Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Hi all,

Just bought my first camper ever, an '87 Toyota Dolphin. Long story short, it needs work - work that I myself don't know how to do. I read great blogs and posts here about the amazing things people have done to their Toyota campers, but the writers are either trained, related/married to someone who can work on them, or just amazingly talented in RV repair from birth.

For regular people like me, there's only one option: hire someone else to do it. Or is there another way? I'd love some information on how regular people like me can fix up their campers themselves. I can do basic DIY around my home, but I know better than to assume that transfers to RVs. What kind of basic equipment, like power tools, do I need? Where could I park it to work on it (I live in a townhome community where we're not even supposed to change the oil in the parking lot)? I'd like to partner with someone and learn the skills needed to fix it up - has anyone here ever done that?

TIA for any information!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Plain Jane said:

Hi all,

Just bought my first camper ever, an '87 Toyota Dolphin. Long story short, it needs work - work that I myself don't know how to do. I read great blogs and posts here about the amazing things people have done to their Toyota campers, but the writers are either trained, related/married to someone who can work on them, or just amazingly talented in RV repair from birth.

For regular people like me, there's only one option: hire someone else to do it. Or is there another way? I'd love some information on how regular people like me can fix up their campers themselves. I can do basic DIY around my home, but I know better than to assume that transfers to RVs. What kind of basic equipment, like power tools, do I need? Where could I park it to work on it (I live in a townhome community where we're not even supposed to change the oil in the parking lot)? I'd like to partner with someone and learn the skills needed to fix it up - has anyone here ever done that?

TIA for any information!

Work on it in home depot's parking lot that will save you lots of drive time!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You'll have to start by providing specific information regarding what work is needed. Is it the camper part? the truck part? Plumbing, electrical, carpentry, HVAC, appliances? Cosmetic or significant needs like roof leaks (sounds like it is sitting outside rain or shine). 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ha, sorry, guys. I did leave out a lot!

@Maineah, thanks for the suggestion! Maybe I'll do that once I know what I'm doing.

Where: Eastern North Carolina.

The truck is great, seller did some repairs to truck like new belts, etc. but nothing else needed right now. I love the crank windows and especially the little triangle vents in the cab.

The camper part is the problem. It is 99% original. There's a leak at one corner of the side window next to the door, and the wall paneling is peeling away there, showing wood but not the fiberglass (yet). The wall under the window in the cabover bed space is stained as if there is a leak there too. However, the camper doesn't smell damp. Also the ceiling vents need replacing and there's staining around them too.

I was hoping I would not need to gut it completely, but opened an overhead cabinet today and a roach scuttled out of sight behind the paneling that's peeling away at the back of the cabinet, which means moisture back there. Do I need to pull out all the cabinets? That seems expensive. On the other hand, it's not like the cabinets are really that sturdy or nice anyway. I just don't have the equipment to make new ones, like a power saw. I do have a drill and an orbital sander.

I would like to use it in cold weather so that would be another reason to replace all paneling. A local RV repair guy said the first thing a Dolphin needs these days is for the joints and the windows to be completely sealed, which makes total sense. He quoted that work and it seemed reasonable for the labor that goes into it, so maybe I should leave that particular thing to the pros, but I don't know enough to say for sure and am reluctant to spend the money all at once ($1200). I got another estimate, which was higher. That's when I posted my initial question.

Any input on that? I've seen talk of various methods of sealing here and elsewhere, but no idea how much expertise is actually needed to do it. Also, I don't understand how they can do the sealing without replacing the paneling at the same time. Seems like you'd have to remove the paneling around the windows to seal them properly, but of course the paneling is all one piece. How do they do that?

Electrical: The works of the camper A/C are there but the front panel is gone so there are no controls. I wouldn't know how to wire it.

Plumbing: The shower stall (rear bath) has the original paneling that's everywhere else, which doesn't seem very practical. Didn't notice any water damage around the edges, though, but if I put in a fiberglass or acrylic shower stall I'd need someone to install/re-install the fixtures. Don't think I'd try that myself.

