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Old 03-08-2014, 11:47 PM   #1
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Fine cracks in MH exterior

We recently noticed many tiny (1") hairline cracks on the sides of our 2008 MH. These cracks all run vertically and are a bit difficult to see unless your right on top of them. Someone recently told us its the fiberglass and that the whole piece needs to be replaced. Does anyone have a similar problem or know what this is? The coach is not sun faded and has been mostly garaged. Thanks!
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Old 03-09-2014, 12:06 AM   #2
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Sounds like gelcoat crazing. Poor quality layup and could be expensive to repair. I would be contacting the manufacturer even though it's five years old, even if it's out of warranty. Didn't they just change hands?

I'm guessing full body paint...is there a lot of black area? Dark colors can get REALLY hot in full sun, can cause crazing in the surface finish.

That's a bummer for a quality big coach like that.
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Old 03-09-2014, 12:25 AM   #3
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It's called crazing. It was caused because the government forced the manufacturers to change their proven manufacturing procedures for environmental reasons. The result was fiberglass panels that 'craze' after time. Darker colors increase the symptom.

It causes absolutely no problem, except you don't like the look of it, and any future purchaser will possibly try to take advantage of it to significantly knock the value of your coach.

Painting is not a cure. Replacement of the fiberglass panels can be a solution, at a terrific price. Where it gets painful is when you pay that terrific price, and a few years later, the crazing is back.

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Old 03-09-2014, 08:02 AM   #4
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Old 03-09-2014, 09:38 AM   #5
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If its in the sidewalls and not the front/rear caps, it's a common problem in dark-colored coaches of your vintage (and mine too - I have them in the black areas).

I don't know anything about EPA involvement, but the manufacturer who made the sidewall composite used by most major RV builders had a quality problem. The fiberglass-like composite develops tiny hair cracks in the surface when it gets repeatedly hot in the sun. Dark colors are usually the cause - light colors don't seem to get hot enough. It may take years to appear, though. It's only a cosmetic problem - no water can get in.

Grinding the surface down and re-painting may work, but many who have tried it found the problem returned after a couple years. The recommended fix is new sidewalls using a newer composite that is more temperature resistant, but the price is staggering.
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Old 03-09-2014, 07:27 PM   #6
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Thanks for your replies. Yes, the areas of crazing are indeed on the black painted areas. So I am correct to assume that even if we repaired this and painted those areas a lighter color it would still return in a few years?
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Old 03-09-2014, 07:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Navimama View Post
Thanks for your replies. Yes, the areas of crazing are indeed on the black painted areas. So I am correct to assume that even if we repaired this and painted those areas a lighter color it would still return in a few years?
If you decide to have it repainted you may opt for a lighter color scheme. Ours has stared the crazing in the darker brown color but really nowhere else. As I say starting but NOWHERE near as bad as some of the coaches I've seen. Some are just horrible. Our price quote to reside it was $30K . Needless to say I said NO thanks.
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Old 03-09-2014, 07:53 PM   #8
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I recommend you seek the advice of a competent fiberglass refinisher. The crazing is caused by heat expansion and contraction, and yes, a lighter color would help, plus it's a lot easier to keep looking shiney. I don't know why the black finishes got so popular...I guess there were too many federal agents or limo enthusiasts.

The gelcoat is over finished with a base-coat clear-coat acrylic urethane type finish. Some are more flexible than others. Lately EPA has forced lower vocs and harder paint and I have seen the finishes get harder and harder. Perhaps a more flexible coating could be used overall that in combination with a lighter color may very well rid you of the problem for a very long time. You may be talking a few thousand verses many tens of thousands to rebuild the coach.

If the substrate is sound there's absolutely no reason a new paint finish can't me made to fill in the surface for a solid base for new clearcoat finish. That's why god invented high-solids primers, epoxy primers, and flexible durable clear coats.

Talk to a fellow who's an expert at painting old corvettes.
You just need a guy that knows what he's doing. The hard part is determining if he really does.
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Old 03-09-2014, 08:00 PM   #9
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Holy cow...$30K! Yeah, our is just starting also, but is a bummer nonetheless. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-09-2014, 08:08 PM   #10
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Holy cow...$30K! Yeah, our is just starting also, but is a bummer nonetheless. Thanks for sharing.
Yeah, the thing that got me was that a year newer coach it would have only cost $18 K. Try to figure that one out. I sure couldn't but was told that's what it is.
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Old 03-10-2014, 05:40 AM   #11
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I also have the same issue with my coach,also know a friend with crazing that has had the problem several years.He has not had any known problems yet except the lost resale value.The bright side is if you live in a greedy state like Virginia and your taxes are based on value then it can be of some relief.
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Old 03-10-2014, 08:27 AM   #12
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So I am correct to assume that even if we repaired this and painted those areas a lighter color it would still return in a few years?
It depends on the method of repair. The assured method is to replace the sidewalls, which would probably cost $25k-$30k (assuming the factory was willing to do it). Anything else is a gamble. I have a friend with a 2000 American Dream in blue & white had this problem in the blue areas. His was ground down and fully repainted in 2005 and the crazing hasn't returned. Others have had the problem come back in as little as two years, but those weren't factory jobs and the quality of the surface repair (grinding it down) is unknown. American Coach stopped doing the grind-down repair after too many failures and began doing the full sidewall replace instead.

