Update: Here is what has happened since my last post.
1. I repositioned the angle aluminum bracket that was attached to the heavy steel framework that is the firewall.
2. Working close to the original screw locations in the outer wall, I put in slightly larger diameter and slightly longer screws.
3. I cut out almost all of the foam that had been on the passenger side of the front of the dash and sprayed new foam, increasing the coverage area by about 25%. It took lots of coats of foam to bring it all back together.
4. I re-assembled the dash panels, using slightly larger screws and making sure that they were all anchoring
5. Added a piece of steel to the inside of the house battery box. That is mounted on the front side of the firewall near the edge on the passenger side. I felt that the batteries might be shifting during heavy bumps and giving additional hammering force to the dash area. Now the batteries are tightly mounted to the firewall.
Today, I test drove the results on the road for the first time. While the run was only about 6 miles, it went over some of the lumpiest roads in our Town. The dash and front cap remain tightly connected. Close examination of the foam after the drive confirmed that there were no points were movement occurred.
I'm not happy with the original engineering but am not in a position to do the front cap removal that would be required to make major improvements. As long as everything stays together as I have it now, I'll be satisfied. I did do some fiberglass work to the mounting points for the front battery access door.
We'll camp out around the immediate area over the next couple of months before we head out on a longer trip. There was already a few stress cracks in the outer front cap, just in front of the front door and I'll be keeping a very close eye there. If all goes well by Spring, I'll declare complete victory and we'll schedule longer journeys.
The idea to get a small webcam has turned out to be a terrific one. Here is what I was able to capture with it today.
What you are seeing
1. Picture left is the inner part of front cap fiberglass outer wall
2. Picture right is the outer part of the dash structure.
3. The metal attached to front cap appears to have Styrofoam helping to hold it in place
Clearly, there is metal in the front cap and there is no sign that it is detached from the fiberglass. It does not respond to a magnet so I'm assuming that it is aluminum, not steel.
Based on this, I believe that properly replacing the missing screws and putting back the cracked foam will provide the needed stability between the front cap and the dash.
I see a few complications:
A. When I place the "L" bracket on the dash member and see where the holes line up with the inside of the front cap wall, the cap side is down by about 1/2". Is this important? I don't know. I see no good place to put a jack under the cap to try to raise it to restore the original relationship. The bottom of the front cap is curved inward and I fear that even placing large boards across it to try to spread the load of a jack lifting it would result in cracking the fiberglass at the beginning of that curve. Right now I'm thinking that I'm just going to put the new screws in.
B. There is a 1/4" gap between the outer part of the dash and the inner part of front cap wall seen side to side. Part of me wants to tighten that up to close it completely but I fear the metal in my picture isn't strong enough for that much pressure. I'm thinking of putting washers into the gap instead.
C. I believe that the original screw locations in the metal in the picture will be "wallowed out". I thinking that changing to 4 screws into the outer wall would help to spread the load and avoid the compromised locations in the metal.
As before, all inputs are welcomed and encouraged.
The camera I bought is about 1/2 inch wide - that includes four LEDs that light the area. You can capture the pics on the computer to enhance and interpret them (not easy!).
There MUST BE some sort of framing behind the cap - steel, I hope. You might also try shimming between the ends of the dash and the side walls. Whatever stops the dash from moving. I'd be concerned about electrical connections shaking loose - just something to check while you're loking in there.
I've seen several Tiffins after front end crashes - there's plenty of "metal cage" behind those caps.
There is steel in the firewall area and around the step well. I've run a powerful magnet along the sides of the front cap and it is never attracted. If there is steel in there, it is buried.
The electrical connections are one of my concerns. The headlights are very easy to trace There are wires to the mirrors, too. Beyond that, the other connections to the front cap are to the windshield wipers. All of that seems OK.
There is likely metal in the overhead but I'm not sure if it extends into the front cap itself. It appears that the cap is pretty well isolated from the rest of the body. It is one of the reasons that I don't ever want to be in any sort of front end crash. There isn't much protection.
The few times have gone to see the RV's being built ( National, Winebaggo (sp) Monacco) the front cap is made up with the windshield installed and it is then placed on the front of the RV box and secured around the out side edges. Don't see how they could have gotten in to secure the dashes to the front cap.
I'd bet the foam was the agent used to secure the dash to the inside of the cap, can you get some more foam in there and see if it stops it??
I'm a guy who likes options so today, I called the only shop that says that they specialize in RV body repairs and made an appoint for a couple of weeks from now.