Cosmetic: It has the original carpeting but would rather have a hard floor I think. The carpeting goes all the way into the truck cab so I wouldn't know where to cut it off or how to finish the edge. The table, which flips down, needs to be re-mounted and there's only one bench seat (the side close to the door has a bump as if there were a wheel there, and it's covered in carpet).

I've only had it a day. It was under a carport until I bought it yesterday, and I've parked it at some friends' house for now. I gave them a huge tarp to put on it in case it rains, but I know not to keep the tarp on it - better to leave it under the sun, and there is a lot of that here.

Hope this helps! Sorry no pics for now but when I park it at my house I can provide those.

TIA

Plain Jane

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i'm now working on my last window seal job. 13 of them on my dolphin. the sealing is on the outside and the glass it'self, so the paneling has no effect other than providing thickness.  it is a long process to do the seal job. i think your first estimate is good (if it's done right). the hump by the door is a step to get above the cab.

    most of the work to be done is simple enough, tedious though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You have decisions to make about extent of repair. A lot of water damage areas (common for these). Mold and wood rot to the point of compromising structural integrity are things to look for. Insect infestation is another interesting concern. Sounds like you will have to pull all of your windows and reseal them. Stop the water intrusion first. Water inside cabinets points to a roof leak in addition to the leaks around your vents. Removing windows is not hard; just need the proper size screw driver to remove all screws from the inside. A frame on the inside will come loose then you can pull the window out from the outside. Vents on the roof are secured with screws on the roof. You must also remove the small trim cover inside. Removing a leaking window or roof vent will allow you to feel the frame surrounding the area and see whether it is rotten. If your lucky you'll discover an aluminum frame (not sure dolphin used aluminum). If you're seeing black when you remove the interior window frame I'd wear a mask when removing the window because it could be mold. Be sure to use the proper size tool to avoid stripping the heads of screws and hex heads. Your 1st step will be assessing the extent of the water damage. Watch youtube videos on resealing windows, vents, and your roof. Old aluminum roofs will have pin holes allowing water in and will need to be resealed or replaced. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Scott and extech. Appreciate the advice. I think I'll have the sealing done by a pro and then try to do as much as I can on my own. It sounds like there are a lot of water-damaged Toyota campers are out there. Can I work on it (remove the paneling, etc) before I get it sealed or does that have to come first? The pro can't fit me in for another two weeks.

There's an original gas range and furnace. Would it be better to replace those with an electric stove and heater? Just concerned about their age and possible gas leaks.

The sink is fine, but I'd like to replace the cabinet containing it. Can I sort of build around it or do I have to disconnect and reconnect it?

What I thought was the AC without a front panel is actually the circuit breaker. Looks like there are some parts missing from that too. (Resigned sigh) I guess I'll have to get a pro to fix that too.

As for the parts I want to do on my own, I'll ask again - what kind of tools/equipment will I need?

Thanks for your help so far,

Jane

 

Edited by Plain Jane
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My opinion is you test and keep your propane appliances if at all possible. Propane appliances will allow you to camp without hookups if that is something you may be interested in. Electric appliances use a lot of energy (especially heat) and will require you to be plugged in. 

 

I'll let others chime in on your tools. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

easier than words. these are most of what i have needed. the painters tool on the left has been really handy

20210802_131221.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks again! I guess I was afraid the gas appliances would blow up.

 

I guess I need a crowbar to take the cabinets and paneling off, too. What would be a good material to use to replace the paneling? Is there one I could cut without a saw? I saw one remodeling job where they used Coroplast. Input on that?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

NO CROW BAR. The cabinets  are screwed to the wall/frame. Use a cordless drill with the correct bit and unscrew them. They may be reusable.

Take care dismantling there may be lots of reusable stuff, that will save you $$$ in the rebuild. If you don't use something it may have value to someone else. 

Go to your local big box lumber store and look at the paneling and at something called FRP. Both are a lot more available than big 4'x8' sheets of coroplast.

