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Old 10-19-2014, 10:01 PM   #1
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Opinions on fixing this dent

I got my 61' Ambassador in my shop Friday evening. The first project, fixing this dent (The rest of the camper has just maybe 10 small dings plus normal stone dings up front). I can get it out with my air driven suction cup dent puller, but I will need to use some leverage from the back to make it stay.
I am changing the Furnace with either new, or newer and the water heater for a new tankless, so I will have those openings to deal with as well.
I think I can get it out with some pressure from the back as pulling from the front. Maybe even drill some holes lined up with above rivet and use those points to pull from, then just fill with the fake Buck rivets.
If I can get it really straight, I'll just deal with the deep scratches. If it's not straight enough, I'm considering some kind of strip, or a diamond plate strip kind of thing.
Or am I better off just changing the panel? Or changing the panel just up to that first major rivet line and tuck under there, not having to deal with the windows? And assuming I went that rout, where would I get the panel? Should I just buy the stock and make it? And is it ok to use those fake buck rivets?
Any opinions on how to handle this?
Note. This dent, the axles and the polishing is the worst of the project. The rest if it will be fun for me personally.
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Old 10-19-2014, 10:28 PM   #2
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Opinions on fixing this dent

Here was my solution for hiding dents.

I know it isn't for everyone, but it worked for me.

I used bedliner (black) only on the bottom after straightening the aluminum, and I used a little body filler under the red after straightening the aluminum.

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Old 10-19-2014, 10:32 PM   #3
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Opinions on fixing this dent

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If you were to get creative with some kind of limited paint scheme.....

There are a few people in the country who could get that dent straight enough to polish and look good but people with that level of metal working skill are few and far between particularly when dealing with aluminum that needs to be shrunk.

The most practical fix if you want a polished aluminum finish is going to be replacing the panel.

There are several threads that cover this solution, here is one.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f60/1948-liner-resurrection-113774.html
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Old 10-19-2014, 10:51 PM   #4
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That actually looks like a good candidate for an overlay panel repair. No one would even know.
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Old 10-19-2014, 10:52 PM   #5
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Opinions on fixing this dent

Good call on the overlay.

Would you overlay the entire panel or a partial?
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Old 10-20-2014, 01:49 AM   #6
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The correct way of fixing this type of damage is to remove the entire panel, flatten panel and use as a templet for a new one. Simply overlaying is not the solution to this major skin damage. You have to remember the exterior skin is part of the strength of your over all trailer. A closer look of your photo shows damage also to one maybe two vertical ribs, one would not know the extent of this type of damage without removing the skin. Again by simply overlaying new skin over old one could not determine the extent of your rib damage. Your point about replacing your water heater ext... also is another reason to replace the entire panel. I often see these old service holes covered up with patches and it never looks correct. The last point should be made as to if you are going to polish your trailer, it is much faster in the long run to polish new skin then old. If you are going to replace the skin make sure you only use .032 2024 Alclad, not 5052 like many do, you have to remember this panel is under stress and the 5052 does not perform like the 2024. Hope this information is helpful!
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Old 10-20-2014, 06:49 AM   #7
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Todd made some very good points(as he always does). I want to add. Your description of what you are planning sounds very much like the approach one takes to a car body. If you drill holes and use a puller you will create the opposite effect. You will also have horrible holes mushrooming outward. You need to be very careful working aluminum since once it bends, it always remembers.
I also read that all this stuff is cosmetic stuff. In your trailer there are floor issues and frame issues you have yet to discover. They are much more important than polishing and dents. You don't build a house by picking out roof shingles and window treatments, you first put in a good, solid foundation.
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Old 10-20-2014, 07:26 AM   #8
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I agree on removal, straighten, template then re-install using Buck rivets, NO QUESTION! Plus to fill those holes from the furnace and Water heater. That is a BIG job on the biggest panel on the trailer. :-(
I did consider "Partial painting". I was a full-time bodyman/painter out of high school until I turned 25 yrs old, even spending a couple years in a custom shop.
My biggest concern, the mud getting vibrated loose as that large of a panel, in the open field like that, sketchy IMO...
Layover??? Wouldn't I have to go under whatever panel is above the "Laid-over" panel? If not, normal rain could get it after time and it would be easy to spot with a seam pointed up...
The Ribs (I assume you mean the alum. Frame structure of the shell) are FINE! I can clearly see how it "jumped over the ribs" as I was able to quickly pull the front part of the dent out. I have an inspection camera and can clearly see the front rib is 100% fine, and from the outside, that was my biggest concern as far as the Ribs went.
Vinstream's point follows my thinking on the holes for appliances. The inside is basically camp-ready besides "updates" I want to make. I really didn't want to gut the thing. Obviously if I change the panel, that whole side of the interior will need to come out. Even for good access for straightening it would need to come out.
If it isn't "perfect", on that side I think I can live with it (Had the damage been on the curbside, I wouldn't of bought it). I admit, on my past restore project, perfection was everything, but I am trying to get away from that whole need of "Perfection" on this project. I want it REALLY shiny and everything working perfect with the inside looking AMAZING, but if this dent is wavy, and the front has those small stone dings, I really do think it won't bother me that much.
Have any of you seen the diamond plate rolls? It's a very thin alum, with automotive adhesive tape on the back. The tape is thick enough that I could even go over rivets without having to effect that "plate".
One last question. What is the difference between the 2024Alcad and the 5052? Are they both Alclad? I read about the old campers used one type of panel and the new units after 82-ish use a different type of panel that doesn't buff as nice. And is the .032 thickness FOR SURE correct? What is the gauge of the belly pan?
TRULY, thanks for the advice! I look forward to my travels as I will be retiring in just a few years (Old dudes don't get paid well being a local weekend Rockstar, and I'll be 50 next july, so retirement is just around the corner for me).
Fixing with mud and painting IS FOR SURE my simplest fix! My concern as the curbside is perfect and I wouldn't want it painted on that side, is that it would look goofy with paint on just the one panel. I LOVE how you did the red! How long ago did you make the repair? How many-ish miles have you racked up towing the unit? Is the mud holding up?
THANKS again guys!
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Old 10-20-2014, 07:34 AM   #9
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Oh, I can pull the dents out with my slide suctioncup tool. The "Holes" wouldn't mushroom as your thinking because of how I would be using it. I would pull the dent from the outside, using the holes to finish. But I TOTALLY lack extensive experience doing Alum., so you very well could be right...
I have torches, so I could do a little shrinking if needed, but I really don't think it's as bad as it looks (well, it is and it isn't).
I'm sure there will be some floor issues, but I think I have the 3 spots needing addressed. I own one of those inspection cameras, I've checked it out REALLY well. 99% of the floor is literally perfect and appears to be factory. The way I proceed will be determined by how this dent finishes out and the quality of the polish job. It's hard to explain my logic, but I do understand what you're saying Frank! And I TOTALLY thank you for your thoughts!
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Old 10-20-2014, 07:36 AM   #10
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Oh, because of the wheel well being below, I will be pulling down as it comes out, eliminating any "Stretch".
Well, I HOPE!
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Old 10-20-2014, 07:57 AM   #11
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Opinions on fixing this dent

