Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Free Trailer Is Now My Science Project

The free trailer from Mr. Frank (see earlier post) is now running a tab. I'm giving her an exterior rehab, including new seals and paint, and am undertaking it as a science project.

In other words, I'm learning how to do this as I go.

The trailer is a 1961 Aloha compact--small, and fairly uncomplicated in how it's put together. Nevertheless, I won't say I didn't start out feeling a little intimidated at the thought of taking things apart. But that ended pretty quickly as soon as I got my hands on the first power tool. I also was able to hire a part-time helper, 'Randyman,' and he keeps things moving along when I have to be at work.

The first thing we had to do was get the old sealant paint off the roof (it was peeling up in hunks) and off the trim rail. It had been put on so thick that you could barely see the grooves in the trim-rail screw heads, so there was no way to get the trim rail off until the paint was removed. Even with power tools, these are time-consuming jobs.

The roof came clean with a heat gun and a scraper. For the trim rail, I used a wire wheel at the end of a power drill to clean the screw heads and get the trim rail free enough of old goo that I could get it off. The wire wheel spit out millions of tiny bits that infiltrated everything. I hadn't taken the light fixtures off yet, so I covered them up with Press'n Seal from the kitchen drawer. No sense doing any more cleaning than I already had to do.

These two jobs--cleaning the roof and getting the heavily coated trim ready to take off--each took about 10 hours of persistence, divided up over several days.

The next step for the roof went fast, comparatively speaking. We took the vent out, cleaned it up, and put it back on over new putty tape. Then we used EternaBond roof seal tape over the long top seams (there are two on this trailer). The vinyl tape comes in a roll. We measured and cut, centered the tape over a seam, peeled off the backing, and pressed it down tight with a wallpaper roller. We sealed the edges of the vent with the same tape.

Then we used a long-handle paint roller to apply Elastomeric roof paint to the rest of the surface. This product is weather resistant, reflects heat, holds up under heat and cold,  and is flexible to RV movement. We did a north-south coat, then an east-west coat, per instructions.

Next, we took off all the trim and the light fixtures, removed the windows, and covered the openings with cardboard and painter's tape. Randyman got busy with a light sanding of the surface, while I applied paint stripper to the trim rail once it was off the trailer.

Once the stripper had loosened the paint on the trim rail, I went to work on getting it off, first with an electric tool called a Wagner Paint Eater (awesome tool) and then with a Dremel tip. I had to be careful not to bend or twist the loose aluminum rail, and even with the Paint Eater, this was a tedious and messy job that took hours. Along with old paint, every tiny bit of old silicone had to be located and ground off (it just laughed at stripper), even around the pilot holes for the new screws.

Today, the trailer gets washed down with TSP (trisodium phosphate), which removes grime, grease, and fingerprints. Then she'll be ready to prime and paint.  Randy will do that part and I'll be cleaning and polishing the windows and the drip-cap rails with aluminum polish and a buffer.

In case you're wondering, it's taken about 40 hours of labor to get the trailer to this point of being nearly ready for painting. Had the trim rail not been encased in layers of paint, silicone, and roof coating, the time would have been about half that. Considering the labor involved, new trim would have been cheaper....but like I said, this is a science project!


  1. Thanks for all the details. I am absolutely green & wanting to learn before I buy. Sounds like you're doing a great job!

  2. Good news for all of us trailer addicts: I am finding out that it's not hard to do this. It just takes time and tools.

  3. Thank you for the great info!! Hubby and I just bought a Fleetwing "wren" (small one) and he wants to restore better. (just like you blogged about!) Great timing for us~~~come visit! Roxie

  4. Thanx for all the advice/info.... yep, these old cuties certainly are a work of love! :>)

  5. Thanks for being real about the work involved with restoration. Most of the trailers I've seen need clean up from products that were used to stop or prevent leaks.

  6. Wow it looks like you have taken on a huge project. I think it is so neat that you are doing this project. I can’t believe it took 40 hours just to get it ready for painting. I can’t wait to see the finished project.

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  7. It wouldn't have taken so long if I hadn't had to get rid of the old roof coating and the silicone!

  8. Over the years certain types of sealants are coming in market for RV roof. But no substitute of product specs can be discover as it is perfect in its advantages.