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Old 12-09-2019, 06:48 PM   #11
Robert Foster
 
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

Hole repair. 001

There were a bunch of existing holes to repair from the original Westfalia build in order for me to get back to neutral. There were literally 24 holes in the van floor, 4 holes in the drivers side rear panel, 3 bolts holes in the rear doors and of course the 16"x16" hole in the passenger side panel, for the water heater access/exhaust door.

Since I had about three quarters of a tube of the Sikaflex 221 left over from sealing around my new aluminum window panel I decided to keep it simple and use that for sealing up the holes in the van floor.

I have been becoming increasingly impressed/educated/intrigued with modern adhesives over the last few years, so every adhesive that I have been using I do some tests with whatever is left over. A year ago when installing my first aluminum panel I had taken some of the Sikaflex 221 and stuck some sheet metal together to test the strength of the bonds. That experience showed me that the Sikalfex 221 was more than suitable for repairing the holes in the van floor.

I first cut plates out of 26 gauge steel to cover and overlap each of the holes in the van floor. I then took a wire brush in my 4 inch grinder and cleaned up around each of the holes, applying some Right Stuff rust neutralizer that I was given, to the edge of each hole even though there wasn't any visible rust. I then buttered up the entire underside of the steel plates and applied them over the holes. As I was using up leftover Sikaflex there was no need to be stingy, so I also smeared around the top edges and surfaces of each plate to hopefully aid in providing some corrosion protection.

I'm thinking of also applying a coat of 3M Professional Grade Rubberized Undercoating to the underside. For $12 dollars that seems like a prudent investment...or is that just being anal ? What do you think ?







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Old 12-09-2019, 11:19 PM   #12
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

Interesting blue square at the back; looks like a window or hatch going in? And I'm chuckling with you at your efforts to get the stickers off the top; what a bear those are. Your driver side doesn't look too faded, so that one might come off OK with some heat.

I wish I had taken mine off the day I got the vehicle, against my wife's wishes. Of course, she was nowhere to be found when they got so faded they had to come off.

I fully support overkill, and the use of the undercoating. Use sealant for sealing, and undercoating for protection.
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Old 12-12-2019, 03:50 AM   #13
Robert Foster
 
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

Hole repair. 002

There were four medium size holes in the drivers side rear panel and three bolt holes in the rear doors. I've unfortunately never taken the time to learn how to weld, so I had to come up with a Plan B.

Here are three of those seven holes from where the municipal water, shore power and telephone/cable TV jacks were located. I had pulled the fittings out and quickly sprayed some primer a few weeks prior, because at that time I didn't know how long it would be before I would return to patching them.



After some research I decided to use my newly acquired epoxy/fiberglassing skills to patch the seven medium size holes. The epoxy needs to adhere to bare metal, so I ground off the paint. There was some rust at one of the holes, which I treated with Right Stuff rust neutralizer.

For some reason, that I now think was totally unnecessary, I thought I should back up the epoxy with a piece of sheet metal to give it structure. At the same time I wanted to put one piece of biaxial cloth in the assembly to prevent cracks from telescoping through the epoxy around the edges of the holes. The cloth needed to be below the surface of the body panel so it wouldn't show through the final sanding of the thickened epoxy. I created a concave dish by slightly grinding the edges and by slightly bending the metal around the hole with a pair of channel locks.



I cut out the aforementioned unnecessary sheet metal backing plates and attached them with VHB tape #5952. According to the West Systems Instructions, you start the process of epoxying to bare metal by applying unthickened epoxy and working it in with a wire brush. When the unthickened epoxy becomes tacky you finish out the repair just as you would with any other fiberglassing layup.







Fortunately for me, my Westfalia is one of 10, of the 250 brought into North America, that for some unknown reason were repainted battleship grey, which means an off the shelf automobile grade primer matches the color pretty damn well. Where there were natural edges I taped off to the edge, where there wasn't an edge, I just feathered out the spraying to prevent having a visible hard edge. That will do for now, a finished paint job of some sort is in the long term plan.





Hindsight: The next time I will forgo the sheet metal backing plates and instead, epoxy two or three layers of biaxial cloth on the interior surface of the body panel to augment the one layer of biaxial cloth on the exterior of the panel. I also might consider switching to a polyester filler like Bondo for the final layer or two of fairing material because it cures so much faster and is so much easier to sand than epoxy. Bondo is less expensive too.
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Last edited by Robert Foster; 12-12-2019 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 12-12-2019, 04:00 PM   #14
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

You have done a really nice job! Having access to the back of that panel makes it a lot easier.

I am not a paint expert by any stretch, but my understanding is that primer is generally not weatherproof; i.e.., not a good long-term solution. You might consider a matching gray paint over the primer just to seal it up before a final paint job.

Amazing how nicely the Westfalia factory did the two big holes and how poorly Airstream did the phone and cable, isn't it?!

