Travel Trailer Electrical, and Other Things That May Bore You

First, the other things. Remember this backsplash?

backsplash before

The countertop is a white laminate with gold flecks, but instead of carrying that up onto the walls for the backsplash, they used some kind of particle board with white paint on it. Or something. And then, they topped it off with what appeared to be plastic, marbled, bullnose tile. Of a sort. The picture doesn't really capture their beauty. Because they have none. 

So I pried it all off!

The particle board came off easy. As the glue was no longer sticky at all. The plastic tiles were hollow, and filled with some kind of adhesive putty. It was committed to sticking to the wall.


First I tried chipping away at it with a putty knife. Ha. It laughed in my face. Then I tried sanding it off. It completely ignored me. Then Richard told me to just go get a chisel, already. So I did. 


I started out hitting the chisel with a hammer, but I kept going too deep and taking bits of wall off with the putty. Eventually I figured out that it worked best if I just used the power of my hand, and pushed straight through the putty. It came off in a few sliced layers. 

Anyway, a very rambly way to say I got all the crap off the wall. Yeah. Told you you'd be bored.


And then someone stole my camera!


So, wiring. I can tell you what I know, which isn't much.

Since the siding is STILL off the trailer, it made it really easy to work on the wiring.

Here is how it works. (I think. I keep having to ask Richard how this works because it refuses to stay in my brain.)

A/C is the kind of power our houses run on. Current goes in both directions (i.e. Alternating Current.)
D/C is the power that comes from Batteries, which only supply current in one direction. (i.e. Direct Current). Honestly, I have no idea what that means. But if our Travel Trailer is wired for D/C, the stuff inside of it can run on batteries.

A car battery is 12 volts, and they make light fixtures and fans, etc. to run on 12 volts, since that is what RV's and boats use. So.

Originally our trailer had one D/C light in it. So if we were out in the middle of nowhere, running off a 12 volt battery, we would have one measly light. The rest of the lights required A/C, so to use those we'd have to be hooked up to A/C power, with an extension cord or whatever.

So we rewired all the lights to run off D/C.

This is where the original D/C light was.


The black wire is power coming in, the white is the ground, and the red is running to other light fixtures and a light switch. These wires are all 14 gauge, so you can use all the different colors for whatever you want. This is just what worked for us.

We are adding another light about 3 feet to the left of this one. 


Ah, yes! What an incredibly useful picture!

Here's another!


Above the sink was a light we rewired, and an outlet we re-purposed.  We're sticking a USB outlet in its place. I gotta admit. That gets me pretty excited.

We got those on Amazon, but there are probably lots of similar options out there in the world. Accessing the wiring for those boxes is no problem. Just lift up the board in the cabinet above them:

And there you are. 

There is another light over the dinette and two sconces on the back wall above the bench. We're putting another USB charging outlet back there. I could include pictures, but I think you've got the gist. Colorful wires sticking out of holes. Good stuff.

Then Richard installed this fuse box.


Which sits under one of the benches. It works like the fuse box in your car. I don't know how the one in my car works. But I do know that if the fuse blows, you replace it.  So all the interior lights, (and the fan we are going to install!) run into here. The Trailer's running lights--those on the outside that are one while you're driving--are hooked up directly to the car's power.

A few of the light fixtures we are using are specifically designed to run on 12 volts. But the 12 volt light fixture community doesn't have the biggest selection in the world. But don't despair! There are other options! You can also buy 12 volt LED light bulbs.
You can use these in a regular old light fixture and get the same effect as a 12 volt light fixture. Pretty cool, right? So that is what we are doing over the dinette.

Both batteries and light bulbs have improved a lot in the last 50 years.  Using his magical brain, Richard calculated
 that even running all the lights in our Travel Trailer 24 hours a day, one 12 volt battery should still last us four and a half days.

So, yeah. Pretty awesome. And that is all I have for you to day. Tune it next time for whatever other drivel I throw at you! Good night!

Travel Trailer Interior Walls

One of the nice things about building a wall lying flat on the ground is Ease of Access. These back walls needed some interior wall board--I have no idea what to call it. Paneling, maybe?--but since the walls where already in place we had to slide the wall panel in through the back window, fanagle it around between the stove and the cabinets, and then slide it into place. And since it took a while to get a perfect fit, we had to do this about eight times for each wall.


To Get that angle in the back, Richard traced it onto some cardboard. It still required lots of adjusting to make it fit. And there are some gaps we need to deal with. Somehow. But, the interior walls are in.


Then we put in a shelf across the back wall. Orginally this shelf exsisted as part of the bench back here, but we're going to build the bench a bit differently, so we put the shelf in all on its own. And it made a huge difference to how sturdy the whole thing feels. 