This is a very long post about rebuilding a toyhouse. It will give you some ideas how there things are built.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Typically the screws are Robertson, it looks like a Philips but it's not. The two common types are a " number" one or two most hard ware stores will have them the tip is square  they are extensively  used in cabinet work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

30 minutes ago, WME said:

This is a very long post about rebuilding a toyhouse. It will give you some ideas how there things are built.

There was no link to the post. Now I'm curious!

 

Okay, no crowbar. Got it. Before I mentally replace the walls, here are some pictures (finally), focusing on the ceiling. Rot or not? That will tell me if I need to replace everything including the ceiling.

PXL_20210802_211149895.jpg

PXL_20210802_211354828.jpg

PXL_20210802_212104637.jpg

PXL_20210802_212214949.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

no way to tell on the water damage untill you get in there

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hope that link showed you how huge a job this can be. The pics you show are what I would call moderate damage. Ripping it out can easily make things worse especially for someone who hasn't done a lot of carpentry before. I posted this on the wrong thread last night but

 I'm at a loss of what you guys expect of this member. Sealing the camper is the easy part. We can easily explain that but serious carpentry? I've done woodwork for years and it still looks crappy and I have a table saw and lots of tools.  Remodeling a 100 year old house right now and all I can say is thank God for caulk and paint. Do the sealing part and hire a handyman from craigslist to do the woodwork. You'll be way happier with the results. 

Unless you find areas where it's rotted through I would stick with the caulk and paint routine but seal first. If you need carpentry done please do hire someone experienced. 

Linda S

Oh and replace your roof vents and plumbing vents. Cracks there can be big source of water intrusion. All you need is a paint scraper to get the old sealant off and a screw driver to remove and install. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Extech showed a good photo of some great tools... here's that same list, along with a few other items that I find very useful for repairs and general maintenance:

 

-cordless drill (18v or better, IMO)
-side-cutter pliers
-5-in-1 painter's tool
-jigsaw w/coarse and fine blades
-needle-nose pliers
-carpenter's square
-measuring tape
-channel locks
-razor blade scraper
-phillips and regular screwdrivers (multi-screwdriver w/nut-driver is great!)
-carpenter's pencil
-sharpie marker
-small prybars: metal and plastic
-utility knife
-oscillating multi-tool (cuts, sands, etc)
-caulk gun
-extension cord
-LED headlamp
-cheap multimeter

-shop-vac

Edited by Ctgriffi
can't forget the shop-vac® !!!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, guys (and by that I mean people), didn't mean to start a brush fire! @Linda, thanks for your honesty. I'd still like to learn all I can from you all. If you think I can do the sealing by myself, I'll do that.

 

Also, I realized this was not the forum to post my question on to begin with, so it's no wonder you posted your answer somewhere else, Linda. I'm heading over to General Discussion so I can keep asking questions - and I still have a lot of them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 I tend to agree with what I read Linda saying. Don't rip it up IMO. You see far too many of these for sale that people rip up but never get around to repairing. 

 

 I bought mine with a few leaks. I'm pretty sure I have them sealed. I could probably gut mine and re-do it  but that isn't why I bought it. I bought it to get away. Unless it's really bad and some are really bad, seal and paint and use it. 

 

 I have a couple soft spots in my floor. Next spring I'll pull the carpet and do something to address that. I have a little roof damage where the A/C seal leaked. Meh, I replaced the A/C seal and the rest doesn't bother me. If I wanted like new I would have spent $70,000 and bought that. 

 

 Yes yours has some damage. Unless you feel something isn't safe, work on sealing it and painting or doing minor repairs. IMO. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ohh-kay, I'll just continue here.

@john*thomas, that is why I bought mine too. To get away. I'm happy to seal, repair and paint. This actually is a relief - I was afraid I'd bitten off more than I can chew, but thanks to you all, I feel more confident.

