*RIP* Fixing an old Sun Lite TC

snwbdr94

Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2018
Messages
14
Location
Minneapolis
I thought you guys may enjoy a fun little project I have been working on for the last week. Decided to upgrade from tent camping to the camper. Recently adopted two pups and wanted a cooler space during the hot days for them to relax when camping. Found this on the facebook marketplace. When I went to look at it the interior looked fairly good considering the age. Only spot I noticed at the time was the delamination at the rear of the roof due to the wood getting rotted out and lift brackets turning upwards. I knew I would have to fix that. We agreed to a price and I drove it back to my office to park it in our underground parking garage where I would have a space to work on it.

Current Progress:
  • Removed Roof (Almost a disaster!) Reinforced with 3/16ths aluminum, replaced wood rot
  • Removed old vent fan for Fantastic Fan, will install after roof is back on
  • Camper is off trailer, thanks to the forklift at work, was able to lower onto a single pallet
  • Right lift slide where gear track is was busted, waiting on replacement
  • Left lift lock was mangled, waiting on replacement
Once the roof is installed, my plan is to use Dicor self leveling sealant on the roof and Proflex RV Caulk on the side trim and in every screw that is exposed. Once that is dry, go over every seam with Dicor sealant tape. I figure this is overkill but will make future maintenance easier.

Hopefully someone can shed some insight on what I should do for the AC unit. It currently looks like it is rotting out on the outside and to me, it was framed wrong from the beginning. I've been doing a ton of research into what needs to be done and for some reason I just can't wrap my head around properly doing the AC unit.

I won't post too many photos but will provide the link to the album for all to view. Thanks for looking!
https://imgur.com/a/ykUUc

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Over the past 17 months of traveling full time in my Hawk, I have been surprised by the number of old Sun Lites still on the road. For a person with fix-up skills, there are probably a lot of bargain-rate Sun Lites out there hat could be bought for inexpensive prices.
 
If that A/C works keep it. Newer ones stick out on the exterior by about double. But remove all the old wood around it. Make sure that A/C condensation can escape to the outside without touching wood. You may wish to consider pressure treated plywood and lumber or composite, maybe even PVC boards to trim it out and/or support it. I would also add a couple of shelf brackets on the exterior to support it since it will wiggle vertically on the road.

Nice work on the roof BTW.
 
Small update (maybe more lengthy then anticipated :D)

Roof has been put back on. Prior to putting it back on the camper, I decided to put the torsion bars in the brackets to see how it would fit for install. I noticed the legs were facing out and decided to call canvasreplacements to pick their brain. Apparently there is an instruction sheet on replacing the torsion bars. From the sheet, "When reassembling torsion bar to rear anchor, make sure that when the hexes in the torsion bar assembly align with the back anchor, the legs coming down on the torsion bar assembly are pointing towards the outside of the camper not towards the middle of the camper." I also learned that having this piece in place and undoing pivot points in the camper with it in the upright position is how it was supposed to be reinstalled. This saved hours of headaches on my end trying to figure out how to get the torsion bar in place.

Once that was back on and the canvas put back, I applied close to 100ft of Dicor Seal tape along the seams of the roof. I should have used butyl tape behind the aluminum prior to installing the roof back on. Hindsight is 20/20, the brackets would be too much of a pain to undo with it on camper so the tape will have to suffice at this point.

Replaced all the clearance lights and ran new wire. The old wire was tucked under a plastic piece that wasn't apart of the roof seal but that was so old and brittle that it just crumbled. Not sure if there is a replacement or what I should do to keep the wire protected at this point other then maybe hiding it under the roof seal. There has to be a better option. Tape of some sort that can adhere to the inside edge? I'm just thinking aloud here, hope some one can chime in!

This brings me to my next project. I went to test the lights, splicing it in with the other 12v lights I had exposed, and plugged in the camper. I should mention that everything worked fine when I bought the TC. Anyways, plugged in the camper to a standard 15amp outlet and flipped the converter over to the on position. Looked outside and no lights. I also looked at the converter and saw smoke. Transformer decided to go out on me. Blessing in disguise. I wasn't wanting to replace this yet but I knew if I ever wanted a decent battery set up that I would have to eventually upgrade. Ended up going with the Progressive Dynamics 4060 model. Figured this would be a solid option as it will require minimal work to fit in the place of the old converter. I can move the old fuses into the integrated box as well.

Apparently who ever installed the AC unit, spliced it into the old converter and decided orange tape was good enough of a seal. Not sure why they didn't wrap it with electrical tape at least. I'll check to see if it works after I get the new converted installed. The framing around the unit has been taken off and thankfully the camper wood was still solid and no signs of moisture. Added some window spray foam where pink insulation had gone missing. My plan will be similar to what Profkanz suggested, PVC trim on the outside with a couple shelf brackets to support.

