Floor Problems

We had a number of soft spots that crept up in our floor. We talked to the factory about taking the camper up there – but the fuel costs alone of driving it there and back were going to be $600+. So we decided to start taking the camper apart and to cut the vinyl floor carefully and peel it back . As part of disassembly I used blue masking tape and sandwich baggies to tag and mark where everything went. Take lots of pictures and label any wires.

Here is what we found:

As near as we can tell the issue stemmed from the slide not sealing 100% when the trailer was at an optimum angle for water to drip in and collect near the door. The osb flooring absorbed the water, stayed wet and quickly lost its strength.

I picked up a small 4″ hand held circular saw to start the process of removing old flooring. I felt a regular circular saw would have been to large to cut in the confined space of the trailer. This one was under $60 and was purchased from Home Depot.

We cut the flooring out – leaving the insulation and black screen as intact as possible. The flooring had to be chiseled out of the area under the walls, and there are screws from the factory that held the original board down – those has to be removed as well.

We choose an A/B grade 5/8 plywood for the repair. Its stronger that the osb and would be more resistant to any more water intrusion. I had to buy it from a local specialty lumber supplier that none of the big box stores carried that size or grade. A 4×8 sheet was $60

The new floor was in two pieces – with the seam under the kitchen vanity. It was screwed down to the frame using 1/4″ stainless sheet metal screws and I installed a galvanized plate on the bottom of the board where it met the original OSB. This would prevent the two pieces from moving independently. Any place there was a visible seam – I went over it with a flexible joint compound for subfloors. I finished everything off with a coat of Kilz to address and lingering mold and protect the wood from moisture.

For reassembly I acquired a few things that were needed to make sure it wall went back together smoothly:

  • New seals for the water lines, did not want to risk a leak after it was all put back together.
  • New screws. some of the wood screws were rusty from bing explosed to moisture. I bought a bag of 100 and have some left over.
  • Belly sealing tape. This is an 180 foot roll, 4 ” wide. I taped all the edges of the new floor boards and used it to patch any holes in the skirting under the camper.
  • New propane/co detector. These need to be replaced every 5 years, while I had it all apart I installed a new one.
  • 6″ magnetic extension for my impact driver, made it a lot easier to get to some of the fasteners – and I used a square bit instead of a phillips.

The staple on the top is what the factory used 3/16″ narrow crown 23 gauge. I ended up going with an 18 gauge 1/4″ narrow crown, both are 5/8″ long. It was less expensive than the 23 gauge stapler and the larger staples held a little better. Here is the stapler I got from Harbor Freight, it was $40

In order to reconnect the sink drain, I went with a rubber clamp as opposed to trying to weld the abs plastic back together. Given the drain is a no pressure connection with light flow, this connector would be more than adequate. Given the wrestling that it took to get the drain pipe back in – this was a huge grief saver. I was $5 at Lowes.

The camper is now all put back together, tested and ready for use. The project was a pain but not overly difficult. I added some wood trim pieces to cover where we cut the flooring, and it’s not as tight as it was before. But I am sure in time it will lay flat again. Our total cost for the repair including tools was about $350. The local dealer quotes $1800 and the factory was about $1200 (plus travel expenses) Hopefully this repair holds up and we have no future problems with soft floors.

Adjusting Trailer Brakes

Electric trailer brakes on the Retro campers are electrically actuated drum brakes and they do need periodic adjustment. The factory recommends that you adjust them at 200 miles and then annually after that. You don’t need much in tools but you do need to get the wheel off the ground so that you can spin it.

Once you have the wheel up in the air locate the adustment holes on the back side of the wheel. Sometimes they will have a rubber plug that covers them up. On my Dexter axles this is what they looked like

I used a regular flat bladed screwdriver to move the adjustment wheel located just behind those openings.

The adjuster is located right above the red spring

Looking at the above picture the adjuster ( the tube with the notches on it) lengthens by being turned clockwise, so with a screwdriver or adjustment took from the back you want to spin the adjuster upwards. I took the drum off for illustrative purposes, you don’t need to when adjusting the brakes.

What you want to do is tighten things up the adjusters just until the wheel doesn’t turn, then back it off till there is just a slight drag. This needs to be done on all the wheels at the same time. By doing this you will make sure that the brake shoes are as tight to the drum as possible without actuating, which in turn give you the most braking power.

For those that have the easy grease axles ( identified by grease fitting sticking out of the axle) this is a good time to re-grease the axles, as that process requires the axles be elevated. Here is a video from Dexter on the process for lubing the axles

As always anytime you have to use a jack to lift an object take the proper precautions. I lifted my trailer by the axles close to the hub, and only high enough that I could spin the tire. Just make sure that if the trailer were to slip off you are not going to be in the path of anything coming down. Given that you are not removing the wheels – this is a pretty safe operation.

