1991 Coleman Pop-up Camper Remodel

So… sometimes I have a tendency to get deeper into a project than might actually be required to solve the problem at hand. Recently I’ve gone that direction with our Coleman pop-up camper. The camper needed one new bed-rail slider when I bought it and the other rail worked okay but had a slight bend that needed to be bent back into position in order to slide comfortably into the receiving guide rail when stowing the beds. The dealer rigged the broken rail so that the bed could be set up and returned to the stowed position for travel, though not smoothly or easily. I used it that way for about three years, then when it fell apart I fashioned a home-made replacement that worked reasonably well for another year’s worth of camping. I’ve always intended to replace that damaged rail with a new unit and to bend the other rail closer to where it should be while I was at it, and about two months ago that little project finally rose to the upper end of my to-do list.

The bed rails were a simple project since I already knew how the system operated. Luckily there are still parts and parts manuals available for this and many other older pop-ups, so I was able to buy a brand new slide assembly complete with all installation hardware. Upon closer inspection it was clear that the rivets on the bent but functioning bed rail assembly were starting to loosen, so I replaced those while I had the bed separated from the camper.

IMG_20190107_160721865

I had to bend the aluminum on this side to get it off of the wheel so the rail would slide more smoothly. Removing those two pins at the top and bottom of the rail are the key to removing the slide rail from the guide rail.

IMG_20190107_160726634
As you can see, no rail on this side. You can still see metal shavings from the two home-spun solutions the dealer and I came up with.

As one might imagine, time, temperature and our wonderful Florida humidity have all taken a toll on the interior of the camper. It was usable, and far from a piece of junk, but the particle board had disintegrated around many of the cabinet screws and the interior looked dated and tired. Several of the screw holes holding the long piano hinge into the stove cabinet base were completely stripped, and I really need this piece to function properly for the sake of easy set-up and take-down.

IMG_20190107_160736860
Dated!
IMG_20190107_160712027
Tired!

Demo

I started by removing all of the screws to the bases of the cabinets, bench seats, etc. Then I removed the screws holding the benches to the walls, as well as the screws holding the countertop to the long storage cabinet on the left in the picture below. Next, I removed the piano hinge screws that attached the stove and sink cabinet to the base section. The other side of the hinge is riveted to the upper metal cabinet, and since I planned to repaint and use the cabinet, I left the hinge attached on that side. I removed this section of cabinet in one piece. Later I separated the stove, sink and faucet into their individual pieces so that I could make a new countertop and paint the various parts.

IMG_20190107_161955661
You can see the original bench layout in the picture. Notice the long wall extending into the floor space. It is now even with the front of the cabinets.
IMG_20190218_124339678
You can see some of the peeling on this cabinet door.

The Floor

I pulled the old linoleum up, which was easy. Much of the paper backing remained on the floor. Trying to remove this from the strand board would have probably created more issues than leaving it, so I didn’t attempt to do so given most of the surface was really smooth with the paper remaining on. The corner areas and a few edges near the walls were a different story. Moisture had affected those areas over time and the paper backing came up with the rest, leaving exposed particle board.

IMG_20190218_124942681
That’s a stylish floor!

IMG_20190218_132627495There’s one of the ugly corners I was talking about. Leaving brackets on the wall when possible made it easy to line everything back up.

IMG_20190218_175652850
The floor turned out pretty well after painting.

I picked up two boxes of light grey oak vinyl planks at a local store while on a camping trip several months ago thinking maybe I would use it for something at some point. When I decided to do the camper it was clear I didn’t have enough to do the whole camper floor so I bought more of the same brand on-line thinking it looked like a product of sufficient quality for a project like this. The planks went down easily, and the glue seemed sticky enough to do the job. Looks great right?

IMG_20190223_181403803
Looked good at this point.

IMG_20190223_181033015

Then it happened… before I was even finished installing the furniture a few edges and corners were lifting. At that point with a planned trip coming up soon and rain in the forecast, I had to correct the issue or have a mess on my hands so I spent a little more money on higher quality planks from a major retailer and had a little do-over party. Good times! I installed the new planks over the first planks with the seams overlapping to lock the old ones in and it worked out great! Moral of this story is: READ REVIEWS BEFORE YOU PURCHASE! I didn’t and it wasn’t until the stuff started coming up that I did so and saw that most people who bought this product seemed to be having the same experience no matter what surface they laid the planks over.