I have a bunch of pictures, just have to find time to upload them. All in all, I'm happy with the purchase. Might have been on the higher side of what I wanted to pay but after looking at everything, the guts are in great shape minus the roof. Gave me a great shell to work with. Hopefully I'll have this completed before I need to use it!

LiveLifeNow, I can see why there are still a bunch out on the road. I have a friend who has a camper similar style and he likes how mine is laid out better.

Profkanz, I like your thinking, I had bought PVC trim thinking I was going to use it in the roof but last minute switched to PT. Decided that I could still use the PVC for the window unit. Also, thanks for the compliment on the roof. Took a bunch of hours and I'm happy with how it turned out!
 
Cool! Do you know what year the trailer was made? The interior stuff looks very similar to my '94 Northstar pop up truck camper.
 
sunvalleylaw said:
Cool! Do you know what year the trailer was made? The interior stuff looks very similar to my '94 Northstar pop up truck camper.
After looking in every possible nook. There was no information on the year it was made. I have a friend who also has an early 90s northstar and is very similar. He was quick to notice he didn't have a window looking out from the sink. Cabinet layout is also slightly different and mine has no heater but there is a hole cut out in the wood but not in the siding part in the back of the cabinet by the fire extinguisher. Granted I would T in from the stove propane and add a ventless option if needed.

Latest update:
Lots of hours have been put in. Framed the AC unit in and it's solid. My interior trim work wasn't the prettiest as the tools I needed were at home and not at work. Didn't need brackets under the outside of the unit. Maybe in the future but not right now.

The converter went in with no issues. Multimeter made quick work of the little wiring that exists. Ordered two 6v 220ah batteries from VMax. They seem to have a good reputation with the car enthusiasts and the price was hard to beat for AGM. Almost pulled the trigger on the Xantrex battery monitor but found out the wiring came seperate for an additional $100! Knowing this I looked into alternative options and saw the Victron BMV 712 with Bluetooth. I like tech so I figured this was a great option as it came with the wiring. Just waiting for this to show up to wire the batteries in.


Which leads me to my next project concerns. I wish I would have considered the best way of how I was going to charge batteries from the truck. I have read a couple of options; truck battery to inverter and run extension to the camper converter or direct cable from truck to house batteries with isolator to prevent draining. I knew wiring from the 7 way plug wouldn't work as the wire gauge wouldn't be large enough to send correct voltage.

I'm leaning with running direct with an anderson plug as I already have 2awg cable. Between house batteries and converter I'll have a shut off switch and have the camper plugged into a 7way plug to run the refrigerator while driving. My concern with this route would be overcharging/undercharging the house batteries. Although with the Bluetooth app of the Victron battery monitor I should be able to see the current state of charge and with a switch disconnect power from the truck batteries.

Only things left will be to check the water system and fitting in the truck. Starting to see light at the end of the tunnel!

*Edit: Added photos!

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Well I had a nice update written out but ended up getting erased. Here is a short version and some pics!

Battery, Monitor, and Disconnect were easy to install. Time consuming but simple. Those hammer crimps work wonders! Small annoyance was not accounting for the cabinet frame when drilling the holes out for the monitor. Had to adjust disconnect switch. Oops. Found small raceway to hide the wiring I did for the new clearance lights. Hoping that the adhesive will stand the test of time. Luckily it was cheap enough that it doesn't matter. Finally mounted the camper to the truck. That was quite interesting but I am glad to have a forklift at my disposal! I have an 8ft garage door so I was very curious on if I would pass. Still had a few inches to go before scraping. This will be nice as I can store the truck here year round. Rear suspension is very soft. Found a great deal on Timbrens. If they don't take out the slop, I'll switch to bags.

Still a couple things left. Have to secure the batteries down. Hide the wiring to prevent the puppies from chewing it. Water pump trips my 15a fuse I wired it to. Will remove water tank and replace the pump. Musty smell has completely dissipated as well. Thinking the old cushions could have had something to do with that. I'll get a quote on replacing those to see if it's worth it. Anyways, enjoy some more photos!

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It looks like I have similar roof issues as you did. A couple of questions:

How hard was it to remove the old rotted wood? Was it glued to the aluminum?

How heavy was the roof? Were you able to handle it by yourself? Did you remove it with the lift system in the up position?

How did you attach the new roof side pieces to the top?

