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Old 01-01-2015, 12:04 PM   #1
atz
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Frame inspection

New guy here…looking for the "right one".

In reading through the post on this forum i get the distinct impression that 60's and 70's are more than likely to have significant frame rust…and some bad corrosion that needs fixing. So, in buying one seems like a good idea to check for that. Some of that can be revealed by the presence of floor rot…but not always…tales of a good floor and a terrible frame. Horror stories abound on this and it is spooking me.

The belly wrap seems to be the culprit in inspection of the frame. Tales of big money to remove enough of that to reveal corrosion. But then I read posts that make it appear that it does not seem so daunting to cut some small pieces out in strategic places to have a look and then patch the observation holes. Of course the existing owner may have problems with this but let's assume not.

Is their insulation between the frame and the belly wrap that would prevent this?

I figure if you cut 5 observation ports a foot square you could get a good feel for the shape of the frame.

Or for something less intrusive you could use a flexible tube camera/scope…they go for about 200 bucks and it seems like a good investment.

Comments please…or another way to look at the frame.
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Old 01-01-2015, 01:18 PM   #2
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.................................................. .

I figure if you cut 5 observation ports a foot square you could get a good feel for the shape of the frame.

Comments please…or another way to look at the frame.
You are dreaming!!!! NO ONE will let you cut holes.

The best way that I know of to check for rust, short of removing metal, is to tap the belly wrap and belly pan LIGHTLY with the palm of your hand. If you hear material rattling around, it's a good indication of rust flaking off the frame and laying loose on the belly metal.
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Old 01-01-2015, 03:52 PM   #3
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enosburg , Vermont
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Experience has taught me to expect frame repair on older streams. If you find the odd one that does'nt you got lucky! The most likely spots are. Main frame rails, the back 6 feet, due to the bath area and waste tanks. Outriggers especially near entry door and under the water heater. Cross members from center towards rear, expect bad ones near the waste tank, they're just stamped sheet metal. The fiberglass insulation you mentioned between the plywood deck and frame is a curse. It holds water and guarantees rust. That said it ain't that big a deal if you find the model you want. Steel frame repair is easier that alum skin repair. Usually 3 or 4 hundred bucks in channel and angle and a cheap welder. Remember its fun!
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Old 01-01-2015, 04:43 PM   #4
atz
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Thanks…yeah, I figured the best way to get to know about the trailers is to read the post on this forum and it has been very helpful and enlightening. The frames seem to be the biggest major problem point…and a lot of the damage coming out as an unknown after buying the trailer. I understand older ones will almost naturally have some.

That is not the real problem…as you say drop the belly wrap…clean it up grind off the rust where it is not a structural problem and weld some patch on the rest. So you have $1,000 in doing that. If you are haggling about price and the owner says it is great not rust but it does….and if you know up front you can get that $1,000 paid for on the purchase price. But even if not it is not the end of the world. What is though is the people on here who buy and soon after find they have a LOT of damage and some are unsafe to pull. Needs frame off…etc. So, not we are in a $7,000 operation and most of these guys would not have bought if they knew….or do it yourself for $2,000…which i do not want to do. I am buying mine for the road, not the garage. I have already built my share of hot rods.

In short, it is inconceivable to me that someone will pay $10,000 or $15,000 or more and not having a clue about what is arguably the most expensive and difficult single item that could (and as you point out) be wrong or devaluing of the trailer. And having pretty much no recourse if it goes sour after you buy it. If you read on here, some of the stories are really sad.

I don' think tapping the belly wrap as suggested to see if you can hear rust flakes is a good suggestion. So I was looking for some reasonable way to do this. I happen to believe I will get a seller who who knows I will buy if there is not serious corrosion (and has said that is what I will find) and will let me look and then patch it back, or at least let me drill some small holes for an inspection camera. I'll keep you posted. The biggest problem will be the insulation getting in the way of looking with a inspection camera.
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Old 01-01-2015, 04:58 PM   #5
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I like the idea of the inspection camera - I don't own one but have often thought about buying one, they often seem to go on sale. I imagine you could make some pretty small holes and probably plug them with some sort of rubber caps.

