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Old 11-05-2013, 08:38 PM   #1
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1977 31' Excella 500
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Frame rail is splitting

Well, I set out to quickly drop a new fridge in my unit and now I find myself with the belly pan open and dealing with outriggers and frame rails! Wow...

Anyway, after ripping things open, I think that I've traced the sagging/bowing floor in my fridge compartment to the worst cas scenario.. The frame rail itself seems to be failing. Basically, it looks like the frame is a box and the box has come unhinged. So the side with the outriggers is sagging.

Here's a pic...

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So I guess the plan is to open things up even more. I have some screw jacks coming and I hope to use those under the outside outrigger edges to get the shell back up and lever the side of the frame rail back up at the same time. Hope that works out to close up the gap. Then I guess I'll have it welded back into a box.

Will I need further reinforcement to keep things squared up? Or should closing the box back up suffice? I also plan to have a backer plate for a rust hole patch to be welded inside the tube.
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Old 11-06-2013, 10:50 AM   #2
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Gotta say not enough information - it does look like a popped button weld is visible... keep digging, nesting C profile beams or adding an L profile was a trick used, some gap may have been intentional.

I've Troubleshot sagging outriggers... I had similar sagging along the axle mounting plate on my '73, the plate was merely tack/button welded at long intervals along the top and a combination of ancient road hazard strikes and rust & ice building up behind the "lightened-with-holes" axle plate curled the top edge down from the leverage the outriggers placed on it where the plate was weakened by the lightening holes. That 3/16" gap turned into almost 3/4" droop at the edge of the C-Channel. I trimmed the outrigger to accommodate the warped plate, welded plate and outrigger up - shown is after POR-15 finishing & floor back on.

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Old 11-06-2013, 11:11 AM   #3
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Wow, that sounds very VERY similar to what I am looking at.

I plan to open it up a bit more and will post more photos and details.

I just had a neighbor who welds look at it and he suggested a potentially simple fix... He said "why don't you bolt it?" Maybe also weld but bolting it seemed like it could aid in holding things in the right position. But I guess unless I use stainless, that's just one more thing to rust out.

I am hoping that jacking will close up some of that space so I can fix it permanently so the sagging via the rail bending outward doesn't continue. Maybe I can use clamps to aid in closing up the opening.
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Old 11-06-2013, 01:14 PM   #4
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We are in the process of removing the water tank for better access to inspect and repair.

A neighbor who welds suggested using bolts to pull and hold the rails back together. Seems like a potentially good idea though something else that can rust out unless I use stainless. Also more holes to weaken the metal. Toying with the idea or adapting it and using metal channel to create clamps around the rail with bolts on the outside. That would get it lined up for welding.
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Old 11-06-2013, 04:28 PM   #5
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When i pulled my shell and took up the floor, i found my main frame rails were actually cracked next to a weld. I had outrigger sag too, and couldnt figure it out til then. I think since you dont have the convenience to fully inspect, you'll just have to peel back what you can and see if you can get a weld in ther?
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Old 11-06-2013, 04:51 PM   #6
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Well, we got the water tank out and have a pretty good view. Basically, the piece with all the holes in it, which faces the water tank, is loose in most places along the rail.

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Old 11-06-2013, 06:07 PM   #7
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That actually doesnt seem so bad... You can probably just tack that back on. That plate on mine was just in one of the sections- although it was the section in front of my water tank- not the section with the water tank....You might be able to see the way my frame was in these pics- I couldn't find a pic of JUST that section.

My concern for you is whether or not the flex/sag that you have has caused cracks that are causing more severe outrigger sag, like mine. I may not have found mine if I didn't have it all torn apart.

The last picture you can see where the crack was- I marked it with white paint. The crack is actually in the cross member, by the weld that attaches it to the frame rail- not the frame rail itself.

Hope that helps.
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Old 11-06-2013, 08:55 PM   #8
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Wow thanks for posting that pic and your experience. I have pretty good access to at least the side of the frame and cross members facing the water tank area since we got that out. I will inspect it with a fine tooth comb.
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:16 PM   #9
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I'm a bit confused about the outrigger design that they are selling these days. There is a notch on the outrigger and I can't figure out what for. Anyone know?