The biggest tip is to make sure you have the orientation of the adjusters figured out so that you don’t end up loosening the brakes. Even from the factory on a relatively new trailer it took quite a few turns to tighten up the brakes. When complete you are probably going to have to re calibrate the brake controller.

How To Make The Camper More Stable At The Campsite

For such a large vehicle – its amazing how much these things move around. We use the factory jacks, usually with additional blocks underneath but we found that we needed more to keep this thing from moving around.

The first thing we added were wheel chocks. These simply fit between the tires and prevent them from moving. These chocks are designed to stabilize not replace proper wheel chocks. In an emergency would these help keep a trailer from rolling away..Yes – but we don’t rely on them for that. The chalks are east to install and come with a small ratchet handle that I ended up using on the factory stabilizing jacks as well.

In addition we found a stabilizer for the stairs. I am usually the first one up in the morning and exiting the trailer would cause it to rock back and forth. We found this stabilizer that mounted directly to the stairs and it took the load of me stepping in the stairs, not creating any movement or shake.

The instructions call for the stabilizer to be screwed into the steps. I am not a fan of drilling holes in fixtures, so I choose a different way to mount the unit. I ended up using wide heavy duty velcro, its works great for a number of reasons.

  • Its not a permanent installation – no screw holes poking up through the steps.
  • It fits well, given the contour of the bottom of the steps is not totally flat and if it was screwed in would great a bit of a gap once the screws were tightened down.
  • The support is removable, no chance of it getting lost down the road if a fastener is lost.
  • Its adjustable and movable, if the spot you put it on originally doesn’t work – you can move it very easily without any permanent marks.

Propane Safety

One of the concerns that we had with our new camper was any type of propane leaks. Our 265RB was equipped with a propane detector, but we wanted to insure that we got ahead of any potential leaks. As these units bounce down the road the connections can loosen and develop leaks.

Propane/CO detector

For under $30 I picked up a mobile propane leak detector. I tested the unit out and adjusted its sensitivity using the propane stone on the camper. Turning on a little gas I was able to set the unit to pick up the slightest amount.

Y201 Portable Propane Methane Natural Gas Leak Detector

I took the detector once it was calibrated and went over every propane connection on the trailer. In order to get to some of the devices like the furnace and the water heater I had to unscrew a few covers. Very easy to do and takes about 20 minutes to go over the whole trailer.

Atwood RV Furnace
Dual tank propane connections at the nose of the trailer
Main tank connection to trailer plumbing
Propane connection at the rear for the outdoor kitchen

As I mentioned before you can find these on Amazon for $30. They will work on other gases besides propane so they do have multiple uses around the house. I didn’t find an active leaks on the camper but left the unit in the camper so I can check it on a regular basis.

Our New Tow Vehicle 2021 Nissan Titan SV

It was time to turn in the Infiniti QX-80 and we replaced it with a 2021 Nissan Titan SV with the factory tow package. For being a luxury SUV I give the Infiniti a lot of credit for pulling the camper. Having the truck now gives up the ability for us to better pack and store our gear in the back of the truck. With the Infiniti all the goods were in the back of the SUV behind the seats and you ran out of rook fast. One thing I will miss on the QX-80 is the self leveling, having the truck set the ride height automatically was a treat.

There was a substantial difference in the height of the trailer receiver hitch between both vehicles. This meant that I had to disassemble the Blue Ox hitch we use and re-calibrate it for the new vehicle. The instructions with the hitch were pretty comprehensive and it only took me two rounds of test fitting to get the height correct.

Everything went together great and the new truck pulls the camper great. The factory brake controller was a little more sensitive – so I dialed it back a little bit.

The only downside to the truck is that the tailgate won’t clear the power head for the power jack on the trailer. I may rotate it 90 degrees – but so far it really doesn’t seem to be a huge problem.

Trailer Brake Trouble

After about two months of use I noticed that I was getting an “OL” message on the brake controller. The “OL” represented an overload or a dead short in the trailer braking system. For those unfamiliar (as I was) with trailer brakes its a relativley simply system. Think of it like a like dimmer on a table lamp. The more energy you feed to the lamp the brighter it gets, just like the trailer brakes – the more power you feed them the more braking power you get. Well in my case there was to much current being drawn which is indicative of a short in the system.
I called our dealer and they were 2 weeks out from even having a place to park the camper, let alone look at it. So I started to tackle the repair myself. Our axles were manufactured by Dexter Axle, and they are a great company. I called and talked to their warranty person. He send me some reference information and told me to call him back with any parts I needed, he was ready to ship out an entire axle if I needed it.
I had already hooked up another truck and tested the system out, same result so that pretty much ruled out anything with the brake controller or the wiring on the truck. My next step was to start isolating each wheel to find out which one was the offending brake. I started with the front axle, cut the green power wires to one side, then the other and the short went away. It took just a few minutes to isolate the short to the magnet in the left front wheel.

