Hello GFC community. With 2022 Memorial Day weekend around the corner, peak camping season is coming in strong. It is no exception in 2022 where pent of desire to open the summer after a rather lackluster past 2 years. I did start a few days early and ended before the rush really started
It’s been under a year since I had my hinges replaced by GFC and am experiencing the rear panel hinge coming apart. I heard pops over the middle of the night and observed the hinge coming undone the next morning. The photos reveal the break point and how the new design was intended worked. In short, the screws that hold down the panel and hinge stripped the T nut. I searched the forum for experiences like mine with the V2 hinge, but its seems like I’m the only one.
The good: It doesn’t seem like the panel will fall off, like it would with the v1 hinge. This is held by the track, the hinge lip, and struts. It’s possible that I could go the season without it completely falling off. I can open and close. To be clear, I didn’t end my trip because of this and it didn’t stop me from having a great experience.
The Bad: I believe the material of the components that hold the panel to the track pieces together are made of aluminum (possibly to avoid corrosion, but could be seen as soft material), and the screws stripped the T nut. I would not be surprised if the situation deteriorates further where the panel falls off.
The Ugly: Specifically repairing the rear panel hinge appears to be non trivial. I’m not sure how to replace the T nut without dismantling the whole top. I could be wrong on this. If it were the side hinge, I could see it being less difficult. It could very well mean that repairing it would take a trip to Montana. While it’s not terrible from PDX, it’s all part of the non-trivial nature of the issue.
I’d rather not speculate or rant anymore. At this time, I’d like to hear any feedback and thoughts from the community and get some assistance from the GFC staff.
Hey @heaveho, the best way to get this taken care of is to throw in a Service Request Form! You can find that HERE. We should be able to get you figured out in the next 5 business days!
The title is misleading as it seems you do in fact have a V1 camper (tubular frame). Perhaps the hinges themselves are not the originally designed hinges but the ‘upgraded’ design.
Thanks for the feedback. I have updated my title.
I considered your thought on the hinge to frame version mismatch but didn’t want to speculate that far just yet. This would mean that even if I get the hinge repaired as I did in July 2021, it runs the risk of breaking again.
@heaveho , what was the process for repair/replacement? I’m contacting GFC via the service request form shortly. My v2 driver side door just exploded off my v1 camper yesterday
Sorry to hear about your hinge.
GFC promptly sent the new hardware after my message. I spent about 3 hours game planning and replacing the hardware. Sorry I don’t have much documentation, but here are some guidelines to help you out.
Get a feel for the hardware and how it works. It’s quite observable that the screw is a very tight fit into the nut. To prep for a better fastening outcome, taking the time to prep the hardware by running the screw in the nut to break it in a bit.
Remove the struts from the panel and frame. Removing it from the panel requires it to be fully open because the strut is in its safest state fully extended. A thinish wrench will be needed to hold the inner nut in place while you unscrew the primary nut to take out the strut. Removal from the frame end is simple.
Use a 3mm hex screwdriver to remove the rest of the screws (if panel is still attached). Once all the screws are removed, you may have to shim the panel a bit to detach from the railing. You’ll see how the lip works to keep the hinge in place.
Clean out the railing area and hinge. I was suprised how much dirt / dust the hinge trapped. I doubt I got rid of all the dirt in the hinge itself.
Place the t nuts where the should align with the hinge openings. When I brought my camper in for replacement, I noticed some pencil markings left behind to align the hardware accordingly. You can use the 3mm hex screwdriver to assist.
Reseat the panel in the railing so that the holes match up with the t nuts. Start in the middle to fasten the panel into the t nut for balance reasons. Alignment was challenging because you need to have confidence the screw will go in straight. I can see misalignment happening very easily. Use some loctite before screwing in. Go slow and take care not to overtighten.
Reattach the strut to the panel and frame. Since the strut is extended, attaching the panel requires it to be in the open position.
It’s now a month and half after the install and I don’t see any issues at the moment. I plan on checking back in after the summer when I’ve given the hinge some time to play out.
@heaveho thanks for the info, I really appreciate it! I tried fixing it at the trailhead with my 120 piece mechanics toolbox but quickly learned that all of the wrenches I had were too wide to fit in the narrow gap between the strut head and GFC panel. My leatherman would have worked in a pinch but would have taken forever with a small turn at a time. I had to resort to detaching the strut from the bolt/ball by removing the strut retaining clip.
Note to any others experiencing this issue: be careful if any of the bolts that attach the hinge to frame are loose. I noticed 3 were loose (and I couldn’t easily reseat the hinge) when I tried to open the panel to detach the struts. This was a bad idea because the pressure from the struts caused the two remaining tight bolts to shoot out of the track nuggets and the hinge exploded off the camper, causing the panel to scratch my truck.
After getting everything detached I did notice that most of the track nuggets had stripped threads that probably lead to the failure. Another note is that I have periodically checked the camper for loose hardware and never noticed anything loose so I never needed to tighten these bolts.
I submitted a service request to GFC this morning.
It’s time that I check back in with a status of the rear panel hinge that needed repair due to the attachment hardware failure.
I can happily say that the repair is still holding strong, through reasonable use during the rest of the summer and into the late fall.
Adding loctite and taking the time to make sure the screws went in straight. I believe were key. The margin for error to get the screws in right is slim. Also, making sure not to overtighen is important. Time will tell to see how this repair works out. I’ll check back in on the event of another breakage or well into another season of usage.