Coleman Popup Trailer ABS Roof Repair

Fleetwood Folding Trailers (FFT) (which sold trailers under the Coleman brand) began using an ABS roof in 1996 on their Coleman popups. The idea seemed sound: a strong one piece roof with no seams to leak. Unfortunately these roofs have had their share of problems: sagging, bowing, cracking and delaminating.  FFT phased out these roofs around 2003.

FFT became FTCA and continued to replace roofs under a lifetime warranty, but in 2008 FTCA was acquired by Blackstreet Capital Management which then shutdown FTCA in 2011. No company means no more warranty service. So what do you do if you have ABS roof issues?

Fortunately there is lots of information on the web about repairing these ABS roofs. If you have serious bowing or sagging you are probably out of lucky. But there are solutions for cracking and delaminating. Just Google “Coleman ABS roof repair” and you will find lots of information.

We have a 1996 Coleman Cheyenne, one of the first trailers with the ABS roof. After a few years it sagged, and we had it replaced under warranty with a new roof. The new roof had an improved shape (crowned in both directions) and a metal support brace. It has resisted sagging and bowing, but after over a dozen years the roof was showing its age:

  1. The awning rail had opened up and was cracking
  2. The roof was covered with cracks, most small but a few larger ones.

In this article I will go over what we did to repair our roof.  Fortunately our roof had no delamination, so I won’t be covering that. But there is plenty of information on the web for that if you have delamination issues.

We repaired our roof in two phases:

  1. Replaced the awning rail
  2. Repaired cracks and coated roof with Grizzly Grip

The awning rail replacement is covered in a separate article. The rest of this article will focus on refurbishing the roof.

Refurbishing the Roof

Since our roof did not have any delamination the steps were pretty simple:

  1. Inspect the roof and fill any large cracks
  2. Coat the roof with Grizzly Grip

Repairing Cracks

Our roof was covered with many cracks. Most were small, but a couple were a bit larger. None seemed to be causing structural issues, but I was concerned that left over time these cracks would result in delamination.

Lots of small cracks

Lots of small cracks

And some bigger ones

And some bigger ones

Since we had so many cracks I decided to fill just a couple of the larger ones, and then let the roof treatment (Grizzly Grip) cover the rest.  If you have fewer larger cracks then you might want to check out this blog posting on Coleman ABS Roof Repair where the author does a more complete job than I cover here.

The most recommended way to fill cracks is to use an ABS paste made of Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK) and ABS plastic (either  purchased pellets, or shaved directly off of scrap ABS).  The problem is MEK is not available in California, so I had to go with a substitute: acetone.

Making the ABS Paste

I was unsure how well acetone would work compared to MEK. In the end it worked out OK, the biggest challenge is that acetone is very volatile (it evaporates almost instantly), so your work time with the paste is just a couple of seconds. Here is how I made the paste:

  1. Purchased ABS pellets from Apache Replacement Parts
  2. Placed them in a small canning jar in a ratio of 1 part pellets to 1 1/2 parts acetone
  3. Let it sit overnight
  4. Stir mixture with screwdriver. The ABS had separated into a liquid slurry and a gel-like chunk. I had to work a bit to break up the chunk and blend it.
  5. Add a bit more acetone, stir, let sit for a couple more hours, add a bit more acetone, stir some more

At this point I had a nice paste a bit thinner than toothpaste (and BTW, a week later the paste was still in good shape in the canning jar — so you can make this well in advance).

ABS plus acetone plus time equals ABS goo

ABS plus acetone plus time equals ABS goo

Filling the Cracks

I decided to go quick and dirty, and just fill the cracks. I did not drill holes at the ends of the cracks, nor bevel the cracks with a dremel (as described here). If you have large structural cracks then I think those extra steps are a good idea.

One problem with acetone over MEK is that the work time of the paste is just a few seconds. So filling went like this:

  1. Open the jar
  2. Using a coffee stir stick scoop up some paste and dab it along the crack
  3. Immediately scrap it in with a putty knife
  4. Close the jar

So filling my cracks took just a few minutes. Then on to the Grizzly Grip!

