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Old 08-25-2012, 03:57 PM   #1
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Dash broke loose

I have another interesting dilemma with our aging dinosaur. During our recent long trip, I heard an unusually loud squeaking coming from the center of the dashboard. As I drove over bumps, I noticed that the top of the dashboard at the passenger side pillar was bouncing differently than pillar itself. There was sometimes over an inch of play between them. There is a at least a 1/2" gap between the outer curved edge of the dash top and the area underneath the windshield. I guess that is a good thing or one of the errant bumps could have knocked the bottom of the windshield loose.

I've opened up the passenger side of the dash and discovered the following:

- There is a square metal frame that forms the back of the firewall. The outside corner post is a robust size.
- there was a rather thin piece of angle aluminum screwed to it with two rather small diameter screws.
- On the other side of the angle, there were holes for 3 screws to tie it into the outer wall sandwich. Two screws were completely missing and the third was sheered off.
- I have been all over the front, carefully inspecting with a light and there is no sign of a broken weld or loose bolt anywhere. I cannot find anything of substance that appears to tie the outer shell to this part of the framework. The specific location is about 4 inches in front of the front cap seam which is just in front of the entry door hinge.

I tried to take pictures but there is nothing really to take a picture of.

When I saw the missing and sheared screws, I first thought "Ah, an easy fix - I'm just get some really robust screws and tie everything together." Not possible. There is no metal in the wall where those missing screws would have gone. It is some sort of foam.

The plot thickens.

There is foam up the front of the firewall along the wall seam. The foam was very thick but the seam is cracked all the way to the driver's side along the underside dash board. There is no sign of any structural ties. Could they really have fastened the dash to the front of the cap with just foam???

I compared the foam on the driver's side along the same area (the driver's side of the dash is completely stable) and it is definitely thicker. I also noticed, now that I was looking, the there was foam that had been chipped away over top of the housing for the Evans dash unit.

I suspect that this is a problem that started years ago and has grown steadily worse over time. Right now, I'm thinking that my repair action is:

- get some new screws and fasten the sidewall to the firewall frame using the original angle piece. This will be just to stabilize the two parts in relationship to each other. The joint is not going to hold any weight. or prevent the dash from bouncing relative to the outer body.
- buy many cans of spray foam and start putting it on, a layer at a time. Any of you who have used Great Stuff, recognize that any attempt to put it on the bottom side of a surface with any thickness results in most of it dripping off so I'm going to have to do it in many small layers thin layers.
- allow it to set up for several days after the last coat of spray foam and test it over a bumpy road.

I welcome all alternative ideas, no matter how crazy they sound. I'm not at all confident I've got a good "handle" on this situation.

Charlie
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Old 08-25-2012, 07:35 PM   #2
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If the area is in an area that can't be seen, I would get a piece of aluminum about 6x6 inches shave off some of the old foam. Glue the piece of metal to the foam. Spray more foam over the metal. make several coats. Then fasten the dash bracket with screws through metal bracket and foam.
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Old 08-25-2012, 07:43 PM   #3
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Chasfm I just reread your post. To answer your question about fastening things to the fiberglass. Almost all manufacturers imbeded wood into the front and rear caps, at any point where they wanted to install a bracket. The bad news is. Anytime you get water injestion, it eats up the wood and the the wood rots away. I just finished replacing two pieces of wood in my Pace Arrow grill.
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Old 08-25-2012, 10:08 PM   #4
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Chasfm I just reread your post. To answer your question about fastening things to the fiberglass. Almost all manufacturers imbeded wood into the front and rear caps, at any point where they wanted to install a bracket. The bad news is. Anytime you get water injestion, it eats up the wood and the the wood rots away. I just finished replacing two pieces of wood in my Pace Arrow grill.
Thanks for the tip. That is exactly what I was looking for. I've had sailboats for 30 years and have made all kinds of repairs to them. Fixing a rotted wood block would be no big deal - if I could find it and get to it. Neither is the case yet.

