Hello, this is janel. A travel trailer virgin. - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-30-2015, 08:21 AM   #1
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Name: Jane
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Hello, this is janel. A travel trailer virgin.

1977 Trillium 4500 - What should I consider when I look at this trailer?
Is there something about axles I should know about? Recalls? I am able to do cosmetic rehab, but not body, chassis or electrical work. Is that a problem with a trailer this old.
Thank you for your help. I am a travel trailer virgin and don't want to regret my first time for the rest of my life.
j
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Old 10-30-2015, 09:26 AM   #2
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Trailer: 1973 Hunter Compact II
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First and foremost, if you do not have the skills and tools to do repairs, not knowing it's condition, or anything about the seller, older trailers can become money pits for those that have to farm out any and all repairs. A simple electrical or plumbing repair that some could tackle in an afternoon, for a few dollars in parts, can become home for 5 Ben Franklins when taken to the local RV repair shop.


Lists, on what to look for when buying, can pages long and there can still be after purchase surprises, as several recent vintage buyers have discovered.


Bottom line, for a "Virgin", with a trailer of that age, unless you know a lot about the seller and how much they know about the trailer, you might want to consider one of two options:


1. Find someone that has a background in FGRV's to go over it with you (ask here).


2. Look at something a lot newer for your first adventure into FGRV's.


Why don't you give us some hints about what you will be towing with and your approximate budget, and further suggestions will be forthcoming.



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Old 10-30-2015, 09:39 AM   #3
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Old trailer suggestions

Thanks Bob for advice. I already have a money pit. I own an older house.
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Old 10-30-2015, 11:03 AM   #4
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Trailer: Trillium 4500 - 1977, 1978 (2), 1300 - 1977, 1973, and a 1972
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Janel, Most things on a fibreglass trailer are fixable. The tools required are typically inexpensive.

On a 4500, I would avoid a spongy floor, and a sagging front curb side.

The spongy floor can be detected by walking and bouncing inside the trailer. The floor under the dinette will be spongy, but that is not a problem. There is just a thin sheet of plywood over the water tank that is below the floor there. The area in front of the kitchen is really the issue.

A sagging front curb side is a little harder to detect. If you are 6' tall, you can stand on the tongue of the trailer and look down the flat section of roof on the curb side. If the closet forms a high point, that is a problem. Also if you take a 4' long 2 x 4 and lay it accross the floor from in front of the fridge, toward the trailer door and you can see the floor dips toward the door, also a problem.

both of these problems are going to be very hard to fix.

Axles wear out. The are not cheep to change, but every 30-40 years they will need changing.

If you are looking at this trailer:
1977 Trillium 4500 for sale | Carbondale, Colorado | Fiberglass RV's For Sale

I would look for the two major problems I just described, then jump on it. That is an excellent price.
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Old 10-30-2015, 11:33 AM   #5
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On this site go to "home" then on the left hand side there's a heading "Buyers check list" down load it and make sure you use it anytime you're looking a used trailer. It could save you a lot of head ach.
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Old 10-30-2015, 12:08 PM   #6
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Thanks David.

I am not 6' tall. But I do have a 4' 2x4 and can jump and bounce about with the best of them
J
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Old 10-30-2015, 12:09 PM   #7
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Byron I will bring the buyer's guide when I visit the camper. Thanks
J
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Old 10-30-2015, 01:11 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by janel View Post
I am not 6' tall. But I do have a 4' 2x4 and can jump and bounce about with the best of them
J
Oh yah, also an other sign of a sagging front curb side, look for rips in the fibreglas of the door frame in the top front corner.
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Old 10-30-2015, 01:22 PM   #9
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I agree that Dave (Post #4) or I, and a lot of others experienced peeps on the site, can fix most problems on an FGRV, but a newbie, that has already limited themselves to only doing cosmetic work, might be biting off a bit much with a 1977 FGRV that is being sold "AS-IS".


Just reading the ad we see that the owner suggests resealing the rear window with "Silicone" to fix a leak, already suggesting lesser quality maintenance in the past that will need attending to in the near future. And, with the LP bottle "missing" there is no way to test the appliances for operation, including the stove, furnace and the 3-way refrigerator, all expensive fixes if they have problems.


Yep, it's looks like a good buy and, if it were close by, I would be heading towards it right now, with my friend Ben Franklin and a bunch of his family members in my pocket. But, without a lot more information and verification, it could become that money pit oft mentioned for newbies. Here's a few numbers for, admittedly, a worse case scenario:


Repair Sagging Door: $300 ?
(If it was an easy fix they would have fixed it already)
Repair/replace refrigerator, parts and labor: $200-$1200
(RV refrigerators can not be "Recharged", and it may be almost 40 years old))
Repair/Replace Furnace: $100-$500
(It too may already also be almost 40 years old)
New LP tank & Regulator: Parts & Labor $150.00
(Includes making a safety/leakcheck of all LP lines & appliances)
New tires: $165
(Check the dates regardless of how "Good" they look)
Repack Wheel bearings: $100
(a "must-do" without recent docs, and check brakes as well)
Reseal all windows & hatches; about $50 each.
(If one is leaking, and the owner has been using silicone to seal with, they will all need removal and resealing done properly)


And the list can grow if there is any damage or wiring/lighting problems.


But, if you look at it anyway, remember that sellers statements are to be taken lightly and "It worked when we last used it" is usually code for "It doesn't work".


