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It’s time for another update in the Ruby’s Revival series! Our vintage trailer got its first wash since 1987 (we think), and the results stunned us both. It may seem pretty tame at first, but y
Last month, K and I headed back down to his childhood home to officially kick off our first attempts to transform Ruby. Our first goals were pretty simple:
- give the camper a good wash (whether it made a dent or not — likely not),
and seeif we could get the wheels off.
The wheels were a priority mainly because we knew we were going to have to move the camper from this spot soon. K’s childhood home is for sale, so our days of keeping it on the property are limited (see the before tour here). To our surprise, K’s parents got an offer while we were on this same trip down and told us they were likely to take it, so we had some extra motivation!
I’ll have another post about the wheels separately because it’s more K’s territory; he’s going to be my guru for all things mechanical. Spoiler, though: we succeeded on both our goals!
The fact is, we don’t really know precisely when the vintage camper got its last good wash. I originally thought 1983 (the date on the license plate), but stickers on the license plate update that to 1987. So, we’re going to say it’s been at least 30 years, if not more. After all, it was never an actual living space; both his father and grandfather used it as a workshop.
We headed down with some tools and a few car wash supplies, pretty much expecting that the dirt would be so caked on that we’d need a pressure washer or something to even see any real effect. I don’t have a power washer yet, so I was cautiously optimistic and figured any attempt at cleaning things up would at least get the birds nests and bigger clumps of dirt off. Towing this thing down the highway in this state was going to be embarrassing enough. Boy, were we in for a surprise! Or, rather… a few of them.
No hose or running water! The water supply next to the camper is separate from the supply to the house, and we had no hoses that would reach. So, we had to get creative. K filled an old (and not at all intact) planter with a few garbage bags to help make it more watertight.
It looks a little ridiculous, but it worked in a pinch! We did the same with an old wheelbarrow to give us one “bucket” for the dirty soap water (in the planter) and one for clean rinsing water (the wheelbarrow). If I had known we would be without a hose, I would have brought down one of my manual pump sprayers. We made do with a giant popcorn bowl. 😂 So, basically, even if we had brought a pressure washer with us, it would have been a total waste on this trip with no hose or water supply to hook up!
The jacks we brought weren’t tall enough to jack up the camper enough to get at the wheels. We’ll get to that in the wheels post.
K’s dad has attempted many times to get the wheels off to no avail, so we came prepared with candles, a torch, and even some lubricating oil we’ve used for home repairs just in case we needed it (car guy bag o’ tricks, basically). We expected we might have to make supply runs or load it on a trailer. But, we got the wheels off! And it has brakes! And it’s still well-greased! According to K, this is a HUGE DEAL and the best possible outcome.
The simple wash with car soap WORKED. Really, really well. Shock. of. all. shocks. Just a little soap, a sponge, a scrub brush, and some elbow grease. We found a ladder but nixed it because we were worried about denting the roof. So, we just scrubbed as high as we could manage comfortably.
How we Cleaned the Vintage Camper Trailer Exterior: Materials Used
- Car wash soap
- Long-handled scrub brush
- Protective gloves (if you have small hands like me, you should definitely read this post for my recommendations!)
Now, I totally support those of you who prefer written tutorials over videos. I DO have pictures for you, as you can see more below. But in this case, I’m going to STRONGLY encourage you to watch the video, too. It’s just so satisfying to see that dirt come off!
- In the first half, K was working to get the tires off, so I did some cleanup solo. We really got cooking as soon as he finished; we were able to tackle the rest together (him with the brush, me with the sponge).
- You’ll notice me use K’s name (I suppose if both of us are going to be working on it, we should both be on camera, right? I’ll have a proper introduction for him in the next episode!).
- I noticed that it worked really well to wet down a section with soapy water and let it sit for a second before going in a second time with the scrub brush. Then a third swipe with the sponge. Then rinse.
- We took everything in sections because with no running water, we couldn’t rinse as fast as things were drying. Thank goodness the weather was surprisingly warm though!
- There’s a clip in there of me accidentally tipping the rinsing bowl right down the front of my shirt instead of the camper. Brrrr!
I’ve gotten a few comments so far regarding the color; while it may look white in these photos, it’s still a dull gray. It’s just unpolished aluminum (we intend on changing that in the future though!).
I also took some time to make mental notes on dents, repairs to look up, etc.
And there you have it! This is one of those situations where I think the pictures speak for themselves, but let me know if you have any questions thus far. We’ve been working since then to get new tires, arrange transportation, and try to secure a new lot for Ruby. We’ve found one, but it’s not ideal; I’ll get into that on the next update in the wheels post.
This series of events might also mean a little time before the next update since we need to figure out a system for where/how to work on it vs. storage. But I genuinely hope our results are a sign of good things to come, and not just “the calm before the storm.” Wish us luck, and if you have a second, take the time to pin this (the share buttons should do it). I would love for more people to discover this project because it’s going to be SUCH a huge transformation if we can make it happen!
P.S. Want to see all the Ruby posts from the very beginning? You can do that right here.
More Ruby’s Revival