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Old 11-16-2020, 08:05 PM   #1
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Smile What to look for when buying an '82 15.5SB

Hello all, first post here.
I've got the opportunity to purchase a 1982 Sunline Travel Trailer 151/2SB and I've got a few questions that I'm hoping you can help me with.

First, the setting:

Said trailer is located a couple of hours from here and I plan to look at it tomorrow with possible immediate purchase to follow. From the pictures I've seen, it looks to be in good condition and ready to roll. I plan on towing it with a 2017 Subaru Outback. Also note, I have experience towing and using a pop-up trailer but none with travel trailers. Yes, I'm a, er, noob.

Now, onto the questions:
1. What are specific things/areas that I should be sure to inspect tomorrow? I know tires, undercarriage and lights are basic and fairly easy to spot trouble areas. What else? Are there other particular locations that are known for trouble?
2. I've seen some posts that say to inspect every place the walls meet the roof. No problem. Where else?
3. This trailer has an A/C unit. Was that standard/optional OEM?
4. The images I've seen do not show an awning. Was an awning OEM? If so, are replacements still manufactured?
5. Short of hooking up the water system, is there anyway to check for waterline (both white and gray) issues?
6. Same as #5 only with septic.
7. Same as #5 only with the LP system.
8. Are there any "known-from-the-factory" issues? Similar to automotive recalls, are there "make sure X widget has been replaced since they are known to crack/break/swell/leak/etc."
9. Towing. I've a towing capacity of 2,700 with my Outback. According to the research I've done online, the dry weight seems to be 1,615 lbs. I've a tongue weight max of 200 lbs. HOWEVER, the owner says the weight is 3,000 lbs. Who's right? (Yes, I'm biased and I think I'm right. Haha.)

That's all I have ATM. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 11-16-2020, 11:15 PM   #2
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Hi,

You have many questions, some simple, some not and not a lot of time to sort them out with possibly buying it immediately, but here goes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by my1973vw View Post
snip...
I've got the opportunity to purchase a 1982 Sunline Travel Trailer 151/2SB

I plan on towing it with a 2017 Subaru Outback

Now, onto the questions:
1. What are specific things/areas that I should be sure to inspect tomorrow? I know tires, undercarriage and lights are basic and fairly easy to spot trouble areas. What else? Are there other particular locations that are known for trouble?
A water infection can be a large issue to correct if you do not have basic wood working knowledge. Water damage can occur in the ceiling, walls or floor and not be seen from the inside of the camper. Just because you cannot see it in the living space, or the prior owner see it, does not mean it does not have some level of prior water damage.

If you can see water damage, wrinkled wall board, water stained walls or ceiling, soft spongy floors that feel different from firm spots, a musty mildew odor, (check inside every closed space, like cabinets, under beds, closets etc) they are signs of prior damage.

That said, then there is water damage that you cannot see or smell and still be there. The only way to help over come this, is to scan the camper using a moisture meter. This post can help understand how to use it and how it works. Lowes does carry this meter in some of their stores versus ordering on line. Ideally you have one going to look at any used camper.

https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...per-17613.html

2. I've seen some posts that say to inspect every place the walls meet the roof. No problem. Where else? Answered above

3. This trailer has an A/C unit. Was that standard/optional OEM? On many of the older campers, a roof mounted AC system was an option. If the AC unit is mounted in a wall and looks like a home AC unit, that did not come from Sunline, it would of been added by a prior owner

4. The images I've seen do not show an awning. Was an awning OEM? If so, are replacements still manufactured? On some of the older campers, awnings were an option. They do still make awnings in several styles that can fit the camper.

5. Short of hooking up the water system, is there anyway to check for waterline (both white and gray) issues? You can use compressed air at low pressure to check for fresh water system leaks. For the black and grey tanks, a visual inspection can help. To test for leaks, filling them with a garden hose down the drain can tell if they leak. The black and gray tanks can be repaired if leaks are found. Many black or grey water tanks leaks have been repaired with very large holes even.