Making the new pieces of cabinetry was relatively easy given that I had all of the factory parts to use as templates. Using 1/2 inch sanded and primed plywood I made sure to trace out each new cabinet door from the original doors rather than tracing new patterns from whatever new door I had just cut. I hoped to avoid amplifying any deviations by doing it this way.

IMG_20190223_145311845
Everything getting a coat of primer and quality paint.
IMG_20190223_112511183
New countertop not yet sanded or painted.
IMG_20190223_112506457
New base top for stove and sink cabinet.

I used the original cabinet hinges and other hardware, but did have to pick up a few new screws, as it appeared rust had done a few of them in. I was never a fan of the factory floor plan and thought I had an idea that would open the space up, but that would still allow us to use the bench area as a bed should we need to sleep five. I left the furniture wall brackets up where I could, which made putting the furniture back in really easy. Luckily I was able to design the new benches in such a way as to allow the use of the factory bench frames and front panels. We have never used the folding table that came with the camper, so I removed it from the equation. It was probably the piece of furniture in the worst shape. I plan to make a new top for it, and if we ever need it we can take it along.

IMG_20190303_105155870
Mock-up of the folding bench base section.

I only had to design and build one piece of the furniture from scratch. I needed something that would fold down to form the base for the couch cushions, make a bed, and to act as the couch seat, arm, and back. I came up with what I thought was a cool idea, and it actually worked out well. What do you think? You saw it here first. Call me Coleman. Call me…

IMG_20190303_163512527
Folded down for travel or bed set-up.
IMG_20190303_165438448
Folded up to act as couch.
IMG_20190303_165114307
I bought a new piano hinge much like the factory hinge used on the stove and sink cabinet.

IMG_20190303_165110485

I am really happy with how this piece of the project turned out. It really opens things up when the camper is in use, and can be set up as a couch, a bed, or a lounger of sorts, while fitting like a factory piece when it comes to take-down and travel.

IMG_20190303_165520487
The new couch in the open position.
IMG_20190303_170752841
Lounger anyone?
IMG_20190303_165320046
A bed when needed.

The cabinet doors were pretty simple to install using the same holes in the cabinets and drilling new holes in the new cabinet doors. Be sure to either screw them in by hand or set your drill at the lowest setting so as to not strip the holes out. I set my cordless 20 volt drill on 1 and 1 1/2 and it worked great. None of the screw holes stripped.

IMG_20190224_114416852
New countertop for the sink and stove.
IMG_20190309_124629922
Bottom view of water faucet. Center feed is city water. The other goes to the reserve water tank.
IMG_20190223_182343045
This is the piece the long piano hinge screws into. The screw holes were in terrible shape on the factory piece. I shortened the side panel since I turned the bench sideways against the wall. Now the floor is wide open when couch is set up.
IMG_20190224_114429957
The vinyl was already coming up here, but you can’t tell in the picture.

 

My factory stove lid was peeling and rusting in spots, so I removed it from the cabinet, stripped the paint, sanded and primed with high build primer. I wasn’t worried about taking all of the deep pitting off but I do want a reasonably smooth, durable surface. I spray painted the lid ivory-white then coated with a moderate coat of a heavy urethane that you may have seen on some restaurant tables. I’m hoping it makes the surface as durable as we need it to be. We often sit things on the lid, so I know spray paint alone would be ruined in no time. I forgot to take a picture before I closed up the camper, but maybe I’ll get one later and update this blog. It turned out well. Sorry!

IMG_20190309_121512733
This is with the new vinyl planks. Similar color but thicker and more color and grain variation.
IMG_20190309_121527455
The wall paint was something I picked up along the line and just happened to work out for this project.

I have done a few maintenance tasks on the camper previously. Those included taking off the front panel to tighten the chain (watch for wasp nests if you do this!), replacing the tires and rims, lubricating the lift system, and fixing the leaking corner caps. I still need to repaint the roof, which will also require removing the AC unit and gasket so that I can get to the entire roof surface. If you need to know how to do any of the other tasks I just named on these Coleman campers, shoot me a question. Happy to help if I can.

In all, this interior remodeling  project didn’t take up too much time. I probably spent about 4 weekend days, sun-up to sun-down working on it. Outside of the issue with the floor, I couldn’t be happier with the rest. This pop-up should now last my family throughout the rest of my camping years, and hopefully will continue on with them when I am past my camping prime!