1986 Casita - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-28-2020, 04:16 PM   #1
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
TX
Posts: 19
1986 Casita

Oh boy I'm in it now! Last week we bought a 1986 13' Casita. It's an empty shell. Zero, zilch, nada, nothing inside. Our plan is to restore it.

My initial issue is figuring out the frame and axel. The axel actually looks bolted on. But if the frame is no good then it doesn't matter if it's bolted or welded. We are life tent campers and first time camper owners. Should say camper shell owners, ha. The pic attached is the tag on the axel. Hard to make out the numbers. Does anyone know what this is? Suggestion on needing a new frame? I don't know what I don't know. Thanks so much for the help!
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Old 09-28-2020, 04:29 PM   #2
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It appears to be a 2000# Al-Ko axle. Sounds about right for an older no-bath 13'er. Whether to keep the same or go higher on the axle capacity depends on what you're planning for the interior build-out. If you do all-wood cabinetry, it could end up heavier than the factory weight.

You are wise to start by assessing the frame. There have been a number of failures involving older Casitas, usually under the front of the cabin.

Gutted shells tend to sag and bulge out at the waist, as the interior cabinetry provides support. Door fit is often a clue- a bulging waist often produces a gap at the top and bottom.

You would do well to prop a 2x6 between two squares of plywood between the floor and ceiling. If it's been gutted a while and the door is gapping, cut the post slightly long and wedge it in place to lift gently.

As you plan your restoration, make sure to include some floor-to-ceiling support, especially near the door.
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Old 09-28-2020, 04:36 PM   #3
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
TX
Posts: 19
Thanks for the quick help. See, this is stuff I didn't know that now makes sense. The door is gapping at bottom and top. I'll do that ASAP. Maybe I should stop "assessing" the frame and just get a new one. I would assume new axels then?
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Old 09-28-2020, 06:13 PM   #4
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I would assume a new axle. They have a normal working life of 15-20 years. The rubber sags and becomes brittle over time.

I would not automatically assume a new frame, but I'd have it professionally assessed. I think 13' and 16' Casitas have a bend in the frame under the front. That's where I'd expect trouble. Trouble can come in two ways: (1) stress at weak points (like bends) causes cracks, and (2) water gets inside the tubing, collects at low spots, and rusts from the inside. A competent welder will know where and what to look for. Maybe it's good, maybe it can be repaired and/or reinforced, or maybe it's toast. Climate, storage, age, miles, off-road use... a lot of factors play into frame longevity.

Speaking of off-road use, if you plan much of it yourself, a stouter frame would be a good investment.
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Old 09-28-2020, 07:22 PM   #5
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
TX
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Thanks. I think I’d feel more comfortable with new frame and axel. I’m feeling, “Good investment” spend might be what I’ll hear a lot with this Suggestion on where to look for a frame?
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Old 09-29-2020, 07:39 AM   #6
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I’d separate the shell from the frame and pull the frame to 2-3 local welding shops. Get an assessment and a bid. Then choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

If you post your general location you might get a name and recommendation from someone that’s already done it, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Pace yourself on the expenditures. A project like this is going to cost more than you think. You don’t want to get to the end thinking, “I could have bought a brand new Airstream!” Know that you rarely get back on resale anywhere close to what you put into it. Try to take it in phases and use the trailer along the way. Use helps clarify what features you really need in a trailer.

Here’s some good reading to get you started.
https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/...ler-51170.html
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Old 09-29-2020, 08:12 AM   #7
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Casita 16ft.
California
Posts: 332
I have an 80s vintage 16 ft Casita which I purchased in similar condition and put back on the road. My trailer had a broken frame at the bend just forward of the axle. My trailer has the axle attached by horizontal bolts through 1/4" X 10"X 8" (dimensions estimated from memory actual numbers may vary slightly) plates welded to each the side of the chassis at that bend upward towards the galley floor. The chassis tubing fractured along the welds that attach that plate. If your trailer has the axle mounted similarly, I suggest that you do a careful inspection along those welds. I was able to repair my chassis. There are photos in my Broke Back Casita thread in this forum.
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Old 09-29-2020, 08:50 AM   #8
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
TX
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Wow guys that’s helpful and reassuring. Thanks. I’m in the Dallas area. As far as separating the shell from trailer. It’s only connected with two bolts in front. Can I just jack it up and place it on jack stands or ground better? Today I was going to get those 2x6 on bottle jacks to get a little pressure on the shell. So then thinking jack stands wouldn’t be good for it to sit on.
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Old 09-29-2020, 09:59 AM   #9
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Yes. Jack it up with a board (maybe even bigger than 2x6) spanning the bottom. Make sure the board is long enough and the jacks wide enough to pull the frame out from under.

