Water Leak - How quick it creeps up on you

Discussion in 'PopOut (Hybrids)' started by Old_Geezer, Sep 17, 2012.

  1. Old_Geezer

    Old_Geezer Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,760
    Likes Received:
    505
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    Location:
    Southwest PA
    I figured I'd post this as maybe it will save someone else some potential grief. We have a 2011 Aerolite 185E purchased late Sept 2010. I have been very diligent with roof cleaning, checking caulking etc, I constantly check for potential leaks. Over the weekend I was getting ready to clean some small mildew spots on the side windows of the tent ends. I put down both ends. When I climbed onto the front door / platform without the mattress the pressure of my knee made a noise that will make you cringe. If you have ever heard plywood in a camper crack from water damage you know the sound. At the center, close to the hinge, the inside of the door is soft. I have never had noticed any water on the inside of the door either open or closed, and never even had a damp mattress or anything. Aerolite has a piece off rubber which covers the hinge / gap between body and door at the inside across the bottom. It is attached with aluminum trim strips. The soft spot was under this trim strip. So I stared removing the screws that secure this trim. While doing this I am thinking to myself "how the heck did this get wet". The only thing I could think was the top seal is leaking when the door is closed, water is running down the inside surface from the top, hitting this trim and getting behind it. But at the same time I have never seen water evidence, and I have looked at those seals during rain, after pulling in the rain etc. Well once I had the trim removed and was able to pull the rubber piece back I noticed that the screws that hold the door assembly together were rusty, below where the screw heads went into the door assembly also had some evidence. So out of curiosity I closed the door back up and at the bottom on the outside I noticed some slight buckling in the same area on the fiberglass at the outside, right where the fiberglass panel slides into the perimeter frame of the door. That is when I found it. The perimeter aluminum channel of the door is designed like an H, with one of the legs missing to make the flange that seals against the door seal. The caulking from the channel to the fiberglass had pulled away from the aluminum and had done so in a way that you could not notice it visibly. Until you took a screwdriver and played with it you could not tell it was separating. I came to feel this was where the water was coming in. With the front sloped like it is and the amount of water that comes down it, I could see water getting in to the break in the caulking. Once in there it would be inside the U which faced up of the perimeter door channel and able to wick up into the interior and exterior panels from the bottom. It then would drain out of the screws holding the door together. Once it drains out it can run to the sides of the channel that caps off the camper door opening bottom and out to the exterior. It looks like they have this piece designed so if water does happen to get in anywhere around the door it will not get into the body of the camper. I could not find any other evidence of water in the camper itself below the door. I would never have seen this visually unless I had removed the bottom rubber transition piece and really have never had reason to do that. Thankfully as long as I have stopped the leak I wouldn't consider the damage major, if the interior panel is weakend to the point it gets worse I can reinforce it. I intend to talk to my dealer and have sent an email to Dutchmen although it being out of warranty for a year I doubt they will do anything but you never know. It would be easy to change the entire door. The lesson I learned is to be way more thorough checking the caulking. Take a screwdriver or putty knife and play with it a bit. Once you go over it, go over it again. Another thing I noticed, I had always assumed the bunk doors were a piece of 3/4" plywood but now I believe they are an interior and exterior panel somehow applied to an aluminum frame? Anyone know for sure?
     
  2. Old_Geezer

    Old_Geezer Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,760
    Likes Received:
    505
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    Location:
    Southwest PA
    Well we are having torrential rains since last night so I went out at 3AM, and climbed up under the tent end inside. Water was pouring off the roof, even over running the gutter above the front door, as I had the camper low in the front on purpose. I could not find one drip or anything anywhere. Hopefully this confirms it was the exterior bottom channel caulk joint. I'll know for sure once it stops rainging and I can open it back up.
     
    neighbormike likes this.
  3. Camp-N-Nuts

    Camp-N-Nuts KrustyKamper

    Messages:
    2,025
    Likes Received:
    1
    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Location:
    Central WI
    The front which is angled and gets the driving rain! Thanks for posting...sorry you got the hard lesson! [:!]
     
