I am on a mission to find my perfect little trailer; and I came *this* close to buying a terrific little Shasta compact recently. From what you could observe via photos, it was in excellent condition. However, what ultimately kept me from pulling the trigger was knowing that it had leaked at the roof vent and at the back window at one point in time. I didn't know what that might mean for me in terms of repair cost or towing safely (I am not handy and will be paying a restoration shop for any work!); so I got scared. I sure hated to let it get away though.
Anyway, I want to be PREPARED the next time I'm in a position to buy.. Soooo... my question is: if you know the trailer has leaked (and I know that amost all vintage trailers have leaked at one time or another), but there are no photos available of current condition of wood frame, what should you assume? If the trailer appears straight and sturdy and otherwise well-taken-care-of, do you just use it until you see some sort of evidence that stabilizing the frame is necessary (and what might that evidence be?) Do you spend the money/effort to peel back the skin and inspect it? How expensive (ball-park) are frame repairs for those typical types of leaks?
Are vintage trailers only meant for those who can do repairs themselves? Should I just give up now? ;-)
Post by offspringin on Mar 16, 2012 14:07:12 GMT -5
I think as you said ALL vintage trailers have water stains. You can usually tell from how extensive the paneling is messed up. If its pretty bad off there is a greater chance the sub structure is at the very least in need of an inspection. The wood around our vent was falling when we got it, like sheets of paper it came apart, to my suprise (once the camper was gutted) the damage was not that great, i only replaced a cross frame member and side support for the vent. The back wall is a little more tricky, when you pull the paneling its possible to make some repairs but its also possible you are opening a can of worms.
I personally would not chance towing a trailer with water damage if there had been no attempt to fix or look at sub structure. Imagine it falling apart as you drive it on the interstate, not only would you have a damaged trailer you could potentially injure someone behind and im most certain the driver of the tow vechile is liable of that.
Being handy and vintage trailers i think go a little hand in hand but it really depends on the extent of the repairs needed. If you can find one thats in great shape to start with (idealy NO water damage) and no evidence that anyone covered any up then thats maybe the best bet. If there are repairs i would want to see photos of whats behind the repair etc etc.
Its hard to make the jump and pull the trigger. You have to be content with what you spend your money on no matter what advice we give.
If you can't fix it with a hammer you have an electrical problem.
Thank you Offspringin. I am feeling a little less remorse now for not pulling the trigger. LOL.
I was going to have to tow that trailer over 1000 miles to get it home; so safety was definitely a priority..
As far as I could tell in the pics, the birch panels didn't seem too bad; but the seller did disclose that there was water damage at the wheel well; so I wondered if that might have been a result of the roof leak. I've heard wheel well rot is also common. If you know what is usually the culprit behind wheel well rot, please let me know!
Post by schweetcruisers on Mar 16, 2012 17:37:25 GMT -5
I would be far less afraid of a trailer with visible water damage than one that has been painted on the inside, a coat of paint can hid a bunch of nasty surpises. Being handy does help but these trailers are easy it work on, they don't have complex systems like a new one. This site among others like TCT, and SOF are great resources.
As far as your search goes figure for the worst and you won't be surprised when its rotted!
Sally, I think it is safe to say there are a number of vintage units running around out there with varying degree's of water damage. Are they safe on the road? Probably unless the skin is falling apart or falling off. I can say with some confidence that unless it has been restored, you won't find anything out there that doesn't show some level of damage, it comes down to what can you stand. I just helped a friend make a decision on a compact unit. It has some water damage in the back wall and at some point will have to be fixed. My advise to her was to go ahead and use it until it starts showing some further deterioration then we will look at repairing it. For now, it will go down the road fine. As to what it will cost to repair these kind of leaks, I really can't advise you on that issue but it won't be cheap, depending on labor costs in your area and how familiar the person is with this type of work. Your best bet is to find someone with a home shop that will help you out. BUT, don't give up. Generally speaking, I agree with offspringin, it really helps to be handy when dealing with vintage units but it is not a requirement. One thing you might consider is visiting one of your local cabinet or woodworking shops if there are any in your area and just get some idea's. Also, if you post your location, there may be a forum member near you that could help advise you. I wish you good luck in your efforts and hope you find the unit of your dreams.
