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Old 10-11-2005, 09:37 AM   #1
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Exclamation Stress Cracks in the Skin!

OK, someone talk me off the ledge. I went to get something out of the motorhome and noticed two 1.5" long cracks in the outer skin. They are both on the passenger side, coming off of each of the forward window frames. One is in the lower rear radius of the second window and the other is a little higher up on the rear of the first window.

I've never noticed these before this last trip and I'm sure I would have. While I can drill stop these for now and know this will ultimately require a panel replacment, should I looking for something bigger? Something structural?

This is the area of the coach where many of the interior rivets were drilled out and replaced during my "aluminun interior phase"...could this be part of the problem? There are no other cracks near any of the other windows, baggage doors, etc.
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Old 10-11-2005, 09:42 AM   #2
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Steven, i know the answer already, but did you use aluminum rivets, or steel rivets when you performed those repairs?
If possible, it would be a real good idea to check and make sure the stringers and bows in that area are still sound.
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Old 10-11-2005, 09:47 AM   #3
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Aluminum rivets. Talk to me Goose.
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Old 10-11-2005, 09:54 AM   #4
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Fatigue cracks are directly related to vibration.

Somehow, someway, the front end is shaking. It could be at a very high frequency, that you may noy feel in the steering wheel.

The vibration can only come from the tires and wheels.

Perhaps someone changed the shocks to something ineffective, or perhaps the shocks are just bad.

Fatigue cracks in the sheetmetal on a classic motorhome, is extremely rare.

Andy
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Old 10-11-2005, 09:58 AM   #5
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Andy, thanks for your post. Vibrations you say. Do they have to be high frequency? Is it also cycle related? Rare is not a word I like to hear about cracks on a motorhome. Keep in mind my coach just turned 195,000 miles.

Just an FYI, I've replaced all of the shocks with new (Bilsteins up front, Monroes in the back) and have been running on these for two years. New tires, new steering stabilizer, air bags, etc.

It seems like these cracks appeared very recently, perhaps as late as my last trip (3600 miles round trip).
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Old 10-11-2005, 10:25 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swebster
Andy, thanks for your post. Vibrations you say. Do they have to be high frequency? Is it also cycle related? Rare is not a word I like to hear about cracks on a motorhome. Keep in mind my coach just turned 195,000 miles.

Just an FYI, I've replaced all of the shocks with new (Bilsteins up front, Monroes in the back) and have been running on these for two years. New tires, new steering stabilizer, air bags, etc.

It seems like these cracks appeared very recently, perhaps as late as my last trip (3600 miles round trip).
Steven, don't you have a hydraulic leveling system on your coach? You know, the thing that is just supposed to steady the coach, not lift it? And didn't you catch a former mechanic lifting the front end of the coach until the front wheels were over a foot off the ground? Rememer, that took something that is supposed to be under an upward load, and put not only a downward load, but a several thousand pound downward load, on the front of your coach?
If so, you may need to do what I suggested, and look at the frame outriggers, and the aluminum bows that go up into the roof. I hope I am wrong, but I think you will find something bent, and putting a load in the opposite direction of how it is supposed to be.
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Old 10-11-2005, 10:26 AM   #7
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Also, this may be an extreme example, but what tire pressures are you running on the front? 55 psi, or 105 psi?
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Old 10-11-2005, 11:18 AM   #8
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I cannot speak for the Bilstein shocks. Do they allow high frequency vibration? I don't know.

You did not mention balancing.

The tire, wheel, hub and drum or rotor, "MUST" be balanced as an assembly. Anything short of that will not get the job done.

In your case, I would assume nothing.

How about the front air bags? They must be pressurized to 55 psi, no more and no less.

Andy
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Old 10-12-2005, 08:31 AM   #9
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The Bilsteins are a highly recommended dampered shock for the P30. The tires are new and balanced, the bags are new ant filled to spec on every trip. Tire pressures are also to spec. I noticed yesterday that each crack starts at window rivet and moves out from there. On the rear window, the both the rivet above and below the crack are sheered off.

After talking with a few other owners, I am beginning to believe these may not be "stress/fatigue" cracks. I'm wondering if these could have been the result of a bending load, perhaps one jack down or an extreme leveling situation.

While I see a panel replacement in my future the current thinking is to drill stop the current cracks, scab over with new aluminum on the outside, re-rivet everything and seal with SilkaFlex (or Vulkem).

Any more opinions?
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Old 10-12-2005, 10:18 PM   #10
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Steven- this was on eBay will it help yopu get off the ledge?

Capt. Trolley's Creeping Crack Cure good for Airstream

Item number: 4582138600
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Old 10-12-2005, 11:41 PM   #11
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The windows aren't supported by anything other than the skins, did you change anything inside that would allow them to flex in and out? If not I would pull the trim from around the inside of the window and see if the inside skin is riveted to the window frame, on mine they had a bad habit of using trim to hide the lack of measuring skills. If you get inside and push out will they give? I would do it fairly hard and see if you have any flex in the skin. I don't think it is a jack problem, I can see it twisting and popping rivets but it doesn't seem like it would rip the skin that much without leaving some kinks. Sounds like metal fatigue from the window moving in and out.

John
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Old 10-13-2005, 08:16 AM   #12
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John,
I got to thinking about this last night and started to wonder the same thing. The interior aluminum trimming leaves a lot to be desired. On mine the interior panels were riveted through the trim and into the frame. On more than a few however the skin was trimmed too wide and there was nothing to rivet into.

However, when I replaced the window trim I was in a hurry and used screws through the trim into frame. I also added 1/8" ply in there with the upholstered panels. So I'm sure it allowed things to move around.

I need to back in and rivet the interior skins to the window frame. Seems as if this could be a self inflicted wound. I hate when I do that.

Lesson learned.

What about the repair? I may be able to scab over aluminum from the inside. Any opinions?

S
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Old 10-13-2005, 08:27 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swebster
I need to back in and rivet the interior skins to the window frame. Seems as if this could be a self inflicted wound. I hate when I do that.

Lesson learned.

What about the repair? I may be able to scab over aluminum from the inside. Any opinions?

S
You can put a piece of aluminum on the inside, and one on the outside, sandwiching the cracked piece between them. Just remember to put something on the outer piece to keep water out.
I would be very happy if it was just something on the inside that you can fix without major structural refitting.
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