Up and off: chassis welding and powdercoating

For the next stage, we had to separate the chassis and the egg.  Six bolts through the 1″ plywood of the floor and the fiberglass into the frame were all that held them together.  However, bolts attacked for years by road salts don’t have threads any more.  They were just little chunks of rust.  We got under the jacked up camper with a sawzall and cut them off.

Once the egg was free, it was so light that H.W. could lift one side of it at a time.  The frame and the egg have a step in them, and the form of the egg sits between the wheels.  Even with the wheel off, the egg still has to lift over the hub, and we weren’t thrilled about just dragging all the weight of the fragile fiberglass across the hub.  H.W. lifted, and I jammed in bits of lumber, and we levered and pushed and adjusted, and eventually slid the egg over the hub,  off the frame, and to its resting place on some pallets and plywood without incident.

There they are, apart.

The chassis looked awfully flimsy without the egg, and it sure bounced around on the highway, squeaking and crashing around behind us.  We drove it all over looking for advice and somebody to do some welding for us.   We wanted a bike rack made, some improvements to the frame, and possibly to have the axle replaced, before having it painted.

This stage of research was characterized by a lot of driving, wild goose chases, and a whole parade of idiots telling us what to do, punctuated by the occasional bright spot of clear and good advice.  Like, the guy getting into his truck next to us at yet another sandblasting place, after yet another exorbitant quote from someone else who wouldn’t be able to bring it in for “another couple weeks at least”, who said “Have you considered powdercoating it?  You should talk to this guy, just up the road, I’m on my way there right now, you should follow me over.”  We let go of painting the chassis then, and turned to powdercoating.

We stood in parking lots in the rain asking RV repair people and trailer people and welding people and painting people about what we needed done, and they threw out numbers I recognized as “I don’t want to touch this job with a long stick but if you’re stupid enough to pay me this much I guess I’ll do it” quotes.  They tried to talk us out of what we wanted done, told me my ideas would never work, and straight up told us we were making mistakes.

No one believed.  It didn’t help that we were presenting a rusty, flimsy little grey trailer that looked like a boat trailer past its usable life.  It was embarrassing to be dragging around, and I could feel the disdain in all the “Good luck with that!” sendoffs.

Out of all our legwork, trailer jouncing behind us, we distilled some good intel, like the consensus that the original torsion bar suspension axle which I hated (because it was so non-bouncy it felt like no suspension at all) was in excellent shape and there was no need to replace it.  It turns out that if it hardly moves, that means the internal rubber bushing is in good condition.   When they wear out, then it gets spongy, and too spongy is bad.  So we decided to not replace the axle.

We were told the steel of the frame was sound, it just needed a good sandblast.  One powdercoater with experience doing torsion bars said there was no problem putting them through the kiln.  We found a quick witted creative welder who instantly understood what I wanted to do with the bike rack and spent some time discussing and refining our design for that and a new propane mount.

Best of all, we stopped at a body shop on our mission for preliminary quotes on painting the egg, and he suggested a powdercoater.  When we picked up the newly repaired chassis from the welder, we drove it to him for a quote, and dropped it off on the spot.  Quickly we went and had the tires taken off the rims for the rims to be powdercoated too.

He had the frame finished in days, and it looked so good!  Like a brand new work trailer, transformed from its former pathetic boat trailer appearance.  “Better than new”, he said.  “They don’t powdercoat new trailers.  They’re painted.  And powdercoating lasts so much longer than paint.”  It was way cheaper, too. The two quotes we got for powdercoating were the same, and about half the price of the best paint quote.  Powdercoating is definitely the way to go.

Powdercoated frame, with egg mid-bondo in the background

2 thoughts on “Up and off: chassis welding and powdercoating”

  1. Great job with your adventurous project and wonder if… after so many negative experiences with painters… you could link to the welder and powder~coaters who “got it”! Love your posts. You two are a real inspiration and Selka… you’re writing is really excellent!

    1. Oh thank you. I wasn’t going to name names because it would only be of interest in this very small region, but they get glowing Yelp reviews:)

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