Awnings on your RV are a big investment, but in our opinion they are worth every penny you spend, and the time spent to maintain and secure them properly for years and decades of use.
BENEFITS OF WINDOW AND PATIO AWNINGS:
Besides the obvious that a patio awning provides some great additional covered outdoor space… here are some other benefits of having both the large patio awning and window awnings all the way around your RV!
Patio awnings provide shade for outdoor living space even in light rain
Window awnings provide shade coverage of your RV refrigerator thereby allowing the refrigerator to run more efficiently and help to avoid overheating/ or freeze up.
Awnings allow you to keep windows open for great cross ventilation– even in light to moderate rain. (we recommend only window awnings be left out during light/moderate rain, roll up your patio awning or at minimum slant it down at least 1-2 notches on one side arm to allow sufficient run off for draining-otherwise you can bend the main roller bar or rip the awning material from weight of water pooling)
Awnings will help prevent unnecessary fading of interior cabinetry, upholstery and other interior decorative items
In some cases, awnings will provide some additional privacy for you when inside your RV
Awnings, when deployed, will lower the inside temperature of your RV thereby allowing your AC to run more efficiently and effectively or at minimum keep the inside of your RV cooler by avoiding direct sunlight and heat on your windows (we can typically see an 8-10 degree cooler difference within 20 minutes!)
Selecting your awning material adds to the overall “personal touch” that makes your RV special to you. You can decide solid colors or stripes in a myriad of color choices to suit your overall color theme and RV’s personality. We highly suggest avoiding all vinyl awnings and instead opt for breathable Sunbrella fabric-which is what was traditionally used on Avions anyway! We had a vinyl awning on our first Avion (1973) put on by a prior owner, it was hot, dark, heavy, and often smelled musty.
and lastly, awnings are quintessential especially for vintage RVs and just look awesome while also adding real investment $$ value to your RV!
MAINTAINING AWNINGS AND KEEPING THEM SAFE FROM DAMAGE IS VERY IMPORTANT!
Here is our first in a series of blog posts and videos about window and patio awnings.
This article focuses on the use of Window Awning Travel Locks/Latches.
We purchased our awning travel locks from Zip Dee. They sell one type of travel lock for window awnings and another style just for the large patio awnings.
*NOTE-Zip Dee does not sell anything via their website. You must call their company and speak to a sales rep to place and pay for an order. I will put their contact information at the bottom of this blog post.
The awning travel latches/locks are NOT listed under their “accessories” webpage. They can be found instead on the PDF “AWNING PARTS” list. But honestly, just tell the sale rep when you call -what you are looking for and they will have it for you. The awning latch kits come with everything you will need including very good instructions— you will need to supply your own power drill, #8 drill bit, pen for marking location to drill and rivet gun.
Zip Dee is an old fashioned-run business, but that’s a good thing for those of us with vintage RVs since this means they also have not changed out their parts or styles for over 50 or so years–so you can still get even the smallest part from them to repair your 35 year old Zip Dee awnings!! Yeah–who still has a Blackberry that works???!!
Below is a photo of one of our Window Awning Travel Locks/Latches after it was installed. It basically functions like a “hook & eye”.
Here is a video that we did to show how this lock works and how effective it is in preventing an accidental “unrolling” if you happen to be in high winds, especially while tooling down the highway! (yes, unfortunately it HAS happened to others, especially patio awnings!)
We have 3 window awnings on both sides of our 1987 , 32 foot Avion. We did have one on the rear wrap around window but since have removed it when we opted to install a traditional Avion rock guard also on the rear window. So now we have window awning on our curbside rear bed side window and two larger awnings on our streetside. One covers the streetside rear side bedroom window and bathroom and the forward one covers the living room area and kitchen (including going over the refrigerator area in between the LR and Kitchen).
We have put 2 awning locks on the two long streetside awnings and one on the curbside bedroom single awning. It probably is not necessary to use two on the longer window awnings but we tend to always over engineer things anyway for our peace of mind.
Before beginning the travel lock/latch install be sure you have a #8 drill bit. We purchased ours at our local ACE hardware store. Kevin applied a bit of green painters tape to the same length as the rivet that came with the latch packet. This ensures you are not going to drill too deep into the exterior of your RV!
First step was to mark where we wanted to install the latch. Zip Dee recommends installing at the REAR end of each awning. Their instructions that come in the packet are very good and clear on where to place and how to install.
This photo shows the “receiver” end has been riveted in place. Looking closely you can see that we now have also placed the “hook” into the receiver to mark where the hook hardware needs to be installed. Be sure it is a snug fit with some tension but still able to easily rotate the hook out of the receiver when desired. The hook is mounted onto the aluminum roll up cover of the awning. Again, they give very good instructions on how and where to place. The hook will be screwed in place using the provided screw and washer(s).
Here is the finished product. To open the latch you use the long awning rod tool’s short, stubby hook end (not the rounded hook) placed into the hole in the hook hardware and with your wrist twist, rotating the hook out of the receiver. It takes a little getting used to but you will get the hang of it.
Be sure to watch this quick video to see how the lock/latch opens using your awning rod tool. We also include some other tips in the video!
Awnings By Zip Dee 96 Crossen Ave Elk Grove Village IL 60007
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WHY? People have had the windows on their Avions blow open and get broken off of the rig when a gust of wind hit their rig while going down the road or in a bad wind storm. Don’t let this happen to you!
When we owned our 1973 Avion, 28′ LaGrande Model we noticed that one of the three prior owners had put on some “make do” hardware that held the windows more solidly closed while rolling down the road or during winter or very bad weather (rain or wind). Below is one of those “make do” clips but overtime it was only functional with our little slip of a wood shim in it! So the time to find a new “fix” was due!