The hair crack problem is not poor paint quality or inadequate surface prep. It's an actual flaw in the composite material that is triggered by heat. A permanent repair requires that a new surface to applied. Some coaches just have clear coat over the composite sidewalls (they will be white with painted or decal trim), while others have full body paint, which is typically acrylic paint with a clear coat finish for shine and durability.

There is a seemingly similar problem called blistering, which happened to many Alfa brand coaches. It's different in that the problem arose because of excessive moisture in the luan plywood backing (substrate) that permeated through the Filon composite outer layer, resulting in actual blisters that popped. Blistering requires a new plywood backing, which effectively means new sidewalls. See http://www.cranecomposites.com/_pdfs...ring_65140.pdf


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The gelcoat is over finished with a base-coat clear-coat acrylic urethane type finish.
I apologize for nitpicking, but the sidewalls of a coach don't have a gelcoat and aren't molded fiberglass. They are sheets of a glass resin+strand material bonded to a backing (substrate), usually luan plywood. While we loosely call them "fiberglass" and the surface layer does belong to that family of materials, the paint prep and finish problems are not identical.

There are two types of sidewall finishes. One is less expensive and consists of only a clear coat of the sidewall composite. The sidewalls will be white with color/trim provided by decals or perhaps painted stripes of some sort. These can get the blisters mentioned above but rarely have the cracking/crazing problem.The more expensive finish is full body paint, in which the entire surface is painted with an acrylic type paint and then covered with a clear coat for shine and durability. Dark painted areas can get the cracks, apparently becasue of the extra heat generated in direct sun.
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Old 03-11-2014, 12:39 PM   #13
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>snip

I apologize for nitpicking, but the sidewalls of a coach don't have a gelcoat and aren't molded fiberglass. They are sheets of a glass resin+strand material bonded to a backing (substrate), usually luan plywood. While we loosely call them "fiberglass" and the surface layer does belong to that family of materials, the paint prep and finish problems are not identical.

There are two types of sidewall finishes. One is less expensive and consists of only a clear coat of the sidewall composite. The sidewalls will be white with color/trim provided by decals or perhaps painted stripes of some sort. These can get the blisters mentioned above but rarely have the cracking/crazing problem.The more expensive finish is full body paint, in which the entire surface is painted with an acrylic type paint and then covered with a clear coat for shine and durability. Dark painted areas can get the cracks, apparently becasue of the extra heat generated in direct sun.
No not nitpicking, but perhaps you're talking about one brand of motorhome. In my experience most of the fiberglass panels do have a gelcoat on the outside, whether they are painted or there are vinyl graphics applied. And while the sides are not built up in a mold, the front and rear caps are. In fact they were just talking about this on another thread where the manufacturer had an option for gelcoat or not under full paint. So you're right in that obviously some instances there isn't a gelcoat, but then I'm not sure what they're putting over the fiberglass layup to get it smooth enough to paint, nor what the OP has under the full-body paint of his motorhome.

In any case the poor guy (as well as others) has cracking in the finish and most of us would be inclined to do something about it, the majority loathing to cough up thirty grand to replace the entire side panels and refinish the coach. OUCH!

My coach is now 10 years old and it does have a gelcoat finish which is starting to lose its shine. I might be able to buff it up one more time, certainly worth a try. Alternatively I'm looking at sanding it down with 800, prepsol, and shoot it with acrylic enamel clearcoat. With a crosslinked hardner it's pretty much the same as a urethane. A gallon of clear is maybe $120. Apply new vinyl graphics. Alternatively I could paint on the graphics and then clear coat.

I was doing some research on the subject just yesterday and for durability the pro's are recommending gelcoat for fiberglass. Spectrum Color and Sher-fab both have colors and clear gelcoat finish. I'm thinking it's a lot more difficult to apply than automotive clear or paint. The subject comes up a lot for refinishing boats. Gelcoat is preferred because it's a LOT more durable for wear and tear from use which we don't get with a motorhome side panel. The analogy used was "Would you climb up on the hood of your car with your bathing suit and ski-tow rope?" Probably not - we paint our cars and then keep them polished and shiny and never touch them, park them in the shade where possible.

Anyway, just trying to give OP some suggestions to pursue for his quest for a resolution to the problem. No matter what it isn't an easy one to resolve.
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Old 11-26-2014, 10:18 AM   #14
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Has anyone tried applying Zep floor wax over it? It seems that it would fill the existing cracks temporarily and could be reapplied as needed.
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