Building a small RV – Popup Demolition: Part 2

After ignoring the popup camper for a few weeks, I finally had a free afternoon to finish up demolition.  My goal was to get it down to the bare frame and I wasn’t about to stop short of that.  Apparently I wasn’t ready to do any more than I planned for either.

This was more of the same as day 1 of our demolition.  Remove screws, hit stubborn things with a hammer, and get dirty.  At the end of the day we now have an empty frame that we can begin work on.

Checkout the below video to see the progress we made on day 2:

At this point we’ll begin cleanup of the frame/axle and laying out the floor plan.  I’m a graph paper addict, but I’ve been tossing around the idea of designing it in SketchUp Make.  I guess we’ll see how ambitious I’m feeling.


 

How to remove RV vinyl graphics and install custom decals

A few weeks back we posted How we made and installed our new vinyl RV decals.  I decided we didn’t include enough detail in that video, so we decided to make a follow-up.

Checkout the below video if you’re interested in seeing a step-by-step of how we remove old, weathered, dry, vinyl decals and install new custom decals.

We’re slowly replacing all the old vinyl decals on our trailer with new ones.  It’s slow going and gets done when we don’t have any more pressing things to do, but we’ll finish it someday.

How to seal your RV roof with Dicor lap sealant

Once again, spring is upon us and so are those RV maintenance chores! This week we climbed up on the roof to check all the seams and reapply Dicor lap sealant where needed.

For those that have followed along with us you’ll know that we replaced our entire roof (along with some walls & floor) about a year and a half ago. During that time we haven’t had any issues with the roof, but after dealing with the aftermath of water damage we know the importance of preventative maintenance. When we dewinterize in the spring we do a pretty thorough check of the RV and all the systems and nip any potential issues in the bud. One of our highest priorities is keeping water out of our RV!

As far as the roof goes, we first walk (or crawl) the entire roof looking for any damage to the rubber membrane. We then focus on all seams around vents, transitions, trim, etc. looking for cracks or holes that could potentially let water through. At this point we clean the seams and reapply Dicor lap sealant to anything questionable since it’s likely I won’t check again for another year. I apply new sealant directly over any cracks and only peel the old sealant away if it’s already hanging or coming off.

Watch how we completed this on our trailer!

Here are the supplies you’ll need to finish the job:

  • Self-leveling lap sealant
  • Caulk gun
  • Bucket or buckets
  • Soapy water (I used very watered down Mr Clean this year because that’s what I had)
  • Fresh water
  • Alcohol
  • Rags

Now that you have everything you need, here are the steps we follow to reapply Dicor lap sealant on our roof:

NOTE: Dicor lap sealant comes in self-leveling (for horizontal surfaces) and non-sag (for vertical surfaces)variations, so be sure to use the self-leveling type when sealing on the roof.

1- To get started you’ll need to clean the old sealant and surrounding areas well. We use soapy water and ring the rags out until they’re just damp. Continue scrubbing until all of surface dirt is removed and then go back and do the same with fresh water.

2 – Next, take a clean rag, apply alcohol to the rag and continue to clean the surface. This is when you’ll see things go from grey to white and really get clean.

3 – Once the areas are clean go back over the everything with a clean dry rag to remove any moisture or left over debris. Before applying the new Dicor sealant it’s also a good idea to let the roof air dry for a bit.

4 – After everything is clean and dry, you can now apply the Dicor lap sealant. This product applied just like any other caulk using a caulk gun. Apply it liberally to all areas to be sealed and the self leveling sealant will level and smooth out. There’s no need to go back and smooth anything out yourself.

Now that you have everything on the roof sealed nicely, continue around the RV and check your corner seams and anything protruding through the outside walls. For this I prefer to use Geocel ProFlex RV, but there are many RV specific sealant designed for vertical surfaces will work.

Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below.

How we repaired the threads in our RV water heater

This year when de-winterizing the trailer I decided to also cleanup the threads for the anode rod in our RV water heater.  When we purchased the trailer used, the threads were mucked up pretty bad and it makes winterizing and de-winterizing a pain in the butt.  I only need to deal with it a few times each year, but it’s a problem a don’t necessarily need to deal with.

We have a Suburban water heater, so we have an anode rod.  The treads on the rod are standard 3/4″ NPT.  I would highly recommend using a thread chased to cleanup the threads, but I already had a tap on hand and used that.  If you use a tap be VERY careful since it will cut new threads.

Below are the tools and supplied we used to complete the job:

• 1 1/16″ socket with ratchet
• 3/4″ NPT thread chaser
• Tap handle
• Cutting oil – I used cooking oil since I didn’t want anything toxic in my water.  I’m sure there’s a better option, but I’m only chasing a few threads.
• Something to flush hot water tank
• Teflon tape for threads
• New anode rod

Checkout this video to see how we did it:

How To Install Electric Trailer Brakes

While getting ready for our first major trip of 2016 we decided it was time for new trailer brakes.  Last year when getting the trailer inspected we noticed that the linings were starting to crack, but no chunks have started coming off.  This year the cracks seem to have gotten worse, so I’m glad we finally replaced the brakes.