We each kept grabbing the wall, giving it a good shake, and yelling, "So sturdy!" We're fun people.

So then we had to replace the shelf across the front of the trailer as well. 


Along with the hardware that holds up the table. For both of these shelves, before putting them up we first stapled gimp around one edge. It is also known as welt, but why would I call it welt when I can call it gimp? I'm sure you can get white gimp online lots of places. We got ours from Vintage Trailer Shop.

It was a bit fatter than the original gimp used in the trailer, and really, I don't love it. The gimp itself was fine, but in general, I guess I'm not a gimp fan. It was tricky to get a nice clean line. I'd like to use caulk in the future, but I don't really know how it will hold up to all the twisty and stretchy that goes on in a travel trailer.

So, that is where we are right now. And if all my nieces and nephews would stop getting married, we might actually have time to finish this thing! Sheesh!


Step 1: Remove Siding


I'm pretty sure trailers and motorhomes like this were built by building the wall flat on the ground (or whatever surface they were using. Don't lets get hung up on semantics here.) They laid out their framing and stapled it together. Then they laid the interior paneling on top and stapled it in place. Then the whole completed wall could be lifted up and secured to the floor. Once all the walls were in place the trailer could be wrapped with aluminum siding. 

My point is, if you need to gain access to the framing inside the trailer walls, your best bet is to do it from the outside. 

You'll have to remove all the drip trim, lights and other do-dads attached to the exterior of the trailer. After that it is just a matter of pulling out all the staples holding the siding in place - a flat head screw driver and a pair of needle-nose pliers should do the trick. 

Step 2: Assess the Damage

The problem is, sometimes you can't tell what is damaged until you get the siding off and look at it. We were getting ready to finish up the rear of our travel trailer and just call it good, but both of us started thinking "What if there is more damage that we don't know about?" Especially because there was a pretty big dent near the roof in the front that had been repaired with metal tape.


What were the chances that hadn't caused some problems? So we pulled the rest of the siding off. 


And see what we found?


This wood in the above picture rotted because the seal behind the light up near the roof had gotten old and worn away. So this was just from water dripping through the hole the wires for the light ran through. One tiny hole can cause so much damage. 


From the inside the walls looked okay, but clearly they were NOT. I'm so glad we checked. How much longer would we have been able to tow the trailer around before the front of it just collapsed? There were enough bad boards in the front wall we decided to replace the whole thing.

Step 3: Use the Existing Wall as your Template

If just a few boards are rotted and soft, cut new ones and replace them. Our bad boards were held in place with glue, and big staples, but it wasn't too much work to get them out, on account a them being mostly dead.

What follows is a story in pictures representing how this is done:

See the ugly, sad piece of wood.

So, so ugly. And also sad.

Happy, new piece of wood! But no! The piece above it is also sad!

New, happy piece of wood!

Happy Wall!

Ok. so I used words in my picture story. But I clearly made my point, very eloquently: Remove the bad board, cut a new board the same size (or you can measure the space you pulled the bad board out of), put the new board in. High Five your friend for a job well done. Or high five yourself if you have no friend. 

Step 4: If you need to rebuild the Whole Wall, get busy.

Maybe so many boards are bad, or maybe the interior paneling is so bad that it makes more sense to replace the whole wall. Lucky you, you have that whole wall in front of you to use at a life size pattern of exactly what the wall should look like. If your wood has rotted so bad that you can no longer tell what should go where, then, dang, I don't know how to help you.

Using the exposed wall, you now know what size to cut all your wood.  So, Cut it! And hook it together! In the Right Places! Like so!


If you don't have a method for making those pocket holes like you see above, you can also use braces like these:


Just remember that they are kind of a pain in the bum. And you might hate me for suggesting them.

Step 5: Attach your interior paneling to the framed wall you just built.

I don't have picture of this. You'll just have to take my word for it that this is a necessary step. We used underlayment, and secured it with staples.

Step 6: Make sure you know exactly where your new wall goes.

If you are using the original siding, you need to make sure your wall is the same as the old one, or your windows and edges won't line up.  You could do this by taking pictures of every single joint where one wall meets another. You could make some marks where certain edges are supposed to meet. Or you could do something even smarter that we didn't think of.

Just remember that you have to get that wall back in in the right place, or your holes won't match up and you will be screwed.

Step 7: Pull off the bad wall.

Bad wall! Bad! Take that bad wall down!


Step 7: Attach the New Wall.

This was a little tricky with only two people. Clamps were our friends.

We used screws to attach the front wall to the side walls, but it wasn't until we attached it to the boards that make up those benches you see in the picture above, and to the cabinets you can't see in the picture above, that the wall really became secure.

