Extreme RV Makeover – Weekend Number One

This past weekend, Emily and I spent a couple day’s back at my Mom’s house in Ohio. The purpose of driving back was to get everyone in the family involved with helping out on the camper. Or as I was calling it – Extreme Home Makeover – Camper Edition.

Having only driven the RV a maximum of 10 miles on a trip, this 120-mile journey all on highways was going to be interesting. Oh yea, it was also my first time driving a stick shift on a highway.

Topping Off the Tank in Ohio

Topping Off the Tank in Ohio

According to Waze, our max speed was 58 miles per hour (or 93 kilometres per hour) – of course going downhill. Going uphill was another story. I often found myself downshifting into a lower gear in order to have enough power to climb the hill without compromising too much speed.

1981 Sunrader Interior Fabric

1981 Sunrader Interior Fabric

We didn’t arrive in Ohio until a little after 3:00pm EST – leaving us with about 6 hours of daylight to work. The primary focus for the day was thinking about what we could accomplish in the next 24 hours and who would be working on what. Emily and my mum went to Jo-Ann Fabrics to snag some material to make new curtains and to cover the old orange & green leaf print dinette &over cab cushions. While they were out, I took all the doors off of the hinges . I also ripped up the grey laminate on top of the fridge. Later in the night, we all worked on painting the interior walls & cabinets with Killz All Max.

1981 Sunrader Roof Oxidation Before (left) and After (right)

1981 Sunrader Roof Oxidation Before (left) and After (right)

Day two started off pretty early for me while I let Emily sleep in since it’s her only day off from work during the week. I grabbed the garden hose and climbed up on the roof of the camper to give it a quick scrub with Mr. Clean Magix Erasers. Years of oxidation and build up was easily wiped away without any soaps. This is to get it prepped for filling in the fibreglass gel-coat spiderwebbing that’s occurred. Part way thru cleaning the fibreglass shell, we had a huge breakfast and headed out Home Depot to pick up some interior paint, curtain rods, and other miscellaneous supplies needed.

Once we returned, the girls worked on spray painting the cabinet doors while I kept cleaning the fibreglass. When that was said and done, I moved onto the biggest issue that plagues Toyota Sunrader owners – leaking over cab windows. While driving to Ohio the previous day, I noticed that there were some damp spots in the over cab and damp window seals. So, I figured now is a good time to start to complete the Sunrader Owner right of passage. Luckily our front windows are not curved like later model Sunraders, so, I quickly popped them off and cleaned them off. The previous owners tried to seal the windows to the fibreglass body using tar, old foam tape, and a yellow sealant. You can see the before and after below to understand how messy this ‘seal’ was.

1981 Sunrader Over Cab Window Seal Replacement

1981 Sunrader Over Cab Window Seal Replacement

Just by being gentle with a paint scraper, I was able to break the old, crusty sealant off of the fibreglass and then run a bit of mineral spirits over the remaining trouble spots. From there, I buffed the cloudy windows and applied Butyl tape to the window frames. It was rather easy to line and-and reinstall the windows. All you have to do is tighten the interior screws and then caulk around the inside/outside seam. I used QUAD sealant from Home Depot.

Like I had mentioned earlier, while this was going on, the girls were spraypainting the cabinets, trying to clean paint off of hinges, and other tasks on the inside of the camper. I’m really excited to see the interior move along and get a fresh coat. Something so simple makes it feel a lot more like home than the old beige interior. Just for a teaser, you can see a couple of the accent colours that Emily chose below.

Interior Accent Colors

Interior Accent Colors

All-in-all it was a pretty successful weekend of work. We didn’t complete too many projects, but we did get the ball rolling downhill with the interior now that the mechanical issues are mostly sorted. For all the numbers geeks, we drove about 180 miles on 1/2 a tank. Since it’s a diesel vehicle with a 17-gallon fuel tank, we averaged around 21 miles per gallon. Not too shabby.


Lessons Learned While Driving – 

  • Expect to be passed a lot – We only managed to pass 2 vehicles that were merging the entire 250-mile trip
  • The speedometer reads 5 mph above the actual speed
  • Truck diesel pumps at rest stations are too large to fit into our little camper

Lessons Learned While Renovating – 

  • Mother knows best
  • Resealing windows on a Sunrader is a right of passage
  • Adding Killz All and a fresh coat of paint makes it feel more like our van
  • The guy with the staple gun at the factory went overboard
  • Re-seal everything with QUAD sealant
  • Cleaning the entire fibreglass shell will take a lot of time, but make it look much cleaner
  • Don’t expect to get everything done on your to-do list in a single weekend

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