How to Repair, Remodel, and Modernize Older RV's and Campers

With today’s high gasoline prices those huge motor homes and long tow behind RV’s are more expensive to transport than ever before. Because of this trend, smaller tow behind campers are coming back in vogue. The problem is a new smaller camper can still cost well over ten thousand dollars and this is out of reach of many of us thrifty campers. If you are one of these people an answer to the problem is to remodel and update an older camper to your own particular requirements.

Looking around, it seems as if there are many older campers for sale at bargain prices. Some are still in great shape structurally but have cosmetic flaws. Since rebuilding several of these great little camping conveniences I’ve learned a lot about how to update and adapt them to modern times. Most of the time you’ll spend more on the renovations than on the original purchase of the used camper. But since they are small materials are not neede in any large number. For instance, a few sheets of paneling will recover the entire inside for a new appearence.

When looking for a camper to restore or remodel, check for leaks in the roof and for deteriorated floor or wall areas. Discolored ceilings and walls usually indicate leaks. If windows are cracked or broken these can be replaced without too much trouble or expense. Look beneath the camper at the frame and underside of the floor. It’s usually a good idea to replace the tires unless the previous owner can attest to their age. These tires can appear to be in fine shape but may be rotten. The success of the first trip in your custom rebuilt beauty might depend on these tires.

Most of the older campers used two by two’s as wall studs. Removing and replacing the paneling is basically the same as in a home. Now is the time to add extra outlets or plumbing to modernize your camper. If you are intending to install a microwave oven be sure it’s on a circuit without any other high amp appliances. New lighting fixtures, switches , cable access, computer terminals, etc. should be planned ahead. A new breaker box is often needed to service modern requirements. Again, the amount of new wire and new outlets, switches, and light fixtures canbe bought for a minimum of cash.

Electronics are cheap now, so think about adding a surround sound system while remodeling. My latest remodeled camper is fifteen feet long. The sofa/bed is located on one side. On the other side a closet was centered across from the sofa. I cut the closet down to counter height to hold a fourteen inch flat screen TV. For sixty dollars a 100 watt surround sound with DVD was installed on a shelf over the TV. The speakers were mounted in the perfect places and the wires covered by the new paneling.

Another plus of having a small RV is heating and cooling. For about one hundred dollars you can install a small window air conditioner that will keep you cool on the hottest days. For about twenty five dollars you can purchase an electric heater for the coolest nights. A small refrigerator; about eighty dollars. So rather than repair a damaged device, most of the time a new one can be purchased for not much difference in the repair costs. Usually these newer electric devices are more energy efficient and help from overloading the breakers also.

Plenty of storage space is a plus. Adding extra cabinets can make the job of keeping things organized a snap. Always keep one drawer for small tools and one for first aid. I use one cabinet just for storing my DVD’s for the surround sound system. Most small RV’s have some outside storage areas to store jacks and necessary stabilizing blocks. It’s best to have a trial run through setting up your camper before you actually go on the road. Adding an extra stabilizer or two may be necessary.

Usually the floor space doesn’t require a lot of covering so choose carpet or flooring of your choice. Even though camping has it’s share of dirt being transferred inside, you can always buy a new piece of carpet or vinyl to put down. Usually carpet dealers will sell you large remnants for about twenty dollars.

The older RV’s used copper tubing for the waterlines and this is fine. However, there are new flexible water line materials if you are worried about movement causing leaks. RV toilets are expensive. If you can’t repair the old one or want to add one, some used auto parts junkyards have old toilets from junked RV’s priced around fifty dollars. Get one out of one of the fancy one’s if you can.

The exterior can be repainted with very little paint required. If you don’t have a friend to do this for you, be sure to practice spraying on a similar material first. Aluminum can be cleaned and polished to help its appearance with a little elbow grease and special cleaners.

The seams on the roofs of some of the older RV’s have seams that are prone to leakage over long periods of time. A product called Peel N Stick, composed of aluminum backed with a thick sticky adhesive can be applied over these seams to prevent leakage. Clean the area thoroughly before applying this sealant and do it on a very warm day for best adhesion. Home Depot, Lowe’s , or other major building supply dealers will have this product. I always keep some of this wonderful leak sealer in my camper storage area for emergency use.

A thorough check of your tail lights, brake lights, and running lights is very important. Make sure the ground wire is making good contact with the frame as this is notorious for causing lighting problems. Once again, a new lighting system isn’t very expensive and some of the new ones are easier adapted to the newer vehicles. Also check the electric brake system if it has one.

My friends and I help each other to remodel our campers. It’s a lot of fun to update these little beauties and even more fun when you take them on the first outing. You’ll be surprised at how much work a well stocked camper will save you when preparing for a camping trip. When properly repaired and modernized these wonderful old campers will give you years of comfortable, economical, and enjoyable, service. Live long and camp often.