  4. Old_Geezer

    Old_Geezer Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,760
    Likes Received:
    505
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    Location:
    Southwest PA
    Yes sir, the angled front. Prior to buying the hybrid two years ago I was apprehensive based on posts I've read regarding door seals. But like I said in my overly long posts above, and at this point I am about 99% sure, it has nothing to do with the door seal. I have only pulled it once in what I would call a hard rain and as soon as I stopped I checked it, nothing was wet. I also thought "condensation" under the rubber that spans from the camper to door but no issue with the rear door. If it was condensation I would think both ends would do it. They have an aluminum channel, picture a "U", that makes the bottom edge of the door and the plywood / fiberglass door panel assembly slides inside it. It is also 1/2 of the door hinge so when the door is closed the U faces up. The legs of the U are maybe 1/16" thick. Chalk it up to a bad design. I work construction and I know that trying to get a caulk bead from a flat surface to something like that (1/16" thick) is almost impossible. Then you have the stress on it every time you open and close the bunk so you get some movement in it. When I caulked it on Sunday, I ran a bead across it, then used a flat blade to try and force the sealant between the panel and leg of the channel. Then I cleaned it up good with a solvent and repeated it again, followed by a final tooled bead. So that is a triple caulk job. Once I am 100% sure this was the problem, I am thinking about finding some kind of an aluminum trim strip like around 1/2" wide and 1/4" or 3/16" thick and installing it flat, half over the leg of the U and 1/2 over the fiberglass door panel. Then I can get a proper size bead of sealant over it. Maybe someone should hire me as an RV design consultant, the problem would be RV's that weigh 20000 lbs and you would need a Kenworth to pull it, but no leaks and if it did it wouldn't matter.
     
  5. prospectpopup

    prospectpopup Once you get there... there you are!

    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    May 18, 2010
    Wow.. what a project there.
    I have a hybrid with water damage in the slideout. I just did this project this past weekend.

    http://www.prospectpcweb.com/2000palominofix.htm

    It takes some time but with the right handyman(friend) and about $250 we replaced the floor on the slideout.

    Paul
     
  6. Old_Geezer

    Old_Geezer Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,760
    Likes Received:
    505
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    Location:
    Southwest PA
    Re: Water Leak - How quick it creeps up on you - Pictures

    Ok, hopefully I can explain the issue without confusion, and what I am hoping was the solution. I am 99.9% sure the leak is stopped.

    [​IMG]

    The above is of the center of the bunk door platform at rear, near the hinge. This is where when climbing on it from the inside I put pressure with my knee and noticed the cracking sound / soft spot. The silver aluminum trim was how Aerolite terminated the white rubber piece that spans from the camper body to the door and hides the hinge assembly usually covered by the mattress, the bead of clear caulk you see against the silver trim added by me as an afterthought. If my conclusions were wrong and it was leaking from the top door seal and running down the inside of the door I wanted to make sure no more water was able to get behind that trim. The edge of the trim you are looking at is directly over the edge of the bottom aluminum door perimeter channel I will explain in the next picture.

    [​IMG]

    Ok, the above pic is of the end of the entire assembly. Notice the the small triangle of white aluminum under the white rubber and to the left of the silver aluminum trim piece. This is the end of the inside leg of the bottom door channel that makes a U. It turns down and then turns back the same direction (up) at the outside. The interior plywood / vinyl covered panel that makes the bunk platform / inside door surface, the outer plywood / fiberglass panel and whatever they have between, I assume foam insulation and some type of aluminum tube frame all slide inside this U. The U is horizontal when the bunk is opened as in the picture, when bunk is closed the U faces up. Also notice the dirt / rust under the white rubber and notice the color of the screw head.

    [​IMG]

    The above is at the other end, different angle. Notice on the under side of the rubber the rust stain. The very dark circular part of that stain is directly below a screw head you see clearly in the next picture. Also if you look at the outside door surface you will see an edge / caulk joint that runs all the way over to the other side. It is a little to the left of the top point of the green triangle at bottom of picture. This is the outer side of the "U" that the door panels slide inside and the caulk joint is at the end of that leg of the "U".

    [​IMG]

    Ok,the above is from another angle. The screw head to the left is shiny. This is holding that aluminum edge trim to the door assembly. The side and top edge trim are all one continuous piece. It runs from the mitered joint where you see the caulking at hinge, up and around the top of the door and down the other side. It has one of those screws holding it on every foot or so. Underneath my hand and back through the dark space between the white rubber and hinge itself you can see those screw heads and evidence of them being wet. Two have just started to rust, the one is rusted. Those are what holds the entire door assembly to the bottom U channel / hinge. There are probably 20 of them at least. They are all rusted or show some sign of corrosion / oxidation. especially in the center which I would have to remove the white rubber to get a picture of. If somehow the water was getting in to the entire hinge itself it could have not rusted these screws. When the door is closed those bottom screws end up facing down and they are over an inch above the part of the hinge attached to the camper. That told me the water was coming from inside the door panel and coming out from around the screws. This entire hinge assembly sure does look like its watertight and designed that if water gets in there from anywhere it will drain to the end then out, and down the front of the camper on the outside.

