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Old 01-28-2018, 06:26 AM   #1
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1981 Sunline 16.5' Travel Trailer

Just picked up a 1981 Sunline 16.5' Travel Trailer for $1000 as a restoration project. The trailer is rusty and pitted. How do I know if it's road worthy for 2-4 hour trips? I looks solid, but I can't tell if it is too rusted to trust on trips.

I know very little about camper trailers. The refrigerator doesn't work, the hot water heater has been bypassed (I assume it doesn't work), the black water tank has been sealed up (the exit piping and connectors have been sheered off and sealed), the gray water exit piping has been broken off (i can mcgiver new with pvc). The heat, water and stove work. But the shell and interior is in great condition with only a few small leaks in the roof that I can seal up.

I have a lot of work ahead of me. Can't find much documentation anywhere about the 81.

How can I tell if it's still roadworthy and does anyone know where there might be more information about this trailer?
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Old 01-28-2018, 11:16 AM   #2
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Hello grayfair,

Welcome. Congrats on your Sunny! You have come to the right place for information. There are a lot of knowledgeable and friendly people here. Pictures help them help you so when you have a chance, if you could post pictures of your Sunny, interior and exterior. You can find a copy of the 1981 brochure under the Files section of the site. As far as components, you will need to look up information by the model of the appliances or components that are in your Sunny.
1981 Brochure
Files

There are quite a few threads of members performing different repairs and modifications. There is a lot of information on here to be had. Hopefully, this will get you started.

Good luck! Can't wait to see pics of your Sunny.

Thanks,
Tommie
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Old 01-28-2018, 12:32 PM   #3
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Welcome! There isn't much to rust on a Sunline, except the frame. I've heard about bumpers rusting through on trailers that were kept at the shore all the time, but I've never heard of a frame rusting to the point where it was dangerous. Since it isn't easy to camp in the winter and these usually just sit all winter, they aren't exposed to salty roads that can do a lot of damage. That said, anything is possible. If the frame just has some surface rust, wire brush it, brush on some rusty metal primer, and then give it a good coat or two of oil based paint like Rustoleum. If you want to pursue it, you can paint it with a higher quality product like POR15, but you may need to top coat that with another paint on the exposed parts since many of those are UV stable.

What does do a lot of damage on a Sunline (and any RV, for that matter) is water damage and wood rot. The entire upper frame of the trailer box, behind the metal siding, is all made of wood. Like a house. As Tommie knows, this is all repairable stuff, with enough time and confidence. There's nothing super complicated about the construction.

Take a look at some of the threads on there and let us know if you have any questions about how to spot or repair water damage. Re-sealing the roof on your new trailer should be one of the first things on your to-do list, when it gets warmer.

Create an album in your profile too, to share some pictures with us of what you're working with. Just from pictures, we can look for problem areas and direct you to look closer at certain areas to find problems.

As for making a long trip, it probably can with a little work. As long as the body seems fairly solid, no corners pulling apart or anything like that, it should be fine. A trailer would have to be very rotten for that to happen, and probably much older too. The biggest things to worry about are running gear related- bearings, brakes, tires, and lights. Repack the bearings, get some new tires on it, clean out the brakes, and test all the lights. The running lights on this era of trailer are Bargman #99 series- 7 red and 4 amber. I would personally just buy new ones (they are pretty cheap) and swap any on if you find they don't work. The taillights are Peterson V25911 for the right side and V25913 for the left.
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Old 01-29-2018, 09:55 AM   #4
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Wow, part numbers! You guys rock. I ordered them already. Posted pics and a photo album. Below is Episode 1 of the restoration project. I'm scheduling a break/bearings checkup with my local mechanic. Unfortunately I don't have much experience with those things and would rather not attempt.

https://youtu.be/3BivCHjI2Q4

You can see from the video the exterior and interior are in very good shape. Only a tiny bit of water damage in the bathroom ceiling, can even paint over it. It has been sealed.

The most disappointing part is the hot water heater, refrigerator and black water tank are shot. Not a biggie, but it will be expensive to find a solution. Probably modernize a lot of things while I'm at it.

QUESTION: Anyone know where I can find the Bargman Assist Bar that goes on the right of the door?

