Pop-up Camper Rebuild Project – Part 3

25 Aug

Continuing Pop-up Camper Rebuild Project – Part 2

The Outside


The paint was in decent shape but the pin stripping looked lousy and there were some significant holes in the exterior that needed to be patched.  Most of the are hardware was already removed from my previous work.  It was as good a time to take care of repainting it as I was going to get.

Prepping the exterior

Removing the pin striping

There are good ways to remove pin stripping and bad.  I already had a little experience with this from another project, so I already had most of the tools.  Aggressively sanding or wire brushing the pin striping off of the sheet metal is a bad idea.  What you will end up doing is stripping the sticker, paint and a good bit of the metal.  If you are attempting such a feat, I would suggest getting a 3M Adhesive Eraser Wheel.  It’s not cheap, but it works quite well.  Alternatively, there is a cheaper wheel by Astro Pneumatic, but my experience is that the 3M wheel lasts longer and leaves less residue behind.  Both work fine in a cordless drill at low RPM. They just roll the stickers off without damaging the paint.

Cleaning the surface

The first step is washing it with a good cleaner.  My go-to for painting projects is TSP, but anything that doesn’t leave behind a residue will work.  If you are just touching up a newer paint in good condition, you can skip the next step.

My paint was not new and the camper was not garage kept.  I used Lacquer Thinner and medium grade Steel Wool to scrub the exterior thoroughly.  The lacquer is pretty vicious stuff so make sure to use heavy gloves.  It dissolves any left over adhesive from the pin stripping that the TSP didn’t clean off as well as just about anything else picked up from the road (tar).  You certainly don’t want to scrub too hard or you will strip off the paint.  The idea is to soften it just enough for the steel wool to remove the sun damaged surface.

YIKES! Ran my hand over this fella when was working with the steel wool. I’m not really fond of being surprised by spiders so finding a Black Widow with my fingers is definitely not on my list of favorite activities. I’m very glad this one was already dead, but I wish that detail had registered before my reflexes crashed me into the shelf to my rear.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on the perspective, I uncovered several pin holes in my siding at this step. Most where places where small pebbles had impacted the siding, punching tiny holes.  At first I thought they were from rocks kicked up while traveling, but several of them were on the back.  😕 After finding what I think were line trimmer marks, I think these little holes were from rocks kicked up by a lawn mower.  A couple of the worst holes were places where the aluminium had corroded from the inside, leaving nothing but a thin layer of paint, which the Lacquer happily removed.  😯 I would have never found these spots without the lacquer step.

Fixing the siding

The best fix for the damaged spots was epoxy.  One spot needing repair was a hole about 2 inches wide from some sort of impact.  It looked like a small rod had punched right through the side.

I sanded each of the spots down to the metal to get a good bond.  The large hole needed a little special treatment.  There were several jagged edges that needed to sanded, trimmed or hammered down.   Once done, there was still a large gap that needed support, to give it form while the epoxy set.  I used a regular fiberglass repair kit for this particular spot (and two smaller holes on the back).  It took two layers of fiberglass.  The last layer of fiberglass needed heavy sanding.  As a word of caution, fiberglass reinforced epoxy is not watertight.  You need to sand, and apply epoxy over top, until there is no exposed fiberglass.  It took three more layers of straight epoxy to cover the fiberglass layers to my satisfaction

The 3 larger holes consumed nearly all the epoxy in my kit.  The rest of the holes were all small pin holes so I used a couple of small tubes of 5-minute epoxy, applied in two layers with a firm brush.  You will need to do you best to work some of the epoxy inside the hole for a good seal.  These also needed sanding, but the layer is thin so the goal is to blend the edges.

And the primer…

As you can see, I’ve sealed and covered everything to stop the over-spray.  I didn’t think to take a pic of the epoxy work 🙄 so what you are seeing here is after the primer coat.  The primer needs to be a self etching primer similar to this if you have any metal exposed.  It’s probably a good idea, either way when working with aluminum.  Bad things happen if the wrong type of paint is directly applied to aluminium.  Latex actually has a chemical reaction with the surface of the metal that causes gas to build up between the paint and surface.  Of course, if you want your siding to look more like bubble wrap, feel free.

You can see the large hole just faintly if look closely along the bend on the left side.

I actually used some leftover Eastwood’s I had sitting around.  That was a big mistake.  Their product is great, but it was about three years old and had some lumps that clogged my sprayer 😡 .  I had to clean the filter out a few times during the the painting.  The filter I used to fill the sprayer was intended to remove debris and larger lumps but hundreds of small lumps passed right through.

More Sanding

Once the primer was applied, it was back to the sanding.  Actually, smoothing textured siding with sandpaper doesn’t really work.  I used ultra-fine steel wool, but the point was the same.  The primer needs to be smooth.  Regardless, I was still sore from the cleaning and this step took even more work.  If you recall that old primer, some of those lumps/specks passed through the sprayer and had to be buffed out of the primer coat before I could apply any other paint.

The Finish

Taken after re-installing the hardware.

The final painting went rather well.  The paint was new and considerably thinner than the primer.  I had multiple coats applied in a couple hours.  I actually spent more time waiting for my tiny compressor to catch up than I did painting.  The bulk of the siding got 2-3 coats.  There were a few places that I put on 4-5 coats.  They just seemed like they needed a bit more.

I was not able to completely shield the frame from the over-spray (without a lot of work).  Once the siding was finished, I sanded a few rust spots and touched up the frame with a couple cans of Rustoleum flat black.

The Hardware and Furniture


Most of the hardware, like you see pictured above, installed easily.  You need to get putty tape to seal the edges.  Don’t skimp; There are plenty of horror stories about the knock-offs and the good stuff isn’t very expensive.  I used the Colormetrics White 1″.

Here you see the reflective pin strip I used around the perimeter of the camper. I didn’t want a repeat of the hole I patched in the front. You will also note the 2 large repaired spots where the defective bike rack had wallowed out 2 large holes. These also required fiberglass, but I didn’t bother smoothing it out, since I was planning to put the bike rack back once I fixed/modified it.

The aluminum that rims the top was another story.  That extra 1/32″ made a big difference.  The bottom of the trim has a channel that slips down over the tops of the walls. It was designed for a snug fit over the wall.  The sides had a small layer of foam between the siding and the wood, making it possible to carefully compress the foam and slip the channel over top with only a little tap from a rubber mallet.  The two end walls didn’t have that foam and were a chore.  I had to sand a taper on the wood edge to get it started. Even then, I had to use thin chisel between the wall and aluminum to work the channel down over the wood panel without chipping it.  There was no pressing it on by hand.  It took significant pressure with firm rubber mallet strikes the entire way.  The channel had to stretch just a little to fit.

The view from the front. You can clearly see my repair with the shiny final coat of paint, but there was no way I was going to achieve the original texture or automotive grade finish with the tools I was using.

The furniture went back in quickly.  The furniture was in good shape and designed in modular fashion. Most of the furniture just had to be placed and screwed into place.  I used fresh screws and only had to rebuild a few water damaged spots in the corners of the storage compartments.  There where a couple places I had to modify because of thicker plywood that used, but they were easy trims.

That’s all folks

That’s about it for the trailer rebuild.  Next time I you get to see how I patched together the canvas.  Until next, God Bless!

Pop-up Camper Rebuild Project – Part 4 (coming soon)


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