I expected such a block accessible from underneath and along the front cap seam inside. but I cannot find any trace of it. It must be up as high as the dash if it is there. I'm looking from the bottom. I may have to invest in one of those remote cameras and see if that helps. I'm praying that I don't have to open the front cap seam to fix this.... that could get really really ugly. The alternative would be to cut through the foam wall below the dash and the figure out how to fix that afterward.

I may poke around the rear cap tomorrow and see if anything like that is more visible. I can see nothing on the driver's side front.
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Old 08-26-2012, 09:01 AM   #5
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Chasfm we had the front end of our 2001 Georgie Boy Pursuit the Dash would come up as we drove down the road. Back then took it to the repair shop and they didn't know how to fix it also. Well I looked under the dash and only had an inch of fiberglass that was screwed to the Dash. I drilled through the fiberglass and dash and used caraige bolts to bolt the Dash down. Defently not the pertiest thing but works well as I put the bolts all the way around the Dash in 2 inch incerments.
Now dash and fron cover are one unit. Just a thought. Frank
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Old 08-26-2012, 10:52 AM   #6
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Chasfm we had the front end of our 2001 Georgie Boy Pursuit the Dash would come up as we drove down the road. Back then took it to the repair shop and they didn't know how to fix it also. Well I looked under the dash and only had an inch of fiberglass that was screwed to the Dash. I drilled through the fiberglass and dash and used caraige bolts to bolt the Dash down. Defently not the pertiest thing but works well as I put the bolts all the way around the Dash in 2 inch incerments.
Now dash and fron cover are one unit. Just a thought. Frank
Frank, I'm interested in in your fix but am having a problem visualizing it in light of what I have seen on our Landau. Specifically:

I don't have any fiberglass that is screwed to the dash anywhere (that I can find.) I cut away some of the foam that bridges the area just under the windshield and there is no sign of any connection. As suggested by the other poster, I could fiberglass wood blocks along the perimeter and use those to fasten the top of the dash.

I'm pretty sure that fault is in the area of the pillar that is directly behind the passenger side of the windshield. That is where the greatest movement of the dash happens relative to that pillar area. Of course, in that area, I have the step well and on the front of the firewall, the two house batteries. It is also where the front door hinges are anchored, though I yet to figure out to what. I seem to be lacking the kind of structural support there that I expected.

I'm kicking myself now that I didn't visit the Georgie Boy plant just after we got our RV. Seeing how that front end was put together would have helped me a lot now.

I'm toying with contacting one of the big local RV dealers locally and seeing if they have an RV body shop that they use. If I do have to mess with the front cap at all, it will definitely be way above my individual capabilities and tools. I'm tied up all day tomorrow but might try that on Tuesday.
Failing that, I may buy one of the remote vision cameras. I dearly want to be able see along the inside of the cap there and lights and mirrors are not cutting it.

Am I wrong in worrying that the dash is a symptom and that the real fault is that the outer fiberglass is not tied to the frame? I would think that there would be some outward sign of stress on the fiberglass itself but a close inspection shows nothing. The RV has 71K miles on it.
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Old 08-26-2012, 08:06 PM   #7
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Charles: My dash seems very solid in that area. . As best I can tell my dash rests on a fiberglass ledge and is very firm all the way across. Can't see any screws or attachment, they may be beneath the dash material. There is a 1/2 inch space between the dash and the windshield but both rest on that solid fiberglass ledge all the way across and around the side of the windshield and the dash.
In front and along the top and sides of the firewall I also have thick foam, under the dash area but it appears my air conditioner was installed before the foam as the foam extends down and adheres to about the top 1/3 of the a/c cover. Can't see the area of the front cap you are concerned about....
Wish I could be more help, but we will be on the road for the next couple of weeks. Leaving in the morning to outrun Isaac and start a planned northern vacation....