CAUTION! These old Hehr windows especially the “awning type” which are the one piece large windows that crank open from the bottom out…CAN AND DO have the potential to catch a wind and fly open when rolling down the road at 50+ MPH. In case you do unfortunately lose a window or purchase a reno project Avion, Hehr does still make awning style (and Jalousie) windows and some online companies also carry a limited amount of dimensions. NO ONE in our research makes the rounded front curved windows that flank your center front window so please baby those fixed windows- we also have them in the rear bedroom of our ’87!
*note, since purchasing our 1987 32S Avion (jalousie window style) we do not have this issue with rattling or fly open accidently windows but we still make double-triple sure they are fully secured before we begin towing because if open even a little bit the wind could catch the smaller pane of a jalousie and pull it open to and strip your window crank system in the process. It seems the issues of rattling windows is more prevalent with the awning style windows found on pre mid 80’s models.
Additionally, some of our window torque operators (those little metal boxes that your crank handle fits into to raise the window out) were less than perfect, wear out quickly due to soft metal gears inside and did not always “snuggly” hold our window shut.
WHAT TO DO TO PREVENT WINDOWS HAVING A MIND OF THEIR OWN??
They are cheap, come in boxes of multiples and made for a decently attractive but functional solution to ensuring our windows were all securely closed to prevent accidental opening during trailering.
We put a stainless steel screw into the pre-drilled hole and the “pin” which is intended to fit into a round hold in a bookshelf wall is actually what holds the window closed. (sorry evidently did not take a photo of this before we sold our 73 Avion!)
Part of our routine before we got underway for a trip and then when we arrive to set up at our campsite was simply to take a cordless power drill and unscrew the stainless screw to be able to rotate the clip away from the window frame to allow the window to open. We did not remove the clip entirely, merely rotated out of the way so it was ready to be deployed again to do its job once we were packing up and making ready to leave our campsite.
Last but not least….we cannot stress enough the importance of a “WALK AROUND” safety check BEFORE you tow your RV 2 feet! The walk about is Luisa’s job so there is a second pair of eyes on the hitch area and all its hook ups, etc. This Walk-Around will be where you check to see that all of your windows are secured down, if using clips like we outline above, they are engaged and tightened, awnings latched/locked in place. I will be posting a complete other “walk around” post to go into more details on this very important safety standard of practice.
With the exception of TIRES….the project that seems to get the most play on any of the Avion Forums, Facebook pages and Instant messaging is “what and how do I fix my windows that look like this??
We have had countless requests to create this comprehensive project blog post so here it goes. Included is step by step “how-to’s”, where to buy materials, videos, tips and tricks!
By no means are we professionals at this-we just love our Avion and want to make her whole. We make mistakes, we try to help others to not make those same mistakes if we can avoid it…but there are some folks on the Avion facebook pages and forums that have done 2, 3, 4. 6 makeovers of Avion windows who should and could be tapped for their expertise too!
(BELOW IS WHAT OUR 1987 32S LOOKED LIKE WHEN WE BOUGHT IT IN MARCH 2020)
This is what our windows looked like AFTER we finished (or nearly finished) our project
First...assemble the tools we suggest you have handy:
Heat gun (a hand held hair blow drier will work in a pinch)
Heavy duty scissors, or kitchen shears
Needle nose pliers
Set of picks (blue handles) (can be found at big box hardware stores)
also, not pictured but needed…..
Tape measure (we have found best to have a cloth measuring tape AND a regular metal measuring tape
Phillips screwdriver (in case, like with ours, the screw cover had been screwed down to hold in place after shrinkage from age had started to pull away corners)
Can of Pam cooking spray, to help lubricate the tracks before inserting new trim
Rages, shop cloths or disposable wipes & cleaner (we use GoJo Brand Workshop/Garage Hand wipes. They have a ruff side but it does not hurt aluminum skin or window tracks, but really removes grease, grime and goo from window tracks.
NOTE: For the purpose of this blog post I am going to refer to the window glass bead as “trim” and the trim that goes around the outside of later model Avions like ours (87) as the “screw cover”. The Glass Bead is what term to look for on the sites linked below that sell the right stuff. The glass bead is the rubber trim that pushes into place that sits and hugs the glass of your window. Don’t ask me why they call is a bead…it is far from that in my book…it is trim. but using the right terms, Glass Bead and Screw Cover will keep you out of trouble, especially when trying to locate the stuff online or speaking with someone at these companies.
IMPORTANT TIPS- SOME OF THESE WE LEARNED THE HARD WAY!
(Don’t skip this part please!)
Do this project when weather is warm so old trim and new is as pliable as possible.
Take your cloth measuring tape, and measure each window around the metal trims- both the bead trim and the screw cover if applicable. Using a cloth measuring tape makes it easier to loosely measure window curved corners. Get that total for each project and ADD 10-15 feet for safe measure.
Pro Tip (ha ha) make a schematic of your trailer NOW and write down each glass bead trim track and if you have them, screw cover track length for each window. This will help in installation steps to follow. ADD 2-3 INCHES TO EACH OVERALL LENGTH!
Always order at least 10-15 extra feet over what you think you need. You are going to screw up your measurements or the 45 degree corner angles , etc. on occasion.
Do NOT take any old trim off until you are ready to tackle that particular window. This we found was especially critical with the curved front and back windows. We did not know this, removed all trim and over a few weeks of very hot 90 degree summer weather, the curved/bent glass pieces shifted down. We had to manual slide them back into place and shim them to be able to get new trim into the tracks again.
We do not recommend microwaving (some do!) or laying out your new trim in the sun unless the temps outside are cold and you need to warm up the rubber to get it pliable. The concern with heating new trim up too much is you do NOT want to stretch the trim as you are putting it in because once it cools it will shrink back to its normal length causing you problems in corners and seam areas.