It took me about 30-45 minutes per wheel to replace the brakes which wasn’t too bad considering I was fooling around with the camera the entire time.  I also used our Andersen Rapid Jack (Amazon associate link) to lift each wheel one at a time instead of jacking and blocking each side which worked out well.

Here’s a list of tools and parts we used to complete this project:

  • Replacement brakes (Amazon associate link to the brakes we used)
  • Wheel bearing grease
  • Jacks, stands, chocks, etc.
  • Lug wrench
  • Torque wrench
  • Socket set
  • Wire cutters & strippers
  • Rags
  • Brake cleaner
  • Brake spoon
  • New cotter pins
  • Wire nuts or crimp connectors

The install was pretty straight forward.  Checkout the below video to see how we did it.

 

Now that we’ve scratched brakes off our maintenance list, the next major purchases for the trailer is new tires.

 

How to replace your RV city water inlet

Over the past year we’ve been picking away at the worn and weathered parts on the outside of our travel trailer and it’s finally time to replace our city water inlet! It’s still usable, but it’s ugly, doesn’t spin well anymore, and the cap is long gone (I’ve been using a brass cap to keep muck out of there). While at Camping World a few weeks ago we picked up a replacement and wanted to get it installed before our Spring Break extravaganza.


It was nice to finally get an easy project, but like everything I do there was at least one hiccup. After I pulled the old inlet off I realized I picked up an inlet with a 1/2″ MIP female and needed male, so a trip to Home Depot was needed. It was starting to get late, so I ended up getting in and out of Home Depot with just one $5 part instead of my customary $100 haul, so that was nice.


The install was exactly what I expected and was fairly quick. I just zipped the 4 screws out, pried the old inlet off (with my favorite pocket knife), cleaned up the old sealant, and installed the new inlet. Below are the items I used for the install.

  • New City Water Inlet
  • 1/2″ MIP adapter (not needed if to buy the correct inlet)
  • Mineral Spirits & a rag
  • Butyl tape
  • 3 new hex screws
  • Benchmade Griptillian folding knife (I would recommend an actual putty knife, but I was feeling lazy)
  • Electric drill with 1/4″ nut driver
  • Channel lock pliers

Checkout our 55 second install video to see how it was done:

How to replace your RV electric cord hatch

On our last trip we added replacing our electric cord hatch to the list of needed repairs.  We’ve quickly found that part of owning an older RV is constantly replacing the weather damaged plastic parts on the outside of it.  Since we’ve owned it we’ve replaced just about everything, but on this last trip we broke this hatch along with the entry door holder, so on our last trip to Camping World we picked up replacements.

Foolishly, I assumed that the electric cord hatch would be a 10 minute job just like most of the other brittle pieces of plastic we’ve replaced.  In my mind it was take 3 screws out, replace the cover, zip in 3 screws and seal.  Well, like so many other times, I was wrong!  The replacement wasn’t too complicated, but the power cord needed to be removed from the converter so instead of 10 minutes it took me about an hour.

Checkout the below video to see us replace the hatch:

 

The electric cord hatch didn’t come with anything, so here are the items and tools needed to complete the job.

  • RV Electric Cord Hatch
  • Screws.  We reused the originals.
  • Butyl tape for between the hatch and side of the RV
  • Sealant.  We use GeoCel ProFlex RV
  • Electric drill
  • 1/4″ nut driver to remove the hatch
  • #2 square drive bit (if you’re RV has a million square drive screws like our does)
  • Flat head screw driver to remove the power cord from the converter

***DISCLAIMER*** Your reading a post written by an amateur, average, non-electrician.  Take everything you read here with a grain of salt.  From here I’m not going to give detailed directions, so if you’re not an electrician and shock yourself or set your RV on fire don’t blame me.  If you don’t know what you’re doing get help from a professional.

Step 1: Disconnect from shore power and disconnect the RV house battery.  If you’re not comfortable working with electric I’d skip this project.
Step 2: Remove the electric cord hatch from the side of the RV
Step 3: Disconnect the power cable from the breaker and pull it out of the RV
Step 4: Install the new hatch using butyl tape between the side of the RV and hatch.  Seal with RV specific sealant
Step 5: Install electric cord through new hatch and reconnect to the breaker.  Connect shore power, connect battery, turn on the breakers, and test.

Do you have an older RV with crumbling plastic parts.  Share any suggestions or lessons learned below.

How to reseal RV windows the right way

We needed to figure out how to reseal RV windows out of necessity. When we bought our trailer we had roof leaks and most of our windows were leaking. These window leaks were caused by shoddy materials used at the factory (foam weather seal tape) and lack of maintenance.

The first few windows we resealed were the ones we removed to rebuild the rear walls. This is where we made our mistakes and figured out what works. Our two most important lessons learned was to use extra butyl take on the sides with an aluminum sided trailer to fill all the gaps and to give the butyl tape time to squeeze out before trimming. If you seal over the butyl tape too soon it will bulge the caulk out.

