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Old 02-01-2015, 03:32 PM   #1
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What is this leaking brake system part? And is this camper worth fixing?

Hi all,
I'll put the short version first in case you don't want to read a bunch of back story and just want to answer.
I finally found the master cylinder on my 1989 Winnebago Chieftain 33RT - just where several people said it'd be (accessible through a hole in the wheel well behind the driver's side tire). I didn't look inside, but I noticed immediately that the blueish thing it's attached to has what looks like a wet spot on it. I'm not a mechanic (I'm a computer repairman by trade, and soon-to-be-again full-time traveling minister by calling), so while I know a few things about cars, this one is beyond my meager knowledge. What is this?


Now the longer version.

My wife, son, and I bought our second camper, the aforementioned Winnebago, about 2-1/2 months ago. The first one... well, let's just say it's a long story, which I'll be happy to tell if you're interested, but when I have more time. At any rate, we paid $1500 for it, and drove it home. We didn't have enough money to register it right away, but we figured we could do so when we're just about to start traveling again. Now with taxes coming back and a large job I just did, we'll have a little money finally to get her fixed up. I'll of course be doing all the work myself - I am fairly mechanically inclined (enough so to have built my last camper, but again, long story), though my knowledge is lacking (which is why we no longer have our former camper).

The good:
Less than 5,000 miles. Yes, that's Five Thousand. The previous previous owners drove once or twice a year to a spot about 100 miles away, and the ones we bought it from never drove it.
It cost us $1500.
It's a Class A.

The issues we know about:
It leaks. The cabinets on the passenger side and over the cab all had to come out because of water damage. The walls are showing signs of water damage, which in this model I don't think affects anything structural (wallpaper-lauan-foam-lauan-fiberglass construction with aluminum supports).
One spot in the floor got soaked from water coming from the wall, soaking the dinette completely, and then traveling towards the kitchen sink. We removed the dinette, all the chairs and sofa, and most of the carpet in the front end, and took a look - the floor is also made with lauan-foam-lauan sandwich construction. The part that got soaked was where the 110 wire goes from the passenger side to the driver's side, and has no foam in the middle of that section of the sandwich.
The outside is showing some delamination bubbles.
The hydraulic leveling jacks sorta work - some (don't remember which ones) extend only with help, the right rear has trouble lifting the motorhome, and the left rear has broken springs.
There is a crack in the housing where the fresh water connects, and so water leaks out there. So far we've only had it hooked up long enough to fill the fresh tank, but when we start traveling again we'll need to hook up full-time, so this has to be fixed.
There are various dents, and areas where the basement doors seem to have nicks or cracks.
The awning is missing a part, though I managed to rig up something with a window crank that works well enough.
The tires are original, which concerns me - but there is no sign whatsoever of any cracking or anything that would indicate a problem (except where it apparently sideswiped a curb or wall; the outer left rear tire is scuffed a bit).
The brake pedal goes to the floor, and the brakes *almost* don't work.
The entry door doesn't close all the way, and the handle broke, so it's been removed and will have to be replaced. It is also falling apart inside and out.

So, with all this... considering that we don't care as much about cosmetics, and have no compunction against using the lowest cost parts for replacement... is there any chance we can get it useable enough to travel approx. 5000-1000 miles a year while we preach and live full-time in our camper, all for $1500-$3000?

1989 Winnebago Chieftain 33RT Slideshow by Squirrley5 | Photobucket to see the pics I've taken - all exterior.

God Bless!
-Sam
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Old 02-01-2015, 03:34 PM   #2
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By the way... for tires, I'm planning on getting Samson's if new tires are absolutely necessary. So that's only about $900 shipped (plus whatever local shops will charge for mount/balance). Samson Radial Truck GL283A Tires at SimpleTire.com
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Old 02-01-2015, 05:30 PM   #3
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If I were you I would attack the leaking roof first, assay the interior damage(there is going to be a lot) then decide if you want to sink anymore money into it. Major water damage will require you to tear out ceilings walls and floors...tip of the iceberg kinda thing.

There is a date code on the tires, if they are original or over 7 year sold replace them. A blowout can take out a fender well and anything else in a 7-8' radius.

