Monday, June 19, 2017

The Second Spare

new spare tire mount on Uhaul Camper CT-13 tongue
Previously, I had mounted a spare tire on the rear bumper. With planning for another long trip coming up, I decided I'd like to add a second spare to the tongue. I bought the same adapter I had used before. The question was, where to mount it as the tongue is a very busy place. Between the propane tank holder, jack, handle, and coupler, there's a lot already going on there. Then add the wiring and you have to make sure if you drill new holes somewhere that you're very careful where.

I opted to use existing holes. The coupler is attached with three .5 inch hex bolts and has the handle welded to the top of it. The tire mount comes with 4.5 inch long .5 hex bolts. These are the same size just longer. So I removed to rear two hex bolts from the coupler and attached mount there without having to drill new holes. I used the bottom holes because they are spaced perfectly and I wanted the tire to be high so no chance of it hitting the ground. I had to mount on drivers side due to the jack being on the passenger side. I also had to make sure because the bolts were long that they pointed the right direction so the tire could mount flat against the side of the tongue (didn't want them poking or rubbing a hole in the sidewall). The back plate that came with the tire mount wouldn't work as it was too thick and blocked the jack from swinging into place. So I got a kit at the auto parts store for hanging leaf springs and used a U-bolt from the back to add a little more support. I may keep my eyes open for a thinner back plate or try to make one in the future but for now it's secure.

back side view of new spare tire mount on tongue of Uhaul CT-13 camper

I think this will work out and was an easy mod. Having 2 spares on the trailer is a good insurance policy for the long hauls. I've also bought a bottle jack to keep in the trailer.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lets Talk Hinges

Polar 402 hinges on U-haul Camper (CT-13)
Door sag. It's annoying to say the least, but it's also a sign of some other issues. So catching it early can save you some bigger repairs later. The door hinges on the U-Haul campers are Polar hinges. Same kind that are used on industrial freezers. The original hinges are model 402, but they don't make them anymore so you may have to grab model 412 if you do need a new hinge. The hinges are not cheap, right now I've seen them running around $30 something a piece. Most of the time the weak point isn't the hinge though since there made so durable. It's the screws, bolts and wood that they attach to that fails first.

Old bolt and nut from door hinge.
Out with the old.
Inside the camper you can find where the hinge bolts are as they're behind the little black 1 inch caps on the door and panel next to the door. Pop those caps out and you'll have access to the back end of the bots. The nuts on mine were rusted solid to the bolts, and they had worn out in the wood. So they were loose on the lower hinge (door side). I had to hacksaw mine off. I recommend replacing the nuts, bolts, and screws with stainless hardware. Stainless is more expensive but it doesn't rust. And trust me you don't want to have to replace these in a year cause you bought cheap hardware. Where the door hinges are, there is wood fiberglassed inside the door and wall to mount them too. Sometimes due to wear or a leak, this wood can start to rot. Depending on how much rot you have, you may be looking at a bigger job by having to replace those wood pieces. If you are lucky, like mine fortunately, you may catch it before a lot of damage. With mine, the lower hinge on the door side were seeing the 2 bolts wearing out and being loose. Also someone had previously put cheap screws into the screw holes which were rusting so I was going to change those at the same time.

New bolts and t-nuts for door hinges.
In with the new.
I used 10-24x2in stainless Oval machine bolts which matched up to what was there. Some folks have used flat washers and lock nuts. Due to wear I could tell the holes in the wood had worn out some and were a bit bigger than the 10-24 bolts. So I opted to go with t-nuts. The t-nuts are designed to dig into the wood and grip against it vs just being a bolt against a washer. I put the new hardware in after using the hacksaw to remove the old ones. I also removed the rusty screws and replaced with 10-24x1in stainless screws. My screws were a bit longer so that they could dig deeper into the wood than the original. This job can be easier if you have a friend willing to help. Then one of you can work from the inside and one from the outside. Also be careful backing out rusty screws as they can sometimes tear up the wood on their way out if they've rusted a lot. Take it slow and use a hand held screw driver not a drill.

Tip: When working with tiny bolts and the t-nuts in the tiny openings, you can't fit your fingers ( could only fit one) in there to thread the nuts on the bolts. So what I did was take another bolt and back screw it halfway into the t-bolt and then use that to help thread it on the bolt from the front. Once the front has gotten halfway threaded, I backed out the other bolt and tightened the front bolt down. I did use my finger to push the t-nuts against the wood and hold them while tightening.
back threaded t-nut
T-nut back threaded halfway with bolt to hold in place in hole while threading the regular bolt through the wall of the camper.

With the new hardware the hinges are again secure. Hopefully, I won't see any more bolts coming loose when I'm driving and the door will be more secure. All in all a quick maintenance job.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


U-haul Fiberglass Camper with fresh paint
I got a good deal when I bought our little camper years ago, but it did need some work. I've gradually spent time and a little money over the years to upgrade and replace/fix things. Two things have been on my list for a long time: paint and replace the patched in plexiglass side window.

old plexiglass window
Old Plexiglass Window
New Old Stock Window
New Old Stock Window
Someone had busted out the original side window in the past and of course hadn't saved the frame. Some previous owner had stuck a chipped and cracked scrap piece of plexiglass in there and then calked it up real ugly. Due to that, the window had no way to open to provide ventilation on that side. Several years back a company that specialized in selling surplus from warehouses, opened a crate they'd gotten their hands on. Inside were a bunch of windows with Uhaul stamped on them. Well they posted them for sale on their website. Didn't take long before a group of us stumbled on them and they were sold out in a couple days. NOS (New Old Stock) Uhaul windows for the campers that Uhaul had claimed they didn't have any for years. At some point they had a batch of replacements and had gotten rid of them I guess while cleaning out a warehouse. I talked to the folks at the company and they said they bought a bunch of stuff in crates from somewhere all site unseen. They had no idea what was in the crates till they opened them at their warehouse. And even then they didn't know what they went to. So with luck I landed 2 of them a right and left side. (I have the other as a spare in case one of them ever gets busted.) Well this week I finally got that installed by a window guy. Thrilled to have finally gotten around to it.

U-haul Fiberglass Camper before fresh paint
Before New Paint (but freshly cleaned)
U-haul Fiberglass Camper with fresh paint
After New Paint (Shiny!)
The one thing that is the most noticeable about the camper has always been the outside of course. Mine had lost most of it clearcoat and shine years ago and was mostly chalky and rough. It made it difficult to keep clean and when you did clean it, it was a chore. I had a couple of options: paint or wax. When adding layers of wax to the fiberglass campers,you have to use a lot of it. Most folks go with a ZEP floor wax and put on 5-6 layers. This gets it shiny but also leaves imperfections visible. You have to use barkeepers friend or similar product to really clean and whiten it. Mine ha a fiberglass patch that was visible and some discoloring due to water from rusty drain hole in rear window running down the back of it. With painting, the wife and I discussed what color for 2 years before we decided to keep it white. I took it to my bodyshop guy and he did her up nice with a new coat of paint in Super White. Now she's shiny and clean looking. He even painted the rock guard to match. It was a hard plastic with a rough finish to it and a bit yellowing. Now it's smooth and the same color as the camper. All in all, I'm happy we finally got her done up right. I feel the paint adds more to the value of the camper than just a wax job.

So with the facelift done, I'm turning my focus to some other tasks as I prepare for our next big adventure with her. More updates to come over the next month or two as we continue some work and find some time work in adventure.