Thanks for everyone's help!!!
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Old 01-29-2018, 01:22 PM   #5
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Hi Grayfair,

Welcome! Congrats on your new project. It is amazing to see how somethings on your 81 have held up, in some cases much better than the newer items that replaced them.

Your awning for one. The outside roll still looks pretty good. The new ones are about toast in 10 years if they have lived outside. And yes, do open it up to let it dry out so mold does not eat through the fabric.

I looked at your pics and your video. Super job on the pics and the video! Tommie gave you a great tip and we can see what you have.

Some questions as we may be able to help you. Trying to be helpful here, so do not take these in the wrong context.

You stated your fridge needs to be replaced. Just asking, how do you know this? This is an absorption type fridge not a compressor type like in your house. Let us know how you determined it needs to be replaced. Depending on the answer we may be able to help better determine if it can be fixed and what that entails.

Also let us help you on how to search our forum and make that process easier and more fruitful. See this thread on 2 ways to search our forum. The Google Custom search often creates better hits. This link should drop you in the middle of a how to and help post on the forum on how to search Forums 101 - posting, accounts, basics

Your black and gray tanks, the video did not show this well. I'm assuming they are black plastic tanks, is this correct? If so they are ABS plastic and not PVC. The repair is different. And we have had some folks do some amazing fixing of those tanks. Let us know more about how you think they are toast. Replacing is always an option, but they may be able to be repaired.

Here is one thread on the topic and there are many others with pics of how they fixed their busted tanks. How-To: ABS Tank Crack Repair Do a Google custom seach on "ABS Repair" and read for hours..

You mentioned using Flex Seal on your roof. This is not the best longest lasting product for your roof. As reported by many other RV folks using it, it does not hold up long term in an RV setting bouncing down the road. On the roof, we need to really see where the leaks are and then what may be the better way to seal it. The pics you showed point to a good qty of water leakage to the inside of the ceiling at one point in it's life. It may not be leaking enough now that you can see it inside, but it still may be leaking in. A prior owner may have done something to help stop or slow it down. Any chance of some good pics or video on the roof? Take special note to every side seam, roof hatch seam or any kind of penetration in the roof itself. Most times the leaks are not the actual main roof material as it is a perimeter seam or other penetration in the roof.

The attic was filled with batt type insulation at the factory. That could still be up there and soaking wet. Which is not a good thing. The wood rafters could be rotting with this.

Why I'm bringing this up is, it sounded like you were going to do a fair amount of fixing and restoration inside the camper, even a new floor. The camper inside does look to be in fixable shape for it's age and from the water leak it had over the years. This camper could come to be a great looking and fun camper. I am just trying to be as friendly as I can to help to show you to inspect the roof and ceiling first and then decide how you want to deal with that before you do a lot of good work fixing the inside.

Sometimes taking down a light fixture or a roof vent shroud inside will open up the attic area so you can see up there. This pic shows at one time there was a roof leak of fair size around the front roof vent.

If the prior owner never took that inside shroud down and pulled out the wet insulation and dried it out, it could still be wet and or the wood dry or wet rotted. I can't see the exact inside of the vent, but most of them you can unscrew the outer shroud to come down, then take the screen down and you will see the wood 14 x 14 hole. Sometimes there is an open cavity to the attic, other times it is boxed in. A look can help access how good or bad the problem might be.

Here is another aid that will help over the entire camper. A moisture meter can scan through the ceiling on the inside or walls, floor etc to see wetness inside the walls. See this thread. There is also a link to one of my "project" campers that has water damage showing the tool in action. Moisture Meters For Inspecting a Camper

You can scan the entire ceiling, and the walls, starting at the top all the way to the bottom. Take special note to scan the ceiling and floor perimeter, corners, any door or window or something that has a hole in the siding. Putty tape was used as a flange seal and over the years, it dries up, separates from the siding and water can get in.

