Category Archives: Rock Guard Rescue!

Rock Guard Rescue- PT 3

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.

2018-09-27 16.47.22

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.

2019-04-27 12.00.11

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

2019-04-22 19.30.19

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.

 

20190430_192609

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!!

2019-05-04 19.53.21

“We travel not to escape life….but for life not to escape us”

Safe journeys!

wp-15509711827561645158159757528833.png

 

Rock Guard Rescue- Avion Trailer, Part II

Spoiler alert—be sure to visit our Rock Guard Rescue Part I before jumping in here!

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: our junk yard find on ground in front of our Avion)

2018-07-22 10.43.45

I will put some links to how to video’s and 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:

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.

2018-08-23-07.58.58.jpg

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!)

Taking Measurements:

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)

avion_logo_old-from Avion Owners fB files     

Avion Rockguard Decal_pdf on Avion Owners FB file page

avion_logo_new

Design Decisions:

We  knew we wanted our rock guard to be somewhat of a “Rock Star” when it was finished.  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.

 

2018-08-23-08.04.26.jpg

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!)

2018-08-23 08.09.37

2018-08-23 08.02.22

2018-08-23 07.58.37

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)

Sources:

  • 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.

YouTube Videos how to make your own rock guard.

This is a photo (at right) of a circa ’80’s Avion with what appears to us to be one of thefiberglass, cayo repro avion rock guards 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

BE SURE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG SO YOU DO NOT MISS A POST!

(keep coming back!…  some decorating ideas using any RV rock guard and front window/tongue area will be put into another future blog post!)

One life….Live It Riveted!

Kevin & Luisa Sherman

K-L-PP-copyrightedfooter

 

 

Rock Guard Rescue-Avion Trailer, PT 1

We purchased our 1973 Avion in September 2016.  Quite a birthday present for me if I do say so!

Our rock guard (original to 1973) was in decent shape, with the logo faded and some stress cracks at the angle support hinge area on top.  Both of these “age-related illnesses” are ones that are very common and frequently seen in Avions especially those pre-1980’s. (you can easily see the cracks in photo below).

The previous owner to us had done a decent repair job on that right crack by reinforcing with a piece of steel behind it and filling in the crack on the outside with Parbond or something similar, but now after two years of our use we started to see the left side begin to show more of a pronounced stress crack too.

2016-10-08 14.21.24-1

These cracks in the solid formed hard plastic original rock guards like ours are common due to the sheer weight of the guard and the jiggling, torquing and bouncing it experiences when rolling down the road even though it is locked in at the bottom.  Hey, and our baby has done Alaska 2xs, California at least 4 times and Florida annually for at least 6 years—so after a total of 45 years and having only these cracks in her is truly not bad!

In May of 2018 we had taken our Avion out to Cayo Repair in MI to have some work done and on the punch list was to sure up that left crack to prevent further damage and to ensure that it would hold, at least for a few more years.  Chuck Cayo did a decent job with it which you can see on photo below where the rivet stud backs are showing through the horizontal piece of sandwiched steel plate.  But we knew at some point the inevitable question would have to be addressed to repair again or replace completely.

In the photo below you will also see where the two support hinges mount up underneath the top inside of the rock guard.  These hinges bear the full weight of the guard when opened (as shown) but also lock in place in the pull latches on bottom edge center of window to lock the guard in place for towing mode.  Thus all the stress is there despite the long tubular hinge that connects from the guard itself to the rig.

The photo below clearly shows the system by which the rock guard is “hung” to attach to the trailer body. (also the horizontal steel plate repair by Cayo) .The body has a receiver tube as we call it that the guard slides into from one side.

2018-09-02 15.32.39

It takes two people to effectively and safely remove or install the guard to the rig using this system.  The sheer weight of these original guards is a lot.

Newer replacement guards are being manufactured by Cayo RV Repair in MI and some other private owners these days. I believe they are made of fiberglass and therefore far lighter which is a good thing, however the ones we have seen are all black which we do not care for at all.   We prefer our muted grey which blends in with the aluminum body of the trailer better.

Here is a good photo for comparison, ours being on the left with its original as is condition, the one on the right is the fiberglass black replacement.

 

To Repair or Replace….THAT is the Question!

