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Some of you may have seen the letter in the April 2017 MMM magazine about paintwork problems with a couple of Fiat Ducato based campers. The campers in the article were a 2004 and a 2005 Sea Sloop. The photos and the descriptions of the problem rang a very loud bell with my wife and I. My 2005 Morello started to show the same symptoms last year. At first there were small blisters in the paint on the passenger door, just below the window seal. After a few months I noticed blisters on the front near side wing. Not knowing anything about paintwork I stuck my head in the sand and ignored them. Then in late summer last year, when I was giving the van a good clean, I realised that the blisters had all now burst and the surrounding paintwork was starting to flake off. The patches without paint were around an inch deep by about four inches long. It was only the surface paint that had come off – the primer coat was intact and there was no evidence of corrosion.
I showed the van to a family member who used to be involved in paint spraying and his initial feeling was that someone had done a poor respray on the van at one time. The problem would have been down to poor preparation of the primer coat before the top coat was put on. He then checked the whole van over but couldn’t find any evidence of a respray having been done. He therefore concluded that the van hadn’t been resprayed and that the problem must have been there from initial manufacture. He advised me that there was no problem with corrosion as the primer was sound, but that more of the top coat would almost certainly come off. Prophetic words!
Late last autumn I gave the Morello a really good wash down ready to lay it up for the winter. Prior to giving it a final polish I used a hose to wash off the shampoo. I just used a garden hose with a normal spray head on it. As I idly played the hose on the door, with my mind in freewheel mode and not really watching what was happening, I washed large chunks of paint off the door. In shock I swung the hose off the door and onto the front wing and knocked more paint off. At the end of this I had a patch of missing paint the full width of the door and to a depth of around nine inches. The patch on the wing was about six inches round. Close examination showed that the paint around the edges of the missing paint was easily removable as it wasn’t properly keyed onto the primer. Where would this end? A completely paintless van showing a nice dull grey primer colour? Time to call in the experts.
The local spray shop I went to were very surprised at what had happened. Their first suspicion was of a poor respray but they then also concluded that the van hadn’t been resprayed. They gave the van a really good check over and identified the parts that needed to be resprayed. They would need to do complete panels as the problem was too extensive to simply try a touch up operation. They did the front wing and the complete door, and touched up a couple of places where there was minor evidence of very localised blistering. The feedback they gave me was interesting.
The problem was restricted to only parts of the affected panels. When they came to prepare the panels for respray, they found that large areas of the paint simply came off in sheets. However, other parts of the paint were properly keyed on and needed to be removed using normal panel preparation techniques. This sort of problem where the top coat simply lifts off the primer is unusual. The owner of the spray shop felt that the probable cause of the problem was that there was some water in the spray system during the painting process. This would explain why some of the paint keyed properly to the primer and some of it didn’t. However he did also point out that it would be impossible to be 100% sure what the actual cause was!
Anyway the bottom line is that I now have a shiny Morello once again, all the same colour with no primer showing, and my bank balance is £400 lighter. If I had acted sooner, would the cost have been lower? The answer to that is no. The door and the wing would still have needed complete resprays.
By Stewart Cormie