Ted
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Old 12-14-2019, 01:16 AM   #15
Robert Foster
 
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

grozier:

I agree, the primer does not provide very good long term weather resistance. I was working against the clock as the weather was changing quickly. We are now in the 30's & 40's here with wet stuff regularly falling, so painting is probably out until Spring - the primer will have to do duty on it's own until then.

I didn't know that Airstream had installed the ridiculous phone/cable jack fitting, but that makes total sense. The water and power fittings were each attached with four rivuts while the phone/cable only with two screws at the sides onto what is a curved section of the body panel. Of course it was going to leak, as evidenced by the rust around mine. No rust at all around the other two. The more I got to know my Westfalia the more I came to understand how poorly conceived and implemented were the modifications done by Airstream.

RIP Airstream/Westfalia fittings...this pile of debris is what is left of them after I removed anything that might be of use to someone else.

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Last edited by Robert Foster; 12-14-2019 at 01:32 AM.
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Old 12-14-2019, 05:00 PM   #16
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

Man, that pic hits me hard...
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Old 12-18-2019, 03:15 AM   #17
Robert Foster
 
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

Hole repair. 003

I saved the biggest hole for last. The old water heater hole presented the biggest challenge because of the contoured indentation running down the side panel.



Replicating the contoured indentation from scratch was going to be impossible. I had called all the salvage yards in Virginia, with no success, looking for a donor van to cut a piece from. On a long shot a posted a Wanted to Buy thread down in the Classifieds for a piece of the passenger side body panel. Fortunately, both PortlandSprinterConnection and Cwhite87 reached out to say they could cut one from parted out vans for me. So I sent PSC a picture with some dimensions and a few days later received an over sized donor patch. I was pretty psyched.



So I would have to align the contoured indentation in the donor patch to the body panel on only one side, I cut the hole in the body panel about an inch larger to the rear to remove the very end of the contoured indentation. Some scribing and cutting and the donor patch fitted up pretty nicely.



I then cut out a flat aluminum backing plate and using VHB tape #5952 adhered the backing plate to the inside of the body panel and then the donor patch to the backing plate.





I also made a backing plate for the contoured indentation out of the strip that I had cut off of the over sized donor patch. I VHB taped the contoured backing plate to the body panel and donor patch and epoxied it to my flat aluminum backing plate.





Prior to adhering the donor patch to the backing plate I had trimmed all four edges of the donor patch by 1/4". I was going to treat it like my aluminum window replacement panels and caulk the joint with Sikaflex...,



...but at the very last minute I changed my mind and decided to go all in and fill, fair and finish the joint. I used an angle grinder to concave the joint area to better receive the epoxy, which made a quick mess of what had looked almost finished.



Two applications of epoxy followed by sanding, then a tiny bit of Bondo at the contoured indentation to fill in some remaining imperfections and I was ready to spray some primer to check out how it looked.





I was over the top with how good it looked after spraying it with primer. I'd assumed there would be imperfections that I wasn't seeing that the primer would quickly highlight.

I shouldn't have wasted my obvious good luck that day on fixing my van...I should have gone and purchased a lottery ticket.
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Old 12-18-2019, 02:30 PM   #18
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

Incredible job! What kind of hot water system will you use in your conversion?
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Old 12-18-2019, 02:44 PM   #19
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

That is amazing!! Pretty strong too, with the reinforcement on the back...
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Old 12-20-2019, 01:09 AM   #20
Robert Foster
 
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Default Re: Sprinter Westfalia #248 Refitting

Quote:
Originally Posted by grozier View Post
Incredible job! What kind of hot water system will you use in your conversion?
Thanks grozier & Riptide. Hopefully my hole repairs will stand the test of time and road vibrations.

I've cycled through several different scenarios for my hot water. I am committed to just diesel and electric fuel/power sources.

I thought I had decided on a Webasto Dual Top to provide both cabin heat and hot water. But...the absence of North American support, the absence of high altitude performance data and the high price tag caused me to reconsider/abandon the Webasto.

I've considered an Isotherm tied into the engine coolant loop with AC electric. Conceptually I like this alternative-utilizing the already hot engine coolant while driving to heat your domestic hot water, which then remains hot for close to another 12 hours-just makes sense. There are two short comings to this scenario. One, I have yet to research/teach myself how to tie into the coolant system, which on the surface is a little daunting. Two, the electric element in the Isotherm, at 750 watts, is half the wattage of the third alternative and would take twice as long to heat the water up on day two upon arriving at a camp site.

Currently I'm thinking of going with a simple 2.5 gallon AC tank type water heater. There have been two members on this forum who have reported real world amp hour and time to heat water with these units and the numbers have been impressive...hot water in under 20 minutes with under 30 amp hours consumed. I've had one of these under the sink in my woodworking shop for years with nary a problem.

Those are my thoughts currently, but are subject to change any day up until the day of installation...any and all thoughts appreciated.
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Last edited by Robert Foster; 12-20-2019 at 01:16 AM.
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