You may find you have a small amount of water damage or more then expected as you really may not see it inside. Some you may leave, others you may want to fix. The real need though it to stop any new water from getting in going forward how to do that as a long term or short term fix. That is easier said then down but again trying to help show you what is there before a lot of work inside is done and you find out later, oh darn, another leak.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but help you fix your Sunny up to being a great camper once again. Water damage often is the biggest issue we have to deal with on restorations. The good news is, the way Sunlines are built they are totally rebuildable with common wood tools. If you are handy with them, you can do this. We can help show how other members have done this. And then your repair thread with pics, helps others coming behind you fix theirs.

That said, they do take time to fix and it may need to be done in stages. These are for sure a labor of love to repair. But the rewards come later when you are in the campground admiring your great work, nestled around the campfire and the crackle and pop of the fire helps melt all those hours away...

Your lighted door handle, that's a tuffy... I know this question has come up before. Sunline Fan might have a lead on something.

Hope this helps and ask away for any questions that you have.

Thanks

John
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Old 01-29-2018, 01:36 PM   #6
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Hey, that thing looks pretty good! If the rust on the tongue and bumper pictured are your only concerns, you have nothing to worry about structurally. Hopefully the underside is in similar condition. If it were mine, I'd give it a good brush down and then just liberally brush on black Rustoleum. Good for years to come then.

It looks to have snaps on the side from an awning add-a-room. These aren't original, but I wouldn't remove them unless you plan to put the screws back in with sealer.

That awning looks pretty awesome with the vintage stripes! It might be a Faulkner if memory serves. Hopefully it's in ok shape when you open it up.

Since you have so many clearance lights missing, definitely replace the whole fixture. The ones with missing lenses probably have pretty corroded bulb fixtures, and it isn't worth trying to save them when you have the new parts coming. The old ones probably won't work reliably if they do work now.

You won't find that assist handle anymore. The Bargman one that's been discussed lately is smaller than this style one, and it was discontinued about 3-4 years ago. I believe it's part # 74-32-030, but you'll probably only find the lens for it now. Yours actually looks pretty good, most are missing a lot more than that. Personally I'd try to make a wood frame to cover the outside of what's missing, or remove it and see if you can have someone 3D print you a new one locally.

I would not recommend storing the propane tank and chairs up on the front bunk- those are heavy items and can't be secured up there. The cabinet bunks are only rated for 100#, and all of those items will be more than that in force when bouncing down the road. Plus a pressurized propane tank up high where it can fall is just not a good idea.

The refrigerator being gone is not a surprise. Unfortunately a lot of people choose to replace with an electric only mini-refrigerator, for cost. I like to caution that if you do this, slide out the front wood panel with the pull handle from the old refrigerator and store it inside that cabinet next to the new refrigerator. Then that way, if you want to do an RV style one down the road, you can make it look like it belongs. You can get replacement cooling units for these as well, or find somewhere to rebuild it, if the refrigerator box is in good shape. The water heater will be somewhat expensive, but the Atwood six gallon is pretty standard and shouldn't take much to hook up. It shouldn't require any retrofitting, which is pretty awesome on an almost 40 year old trailer. There are electric only heaters you can buy, but all of which would require more retrofitting than replacing with another tried and true Atwood water heater.

For black tanks, All-Rite in California is one option that can custom make plastic things. Also, Elkhart Plastics and Ameri-Kart are a few holding tank suppliers that may make something to fit what you need already. I believe Ameri-Kart took over for Best Plastics, who was Sunline's tank supplier for many years. Unfortunately I think you'll have to pull the tank to find out dimensions and where the inlets/outlets are.

It looks like the trailer has been enjoyed a lot, but not abused. You have some good bones to work with!
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Old 01-29-2018, 03:11 PM   #7
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Problem Area Video based on your Questions

First off, I can't say enough how much I appreciate the assistance. Knowing nothing about campers or trailers, your feedback and guidance is exceptional. You're providing an amazing amount of information and I take no offense with you helping me make the right decisions.

I will keep an eye out for the moisture behind the paneling. It rained here for 24 hours and I watched the interior closely. I didn't see or feel any moisture inside. Regardless I will definitely pick up a Moisture Meter. I didn't know they had such a thing, I can use it in my house as well with a few suspected leaks.

I don't store anything in the bunk, no worries. The chairs and tank were only placed there while I was moving things OUT of the camper. The previous owner left everything in there. Everything. Jacks, tanks, pillows, pots, pans, ropes, etc. Took me an hour to clean it out. And mouse turds were everywhere. Took us 2 hours to vacuum and sanitize.

