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Fixing Pop Up Camper Leaks - How to Do It Yourself

Saturday, March 4, 2017

I have learned quite a bit since our pop up camper purchase in December.  First, everyone that is a veteran pop up camper has a very specific opinion about "How to Do It" or if you are doing it "wrong".  There is a large community out there that can be really helpful when you have issues for certain.  Just remember to have thick skin.  Some of those opinions are not delicate!  And, owning a camper throws one into the world of DIY at a rapid pace!

Our new to us Pop Up is in decent shape.  And, it has be loved quite a bit.  It is 16 years old.  So, wear and tear is a part of it.  You Tube and Google searches have quickly become my best friend.  

When we bought our camper, we looked at it in the rain.  No leaks.  Sure patches were in place.  But, no leaks.  However, just after we finished all of our work, we had a leak.  The silicone patch along the center seam was allowing water inside and we were under the gun to make these repairs quickly.  We didn't want to loose everything we had done, and we had trips already scheduled.  

Quickly, I found lots of articles and advice about how to repair seams and work.  There is a whole Eternabond camp and a replace the original seams with replacement parts camp.  We have joined camp one.  Not because we are lazy and didn't want to repair with factory/replacement parts.  But, with our skill set and available equipment and time, this method worked for us.  

First, my husband removed the existing center seam that fit down the middle.  This requires some time because there is a lot of putty underneath, screws, patching silicone and the seam itself.

The original middle seam had been patched and had served its purpose.  In places it was cracking, brittle and completely loose.
Once the seam was removed, he laid a mark down the center using Stanley 47-442 Chalk Reel with Blue Chalk marking 2 inches to each side of the center seam.  This chalk line will help to give a space to work within to finish cleaning any existing goo and to lay down the aluminum sealing tape.  Eternabond is one brand.  Also if you are having trouble getting up the putty and remaining silicon (if you have this) Goo Gone Pro-Power is perfect to help with this.

The Goo Gone and a scaper was used to remove any remaining putty or silicone.  We wanted to make sure that we had a good adhesion with the new tape.

We used a 3M Paint and Rust Stripper Brush to work within that 4 inch chalk line to remove any existing paint and any goo down the center.  This will create a nice surface to lay the aluminum tape down the middle.

The wire brush attachment on the drill gave a nice clean surface to work with.

Next, it is time to clean the surface thoroughly along the edges and down the middle with   
Acetone .  Again, the goal is a clean seal and finish!

Now, replace the existing screws with stainless steel screws all the way down the center seam where the previous ones were.  It is important in this step to replace with shorter screws since the center strip is not going back down.  And, we also used Gorilla 100% Silicone Sealant, 2.8 oz., Clear on the tips of the screws to create a water tight seal.

New screws to hold everything down and put in with sealant to give a good airtight and water proof seal.

Working within that 4 inch strip from the chalk line, lay down the WHITE Eternabond Mobile Home RV Rubber Roof Repair  or you can use traditional Eternabond aluminum tape.  We used aluminum.  Because, we were planning to paint over the entire job.  One complaint that I read over and over is that Eternabond looks tacky on the roof.  However, painting allowed us to conceal the aluminum tape strip.  Overall, it didn't matter.  And one camper stated that he was going for a sealed roof and not looks.  Agreed.  And, I am camping not making the cover and pretty camper magazine.  I can deal with a taped seam, not a leaking roof.  Plus, I like the interior of our camper just fine.  That was a big part of the project for me, not the exterior.

The aluminum roofing tape was easy to put down.  It is important to work in small sections and smoothing with plenty of pressure all the way down to ensure a good seal and to activate the adhesive.

Finally, we just had a make a decision.  We could have hemmed and hawed forever over the correct way to get this done.  But, no matter what it was going to be a lot of work and a gamble on what would work.  There was also no guarantee that this would work.

One camper suggested that I may have leaks around the AC that had nothing to do with the center seam!  There were lots of ways to do this.  We decided this and stuck with it!

After the tape, we used a white roof paint on the top.  There are lots of brands out there.  But, selecting a paint specifically for roofs will yield the best results and can possibly help with cooling in the summer.  Dicor RPMRC1 Elastomeric Metal RV Roof Coating is one brand that is well known.  Kool Seal is another.  Go with white.  Don't put black on there.  That would be terribly hot.

The roofing paint covers the aluminum tape nicely.  Once two coats were applied and dried, the tape disappeared and looks really nice!

As a final step, I sealed any other edges and around other places with Dicor 501LSW-1 Lap Sealant.  I read somewhere that it is good to check seals and caulking around any camper every year.  It is just part of maintenance.  So, here we go with year one for us.  I plan on keeping a bit of the aluminum tape and the sealant in our camper for repairs on the road just in case.

That is it.  We are happy with the initial results.  The original seam had served it purpose.  And one reason for taking it off entirely was that in order to lay down the Eternabond, we needed a flatter surface to work with.  If we had tried to lay this over the existing seam, it would have worked but been really difficult to work with.  This seemed like the best way to go.

Did it hold?  Yes.  We had a torrential flood the week after we did this repair.  Dry as a bone inside.  We are both convinced that removing all of the existing strip, glue, putty and silicone allowed for a good clean bond of the aluminum tape.  The roof paint was a bonus.  And it really doesn't look too bad!

Finally done! 
After painting the roof, we have decided that we are going to go back and just paint the whole camper.  Everything will match and be fresh and clean.  Its a small space and easy to paint.

I'll update at the end of the spring/summer camping season as to how it had held up.  We bought this camper on the cheap with the idea that we wanted to get into family camping with a fixer upper before spending at ton of cash on something new.  Maybe we will upgrade one day.  For now, we love our little Peggy Sue.  And, we can't wait to start traveling together as a family.  A lot of work has gone into getting here.

So, here's to good times ahead and celebrating all of our hard work on the road.  I'm sure veteran campers will have ideas as to how we could have done this better.  Feel free to comment and share your ideas with us.  I'd love to hear all about it.  Have a great week and happy camping season!  We are about to embark on our first journey.  And, I can't wait to share it with you!

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4 comments:

  1. I just found out about this and regret not knowing sooner! Sounds amazing keep up the good work! décor

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's been a lot of work and so much fun at the same time!!

      Delete
  2. Costly repair are usually avoided by victimization Damage RV Roof Repair too. As a result of it is the merchandise that saves roof in every season and add life too roof.

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