We knew we had only really two options with our ever growing cracks in our original existing rock guard.

  1. Bite the bullet and purchase one of the new fiberglass knockoffs (around $700-800 +S/H)
  2. Try to once again do repairs to our existing one in hopes to sure it up sufficiently for the wear and tear it would eventually get once we begin full timing in a few years.

Never Underestimate a Sunday drive to VT!

It brought us a TREASURE FIND or TWO!

One sunny Saturday in July 2018 I suggested to Kevin it would be nice to go over to nearby VT to scope out some potential campgrounds where we may wish to stay in coming years.  We like to physically see the campground and identify specific sites that we take note of for future calls for reservations.  We wanted places that would be grandkid-friendly and relatively easy to get to distance for us and for my daughter and son-in-law to drive to as they would be transporting the two grandchildren to us for a camping weekend.

Living in eastern upstate NY we can be to VT in a matter of 40 minutes.  Our trip that day took us over through Cambridge NY and then into the Bennington and Manchester VT areas of mid-state/western VT.  Using just my google map locator asking “campgrounds near me” we found several close by with no problem.  Our third one to visit though was the charm.  Not because we would want to end up camping there (no amenities, mostly all very run down, entrenched seasonals) but because on our way out the driveway Kevin shouted STOP! (I was driving) “WAIT…THERE IS AN AVION!”.  Yes, it was, abandoned and sitting among wreck, trash, bits and pieces from other trailers.  It was the campground owners graveyard of discards from two generations of ownership.  Yeah, they did not ever throw anything away!  Thank goodness!!

2018-07-21 11.10.11

We pulled off the drive and into the graveyard.  Wrangled over debris and checked her out.  Appeared to be a 1988 but the rock guard looked really, really similar in design and size to ours.  The poor rig had had a tree fall on her, breaking her center spine and was left in the graveyard to fill with rain, leaves, etc. etc. and used for storage, sort of, for perhaps a decade or more.  But the rock guard was crack free, moveable and hopefully would be ours!  We did have a tape measure with us, took measurements and tried texting and calling Cayo and posting on the Avion FB pages quickly to see if anyone could answer our question about if size of this one was same as our ’73 which of course was safely and out of reach back in NY.  A couple online FB Avioners replied they thought it would fit, but if the price was right, even if it did not fit ours, there was surely a market to sell it to another Avion owner who could use it.  That was enough security for us!

The owner of the campground came by driving his backhoe to gawk at these unfamiliars climbing around his Avion.  No worries, nice guy and Kevin quickly sparked up a perfect, nonthreatening conversation to allay the owners fears that we were some city slickers.  We are not, we are North Country folk too and Kevin knows his mechanicals, trucks, etc. to dazzle any New England car/truck junky.  After a very short and amenable conversation the deal was struck, tools offered to assist us in the guard’s removal and within about 15 minutes the new rock guard was being hoisted by Kevin and I into our Suburban.  Reddy our Cavalier Spaniel who had come along for the ride was not quite sure what this big canopy was coming over top her bed!

2018-07-21-11.35.44.jpg2018-07-21 11.35.552018-07-21 12.06.48

This ends Part 1 of our ROCK GUARD RESCUE.

BUT THERE’S MORE LUCK TO BE FOUND!  Never underestimate what gems you may find on a Sunday drive!

Not more than 15 minutes down the road from rescuing this rock guard did we see a much earlier Avion (can you spot it in first photo below?) at a horse show along the road.

We veered quickly there to see that too!  And to our sheer delight, it belonged to a woman who ran a mobile embroidery business who was actually based out of CT.  Turns out it was a 1974, 23′ Travelcade. She had pretty much gutted the inside but had done some tasteful redecorating in prep for her boutique.

She was making custom designed hats, shirts, jackets for the horsey set.  She needed an awning for her new Avion soon to be traveling boutique on wheels.  Perfect!  We struck a deal to trade our old Carefree Awning system hardware for some custom designed clothing using our trademarked Avion artwork that we had commissioned an artist to do for us in 2017.  This was truly our double lucky day!

2018-07-21 12.40.55

2018-07-21 13.20.50

My next post will be on the Rehab phase! Until then…safe journeys!

Luisa

20181007_1011217495813049673813005.png