Fleetwood diesel pusher needs full roof replacement.
While working on a customer’s travel trailer, I was asked to assist with the pre-purchase inspection of his new motorhome. It’s a 2006 Fleetwood Bounder special Nascar edition. These Class A RVs have a rear engined Caterpillar 400 diesel with Allison transmission and a Freightliner chassis.
Working methodically throughout this luxurious home on wheels, I found all systems to be working perfectly. Engine, diesel generator, lighting, furnace, air conditioners, levelling systems, slide rooms, awnings – all functioned as they should. The house batteries did present some problems even though they were newly fitted within weeks.
This inspection was going great – especially considering the motorhome is fifteen years old, and has been stored for the last four years.
I extended my portable ladder and climbed to the roof. Oh oh!!!! The roof was showing some signs of deterioration in the roof membrane. I recommended to the owner that this could either be a simple recoat of the roof, or a major roof restoration. It could cost between $6,000 and $10,000 if it was in need of major repairs.
The owner purchased the unit and asked me to proceed with restoring the roof. On a closer inspection, I decided a coating was never going to restore this roof. The membrane had broken through to the fabric backing. Rain water could have seeped below the roof surface and into the roof structure. Parts of the membrane had detached from the ply surface below it. This is normally glued down. There was no way of deciding how much more damage lay underneath the roof membrane without lifting the membrane off.
Removing the roof membrane required removal of two roof top Coleman air conditioners, two Fantastic roof vent exhaust fans, the bathroom skylight, plumbing vents, two solar panels, four slide toppers, the retractable side awning, TV antenna, and the satellite dish receiver. The drip rail trim and two end cap trim fittings were the final items before the membrane could be lifted. The air conditioners, roof vents, and skylights required the internal ceiling fittings and all associated wiring to be either removed or disconnected.
Now there’s no 12 volt power to the house systems!
The new owner, who is also my existing customer reported some problems starting the onboard 7 KVA diesel generator and I discovered the lighting, refrigeration, and other twelve volt house systems no longer operated correctly. While David, my assigned helper and a regular employee of my customer, was busy with other tasks, I began the investigation into the twelve volt problems and the generator. These systems did operate a few weeks earlier, so what is the problem now?
Picture showing three of the four newly installed 6 volt gel type lead acid batteries connected in series parallel. What a mess! A diesel tech installed the batteries, but the leads were not set correctly. Remember, this RV has sat unused for four years, so there had to be some bugs to straighten out!
Testing these batteries showed a state of charge of less than one volt. Problem … not charging. Each lead disappeared into the frame of the coach, so it was not easy working out the exact purpose of each and every lead. The coach was connected to 120 volt shore power, so which one is receiving charge voltage? On further inspection, the charging lead was never connected. Now that I know which one is giving charge voltage, I removed all leads and connected just two batteries at first. Voila! Charge voltage established, and after a few hours, on goes the generator and all the 12 volt systems are restored. I left the first two batteries on the charge for three days, then moved the leads to the second two batteries and gave them a shot of charge for the next three days, connecting all in series parallel finally to give a maintaining charge from now on.
Back to the roof …
Parts were catalogued and David began cleaning the many parts going back when the new roof is installed. I started on removing the membrane. Wow! The membrane was tearing off in small strips, revealing water damaged 1/8th inch ply. Much of the ply was still wet and as it dried it began to delaminate and buckle. A huge problem! The substrate that gives a surface for the roof membrane to be glued down is rotten. What about the roof structure?
This Fleetwood has a foam sandwich roof. The styrofoam core of 4 inch thickness, is contoured and channeled to form the central crown shaped structure. Embedded inside the styrofoam is a group of aluminum spars that cross over between to top of each wall, and secured to the wall frames. The ply is vacuum bonded to the top and bottom of the styrofoam layer. The bottom layer forming the ceiling panels, the top layer of ply is the layer where the final roof membrane is glued down. Now this top layer has completely disintegrated, what keeps the roof fully bonded?
Above photo shows the cross section of the roof where the skylight would be sitting. Notice the wrinkles in the top section of ply due to water damage.
The only solution to saving this beautiful home of the road is to remove the loose ply layers and firmly fix a new layer of ply. The new ply needed to be fixed along all edges with screws as well as a strong adhesive. It may never be as strong as the factory prepared version, but it will withstand the life of the vehicle in limited circumstances. This motorhome is intended to be made stationary for most of it’s remaining life, so making it waterproof is the first priority while keep a sound structure.
The new roof ply is cut to size with slots placed for air conditioning and other roof fixtures. This new plywood layer is also fastened with screws at the perimeters to maximize strength and prevent lifting of the styrofoam core.
Delay time consumed by other projects …
We had a delay due to supply shortages for the new membrane, but the scale of this project had many other projects to fill the time. This RV has been stored for 4 years and a few other faults appeared. The two door side-by-side Dometic refrigerator freezer becoming loose in the cabinet mounts. It was evident that the top of the fridge was leaning outwards and into the room, risking a falling refrigerator during turns on the road. So this refrigerator had to be removed!
This refrigerator was leaning from it’s cabinet at the top. The top board of the cabinet was loosening from its mounting screws and letting the fridge lean. Dangerous in an RV on the road!
Refrigerator removal in an RV requires disconnecting the 12 volt power supply, unplug the 120 volt power, disconnect the propane, and remove all retaining screws. Some finishing trim is removed at the front of the cabinet and then the fridge is levered and pried until it moves an inch or so. Only then with the fridge be walked out carefully. I used a motorcycle jack to support the weight and carefully wheel the fridge out and away from the enclosing cabinet.
The cabinet was braced with three by one and a half lengths of pine, and anchored with metal flange joints. Small bolts clamped the loose mounting board at the top outer section of the fridge cabinet. The modifications finally ensured this refrigerator would withstand highway bumps and sharp turns.
Image above shows bracing with a combination of metal brackets and wall stud timber making this fridge cabinet able to withstand highway speeds.
A few other modifications were made to this refrigerator installation. The cooling baffle at the top of the fridge had been buckled and compressed perhaps since this fridge was first installed at the factory. It was discovered that this defect may have contributed to the fridge mounts weakening at the top. The original baffle was flattened and reinstalled in a way to properly cool the refrigerator. Another potential problem was that the flue exhaust was close to the fiber insulation shown in this picture. A special metal insulating baffle was fabricated and ensured no direct heat will reach the insulation material.
‘The new roof is now fully replaced. Air conditioners installed and operating, roof satellite antenna caulked and rewired. A new set of solar panels were installed with a new controller charger feeding up to 40 amps of 12 volt charge current to the batteries.
This was a massive undertaking. The support and patience from this customer contributed to the success outcomes of this project.
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