Trillium window screws - rusted, corroded and stripped (help) - Fiberglass RV
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Old 02-28-2021, 08:22 PM   #1
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Trillium window screws - rusted, corroded and stripped (help)

Hey all,

Second post here, first one as an owner of a 1975 Trillium 1300. I have used the search function to solve all my RV problems so far and I am so so appreciative of the wealth of info here, but this one I can't find specific info and I hope someone can help/give advice. Apologies if this has been addressed and I missed it.

Bought mine back in January, was assured there were no leaks. Alas, leaks (pooling water on the dinette seat on the kitchen side). Have kept it under storage until I had time to attack the problem.

I figured it best to check the windows first to see if that was the issue. The screws on the outside were so rusted and corroded that the metal is porous and soft - using a screwdriver instantly strips them, and/or they don't have enough head on them to slowly unscrew them with a vise grip.

I got some of them out with the vise grip and a handful did have enough strength to handle a screwdriver, but many remain. I've lubricated them, tapped them with a hammer, but there's just not enough screw.

I am wondering what the best way is to deal with this. Should I drill out the screw heads? If I do that and remove the window, will I be able to extract the rest of the screw? I'm assuming I'll have to replace the wood if the screws are in this bad of condition, so does knowing that at all allow for some options?

I am very green to all of this, and could appreciate the insight of more experienced people. Thanks for your time!
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Old 02-28-2021, 08:55 PM   #2
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The original screws were Robertson, so a regular screw driver will not work. What you can’t get with the right tool, needle nose vise grip comes next. Final is drill them out.

The “good” news if the screws are distressed, the threads will be eroded away so removal will not be hard.

Corroded screws tend to mean rotten wood as the same water that corrodes the screw rots the wood.

As far as what the seller told you, it’s far too common for sellers to say “no leaks” regardless of whether it is true or not. I’ve passed on several “never leaked” trailers that clearly had leaks and rot. The two Trilliums I rejected were sold to others a week later. I’ve been waiting for those buyers to show up here.

I go through window removal and repair on my Trillium page. Others here have covered it as well.

Robertson screws come in several sizes, each size using a different tool. I bought a selection of Robertson drivers on Amazon.

I didn’t have to drill a single one. I didn’t have to use a lubricant either. Robertson driver and needle nose vise grips did the trick for me.

If it has been leaking, be prepared to find rotten wood. Then there is the belly band. Endless threads on doing that repair too.

Love my old Trillium, I’m a big fan! But they had some design flaws, well documented. Expect to address all of them.
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Old 02-28-2021, 09:27 PM   #3
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British Columbia, Canada
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I have been using (or attempting to, at least) a robertson screwdriver.

I have seen all the window repair/replacement info so I feel prepared for that should it come to that thanks to the forum. Same with the belly band.

But my original question is about how drilling them out will affect the process going forward. That's the part I don't quite understand and haven't seen explained. I have never drilled out a screw before, certainly not while dealing with a fiberglass rv. I don't want to cause more damage or make a mistake that will make the process harder.

So if anyone can help me with that specific to these windows, I would really appreciate it!
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Old 03-01-2021, 07:01 AM   #4
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I recently pulled all the windows from our 1979 4500. I had several screw heads break off as you experienced. It was not an issue for me since I had to replace most of the 3/4 inch plywood window framing in which the corroded screws were imbedded. If you are trying to salvage the existing plywood, it should be much easier to remove the broken screw stub after the window has been removed.
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Old 03-01-2021, 08:31 AM   #5
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On the 76 Trillium I rebuilt for my daughter the front and rear windows had many corroded screws. I just did whatever it took to get them out, some with a screwdrivers, some with some form of pliers, the rest I just drilled out. When replacing the windows, replaced the wood around the window that they screw into, and some of it was nothing but mush. I used good butyl tape under the flange, and a narrow bead of Proflex caulk around the edges, as well as as a bead on top of the top screw cover to add a bit more water resistance. 4 years later still working like a charm.
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Old 03-01-2021, 12:02 PM   #6
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Thumbs up Drilling out the screws.

If you drill (or grind with a Dremel) off the screw heads, you will then be able to GENTLY pry the window off. Try using a putty knife to cut through the sealant and lift the window. Go VERY GENTLY and you should be OK.

Once you have the window off, you should then have enough of the shaft of the screw available to use pliers to get the rest of the screw out, then the wood on the inside can be removed and replaced. That will also be a bit of a problem, as it will be stuck to the Ensolite on the inside. You will want to remove without damaging the Ensolite. Again a putty knife and gently prying will work there.

Make sure that you use the proper butyl sealing tape when you put the windows back in. Too many people rely of silicone and it just does NOT work in this application.

