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Sunrader Floor Repair, Gut and Rebuild

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I ended up buying these:




The bottom ones have to be a lot longer than the top ones.  Now I am getting paranoid.

It is just the biggest screw I could get in there was a #10 with out drilling out the ladder.  That didn't seem all that strong either.  1/4-20 would require drilling the ladder bracket and thinning out the material along the edge. The washer on the inside is a requirement, in my opinion. It does add a lot of strength.  My rivets are tight in the hole and formed the inside "star" nicely.  I use rivets at work a fair amount and we don't have a lot of trouble with them if they are installed right.  However, I have all the tools. If I didn't I would likely have gone with the biggest screw and washer combination I could get in there. With a screw I would look at using a fender washer on the inside. Now that I am paranoid I may redo them with a fender washer instead of the little ones.

Edited by jetalkington
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I ran into a similar problem with attaching my overhead to the cab roof. Tried the long rivets with fender washers as backers. Didn’t have the holding power I was looking for. So I substituted 1/8” butterfly toggle bolts for the rivets. Works great. If you can access the rear, your entry hole need be no larger than the bolt diameter. Push the toggle bolt through the hole, add the fender washer, then the toggle itself. Tighten down and you’re good to go.

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I went over to my Sunrader, at the shop.  I climbed on and shook my ladder.  I am an average size guy. I can say that ladder is going no where. I did use the collapsible rivets.  I am good and plan to leave my rivets in.  I am moving on to getting my ceiling and side wall supports in. I want to get it insulated soon.

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Well it seems like I've hit a major milestone. All the repairs and upgrades to the infrastructure have been completed.

Finished up on the roof two days ago and received the last vent cover I needed yesterday which I installed.

I'm ready to start moving onto the interior build, gluing in furring strips now for attachment points.

It'll be nice to move from fixing and repairing to building and designing.









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  • 3 weeks later...

Ongoing work on the 86 21 Sunrader.
I am hoping to get the inspection soon so we can move on towards registration/insurance and road tripping.
It has been a long haul since Xmas 2019 when we began.

Cleaned up, painted rearview mirrors and braces.

The fuel gauge is now working. Turns out the float was detached.
Reattached, cleaned up and back together, working now.
Windshield wiper motor went on the way to the mechanic's.
Replaced. But through this we now know there is an electrical problem somewhere near the fuse box.
I am no electrician so who knows? But looks like the fuses and box have some corrosion.... needs attention.
Also, before inspection have to replace tail lights. Ordered Bargman and hoping to install next week.
Do I need resistors to make these LED tail lights work properly?
Inside is coming along. Ceiling done. Upper cabinets need doors.
Saving money towards house battery system etc. Fridge and small stove top to come.
Anyone attempting to restore one of these should know it never really ends.
And that could be a good thing. :)





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21 minutes ago, canadasunrader said:

Also, before inspection have to replace tail lights. Ordered Bargman and hoping to install next week.
Do I need resistors to make these LED tail lights work properly?


Resistors will work, but it is easier to just get a LED rated flasher. Just match the pins on yours to the new flasher.

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WME: Not sure what that means?

"Resistors will work, but it is easier to just get a LED rated flasher. Just match the pins on yours to the new flasher."

Just shows how much I know about electrical.

Can you please elaborate?

Thanks again. Rick

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LED flasher...They come in many pin counts 2,3,4,6,7,9 . Find your flasher and remove it from the fuse panel and see how many pin/tabs it has. Go to Ebay or your parts store and get a LED replacement. A 3 pin example with adapter


Edited by WME
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Here is the deal the older flashers had to have resistance of the bulbs to work so the resistance of the led's is just about non existence so you have to have a flasher unit that does not need the resistance. They relayed on the bulb resistance to heat a bimetal bar that made the contacts on the flasher open and close


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Nice Job Rick, your rig is really coming together and looking beautiful.

I've managed to get the ceiling installed with the lights and insulation. Something is actually kinda sorta done, although I won't be surprised if i revisit it at some point.

Working on the cabover area now, I've gotten the side panels built and will begin tackling the front area next.






Edited by JaySam
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  • 2 weeks later...

Apologies, Jay. Didn't see this til now.
You have come a long way, baby! To quote whomever.

Everything looks buttoned up nice and tight. And you are getting somewhere.
How is everything mechanically?

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Hello everybody. I could use some sage advice. And a few hail mary's....


My Sunrader 21' 1986 is just back from inspection. Ha!
Failed on several accounts.
Rear brakes are not good and need whatever rear brakes need. [I am not a mechanic and have never tackled brakes] :)
All four shocks need replacing.