Coating the Roof with Grizzly Grip

Grizzly Grip is a bedliner, and has become a popular material for coating aged ABS roofs. Any white bedliner will probably work, but Grizzly Grip is nice because it is designed to be rolled on — so it’s easier for DIYers.

First step is to order your Grizzly Grip. Here is what I ordered:

  • 1 4 X 8 Aliphatic Bedliner Kit, Snow White, Fine (comes with 2 4″ rollers)
  • 1 additional quart (turns out I did not need this for my 7×10 roof. Although if I had extra rollers I could have done an extra coat)
  • 2 9″ rollers
  • Shipping was $39 to California. Kit came with instructions, a pair of gloves, and an accelerant to use with the coating.
  • Total Cost: $217.36

Additional Supplies

  • 9″ roller handle
  • 4″ roller handle
  • Metal roller pan
  • 2 2″ cheapo brushes (NOT plastic)
  • Tape and plastic drop cloth
  • Paint stirrer (used with power drill for stirring paint, make sure yours is small enough to fit into the gallon jugs! Mine was too larger so I had to resort to stir sticks at the last second).
  • Extra stir sticks
  • Acetone
  • 3M 6211 Paint Respirator

That last item is important! The Grizzly Grip is pretty nasty and I was very thankful I used the respirator.

Supplies

Supplies

Coating the roof went like this:

  1. Wash the roof well. Might as well do the whole trailer!
  2. Mask rubber gasket that is attached to roof and protect sides of trailer with plastic drop cloth and newspaper
    1. I chose to leave my gasket in place. If you are replacing your gasket you can remove it.
    2. Oh, you might want to mask around the awning rail and clasps.
  3. Wipe roof down with acetone (or MEK)
  4. Open a gallon of Grizzly Grip, add the accelerant, stir like crazy
  5. Roll on first coat
  6. Wait until it has dried to the touch (about 2 hours for me)
  7. Roll on second coat using new rollers

A couple tips:

  • Do not do this in direct sun. I did mine in late afternoon shade.
  • I used the 4″ rollers for the sides and 9″ for the top
  • I used the 2″ paint brush to daub paint around the awning rail, etc.
  • Bits of the rollers pulled off and embedded in the Grizzly Grip. I’ve heard this complaint from others. The Grizzly Grip does degrade the rollers, so maybe I took too long or overworked it. I dunno. It doesn’t look too bad, but I do have some bluish speckles in my roof now!
  • The Grizzly Grip handles differently than paint, and my first coat went on a little gloppy in places. You might want to go with a light first coat.

Conclusion

Overall I’m very satisfied.

If I had to do this over I would consider ordering extra rollers and do 3 thin coats instead of two medium ones. I had enough extra Grizzly Grip to do this.

Did it hide the cracks? Yes! Not all of them perfectly, but overall it came out very good.

Update: 3 months later and the roof looks great. The Grizzly Grip dries to a hard epoxy like finish, and it really does look like it just came from the factory. I highly recommend this repair.

No more cracks!

No more cracks! You can see little bits of roller foam here and there. I’ll live with it.

Looking better than it did

Looking much better than it did. That squiggly line is some dirt on my camera sensor.

IMGP7892

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19 thoughts on “Coleman Popup Trailer ABS Roof Repair

  1. Pingback: Coleman/Fleetwood Popup Trailer Awning Rail Replacement | Joe's Happy Hour

  2. Great detailed post. Looking forward to rehabilitating my roof as soon as I get a couple days of nice weather. Did you find that not drilling the holes at the ends of the cracks made any difference? I have seen other posts where people drill the holes but I am reticent to turn my roof into swiss cheese.

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  3. Thanks for the comment! So far not drilling holes has not caused any problems, but it has not yet been a year. It might be worth doing on some of the bigger cracks. One issue I have seen is that some of my “medium” cracks that I did not fill with the ABS paste have opened up a hair under the Grizzly Grip. Not bad, but with hind sight I should have filled those with paste too, and doing a third coat of Grizzly Grip (I had enough Grizzly Grip, but not enough rollers). I’m still very happy with the repair, and the Grizzly Grip still looks great after 10 months.

