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Old 09-02-2012, 10:55 AM   #1
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Sidewall & Roof repair/replacement after a fire

Hi all! It is has been a while since I have posted on this forum. Things have been going quite well with my coach, until now.

This is in regards to my 2000 Winnebago Journey.

A few weeks ago I took my coach in to a local dealer to have some repairs made because I knew I would not have time to fix them myself before we needed the coach. I was experiencing propane exhaust odors from the fidge.

The weekend arrived that we needed the coach and the dealer was not finished with the reapairs but agreed to button it up so that we could use it. We headed out, parked the rig, and went to our event. When we returned about 8 hours later we found the carpet around the fridge, bathroom, and main living area soaked. I checked the fresh water tank and it was empty. We ended our trip early and headed home. We spent the next 2 days drying it out. We then took it back to the dealer and explained what happened. Turns out they forgot to hook up the ice maker line after they worked on the fridge and once we turned the fridge on it proceeded to pump water in behind the fridge until the tank was empty.

Fast forward another week. Again, we needed the coach for a planned trip. Called the dealer and they said that they had the fridge repaired but had not had time to repair the other issues. The other issues were minor so no big deal. We went to pick it up last Thursday. They pulled it up for us and we jumped in to head out. The first thing I did was turn on the fridge so it would be cold by the time we got home. Climbed in the driver seat to fire up the coach and the smoke detector started going off. Looked back to find smoke pouring out around the fridge. From outside you could see flames shooting out of the fridge vent. We grabbed fire extinguishers and doused the flames from the side vent and roof vent.

At this point it was clear that we were not taking the coach with us and decided to leave it at the dealer to determine what happened. I spoke with them the following day to find out that the orginal problem with the fridge was the burner itself. The technician pulled the old burner out but did not put a new one in or cap the line. So as soon as we turned on the fridge it just dumped propane out of the line which was quickly ignited by the pilot. The dealer accepted responsibility for the accident and aknowledged negligence on their behalf.

I tell you all of this to ask the following question. During the fire the interior roof and sidewall insulation was melted approximately 2" - 4" back from each opening (the fridge vents in the sidewall and roof). The dealer claims they can scrape out the melted insulation and replace it. I know these units are originally made in a vacuum and I don't see how you could possibly repair it back to it's original condition. I have tried searching for repair techniques and can not find any. I wanted to see what the long term effects of this type of repair would be. Anyone have any advice?
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Old 09-02-2012, 11:14 AM   #2
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if the sidewall is damaged on the exterior, they will need to replace the whole wall
you are right, these are vaccum sealed, you can almost guarantee that the wall will delaminare since it has been heated.

time to get your insurance company involved.

you pprobably should post pics for advice..

From what you are telling me, Sounds like anyone on this forum that lives in ur area should avoid this dealer
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Old 09-02-2012, 11:44 AM   #3
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Thanks for the quick response. Here is a picture for further evaluation. I don't have any pictures yet looking directly into the wall.

This dealer has been great to work with in the past. I am hopeful that they will do the right thing. If not, then I will spread the word and get the insurance companies involved. But at this point, I want to give them the opportunity to make it right.
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Old 09-02-2012, 12:42 PM   #4
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DerekJ, unfortunately the damage is going to appear minor to the insurance company and the repair shop because the visible damage is just a repaint and fix insulation. As "dulobast25" stated, the wall is assembled as one unit and the fibergalss is glued and then sucked up tight to the interior foam core. The repair will look fine, but there will be nothing to keep the exterior fiberglass from expanding and shrinking which will eventually show up as delamination bubbles.

I think you'll be forced by the repair company and the insurance company to fix it. I would negotiate at least a 5 -10 warranty against delamination.

Repair ideas.....You might look at having them clean up the insulation to bare fiberglass on the inside and then fit a 1/4 piece of luan to the back of the fiberglass using an industrial strength glue. They can clamp it by running clamps through the refer opening in the sidewall and use 2x4's on both sides and let it set for a day or two. The other idea might be to use the spray on house foam you now see used in some high end home construction. They could spray an industrial 3M type adhesive to the fiberglass and then spray on the foam assuring good adhesion. This way the foam will at least be glued to the back of the fiberglass in an even layer.

Using new foam that will dry rigid and adhere to the fiberglass is probably your best chance of not having issues later on.

People will probably say that you should make them buy you a new one, which I also believe because of their negligence, but in a court situation, the remedy is not to give you something better than what you have, but to make you whole again, which would mean just a repair.
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Old 09-02-2012, 01:17 PM   #5
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Sorry to hear of your bad luck... Hopefully it will be remedied to your satisfaction.

The area below the fridge vent looks like it has been cooked pretty good and unless other pics show otherwise, I doubt it is fixable. At best it will be very brittle and will certainly crack apart in short order as the coach is driven and flexed. The value of your coach has been greatly diminished and you will have a hard time selling in the future.

Personally, I would be looking for a replacement coach and a lawyer. They admitted responsibility, which it obviously is, and the only way to make you whole is to provide a coach of equal value, or buy yours at fair market. Any claim you make with insurance, should also include the water damage from the first incident.