Last Edit: Mar 16, 2012 21:22:49 GMT -5 by 61 Shasta
Thanks everyone for all the input and well wishes. This is very very helpful. And Lou, thanks for pointing me to the CL listing.
I've browsed around on this forum a lot and I love how supportive of one another everyone is. What a great forum. I know if and when I do find my trailer, I will be able to count on this group for some great advice!
When assessing the damage, remember water travels down until it finds something to sit on... It can be very hard to tell where it came in based just on where you find the rot. Depending how it's been parked, nose-up, level, or nose-down, water can travel very far from the outside leak point before it drops down to someplace it can sit. It will come in through a roof edge leak, run down the inside of the skin until it hits a seam, then gutter its way along the seam until it hits something that dams it up, and that's where it drops down and rots the floor, ten feet away from where it entered. Damage at the edges of the ceiling can easily be caused by a cross-roof seam that leaks in the middle somewhere where a branch fell on it, then the water rolls down the inside of the roof skin until it hits the edge of the ceiling and pools up, rotting the panel but only staning the frame. Damage in the back corners can come from water that entered halfway up the trailer's length, trickling along the roof frame until it gets to the back. If you hire someone to do the repairs, get someone who understands that. Pay attention to how it's parked (tilted) before you tow it away, and ask how long it's been sitting like that, so that if you find rot, you have an idea of where the water may have started its travels. It's a tricky thing to trace leaks, and it would suck to have repairs done in the wrong place, just to find the same leak still there. IMO, if you have to have a roof edge opened up, it probably makes sense to have them reseal the whole length. It's not that much more work to reseal ten feet of roof than ten inches, for the peace of mind you'd get (assuming of course you can afford it). In the ceiling around vents, the damage affects the panels more than the frame because the panel is the lowest point and that's where the water pools, although if it's bad enough long enough, it will start to eat the frame from the bottom up as well. In the walls and floor, the inside is the last place to show any damage, so damaged paneling or floor means more (much more, in my case) damaged frame. In the walls, say around a window, it ends up rotting the bottom of the studs and the floor sub-frame below the leak, and perhaps the horizontal frame that the window sits on. If there is rot in the paneling on the inside of a wall, you can pretty much assume the frame right behind and below it is rotted worse. And anything showing on the inside of the floor is almost guaranteed to hide something much worse underneath, as the belly pan forms a very good pond. I bought mine with one three-foot soft spot in the center of the hallway floor, that hid an entire bedroom's worth of completely rotted sub-frame, from water that entered through the missing stink vent caps. As for towing, a lightweight trailer like a compact would have to have some very serious frame damage to fall apart on a good road, but make sure you don't have lots of weight up high, like tool boxes and stacks of dishes in overhead compartments. My 22' LoFlyte was towed 100 miles with all the stud bottoms and more than half the floor rotted out into 2x2 strips of mud, and made it here just fine. The paneling and the skin make up a lot of the strength of these campers, like it does with any wooden box. Good luck, and it sounds scarier than it is.
Cowcharge, THANK YOU for taking the time to write that up! That makes a lot of sense. I feel armed with the info I need to make an informed decision -- which is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you! And I'm definitely glad to hear that is seems scarier than it is.
I towed my 59 airflyte trailer all the way from Kingston, New York to Los Angeles, California with water damage at the back window and the vent above. it held up just fine. I traveled about 3800 miles and camped in it for 15 days. I made sure it was road worthy like new brakes, wheel bearings, tires and new propane tanks. I am in the process of tearing my airflyte down to the frame. It is just like a puzzle when you see how it was put together. The thread on the Kreg Jr is great for this application. it takes time to make it right and it will last another 50 years. I don't think the new ones last 50 years. The end result is all worth it. The best part will be choosing the fabrics,paint and putting it back together. Enjoy the process of brining it back to life! Just think of that first meal that you will enjoy in it.