The idea for keeping the refrigerator front panel is genius. If I have to toss the fridge, I will keep it. I haven't given up on it yet, but it looks to have a bleak end as I'm a terrible tinker/fixer. HA!

The hot water heater might work also, just have to spend more time looking into it.

Here is a video of the problem areas people were asking about.

https://youtu.be/ARH9oP2gm4g


Thanks again for all the help. It's greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-30-2018, 06:44 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grayfair View Post
First off, I can't say enough how much I appreciate the assistance. Knowing nothing about campers or trailers, your feedback and guidance is exceptional. You're providing an amazing amount of information and I take no offense with you helping me make the right decisions.

I will keep an eye out for the moisture behind the paneling. It rained here for 24 hours and I watched the interior closely. I didn't see or feel any moisture inside. Regardless I will definitely pick up a Moisture Meter. I didn't know they had such a thing, I can use it in my house as well with a few suspected leaks.

I don't store anything in the bunk, no worries. The chairs and tank were only placed there while I was moving things OUT of the camper. The previous owner left everything in there. Everything. Jacks, tanks, pillows, pots, pans, ropes, etc. Took me an hour to clean it out. And mouse turds were everywhere. Took us 2 hours to vacuum and sanitize.

The idea for keeping the refrigerator front panel is genius. If I have to toss the fridge, I will keep it. I haven't given up on it yet, but it looks to have a bleak end as I'm a terrible tinker/fixer. HA!

The hot water heater might work also, just have to spend more time looking into it.

Here is a video of the problem areas people were asking about.

https://youtu.be/ARH9oP2gm4g


Thanks again for all the help. It's greatly appreciated.
I recently picked up a moisture meter from Home Depot, based on a discussion with JohnB. I got the same kind as his, $39.99, and it's super easy to see and work with. However, we decided that these meters might be thrown off a little with winter and melting ground. I tested both my trailer (outside, covered, on concrete), and my house walls, and they all seemed to be reading high due to the 50 degree day and the ground thawing. No snow on most of the ground at the time. I tested the next day in the middle of the afternoon and the readings were much less, but still seemed high. I will have to retest in the spring once the ground dries out and the trailer is uncovered. So just as a word of caution about the meter at this time of year, it might not be completely accurate. But then again, it'll be interesting to see what the readings are for a trailer that isn't covered.

It's amazing how much better these trailers can look all cleaned out, isn't it?! Some people think it's a benefit to receive all of the previous owner's camping equipment, and in some cases it is, but it can quickly make it look cluttered and dirty. And in your case, it helped hide a lot of mouse turds. Whenever I've sold a trailer, it was fully cleaned out and spotless inside.

I can't listen to sound on your video right now, but the tongue priming looks really good! Keep up the good work. With the water heater, the fact that it's bypassed indicates either lazy owners or a problem, and I'm going to bet a problem. I would try to plug it and pressure test it. I have a hunch that the tank is cracked on the bottom as often happens when they freeze when full. Hopefully there's better news. If the gas is still hooked up to it, you can certainly briefly test fire it to see if the pilot lights and if the heater fully ignites.

Not sure what's going on with the refrigerator, but they do take time to start cooling. Like you won't notice the freezer really getting cold for like 4-6 hours, and it takes like 8-12 to fully get cold. Granted probably less this time of year, so it's hard to judge if it's working properly. You won't hear anything kicking on like you would with a house refrigerator since these don't have a compressor.
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2007 T-286SR Cherry/Granola, #6236, original owner, current mileage: 9461.2 (as of 10/01/16)
1997 T-2653 Blue Denim, #5471
1979 12 1/2' MC, Beige & Avocado, #4639
Past Sunlines: '97 T-2653 #5089, '94 T-2251, '86 T-1550, '94 T-2363, '98 T-270SR
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Old 01-30-2018, 04:16 PM   #9
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Welcome to the club grayfair.

