As many of you have read, we are undergoing a major redo of our rock guard on our 1973 Avion, 28′ LaGrande. While doing this we were “up close and personal” with the nose of our Avion and realized that some dingo along the way of line of ownership of this Avion installed 5 of our running or “marker” light fixtures upside down. Below is with existing fixtures before our rehab project started.
What does that mean? How can you tell fixture is upside down?
Is there a right side and wrong side, right way and wrong way?
Well, yes….the outside housing (normally white or off white) of these fixtures have pre-cut “weep” holes (normally one on center edge and one on the lower half of each side) that allow any moisture and rain to seep out rather than be trapped inside the fixture causing the internal workings to rust and eventually fail.
Here is a great photo (above) of our center one that obviously was installed upside down (don’t be confused by the manufacturers writing being upside down when you install it properly. Just be sure the weep holes face downward) and therefore had been a collector of water for who knows how long. The rusted metal is quite evident and this as can be seen on the photo above had also caused a rust streak to show on the Avion’s skin below the fixtures themselves. You can see the rust stains in this quick video clip below. You can also clearly see the left fixture is upside down with weep holes facing the sky whereas the right fixture is correctly installed with weep holes on the bottom facing the ground.
Not to mention, the potential of enough build up of rain to find their way to the hole made by the wire coming out of your rig’s skin and thereby allowing that water to get in between your skin. Not good!
So while we had our rock guard off, it was much easier to work on the three running lights on the “nose” of our rig. One had been replaced by Fletch (see previous posts and our resource page) and installed correctly, but we were not sure he had used stainless steel screws (a must do according to Kevin) but it also had not been sealed with par bond along the top and part of the sides and so Kevin decided, lets just take all three down, update their bulbs and do a little maintenance while we were at it.
First step was to purchase one replacement fixture to retire out the rusted one (see bag picture below). Kevin purchased a replacement easy at our local Auto Parts store. Most will carry them unless you need a real vintage look one. At some point we believe all of our truly original ones had been switched out- what we have now is modern standard style anyway. The wiring placement was just a little different though. The ones on our rig have the electrical wire (single) come through a hole in the fixture back and then connect to the wire of lamp on front. Kevin had to drill a small hole in the new fixture to guide that Avion wire to the front. No biggie.
To LED or Not to LED….that is the question!
While Vintage Trailer Supply (VTS) does carry LED fixtures we decided for now now to replace with LED quite yet. In time we will definitely put in LEDs because reports are they are so much brighter and of course, also are far less on your battery. For now, we went with those like what they identify as “1970’s Marker Lights” on this same linked page. We noticed some reviews said that the VTS LED fixtures are for wiring to be done on rear of the fixture. Hmmm…that could require some modifications for our set up, so we decided hold off on LEDs and to talk to other Avion owners on the Facebook chats or in person at rallies this summer first to see what they have done.
We took down all fixtures. None of the fixtures had a rubber gasket behind them. This may be a step you wish to take. VTS does sell sheets of rubber gasket that then you can cut to fit any fixture, etc. you need it for. We chose not to use gaskets and leave them as they had been installed.
My job was cleaning up the plastic lenses and other housings. Meanwhile, Kevin took to cleaning up the area underneath the fixtures and making sure that the aluminum skin underneath was clean, prepped and treated. The fixture that had the rusted stuff had in fact begun to eat rust through our aluminum skin so we were really glad we had taken on the project. In order to prevent any more rust corrosion he gently sanded away the rust (green scrubby) and lots of elbow grease. He cleaned and prepped the area well. I then did a very small touch up with grey rust inhibitor paint (same as was used on our frame and hitch) that will be totally invisible when fixture is reinstalled but we have piece of mind that no more rust will grow there.
We had trouble finding the very small wire caps at Lowes like what was on there, so we purchased these and they worked fine on the two original fixtures we had but Kevin did have to re-use one of the smaller grey caps on the new fixture simply due to the different interior design did not allow for a comfortable fit using the blue cap.
It goes without saying be sure your wires are in good shape. Be sure that you are using plastic caps AND use only STAINLESS STEEL screws when doing your install. Stainless will not rust up and add to the potential for rusty water stains on your Avion aluminum skin. Stainless steel screws should be the only type used on your RV in our opinion (in addition to rivets obviously)
Be sure to put a dab of Parbond INSIDE each of the screw holes before screwing in anything into your Avion skin!! We did this with the marker light installation too.
Kevin intentionally installed the NEW fixture in the center since the outside casing was just a little different than the existing two. I applauded him for recognizing that slight detail but having it look intentional and more symmetrical really did look great.
After the new or cleaned up existing fixtures were installed, my job “as artist” was to apply Parbond around the top and partially down both sides of each fixture. Kevin tends to have a heavy hand with any of this kind of step, so since I have a steady hand these tasks fall to me. I did apply straight out of the Parbond tube because I needed a goodly bead to ensure that no gap existed between the fixture edge and our rig. Be sure to NOT cover the side weep holes if your fixture has them as long as they are low enough to be effective.
You may notice on the large bottom picture above there is a different color silver on the left side of the fixture. This is because our NEW fixture did not fit completely flush against the skin of the Avion. So I cut a 1/3 width of our Eternabond Tape and applied that just around the side sections (covering weep holes there since too high) and all along the top lapping half of the width of the tape to the skin of the trailer to create a perfect seal against water penetration. Then I applied Parbond over that. Done! This baby is not gonna leak!
**If you tend to be heavy handed and shaky you may wish to put some Parbond into a smaller disposable syringe with plunger and use that. See short video clip below to see what we use in narrow spaces or edges. We will have detailed on these in our post about our rock guard final install post and also source for what we use on our blog’s Resources Page.
Note- the new fixture had two large weep holes on the bottom so we were not concerned about covering the one on either side. Since these fixtures sit so high on your rig, you will not ever even notice the Parbond unless you get on a ladder. When camped, most times we have our rock guard open so the fixtures are even less noticeable. Far better to secure from leaking than to worry about aesthetics.
Another project checked off our 2019 Spring Punch List!
Hope this blog post has helped you in some way to tackle your light fixture projects. If it has, please leave a comment– if it did not help….please tell us that too and what would have been more helpful. We always want to create not only a journal of what we did for nostalgia sake for ourselves but we strive to be a helpful resource and inspiration for Avion and other aluminum trailer lovers.
Please subscribe to our blog so you get notified of future posts on other how to projects and our travels!
Safe Travels…..One Life…LIVE IT!!
Luisa & Kevin Sherman at ThePewterPalace.com Visit and LIKE us on FACEBOOK!