Keep that in mind as you are rebuilding your trailer. You may be tempted to remove cabinets and shelves and benches to get more space, but every one of those built in pieces of furniture help to strengthen the trailer structurally. So proceed with caution.


And there you have it! New wall! And boy, howdy! is it sturdy! You know, for a trailer.

Things are getting exciting! Until next time, Adieu!


Not long after we bought the travel trailer, we moved out of our house so that the renovations could begin. My brother-in-law's parents let us live in their empty house for a few months, and we took our little 1968 Kit Companion with us.

Here is a little of what Richard was able to accomplish in his spare time (and what with the kids, work, and his church calling, spare time is obviously just coming right out of his ears.)







These pictures are pretty self explanatory, right?  He replaced some wood.  Around the windows he used a solid piece of plywood instead of the hodge podge of stapled together wood that they originally used. We rebuilt the back wall and floor. It is very sturdy now.  There is no telling about the rest of the trailer, but this spot, here in the back, will be as sturdy as can be.

Then it was time to move out of that house and go live in my sister's basement. And we left the trailer there. Cuz we had no where else to put it and they said they really didn't care.

When we finally moved back into our house and the remodel was finished, we kept saying to each other, "We should go pick up the travel trailer." But we never did. Cuz life is busy.

It wasn't until they told us they needed the space our trailer was parked in that we got our bums in gear and went and picked it up. And now our 1968 Kit Companion is parked in the back yard where we can work on it any time we want. We've got a family campout planned for the end of July and we're going to try to get it done by then. Can we do it? Who knows? But we are going to try! Tune in next time to find out more on this fascinating story!!


The most useful bit of information I have for you today is that cleaning things makes them look better.

Exhibit A:

dirty clean

But sometimes when you start fixing things, at first they just look worse.

See here, where we pulled out the bunk bed. Pretty..

demo 1

Then we pulled the paneling off the back wall. It was all pretty soft. Richard did most of it with a pry bar in the time it took me to set up my camera.

This is where the majority of the water damage was. Some of the framing came right out with the siding, if that tells you how structurally unsound it was.

demo 2

Next using a prybar and a hammer, we took out the bench.

demo 5

Mmm, boy, just look at that floor. It was all kinds of wiggly.

demo 6
And please note the wasps nests that were in the wall behind the bench.
demo 4

They are industrious little devils.

Then Richard took out the paneling on the side walls, just back to the first seam, about 4 feet. He wanted to make sure there wasn't any water damage that we didn't know about.

demo 10

And it mostly looks pretty good. We'll only need to replace a few boards on the left side, and just the corners on the right.  We're still figuring out the best way to do that.

Lastly we dealt with the floor.

demo 9

Lots of it came up really easy. The wood had basically turned to mulch at this point

demo 8

I crumbled that wood with my own hands!

Once we had pulled up what we could with the pry bars, Richard used a rotary saw set to 1/2" and cut through the floor right at the point where the front of the bench sat.  Then we pulled all that flooring and wood out too.

demo 11

It wasn't as bad underneath as we thought it was going to be.  Richard is a very Better-Safe-Than-Sorry guy, whereas I am more of a Better-Lazy-Than-Having-To-Do-Any-Extra-Work, kind of a girl, but we did it his way.  And now we know what we're dealing with.  We can pull out the damaged wood and replace it with new using something more secure than 40 year old staples.

It was just about dark outside at this point, so we covered the old girl with a tarp.  I considered buying one of those fancy pop up canopies, but they are about $150.00.  So we bought a big tarp and some nifty little bungee cords and rope to hold it down for $53.52.  And if some day we don't need the tarp to cover the trailer anymore, we can use it to line the back of our pickup and make another mobile swimming pool.  That is spending wisely.

tarp 1

tarp 2

A Farewell to Fibers

First thing I did in this old trailer was pull the cushions out.  We want to keep them until we have the replacements, but I didn't want them in there anymore, so I put them in the shed.  Then I went to work on the carpet.  I figured this was the spot to start in, right by the door.

carpet 1

I tried taking the screws out, but they just turned and turned without ever coming out so I just pried the whole thing up.  Pop!

carpet 2

The rest of the carpet was just held in place with rusty old staples every six inches or so along the edge and those popped out with almost no resistance.  I just grabbed the carpet and pulled.

carpet 3

It only took me about 10 minutes all together.  Then I rolled that dirty carpet up and threw it away!  Success!

carpet 4

It already smells so much better in there.  Not bad for spending about as much time as it takes me to go to the bathroom.

carpet 5

I'm a slow pooper.

carpet 6