    [​IMG]

    Above, just another shot of the door side, in the down position.

    [​IMG]

    Well when first discovered I instantly thought that the door seal was leaking when closed. The water was running down the inside surface and getting behind the silver aluminum strip in the first picture But..... The above is of the top edge of the door at center. Notice the screw head is shiny and bright. There is no evidence of any water ever coming in and running down the interior surface. All of the top screws are as shiny as the day they were installed. Also if this was leaking the self stick velro used for the tent attachment should have been affected by the moisture but its still sticking fine.

    [​IMG]

    Ok, on the above look at the new caulk right at the joint between aluminum and fiberglass all the way across the door. The existing caulk at this joint looked good by eye, however once I took a flat blade and started messing with it I noticed that it actually was not adhered to the aluminum in places and only to the fiberglass. You could not tell unless you probed at it. This is / was the leak I am hoping. I removed the old caulk using scrapers and solvent. Then ran a bead of new and tried to force it down into the joint between the fiberglass and aluminum using a flat blade. I repeated this twice then applied the final bead. Afterwards I spent an hour in the pouring rain Tuesday night watching both inside and outside, plus we had almost 2 inches of rain from Monday night to Tuesday evening and everything was dry. The line in the aluminum channel 3/4" below the caulk joint is where the extruded channel turns to the inside and then back up at the inside making the "U" I mentioned before. So the water runs down the fiberglass sloped door, and I was out in a torrential downpour watching it, its a lot. Then it hits this joint. If that caulking is not sealed it runs into that channel which is a "U" now facing up. It then can eventually run out of those bottom screws in the other pictures or out of the mitered joint at the ends. In the meantime it is wicking up into the interior and exterior plywood door panels. Now the question is "whose fault is it"? Well its mine. If you read the warranty that is why they mention inspections, caulking etc and the 25th of September will mark 1 year since the warranty expired. But if I wanted I could argue how do you caulk that 1/16" or so aluminum edge to the flat fiberglass panel? I could even provide tons of documentation from every caulking manufacturer in the world saying this is an unacceptable condition, as you do not have enough surface on the aluminum side for the proper adhesion of the sealant. They all recommend some dimension for a joint, I have never seen any that 1/16 of an inch was enough. To me that is a design issue. None of this has made the camper unusable structurally. If we have this type of condition in the construction industry such as an EPDM roof to masonry, flashing against a wall surface etc we install what we call a termination bar. It would cover this joint and be thick enough to get a sufficient bead of caulk on it. I have already sent an email to Dutchmen but have yet to receive a response and I will be talking with my dealer about it tomorrow. We have reservations though for the next 21 days straight at the State Park starting Sunday and a wedding rehearsal Firday / wedding Saturday so he will not be able to see it until mid October. I really do not expect Dutchmen to do anything and will not be all that mad if they don't. But even if they would help anyway they choose, supply parts to repair, recommend how to repair or anything I would appreciate it all. I most likely will be looking for a new camper someday, possibly as soon as next spring.

    Ok, other than the soft interior surface which is no longer soft as I think there is foam insulation in the center of the door, the picture below is of what I believe the leak has caused to the outside panel. If you look at area where the light reflects you can see some waviness in the fiberglass right above the bottom aluminum channel. The picture makes these look way worse than they are. If you do not know they are there you'll never see them.

    [​IMG]

    And above that area I now noticed some small bubbles I had never noticed before shown below. Again, the picture makes them look worse than they actually are and its possible they have been there all along. I don't know how I could have missed them when waxing it though.

    [​IMG]

    So it looks like in the near future I will be changing the entire door, or the inner and outer panels if that is possible. I think it is. And it does not look like all that big of a job. The moral of the story is I will be inspecting caulking more carefully from now on and this joint will need constant checking.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Storm Trooper

    Storm Trooper Home is where you park it!

    Messages:
    3,544
    Likes Received:
    19
    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2008
    Location:
    Where my camper is parked now.
    Thanks for the pictures John.
    They go a long way to explain the problem.
     
  8. LarryGoesCamping

    LarryGoesCamping Member

    Messages:
    41
    Likes Received:
    18
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2020
    Can you supply new photos of this? Bringing back the dead here. Picked up up a 10 185 aerolite and the front bunk is all soft at the bottom.
    Thanks!
     
  9. Old_Geezer

    Old_Geezer Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,760
    Likes Received:
    505
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    Location:
    Southwest PA
    Let me see if I can find them
     

Share This Page