Once it’s free, add plenty of additional support and you can work inside while the frame is out for refurbishing.
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Old 09-29-2020, 10:20 AM   #10
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Casita 16ft.
California
Posts: 332
In my case, I raised my trailer up high by driving it up a pair of ramps. After detaching the tongue from my car's hitch, I then used the tongue jack to raise the front of the trailer up to level. I built up some cribbing at each end inside of the chassis rails. After detaching the body from the chassis. I lowered the chassis enough to slip a 4X6 timber between the chassis and the body fore and aft. I then supported the outside of those timbers with more cribbing. Once supported I then tore down the inside cribbing which allowed me to lower the chassis to the ground. Without tires, I had enough vertical space to drag the chassis out from under the body. If you have a couple of good high point to lift from such as stout rafters, you could figure out a way lift it off from above using a couple of winches or come-alongs. I had nothing like that but I have been hoarding cribbing blocks for years. Hence my method.

If your trailer is stock, the body is attached to the chassis by a gazillian sheet metal screws through the flooring into the chassis tubing. These will have to be located and removed. When I reattached my body to chassis, I used five 3/8 bolts through the floor along each side through steel taps made of 4X4" X 3/16 angle iron that I welded to the chassis along the outer edge while the chassis was out and under repair. Here is a link to my thread. https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/...-83328-10.html
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Old 09-29-2020, 11:10 AM   #11
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
TX
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Great ideas! Thanks! This is what Iíve got inside now. How much pressure should I be putting on?
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Old 09-29-2020, 12:04 PM   #12
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
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What size would be best on top?
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Old 09-29-2020, 04:10 PM   #13
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
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Like this left and right side?
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Old 09-29-2020, 04:33 PM   #14
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
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That’s a great option.
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Old 09-29-2020, 04:34 PM   #15
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
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Thanks!
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Old 09-29-2020, 04:39 PM   #16
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
TX
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Wow that’s amazing work. Nice job.
Re. Lifting the inside with the bottle jacks. Am I doing it the right way? How much pressure should I be putting on? Appreciate the help!!
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Old 09-29-2020, 06:26 PM   #17
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Name: JD
Trailer: Scamp 16 Modified (BIGLY)
Florida
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasTough View Post
Like this left and right side?
I am trying to figure out exactly what view I am looking at in those pictures.
Is the frame bent where the tongue is up?
A picture a little further back for reference might be nice.

When I rebuilt my 16' Scamp I added bulkheads made from 3/4" plywood and glued and screwed them in to match the contour of the shell.
These add the stiffness you need. I also added wood upper cabinets to stiffen the wall and roof like 12" oak beam from the bulkheads to the rear.
I have pictures posted here of the additions of twin bunks and the kitchen, etc.
You have a space of about 10' X 6 1/2' to work with so plan carefully.
I extended the frame on my Scamp to allow for an addition of a bath and shower with a square base.
If you can get to this page you can look over what I did.

https://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/...11-albums.html
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Old 09-29-2020, 06:42 PM   #18
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Name: Michael
Trailer: Casita 16ft.
California
Posts: 332
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Originally Posted by TexasTough View Post
Great ideas! Thanks! This is what Iíve got inside now. How much pressure should I be putting on?
As you raise the roof, you may note that the sides flatten as the roof goes up and the curves out if it is lowered. This may not be as pronounced in your 13ft. trailer because the roof span is less from front to back. In my case, I raised and lowered the jacking posts while testing the door fit caused by the changes. When I got the door to fit as best as I could, I set the roof height there. That decision was based simple on how well the door closed at the latch. It was impossible to get the door fit right from top, middle and bottom edges because I later found out that the curvature of the door had changed due to the fact that the wood stiffeners fiberglassed into the door had turned to mush and that the resulting pockets had become water reservoirs. When I drilled 1/4" weep holes in the bottom of the doors, water drained for a long time. I later reframed the door to increase the curve to match the body.
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Old 09-29-2020, 06:55 PM   #19
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Name: Geoff
Trailer: Casita
TX
Posts: 19
Yeah they’re a little close. It’s the front of the frame as it just begins to narrow to the hitch. As Jon said it. “ I think 13' and 16' Casitas have a bend in the frame under the front. That's where I'd expect trouble. Trouble can come in two ways: (1) stress at weak points (like bends) causes cracks, and (2) water gets inside the tubing, collects at low spots, and rusts from the inside. A competent welder will know where and what to look for.“
Sweet I’ll take a look at yours.
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Old 09-29-2020, 08:16 PM   #20
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Name: Eric
Trailer: 1987 Casita 16
Illinois
Posts: 499
As you work through this, there are a number of threads that feature rebuilds like you are doing. One thing to think about as you go along -- "how will I use this" and "what do I need."

I think a good way to work with that is to figure out if you are wanting a hard sided tent with more comfortable beds, or a replacement for your house i.e. bedroom, bath and kitchen. I put a lot of stuff in that i would up taking out in the second rebuild since I didn't really use it. I really just wanted a hard sided tent with good beds and a middle of the night bathroom. Everyone wants different things. When you think about how you will use it, then the supports, cabinets and storage can be worked in so that it fits what you want.

Just some thoughts.
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