If that water damage is too extensive, you might be able to part out the coach and make a little money on the deal.
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Old 02-01-2015, 05:50 PM   #4
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Thanks, Motor7. I checked the date code earlier today... it's 488, so it's either 98 or 88. I imagine they're original to the camper, since the date would put it around December '88.
For the water damage - since the actual structural elements are aluminum, it should be mostly the more cosmetic parts - particularly the lauan - that are problematic. Even if I had to redo the lauan inside and out and ceiling, that would be <$600 in lauan, plus the glue. Of course, I'd probably replace the 32' section of fiberglass siding with aluminum coil (Amerimax Home Products 24"x50' Trim Coil Bright White/Bright White-69124182 - The Home Depot) if it came to that, to get rid of the delamination issues at the same time...
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Old 02-01-2015, 05:58 PM   #5
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Also, if I could part it out quickly enough (our second baby is due in May or June, and though right now we don't have another vehicle, we want to start traveling shortly after the LO is born), I could pick up something like this locally: 1991 Chevy Tioga Montara 24 ft

It's a Class C, which means easier to drive and more sleeping area, but we'd lose some space. *shrug* it's a difficult decision, and we'd love more input. We'll try to get some interior pics as soon as we can so that more people can chime in.

God Bless!
(My son asked me to put this: )
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Old 02-01-2015, 08:51 PM   #6
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I would pass on the Winnie. You would end up with a patched up Mh rather then a rebuilt one IMO.
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Old 02-02-2015, 05:40 AM   #7
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It appears to be the accumulator for the hydroboost master cylinder.
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Old 02-02-2015, 06:32 AM   #8
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TJS, you will have to add the cost of a new or partial roof. Pull back the EDPM over the rotted area, rip up the rotted wood, replace & repair. Depending on how extensive the damage is you could easily run into several hundred dollars in materials.

As for the de-lam, it looks like Filon. It has let go of the Luan behind it...that's right they use an interior grade plywood on the outside with the thin Filon glued to it. Once water gets in there the game is over since luan can't take any moisture at all. To fix the exterior properly it all has to come off and it's a big job. Here is an idea of what you will find underneath the Filon when you pull it off:

http://lanceowners.hoop.la/topic/lan...t-repair-wpics

I like your idea of the roll aluminium, so how are you going to run it...horizontal or vertical and are you planning on doing the entire camper? Is so I think I would go with 48" wide sheets.
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Old 02-02-2015, 01:22 PM   #9
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429CV3, thanks! - I had just found a picture of the hydroboost system and thought that might be it. Hmm. I'll have see if I can build up pressure by pumping the brakes, and also check the MC fluid level. From what I read, doesn't the accumulator only provide pressure in case of a power steering failure? So would it affect performance with the coach running and the power steering working?

Motor7, I had suspected as much about the roof. There are a few areas that felt a bit soft when I walked up there to inspect it and clean it up good: the seam between the main 32' section of the roof and the front fiberglass cap, around the shower skylight, and just forward of the vent in the living/kitchen area. I got some Henry Wet Seal about a month back and caulked up the areas that looked particularly bad, expecting to do a better repair when the weather turns (hopefully in March or early April so there's plenty of time before the baby might show up in May)... but it didn't stop the leak in the cab area. It did stop the leak around the shower and the cabinets, but not in the cab area.

As for the siding: it is filon, and I was aware that it has lauan immediately inside the filon. Since the actual structure is aluminum (which is extremely unlikely to rust and suffer weakening problems structurally), only the inner and outer lauan are likely to be damaged. I got a closer look last night (haven't gone out today to take pictures because of the wind - it's in the 40's but feels like the teens with the 35+mph gusts), and inside there are only a few spots that show water damage: the kitchen counter, where the fridge used to be, by the entry door, and the worst spot above the passenger window, where the worst leak was (and I haven't been able to stop yet). So mostly that means fixing delamination issues would be the cheapest method. It won't look 100% perfect when it's done, but it'll be sturdy from what I've read. The method is to drill small holes and pump resin in, then clamp or brace the side until the resin sets and the bubbles should be gone. If I can do that for about $100-$150-ish and save myself the $500-$600 on aluminum, so much the better. I'm getting antsy sitting on my mom's property, and don't want to be here too long - anxious to get back on the road as quickly and cheaply as possible, though I don't want to cut corners where it counts.

