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Old 08-26-2012, 01:17 PM   #1
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Looking for advice - 1st trailer

The kids are getting old enough to remember family adventures, and my wife and I have been talking about getting a travel trailer to make some memories with. At first I was thinking of something that was 5-6 years old, and I noticed that would put us somewhere in the $10-15K price range (something in the 26-30 foot range, maybe sleeps 8-10 for extended family trips).

We live in Ohio right now. I was visiting family up in NH last week, and looking at a travel trailer that a family friend had parked on my dad's property. I mentioned that we were looking for one in the next year or so, and he told me I could have this one - free.

I am a handyman by trade, and at a quick glance, didn't see anything wrong with the trailer that I didn't feel comfortable with tackling myself. But I know it's the things that I DIDN'T see that could make this deal either a handyman's dream come true, or a nightmare!

It's a 1986 Fleetwood Wilderness 3000CL, 31', sleeps 6 in it's current configuration (he had turned the bunk room into a closet, I guess it could sleep 9 if I were to rebuild the bunks). I see similar trailers for sale online for between $1500 and $3500, and they seem to be in much worse condition than the one I am looking at. The frame is solid, there is no corrosion at all on the aluminum, all wiring is good, and he put on new brakes before he brought it down from Maine last spring.

The issues that I saw that will need addressing are:
- New tires (dry rot)
- New skylights (cracked when someone was shoveling snow from roof last winter)
- New ceiling paneling (where skylights leaked since last winter)
- Water heater issue (sounds like it may need a new element from what he described)
- repair or replace shower base (crack near drain)
- Minor upholstery work
- Refrigerator will need to be repaired/replaced, it stopped working 3 weeks ago (undiagnosed issue)
- While not critical for summer travels, the gas heater will need to be repaired (also undiagnosed)

"Free" seems like too good of a deal to let pass us by. Even if I have to sink $2-3K into updates, it should suffice for a few years. If we decide we like what we're doing, we can always trade up. And if it turns out after all that RVing isn't for us, it would be no major loss. At this point, I'm inclined to drive the truck up instead of the car when we go for Thanksgiving, so we could haul the trailer back to Ohio for some rehab.

Any thoughts from anyone with experience?

- Matt
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Old 08-26-2012, 03:09 PM   #2
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A 26-year old TT probably needs almost all new components other than frame and walls.

furnace
AC
water heater
water pump
shower stall
lavatory sink and faucet in the bathroom, and kitchen sink and faucet in the kitchen.
wheel bearings and brakes?

You can price most of those components at PPLmotorHomes in Houston to get a good idea of how much your budget will need to be.

AC 13.5k, $460: Duo Therm Air Conditioners on Sale - PPL Motor Homes

SUBURBAN FURNACE - NT-16SEQ - 16K BTU - $581: Trailer Heater - Suburban nt se Series for Sale - PPL Motor Homes

DOMETIC COMPACT FRIDGE - RM2510 - 11OV/LP - 5.0 CU.FT.$739: Dometic Compact Refrigerators - on Sale Now - PPL Motor Homes

SUBURBAN WATER HEATER -SW6PE-GAS/ELECTRIC-6 GAL-W/PILOT...$298.99: RV Water Heaters and Parts - PPL Motor Homes

SMART SENSOR 4.0 - VARIABLE SPEED/FLOW PUMP - VERY QUIET...$161.09:RV Water Pump...Shurflo, Flojet, Jabsco on Sale - PPL Motor Homes

As to the lavatory and kitchen sinks and faucets, replace with the smaller of the available home versions from Lowes or Home Depot. Don't try to replace them with huge home units, unless you wish to get into some complicated carpentry projects.

As for the bathtub/shower floor, you'll probably have to pay the big bucks from an RV parts source. Probably none of the home versions are small enough.

Wheel bearings are very important and despertely need servicing. Repack the wheel bearings yourself, by hand, and notice if they are not perfect. If you have no experience in repacking wheel bearings by hand, then find a good shade-tree mechanic that can show you how. If the wheel bearnings are not perfect, replace them with new ones. If you cannot find new ones of the exact right size, then replace the entire axle with new axles. You can get them with brakes from Southwest Wheel for less than $300 per axle:
Trailer Axles for utility and boat trailers

And speaking of brakes, yeah, they need to be perfect too. If they are not perfect, then the easy fix is to replace the entire axle with one that incudes new electric brakes.
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Old 08-26-2012, 07:07 PM   #3
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He probably has already checked to see what it would cost to haul it off
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Old 08-26-2012, 09:00 PM   #4
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What about the roof? Any signs of water damage?
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Old 08-26-2012, 11:17 PM   #5
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I am convinced that you have much more work than you think with this trailer. 30 footers are a dime a dozen if you look around. You can find one that is being used and in OK shape for less than you'd have in this one when you get it done. The floor under the bath is probably rotted and so is the roof. Replacing the ceiling is not an easy job. Be careful with this one, be very careful.
See my current post on the 20 ft trailer I just got done with.
If it's free-there's a catch. I smell a dead fish somewhere.
BTW, what are you going to tow this with? 3/4 ton PU might be as low as I'd go.
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Old 08-27-2012, 08:53 AM   #6
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The current owner showed me the craigslist printout (which had the handwritten bill of sale on the reverse, in typical Mainer fashion). He purchased the unit in September 2008 for $1000. The previous owner had it parked on a lot at a campground and never moved it - I think that is why the frame and skin are in such good shape.