Good luck with your project.
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Old 01-30-2018, 07:35 PM   #10
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Welcome to the SOC! This is a good place to learn not just about Sunlines but about travel trailers (as we found out 5 years ago). Happy camping... soon!
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Old 01-30-2018, 10:01 PM   #11
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Hi Grayfair,

Your video of the black tank and things came through very well. Here are my thoughts.

The dump valve on the black tank and connection piping to the gray tank is busted off and missing like you said. Being right behind the rear tire sort of puts the valves in the line of fire for a few mishaps to get busted off.

If a tire blows out, the shredding tire whipping around beats whatever is in it path and the dump valves lose... If you look up at the very bottom of the camper in this area, you might see signs of tire flap damage. This might explain what happened. And also show you other damage that may need to be fixed as if there are openings to the bottom of the camper, road water spray can get in and start doing havoc in the basement insulation etc.

Another way to kill a dump... is pulling off quick on long leveling board put under the trailer wheels when leveling the camper at a campsite. If there is any ground dip at the end of the board at the rear tire, the board can fly up and beat up the dump valves when the camper rolls off the board.

And there are more other ways to break the dump valve too.

However it happened, the dump valve ass'y is gone. From what I am seeing, this may be fixable by putting new dump valve fittings on and patching the tank. I have no idea why they sprayed in all that foam stuff. My goodness.... I'm hoping they only filled the blown out end of the tank. If so, then dig it all out of there back to the cracked out plastic. Then measure how big the hole is.

Then to find either small sheet of ABS plastic 3/16 to maybe 1/4" thick plastic that is big enough to cover the blow out and a few inches beyond.
Here is one quick hit, ideally smooth both side so is is easier to weld
https://www.amazon.com/PLASTIC-TEXTU...+plastic+sheet

The goal is to ABS solvent weld that plate to the tank and create a patch plate. Before welding the plate on, hole saw in to install a 3" ABS female pipe fitting. Weld the fitting in out in the open, then weld the plate to the tank.

A fitting maybe like this. You can loosen the 4 bolts and spin the valve handles where where you need to.


Then go to the Valterra web site and find the dump pipe fittings you need. See this page, http://www.valterra.com/product-cate...-products/oem/ and this page http://www.valterra.com/product-cate...er-sanitation/

This may have been the fitting setup on your camper.


You will have to figure out which setup is right for your, but then you connect up the pipes. The 3" dump port with cover cap ad the 4 lugs on the outside is where the sewer hose hooks up at the dump station. Maybe one of our members has a camper like you have and they can post a pic of what it looked like originally. These slider valves are the way to go on valving this. Amazon and a lot of other places on line sell the Valterra products. Home Depot and others have a lot of ABS fittings on their web site. They may not have them in the store. And maybe after searching for fittings and ABS plate, you can find a fitting with a flange on it large enough to just weld the fitting onto the tank. A RV toilet floor flange might be an option is the sizes work out.

A new tank is fairly costly if you can find the right size to fit in there. There are many places online that sell black tanks (RV sewer tanks) but it will be a hunt to find the right tank. This fitting fix will be a fraction of the cost of a new tank and you still need to buy the fittings anyway on a new tank. It might be worth a try. If it totally does not work then buy a new tank. It all starts with getting the tank closed up with a 3" fitting to attach a pipe to.

Here is a tip to on the gray tank pipe. Hopefully you can get that foam out of there. You can buy solvent weld ABS fitting to patch the pipe back on if wanted. If you need a fitting that will work and can be removable, these Fernco rubber fittings at the lumber yards work too. https://www.homedepot.com/b/Plumbing...5yc1vZbqpfZ4hs

Your water heater, like Sunline Fan stated, the tank may be leaking. Ideally you can screw a pressure gage in one of the holes, and an air fitting and a shut off valve in the other. Using a small air compressor, low pressure, 15 to 20 psi, "only" add some air to the tank. Watch the gage and listen. If you do not hear air rushing out under the tank, then when the gage reaches 15 psi, shut off the air fill valve and watch the gage. It may drop 1 or 2 psi from from the air cooling but it should not drop to 0. This is a cleaner test then hooking it up with water to find it running out all over the floor. If the tank is good, great! then we can help you test the rest. A few pics of the outside of the heater with the outside door folded down helps show us the gas control side. Also look for a model number. It would be in the outside compartment. If no number, we can tell from the pics.