In that particular picture, the masking paper is still on the ground so it hasn't been on there very long...

The filler used under the red will last for decades. It is perhaps a sixteenth of an inch thick at its thickest point.

In order for the filler to be reliable, most all of the dent will need to come out.

I have used filler over aluminum on freight trailers for three decades, if done half way right it will last.

There is no doubt in my mind that the right way to fix the panel is to remove and replace it, but, the difference in doing it right, and making things work is days to weeks.

In any case, if the fix is to replace the panel, there is no harm in molesting the panel for a lesser repair.
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Old 10-20-2014, 11:51 PM   #12
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Studioman,
Weather you realize it or not you have a part of history with both your vintage and size (both very desirable in my opinion) and with that comes a certain responsibility to restore/repair.... With that said it is your trailer and your free to do with it as you wish, however, many would desire you to replace/restore your trailer close to the way it came from the factory or to better than factory condition. You do raise valid point(s) on perfection and use. I would like to point out that steel and aluminum are very different to work with. The type of aluminum your trailer was built with is .032 2024 alclad that was used by aircraft manufactures because of it strength and durability. It is nearly imposable to pull out dents due to this type of aluminum will stretch way beyond most alloys before tearing or ripping. If your trailer was maid from 5052 H32 it would of teared like a can opener under the same type of damage. The problem is you cannot un-stretch and fill it like steal in automotive body work.
Alclad is an additional process that is done at the mill were pure aluminum powder is heat blown onto the aluminum and then rolled several times ensuring the bond to the 2024. The reason to do this is to prevent the core aluminum (2024 in this case) to not corrode where the alclad becomes oxidized to prevent further damage to the core material. The reason alclad polishes so nice is this treatment of pure aluminum. They do not make 5052, 3003, 6061 in alclad because it would not be exposed to the same conditions. You sometimes will find it in 7000 series aluminum. You asked about thickness... the body of your trailer sides/roof sections are .032, your end cape were .040 and then stretched into shape so the thickness varies but runs a tad over .032. Belly pans were .020, .250, and .032 i believe based on what was cheap and available at the time of production. Most are a single wide with no seams this type of aluminum came from semi trailer production and is still available today but is hard to order. I like to work with .040 on belly pans because they form better and dent less. I run the belly section in three parts, The rail out to contact of side skin/floor connection on both sides and then one section that runs between the two rails covering up the side pieces making the seam at the rails. You should not run anything (electrical plumbing ext,) from rails out to floor side skin connection leaving the center section full of things (tanks, electrical, plumbing) that if needed the center section could be removed and worked on. Many buck rivet two sections together down the middle and replace like the factory but this is does not allow for future access if needed. Hope that explains more...
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Old 10-21-2014, 07:06 AM   #13
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Ok, so let's say I DID replace the entire panel, or even just up to that first horizontal member. I do like I could use this piece for the few repairs I want/need to make on the belly. I also get the polishing on that panel would be a huge time saver...
So my question would be, "Can I use the "Olympic Rivets" to put the panel back on?
And, what does it mean to do "A panel lay-over"?
I got the old furnace out last night.That vertical member isn't even touched. Whatever he hit, it rolled right over that edge. And the "dent" in front of it came out MUCH better than I even hoped by using "Paintless Dent repair" techniques. I get the "dent" gets worse as it crossed over that Vertical member, and it's harder to get to.
I was considering drilling out all the wheel well rivets tonight so I can access the dent from the back. If I decide to change the panel, I'd have to drill them out anyways.
What type of rivet I can use to install a replacement panel will be a HUGE factor in deciding which way to go...
Thanks for all your help man!
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Old 10-21-2014, 07:15 AM   #14
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Do you by chance know the belly thickness from the factory?
Thanks again!
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