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Old 11-06-2013, 09:44 PM   #10
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Where is the notch? Are you looking at that picture as a single outrigger? To me, that looks to be 2 outriggers (a top view next to a side view).
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:51 PM   #11
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No that is a single outrigger. Here is a comparison from out of doors mart

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To me, it seemed like the wide body labeled outrigger is more like mine but talking to odmrv and airstream Los Angeles they assured me that the outrigger part specified I my service manual -- 400027 -- has a notch. I couldn't figure it out. I think it is an updated design.
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:58 PM   #12
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Yeah- I see that now... I have no idea. You're right though- it doesnt look right. I made mine, and I didn't make them like that!
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Old 11-07-2013, 12:13 AM   #13
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Is por15 the right way to go to cover exposed metal? Some of the directions for prep I've seen seem really involved. My trailer is somewhat stationary indoors so washing off some of the pretreatments will be a bit more of a chore. Also, not all sides are going to be covered... Just where exposed. So that means just one side of the rail on the street side, for example.

What about alternatives like ospho for neutralizing the rust?
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Old 11-07-2013, 06:10 AM   #14
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I have oshpo and por15. The process for por15 is to use Marine Clean (which is basically a great degreaser), then Metal Prep (which is like Oshpo). YES, you need to do these to prep metal for painting- either with POR15 or you can go a cheaper way and just prime and paint with Rustoleum.

The original paint on my frame did not appear to even be primed. It was probably just degreased and sprayed black.

Since you are not POR15ing the whole frame, you are not really benefiting by the full potential of the product so it's your choice on how you want to spot treat. I'd say that degrease, ospho and Rustoleum prime & paint would be a great, cheap way for you to spot treat.
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:39 AM   #15
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It's called 'paint-over-rust" for a reason as it needs grease/oil free texture to key into else it might/can peel off like the shrink wrap on a box of chocolates.

POR-15 is a really thin paint (a little will go a long way) and the thin body carries it deep into the surface pores. It has some fierce carrier solvents that then evaporate to allow the real cure to kick in that gives it the hard-as-glass finish. Using a wire brush then the 3M-style abrasive pad biscuits should have rusted areas ready to paint - it's the unrusted areas that cause problems.

I gotta note here the frame paint on my 72/73 trailers is/was more a waxy creosote-asphalt undercoat than paint judging by the throw-off from the wire brush - and even bright metal surfaces ran yellow/brown when hit with carb cleaner spray from the residues left behind (I used about eight cans of Chemtool B-12) Originally I tried not to shell-off my trailer so did my frame twice, once with floor-on and the second time with shell-off, the areas slathered with POR over decent original paint from the first time would peel away in large flakes when the wire brush hit it. I'd guess the POR-15 carrier solvents melted some of the OEM paint altering the finished product, painting only the rusted areas and letting the catalysts kick then overpainting the entire area would be a worthy step.

However there was no/low new corrosion on overcoated areas compared to the inside ladder frame (protected?) areas I simply wiped down and sprayed with Rustoleum.

The Metal Prep product precipitates zinc crystals onto smooth bare iron to give POR-15 something to bite to, done correctly it leaves the surface resembling 1000-grit sandpaper. If you get enthusiastic and have a bunch of bare unrusted metal its the way to go.

Beware of the single-step rust conversion paints - I've seen the plastic finish result be completely undercut leaving one big blister of shiny black paint on my truck differential cover, to the point it almost perforated in just a few years.

Ah, so... Here is a link to my latest resto thread for your amusement.
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Old 11-15-2013, 05:13 PM   #16
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Well, we got one side frame rail welded up today and also took a lot of time aligning the back plate with the holes to do so. I am beyond pleased with the way it came out and how much torsional strength it has now. It's a night and day difference. I think the rail got straightened out more than I could have hoped in the process. One outrigger ahead of the one we are replacing is firmly pushing up into the floor now whereas before there was a gap on top from where we had jacked up the flooring around it. We also strengthened the top weld on that one. If the trailer were jacked up another 8 to 10 feet I feel I could swing from it! And I'm not a little guy.

Tomorrow we install the new outrigger at the wheel well. We mocked it up with how we will hold it in place while doing so and it should go in nicely. Just a bit worried about welding up against the subfloor as it is sandwiched back in where we won't have a lot of access as the wheel well cover is still in place and sits above the outrigger and floor in that area.

It's my first time welding and it has been going quite well, even though I set my pants on fire.
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Old 02-09-2014, 03:29 PM   #17
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Tallguy...did you MIG weld the outriggers and frame? Just wondering. Thanks!

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Old 02-09-2014, 10:00 PM   #18
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Yep, I did just use a basic mig welder from Harbor Freight. It was their basic model that runs off 120v so that was convenient. I was also using a Lincoln welder that was loaned to me to learn on but had to return that before being able to get to the outrigger. But I was pleasantly surprised at how well the harbor freight unit worked -- though I'm such a novice I'm not sure how much that observation is worth. It was a lot harder to do the vertical welding than I expected (vs my practicing flat). It didn't end up looking as pretty as I would have liked but it seems strong as heck.
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