There are two that I know of that have occurred. Ladywolf had it happen to hers at only a couple yrs old. The second one I just read about on the Northern Lite Owners forum.
The first clue is the bulge located where the cabover connects to the main body. It will start to bulge from the weight/ stress located in this area of great stress holding up the cab over weight.
Some NL owners think it's real strong with the just the bead board laminated to the thin fiberglass shell but in this area I happen to know that it is a plywood reinforcement in this area.
NL campers builds a very much stronger truss plywood gusset for this area. I don't know how large but I know the fiberglass clamshell screws are carefully driven flush (countersunk) in this area and are underneath the clamshell trim so they are in addition to the trim screws themselves. It is very important you know what you are doing before messing around with this part of the structure. The first indication is a delaminated bubble type bulge indicating the screws have failed. It is a very rare occurrence.
You really need to contact the factory if this occurs unless you are like me a gutsy skilled gamblin' craftsman
Anyhow to those who notice the bulge/ failure, if you do, I want you to know that NL campers paid for Ladywolfs whole trip, fuel and lodging to do this repair. It is somewhere in the archives of this forum.
Am the process of repairing this bulge on N.L. 2004 10.2. The fiberglass had torn itself at the starboard side. Upon investigation lamination of fiberglass, styro foam and 1/4" plywood was not really separating, just lacked some strength to handle Alaska road system.
N.L. recommend a Silflex adhesive to rebound the styro foam to the fiberglass. This silflex 252 was rather difficult to get out of tube, but sure sticks to anything, including me. Cure time takes about week before it is becomes ridged. Injected it under fiberglass through a series of wholes, would have come in from the window opening but this would have cause more damage.
The more I got into the problem it appeared there was not enough chopped fiberglass at the joint. You could press it in with your thumb. N.L had reoommend some long stranded fiberglass as repair. I managed to 5 layers of long stranded fiberglass to reinforcement this elbow before I ran out resin. Gave it couple days, gave it rough sand it, then applied a coat of white gel coat. Wasn't too interested in making pretty. Will see if this holds up.
Two days ago got camper back on the truck. Something about going out fishing this weekend. Will see if cracking fiberglass reappears and how it holds up the rest of the summer. Alaska roads with its whoop to do's and frost heaves is known to be rough on vehicles. They broke the back of my last pickup a '76 K20 camper special and hopefully the F350 holds up a little better.
Gary are we sure we are talking about the same area? Mine is a 2003 and it has plywood under the glass?
Wish I could come up to help out with this. I would remove the bead board and add 1 inch thick plywood laminated to the body. Maybe mine is plywood because it failed some point in time before it was sold as new. You can hit with the palm of your hand on the camper sides and you can tell where it's plywood and where it's just insulation.
another issue to the NL campers is the occasional mention of the camper sitting low in one corner of the truck bed. This has happened to a few others as well as myself. Jeff the webmaster is an engineer on the NL forum and says the basement sides that are crushing upward are not the structure when you see it crushing failing.
One question for you jeff.... since I cut out the crushed 'non structural basement side', as you say, going all the way to the fiberglass body beyond, I found absolutely nothing for support in one of the most critical load points of the camper while sitting on the back of the truck bed. Nada, nothing for structure. What's even more amazing is the lack of connection to the gen box compartment in the same area when it is in the overhang beyond the truck bed.
Adding a high quality multi layered ply to the basement side of my camper has helped very very much. I further connected the gen box to these new basement sides I laminated in. Also adding a box type beam beyond has helped very much.
My camper no longer relies on the thin fiberglass body, bead board and thin luan ply for such a heavily weighted area.
I have been in structural work for a very long time and have occasionaly helped engineers such as yourself. You guys can put the applied math to it, are extremely educated, but years of hands on can build a very strong instinct for it.
Jeff, before you make a judgement on what is or is not structure of a NL basement you need to experience for yourself how the total lack of it affects everything around it. My camper was sitting low in the back and has no rotted wood in it anywhere. Since new I've found every leak and stopped every one of them before an issue developed. I've been all thru my camper since new tearing areas apart the normal owner would not do in order to find every leak. I gotta say, I'm not real impressed. Fact is if a boat were built the same as you say, a surveyor would render it unseaworthy.
The area that had some serious bulging was not in bottom basement but between the fron cab window and corner "L" that supports the cabover. If it was basement area would had it repaired professionally.
This bulge area was layer of chopped fiberglass, 1" styro foam and inside camper paneling. The tear in fiberglass was right the "knee" in front corner. This was litte then on front side were I could push in fiberglass with my thumb.
I reinforced this knee area with additional layers of long stranded glass after applying the Silfex 252 adhesive under the fiberglass as best I could.
As for fishing, well made that all important fishin trip yesterday and the fiberglass repair appears to be hanging in there. Traveled up the Parks Highway and tried the fishing where a clear water creek comes into the Big Sue River.
Can not say I had a luck as there still was chunks of ice in river even though the temperatures where in 60Deg F. Will go up Glen Highway next weekend and make the Denali Highway loop, via the Parks Highway to Anchorage. If the repairs survives that 100 miles or so of 35 MPH gravel, will stop worrying it, as the Denali Highway has been known to break loose allot of things in the camper.
This highway the old route in Denali National Park, until the Parks Highways was built in the early '70s. It offers many places to pull and camp and opportunites to see wild life and fish.
Your right Wayne, photos are worth a bunch over explaining these type of things. Currently they are under the thread called 'Camper Sag' on the Natcoa forum. They only show a failed basement structure. Since I haven't had the cabover sag, at all, that's all I have. I show before and after the fix pics. I was taught how to do a clicky by a guy nice enough to explain it to me but still not very good at it. It's a struggle.
Covered Wagon, was the fiberglass "thin" on the sides of the camper where, the bunk meets the body? My camper has bulged out here as well. Tried injecting the sikaflex through drilled holes and applied as much pressure as possible during curing. The adhesive helped but I could not force the bulge flat. I'm on the road and wasn't able to take the camper off the truck, but suspect that jacking up on the cabover area would have relieved some of the pressure from the bulged out area. I too was thinking of getting behind this area and using plywood, either glassed or bonded as a reinforcement......a big L shaped piece that would tie in the bunk to the lower half of the shell and extending down to the front tie down area. Would love to see some pics of your repair.
John Bee, the cabover troubles were with two campers other than myself, now a third being yours. Mine has only failed in the rear basement area. I have not had the problem with the cabover.... knock on wood.
GaryT, the cabover problems I'm reporting (there are now 3 known) yours, JohnBee and a poster calling herself LadyWolf. Anyhow, I hope you got it fixed bud seems like lots of weight to try and deal with.
My NL camper is an 03 and has plywood in the area holding the cabover. It's weird cause you guys are saying there is only the insulation under the fiberglass. Wow!
My basement failure was actually crushing upward from the stress at the rear of the camper. I tore things apart and could find no structure in this area of a needed support.