on my keyboard to no avail!
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Old 10-25-2018, 05:43 PM   #15
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Name: Jeanne
Trailer: Bigfoot
Washington
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Your questions intrigue me and I welcome more feedback. Re: the converter - I woke up on two trips to an internal temp in the 50's. I knew the propane and the thermostat was on so figured the problem was something else functional. My battery was also discharging overnight when not plugged in to shore power (30 amp). Now none of these might be related (please tell me) but when I took the trailer to the dealer for the evaluation I asked them if they would check the converter. They came back at me and said it was bad and replaced it with a new one. Do you think this all is unrelated?
Re: the power cord - I will look at any comments they made on the paperwork regarding the need for replacement tomorrow as I cannot speak to the "why's" off the cuff.
I will say that when I asked about the repair to the awning they noted they failed to evaluate it. I had requested a walk through by the person who had done the overall evaluation two times and that did not occur. I called the service manager with the concern that those two things alone raised a red flag for me. He offered to do another evaluation and have the technician personally go through each item. To that end, do you have any strong recommendations for questions I should be asking?
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Old 10-25-2018, 05:49 PM   #16
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Trailer: Casita SD
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.In fact the odds of getting a new tire with a factory defect is far greater than having a tire "dry rot" in only three years.
Maybe you can share those odds with the rest of us? The newer, higher quality tires like the Goodyear Endurance and Carlisle HD may change the game, but until more evidence is accumulated I'll stay with 3 or 4 years. Even the best trailer tires cost no more than a few tanks of gas and most of us only have two. Just an opinion, obviously.
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Old 10-25-2018, 05:50 PM   #17
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Name: Jeanne
Trailer: Bigfoot
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Agreed. Not just your tires or trailer but your life. Only after a 7 percent downhill grade into town did I fully realize the tire was flat. Maybe the weight distribution/sway bars gave me some assist. Regardless, I am thankful for having the sense to drive in the truck lane which was 35-45 mph into town.
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Old 10-25-2018, 05:56 PM   #18
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Jeanne, I wouldn't waste any more time thinking about the converter and the cord. It's done and there is no reason to assume they were not needed unless you continue to have electrical problems. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with all the systems so that you can check operation for yourself before each trip. Good luck!
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Old 10-25-2018, 05:58 PM   #19
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Name: Daniel A.
Trailer: Bigfoot 17.0 1991 dlx
British Columbia
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Good post Jeanne!


As has been pointed out fiberglass trailers don't sit long once posted for sale.
You may find that the 2,000.00 you had to spend could very well be viewed as an investment should you keep the trailer for a number of years.



I bought my 1991 Bigfoot 17 back in 2011 before I joined this site, I bought on the strength of the name Bigfoot. I did go and check the unit out even thought I was not savvy about fiberglass trailers but am somewhat mechanical inclined having rebuilt motorcycle engines and being fairly handy with repairs.



Other than needing to spend a couple of day's getting the outside of the trailer to shine like new the only thing I had to do was replace the brakes and put new bearings in an afternoon job.

In year two of owning it I decided to add air conditioning and through this site got a great deal on a 9200 BTU unit that I had put in as well as upgrading the electrical to handle the air conditioner.



The way the market is with the cost of new units watching sales on the forum I'm fairly sure I could sell for what I have into the unit, I keep it fully insured year round at a value of 12,000.00 CAN. I really don't ever see parting with it.


Dan
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Old 10-25-2018, 06:00 PM   #20
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Name: Jeanne
Trailer: Bigfoot
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Bill, I completely admire your due diligence and willingness to wait until it felt you were getting the right trailer for you.
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