He was going to ask for $500 for it on craigslist, but offered it to me for free because of the gratitude he has to my father for giving him some steady work and allowing him to camp out on his back lot. He is moving to an apartment in October and has no way to move the camper (his 1-ton van died over the summer, and his Ford Ranger won't cut it).

He has been living in this trailer for most of the 4 years that he has owned it, in Central Maine and then at it's current location on my parents' property. He's as honest as they come, and told me everything that he knew of that would need attention. I figured he should know since he's looking at it every day!

He said all of the wiring and plumbing is good, except for the water heater issue. No leaks in or under the trailer, and the roof is in excellent condition, except for the skylights. They cracked where his "redneck neighbor" did him the unsolicited favor of shoveling some snow off the roof for him last winter - and then had the audacity to ask him for $50 for his services! There is some water damage to the paneling around the skylights, doesn't seem like anything I can't handle.

I'm used to towing and trailer maintenance, as I haul a lot of trailers for work. I figured on repacking the bearings before the trip, at the same time I'd throw on some new tires. Current owner put new brakes on this past spring before he moved the trailer to NH.

As for my rig, it would have plenty of power, I have a Chevy Silverado 2500HD with the Duramax diesel. Not sure of the GVW of the TT, but I'm sure it's well within the 13,000 lb towing capacity of my truck.

There are several RV/camper dealerships within 10 miles of where we are living (in addition to internet shopping options like the PPL website referenced by SmokeyWren), so I should be able to shop for some good bargains on parts where I need them.

Thanks for the input! I'm going to talk to a guy locally that did an overhaul of a TT before I make my final decision. Told the current owner that I'd let him know within the next few weeks if we would take it or if he should advertise it for sale.

- Matt
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Old 08-28-2012, 12:20 AM   #7
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Well Ok sounds like you have a basic understanding and capability of what is needed. The truck should be OK just make real sure of the floor rot if there is any. You know, look into all the cabinets and bottoms of windows for signs of leaks or rot. PPL treated me REAL good on my tongue jack recently. I wish you well!
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Old 08-28-2012, 06:54 AM   #8
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I'll post up here what my final decision is, and if I do go down the route of a rehab, I will be photo-documenting and likely setting up a blog about it!

Once again, much appreciative thanks for the input!

- Matt
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Old 08-28-2012, 07:10 AM   #9
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Is time an issue?? Sounds like your going to be busy working on a TT, instead of camping. You will have a lot of time in rebuilding, versus getting something ready to camp in. Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 08-28-2012, 07:55 AM   #10
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The original timeframe was to have something by summer of 2014, so we could join a family caravan to Lake Powell. That would give us almost two years to save up for the purchase (I'm not financing).

THIS option would give us almost two years to rehab, and I can easily afford the small repairs, especially since I will be providing the labor. And who knows, if work slows down over the winter months, we could be ready for an adventure or two by next summer.....

Price is another big factor, again looking at $10K or upwards for a "camping ready" unit, or parts and my labor for one that we can rehab and "personalize" for $2-3000. No major commitment, in the unlikely event that RVing isn't for us, there would be very little I couldn't recoup.... And if we really like it, we will have something to trade up from!
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Old 08-28-2012, 09:21 AM   #11
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No one knows your situation better than you. Go for it, if it feels right. Good luck.
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Old 08-28-2012, 10:12 AM   #12
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BTW, I live at Lake Powell If you get here give me a call (or email) I'd like to see the rig. Go for it.
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Old 08-28-2012, 10:38 AM   #13
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If i did it correctly, there should be some pictures attached to this post. They are exterior pics of the trailer that I took while there last week. (I didn't take any interior pics, since the current owner is living there at this time). Body seems in almost new condition. No corrosion of the aluminum (even where it is stapled and riveted), and very little fading. I was surprised to learn that this trailer was as old as it is, it definitely seems to have been taken care of through it's life.
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Old 08-28-2012, 01:05 PM   #14
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I have looked at several of these same type trailers. Pay particular attention to the area on the front where the brown stripe is. Where the front face makes that bend. Many that I looked at had lost their waterproof caulking at that point, water had gotten in and rotted the front of the trailer there.
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