We do recommend using the 3M trim adhesive we will show in our steps. We used this in all radius corners (rounded corners) as well as wherever seams butted up against each other (both under the trim as well as over top the seams). This product is linked in our Amazon product list on our Resource/Links page. We used just over (1) 5 oz tube for our ’32 foot trailer. We did end up buying that second tube for like the last window, but this stuff will come in handy down the road for sure!
This project requires strong finger strength. There is no way around it. Kevin was the only one with the finger strength to get especially the glass bead (the trim that sits against the windows) to seat in properly. I had no problem putting in the screw cover which is in the outside track. Be ready for finger cramping at night!
Use continuous lengths of trim for each window. Do not piece together unless you absolutely have to. The more seams you introduce the more likely you will have failures and leaks. Some of the curved windows will required a straight side piece and then one continuous piece for the rest-for example the curved front and, if you have them the rear side windows. On our 32S we also had the small little windows underneath our picture window in salon.
When you receive your ordered new trim, dry fit a small piece in each window track to be sure you have ordered the right stuff. We found out the hard way (too!) that our front and rear large windows with curved side glass pieces had a very slightly different trim profile than ALL of the other windows.
We highly recommend using the fill-able syringe we have on our Resource Page to put the 3M Black Adhesive into so you can create a small exact bead of goo to put into track corners and at butted seams. I snip off the first 1/8″ to use with Parbond and with this 3M material otherwise the tip as it is made is so tiny, its really tough to push this thick material through.
STEP # 1: ORDERING THE RIGHT TRIM FOR YOUR TRAILER WINDOWS
Decide what trim, for your model year Avion (or other vintage trailer for that matter) you are going to need. Here is what we ordered and from whom for our 1987 Avion 32S window project. (Caution! this may or may not be what you need depending on year!) You can use the resources we have listed below to take a bit of your old trim you have cut off to measure and try to match up with the product #s online. For best search…you may want to actually SEND the company a sample and let their in house folks match you up with the right stuff you need.
Interstate and Pelland are the two we have dealt with the most. They have very good customer service, thank goodness because their websites are really pretty bad!
(at the very end of this post we will show you specific links to the product #s and sources that we used on our ’73 28 Foot LaGrande Model and our ’87 32S model)
STEP 2: REMOVE OLD TRIM OFF A WINDOW AND PREP IT FOR NEW TRIM
Like with many or all projects, good surface preparation is key to a good finished product that will last.
We found removing the Rock Guard really makes working on the front window much easier, but the rock guard can be left on if needed. To remove your rock guard, check for any set screws in the upper track used to prevent guard from sliding out inadvertently. To remove guard really is best done with 2 people on step stools. Lift guard open up to an angle where the person (normally on the left) can begin to slide the guard out to the left along that upper track. Keep sliding, the person on the right may have to help it over the bend of the guard on the end a little by flexing it out if possible or giving it a nudge, its going to be tight getting it past that point. Continue to slide guard off which ever end of the track it feels most wanting to slide to. We have found the person who helped on the right, needs to run around with their step stool to join the person on the left to guide it off due to overall length. You do NOT want to bend this guard out of shape nor have it snap or crack. They are nearly impossible to find original replacements for !
(1) Remove old trim from the window you plan to work on today. You may need a screw driver or needle nose pliers to pry it out and away from window track. Do not bend metal track! We highly suggest KEEP all the old Trim…at least for now! See photo capture to learn why!
(2) Use cloths, scrubbies and a cleaner to get out all gunk, goo, bugs, etc from metal track. Again, we use GoJo Brand Shop Wipes which are pre-moistened with a cleaner designed to remove grease, grime but are made for hands-so no harsh chemicals.
(3) Remove any unnecessary screws (in the case of the screw cover, remove any exterior screws that were put in to hold old trim stuff on. You will NOT be putting screws into the new trim.
(4) Fill any unneeded “screw holes” made from old screws with Parbond or similar. If there is obvious gaps in where the metal tracking butts up against each end, you can fill that slightly too. The premise is we want to close up any unnecessary holes that can allow water into the trailer walls.
(5) CHECK YOUR WEEP HOLES! This is a great time to check your weeping holes on most windows. They will typically appear as 2 small holes or square slots at bottom of the window on the tracks. These allow any water that does get in to “weep” out of the holes rather than “seep” into your Avion wall! I take a small pick or a screwdriver or large pipe cleaner and stick it in each weep hole to clean out grime, bugs and debris. This cleaning of weep holes can become part of annual (spring and fall) or monthly maintenance routine depending on where you are camping!
(6) Now is the time to do any black paint touch ups on the metal track that may have been chipped off or clean up any rust and repaint. We used basic Semi-gloss Black Rustoleum brush on paint and a small brush.
STEP 3: READY TO APPLY THE WINDOW GLASS BEAD (Sore Finger alert!)
(1) Take your cloth measuring tape again if you had not written down how many inches the tracks are for each window. Get your complete measurement of the bead track. Add at least 2-3 inches to that measurement. Yes, there may be some waste but if you cut to short trust me you will have FAR more waste in the end.
(2) Start at either one of the bottom corners OR the center, depending on how the original one was done. For all corners you will be doing a 45 degree “picture frame” fit. I cut it by eye but if you are a stickler for precision, I guess you can find some angle tool to help you measure it. (I do the angle cutting, Kevin would need the angle tool!) You can try to push the rubber glass bead in without using Pam spray first. If it goes in, it will require a bit of pushing with strong fingers and putting it in on a slight angle into the track first then laying it flat to the window. You may need to use the Bone Tool or a pick to get it in to some places. Here is a video we shot doing our 1973 Avion which really shows the technique that works best to get the trim in and snug to the window glass itself.
(3) The whole KEY to doing this right is to push back on the material as you push it in. This is to ensure the material will sustain its integrity and length for as long as possible once exposed to heat, sun, wind and weather changes. You do NOT want to stretch it, you want it to be in there really tight and seated into the corners, bends and butted seams. At the seams, we apply a little 3M underneath the two ends and really back off that finishing end so that the butting is very very tight. In the corners, the same thing. Cutting each end on that 45, cut it a little long and use the pick tool to force those pointed ends down inside the metal track corners too.
