I had planned to spend the day repairing and improving Penny’s many 12V power issues, but instead, I ended it covered in paint and sawdust, having had to resolve a problem that just a few hours previously, I didn’t even know we had. I only discovered the issue while I was investigating the best way to go about the wiring work. Who says renovating a caravan is easy?

Problems occur while renovating the caravan

The best used caravans offer a budget-friendly way of entering the world of touring, but I knew there would be work that needed to be done when I purchased our 1998 Bailey tourer recently.

On returning from our first trip in Penny, which had been to a music festival trip, it was immediately apparent that something was amiss with the towing electrics.

As mentioned in my previous reports, the towing electrics were a bit messy, but had been converted, crudely, to the 13-pin system. Our van would have originally had the traditional seven-pin 12N and 12S plugs.

This was not the tidiest job, however, leaving a lot of spare grey cable tied around the brake assembly. I removed all of the cable ties and tape to ensure the caravan brakes operated properly.

This worked, but on the return leg from our first trip in Penny, which was to the festival, the excess cable broke loose, dropped and dragged on the road. The result was a severed grey cable. My fault entirely.

Seeing this as a chance to make a better job of it this time around, I ordered the parts I needed for the caravan renovating. I opted for a pre-wired plug and cable at a cost of £30, a couple of £1 strips of terminal block to join the old and new cables together and a weatherproof box to put the block into at £14, to keep them out of the elements.

All I needed to do was find where to attach the box and carry out the wiring job.

This was the point where the task changed. The reason was immediately clear when I got under the caravan to see where I should splice and rejoin the towing electric cable. From there, I could see that the bottom of the gas locker was quite badly damaged. This left the main gas line floating unsupported in mid-air, with sharp edges of broken plastic all over the place – and the broken floor meant that I had nowhere to mount my waterproof box. I needed to fix the floor beforehand.

Reinforcing section of floor
Nigel needed to make a section of floor to reinforce the leading edge of the locker base. He made it in two parts

The first task was to empty the locker, and this gave a clue as to what might have caused the problem in the first place. The locker was packed full of stuff. In the middle was the spare wheel. Around that, two pole windbreaks were stuffed in, along with a mains cable, a small Aquaroll, an unbranded water container, a levelling ramp (see: the best caravan levelling ramps if you need a pair), a pair of battered towing mirrors and a couple of lumps of wood. The Aquaroll was wedged in on the nearside and needed a mix of dexterity and brute force to extricate it.

With the rubbish out of the way, the state of the floor could be properly assessed.

In Bailey Rangers of this age, the floor is a moulded plastic tray. The back edge screws into the floor at the front of the van and all looked in good shape.

The edges at the side rest on small wooden blocks and sit on a ridge in the front panel moulding. In the front edge, a moulding in the plastic adds strength. The centre section rests on the top of the chassis.

In our case, that moulding at the front was smashed, there was a crack in line with the chassis and the whole area around the gas line was just floating in mid-air. We hadn’t tackled any gas work on the van yet, but having rigid gas pipes bouncing about is bad news, so this all needed sorting out.

Resolving the issue

The problem with fixing the floor was that there was really nothing to fix things to.

You mustn’t drill holes in a galvanised caravan chassis, but you can rest things on it. The plastic floor was floppy, flimsy and broken, and the front panel of the van is glass fibre. I could glue something to it, but I didn’t want to risk damaging it.

After a bit of head scratching, I decided to tackle the repair in two stages. First, I planned to get a timber support in for the floor’s edge. Once that was in place, I could fix a new floor section to that. Time to get the woodworking tools out!

Plywood floor with notch for gas pipe
He then mounted a new plywood floor on a new timber support. The notch is for the gas pipe to pass through

The initial task was to get that timber measured up and put in place. The smashed moulding at the front of the caravan still retained two corners, either side of a 300mm section in the middle that was missing.

I decided I could squeeze a 3 x 2 timber under those intact corners. That would sit on top of the chassis rails and support the edge of the floor. I could glue the timber to the floor and add a couple of screws for strong support.

I found a suitable offcut of treated exterior timber in the garage and after trimming it up, I had it trial fitted. I had to spring the flimsy floor over the edges, but it all fitted fine.

That allowed me to plan the next section. Scrap woodpile to the rescue again!

Repurposed materials

I found some 18mm exterior ply that was wide and long enough, but not quite thick enough to rest on the chassis and reach the new timber.

Back to the woodpile again for some hardboard to pack the gap. Given that this whole arrangement is in an exposed position under the front of the van, the hardboard in particular would need to be protected from the elements.

After a lot of measuring, I cut the floor section to shape and marked where the rigid gas pipe emerges into the locker. I cut a notch in the floor panel for the pipe, leaving lots of clearance for the pipe so I could sleeve it, making doubly sure there was no risk of the floor section rubbing against the pipe.

After a trial fitting for the floor section and a few minor adjustments, we had a solution.

The next task was to protect the timber from the weather. It was given a coat of satin black paint, so it matched the locker floor. The two wooden sections were joined with a slather of weatherproof CT1 adhesive sealant and a couple of woodscrews.

Section painted with weatherproof paint
The new section was protected with weatherproof paint before installation

The final step was to remove the remains of the old plastic locker floor from the gas fitting, and make a secure attachment to the new floor.

Caravan sealing: simple snagging

Caravans are always a compromise between light weight and strength of build, so it is understandable that after 20 or more years of service, there are a few dog-eared bits and bobs to be found in our van.

A couple of hours moving around inside has helped us tidy up a lot of the scruffy bits, with simple tools and a bit of common sense.

Disintegrated wardrobe base
Wardrobe base had disintegrated

Originally, tourers of this era were built with screws and staples. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in quite a few places, the staples have simply given up. As we carried out our caravan renovating, we resorted to modern construction adhesives to make repairs.

Sealants, not staples

Where the staples have pulled out or failed, it is hard to replace them, as the timber is often damaged. Modern sealants, however, can happily stick these surfaces securely, without relying on a physical fixing. Hybrid adhesives, such as the CT1 that we used, are amazing – but permanent.

Wardrobe base glued back together
Wardrobe base glued back together

These products basically stick anything to anything, and even work in damp or humid environments. They are ideal for permanent repair. Do not use them on anything that you might want to separate in the future!

In our case, they did a great job of shoring up the base of the wardrobe and fixing a couple of pieces of sagging trim, but these are things that never need to come apart.

Elsewhere, we kept it simple. A couple of loose screws were tightened up, and the moving plastic parts given a squirt of silicone lubricant to help keep things moving. Where the bed slats had pulled away from the fabric retaining straps, we opted for a physical fix, using a screw with a dished washer, rather than staples. There were a couple of bits of damaged plywood, which we replaced and screwed back into place. This would keep the slats spaced and located. It also means that we shouldn’t fall through the sofa without warning…

If you’ve recently purchased a pre-owned tourer and want to give it a spruce up, check out our guide to cleaning a caravan to see the steps involved in achieving a shiny tourer.

Future Publishing Limited, the publisher of Practical Caravan, provides the information in this article in good faith and makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Individuals carrying out the instructions do so at their own risk and must exercise their independent judgement in determining the appropriateness of the advice to their circumstances and skill level. Individuals should take appropriate safety precautions and be aware of the risk of electrocution when dealing with electrical products. To the fullest extent permitted by law, neither Future nor its employees or agents shall have any liability in connection with the use of this information. You should check that any van warranty will not be affected before proceeding with DIY projects.

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