Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nothing ever gets easier, either

After stressing about it for a few days and gathering opinions as to what to do from other RV owners, it came down to the fact that the only way to get the cowl off of Papa would be to drill out the rivets that hold the hinge in place. Naturally, as this would be the most destructive and invasive way to do it, I was very reluctant to do it. After a period of energetic loin girding, I grabbed the drill and a #41 bit and went at it. An hour (and a few choice cuts on my fingers) later, the cowl was off. And, I'm sorry to say, somewhat maimed. I knew that was a very real possibility, though, so selected the top cowl to be sacrificed since it's easier to transport to a more comfortable location to be worked on.

It turns out that it's harder to drill a rivet out of fiberglass than it is to drill one out of aluminum. I'm sure this is almost universally true, but it becomes even more true if you can't really see exactly where the rivet is. If it was under a thick coat of paint, like. Adds to the challenge, that. Some of the rivets came out peacefully, others barricaded themselves in and hoped I wouldn't call in the SWAT team. They underestimated my resolve, probably unaware of the girded loins that I was bringing to the battle. And a #41 drill bit.

The difficulty in drilling out the rivets in fiberglass is that they are surrounded by a much softer, pliant material. If the bit got even the least bit off the center of the rivet, it would take the path of lesser resistance and slice off into the fiberglass. There is no silver lining in that cloud. Not only does it create a messy, large hole in the fiberglass that will have to be fixed (somehow - not quite sure how yet, and my loins are at this point quite ungirded), it also leaves enough rivet in place to maintain a strangle hold on the hinge. Oh, and it also leaves a very sharp edge, perfect for lacerating fingertips if one was careless enough to try to wipe away what looked like paint and/or metal shavings. Let's just say that if one were to do that, one would later realize just how deep those cuts were when one was slicing onions for dinner. Or trying to type a blog post, for that matter.

As it stands today, the cowl has bigger holes in it than our national budget and the hinge strip is as ruined as Congressional credibility. (Sorry, I had the radio news on - it has the effect on me) I think the cowl can be repaired by filling the holes with epoxy thickened with microballoons, but the hinge will have to be replaced. The hinge material is not expensive, but the job of matching and drilling new holes so that the top cowl will line up with the bottom has me worried. I'll stew on that for a few days; something will come to me. It always does.

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