I would guess that the insulation would be stuffed up close to the floor rather than down lying on the belly pan - unless it has fallen - but I have no experience removing belly pan sheets so don't know for sure.

If you try an inspection camera I for one would be interested in hearing how it works out!

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Old 01-01-2015, 05:00 PM   #6
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It would be my assumption (which could make an a$$ out of me) that the locale that the trailer or motorhome is located in will have a direct correlation between rust or no rust.
If you're looking at a 70's trailer out in a field in Minnesota or Michigan with grass growing underneath it and the owners tells you of great trips they have had in the winter.....there's going to be rust.

The very same trailer in Arizona or Texas kept in a hangar and used for local trips will most likely be rust free.

The old cliche will most likely apply, but not allways; "You get what you pay for"

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Old 01-01-2015, 05:15 PM   #7
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For the camera toy need 1/4 inch…the little rubber plugs are a great idea. These cameras are from $110-$200 for one that has enough resolution to be useful. A 5 foot cable so realistically would need three to four holes as if you looked at most of he frame and was Ok…you could assume the rest was (I guess).

Even if the insulation is between the frame members i think you could see enough to tell about the general condition and as I understand it, the outriggers do not have insulation around them, so plenty to look at there. If you see rust/corrosion and the guy said no, then you could go to next step and do one or two bigger hatches so you could reach in and see about the side of the frame.

I got one in FL and one in SC…no telling where they lived other times….but that is a good start.
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Old 01-01-2015, 05:32 PM   #8
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enosburg , Vermont
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If you've done cars this is no problem. Set the deal with the stipulation the frame is usable. Buy a box of all alum 1/8 x 1/4 & 3/16 x 1/4 large head [1/2"head] rivets. Take a few 1/8 & 3/16 bits & cordless drill, rivet gun, flash light, 10x10 ish tarp to lay on and full cover eye protection. Lay out the tarp underneath, [unzip] bore out a few rivets down the ctr seam and out the X-members. This should let you see enough to assess the condition. Insulation WAS above the frame. That, dirt, dead rodents ect will fall in your face, hence the eye protection! Axles & gas lines will limit the area where you can lower the pan sections enough to peek so focus on rear third & area adjacent to the entry door. Re rivet the pan, you and the tarp caught the mess. You'll want the large head rivets to reattach the pan 'cause most of the existing holes in the alum will be weak or corroded out. Remember bore no holes in the main frame rails, X members only. The 3/16 rivets are in case the bore holes in the X members are corroded beyond the original 1/8. The last one I bought I gave the guy a hundred bucks to peek. If I did'nt buy it was his, if I did it went to the price. I'm doing the frame now!
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Old 01-01-2015, 05:47 PM   #9
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That, dirt, dead rodents ect will fall in your face, hence the eye protection!
Safety tip— Clear plastic full-face shield, please, not just eye protection. Getting stuff in your nose and mouth is no fun, either. And an apron, while you're at it, the bigger the better.
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Old 01-01-2015, 05:59 PM   #10
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Sounds like a plan…and a good one too. Hard or the seller to refuse. I figure from what I read…back and entrance most likely for problems. all this sounds like not all that much work…dirty yes, but I will sleep easier if I do this before I pull it home. Thanks. Someone mentioned "you get what you pay for"…i am a big believer in that, but on these things the price is all over the place…..likely some bargains in there along with the bad apples….but don't want to risk that too much.
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Old 01-01-2015, 09:46 PM   #11
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I would think that most owners won't take kindly to cutting holes or drilling out rivets to check for the frame rust. A gooseneck camera is a good idea but it probably wont get far enough in to see much. Having gone through my trailers frame over two years, and from reading others posts, the worst rot comes from the ends and the sides. The rear bath models since the water travels down the inner and outer skin and rots out the rear floor and then rusts the back part of the frame. It's probably the easiest to detect since the wood will be very dark to black and if the wood is rotten, there is probably some rust.

