RV essential tools: Rivet guns

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By Chris Dougherty

Chris Dougherty is a certified RV technician. Here is a piece he wrote while he was serving as RVtravel.com’s technical editor.

Jcmaco at the English language Wikipedia

Many RVs have riveted components including aluminum siding, moldings, hinges, latches, screen doors and more. Rivets are actually pretty easy to work with once you get used to them, and can be carefully removed using a power drill and the correct-size bit.

To replace the rivets, a rivet gun and a supply of  rivets are required. Rivets commonly come in steel and aluminum, and I keep a supply of each so I can replace the rivet with the same material as came out — in other words, use aluminum with aluminum and steel with steel.

Pop rivets have different sizes in diameter and length to hold various thicknesses and weights of material. This is why having a selection is such a good idea, so you can likely have the size you need on hand. Some RVs like some of the older Fleetwood motorhomes use special rivets and are best found through a specialty hardware supplier or RV dealer or service center.

Rivet guns come in a variety of sizes, up to large double-handled units for large steel rivets. I have two rivet guns: a small handheld Arrow unit with three interchangeable bits, and a pneumatic gun which I use for the big jobs when I have hundreds of rivets to replace.

Amazon has a selection of rivet guns and rivet kits, from small to large, all in one place. Most home centers will carry the smaller handheld guns, but are usually limited in selection.

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H Goff
3 months ago

i don’t agree that you should always replace with the same type (steel with steel, aluminum with aluminum). My propane tank cover was riveted with steel rivets which are now rusting. should have been aluminum. in fact, all exposed rivets should be aluminum unless they will be painted.

Irv Goomba
3 months ago
Reply to  H Goff

Aluminum rivets, at least the consumer ones from Home Depot or Lowe’s, are not as strong as steel ones. If they were steel originally, there might be a reason.

steve s.
3 months ago

This is one of those, ‘you need it when you need it’ kind of tools. I’ve always had one and in the past 40 years I’ve only needed to use it a few times. And it was indispensable during those times.

There were a couple of times where the tool just wouldn’t fit in the space available.

So, I found manufacturer that had created one with a swivel head:

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004Z2JM/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

MUCH easier to get to those hard to reach places.

DAVE TELENKO
3 months ago

That molly rivet (Jack rivet) has a totally different purpose, its not like a pop rivet where that actually holds 2 pieces together with the rivet. The molly rivet however is basically a threaded nut that you use on one side of 2 pieces & the other side would have a hole the same diameter as the screw or bolt. Great design for thin metal & if you need to take them apart its easily done & easily put back together. You’ll not see them on our coaches as they are time consuming & might take some skill to install!!
Snoopy

Robbie
3 months ago

I bought a rivet gun and it came with various sizes and types of rivets, years ago. Have been hauling it in the RV, haven’t used it once.

Joe
3 months ago

I came across a molly pop rivet. It expands to 3 -4 times the diameter making for a stronger hold. It uses the same pop rivet gun that one would use for the regular type that we are all use to.

DAVE TELENKO
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe

That molly rivet has a totally different purpose, its not like a pop rivet where that actually holds 2 pieces together with the rivet. The molly rivet however is basically a threaded nut that you use on one side of 2 pieces & the other side would have a hole the same diameter as the screw or bolt. Great design for thin metal & if you need to take them apart its easily done & easily put back together. You’ll not see them on our coaches as they are time consuming & might take some skill to install!!
Snoopy

TG
3 years ago

Almost nothing on my rig is attached with rivets. What I need is a small box of various size sheet metal screws. They’re used to attach everything but don’t stay put due to the weakness of the materials they were set into.

Roy Ellithorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  TG

I’m surprised that I don’t have flat tires all the time, from the number of empty screw holes on every RV I’ve ever owned. So often I wonder what are people thinking while they’re power drilling a self drilling screw into the end grain of plywood.

Tommy Molnar
3 years ago

Ahhh. Just what I need. More weight.

Robbie
3 years ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Tommy, my thought too. More weight and space used for something I may or may not use…..My tool kit gets smaller all the time, on purpose.