6. Same as #5 only with septic. Black tank talked about above

7. Same as #5 only with the LP system. The LP system can be checked, but this will take time and understanding on how to do it. This post describes one way on how to test the entire gas system.

https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...cks-10981.html

8. Are there any "known-from-the-factory" issues? Similar to automotive recalls, are there "make sure X widget has been replaced since they are known to crack/break/swell/leak/etc."
On a camper the age you are looking at, there where no camper recalls I am aware of what Sunline built. The Dometic fridge does have an active recall still in effect if the model and serial numbers match the Dometic recall list. Have no idea if the fridge has been replaced or is still the original. This post talks about the fridge recall
https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...ines-7596.html

9. Towing. I've a towing capacity of 2,700 with my Outback. According to the research I've done online, the dry weight seems to be 1,615 lbs. I've a tongue weight max of 200 lbs. HOWEVER, the owner says the weight is 3,000 lbs. Who's right? (Yes, I'm biased and I think I'm right. Haha.)

The 1982 15 1/2 SB travel trailer is listed as having a dry (empty) axle weight of 1,615# with a 150# dry tongue weight. Dry means, no battery, no LP gas in the tank, no options added to the camper and no camping gear. The camper with LP gas, battery and an AC option may weigh approx 1,765 axle weight with 220# tongue weight = 1,985# gross weight and still no camping gear in the camper.

The max GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) is 2,630#. To create a stable towing camper, you should target 12 to 15% loaded tongue weight per total camper GVW (Gross Vehicle weight). If you have close to a 13% tongue weight (mid range) and fill the camper with cargo up to the axle limit, the loaded tongue weight can be approx 342#. Axle (2,630)+ tongue (342)= 2,972# or very close to 3,000# GVW.

If your tow rating on the Outback is 2,700#, and a max tongue weight of 200#, with a quick look only, your Outback will be at or over the towing capacity and rear axle limits if you load the camper to it's full rating. Possibly even the over GVWR on the Outback pending passengers and must have cargo in the Outback. The camper is wide and tall creating wind drag which requires extra towing capacity above the weight ratings. Long term, you may not have a good towing experience. To answer this question properly, you need a more in-depth towing review. See this post on a 1981 15 1/2 SB looking to be towed with a mini van. The same questions are asked there, but more info is given. It may help you.

https://www.sunlineclub.com/forums/f...xle-19948.html
An area of mechanical concern is the axle under the camper and the brakes. Some of the older campers had Hayes brakes which are no longer in manufacture. Some times, the brakes can be relined if the rest of the parts are OK. Other times, the brakes has failed or rusted to the point a new axle needed to be put in. It is all fixable, just know going in the one you are looking at may be in that state.

As to water damage, the need is to understand it, and know going into the deal eyes wide open it may need to be repaired. If you can spot it, inspect it and show it to the seller, they may concede on the price. If you have basic wood working tools and the time to do the repairs yourself, anything in the camper can be repaired. But, large repairs take a lot of time, sometimes a year or more if you can only work weekends etc. The materials are not that high in cost, the time is very high and not practical to hire this out at standard shop rates. I'm not saying do not get the camper, just know what you are getting into. We have many folks who actively restoring old campers and enjoy doing it. The work can be very rewarding if you know before hand what to expect.

Hope all this helps and good luck on your camper search. Let us know how you make out.

John
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Old 11-24-2020, 08:14 PM   #3
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Welcome! I think John covered it all really well.

As far as I can remember, there were three official recalls affecting Sunlines. Not bad for 42 years and 65,000 RVs built!
- 1978-82 Solaris Motorhome- recalled for the dual rear wheel adapter on the Datsun/Toyota chassis. Apparently it could fail and send the outer dual flying out on the highway. The recall was to replace this with a single rear wheel setup, which IMO, looked goofy.
- 1998 Sunlines (all models)- some models left the factory with insufficient wheel bearing grease in the axles, which caused them to heat up and bearings to fail. Unless this was a trailer delivered locally from the factory and never moved, I'm told most of these were caught on the initial delivery to the dealer. Basically I was told not an issue for any of the trailers delivered here in MI.
- 1996-2007 Sunlines (all models equipped with 2 way Dometic refrigerators). Refrigerators burner assemblies could overheat and catch fire. This affects almost all Sunlines in this year range since almost all of them were equipped with an RM2652 refrigerator. The recall does apply to other model Dometic refrigerators as well. The recall started after Sunline shut down, but any RV dealer can perform it still, free of charge to you. Plug your refrigerator serial number (found inside the refrigerator once you open the main door) into the Dometic website to see if it's been recalled. You can tell if the recall was already performed by checking inside the service panel outside. Carefully twist the twist locks 90 degrees, pull out, and slide down the panel to remove. Once opened, a repaired unit will have a large metal plate/cover covering a large portion of the right side of the refrigerator.
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