Good Luck



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Old 10-30-2015, 01:38 PM   #10
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Holy smokes Rocky!

Bob and David,
You've put the fear in me. I'm going to look at it. And when I say cosmetic. I mean replacing floors, fiberglass patching, repairing, sealing window (NOT with silicone) are within my skill set.
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Old 10-30-2015, 02:23 PM   #11
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Door sag, Windows leaking, Belly band leaking, Axle worn out.

These are repairs that, after 40 years, all Trilliums will require. Wear and tear items.

Bob's list is good. Though I have not figured out the best way to deal with door sag yet. So getting someone else to fix it would likely be even more then the estimated $300. Just guessing.

If you are comfortable making fibreglass patches, everything, except the axle is doable.

The axle can be evaluated by looking at the angle of the swing arm when not loaded they all seem to have a 5 up angle. Any more then that would concern me. When you are bouncing up and down in front of the kitchen, pay attention to how the suspension is reacting. If the there is no movement of the swing arms, the axle is likely shot.
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Old 10-30-2015, 04:09 PM   #12
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Hi, Janet,


Bob and David aren't kidding.

If you're willing to gut and completely redo (and a complete floor redo is pretty much a total gut), then more power to you! Best of luck. Welcome, and happy camping.


And, it may be a good buy for you, after all. Wishing the very best!

Kai in Seattle
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Old 10-31-2015, 05:06 PM   #13
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On the plus side: This older Trillium has more counter space than my 2005 13 ft Scamp.
Suggest you take a trailer-savvy repair person when looking at the trailer. Expect to put some $$ out for maintenance including cleaning burners on all gass appliances, repacking wheels, etc. I've had to replace my propane tank & gas supply line, have a gas pressure check, repack wheels, furnace work, replace furnace thermostat, bathroom door handle, fuses, repair water leak...these are general maintainence issues that are or will come up at some time...it's kinda like a boat...

But it's all worth it.
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Old 10-31-2015, 05:58 PM   #14
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I visited the trillium today. First viewed axle swing arms as friend jumped around inside and on the tounge. No deflection at all. Nada. Left with bank account in tact. Will continue search. It was difficult not to be beguiled by cuteness. Thanks everyone for your help, interest and advice
J
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Old 11-01-2015, 08:06 AM   #15
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Hi, Janet...


Better to regret the trailer you didn't get than the one you did.


Yesterday our "shell" was pulled from the frame, which at least appears to have rusted through in two places. The axle is from 1973 and the only wheel rims that fit on it are very strange, also from 1973. So...we don't know how far we'll have to go to fix the frame, not yet, and are considering a new axle and 3 new rims--the tires are at least 7 years old, time to replace them, too.


It's fun to watch the stages of updating once all the construction/frame/rot/etc. type things are finished, and the personalization begins...but we are months away from that.


Wishing you best luck with your search...one day you may decide to just buy one and do what it takes, but it's better if it's your decision, not just whoops! Sounds like you did very well checking that one out! Good for you!


Kai with the brown pumpkin shell sitting in the driveway day after Halloween, 2015.


"Break out another thousand!"
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Old 11-01-2015, 08:07 AM   #16
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A new axle is $600-800 installed, and you end up with a brand new axle, good for another 20 years or so, and you can add brakes, a major safety upgrade lacking on many vintage 13'ers. It's a fairly straightforward replacement. If the price reflected the need for a new axle, I wouldn't necessarily pass on an otherwise nice trailer.

A better way to check axle arm movement is to bring a small floor jack with you when you inspect (you'll need one anyway as a trailer owner). Jack up the trailer on the frame near the axle and watch for the axle arms to drop an inch or two.

A rotten floor, on the other hand, is definitely a reason to run!

Trilliums have a fiberglass-encased floor, so feeling for sponginess is the only way to check. A lot of other brands do not encase the floor in fiberglass, so you can inspect inside cabinets (where the sub floor may be exposed) with a flashlight and screwdriver. Look for water stains and tap around with the handle of the screwdriver listening for soft spots. Pay special attention to the outer perimeter under windows and wherever there is plumbing. With some brands you can look underneath as well, if there isn't a layer of fiberglass on the bottom. Again, look for water stains and tap around for soft spots.

Based on Kai's experience, brand new finish flooring in a trailer is a signal to be extra cautious. What are they trying to conceal? Most folks wouldn't install brand new flooring right before selling.
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Old 11-01-2015, 06:47 PM   #17
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Hello, this is janel. A travel trailer virgin.

Janel:

Ahhhh, just jump in with both feet, have fun fixing and remodeling and enjoy life to the fullest.
All you need is time and money, go for it.

When you remodel, it will be exactly the way you want it, you will know how it is all put together and when you are on the road, you can fix it all if it breaks down.
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Old 11-02-2015, 09:55 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by janel View Post
I visited the trillium today. First viewed axle swing arms as friend jumped around inside and on the tounge. No deflection at all. Nada. Left with bank account in tact. Will continue search. It was difficult not to be beguiled by cuteness. Thanks everyone for your help, interest and advice
J
Ummm..... Axles do wear, (age?) out. I would have used that as a bargaining point.

I bought a car with a badly cracked wind shield. Kinda made it a better deal, since I would be getting a new one. Nothing like a new wind shield.

A new axle is like that. Negotiate the price down based on the need for a new axle, then enjoy the benefits of a new axle, (and brakes).

Maybe keep this trailer in mind as you keep looking. A 4500 is a nice trailer.
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