(4) Use the 3M Adhesive (or we used clear Parbond on the ’73) to seal those seamed joints well.
(5) Step back and take a look. If you see some areas bulging a little, go back over them with your fingers, or the Bone Tool to get them to lay flat. The bead should lay very tightly on the window glass if installed properly. (Annually check those butted seams and corners and fill with e.g. that black 3M as needed.
STEP # 4: INSTALLING THE SCREW COVER TRIM- EASY PEASY!!
Now for the far easier part! The screw cover really goes in quite easily. This is where we did use Pam spray to lube the track on some windows, while others seemed not to need it at all.
Again, the use of the screw covers on the Hehr windows was not in play until we believe the 1980’s. We also cannot vouge for fact that all screw cover product #’s are the same, so again, look at a piece of your original, measure the profile end and look at the vendors to get the right stuff. Be sure it is rubber…NOT vinyl! Although our Ebay Source (below) advertises the product we ordered as “vinyl” it is clearly a rubber product. Both are sold as screw cover, but vinyl is really sold more for boating and will not be able to bend around your radius curves. Screw cover trim is far easier to find as it is in regular use today on boats, cargo trailers, etc.
(1) Using your window measurement of that outside track with that added “fudge length” adding 2-3 inches. Cut your rubber screw cover.
(2) if you have not already prepped, cleaned, touch up painted your screw cover metal track do that now. Fill in any holes from removed exterior screws with Parbond or similar. Sand off rust, carefully repaint with black Rustoleum paint
(3) We found all screw covers on our 87 started at center bottom with a straight butted two ends together seam.
(4) To start, we put a small bit of 3M adhesive on the side we started with, then “clicked/pushed” the screw cover into place going around radius corners. We put a bead (using the syringe) around EACH CORNER RADIUS bend too! These corners are where you will see pop out first from age/sun shrinkage. Having an adhesive in there should help prolong life.
(5) Kevin found the Bone Tool very helpful by flattening out the screw cover rubber and really forcing those little hooked ends into the metal track to grip well. (see video below)
ANOTHER TIP TO SHARE: When applying the glass bead AND the screw cover it really helps to have a second person who can keep the remaining trim above or at least level with the shoulder of the person applying the trim into the windows. This prevents the drag of gravity trying to pull down on the excess material and helps the install. If you don’t have a second person, then at least lay the excess over your shoulders to lessen the gravity drag downward and fighting against you trying to install “upwards” which you have to do to do this project right!
(5) Again, just like with the glass bead, you want to NOT stretch this screw cover. During the install keep pushing it back slightly upon itself, especially around the radius corners so you are getting as much trim in as the track can hold.
(6) Butting the ends together, cut long and trim slightly as needed but to ensure a really tightly butted seam. We lay some 3M adhesive on the final few inches of the trim before we do the final cut and butting of the raw edges. Make sure those edges are straight for the neatest look.
(7) Apply a thin bead of 3M black adhesive over top of this seam as well.
This new glass bead if installed correctly should last in normal conditions at least 8-15 years or more. Of course, if you are in hot weather states in the summer and your trailer is outdoors, the longevity may be less. We know that the glass bead on ours was at least 20 years or more old and may have even been original. Our trailer was bought new in FL, lived in FL till 2012 then sold and moved to PA. Was stored outdoors.
WHAT SPECIFIC PRODUCTS WE ORDERED FOR OUR 1973 AND OUR 1987 AVIONS AND WHO WE ORDERED FROM! This may or may not be what you need! Do your research, purchase sample kits or ask them to send you a sample or buy a foot of what you think you need FIRST!
Special note-JULY 2020: We have yet to find the correct new replacement glass bead for our curved front and rear windows. We are sending a sample to a Pelland and Interstate to get them to ID and select correct one. When we get it, we will update this post with that info! All other materials that have worked for us are listed below with links to products and their distributors.
Search for: BLACK RV Trailer Thick Vinyl 3/4″ Insert Trim Mold Flexible Screw Cover 100 Ft.
July 2020 Selling for 100 feet @ $72.95 with FREE shipping!
She does sell it in various precut length hanks. Buy what you need, and then some!
NOTE: Be sure to order the correct ” Thick Vinyl 3/4 inch”. She has a lot of various similar trims in her Ebay Store. We did not order the thick stuff the first time and it was way to thin and would not have held up in the track for long and would have fallen out on the road.
So that’s it. This is hopefully a very helpful post to all who need repairs or total replacements of their window trims. The project is worth taking on. Window and seams areas are the leading source of water damage to vintage trailers.
We hope we have helped you on your journey! We love feedback so please leave a comment!
Safe travels! Hope to meet you on the road or at a rally someday!
What are you doing at 7 PM (EST) on Tuesday nights?
Join us for a live, virtual chat ZOOM meeting with fellow Avioner’s from all over the USA (and the world)!
If it is one thing that this Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic has taught me, it is how to connect virtually with people in meaningful ways despite not being with them in person.
For my work, I have become very proficient at hosting live ZOOM meetings (you can start a basic Zoom account for free!) and have found that these LIVE virtual in-person meetings have enabled my colleagues, friends and family members to share stories, tips, timely topics and even share documents, photos, etc. in a meaningful easy way. SO WHY NOT DO IT WITH AVION OWNERS? LET’S GET TOGETHER TO “TALK AVION!”
SO…..Kevin and I are launching “Avion Tuesday Talks” –weekly topic — live chats via ZOOM at 7 PM (EST). Each week, we will have one manageable topic and hope to attract long time Avion owners to brand new owners….and everyone in between. Even members of any of the Avion Facebook groups who are still “in the market to buy their first Avion” are welcomed.
