An Update on Our Hard Sided Pop Up Camper Trailer Restore – The Outside Fixes

An Update on Our Hard Sided Pop Up Camper Trailer Restore – The Outside Fixes

As the end of summer approaches, Dave and I are getting closer and closer to our much anticipated Canada trip with some friends and family from the Seattle area. And we are so far from being ready.

The camper isn’t ready. Dave’s passport expires way too soon – he’s actually out getting a photo for his new passport as I type. We have a ton to do.

With that said, I figured now would be a great time to give you guys an update on what we have already done with the camper (as opposed to actually working on what still needs to be done, procrastination makes things more fun).

Feel free to leave a comment letting me know if I’ve completely scared you away from an Apache camper like ours.

Fixing Plastic with Plastic

Our camper is a hard sided pop up camper. The sides are all plastic and sadly, they were in need of some serious help.

Let me tell you, the first time we had a big rain I almost cried when I saw how much water leaked in. I was very anti-our-camper at this point and thought we had made a terrible mistake.

But I kept myself busy in the meantime and channeled my frustration into getting the duct tape off of the siding. God bless Goo Gone and patience, because it took a lot of both. Meanwhile, Dave started in on the broken siding.

With a bit of research and a ton of help from the Apache Preservation Society Facebook group, Dave set off on fixing up the cracks, holes, and other random issues with the siding. To do this, we had to seek out MEK-Methyl Ethyl Ketone, (which we finally found at Lowes) and Abs Pellets from EBay.

Dave used the MEK to chemically melt down the Abs Pellets, which turns it into LABS (liquid ABS), also called ABS slurry, so he could rebuild parts of our siding. And there were many parts to fix.

He used fiberglass mesh and painter’s tape to form and rebuild almost every corner, part of the roof, and many of the edges to make the camper watertight by just “painting” on the LABS.

Let me know in the comments below if anyone is interested in more information on repairing the sides with LABS (liquid ABS). We can expand pretty well on the subject.

Apache Replacement Parts LLC, Our New Favorite Place to Spend Money

Once the siding leaks were taken care of, we went to Apache Replacement Parts LLC to take care of a few other problems. We love Apache Replacement Parts. Quite simply, it’s the only place we can find parts.

All four bed-ends needed to be replaced to keep water out of the beds. The bed-ends are riveted onto the bed slide. Not screwed. Not nailed. Riveted.

Not to worry though, this just meant that Dave got to buy a new toy – a hand riveter. We drilled out each rivet, replaced and re-riveted the bed-ends with non-broken ones.

I have no idea what we will ever need a riveter again for, but it’s a pretty neat little tool. I highly recommend buying one if you ever have the need.

We also purchased a new living hinge – the cloth hinge that holds the siding to the camper. The previous owners somehow decided it would be a grand idea to attach on of the bed sides to the camper with an actual hinge. Like a door hinge.

This was not smart. A lot of water got in through the gap the hinge left and every time we moved that side, more siding broke which meant more needed to be fixed. The hinge had to be replaced.

Living hinges are not easy things to install. It looks innocent enough, but you have to pull, tug, push, and threaten violence to get this thing through the siding channels. Dave ended up lubing it up with Vaseline and using pliers to pull the hinge through, all the while trying not to rip the cloth.

The Lift System and Its Abundance of Issues

With the outside now in decent shape, we needed to attack the lift system. Anytime we put the camper up or took it down, one side would move and the other would flip us the bird, merely tilting the roof instead of bringing it down evenly. Only after a ton of finagling could we eventually coax the stubborn side to move.

This wasn’t going to work for camping. Imagine driving hours to the perfect campsite, starting to set up the camper, and then it doesn’t open. Dave is just too tall to sleep in the car.

Initially we worried that there was an issue with the chain mechanism, but we decided to be optimistic and just clean the lift arms with some dry silicone. While this helped a ton, it isn’t the actual problem. (I’m using present tense because we still have this problem…)

Our gear boxes are broken. Both of them. When we turn the gears to raise or lower the top, they turn all funky and it makes the chains pull at different rates.

We tried to repair the boxes with some JB Weld we bought from Home Depot. Waste of money. The fix didn’t even make it two turns of the crank before breaking the weld. Back to the drawing board.

What Still Needs to be Done

Also known as: What We Are Currently Putting Off

Apache Replacement Parts, LLC has gearboxes for sale. They aren’t cheap and we aren’t sure how much more money we want to put into the camper – a bit was spent on the inside which I’ll go over in a separate post.

After removing the gearboxes, cleaning them off and using lithium grease to re-grease all the gears, Dave noticed that there are only two carriage bolts holding each gearbox in place. There should be four.

We are thinking that this is contributing to the excess movement of the gears causing them to break the boxes. Hopefully, if we replace the two missing bolts, we might be able to get away with keeping the original gearboxes. I’m sure we’ll get this done soon…

The last task that we need to do before our big trip is to repack the wheel bearings. I have no idea what this means, but apparently it needs to be done for safety reasons. I leave these things up to Dave.

The Countdown Has Already Begun

So we really only have two big fixes to finish on our camper. Remember when I talked about time management in my lessons of retirement post? Apparently that’s something we suck at. Because we only have about 15 days until we take off for Banff and Jasper.

We’ll get it done though. We both work better under the pressure of a deadline. Luckily, the inside is pretty much ready to go after we finished a few non-negotiable tasks, like cleaning…and more cleaning.

Compared to what our camper could have been, it was actually taken care of pretty well by the previous owners. I’ve seen pictures of ones that are much worse. And after Dave’s outside fixes, I’m no longer fighting back tears every time I look at her.

She needs a name though. Mini-Blue Beast? Just Apache? Any suggestions would be helpful!

Are you interested in getting a vintage popup camper like ours? Let me know if you have any questions! We have learned a ton about where to find information on restoring campers like these.

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