How to Refurbish an Old Camper

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You have been wanting to get out and see the country for a long time. You want to drive and camp so you can get personal with the experience. You've seen glossy photographs of shiny new motorhomes and campers, you’ve visited the RV dealership, and as much as you would like to own one of those beauties, you can’t afford it. Yet when you look at old campers, they seem dull and dingy in comparison. Well, don’t give up. Find a solid used unit and get to work. When you refurbish an old camper, you not only save loads of money but you end up with the satisfaction of knowing you made it lovely again.


Take everything out of the camper–everything. Get rid of all the junk that isn’t yours and pull out all the furnishings and soft goods. Yank out the carpet. Take down the curtains. Remove the cushions and mattresses. Inspect all of it. Clean, wash and air out those items that you want to continue to use; throw everything else in the trash.


Inspect the hard fixtures–the stove, the icebox/refrigerator, the lights, the plumbing. Check for leaks in the gas line and the water lines. Look for frayed wires. Test everything. Repair or replace those parts that aren’t perfect.

Test the windows and roof for leaks. Inside, look for evidence that water has seeped into the camper; open every cupboard and closet to look for water marks. Outside, spray the unit with water and watch for drips from the windows and roof seams. Seal the roof and all seams with Elastek or marine seal. Remove leaking windows and install weatherproof seal between the frame and the camper body. Tighten frames around window glass. Repair or replace all window screens.

Wash down everything inside the camper, including the walls and floor. Use a mild abrasive to clean the sink and stove until they shine like new. Use warm, soapy water to sponge down any hard-surface walls (not the wood, of course). Clean the range hood. Wash the windows. Scrub the floor. You may be shocked at how lovely that old stuff looks after a bit of attention.

Oil the wood cabinets and paneling. That old wood can be warmly beautiful again with a bit of care. Replace pieces that can’t be repaired. If you can’t find matching paneling, select material that will complement the old paneling. Use paint only as a last resort.

Purchase new foam and fabric and make new cushions for the interior, if necessary. Make new curtains.


  • If it’s not in good condition or if you don’t like the looks of it, get rid of it.
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