Fixin’ the Fireball

Is it the Curse of the Campshaws, or does everyone with a camper/trailer/RV have the same crappy luck we seem to have? In the (less than) three years we’ve owned our T@DA, we’ve replaced the batteries (twice), the converter which converts 110V to 12V, tires, refrigerator, and the arms which hold the windows open. We also managed to blow up our microwave (the Texas Enchilada Incident). Our license plate broke off, twice(!) on the road somewhere. Oh, and let’s not forget the brake/bearing fiasco which dogged us in Louisiana two years in a row. I dunno – seems like a lot to me. Maybe every camper has this stuff.

But, we love the Fireball. It becomes a bit of a hobby to check out other campers. Truthfully, we haven’t found anything that we would rather own, including the Airstreams that everyone covets. So, when we noticed that we have some spongy spots in the floor, we knew that we’d have to figure out a way to get things repaired. And, since I’ve lusted for a marmoleum floor since seeing on in a restored Spartanette a couple of years ago, it seemed like a good time to replace our dingy whitish floor as well.

How lucky is it that my brother-in law’s brother in law (are you following?) works part time for a gentleman who collects vintage Airstreams. And, he lives right here in Grand Rapids! Ken (the Collector) owns a huge service garage where he stores his collection of amazing trailers. He employs a couple of guys full time who do nothing but work on restorating these classic beauties. With a proper introduction, the guys investigated, and decided to take on the Fireball as a ‘side’ project.

Mike, the Head Repair Guy, crawled around beneath the Fireball, and felt that we had ‘floor fatigue’, as opposed to rot, causing the sag and squishy spots. The cure? Brace the floor from underneath in two spots. 20151209_141104Photo shows new brace. On additional brace is barely visible.

About four hours after dropping the Fireball off, we got a call saying “you better come see this”. (Campshaw Curse running at full speed now). Removal of the old vinyl floor revealed a sodden plywood base. Not rotted, but thoroughly soaked. Scary, isn’t it?IMG_1717Mike and Jim removed all the interior fixtures – and found that the damage seemed to originate under the KoolCat, which is the electric heater/air conditioner. How often do we use the a/c? Oddly, that was a very easy question for us to answer…(one day two years ago in Death Valley, and two or three days on our most recent trip.) We discovered that the construction of the T@DA didn’t allow the water collected by the air conditioner to drain out. Instead, it ran from the drain hoses, back under the a/c unit, and directly into the floor. “It’s a good thing I’m seeing this trailer now, instead of a year from now,” was Mike’s comment. An additional area where water must have collected was under our side storage panel.

Now the plan is to dry out the interior with large blowers and heaters, of the type you might use if your basement is flooded. Everything gets dried out, but unfortunately, the soaking has caused the plywood to heave and splinter.IMG_1724The solution to this problem is to force glue into the plywood, reforming the bond. A new layer of underlayment was put over the top. With the bottom braced and the top smoothed out, we had a good surface for the new floor

Mike built a metal pan with about two inch sides to surround the KoolCat. It’s screwed and glued in place. The drain tubes now poke through the protective screen, and will drain out to the ground. We also have a shield over the screen to keep water and road dirt out of this area when we tow. See the drain tubes poking out on the lower left and lower right corners of the grille?20151209_141302Repairs are now complete, and the floor is installed. Looks great, doesn’t it?IMG_2051

20151209_141612Furniture is reinstalled, and it’s done. Finished!!

We’re fortunate to have found folks who had the technical expertise and the willingness to tackle this project for us, as it certainly was beyond our own do it yourself capabilities. The original $600 estimate ballooned to $1600, but we know that we’re roadworthy. Hoping that this is the end of the Curse….

One last modification that John accomplished was to install a new battery box with two 6V golf cart batteries to replace our two marine deep cycle Group 24 batteries. This should give us much more boondocking time off the grid. We’re excited about this.

We are ready to hit the road. Whew!