Your fridge, look for the model number and post so we can look it up and help better. On the newer fridges the model numbers are inside the fridge near the door jam. Yours may be there too. We can even link a repair manual.

I have seen the type you showed in the front. Never worked on one, but know it from the manual. I have worked on the newer ones. You said you have it plugged into electric, some of the older water heaters where all gas and no 120 volt AC. Others had 12 VDC to run the control boards which needs a battery installed or the 120 VAC power converter to create the 12 volts. If you go outside the camper at the fridge area, there is a grill cover. Take that off and take pics of the back of the fridge where the gas valve and controls are. Post them so we can see.

Those rotating knobs you are turning, some of them have the knob inside but a long rod is attached to the knob to turn a switch or valve in the back of the fridge in the outside compartment. Those rods run the length of the fridge compartment. Take some pics of the knobs and the lettering so we can see what you have. From the model number we can help a lot better.

On your leaks, the way campers are built, often times you cannot see a leak inside the camper. It all depends on how large the leak is. Large meaning the size of the hole to let water run in. Or a lot of smaller holes creating larger volume. Very large leaks (like a 1/4" or 1/2" hole) can flood the system and then that size leak can overflow and show up leaking where you can see it inside the camper. or the wood rotter totally away and then you can see it.

Small fine leaks seap in. These are the silent camper infectors... They may only seep a pint or a quart of water in a minute. It seeps from a hole in the camper, this case the roof area, and wicks down wherever gravity will allow it to go. This is most times in the walls and the ceiling. It can end up working it's way down the wall and then into the floor. And you never see any water inside the camper. Your ceiling water stains show you had leaks and while they may have slowed down so you cannot see them inside, those or others may still be seeping.

The moisture meter can really help. It looks like you may be in NJ. I know Ohio and MI right now are in this hot and cold up and down all the time. Condensation is at an all time high. The moisture meter will/can read all this moisture and give very high readings due to it. However on the inside of the camper it is a data point. If it pegs 50% to 100% in wall mode it is saturated and a real wet wall is not going to dry out even in the middle of summer closed up. You may need to check these areas again after we get out of the below freezing and stay above freezing for a while. It might take until very late March or April or a heated building the camper can be in for a week or more to get to that. Then the meter will tell you how good or not the walls and ceiling are.

Both these 2 campers never had water inside. Yours might not be like this, or might be worse. Not trying to scare you , just help show how this water leak thing can trick one as they do not see it inside the camper.

2004 T1950 Restoration Project - (Ugly Picture Heavy)

A Winter Project - Roof Repair (Picture heavy)

I have a few others too, but those pics are up on the forum allready.

Your frame painting up on the tongue looks good! Your doing great!

Hope this helps

Thanks

John
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Current Sunlines: 2004 T310SR - Fern Blue, 2004 T1950 - Fern Blue, 2004 T2475 - Nutmeg
Prior Sunlines: 2004 T2499 - Fern Blue
2005 Ford F350 Lariat, 6.8L V10 W/ 4.10 rear axle, CC, Short Bed, SRW. Reese HP trunnion bar hitch W/ HP DC

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Old 02-01-2018, 03:01 PM   #12
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Hi Grayfair,

Some of these pics might help on your sewer piping setup. I was out in the barn with the camper today and figure these might help the cause. While these are not your model camper, these may help spark an idea you can use to create yours.

These area from a T264SR. This is a slide camper and the camper main frame is higher up off the ground.






These are from a T1950. This camper is lower like yours and the dump valves connect close to the black tank like yours would.









These are from our prior T2499.




Hope this helps

John
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Current Sunlines: 2004 T310SR - Fern Blue, 2004 T1950 - Fern Blue, 2004 T2475 - Nutmeg
Prior Sunlines: 2004 T2499 - Fern Blue
2005 Ford F350 Lariat, 6.8L V10 W/ 4.10 rear axle, CC, Short Bed, SRW. Reese HP trunnion bar hitch W/ HP DC

Google Custom Search For Sunline Owners Club
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Old 02-27-2018, 02:22 PM   #13
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Thanks everyone. Great information
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