Travel trailer renovation: tips on wheel and tire care and some other odds and ends…

This Wilderness travel trailer that I am nearly completely renovating is, in fact, 40 years old+++. What unsightly wheels she had when I took ownership of her! And, her tires were dry-rotted/deeply cracked all over—pretty standard predicament on such an old trailer.

One of the first things I discovered about my camper is that the wheels are peculiar. In other words, they don’t make them like that any more. My wheels do not have anything like universal wheel studs and lug nuts. No. The wheel fasteners for this ’77 camper are downright weird. The wheel studs and lug nuts are one unit, sort of like giant bolts that screw directly into the mounting plates of the wheel/axel assembly. All five of my wheels (spare tire wheel included) were pretty rusty and not very attractive at all. Originally I planned to try and sand blast them myself and then primer and paint them with spray paint. Man, that sounded like hours of hard work and with not great results afterwards.

One thing I have taken seriously throughout this process is how the aesthetics of my camper or lack there of can impede my ability to procure a nice parking spot at a classy RV park where I can reside year round in comfort. In other words, the nicely cared-for RV parks “don’t want no trailer trash hanging around their facility”. So, this camper needs to look nearly like new when I am finished with it, if I expect to have an easy time living in it.

About these weird wheels, I spoke with several experts in the camping industry—and they all advised me that I’d be hard pressed to find identical replacement wheels for my camper any where, short of spending a lot of time and money driving around to junk and salvage yards trying to find antique camper wheels or vintage car wheels that are identical to my camper wheels. They also informed me that it might not be so easy to change my weird wheels out for modern ones. So, I decided to give my wheels facelifts.

Luckily for me, there are some perks to my job as a local truck driver. One perk is that when I was delivering truck trailer tires to a tire shop one day, I saw a sign advertising “wheel powder coating”. I promptly asked the guy there, “What is this process?”. He informed me that they can take an old wheel that is covered in rust, sandblast it, powder coat it with zinc oxide, and then coat it with industrial enamel, and then bake this coating on in a special oven—this process creates a pristine, hard, and nearly impervious coating—making old rims look better than new. This process is commonly performed upon wheels for big rigs, as truckers put millions of miles on their 18 wheels and this strong coating protects the wheels and helps them last much longer and helps them to look new for a very long time.

I shopped around and found a company nearby that agreed to powder coat my camper wheels for $25 per wheel—so I pay $125 for all five wheels and basically there is no effort on my part, excepting dropping them off and picking them up a few days later. Well worth the money.  After picking up my now new-looking wheels, I dropped them off to get brand new trailer tires mounted: $72 per tire mounted and balanced with new valve stems—not bad, not bad at all.

My camper is sitting in my driveway which flanks my next door neighbor’s driveway. So, I have to be conscious of what I am doing over here that might impact my nice neighbor. My camper has double axels and is currently suspended on jack stands, sitting slightly above where my tires touch the pavement. I don’t have the corners of the camper secured with tie-downs—although I think that I should. And so, when I began removing the wheels to accomplish this process, I decided it is a good idea to do one axel at a time (only remove two wheels at a time)—so that if a strong gust of wind comes along, the camper will not fall off the jack stands and hit the concrete with no tires to rest upon–nor will it fall off the jack stands and tip over, as I make sure to leave the wheels and tires on at least one axel at all times.

I am elated about the results of getting my weirdo wheels powder coated and baked-on with white enamel. They look fabulous. I think I am going to go ahead and also paint the wheel axel caps and the heads of my lug/stud nuts. Next, I plan to purchase some wheel covers to protect my investment, as I do not plan to move this camper for another four months. I do not want these new tires to dry rot.

In other projects, I made a trip to Menard’s the other day to look at their steel roofing. I had to remove a pretty large section of aluminum siding from the bottom front end of my camper (it was damaged). The guy at Menard’s hooked me up with some very nice-looking steel roofing to replace my siding. It comes in 16 inch wide sections (special order exact length prre-cut) with shallow grooves and is available in several nice colors.  This roofing is more durable than what was on there and will only cost me $30 dollars for two pieces, making up an area that is 92 inches by 30 inches. Sweet.

Also, while at Menard’s, I found my ceiling lights! Patriot lighting, I love you. Flush mount, very shallow, minimal impact to lowering head height in this tiny camper: $24 per light fixture. I need two of them—so $48 and we are done with ceiling lights. Great price.

Over at Lowes, I also found these vintage-looking, very simplistic light fixtures to flank my tiny bathroom cabinet that I bought for $5 at a yard sale. These 1970’s looking light fixtures are $7 a piece. Although, I think I would like to find some globes for them that are a little less country looking and a little more psychedelic ‘70s meets modern simplicity motiff.  You can harldly beat that price as well.


Well, that’s all for now, folks. Happy glamping!

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