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Old 08-31-2015, 09:33 PM   #1
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Large Gel Coat Cracks At Door Base

I know before I even post this that some will say not to worry about gel coat cracks. I would generally agree about small ones, but while waxing the trailer for an up-coming trip I found gel coat cracks at the base of the door frame area on both sides.

These are not small, they are 12 inches and slightly more in length. On the left side, several divide and rejoin and you can feel the gel coat raised with your finger nail.

I would expect to see large stress cracks after many years, but after only two? I would suspect that these have formed because of a lot of flexing. They are in an area of the door opening where there is only the thickness of the shell with no additional framing. It appears that this may be an area of weakness in design or building.

I would be curious to know if anyone else has noticed cracks forming at the base of their door openings as well?

I will attach a picture, but it is difficult to photograph fine lines on a white background, but it will give you an idea of the location. You will have to expand the picture to see the cracks. Contacted ETI but no response as of yet.
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File Type: jpg cracks.jpg (138.4 KB, 302 views)
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Old 08-31-2015, 10:56 PM   #2
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I looked at that area on my year and half old 19. There's no cracks at all. I pushed and shoved on the area to see how much flex there was and it was pretty rock solid. Mine has 2 layers in that area. The first is the exterior shell. The second is the interior molded door frame, back to back with the shell.

Can you flex that area? If so, then your layup must be lighter than mine. If your's is solid feeling then perhaps it isn't flexing that caused the cracks but some sort of impact. I've seen that happen on boats

At any rate I'd probably want to repair and seal them rather then leave them exposed to the elements.

Ron
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Old 08-31-2015, 11:04 PM   #3
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After reading about solar panels coming loose I checked the thickness of our trailer fiberglass and found it 1/8" +\- which is thinner then I expected. IF yours is that thin any crack would be important to seal up ... If nothing else.

I disassembled the dinette seat and bed upper frame components and put them back together with adhesive and the original screws. Many of the screws were coming loose in the pine and I could feel the looseness. Firmed it all up nice.

At that location it could be from the weight of trailer settling down on the metal frame? I will check ours in the morning.
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Old 08-31-2015, 11:14 PM   #4
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Thanks Ron for some thoughts. I have the frame behind the outside as well but I don't think they are laminated together in any way. As to impact, trying to think of anything that could impact that low on both sides only on the frame and not affect the door. Nothing has ever hit the frame with the door open. I'm still concerned that the cracks may reflect underlying cracks in the fiberglass itself.


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Originally Posted by Ron in BC View Post
I looked at that area on my year and half old 19. There's no cracks at all. I pushed and shoved on the area to see how much flex there was and it was pretty rock solid. Mine has 2 layers in that area. The first is the exterior shell. The second is the interior molded door frame, back to back with the shell.

Can you flex that area? If so, then your layup must be lighter than mine. If your's is solid feeling then perhaps it isn't flexing that caused the cracks but some sort of impact. I've seen that happen on boats

At any rate I'd probably want to repair and seal them rather then leave them exposed to the elements.

Ron
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Old 08-31-2015, 11:50 PM   #5
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Opps, have to read more carefully, didn't see "both sides". Yes, that would be less likely to be anything related to an impact.

It is a puzzle though because I've laid up dinghies, canoes and kayaks with layups about that thick. Some of them have been severely abused without any stress cracks forming. Gouges etc., yes, but stress cracks, no. Much older f.g., yes, I've seen stress cracks.

Trying to figure out the cause might be only speculation. Perhaps something like the shell being grabbed and pushed when it was still green and pliable set the events in motion.

At any rate the cracks should be sealed. Before doing that though I'd push and pull on the flange and see if you detect weakness. As I said, as a comparison, my similar areas are rock solid. If your's also seem firm then I'd go ahead and seal the cracks.

Ron
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Old 09-01-2015, 01:09 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by techfan View Post
I will attach a picture, but it is difficult to photograph fine lines on a white background, but it will give you an idea of the location. You will have to expand the picture to see the cracks.
The cracks show quite well in the photo... after clicking the thumbnail to open it, clicking again to open it in its own window, and clicking once more to zoom to 100%.
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Old 09-01-2015, 11:24 AM   #7
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I now have a theory, so bare with me:

The length and location of the cracks in the frame are not due to an impact. They are also not do to flexing inward or outward. They are the result of flexing DOWN. This is why the cracks are so long and why they are more severe on the left side of the door frame where one enters. If one examines underneath, there is no support directly under the door frame. This section of fiberglass extends almost 18 inches aways from the nearest frame member and would appear to be prone to flexing when one enters or leaves the trailer.

I think they have shown up on our door after two years for several reasons:

ONE: we have almost 30,000 miles on the trailer and have used it extensively. (Ahh, but one would say, why you and not Jon V. who has more miles? This brings me to two.)

TWO: our floor plan in the 15 doesn't just use the entry space to get in and out of the trailer. Most of the Escapes only use this area to enter or leave. In the 15, this space is in front of the kitchen and is used extensively while camped.

The combination of these two factors greatly accelerated the use and pressure on this section of the trailer floor. I would predict that these same crack lines WILL show up on other trailers as they reach the same degree of use and flexing that we have on ours.

LONGTERM SOLUTION: I believe that additional support is required under the door area. This seems simple enough to do. Additional cross bracing on the top of the step frame could be placed to support this section of fiberglass and limit the flexing. I think this might be done on all trailers as I believe this is a weak spot on a heavily trafficked area.

I welcome responses to my thinking on this problem. See the pictures below. Thanks.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg IMG_4404.jpg (190.3 KB, 57 views)
File Type: jpg IMG_4406.jpg (215.9 KB, 21 views)
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Old 09-01-2015, 12:59 PM   #8
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On aircraft we always looked for belly cracks in that area and below. Add the weight of the roof and hanging cabinets shifting during normal road travel and it 'works' the cracks open.

I would add support/stiffeners from the floor or cabinet top to ceiling to minimize the weight bearing. If you only stiffen the floor under the door it will probably shift the cracking fore and/or aft.

The part I don't fully understand is how to repair it without moving the stress to a different location ....

I found many flying joints under the seats an bed of our 19'. Without adhesive they will slowly loosen up and the belly flexes. That may be a factor too. I rebuilt ours.
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Old 09-01-2015, 03:33 PM   #9
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I'm having trouble understanding how either situation could cause the propagation of vertical stress cracks.

The molded shape of the f.g. gives it a lot of strength. Any load would be spread over a large area with smooth curves etc., not likely to induce stress cracking. Short of hooking up strain gages, I don't know any way to test that theory.

Ron
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Old 09-01-2015, 03:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron in BC View Post
I'm having trouble understanding how either situation could cause the propagation of vertical stress cracks.
I was wondering the same thing. If it cracked due to vertical loading, the cracks would be horizontal, along the belly of the flex.

Maybe the door closes tighter at the point of the cracking? Just a guess.
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