Sunday, October 23, 2011
Walk-Away Signs For Trailer Shoppers
When it comes to buying a vintage travel trailer, we all start out as greenhorns. Typically, it's the low-priced trailers that first attract us. "Older Shasta, everything works, just needs TLC, $600 OBO."Sounds perfect, doesn't it?
Whoa. This is the most dangerous period of your Girl Camping life, because trust us--a $600 trailer (you were going to offer $500, right?) is almost always a $600 trailer for a reason. And it's one you want to walk away from, because it adds up to way more than the new-paint-and-curtains kind of TLC you most likely have in mind.
We're talking about water damage. The kind that's gone on for years and years, until it's rotted out the wooden framing, where you can't see it, behind the trailer's metal skin.
Water-damage evidence is sometimes subtle. But when it's as blatant as the examples here, WALK AWAY. What's on the outside is your canary-in-a-coalmine clue to what's trapped inside and rotting the frame. Your only way to correct it is with a complete teardown and rebuild--surely not what you had in mind, because that would cost your $600 multiplied many, many times over. (We've seen someone spend $12K to 'rescue' a $600 trailer.)
From the Shasta trailer above:
This is the curb-side front corner. It's rotted out (remember, there's wood under there) until the motion of travel sprung the metal trim. An attempt was made at some point to caulk up the edges, but at this point there's nothing left of the wood inside for the trim to screw back into. Walk away!
Here we have the curb side's upper right corner (and the left side looks the same). The sealant tape beneath the metal trim has dried up, cracked, fallen out in places, and allowed enough moisture into the seam to set up perfect conditions for mossy-looking mold. It's not just on the exterior, it's also feeding on the wood behind the seam.
Here's more of the same mossy, moldy gunk affecting the front window frame. You can scrub off what you can see on the outside, but remember, that metal window is set into a frame made of wood. See that double row of caulk atop the frame? All that did was seal the moisture already trapped behind the window frame. You know the advice--walk away!
Here's a close-up of the trim on the street-side rear seam. The sealant tape is so old, dried up, and shot that water has gotten into it. Now it's supporting its own life form. Yes, you can have the trim removed, new sealant tape applied, and the trim put back on. But do you really want to go there, knowing what's likely to have happened to the plywood behind the skin? Walk away, this is not your trailer.
We recommend that you take some time to read 'FAQs for Trailer Buyers,' by Robert Hessellman. He offers more good advice that's intended to save you the grief of a bad first buy.