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  4. Thanks for the write up. I’ve picked up the MEK, gloves and mask. Ordering ABS this weekend with plans of knocking this out before the southern NV heat sets in.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for the write up and great pics. You mentioned that you could make up the “goo” and it stayed solvent. How early can you pre-make the goo? Could you have a “crack repair kit” for future issue while on the road? Thank you again, just picked up a 2000 Cheyenne and it has a few issues that need to be repaired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The goo lasted a couple weeks, but had set after a couple months. Maybe if you checked every couple of weeks and added MEK/acetone and stirred it would last longer. FYI, another weak spot on this vintage of trailer is the front bottom corners (floor of storage box) are prone to water damage/rot. I’ve been able to avoid significant repairs by using Rot Doctor penetrating epoxy and filling epoxy to treat those areas.

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  6. Great post. Thank you very much. My issue is a bit different. Small pieces of the ABS came off when our canopy got pulled off the side. Since there is a certain amount of depth to contend with, would you recommend this or not? Thanks!

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  7. Our Coleman 2007 bayside that we bought used a couple of months ago had some cracks and we used bedliner. We were satisfied with the result and went camping. However after just one month in the June Miami heat, the roof cracks are reopenned with a vengeance and the entire roof cover is now bubbled and warped. Im not sure I understand the fiberglass foam center. Is the cover superficial? Will it leak if i dont keep the tarp over it? I am sad that there are no apparent fixes for this…any suggestions?
    Thanks!

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  8. TJ, sorry to hear about your issue. I’m not familiar with the roof construction on a 2007. As far as I know the one piece ABS roofs were phased out around 2003 and that’s what I’m familiar with (and what I’ve seen the GrizzlyGrip successfully used with). You might try posting on one of the popup forums.

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  9. Joe,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge regarding this matter. I own a 1999 Colman Fleetwood “Utah CP” and the roof is it’s showing signs of fatigue along both side ridges of the roof. I’m starting to see many small cracks on both side all along this area and the foam is absorbing it . In fact, if I take my finger and press lightly on the crack, water will perk out. I’m also fearful that this may be causing excessive weight to my roof top. All that said, Your instruction gives me hope in making the necessary repairs and confidence that I might be able to share my experience with you. I do have one question I hoping you can answer. Do you think Gorilla Grib is flexible? I ask because all, with the exception of one crack are small stress like fractures. In read your commentary, you did mention that some crack have re-appeared. Please advise when time permits. Thanks again… Mike

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    • Mike, my roof basically had three sizes of cracks: small hairline cracks covering almost the entire roof (first photo with the lens cap), a few large cracks (second photo) and some medium ones (no photo!). The Grizzly Grip covered the small cracks great, and those have not re-opened. For the large cracks I filled them with the ABS goo, and those also have not re-opened (knock on wood). The cracks that have started to re-open are the medium ones that I did not fill. With hindsight I should have filled those.

      The Grizzly Grip dries to a pretty hard, epoxy like finish. It likely has some give (since it is a bed liner and must handle thermal expansion/contraction of truck beds), but I would not call it flexible.

      My recommendation is that for any cracks larger than hairline you should fill them with the ABS goo. Also, if any of the ABS skin is de-laminating from the foam you’ll want to try and glue it back down with Gorilla Glue. And finally, it seems like getting the roof dried out before repairs would be a good idea.

      And yes, please report back with how things go with your repair.

      Joe

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  10. I’ve removed 90% of my ABS roofing as most was delaminated. Most of the ABS has been removed that goes in under the rubber gasket around the roof. To roll on the Grizzly Grip, would you (or anyone in this thread) recommend removing the rubber gasket and then putting it back on? Or would you recommend brushing it down into the gasket area? Thanks

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  11. Delaminated meaning the ABS was coming off? Starting to order the necessary equipment. My 1996 Cheyenne will under go the process. I have some cracks that I will drill and patch. Grizzly grip as well. Your blog convinced me that I can do this project.

    Liked by 1 person

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