Completed Bay Door Repair
Well itís time to report on the results of this cargo bay door repair. First let me say that I have never done body work but have infrequently massaged aluminum material. Also, as a full-timer my tools resources are limited. Finally, since the doors repaired were utility bay and holding tank doors the rig could be driven without a door between stays.
Note that no repair facility wanted to repair the doors once they found out that the frame was damaged. New doors only. Understandably since labor costs would be prohibitive.
So if you are confident and brave here are some ideas on how to proceed.
The doors consist of an outside aluminum skin, an internal foam core, a plastic internal panel, all attached to an U-shaped extrusion which appears to have been electrically welded together in the middle of one of the sides. The hinge is steel. The skin is attached with double-sided tape on all four edges plus on the hinge. The top of the skin folds over the frame and is riveted in three or four places depending on the door size.
First remove the door from the rig. I would suggest marking where the hinge aligns, assuming that the screw holes are slotted for alignment. This will assist in reinstallation. You might want to remove the door handle first rather than later.
Note: Since one of the goals was to only require painting of one color, care was taken throughout the project to protect the multicolored areas which were not damaged. By the way I had touch up paint to cover the rivet heads replaced on the top edge.
After experimentation the easiest method to remove the skin was determined to be with a 1 1/4" putty knife and hammer. Use this on the sides and bottom. Do not remove the hinge - just drive the putty knife through both rows of tape. This part is easy & quick. Do not attempt to saw the tape such as using a cut off hack saw blade etc. Itís a lot of work and removing the tape residue from the skin and frame will be much harder. To make this easier clamp two boards at right angles on a level surface, put the door & frame into the corner and hammer away with a back support. After the three sides are done and the skin can be lifted up toward the top, slide some fishing line under the skin up to the top. Loop it into the slot between the frame and the top fold of the skin. Now pull the line toward you. (You have drilled out the top rivets - right!) Do not use a sawing motion as this will just heat up the line and it will break more easily. During ineffective experimentation using a line to cut through the sides a 15 test line lb and then a 65 lb line kept breaking. When pulling as described above 15 lb test should work. However, 65 certainly did after the other was given to a nearby fisherman - but it was probably overkill.
If you have power doors remove the power cord. It should lie in a cutout in the foam. It is probably held in place with masking tape. First put tape around the cable just where they emerge out of the door and the latch cutout and remove the cable. It will then be much easier to assure it is sticking out the correct length after reassembly.
There should in most cases be enough tape on both sides. The idea of just pulling at it and then using adhesive remover or lacquer thinner (my choice) later is strongly discouraged. Try to get all of the tape off from the start. Start at one end and roll the tape onto itself. You may pull up gently as enough is loose to grab hold of. Do not let any material escape the rolling process. This means more agony with the thinner. Use your thumb(s) to keep it together. It was found to be helpful to roll the sides into the middle. Less dangling material to deal with. Yes your thumbs will be sore! However, the three-foot door took forever, since I had not found the better technique, as compared to a breeze doing the five-foot door. Note that I said better technique, not best technique, someone might be more experienced or imaginative than me. You will have to use the elbow grease and scraping method in some places, especially on the areas where the frame has been crushed.
My damage consisted of a bow 3/4's of the length in the shorter door. Depth: 1 Ĺ" at the deepest. No creases. The bottom of the frame was crushed to half itís width. The longer door had a gash along the entire length, very slight at first then deepening to about one inch. The depression area was four inches wide. Only about six inches of the frame was crushed in half at the end of the gash. Iím going to leave it up to you how to flatten out the skins. I will say however, that the short door was compressed between two 2x8" boards overnight to get much - but not all - of the bow out of both the skin and frame. The same method was used to get most of the depression out of the longer door but after it was removed from the frame. After that it was hammering with a mallet, usually with the skin between some larger surfaces to distribute the impact forces. Hey, Iím not a body guy so there may be a better method!
If you have the ability to separate the frame and then weld it back later then you can greatly simplify the following SUGGESTION.
For the frame remove a big chunk of the foam. This will give you room to work the edges. But first remove any rivets holding the inner panel from the bad sections of the frame. The foam was only tack glued in a small area. Use a utility knife to cut through the foam. My knife was not deep enough so a putty knife was used to get the bottom quarter inch. Do not cut using the corner as it will likely cut through the plastic inner panel as well. Put your hand under the cut and press down with the putty knife. You should be able to feel when you have gone deep enough. Iíd suggest trying to cut only two adjacent sides near the edges so you can leave a section of the foam under the good portions of the frame. Pry the foam out and set aside.
Originally an attempt was made to use compression techniques over time to reshape the frame. Waste of time! And it distorted the shape more in some cases. Carefully hammer instead. 3/4" & 1" square tubing was obtained from the big box stores. 1 1/4" material was found at an ironworks (decorative railing) shop. For my frame the latter was a perfect inside fit. However, with the inner panel still in place it was not useful as an insert. Starting at the least crushed area hammer the smaller square down into the U. Then use the larger sizes. Donít force it too much as you will likely crack the inner panel. Note: Different lengths were cut to facilitate this effort rather than trying to do the entire side at once. At times a tack hammer was used to flatten out the bottom. Also, keep the frame upright and pound on a flat surface. If you must pound on the outside of the frame, clamp one of the squares into the inside of the U - the entire width - for backing. It will still bend the frame so be gentile. Lastly, since the squares have rounded edges the edges of the frame will not be crisp. To improve this obtain a short piece of say 1 Ĺ" flat stock two inches or so long. Press this upright alongside the frame and hammer. The good news: the most likely place that the frame will be damaged is at the bottom. Thus someone would have to get under the coach to see any minor imperfections. This assumes that your skin drops below the frame.
Put the foam back in and caulk the cracks. If needed use Great Stuff to replace damaged foam. Remember to replace the power cable before putting the skin back on.
Ah. There were some dips in the frame where the skin was to be attached. These were filled with JB Weld - love this stuff - then sanded smooth for a better fit.
Put a grease pencil line through the rivet holes on the frame and tape on the top of the door through but below the rivet holes. Use these as a guide when putting the skin on the frame. Add tape, following directions, on four sides of the frame and the hinge. Peel off the tape at the top of the door, start the others -at both ends -, so they can be pulled off when needed. Slide the skin down along the frame using the guides but keeping most of the skin up - not touching the tape. When aligned properly hold the top of the skin against the top of the frame, peel the balance of the tape, and drop the skin all the way down. Do not try to angle the skin down as there may be a separation of the skin and frame at the top and the rivets wonít work. Temporarily push at least two rivets in manually as you finish the process.
A cheap pop rivet gun, including rivets, can be obtained from Harbor Freight or at the big box stores for slightly more.
The tape used was black 3M #06395 7/8" x .060" thick. A much thinner, and cheaper 3M tape, .045" thick is available. However, based on the existing gap and the desire to have the rivet holes line up the more expensive tape was used.
Well this got windy and more could be relayed but you get the idea. Am I happy with the results? Yes I am.
Yes this could have been turned in as an insurance claim. However, considering two deductibles, the cost would be much more than my actual out of pocket costs.
Ed 2015 Entegra Anthem 42 DLQ
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