Suggestions for future topic talks are always welcomed by shooting us an email, posting a suggestion on our facebook page or posting a comment on this blog anytime!
NOTE: These meetings are best joined by you using a laptop with built in camera and speakers. PC’s with audio and video are fine too. Cell phones are ok but a little clunky to get the best experience.
My Pewter Palace Zoom account can handle up to 95 attendees. Right now, I am also doing just the free subscription so our chat can only be 35 minutes (yup, i know i will have to put the timer on!). If this catches on, we will explore upgrading to the paid service where longer 1 hr chats can be done. But lets crawl….before we walk and see if the interest among Avioners is there first!
HOPE YOU WILL JOIN US AND HELP SPREAD THE WORD! You can find the events listed by date on ourPewter Palace facebook page under the “events” tab. This is where the topic of the week will be listed as well as the direct link info to log in and then join us at 7 PM.
Not familiar with Zoom?? It is super easy to learn and use! Here is a terrific tutorial to view before your first live Zoom meeting! Watch now!
For those following our Rock Guard 3R’s (rescue, restore, reinstall) we are on the final step. Installation of our beautiful, newly rehab’d rock guard we salvaged off of a 1983-84 crunched Avion we found by sheer luck not more than 1.5 hours from our house and in a campground bone yard in a tiny town in VT.
Here is the before….and after…..then…..”THE REST OF THE STORY” ( yes, dating myself)
Below (left) is soon to be salvaged rock guard off a ’83-84 found in VT, (right) is completely rehabbed and now rehung back onto our 1973 Avion. Note the “bling factor” and read on to see how and what we did!
Obviously the first steps of this rehab was literally just elbow grease to take off years of grime. You can see all the steps we did including photos and videos in our Phase 1 & 2 blog posts. We chose a high gloss finished on the interior and exterior of the guard which was professionally painted and finished by a local auto body detailer, Mac the Knife on Quaker Road in Queensbury NY. He loved the diversion this project gave him over the long Adirondack winter!
The final phase 3 of this big project has been to reinstall the guard. But there were some issues. The hanging track of our original (the part installed to nose of trailer) was smaller than the “new” rock guard. In fact it was 7 inches longer.
We determined that this longer length was actually preferable as it would take more of the pressure off those areas that historically start to show stress cracks on countless Avion’s we have seen (yes believe this was a 45 yr old design flaw on part of original manufacturers).
This meant, we had to first remove our original hanging track. A little scary since we had never worked with rivets, etc. But as usual Kevin had watched 100’s of hours on “how to rivet” on YouTube, purchased a few books and then all necessary equipment from Vintage Trailer Supply. He felt confident in what he had to do.
First step: Drill out old rivets holding hanging track on our rig. Old track drilled out and removed. Clean up of area really well is very important. We use a “bone tool” we buy at the auto parts store to remove old grime, butyl tape, any sticky stuff. This one works perfect, it has a flat scraper end and a rounded end. It is actually a hard nylon plastic which will not scratch your aluminum but give you the ability to get stuff off…even smushed bugs too! Kev is “all about the prep!”
Installed 3/4 inch Butyl tape strip on back edge of new track before installation.
Install replacement (longer) hanging track onto trailer front. Use stainless steel rivets for install, use Parbond to cover over each rivet head to prevent any possible water penetration. Parbond along seam that runs along top of guard hanger where attaches to trailer. This is a critical step. When riveting or screwing anything into the skin of your trailer, you create a possible way for water to eek in behind and roll down into the holes made by the rivets or screws. Using Parbond, (we use silver/aluminum colored and and our handy dandy dental hygiene syringe applicator (Amazon, 8 for $10) to a make perfect thin line edges.
We tried reusing as many of the original holes we could from where the original guard track was hung. Unused holes were pre-filled with Parbond completely sealing them. Kevin snipped off the tines of the rivets and used the rivet shaver to smooth them down. Photo above with my gorgeous purple gloves shows rivets before trimming all of them. Note the small magnetic level to ensure you are keeping the track placement level. You can see some of the Butyl tape has softened and eeked slightly below the track. No worries, as this will be unseen and underneath the top of the guard. Better to have a great seal.
We let the track sit for two days to allow Parbond to dry out pretty well. Then time to hang the rock guard. NOTE: All arm hardware had been removed before hanging so it was not in the way. WE ONLY REMOVED THE ACTUAL ARMS, NOT THE RECEIVING HARDWARE since that had been re- riveted on and reinforced during the rehab by our auto body person!
We also found that the hardware locations on the NEW guard were not exact to our original. So we did have to re position the “plunger” receiver on the bottom of the window on one side (only) about 1/4 ” out so that the receiver slot, see right photo below would meet the plunger pin. Plunger pin hardware (bottom photo) is the one on streetside, note parbond behind, on top and in screw holes before reinstalling with stainless screws. To re position the curbside one, Kevin drilled the holes into slot shaped and pushed the bracket to align as needed. Once parbonded and screwed in place it is secure.
How to Hang: Carefully we hung the new rock guard
NOTE: done as a two person job only please!!! lift guard parallel to the ground and both people using step ladders, you slide the track on top of guard into receiver hanging track that is installed on trailer, slide guard across length of hanging track.
Hanging Problem! Once hanging the guard- we noticed that our new guard was not seated very securely in its track.
This was the track salvaged with the guard so we knew it was right (and longer which was good) but for some reason it was way too easy to pop out when lifted up. To combat this we studied the lifting process closely, watching the relationships between the track on rig and track on guard. We realized there was too much “play” in the track on rig and that we needed to put something back there so that the bent “J” portion of the track on guard could not rotate back and the guard come unhinged should we hit some pot hole, etc. on the road.