JMHO.... good luck.
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Old 09-02-2012, 02:36 PM   #6
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I would continue along the tack you are taking and if you have a good relationship with the dealer give them a chance to make good for the damage. Stuff happens. Repair techniques using modern adhesive and insulation technologies that were oriinally developed in the aerospace industry will likely make any well done repair unnoticeable and permanent. The repair may be more well done than the rest of the vehicles construction. You'll probably also earn plenty of good will with them in future transactions if you use them regularly. I'm sure they will go out of their way to make you happy in consideration for your cooperation.

I wouldn't suggest having them replace your motor home with another. You know what you have in yours. A replacement would be an unknown.

Just another opinion that is worth what it cost
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Old 09-03-2012, 12:44 AM   #7
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I would continue along the tack you are taking and if you have a good relationship with the dealer give them a chance to make good for the damage. Stuff happens. Repair techniques using modern adhesive and insulation technologies that were oriinally developed in the aerospace industry will likely make any well done repair unnoticeable and permanent. The repair may be more well done than the rest of the vehicles construction. You'll probably also earn plenty of good will with them in future transactions if you use them regularly. I'm sure they will go out of their way to make you happy in consideration for your cooperation.

I wouldn't suggest having them replace your motor home with another. You know what you have in yours. A replacement would be an unknown.

Just another opinion that is worth what it cost
You can already see the buckling from the heat damage.


frankly if it were me, there would be 3 options:

replace the entire panel

buy you a new or equal coach

have them cutout the area and install a slideout in the damage area.

the sad news is a typical slideout cost can be about the same as panel replacement, both involve plenty of labor. The good news is that reinforcement occurs during slideout installation. The bad news is slideouts in the kitchen area can be tricky, due to plumbing etc. At least in both cases the panel gets replaced. You see,the fiberglass area shown would need to be cutout and replaces, however the joint would need lot be feathered from both sides and would have to bond such that it would never crack again when stressed. Problem is the fiberglass provides the sheer strength of the wall and is part of the structural integrity of the panel. It is now compromised.

If you decide to go thru with the repair, it will be a bandaid in the long run. In that case, if it were me, I'd sell it upon completion before you have any more issues. As with the opinions above, mine is worth what it costs. I also agree that some compensation i sin order for the water damage as a result of their neglegance.
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Old 09-03-2012, 11:38 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the comments. Don't forget, the roof vent is in the same condition as the sidewall vent. So whatever repair method is used for the sidewall, the same will have to be done to the roof.

I would really like to obtain some information about repair techniques. Is anyone aware of any written documentation about a repair of this type. Maybe something from a RV manufacturing association or Winnebago etc.? Or do you know someone that has had a repair like this made to their RV?

Obviously I am sick to my stomach about this situation. I am a fair person but I do not want to let them proceed with the repair without knowing the long term effects. I would accept a properly performed repair that was made in accordance with industry standards and is equivalant to the original product but I will not be someone's guinea pig.

It is starting to sound to me like the best scenario would involve the dealer buying this unit from me. This could be in the form of a trade or an outright purchase. If they treated me fairly on the trade then they could make the repair in any manner that they saw fit and then resell the coach. This would allow them to not have to pay for all new parts. It would also guarantee that they were able to perform the repairs because if the insurance companies get involved I could take the RV to another dealer for the repairs. I have already spoken to the body shop manager of another dealer and their opinion of fixing it right involves a new roof and new side panel plus the interior components, fridge, inverter, electrical wiring that got melted, water fill line that got melted, and analysis of the water tank since the fire extinguishers were sprayed into the open water fill line. It would also prevent me from having to deal with potential problems from the repair and the diminished value.

I really didn't want to trade this coach. I knew what I had with mine and I had all systems working properly and in good repair. However, in my mind right now, the best answer for everyone is for me to find a replacement. If the dealer is reasonable and recognizes that they should not be profiting at all on the trade and even kicking in a little extra money for my trouble (which they will save from not having to satisfy me with the repair) then I think that would be the best outcome of this terrible situation.

Of course the dealer probably thinks the best outcome is for them to put a bandaid on it and give it back to me. Finding common ground is probably going to be difficult.

Time will tell. I welcome all open discussion and stories of experience similiar to mine. I would really like to find some technical information about repairing these components.
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Old 09-03-2012, 11:57 AM   #9
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Have you contacted Winnegago for their opinion? I would.

Good luck. Be sure to let us know how it all turns out.
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Old 09-03-2012, 11:59 AM   #10
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Have you contacted Winnegago for their opinion? I would.

Good luck. Be sure to let us know how it all turns out.
I plan to first thing on Tuesday, thanks.
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Old 09-04-2012, 12:41 AM   #11
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if it gets ugly...

Be prepared to informe them if it gets ugly:

That you will inform the Bureau of Autootive Repair
us dept of justice
Better Business Bureau
Good sams club (and rv rv community)

In that order, in addition to small claims, lawyer, insurance, etc.
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Old 09-04-2012, 12:43 AM   #12
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roof damage

can a vent or skylight be placed at the location of the roof damage?
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Old 09-07-2012, 10:02 AM   #13
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can a vent or skylight be placed at the location of the roof damage?
There is already a vent there for the fridge. I don't know if they could put a bigger one in or not. I will have to ask.
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