Having listened to you all here, I've decided on a few things:

  1. I'll seal it myself. At least everyone agrees that that's a priority.
  2. I won't rip anything out. I will remove the cabinet where I saw the cockroach disappear, along with that wall panel, then check for rot and seal. Then replace the panel with something else, maybe a FRP panel. Then I'll put the cabinet back. I've read somewhere that I need to use special screws for that. Any suggestions? I don't mean to sound obsessed about this but it is the cabinet above the stove and I kinda think I'll be using it for food. I'll probably paint all the cabinets white. After priming with Kilz, of course.
  3. @extech, the hump next to the coach door is a wheel. Maybe I can get a handyman to build me a bench seat accommodating the hump (after I remove the carpet of course).
  4. New question: I want to redo the shower so it's waterproof. From what I've read, it looks like my options are
    • FRP or vinyl paneling. The problem I see is that I'd have to cut a hole in it where the hot and cold handles are. So I like the other option better.
    • Painting it with something that will resurface and seal it. I've seen various products recommended. What's your consensus on the ABSOLUTE BEST product? Also, whatever that product is, can I use it to seal the outside of the camper?
  5. Dang, Linda, I just ordered three caps for the vents because they were missing. I had a feeling I needed whole new vents - wish I'd thought a little longer about it before ordering those caps. But they were needed in a hurry.

That's all for now.

Jane

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 As far as bugs and sealing go you aren't going to permanently seal out bugs. My wife hates bugs and we would see an ant here or there. I set off a bomb on the inside. They make them now that leave no residue. I've not seen a single ant since. To be safe I set another off about a month later and set one off under the RV. 

 

 You should be able to re-use whatever screws you take out. Cutting holes are easy. They make round saws that fit on the end of a drill that easily cut holes. Cheap.  

 

 https://www.walmart.com/ip/Hyper-Tough-5-Piece-Carbon-Steel-Hole-Saw-Set-with-Arbor/756902139?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&wl13=2078&&adid=22222222227000000000&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=42423897272&wl4=aud-1028050746458:pla-51320962143&wl5=9015936&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=120643079&wl11=local&wl12=756902139&veh=sem&gclid=CjwKCAjw0qOIBhBhEiwAyvVcf0b0Q4UksamhhZb_-QATfnfuvEh1J650pVB5uR299z4LGD0RBiH4QxoCS4IQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I was planning to bomb it anyway. I'm more concerned about the presence of dampness that the cockroaches suggest. In general I just want to protect it from any further damage besides what has already happened. Again, no idea what to use for sealant - I've seen so many different products suggested, even just on TMH.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 What I did may not be best for you. When I bought mine I posted about how someone had painted with a brush and it looks pretty crappy. It ran really good, things worked and the inside was pretty decent. It was relatively cheap so I bought it. I'm leaving out here shortly for our second trip in it. At some point I need to sand the the thing down and repaint but what I did on minor leaks was spray clear flex seal around the window. It does a good job of seeping in. I had a front window leak, rear window and A/C. I replaced the A/C seal but just sprayed the windows. What's good is it is clear so you barely see it. 

 

 Do I have water damage inside the walls? I have no doubt I do BUT it's still solid and stopping the leaks mitigate any further damage. Is major damage with mold a concern? It should be. Poke around and do your best to look for this. 

 

 IMO

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I explored the camper with a putty knife today. Maybe too much. So from what I can tell, the walls have a thin wallcovering like the one pictured here. In some places it looks like contact paper. In other places it looks kind of like birch bark but fake and with a pattern on it. Then there are a few sheets of very thin wood, and then ... styrofoam? Do I just wait for that to dry and re-cover it with FRP? Anything I can treat it with?

As you can see here, once I peeled back the wall covering, the thin sheets of wood were damp, as was a piece of the wood frame that was soaked through and I could scrape out with a putty knife, shown here. Probably a mistake to peel off the wall covering, but I thought it would be better to know for sure.

Okay, this is weird. Dry right at the window frame, then damp below?

Soooo, took out the central vent frame and sure enough, black wet wood that chips out easily with a putty knife. Does this mean I need to replace the whole ceiling? Please say no!