We found some “U” shaped aluminum in the exact length needed at Lowes. Cheap enough, under $15. You can see it in photo below just in front of the wood strips we used as shims to force it close to the hanger on the guard. We then used stainless screws and screwed this track (parbonded over each) 5 places on this track thereby securing it into the hanger track affixed to the trailer. This process allows the rotation of the guard perfectly but it cannot slip upwards and pop out unexpectedly.
Below you can also see some of the added steel reinforcement strip that we had our auto body fellow fabricate to provide additional rigidity and support to the top of the plastic rock guard itself. As mentioned previously, these guards are notorious for cracking where the arm hinges are due to years of stress on that particular part when traveling down the road. These reinforcements are on the outside and inside so the plastic guard is sandwiched between. They are applied with rivets and were painted at same time as guard so all match, inside and out.
Here is the results, we are very pleased and safe in the knowledge that the guard is not going anywhere with our filler aluminum track safety addition. You can see the reinforcement steel strip clearly on the video below too. Obviously we removed the wood shims after this part of the project was tested and done.
Some still shots of the aluminum U track we added. The last image shows the track before we installed this added piece. You can clearly see all the “play” space that was there and needed filling up to prevent the guard’s track from jumping out by accident.
Next came the re-installation of the support arms. Here Kevin is showing a prelim of how we plan to add additional support arms when set up in camp. First we needed to order additional arms, and do some changes to hardware.
We had decided to copy a fellow long time Avioner we met at the Silver Avion Fellowship Rally in IN in 2017 and ordered two additional awning lift arms from Vintage Trailer Supply. These would be used in conjunction with our originals to create add on support arms when we are camped. More on that in a minute.
The new sets (sold separately) from Vintage Trailer Supply were a little shorter than our originals but would work. Kevin drilled out the receiver hardware off the new ones opting to use our original hinge hardware to mount in its original location and holes on our window frames. He used stainless screws, lock washers and nuts to install the arms to the hardware rather than riveting like was originally done. Using screws allows for adjustments, replacing or repairs on the fly far easier than riveting. Below is original mounting bracket that goes on window frame but with the NEW guard arm from VTS installed with stainless screw and lock washer, nut.
We applied Parbond again behind the hardware before installing back on to the window uprights. Using the original mounting hardware we could reuse the original holes which is always preferred over making more holes in your Avion.
Once we did this, we reattached to the bracket on inside bottom of guard. These arm brackets stay attached permanently and are adjusted using wing nuts and washers on stainless screws (1 inch #10) so that the guard can be raised or lowered to just about any height.
The “new” old arms, now with just holes on both ends will be used for additional support for the guard when we are set up in a campsite. These are screwed on with washers and nuts each time they are applied. We strongly feel that this additional support (downward) provide superior support for the guard and take away some of the stress on the permanently mounted cantilever ones that hold up and out the guard. We will simply store them in a little pouch and inside our exterior battery box so they are handy.
Finishing up the new support arm system and we are all done with this major rehab project. Notice we have repainted the underside of our rock guard in a lite off white, high gloss. What this does is it serves to reflect back out the light coming from our lamp (when guard is closed) and also to create a far brighter feeling when guard is open. Previously, the back of the guard was the medium dark grey of the plastic composite material of the guard. This darker color absorbed the light rather than reflecting it. This small change to white has made a huge effect and one we highly encourage. Even just spray painting the underside white with over the counter high gloss paint yourself will help if you do not want to spend the money on the whole auto body finish like we did.
There is nothing more heartwarming and welcoming to us than the Avion Glow!!
“We travel not to escape life….but for life not to escape us”
In this part II blog post I am going to review how we made measurements and decisions on how to best do the “THREE R’S” (rescue, repair and re-invigorate) our classic original Avion rock guard. As mentioned in our previous blog this was a junk yard find and it is NOT one of the knock off reproduction ones currently being made out of fiberglass (see photo at end of this post for sample) or other such materials.
(Photo below: ourjunk yard find on ground in front of our Avion)
I will put some links to how to video’sand sources for rock guards at end of this post for those who are not as lucky as we have been to find an original for sale.
So once we had our junkyard find home, it was time to decide the best course of action for restoring it to its former glory and functionality. But wait….could we do more?? Could we jazz her up a bit with some subtle “bling” and wow factor?? YES!
But how? without going too far and destroying the classic Avion look and we did not want to offend those traditionalists and preservationists who would not want to see too much altered–ours is a classic after all.
First step was to put our new-to-us rock guard on two saw horses to support the hard plastic form and to prevent any torquing/flexion which could cause some unwanted cracks. It is best to have two people handling these rock guards. This was done in preparation for a good, gentle cleaning.
After removing cobwebs from the hardware on the back,
we gave it a good washing with just clear warm water to start to get the surface all wet. We then decided to use the same purple colored HD Simple Green brand cleaner (purchased at Home Depot). It is very important and is highly recommended to ONLY USE THE HD PURPLE type of Simple Green on Avion’s for all the washing of the trailer’s aluminum bodies. Since this is the recommended cleaner for the bodies themselves, we felt that we were also safe to use it on the rock guard. We also employed the recommendation to not do this washing in the sunshine, so we picked a cloudy day to do our rock guard washing too–just to be safe. Perhaps not as necessary as it is critical when washing the aluminum bodies (so detergent does not have a chance to dry on metal and the metal is not warm/hot from the sun–which causes cloudy streaks) but why not right?? We diluted it following the instructions on the container and used a regular boat washing hand brush with medium bristles and then soft terry towels. (yes, we baby our Avion!)
We decided to take measurements of the existing original Avion logo stencil so that we had them for future use to make a stencil ourselves for other possible purposes. Also so that we would have photo references to show for before and after looks, etc. or to assist anyone who is looking to replicate the logo because they have a knock off repro, etc.
You can see by the large photo above that our logo had been touched up by hand by some former owner. Honestly they did a decent job but this was no where near the quality look that we wanted. Also note the bottom right photo where you can see the nicks and missing paint off of the round edge.
