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Adding a Baggage Door

Disclaimer

This page is not necessarily meant to be a step-by-step instruction guide. The modifications below were done years ago. I don't remember part numbers, suppliers and other details. You should not attempt to replicate any of these mods unless you possess the inginuity to pull it off on your own.

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Our Shadow Cruiser T-160 had just one externally accessible storage space, which is under the street-side rear bunk. The curb-side front dinette bench contains the trailer's other large storage space. But that space was only accessible from inside and required a cumbersome cushion and hatch to be moved out of the way. I wanted access from outside.

I purchased an off-the-shelf 11" x 18" baggage door. I believe this is the smallest off-the-shelf door that one can buy. However, a larger door would not have worked because the awning arm is in the way. Ideally I would have put the door forward of the awning arm, but I was afraid I'd hit a bunch of studs and maybe the clearance light wiring. Aft of the awning arm seemed like a safer bet.

The door I ended up with was "colonial white". I think I should have special ordered "polar white". In any event, I hit it with some gloss white from a rattle can and it matched up pretty well. If you paint your door, don't forget to first peel the protective film from the door panel. I also failed to realize that the door doesn't include the white vinyl insert trim. That's ordered as a separate part.

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Here's the door out of the box just resting on the awning arm for some perspective. It's the wrong shade of white and there's no vinyl insert trim.

First I drilled some holes through the inside wall and probed the wall cavity with a coat hanger. I found a vertical stud near the awning arm and decided to make that my forward boundary. The dinette bench frame would be my upper boundary.

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Initial inside holes for probing the wall.

I drilled two small holes from inside out along the dinette bench frame. I drilled another small hole by the vertical stud. These three holes served as outside reference marks for tracing the door opening. Next I used a small cutoff disk in my Dremel to cut away a section of the exterior molding. Then I held the door frame against my reference holes and traced the opening.

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The exterior molding has been cut away and the door frame opening traced.

I taped off the outside wall around my trace and cut the opening with a jigsaw and a fine-tooth blade (being careful to avoid the inside water lines and wires). I discovered I had studs on three sides of my opening. I framed the forth side with ¾" stock and Gorilla Glue.

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Framing the forth side of the opening.

The water lines to the galley were going to be in the way. I drilled a new hole above the existing lines. Then I connected all the holes with a hacksaw blade. Cutting the slot was actually pretty easy. By removing some galley drawers I was able to grab both ends of the saw blade and guide my cut with a pull-pull motion.

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Water lines before and after relocation.

Next I test fit the door and trimmed back the molding a little more.

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The molding is trimmed back and the door is ready for installation.

I installed the door with stainless steel screws and ProFlex caulk. I also installed a door catch and finished up with the vinyl insert trim.

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The finished door. Note the door catch above the left edge of the door.

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At last I have easy access to the dinette bench storage.

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It's kind of ugly from the inside, but that's okay.

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The hatch also makes a good place to clip our oscillating fan while sitting under the awning on hot days.