I have replaced the wood behind several of the windows in our 1978 4500, but not all of them. Will be doing more in the spring, and plan to do a how to video on it.

If the screws are original, they should be corroded enough that they either come out easily or break right off. In my case there were several where there was nothing there but the head and a very short piece of shaft. Everything else had turned to rust. We didn't have to drill anything.

When you reinstall, use stainless steel screws!
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Old 03-01-2021, 12:14 PM   #7
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Leaking windows are an issue for many trailer owners. I've never worker on a unit like yours but likely similar models. Steel screws rust quickly, aluminum, brass and stainless are much better. If I see rusting screws I replace them. If I recaulk a window I remove it to check for concealed damage and use new stainless screws for replacement. Often times a rusted screw heat will strip or break off. I use a drill bit approximately the same diameter as the screw shaft (not the screw head) to drill out the screw head. Once the bit drills through the screw head it will come off leaving the shaft in place. Once all the screws are removed/drilled out you should be able to remove the window exposing enough of the screw shaft to grip with vice grips.
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Old 03-01-2021, 10:07 PM   #8
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Mike, Curt, Jim, Steve

Thank you for all of the advice and reassurance. After a long day and a very cramped hand, I was able to get all of them out. I used a dremel to grind out the 3 screws that just wouldn't come out otherwise. I think leaving some WD-40 on them overnight worked to my benefit as well. Tomorrow I'll be removing the window for the next great adventure.

The detailed responses with additional info assured me of the research that I had done, which is great for my peace of mind.

Thanks again for taking the time to reply.
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Old 03-01-2021, 10:17 PM   #9
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My two week old Escape 21 had rusted screws on every window. Escape Trailer said it must have been a bad batch of window screws and it turns out they were right. They did offer and did send stainless steel screws, however they are much more brittle and snapped off when installing. They then sent standard screws which have been fine for almost seven years now.
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Old 03-01-2021, 10:23 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Osos1 View Post
They then sent standard screws which have been fine for almost seven years now.

So, you got royally screwed?
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Old 03-02-2021, 11:38 AM   #11
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All the best with your renos Ashley!
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Old 03-02-2021, 02:08 PM   #12
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So, you got royally screwed?
You always seem to come up with the lamest remarks around 9 PM. Wonder why that is?

I was sharing my experience about SS screws sounding good, yet in reality not being suitable because they are too brittle and snapped off when installing.
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Old 03-03-2021, 11:53 AM   #13
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Are you sure the screws are stainless steel and not an aluminum alloy? I've had good luck with SS, strong, durable but expensive. Aluminum alloy screws look good when new but tend to oxidize and corrode and are much more brittle.
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Old 03-03-2021, 02:40 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Mike_L View Post
Are you sure the screws are stainless steel and not an aluminum alloy? I've had good luck with SS, strong, durable but expensive. Aluminum alloy screws look good when new but tend to oxidize and corrode and are much more brittle.
In stainless screws I buy bags of 100 on eBay for $8 or less. So we are talking 8 cents per screw. Not very expensive. I’ve never had one snap. I’d have to count but as I recall it took a few hundred to do all the windows. Buying a handful at a time at a local home improvement center is expensive for sure!
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Old 03-03-2021, 04:39 PM   #15
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Bill, I've gotten good service from SS as well but things are a little and sometimes a lot more expensive north of the border, plus I haven't bough in quantity either.
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Old 03-04-2021, 12:41 PM   #16
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Bill, I've gotten good service from SS as well but things are a little and sometimes a lot more expensive north of the border, plus I haven't bough in quantity either.
Mike, In Calgary I have found that buying a box of 100 screws at Calgary Fasteners & Tools: https://www.calfast.com/ is the same price as 20 at Home Depot. The only problem is that the are only open 7am to 5pm weekdays and 8am to noon on Saturday. Closed Sunday.
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Old 03-04-2021, 10:52 PM   #17
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Thanks Dave
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Old 03-06-2021, 01:30 PM   #18
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At one point I pulled all my windows and replaced the wood behind them. Time consuming job but not difficult.
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Old 03-06-2021, 05:34 PM   #19
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If you can get to the edge of the head of the screw you can often cut into them with a set of diagonal side cutters and break the screw loose. Sharp pointy ends help get a cut into the head.
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Old 03-06-2021, 06:26 PM   #20
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In stainless screws I buy bags of 100 on eBay for $8 or less. So we are talking 8 cents per screw. Not very expensive. Ive never had one snap. Id have to count but as I recall it took a few hundred to do all the windows. Buying a handful at a time at a local home improvement center is expensive for sure!
At that price ....Chinese?
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