When my MH was new, the drivers side of the dash bounced around badly. The dealer had a new Cruise Master on the lot which had a metal brace/bracket under the right side of the instrument panel, which they duplicated on my rig and solved the problem. Georgie Boy overall did really good work but as I'm sure you are aware, sometimes the trainee wasn't supervised....

Good luck...
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Old 08-27-2012, 07:40 PM   #8
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Thanks for your response, Hooligan. I figured that you might not have had troubles in this area.

Best of luck at getting away from Issac. You are wise to get out as early as you can.

Charlie
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Old 08-27-2012, 10:59 PM   #9
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Chasfm, after rereading I see you have a DP not a Gas unit.
So here is a thought. You could put a TEE off of the fiberglass like what
I have. Depending on the size you needed you could do your self or have a Fiberglass shop/ boat shop/motorhome shop that does body work install for you.
Let's say you can us a piece 6 inches long. You would glass a 1 x 4 x 6 inches to the body and then bolt it to your frame. Just be sure to rotate the fiberglass sheets by 15 degrees as this will give you better strenth and use about 6 layers of glass and resin mix. It sound like a lot but not realy. Now the disclamer if you do it yourself wear masks in a well ventalated area. takes time but it can be done. By doing this you also can be away from the frame about a inch and then put a bolt with a spacer between the frame and TEE to bolt them all together, and use the fender washers too. Hope this gives you some ideas Frank
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Old 08-28-2012, 08:58 AM   #10
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Chasfm, after rereading I see you have a DP not a Gas unit.
So here is a thought. You could put a TEE off of the fiberglass like what
I have. Depending on the size you needed you could do your self or have a Fiberglass shop/ boat shop/motorhome shop that does body work install for you.
Let's say you can us a piece 6 inches long. You would glass a 1 x 4 x 6 inches to the body and then bolt it to your frame. Just be sure to rotate the fiberglass sheets by 15 degrees as this will give you better strenth and use about 6 layers of glass and resin mix. It sound like a lot but not realy. Now the disclamer if you do it yourself wear masks in a well ventalated area. takes time but it can be done. By doing this you also can be away from the frame about a inch and then put a bolt with a spacer between the frame and TEE to bolt them all together, and use the fender washers too. Hope this gives you some ideas Frank
Thanks for the idea, Frank. I appreciate the safety tip, too. I do have the proper masks for working with fiberglass.

On the body side, I think you have it exactly right. I think that having a board glassed in a the right spot would be the perfect solution. Unfortunately for me, there is a whole lot of metal framing just opposite of that "right spot. There is no room to work the fiberglass patch. That is why I'm worried that I'm going to have to take the front cap loose or potentially all the way off to make the repair.

I'm afraid to drop down lower on the body, below the metal work to try to glass in the board. What I was considering was a horizontal mounted board and welding the Tee bracket to the frame where I can see the solid steel. The problem is that the outer body starts to bend in right there and I'm worried that the load wouldn't be spread correctly no matter how I run the cloth strands.

I'm without my digital camera right now and will be until after Labor Day. I think now that a few pictures of my situation might help to describe it. I'm also doing a master bath remodel and might just try to finish it up while I'm waiting to tackle the RV. I have no trips planned for the next couple of weeks and the fiberglass repairs will go quickly when I figure out where to do them.

Thanks again for your continued thoughts.

Charlie
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Old 08-31-2012, 09:04 AM   #11
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Update:

I've found an RV body shop about 45 miles away. I'm not sure that I trust them to make this repair but I've made an appointment for them to look at it in two weeks.

During the time between now and then, I'm going to try to put everything back together and spray foam everywhere that it was originally. I'm also going to reposition the "L" bracket on the dash, using 3 new bolts to bolt it back into the side wall. If nothing else, this should help to stabilize things for the drive to the body shop. I started the foam application last night. It will have to be done in layers since that silly foam just falls off if you spray too much of it at one time.

I'm shopping for a web cam with a 16' cord that is small enough to fit into the gaps. It looks like there are several reasonably priced options. I'm hoping the cam will confirm that there is or isn't something broken where I cannot see.