My Heco lift system works fine but I am planning on removing it and going with the emt lifters and gas struts. It seems like the tork that the lift system places on the roof ends up damaging the roof after a while. Hopefully I can sell or part out the old lift system to recoup some money. Thanks for any advice you may be able to offer.
 

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BenFrank said:
It looks like I have similar roof issues as you did. A couple of questions:

How hard was it to remove the old rotted wood? Was it glued to the aluminum?
The rear most piece came off on its own. Was badly water logged and came apart. The side pieces I used a multitool to cut out the rotted part and came off with mostly no issues. Some stuck to the aluminum. Used a rotary sander bit/paint remover wheel thing on my drill to remove the rest of the wood.

How heavy was the roof? Were you able to handle it by yourself? Did you remove it with the lift system in the up position?
100-150 pounds? Not sure on weight. Had 4 people when I took it off. I removed it in the up position. I found instructions that call for removing the pivot point bolts and leaving the torsion bar attached. I only knew this for when I went to assemble it back together. Canvas replacements in Wisconsin I heard bought the heco lift system. Very helpful when I called.

How did you attach the new roof side pieces to the top?
Tried using a JB weld epoxy. Didn't really adhere well with the treated lumber. I wouldn't use treated lumber again. Marine plywood or something else. Butter coat the aluminum prior to adhering the wood would also help. I also bolted in aluminum rails to help keep the brackets in place to prevent the lift system from twisting out again and added more bolts.

My Heco lift system works fine but I am planning on removing it and going with the emt lifters and gas struts. It seems like the tork that the lift system places on the roof ends up damaging the roof after a while. Hopefully I can sell or part out the old lift system to recoup some money. Thanks for any advice you may be able to offer.
Adding the extra aluminum amd extra bolts should prevent twisting. I doubt I'll have to go back and fix it again as long as I keep water out. If you decide to go with another system, I wish you luck!
 
Not much has happened this week. Timbrens came in and got those installed. Noticed a big difference inside the camper. No more up and down slop. Some lateral movement still but thats because there is no rear swaybar. Decided to order one and new front brakes... Rotors and pads. Also noticed the muffler was rusted out so I cut that one out and put a new one in.

Removed the water tank, the 3/8 tubing was disgusting and no amount of bleach was going to fix it. Managed to fish in a new 1/2 PEX after cutting part of the false floor the refrigerator is sitting on. Accidently knicked a wire so I replaced that line. New shurflo pump and faucet should be arriving today. Hope it'll be soon so I can get this all finished!
 
That is very similar looking to me Northstar in set up. I like your improvements! Why did you have it on pallets in the truck?
 
sunvalleylaw said:
That is very similar looking to me Northstar in set up. I like your improvements! Why did you have it on pallets in the truck?
Thanks! I have been watching your progress as well. Looks like you'll have it all situated soon enough! The pallets are used as a spacer. The camper won't clear the bed sides otherwise.
 
RIP! Used once, had a delivery truck hit my rear end, force snapped the turnbuckles and over she went. Bummed all the work I did was destroyed. The lift mech got all bent up, front of roof was destroyed in the process of dragging onto flatbed tow truck. The fantastic fan vent cover is scratched yet not broken, that surprised me. Now to find a new camper that doesn't need nearly as much work and wait for the insurance company to figure out what they want to pay me for the camper.

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Its a bummer but it could have been worse. Neither one of us were injured and this is a good reason I buy cheaper vehicles. Second accident this year where someone wasn't paying attention and hit me. Just cosmetic damage to the truck box, bent 2 mounts, and a broken tail light. I will pull anything I added in the camper to swap to the next one so I won't be out much. Not too many options around the Midwest for campers but there are a couple for under 3k. Will be looking at one tomorrow. Cant wait around for insurance with memorial weekend coming up!

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Oh, that sucks! Putting all that effort in and then getting smucked on first trip? My sympathies, and I am glad noone was hurt.
 
Most important glad you weren't hurt! I hope the documentation you did here will help you get some value for the work you put in.

jim
 
Ouch! Total bummer! Like others, glad no one was hurt. Good luck working through the insurance and finding another camper.
 
That didn't take long, picked up a new camper today. Upgraded from a camper that fit your midsize truck to a camper that fits a full size. More room for activities! It's a 1999 Sunlite RK SB. Has a futon couch and a queen bed. Looks like someone at some point cut part of the canvas to reinforce the front left mounting bracket. (I think that was odd.) Will need a good cleaning inside and out and will have to fabricate a new roof rack. Super excited to use it this weekend!

Side note, I'm a bit bummed the current vent cover doesn't clear an 8ft garage door. Doubt switching to a fantastic fan will fix that but it'll be nice to have.

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