Vintage Trailer Restoration: Sheet Metal Patches and Exterior Bodywork

So you bought a vintage camper, but you need to do a lot of changes! Here's exactly how to restore and repair your vintage camper exterior.

It's about 10 degrees here today, and while I look back at these pictures from the summer I am wistful to say the least.

So here's some pictures of some sheet metal work we did on the trailer to patch some gaping holes and button the skins back up after replacing some of the wood inside the walls.

Sometimes, when you replace the old rotten wood under the skins, they don't fit back on just perfectly (they would if I wasn't going to repaint the thing, but I am so I wasn't too vigilant about it this time around).

There was a gap on the corners of the trailer where the aluminum met and started to separate from the weight of the rear. These gaps had been there since I got the trailer, so I knew I'd have to patch it anyway.

First, we put a strip of sheet metal (aluminum flashing for this application - because it's flexible/malleable) around the corner and underneath the member for extra protection. We just nailed it in to the new wood.

This would be the flashing that would keep any water out. When you put the skins back down, caulk around the edges and screw it in with sheet metal screws (the ones with the little rubber gaskets work well for this, but we just caulked each spot where the screw would go before screwing it in).

This will fill the gap between the original aluminum siding that had separated at the corner. This is common to find in vintage trailers.
This will fill the gap between the original aluminum siding that had separated at the corner. This is common to find in vintage trailers.
Caulked and screwed back down.
Caulked and screwed back down.

We did the same thing to the spot under the old heater vent, which was a big gaping hole. We flashed with the aluminum strip wherever the skins didn't meet up just right. This will keep the water out.

Under the old heater vent next to the front door (heater was removed). This step can be a pain in the butt, but is worth it to keep the new framing dry.
Under the old heater vent next to the front door (heater was removed). This step can be a pain in the butt, but is worth it to keep the new framing dry.

Once the flashing was in, we needed to patch that huge hole. We used a different type of sheet metal, stainless steel, for the flat panel that will cover this whole mess. See below.

The process is: caulk around the edges where you're going to place the panel, then lay it on and hold it in place. The caulk should squish out a little, and create a full seal. Put caulk dots all around and sheet metal screw into these spots so that it seals around the entry point of each screw.
The process is: caulk around the edges where you're going to place the panel, then lay it on and hold it in place. The caulk should squish out a little, and create a full seal. Put caulk dots all around and sheet metal screw into these spots so that it seals around the entry point of each screw.
Close up detail.
Close up detail.

There you have it!

We did this on the other side of the trailer where the original water fill was. We didn't match the corrugation of the original aluminum siding because we figured it was all getting painted turquoise and won't be a big deal, but if I was doing a period-specific restoration I would match the corrugation pattern of the aluminum.

Thanks for reading and there's more to come!