I'd like nothing better than to arrive at the body shop with the dash/body relationship not having moved during the trip as a result of my efforts. A more realistic assessment is that my efforts won't last 10 miles over the rough roads that I'll be using to get there.

I'll provide updates as I progress. I still welcome addition comments and advice. I'm doing a whole lot of guessing with this.

Charlie
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Old 08-31-2012, 09:45 AM   #12
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Just playing Devil's advocate, but would it not be better to leave as is so the body shop has the basic foundation to work with? It must be difficult to repair something that has been repaired before and possibly not to design.

JMHO

p.s., wedge it for the ride with a 1x2-4-etc.
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Old 09-01-2012, 08:16 AM   #13
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Just playing Devil's advocate, but would it not be better to leave as is so the body shop has the basic foundation to work with? It must be difficult to repair something that has been repaired before and possibly not to design.

JMHO

p.s., wedge it for the ride with a 1x2-4-etc.
Your thinking is exactly like mine. That is why I'm only putting back exactly what was there in the first place. The three screws from the dash to the side panel where there originally as was the foam. I'm moving the angle iron mount on the dash slightly but that doesn't change the attachment point at all. I'm carefully spraying foam only where the cracked foam already existed. I had cut away a little of the old foam along the crack to see what structural element there might be underneath. When I found none, I believe that I'm safe in re-coating those same areas and not changing any stress points.

The problem is that there are no surfaces into which anything could be wedged. It is pretty much a choice of doing nothing (and possibly watching the dash completely rip itself apart even on this short trip) or trying to use the original techniques for stabilization. And there is nothing that I'm doing that cannot be undone in about 15 minutes.

A poster on another forum suggests that foam and the screws may have been the only stabilizing elements. My limited engineering knowledge cannot accept that but since I've never seen one of these things built before, I cannot say for sure. I want to see if new foam and screws do provide stabilization.

I view this as a temporary measure and don't believe that any of it will survive this short trip. I guess we'll see. This assumes that I don't get a camera which will let me see into that cavity and what is in there. I'm trying very hard to find a camera that will do that. Pictures might change everything I know.

Charlie
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Old 09-07-2012, 03:15 PM   #14
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Update:

I ordered a webcam with 15' of cable. I just hooked it up to the computer and stuck it into the wall space where I could not see. This picture is the result.



What you are seeing:
1. The inner part of the fiberglass front cap on the picture left.
2.The outer part of the dash framework on the picture right.

Clearly there is metal and it appears to be held into position by a piece of styrofoam.

What this tells me is that a repair that correctly replaces the screws from the dash should work - if the metal that I'm seeing is still firmly attached to the fiberglass. Pressing on it gives no indication that it is loose but I suspect only a road test with the screws in place will confirm that.

Part of me wants to put the screws in right away, put everything back together and cross my fingers. There are some additional considerations:

A. When I line up dash "L" bracket in its original position and look at the holes in the wall, the outer section is about 1/2" lower than it was originally. Is this important? I don't know. I don't see any good place to put a jack on the outer fiberglass to try to raise it to the original alignment. There is a curved surface area at the bottom of the front shell and I fear that even putting large boards across it to try to spread the load while jacking might just break that curved area off rather than raise the front cap.

B. There is about a 1/4" gap between the dash and inner wall of the shell. I could make a good argument for trying to tighten that up to prevent futue shifting but the metal in the wall does not appear to be very thick. I'm tempted to bride that gap by putting washers in between. If it did break loose again because the screws snapped, the washers should help to prevent everything from rubbing and self destructing.

C. The three small diameter screws might not have been enough. It wouldn't take much to drill a 4 new holes in the "L" bracket. I really want to put the screws in different places anyway because I suspect that the metal in the front cap where the original screws went through is "wallowed out."

Based on what I've seen, I'm hoping that the combination of new screws that are firmly mounted in the metal on the outer body and foam will give me the original planned stability.

I continue to welcome all inputs.

Charlie
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