Front doors are stiff. Do they simply need some grease?

No heat coming from thermo in the cab. I see on the interwebs that this is common and an easy fix.
A few other little things that I can attend to...


Can I tackle rear brakes and shocks myself?
Again, I have limited experience.

The tony garage that I took my rig to is estimating $4,000 to do everything and pass inspection. Yikes!!


Thank you. Rick


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On a 1-10 scale 1=easy, 10=hard.

Oil change =1, rebuild engine =9.5... Shocks =3, rear brakes=5.

 A rear brake kit is lots of parts, there are several  rear brake redo posts here that list the part numbers. 

Basic parts are brake shoes, rear brake cylinders, inner and outer bearings, inner and outer seals.

Removing the axle shafts will teach you many new words of the 4 letter variety, read and learn, save your self a lot of grief.

Edited by WME
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Thanks Linda. Yes, it has been an unexpected complicated process.

I did attempt to take it to several local garages listed and licenced for inspection. Twice I got it there only to hear that they did not want to tackle it.

Including the venerable Canadian Tire, that does most inspections in Canada.

They claimed that I should take it to a place "that specializes in RVs."

I finally landed on this place. They work on a lot of fleet vans and larger vehicles, so they were not afraid to tackle the Sunrader.
And to be fair, they are excellent and professional to deal with.

Problem is, they are quite picky and have identified [and failed] some pretty obscure things.

For example, they want $200 to tighten the straps on the black water tank. And because the front doors are a little stiff they want $60 to grease and lube.

My plan moving fwd is to get it out of there and then I will have my local guy do most of the major work - brakes, shocks, etc - and I will tackle all the piddly little things on the list myself.
The truck heater is not producing heat, and the door are a bit stiff, and and and.
The good news out of all of this is that we have a nice long list of items that a tech has found to be wanting. Good to know where we stand and what needs addressing. Better to know now than somewhere out on the road...
Of course I don't like it. And it is expensive for me, but everyone knows entering the Sunrader world is not for the feint of heart. :)

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Sorry to hear of your issues Rick.  I hope you get them worked out in time for summer fun.  I worked on vehicles for years and our minimum charge was 30 minutes.   Guys around here are earning upwards of $80-$100 an hour.  That would be $40-50 dollars to do simple greasing. It is getting crazy. Fortunately that kind of stuff is simple with a can of white lithium grease.

Good luck. I know you didn't need any more on your plate. Your right buying a Sunrader is not for the feint of heart.

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Thanks Jim.
And in no way do I want to downplay a good mechanic's right to make a fair wage. They are worth their weight in gold for those who can afford them.
I am fortunate that some friends turned us on to a great, and talented guy that works out of his house now and charges about one third that the big boys do, and he always goes the extra mile without being asked. It's just a shame that he is not licenced to do the inspection.
Our chevy van side doors seized up completely on us a few years ago. I drilled a small hole into the pins and sprayed deep into them. Works like new.


Anyone out there know how easy/hard it is to remove the black water tank if I need to go that far?

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I think the black water tanks can depend upon what has happened to them in the life of the Sunrader.  I have read were they were put in from the top. Which if true would mean cutting and fabricate a new holder. 

Mine has been taken out at some point.  I have two bars across the bottom. It looks to me I unbolt them and it will come out.   Your would likely be different.  Best for someone else to chime in that has seen it done

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Why would you try to remove a tank just to tighten it. There are clearly visible straps under each tank. Sometimes the attachments are visible and sometimes not but it's not that hard to find somewhere you can attach a new tighter strap. No they were not installed from above. I've read many instances over the years of people replacing their tanks and never had to remove the floor. Get under there and look. See if it really feels loose or not. I would just jam some high density closed cell foam in there and tell them the straps were fine, only the cushion had degraded and fallen out. As long as it no longer moved

Linda S

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Man Rick sorry to hear it, that sounds like quite the headache!


I removed all the tanks in my Sunrader (easy and took maybe 20 minutes to do em all) and all of them had bolts going through the floor from the top to the metal strap underneath Linda mentioned with a nut and washer holding it on. If for some reason the bolt head inside the coach going through the floor isn't visible or is underneath a layer of wood you can tighten from the bottom by grabbing the bolt with vise grips and then a wrench on the nut.

As for the other mechanical stuff none of that is too difficult or complicated (although I've only done rear brakes on single axle, don't know if dually's are different or harder for some reason) but you do have to be able to walk through the steps, crawl under vehicles, break rusted bolts etc etc. If you only need shoes and drums on the rear that's a lot simple than replacing everything like the proportioning valve and stuff like that.