I called Dexter axle told them what I had found and they had parts shipped to me to repair the axle. The repair was pretty straight forward. I watched a few YouTube videos to get some background on the repair.
So far so good, I probably need to adjust the brakes now as they have a few miles on them just to make sure things are operating properly.

It is frustrating to have a trailer under warranty and still have to handle the repairs yourself. Were it not for the month long wait to get the trailer back I would have had our dealer handle it.

Camping Knife

Staying in a 27 foot long new travel trailer is not really the epitome of roughing it. Nonetheless having a good knife is an essential tool to camping. Knives these days can be crazy expensive, and regardless of price can still be easily lost. Here are the qualifications I sought out in a new knife.
– Had to be a folder, no straight blades.
– Needed a history of durability, no junk.
– The knife was not going to see a ton of heavy work, mostly light cutting and cooking duties so I wanted a blade material that would resist stains and sharpen easily.
– The knife had to be under $45

I settled on the Ontario Knife Company Rat I in Aus-8 Stainless steel.

I found the knife on Amazon for under $30 with free shipping. I went and added a small leather lanyard to it and so far it has been working great.

You can see a review of the knife on this youtube video, I like Nick’s reviews he seems on point with the content he is presenting (no pun intended)

Adding latches to the front storage compartments

One thing that I found to be short sighted on this camper was the front storage compartment doors. The only way to latch them shut was to use the key. We ended up just rotating the whole assembly in the door which pretty much negated the whole idea of having a lock on there.

All of the other compartment doors had a simple turn latch in addition to a key lock to secure the door.
When we got our camper the dealer broke a key off in one of the locks, so I asked them to order some extra thumb latches when they were getting the replacement lock. The dealer came through with two complete lock sets for the camper, it took 8 weeks but we finally got the parts.

The doors come off the camper with one phillps screw. I put them on the bench and took out all the existing lock components so I could get the door marked to drill the hole.

The doors themselves are pretty thin. A very thin sheet metal skin with foam inserts. I was able to use a 5/8″ hole saw on my drill to go right through the door and give me a nice clean hole.

The plastic sleeve that all the locks sit in was rotating in the hole, limiting the effectiveness of the locks. So when I put the door back together I ended up using a white marine epoxy to glue in the black inserts. I went around to all the locks on the camper and gluing the inserts in. Now when we go to lock the doors the cylinders don’t spin. Make sure to just glue in the black insert, do not glue the lock into the door. If you ever have to replace one – it will be a huge pain to remove.

Here are the front doors – reinstalled with the new thumb latches.

Now when we are at a campsite and need to close the front compartments we can do it without a key. When we are in motion we will still lock them up, but it makes it so much easier when you are in and out of them all the time.

As I mentioned we got our locks from the dealer. Our storage doors are make by a company called “Challenger”. They do sell replacement parts – their contact information is below:

Challenger Door
1205 East Lincoln Street
Nappanee, IN 46550
Main: 574-773-8100

For replacement parts:
John Sellers: 574-773-8106 jsellers@challengerdoor.com

Here is a link to the epoxy I used on the plastic inserts:

Making the small griddle more usable

The small propane griddle that came with the kitchen only had the heavy steel griddle cooking surface. It was great for making small meals but if you needed an additional cooking surface -it took a long time for all that heat to make it to the pan. I took a small cast iron grill and cut it down to fit inside the stove. Using some 4″ carriage bolts I was able to suspend the grill and perfectly match it with the height of the unit. This allows me to put a pan or coffee pot on and have another functional burner for cooking. I can still use the original griddle if I need to, and it stores on top just like it did before.

The perfect camping radio

Ok – the headline is a bit of a generalization, but I think this radaio works great for camping. Our Retro is equipped with the stereo and the outside speakers, but we really don’t use it. The factory speakers are awful sounding and by the time you turn it up the whole campground can hear it.
I searched for a small radio that gave me the following features:
– Good sound quality.
– Excellent FM reception.
-Long battery life on conventional batteries.
-The ability to take an auxiliary input.
– Not be a bazillion dollars.

I chose the Sangean PR-D19BK and bought it from Amazon.

So far the radio has met all my expectations and was a sound buy. Its loud enough and the sound quality is great for those nights by the campfire when you want a little music. I have also added a small Bluetooth adapter so that I can feed a signal direct from my phone to it, without having to use a cable.
The rechargeable AA batteries easily last a whole weekend, it only uses four so having spares is not a big deal.
The only gripe I have is that Sangean doesn’t give you an AC adapter with the radio, you need to buy that separate. So far in my usage it has only run on rechargeable batteries and I really don’t see the need for the adapter. I carry a small batter charger, should I run all my AAs down to nothing.