Finally, this is a picture of the wall that was already damaged by a window leak when I bought it - but it's dry. Also, you can see the metal plate that the flip-up table attaches to. It holds fast, doesn't pull out from the wall. That tells me the wall is still good, but unfortunately I have to re-cover the bare parts with something just for the appearance. If I use FRP it will be thicker than what's remaining - anything else I could use?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

consider frp is kind of heavy, and needs special adhesive.  most of the interior surfaces are luan plywood. if you need thinner material you can use door skins. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

FRP is for showers. Door skins come in different wood grains.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your ceiling looks pretty good from the pictures I see of it. Mine was soft and sagging in many spots.  People here have done spot repairs all the way to tear down and complete rebuilds. Plywood layers separate when exposed to water and that is what I'm seeing in your wall pictures. Make sealing your roof and vents a top priority before thinking about cosmetics indoors; especially if you live in an area with frequent rains. When you remove the vent from the roof you'll be able to feel whether the frame is still solid enough for screws to be driven back into it. I wouldn't walk directly on your roof if you're unsure it is sound. Use a ladder or 2x8's that span from edge to edge of your roof to put your weight on so you can remove the vent. Purchase a roll of Butyl Tape for sealing your vents and windows. Dicor self leveling lap sealant works great on roofs. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow, you folks are great - learning about so many products I had no idea even existed.

Question: What are the pros and cons of luan vs. door skins? I'm wary of piling more luan on top of what's already there, because if it gets wet again I'll just have the same problem I have now.

Also, just for everyone's information, I looked at the exterior seams and joints, and it looks like someone sealed it up once during the camper's long life (excepting around the windows, I guess). It's a messy job, but it appears to have worked. I will still be re-sealing it, of course, but good to know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

both are plywood. door skins are thinner. replacing the wall coverings with something waterproof will just contain the moisture inside the wall. then you won't know about the leak untill it is a major prob.   wood can get wet and not have a problem. it's when it stays wet long that causes the rot

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Got it, @Scott iv. So either a door skin or luan, and the fact that they're wood is not a problem.

Yes, I see now that sealing is the priority. Curiosity got the better of me, like Pandora, and I opened the box (by peeling away the wall covering). Boy, do I regret that. But it looks repairable.

Too late. I already walked on the roof. It feels sound.

Can't wait to get started with the sealing this weekend.

Edited by Plain Jane
Changed wording
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Mine has been sealed before and it was done messily. It wasn't done correctly. As noted though, I didn't tear it all out to fix the leaks correctly either. Rather than gut mine making it unusable I will probably address one window at a time. 

 

 You need to get rid of the black moldy stuff. it's not good for you. What I would do.......without actually being there to see yours. If someone wanted to fix it all "right" it would be torn out. We have already discussed this though. I don't think you have to...........I had a bad place in my overhang. There is NO drooping of my overhang so I assumed it was overall OK. It did dig out as much of the old black soft moldy wood as I could and sprayed it all down with a mold/mildew spray and let it dry. (you have to stop the leaks first). When I bought mine you could smell the wet moldy stuff. That smell is all gone. 

 

 Backtracking.........my camper door had leaked and the inner skin was bubbled/rotted at the bottom. I took the door apart and surprisingly the frame was solid. The corner had a small amount of damage but it was still solid. I went to Lowes and bought a sheet of (I don't know what it's called) of plastic that looks like corrugated cardboard but it's plastic. It's easy to cut and not expensive (I think $22 a sheet) and cut out a new inner door skin. I then had enough left over to address my overhang. I simply cut a piece that covered where I had chipped the old stuff away. The mattress and curtains covers that area and you can't see it anyway. If I get another leak it's not going to rot and mold.  You could replace most of your overhang with this. It looks good but you will have to be looking for leaks.  Easy to cut and cheap and isn't going to rot. Yours (as mine was) is white anyway.

  

 Your vent............I replaced my A/C seal and I was surprised. I had some damage to the wood sheets but again, no damage to the frame it sits on. A lot depends on how solid your frame is. Would I rip the ceiling out? No. First thing I would do is get it dried out and the mold mitigated and go from there. 

 

 IMO.

Edited by john*thomas
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...