Shocks aren't too tough, maybe youtube a few vids and see if you feel up for it. More about getting into the spots and breaking old rusty bolts than anything technical.


I have lucked out that mechanically mine seems to be in pretty good shape. I picked it up in Oregon, floored it in 3rd all the way back to Colorado doing 75 over 3 days and didn't have a single issue with it. Since back I've only done some minor things like transmission cooler, oil change and radiator flush. Passed inspection fine, but we just need emissions. Luckily my 'sticky doors' didn't fail me.


Here's a pic of the 4 bolt heads for the black water tank as I was removing everything.


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Thanks Jay. Appreciate your encouragement and friendship.
Will forge onward.
I am going to leave the grey water tank for now as I plan to use it with a sink as a drain. I won't have any running water. No pump etc.
Also, in the back, the grey water tank acts as a bit of a floor support, no?

The black tank, being closer to the front, can be removed as far as I am concerned.
And thanks, Linda. Yes, I thought the mechanics comments to be a little odd regarding the tank. Not sure what any of this has to do with a 'safety inspection.'

It sounds to me like they just go around the vehicle  searching for bits of excuses to ding somebody more money before they give a sticker.


Edited by canadasunrader
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Hey Rick, I don't think the grey water tank adds any floor support. On my it contributed to the floor destruction and the immense sagging I have on either side as it's really just pulling down on the floor all the time. Really wish they hadn't mounted all the water tanks on the least supported part of the vehicles floor, but i've really been wishing they did a lot of things different as I rebuild this thing. Wish in one hand shit in another.....


Definitely sounds like they're just trying to rack up the bill on you, brakes and shocks are legit, sticky doors are definitely not. The loose black water tank could be considered safety if they feel it's going to fall off the vehicle while driving down the road but I highly doubt that's the case. Anyway good luck with everything regarding inspection, what a nightmare!

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So you guys are going to have  campers with no water tanks or systems at all? You can't drain grey water onto the ground in most state and federal parks. An empty grey water tank weighs all of 10 lbs so unless it never got emptied it certainly didn't weigh your floor down. I just don't understand why people pay to restore a fully self contained RV to turn it into what's essentially an empty van

Linda S 

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To each his own Linda.
I don't want a shower. I may want a composting toilet at some point down the road, who knows?
And I don't want running water. I am fine with bringing water with me. I don't need a water tank or water pump etc.

And these are so much more than just "empty vans."
The great thing about being out on the road in a vehicle like a Sunrader is you can do it your own way. It really doesn't have to make sense to anyone else.

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Hello again.

I have an appt early next week to tackle a bunch of important stuff before my 1986 Sunrader can pass inspection.

I am not a mechanic, but since I have a week I think I can at least attempt a couple of the easier things on the list.

First off, shocks.

Is it possible for a newbie like me to replace my shocks here in the driveway. I have a decent jack etc.

I began in the back as it looks to be easier. Ha! Those bolts are 30 years on there.
I sprayed them with blaster and then moved to the front.

I took off one front wheel and am poking around to see if I can do this.

The top bolt looks straight ahead, but the bottom one is not obvious. Seems to be some kind of double jeopardy.... :)

Can anyone please advise? And I am happy to be told to stand down if I should not attempt this or other open heart surgeries this rig requires.


Thanks. Rick

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This is the Bilstein shock for your Toy...https://www.shockwarehouse.com/site/product.cfm/id/14571/name/Bilstein-B6-4600-Heavy-Duty-Shock-Absorber-Toyota-Pickup-Front-24-184830

Its got a single nut(with jam nut) on the top. The bottom of shock uses a cross bar that is held on with 2 bolts

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Thank you.

With some trial and error and a bit of knuckle blood and swearing I removed the first front one.
Looks like it is from the way way back times...

I will forge on and at the very least get these two fronts done.
Not sure, even with my jack and stands if I can get those back ones off. I'll try. We'll see.




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Just FYI:
Those Bilsteins ...https://www.shockwarehouse.com/site/product.cfm/id/14571/name/Bilstein-B6-4600-Heavy-Duty-Shock-Absorber-Toyota-Pickup-Front-24-184830 

may be the perfect shocks for Sunraders, but up here in Canada they are special order and I was quoted $199. + tax for each today.

While I realize safety and performance are paramount, budget is also right up there in concern.
I went with another Monroe option that is less than half the cost and in the good-not-perfect category.

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