Check out our video to see how we reseal RV windows!

Below are the items needed to do the job.

  • Cordless drill
  • #2 square drive bit
  • Paint scraper – I use a 6 in 1 painters tool for the pointed edge
  • Butyl tape
  • Painters tape – I like to use 1/4″ 3M masking tape for curves
  • Caulk gun
  • RV specific sealant – I use GeoCel Pro Flex RV, but there are others available

When I reseal RV windows it usually takes me less than an hour to complete each one. Here are the steps I follow for each window.

  1. To get started, remove the window trim from the inside of the RV (it’s a good idea to support the window from the outside when doing this).
  2. After the window is free you’ll need to cut any caulk and pry the window out from outside.
  3. Once the window is out of the hole you’ll need to spend some time cleaning off all the old sealant. Make sure the surfaces are clean where the window seals against the trailer and be sure to remove all traces of silicone if it was used in the past.
  4. Now that the window is clean apply the butyl tape all the way around the window frame. I add an extra layer of butyl on the sides where the aluminum siding is uneven.
  5. Now that the butyl tape has been applied you can reinstall the window. Again, support the window from the outside so you don’t push it out when installing the window trim. When tightening the screws on the window trim tighten a little at a time and rotate around the window to pull it in evenly.
  6. What I look for is that the butyl tape squeezes out and fills all the gaps around the window.
    I give it a day or 2 for the rubber to stop squeezing out around the windows before trimming it. I then apply a RV specific sealant to the edges to seal it nicely.

This process has worked well for us and keeps the water out. If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas please leave them in the comments below.

How to install tongue jack quick release brackets

In this weeks post we show you how to install tongue jack quick release brackets.  Last week we posted how to install quick release stabilizer brackets to avoid dragging our stabilizers when going in and out of our driveway.  Because of our ridiculously steep and narrow driveway we also need to remove our tongue jack to avoid ripping it off.  It’s only 3 bolts, but it started to become a real pain in the butt after a while.  When I saw the Jack-E-Up (Amazon affiliate link) I wasn’t sure it would work well, but needed to give it a shot.

 

Install the tongue jack quick release

Checkout the below video to follow along as we install the Jack-E-Up on our travel trailer using the existing BAL side crank jack.

 

All the parts needed to complete the install are included in the package.  The only thing I didn’t expect was the need to reuse the old bolts that held the jack to the trailer.  New bolts are provided to secure the plate to the jack, but the original bolts are used to attached the bracket to the trailer frame.  It wasn’t a big deal for me, but if your bolts are a little beat up I’d pickup some new ones before starting.

The install from start to finish should take less than an hour.  You just need to remove 3 bolts that hold the jack in place, install the mount to the trailer A frame with those same bolts, and then install the adapter plate on the jack using the supplied bolts, nuts and washers.

 

Operation

Using the Jack-E-Up is simple and requires no tools.  Just insert the jack through the hole in the mount and give it 1/6 of a turn to line-up the bolts with the notches.  Once you start to jack the trailer the weight will lock it into place.

To remove the jack you’ll need to have the trailer supported on the hitch, lower the jack and once the weight is removed you’ll be able to turn it 1/6 of a turn to remove it.

 

My thoughts

The product is a great idea, simple to install and easy to use.  It’s not for everyone, but if you tend to drag your jack I’d easily recommend the Jack-E-Up.  There aren’t a lot of products that make my life easier, but this is one of them.  In the end, it’s not one of those fun upgrades, but it does help me start to enjoy our camping trips a bit sooner than I would have without it.

 

How to install quick release stabilizer brackets

Our first, and longest running, struggle with our trailer has been getting it in our driveway.  It’s steep, narrow and cut into a hill preventing us from adjusting on the way up.  On day one we drug it up the driveway on the tongue jack and stabilizers and then began working on ways to make the process easier.

Step one was to do a suspension lift on out trailer, but we still needed to remove the rear stabilizers and tongue jack each time we took a trip.  I needed to remove them in the driveway before we left, install them at the campsite, and then remove them again before leaving the campground so we could get back into the driveway.  We only did this a few times before deciding we needed to find a better solution to this problem.  It way taking far too long to remove and install these items multiple times each trip and I was worried that the threads would strip at some point because of the constant abuse.

After turning to Google for a solution to my problem I found SaveAjack.  This product is a quick release bracket that mounts to the trailer and the stabilizer jacks.  Once in place you can remove the stabilizers by pulling just two pins and sliding them off.  This is the only product I found that made the process of removing stabilizer jacks easier and I needed to have them!

Check out our video showing how to install quick release stabilizer brackets.  The install was quick, easy and has made taking our trailer out much easier.

 

If you have any questions or comments leave them below.  If you need to deal with a tough to access driveway how to you manage this?  Check back next Tuesday to see what we did for our tongue jack.