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Old 01-24-2022, 03:50 PM   #1
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Replacing Plastic Underbelly Panels with Hurricane Shutters?

I have a Forest River Salem 22RBS with the enclosed underbelly. The plastic panels are pretty much garbage. The manufacturer installed them with tiny head screws so over the course of the last 8 months of use, they have cracked all around the screw head and two of them have fallen down to the point where I had to drill new holes in the un-cracked part. My FIL is throwing away a bunch of aluminum hurricane shutters that weigh ~10lbs each. I am thinking about replacing my front underbelly panel with 4 of the hurricane shutters. Has anyone ever done anything like this or seen it done? In terms of weight it will end up adding about 30lbs over the current panel. I am going to test it on the front section because that plastic panel is by far in the worse shape. Any thoughts?
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Old 01-24-2022, 04:07 PM   #2
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I think the plastic panels are called Coroplas,, might be a trade name. I'm familiar with the hurricane panels, I've been taking them up and down for several years in Florida. One thing to check is that they are not suffering UV damage. The hurricane panels may be a little thicker than the OEM belly panels but that should not be an issue.

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Old 01-24-2022, 04:57 PM   #3
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If they aren’t already there, I’d put fender washers on each screw to support the Coroplast. The diameter of the washers on my fifth wheel is about 1.5”.
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Old 01-24-2022, 05:04 PM   #4
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I had the same type of panel under the slideout part of the frame, not the slide but the part of the main frame where the slide mechanism was. It was wnating to fall down also besause the factory people just kept tightening the screws right up into the panel. I used fender washers and put the screws in a new spot. I faially just left it off because I got tired of taking off and putting it back on weekly to fix the slide.
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Old 01-25-2022, 09:35 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boyloe View Post
I have a Forest River Salem 22RBS with the enclosed underbelly. The plastic panels are pretty much garbage. The manufacturer installed them with tiny head screws so over the course of the last 8 months of use, they have cracked all around the screw head and two of them have fallen down to the point where I had to drill new holes in the un-cracked part. My FIL is throwing away a bunch of aluminum hurricane shutters that weigh ~10lbs each. I am thinking about replacing my front underbelly panel with 4 of the hurricane shutters. Has anyone ever done anything like this or seen it done? In terms of weight it will end up adding about 30lbs over the current panel. I am going to test it on the front section because that plastic panel is by far in the worse shape. Any thoughts?
How rigid is these? Will they be able to stand the bouncing, twisting of the trailer going down the road? Will they be too stiff to mount on the underbelly with all the bouncing during travel? Just remember if you are close to the max weight, you will need to lose weight somewhere else to compensate for the weight. Plus adding more tongue weight, is this going to affect the hitch set-up, will you need to readjust a weight distribution hitch set-up.
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Old 01-25-2022, 09:46 AM   #6
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When putting the belly cover (of any type) back, suggest to use stainless steel fender washers/screws. Will prevent a lot of rust problems over time.
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Old 01-25-2022, 09:57 AM   #7
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If the panels you are talking about are cellular polycarbonate, be careful not to overtighten the screws. It is crushable and can crack. If I was going to use it, I'd place a neoprene washer between a fender washer and the panel. It isn't for water proofing, it's so there's a little cushion for the panel. Only tighten the screw until snug. As an alternative you could use the same technique with the existing panels.
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Old 01-25-2022, 11:50 AM   #8
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When putting the belly cover (of any type) back, suggest to use stainless steel fender washers/screws. Will prevent a lot of rust problems over time.
If the panels are aluminum, I would give it a try. I think it's a good idea.
Aluminum and stainless don't play well together. I'd use a plated steel screw and washer.
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Old 01-25-2022, 12:04 PM   #9
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All the hurricane panels I’ve seen are not flat would they not leave large gaps where varmints could get in the underbelly
One other downside although probably not significant I think the core Plast might have slightly better insulation value than a solid piece of material
All that being said if I could source the materials the way you are I would probably do it myself
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Old 01-26-2022, 06:31 AM   #10
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If the panels are aluminum, I would give it a try. I think it's a good idea.
Aluminum and stainless don't play well together. I'd use a plated steel screw and washer.
I had not even thought about galvanic corrosion. Thanks. We tend to stay in drier areas so the effect should be minimal but it is always good to keep it in mind.
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Old 01-26-2022, 06:33 AM   #11
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All the hurricane panels I’ve seen are not flat would they not leave large gaps where varmints could get in the underbelly
One other downside although probably not significant I think the core Plast might have slightly better insulation value than a solid piece of material
All that being said if I could source the materials the way you are I would probably do it myself
These panels are corrugated and would overlap so there won't be any gaps. The floor of the trailer is already insulated but it might not be a bad idea to add some more insulation to the aluminum panels prior to install.
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Old 01-26-2022, 09:53 AM   #12
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Personally, even though I've extensively rebuilt/upgraded my floor system, I re-installed the coroplast as I think it works just fine for the purpose. It's weatherproof, rot proof, mold and moisture proof and is easy to work with. I do agree that you need to use large fender washers on the screw heads.

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Old 01-28-2022, 08:37 AM   #13
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Update on panel install

** UPDATE **
Yesterday my father-in-law and I attempted to install one of the panels on the bottom of my trailer. The panels have almost no flex to them and as such they were unable to be maneuvered up into the frame to rest on the lip and then screwed down. We attempted to then simply attach them to the bottom of the frame but due to other stuff down there (stabilizer jacks, electrical runs, etc) it would have required a lot of custom cutting to fit the panels in place. As such we abandoned the idea and I am just going to attempt a repair of the existing plastic Accessibelly panel with some Eternabond tape and new screw holes with big fender washers. Hopefully will give me a quick fix while I source some Coroplast to replace the plastic panel. Thanks for all the advice everyone!
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Old 01-28-2022, 10:45 AM   #14
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For Coroplast, check sign shops in your area. When I last needed some, prices were anywhere from $15-$60 per 4’ x 8’ panel. Home Depot carries it, though it might be white. You can also search for “corrugated plastic” on the web.
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