From the facebook Avion Owner’s site managed by Mark Obinterio here from their files are PDFs of both the older avions (pre 80’s and the newer Avions) in case you want to download, print and use.
Downloadable Avion Logos: (many thanks to those generous folks who have posted them on the Avion Owners facebook page files)
We knew we wanted our rock guard to be somewhat of a “Rock Star” when it wasfinished. The rock guard is a very prominent feature of this trailer and what people see first when you are coming into a campground or rally. It is also your “front door” so to speak about what kind of rig this is and when down is your hallmark. At least this is the way we view it. We are very proud of our Avion and wanted her to have her best foot forward–quite literally all the time.
So after much consideration, and review of sample sheets of aluminum being put on the rock guard (Chuck Cayo had given us these actual samples of aluminum that he uses for his body restorations on Avions) we decided on a “grey” that would best compliment our aluminum trailer body and be just slightly different so it did not look like we were trying to match the aluminum…rather we were trying to compliment it.
Below you can see where I went to Lowes and picked up a variety of paint chip samples in grey’s and also the red we ultimately chose for the lettering accent color.
It was not easy to decide on what level of darkness of grey we would go with. We did use the center aluminum piece as our guide and ultimately chose the one that I have encircled with blue pen. We did this paint swatch so that we could see what it looked like in daylight, dusk, and with our porch light on so we could really make the best all around decision. The rock guard is a large piece and it would be a large and highly visible swath of grey. We felt the one we chose would look rich and classy and if/when it faded would still have the contrast to the aluminum Avion body we wanted.
Below is a closer look at the red sample chosen. It is not a true red, it is more of a dark red which again, we feel is more classy and rich looking. You can see the two colors together now. Each have similar intensity and color value. (yes, I was an art major in HS!)
You will notice the final paint chip above is a Dover White. We had the brainstorm to have our auto body fellow also paint the underside of the rock guard in this white in a high gloss finish. This way when the rock guard is closed due to windy days (yes, please keep your rock guard latched and locked down in wind…they will flex, crack and or could even get ripped from the hinge on windy days-it does not take much- these are like big hard rigid sails on a ship!) the high gloss will actually help to reflect BACK into the trailer your lights you have on inside on the dinette table, reading lamps or ceiling fixtures. As of this post we have not tested our theory but are convinced this will be the case. How we know is that currently when our rock guard is closed, it really creates a dark grey cave-like feel. So looking out the front window and seeing white will help a lot! When I posted this idea on the Avion Owners Facebook page, one of the long time owners said …wow…what a great idea! Guess we were the first to try this experiment in 46 years??!!
Off to the Spa for a FACELIFT!
So at this point, our rock guard is clean, prepped and ready to take to our local and highly regarded auto body painter/detailer shop. It is only about 2 miles from our house and the business is called “Mac The Knife, Designer Autocrafts, LLC” and is located at 310 Quaker Road in Queensbury NY. Phone is 518-798-0872 (tell them Kevin & Luisa Sherman sent you! – no we do not get anything from a referral but a smile!)
(Mac is also the one who redid our original spare tire cover of the same material as the rock guard (that’s another blog post coming!) installed our DECKED system and front grill brush guard, and did the paint job on our front receiver hitch on our truck)
A very frequently referenced blog post that was originally posted on the AS forums. This project really was quite well done and could be replicated for an Avion no doubt.
This is a photo (at right) of a circa ’80’s Avion with what appears to us to be one of the reproduction/replacement fiberglass rock guards available from Cayo. See our resource page for their contact info.
Stay tuned, the repair shop process and final reveal will be in blog post Part III
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(keep coming back!… some decorating ideas using any RV rock guard and front window/tongue area will be put into another future blog post!)
Not the most “romantic” or instant joy repair….but a necessity for sure!
Our Avion had its rear side, kitchen and bath window’s re-glazed last June when at Fletcher’s RV Service in the Finger Lakes but they had forgotten to do the front when the rock guard was down. UGH. Similarly and much to our chagrin, when we were picking up our Avion at Cayo in MI THIS June he told us he did not do it either because he did not have a source for the glaze bead. (Had he told us that prior to us picking up our Avion assuming all of the punch list was done correctly—-and asked, we DID know the source, since we had ordered it for Fletch to install) DOUBLE UGH!
So anyway, long story short…our Pewter Palace still needed its front windows redone with new rubber window glaze bead. And we decided after two failed attempts getting someone else to do it, we better just start learning to do way more for ourselves when it comes to working on this trailer. Once we go full time, we are going to have to be far more self-reliant anyway. This way we also only have ourselves to blame when “repairs” are not done correctly or fail shortly thereafter.
Back in early 2017—After conferring with multiple fellow Avion owners online we had found a reliable source in Interstate RV Metal Supply. (they also sell other Hehr window parts, replacements, etc. and are very friendly and accommodating on the phone. ). I will have other potential resource sites linked at end of this blog post in case you have a different style bead or different brand of vintage trailer.
** they do not have a very online user-friendly site. You do have to call them to order this product, but gladly, their customer service folks are wonderful.
This glaze bead comes in two colors–white and black. We strongly recommend the BLACK because as you will see from our photos, once installed gives a nice finished look, will not get dirty looking and simply visually recesses and matches the windows rather than the white which we feel would stick out like a sore thumb against the aluminum skin of the trailers.
(left photo below is with old bead removed, right photo is after new bead put in)
So over Labor Day weekend, 2018…we labored! And Bingo!….we managed to get all three of the front windows cleaned out of the old glaze bead (45 years later) removed. It had to be done because it had shrunk considerably and the 45 degree angle cut corners had over 1 inch gaps between them where silicone had been slathed in to prevent water from seeping in and underneath. The aluminum tracks had to be cleaned out of an over zealous black butyl tape that had been applied when the windows had been set in. Major goo had oozed into the outside of the window edges and was underneath the window glaze. The weather was warm, about 84 degrees with some humidity and this project DOES need to be done in warm weather so that the rubber glaze bead (both the existing you have to remove, and the new that needs to be installed) stays pliable and warm to make it easier to get in.