If I do end up needing to put on the aluminum coil, I'll do it horizontally, starting at the bottom and working my way up much like if I was siding a house. With a layer of butyl tape between each row and using roofing screws (with rubber washers), it should keep water out pretty well (though I'd worry a little about the inevitable seams since I couldn't afford to buy the 8 rolls I'd need to have seamless runs). I'd probably have to seal the top with Eternabond, though, since the current filon is actually placed over top of the main roof material (is it EPDM or aluminum? I'm not sure - I'll inspect more closely when the wind dies down). I haven't found 48" aluminum sheets locally, nor can I imagine they'd be so inexpensive, or I'd gladly use them instead of the 24" coil.

After a little bit, I'll go outside and take more pictures inside out and upload them along with my floor plan (both original and proposed) for interested parties.
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Old 02-02-2015, 03:55 PM   #10
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If you are even considering a Class c beware that their most common spot for a leak is at the cabover bed area. A rebuild there would mean a lot more work to prevent things or children from falling through. I think you might do better with a retired school bus. I never saw delamination on them and I drove them for over 50 years. You could insulate the way you want, build your own interior (watch out for weight by forgetting about 2X4s) and You can find the buses for $2-4000 in many places and the chassis is usually much better than an old MH. Take a look at the rebuild job a couple lines below yours and see what gets involved.
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Old 02-02-2015, 04:45 PM   #11
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I have to say for what TJS is wanting to do, a school bus is an excellent idea. Strip the Winnie of all it useable parts and transfer them over to a bus, then take the rest ot a scrap yard.

Something like this looks promising:
http://knoxville.craigslist.org/cto/4850486553.html
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Old 02-02-2015, 06:41 PM   #12
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Based on my driving experience a Bluebird is top of the line.
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Old 02-02-2015, 08:20 PM   #13
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Thanks for the suggestion, both. While I'd love to do a skoolie conversion, there are three major problems that would keep me from doing one. First, time. I have a baby coming in just 3-1/2 months, and need to have a home ready. We're planning to do a home birth, so there needs to be a home ready to go by the end of April.

Second, cost. Even if I could find a bus for just $2500, it'd cost me an additional $2500-$3000 minimum for the conversion - and I am sure I can get this one done for < $3000 since I have a lot of leftover materials from my last camper build.

Third, DMV hassles. I don't have a CDL and don't have the time or money to get one, so I wouldn't even be able to go pick up a bus. Hiring a driver to get it back here is out of the question. I don't know how or where I'd be able to insure it. I'm also sure my mom wouldn't let me pull yet another huge vehicle on her property - at least not without getting rid of this one first.

So, I have two choices: either fix this one up, or sell/scrap it and find a ready-to-go camper for about the same price. After looking at the two local Craigslist areas(remember, I don't have another vehicle at the moment; my old car that I bought 2 weeks before the camper caught fire just 2-1/2 weeks ago, and I ended up scrapping it recently, so I can't expect friends to take me further than about 40 miles to look at one), I really can only repair what I already have.

And after looking at it again today, I'm very encouraged with how good it looks overall. Much less water damage than I remembered. Except around the front cab, it all seems to be just under windows, which to me is purely cosmetic and for now ignorable. The delamination should be fixable with some resin and clamps. The roof may need replacement underlayment, but that wouldn't cost more than $65 for OSB for a total roof redo (the aluminum and foam aren't going to be affected by the water) plus a little for the appropriate glue to put back down the roof itself. Then add a few rolls of Eternabond to seal all the fixtures and a 5-gallon bucket of elastomeric sealant, and the whole roof redo/reseal would be just $250-$275. So we're looking at: Roof $246.36
Beds $178.15
Wall & Ceiling $266.50
Plumbing $209.73
Flooring $113.12
Chassis $1,850.00 (6 Tires, $450 for hydroboost, assuming worst case, and replacement springs for all 4 levelers)
Heating $85.00
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Old 02-02-2015, 08:22 PM   #14
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By the way, as school buses go, I'd be more inclined to try to get this one: 2000 Thomas Saf-T-Liner MVP ER Bus# 9976 - GovDeals.com

It's closer, and I'd rather the pusher.
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