This evening, I started spraying foam and will put back the angle iron that was attached to the dash tomorrow. I'm doing this to try to at least stabilize things for the 45 mile one way tip to the shop. I'll layer the foam in place over the next few days, trying to build it back up to match the driver's side, which has shown no signs of problems. It is the contrast between those to sides that suggests to me that there is something more wrong.
There is no question that the foam was used as the agent to tie the top part of the dash to the inside of the front cap. There is no other structural element. Whether it was strong enough to also stabilize the side remains to be seen. It is possible that the original problem was that there wasn't enough foam but the drivers and passenger sides seem evenly matched in that regard, at least from what I can see.
Thanks again for the responses.
I bought a tiny camera that hooks up to the computer with a 25 foot cord - about $25. on Ebay. It's not "all that", but there have been many times it would have been better than a flashlight and inspection mirror. Caution: Good luck figuring which way is up.
The dashboard complaint isn't new, although I think manufacturers are making them better today. People don't realize the amount of flexing the front cap has - or that the windshield is "structural". It sounds like they used foam as a structural component. I'd brace and "Maxbond" (or some other modern cintruction adhesive" to make it better. Your tabbing idea is good, but getting the best areas prepped might prove impossible.
Your fiberglass repair MIGHT be the strongest part of the RV. I'd also look for signs of the windhield moving - and indication that the metal "cage" framework (if there is one!)behind the cap hasn't rusted apart or been damaged. Perhaps someone who hass seen the same model after an accident will have some input as to what's behind your cap.
Thanks for your input. I've been all over the windshield and it appears to be firmly anchored everywhere to the surrounding fiberglass. I don't see any signs of a metal frame.
Your point about the flexing of the front cap is exactly my concern. It seems to be fine and I don't want to introduce a new load point that interrupts its natural flexing and end up popping the windshield or some other catastrophe.
I'm pretty sure that the dash itself will be fine if I can get the front cap moving with it. I don't know how long this has been going on but we bought the RV in 2004 with 27K miles on it and it now has 72K miles. My guess that it was just got a little worse over time.
I'll poke around and see what ebay offers. The problem is that whatever takes a picture inside of the gap is going to have to go in lens first and there isn't 2" of space to do that. That is why I was considering one of those cameras with the lens on the end of a thin flexible wand. They cost between $150-250 new. A rental for a one time use is better. I can get light in right beside the camera with one of those mini-LED flashlights.
Please keep the suggestions coming.
Our 2000 Georgie Boy has an interesting but vexing problem. On our last long trip, I noticed that the dash was bouncing out of sync with the post at the back of the passenger side windshield. At times, the whole top of the dash would move different than fiberglass front cap. I was really nervous that a bad bump would loosen the bottom of the windshield.
When I got home, I opened up the passenger side of the dash. The metal in the "firewall" is robust and solid. There is no sign of broken welds or missing parts. From one of the pieces of channel steel, there was a fairly flimsy "L" bracket with three fairly thin screws that tied the dash to a panel that is an extension of the the material in the post along side the front door. There is nothing strong enough in that to provide any structural support. Two of the screws into the panel had been knocked out and were lying in the dash cavity and the remaining screw had been sheared off.
From underneath, all that I can see is the gap between the stepwell frame and the outer fiberglass. There was foam sprayed there that connected them but the bouncing has cracked it away. There is no sign of a structure support that has broken.
From the front, where the access to the genset and the house batteries is provided, it is a similar picture. There was foam sprayed in the passenger side corner at the joint between the dash and the front end of the panel that I can see inside and the fiberglass cap but it is all cracked and broken, clear to the center of the dash (it was sprayed along the front edge of the dash and there is no sign of any other connection between the dash top and the front cap fiberglass.)
There is no sign of stress or problems with the front cap itself outside. All the vibration is happening to the dash.
I suspect that there was a structural support fiberglassed to the front cap, right in front of the front entry door and by the front cap seam but short of opening that seam, I see no way to confirm that - or make a repair. I've considered buying or renting one of those remote camera setups with the probe that I can extend from the bottom or from the front and hoping that I can see something that way. Even if I can confirm my suspicions, I cannot imagine that making the repairs is a DIY job.
1. Has anyone had a similar problem? Even if it wasn't a Georgie Boy, your experience might help me.
2. I'm a sailboat guy and am very familiar with fiberglass repairs. I can glass a piece of wood to the front cap that could be tied back into the frame. But I am somewhat concerned that if I don't get the loading point correct, my repair could damage the front cap and compound my problems. Am I just being paranoid?
I cannot physically move anything myself to try to recreate the failure statically. I'm assuming that this means that the forces involved are significant. As a result, I don't plan to drive the vehicle again except to take it to an RV body shop. I'm thinking that might be my only option.
All input is welcomed.