16 thoughts on “Fixin’ the Fireball

  1. Hey guys love the floor! Color is great and it looks really homey! Let’s hope this is the final trouble for you. Keep us posted along the road and happy holidays to you all! See you in May at the BRR. xoxoxoxo


  2. First of all congrats on getting the Fireball back in tip top shape. I for one have given up completely on the RV industry (see our latest Intro video). Having seen the way our T@B was put together I couldn’t wait to get rid of it. Unfortunately, our next two travel trailers weren’t any different. And not having the personal assistance that you did, your issue would have been the nightmare that everyone else deals with. Repairs taking 4 to 6 months and then finding out that they weren’t done correctly. We feel fortunate to have discovered an alternative to the classic RV industry frustratioins in something I like to call “hybrid camping”. You can see what I’m refering to by checking out the Georgia State Parks section starting with Moccasin Creek State Park as well as the recent new Inroduction video I’ve posted. I hope you have years of carefree camping in your future :-)


    • Hi Neil. We were very fortunate to have the Airstream gang take us under their wing. Not sure what our options might otherwise have been.

      You and Yoly have gone through more campers in three years than most people do in a lifetime. Glad you have found a happy option for now.

      Happy holidays!


  3. The new floor looks fabulous. We’ll have trade stories about our 1918 house and your Fireball. They both appear to keep life interesting!


    • Hi Dave. I’ll bet you have to be pretty handy to live in a house of that age. Ours was built in the 40s, so we have a lot of that, too. John is handy, enjoys a challenge, and looks at all the work in the Fireball as his ‘hobby’. But, the scope of this project was way beyond our capabilities.

      We are leaving this week, and will wind up our winter trip at the BRR. See you, Sheila, and Lunetta there.


  4. I’m thinking that the air conditioner draining internally was a construction oversight. Check with the manufacturer to see if they will help cover the cost of fixing it. Except for the air conditioner, we have had similar problems. It’s just part of owning such equipment.


    • It’s a long story, but Dutchman, the manufacturer, no longer makes these campers, nor do they supply parts or any warranty items whatever. We did contact our insurance company, and they agreed that this was not our fault, and have compensated us for repairs. We were quite surprised, as we had already paid, and repairs were completed before we made the Hail Mary pass for help.

      We are going to roll with confidence this year.


  5. Love the new floor, but it’s a shame that you HAD to replace it so soon.

    From my parent’s experiences, and from reading other blogs, repairing an RV is an almost full time job if you use it. It seems as if they are built to fail.

    So, when are you hitting the road?


    • Hi Jerry. You are right about camper problems – most of our camping buddies have had failures of one sort of another. We have had ALL of them. But we do spend more time in the Fireball than most, so maybe it all works out.

      Heading out this week, at least that’s the plan. Seems crazy to leave this wonderful weather though, doesn’t it? Such weird weather.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sounds like you are having the same kind of luck I have with my house lately. That floor looks wonderful. I knew some old teachers who claimed that bad luck happens in threes. I hope it’s true since I’ve hit 3 last week. Now for some quiet for a while. Hope this is the end of the repairs for you for a good long time. When do you head out again?


    • Hi Alison. Hadn’t heard about your recent spate of bad luck – hope it wasn’t too bad, and that all is right with your world again.

      Perhaps we are hopeless optimists, but we really think we’ve gotten our arms around the equipment failures and repairs for awhile. Good thing I’ve got a short memory, so I can put this behind me and enjoy camping.

      Heading out at the end of this week. Yikes! So much to do yet!


  7. That does sound like a lot of bad luck. My parents seem to have luck like that as well, but probably more evenly spaced, as they have been RVing since 1998. But the new floor looks great, and at least you caught it early!


    • I guess there are always going to be things that fall apart. The RV industry probably doesn’t have the best reputation in that regard. Just hope we have discovered and fixed all of the things that may pop up for the next year or two (knock on wood). Thanks, Camille.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I would expect it seems like you’ve encountered more fix ‘n repair issues because you are truly able to use your Fireball more than we are our T@DA. Some day though we’ll get out more too. Question about the drain tubes though—-didn’t yours originally stick out? Ours do so I’m hoping we won’t have the same floor issues you had. Love, love, love the red Marmoleum!


    • I think our Coolcat was installed farther back, and the drain gives didn’t actually really h the grate. So the water ran back down them, and collected on the floor, from which there also was no drain. Guess it’s a very lucky thing that we have so seldom used the a/c (I’m claustrophobic, and cannot stand to be inside with the windows closed!)

      The red looks great. Marmoleum adds to the vintage feel of the Fireball.

      When you and Ray get old too, you can camp all the time. It’s a good gig!


I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s