The other problem area will most likely be the outriggers. You can see punky wood under the cabinets and inside closets and under beds. Look especially around windows and where the plumbing vents are, they are probably well past dry rotted on the rubber that keeps the rainwater out. Outriggers are pretty easy to replace, on mine I cut out the rusty part and welded in new steel that I had locally fabricated for pretty cheap money. Frame work doesnt have to be super pretty, it just has to be structurally sound.

Ultimately, the only trailer you will buy that you don't have to worry about is one where the PO has already gone in and done the work to inspect it and fix it if necessary. In that case they will have pictures to show for it.

Here is an outrigger repair just forward of the front wheel.
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Old 01-02-2015, 02:43 AM   #12
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Well, Wingeezer above has found some that will permit inspection this way and I believe there are others…I will let you know. I have six possibilities and will ask all…..obviously will not do all (hopefully) but this will be one way to screen out. His way is simple enough and with a camera it is even less intrusive.

Your advice about where rust might be jibes with what others have found. Problem is that I see on here many instances of serious corrosion where there is no external evidence….those are the worrisome ones,. Others, where there are some obvious subfloor problems in limited areas may still be, for the most part, OK (repairable) underneath without a major overhaul. So good to ID those as well for a good buy as the early bad ones you don't want to touch.

As far as he inspection camera not seeing enough area….has a 5 foot cable. So an inspection hole 5 feet from the back goes to the back and to almost to the middle of a 26 footer…and side to side in that area. One more gets you almost all of the rest of the way…and might need a third one if looks like some issues. If someone will not let you drill three 1/4 inch holes in belly pan, they don't want you to see what is under there or don't know enough to have this all make sense…in either case, plenty more to look at…at least for me.
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Old 01-02-2015, 10:09 PM   #13
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The flexible tube scope is a great idea but only if it has a light on the end. We tried that option with our latest purchase but with out a light on the end so we were trying to shine a flashlight up beside the scope not very easy. No owner will ever let you add holes to their trailer...ever... but in a 40 plus year old trailer there is enough naturally occured gaps and holes to get a couple peaks. Honestly though you will get a pretty good idea of frame damage by looking at the body lines. Stand at the sides and look down the body looking good for any puckers, warbles or blistering outwards. Those are generally good signs of the frame, floor or C channel issues that will cost you money. Also stand on the back bumper and gently bounce up and down. If the bumper moves independenly of the shell you have rear end separation issues a common problem of the time. Fixable, but of course more money. I have three from the 60s and early 70s and the frame rot was very minimal really. I've seen pics of much worse frame damage posted on here of much newer ones. Take your time and bring extra eyes that can look past the love of the trailer. It easy to be blinded by their awesomeness.
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Old 01-03-2015, 02:45 AM   #14
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Well contrary to some opinions, so far I have had two of three sellers contacted say OK to opening up the belly wrap as Wingeezer has outlined for inspection. I offered no money but both are being done by a local repair shop and I have promised to restore the pan to the way I found it. I would rather do that than the scope as get a better look…holding the scope idea until I get someone who does not want the belly pan removed. A seller who has problems with three 1/4 inch holes in the belly that are resealed will not get any money from me. Who would buy a $15,000 pig in a poke? One born every minute as Mr. Barnum said.

My scope has a light. Not sure what use an unlighted one does as in most instances the space where the scope goes is pretty dark. I wish mine had better lights and I see some now that do.

As far as visual inspection from the outside….that is OK as far as it goes, but frankly it does not go very far. Read around on here just a bit and you will see many stories of trailers with a health visual that had death damage underneath. If you have something broken under there, it likely will show, but you can have extensive corrosion but not yet broken you will not…which is what happens a lot. But 10 hard bumps and 1,000 mile later…bingo.

Interesting that I also have one seller who has decent frame shots taken as they were doing work on the trailer two years ago and it looks fine….i guess i would have posted those in the ad. I guess that goes to the point that some (many?) don't realize the importance of this…kind of dazzled by the beauty…happens in human love too. Twice for me….well maybe three times.
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