Use a cloth tape measure and generously measure your total lengths needed for each window. Then at at least a foot for each window to ensure you have plenty!
Only do the install in warm weather and preferably with sun out and place the rubber glaze bead in the sun, on an asphalt drive if possible so it really warms up.
Remove the rock guard lock pin plates off front of window mullions first. You may need a power drill with correct bit to get these off.
We suggest NOT using your old bead for measuring the length of your new bead. The old bead may have shrunk and is not accurate measurement.
Apply the new bead in one length from your stock (in other words…do not precut what you think is your exact length needed for that window) and when getting close to your seam cut, cut it longer by at least 2 inches, then start trimming in until you have a really tight, snug fit. Back it off a bit so the rubber is really tightly butting together. This will reduce gaps in seams after a time where it is exposed to elements and starts to shrink from sunlight, etc.
Be sure to clean out the tracks really well once you remove the old bead. Remove any dirt, bits of glue, Butyl tape ooze, silicone or anything that may impede the new bead being installed. Use your toothbrush, plastic putty knife, plastic bone tool and scrubbies for this part of the job.
You may want to have the following pieces of equipment handy to help remove and to install the bead.
Needle nose and flat nose pliers
Sturdy scissors (for cutting the bead at 45 degree angle for any 90 degree window corners.
Old toothbrush (or the one you got from a hotel when you forgot yours!)
Some plastic paint/putty knives, or better yet, a “bone tool” which is a hard plastic scraper type gizmo that is great for getting off the silicone or any other crud that may be on your aluminum skin. The plastic bone tool will not scrape or mar your skin. You can find a great bone tool on the amazon page of one of our favorite bloggers—Long Long Honeymoon (they have a vintage airstream)
Set of Pick tools, (see photo of kit with blue handles, found at Home Depot, Lowes)
Rags, scrubbies/we used Kevin’s GoJo brand cleaning wipes
Cleaning/Polishing the Front Windows—Plexiglas caution!!
We also took this opportunity to polish the front windows since they are Plexiglas and after 45 years have had their share of scratches, dirt and grime. BE CAREFUL WITH PLEXIGLAS!!! you cannot use regular Windex or window cleaners on them! Using the wrong stuff will result in a fogging and haze on the plastic window. Yes, a former owner of our trailer neglected to remember this and our front left curved plexi window has that “fog” permanently and we will replace it at some point with new Lexan. Just water is fine, but we have been using a cleaner especially formulated for Plexiglas that is available most anywhere other cleaners are found. Ours is pink so you can really tell it is different than the traditional blue stuff that normally has ammonia or vinegar in it.
We used this plexiglas polish to do our windows. We only used the foam pad, but the kit comes with various grits of sandpaper circles to use if you wish. We did not attempt this because we were afraid of doing more damage to the hazy window and without having a replacement ready- we could not take the chance, two weeks from our Tin Can Tourist Rally trip. But the polish paste worked well and did make a difference for sure so we are happy for now with the results. We used a rechargable power drill and it worked great.
After the cleaning and polishing of the windows, here is the actual application of the rubber glaze bead. Looks easy in video but takes a bit to get the “knack”.
The video’s kind of make this look easier than it is. Just take your time, you will need strong, nimble fingers to do this. I did not have enough strength in my fingers–but Kevin did! Nice thing is that until you finish the corners or seams with a bit of Parbond sealant you can take it out and re position as needed till you get it right.
Be sure when you are putting it in that when in correctly it will be very snug and hold tight to the window itself. If you see any bulge or gap, then it is not in properly so take back out that section and try again.
if you are doing your front windows your seams will be in the top and bottom of the vertical inside edges. Whenever you have 90 degree corners you will need to cut your glaze bead at 45 degrees like a picture frame. This is our first corner and before Parbond sealant is put in. The rippling in corner is because Kevin was sure to really stuff as much of the rubber in as possible to avoid shrinkage issues later.
IF you are doing your side windows then it is recommended that you place your seam at the center bottom with a straight cut- butting the two ends together really tightly and firmly. Positioning your bead around rounded corners is not a problem but be sure you are not stretching it at all to get it in there, Kevin recommends pushing it back a bit even to ensure that there is no tension on the rubber glaze bead so that it does not want to pop out of the corners. (this was our first corner, not bad but we got better!) This is before Parbond sealant was applied.
Some sites we saw did recommend putting a little silicone on the starting points and also on the corners. We did not. It might be something we regret, but as Kevin noted, he did really push back on the rubber as it was installed to be sure that there was no tension on the corners, etc. We have seen where on other rigs that corners pull out when the shrinkage starts. We do plan to apply some conditioner to this each year to keep it more pliable and soft and hopefully this will also reduce shrinkage. We noticed that the glaze seams from where Fletch did the windows just over a year ago have already pulled apart perhaps an 1/8th inch. We will place some more clear Parbond in those to reseal again.
FINAL STEPS IN THIS PROJECT:
Sealing the seams of glaze bead: After you have the bead in place and are pleased with the snug fit then put a bead of clear Parbond sealant over that seam. We have not found Parbond in black which would have been our preference, but the clear basically works fine and the black glaze bead makes the clear look black anyway. We purchase our Parbond from http://www.VintageTrailerSupply.com We also use the hypodermic tube injectors that they sell on the same page since that does allow for better control of flow than direct from the tube of Parbond. Parbond is great stuff to have around and is used many places on a trailer to prevent leaks, seal joints, etc. It comes in clear and aluminum. Cayo used aluminum stuff to block holes caused when we switched out our Carefree awning with our Zipdee.