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Caring for coachbuilt motorhomes

Posted on 08 Jun 2009

Rachel Stothert

One of the mishaps repaired at Crossleys
One of the mishaps repaired at Crossleys
REPAIRING accidental damage on a motorhome can be costly and is an incredibly lengthy process involving new panels and parts.

To avoid minor damage, consider investing in reversing cameras or sensors and keep the dimensions of your vehicle within view of the driver (handy for height or width restricted roads).

And make sure your insurance is up to scratch.

Crossleys, also known as Crossley Coachcraft, is a specialist motorhome body repair company based in Lancashire, which is proud to have reached the grand old age of 40.

From day one, in 1969, the focus was on body repairs with the founder originally starting off as a commercial vehicle body builder. This crucially happened around the growth of the Lancashire caravan industry, with Barrons founder Gordon Hold being initially part of the business.

Stuart, Martin and Peter celebrate lengthy terms of service at CrossleysStuart Yates, who is now managing director, started in 1974 after a spell in the local bus company’s body shop. His big advice? Prevention is better than cure, and although you can’t prevent life’s little accidents, there are things you can do to protect against damp.

Stuart is not the only one to boast long service, with three other Crossleys’ staff members  notching up lengthy employment records. Stephen Fairweather, now a partner, has 20 years experience. Martin Holksworth has served 30 years as a workshop technician, and Peter Cunlifffe, the workshop foreman, has worked for the company for 20 years.

And all this experience counts for something, as Crossleys has developed a selection of unique techniques for body and damp repairs.

Common accidents

One of the most common repairs is from damage cause by wind-out awnings,  which are not properly secured when extended. Make sure you use pegs and storm straps to stop wind ripping the awning out and damaging the side of your ‘van.

Repairs to back-end shunts and damage from low bridges are also common, plus hailstone damage from European holidays – what do they do to the hailstones over there?

Particularly in the current market it’s worth knowing that minor bumps and scratches can easily be repaired, and that the cost of the work is less than the potential loss of value of visible damage if you are trying to sell your ‘van.

Remember, if you have an accident it may not just affect the exterior panels. Interior bodywork, furniture and equipment may also need repairing.

Declining damp

Water ingress problems being processed through Crossleys are down on previous decades. But this doesn’t mean motorhome owners should become less vigilant: always get a regular damp check, the cost of resealing potentially problematic areas is always going to be less than repairing water ingress.

Repairing damp can be time-consuming, and will often require the removal of furniture, fittings, external moulds, trims, windows and exterior panels. Decayed wallboards and timber framing also need to be removed and any insulation and damp framework dried out. Then the furniture and fittings and any new components can be replaced.

If you own a coachbuilt motorhome, then checking the sealant around the seams and joints regularly is a really good idea. Even the excellent modern sealants can degrade, especially in hot weather.

Crossleys recommends that all roof joints are resealed every three years to prevent damage to roof and side panel joints and the wood in the sandwich construction. Keeping a ‘van warm and using a dehumidifier may also help stem the ingress of damp.

Coachbuilt types

There are three common types of coachbuilt.

GRP monocoque is an all-in-one body attached to a cab and chassis. GRP laminated sides made an emergence in the last decade, because they can offer truly flat sides. However, unless you use paint protection, the gleaming sides can dull quite quickly.

Aluminium laminate is the final type, although it can be more difficult to get a fully-flat side (small ripples can form) these are easier to repair. These aluminium laminates can offer a shinier and more durable external finish too.

Both the final two types are composed of multiple layers, with a sandwich-style construction of varying types depending upon the individual make. Commonly, it’s the outer skin, a layer of wood, a thickness of insulation, another layer of wood then the inner skin.

Aluminium is also easier to repair, as you could simply bond the new sheet of aluminium over the existing damaged sheet. The skill is getting the new layer of aluminium flat. Crossleys used to have a press similar to that used in the original manufacturing process. Now a new technique has been developed, and it’s the secret ingredient to the quality of the final repaired product.

Repairs to GRP panels are different. Minor damage can be patched, but extensive damage will require a whole new side to be ordered from the manufacturer.

The accident process

If you suffer an accident, here’s what to do:

Ring your insurance company, who will advise you to get an estimate. They will often recommend a car garage, which may not have experience in motorhome repairs.

Thus, your next step is to find a specialist repairer. Crossleys can offer an estimate by e-mail (if you send photos) or in person at the premises. Send the estimate to your insurance company, or get the repairer to send it for you.

Once approval has been given for the work, the repairer will be able to order the parts, and this can take time. The best UK manufacturer still quotes a four to six week turnaround for parts delivery. With European manufacturers this can stretch to around three or four months. Note: Even if you are not planning to use your motorhome, you should arrange for repair as soon as possible, as parts delivery isn’t as instant as in the car industry.

  • This article was first published in MMM magazine. If you've enjoyed this feature why not treat yourself to a copy of the magazine or order a subscription so you never miss an issue.

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