with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Trailer Repair – Rewriting the Knobs

It is amazing the toll heat, sun, cold, and time can do on your trailer when it sits for five years. While we were in Israel, the trailer sat in a storage yard, cleaned out and protected but not shielded by the abuse of time. Over the new few weeks, I’ll be writing more about our Travel Tales and the tips and techniques we use to customize and repair our traveler for our life on the road. Some of these things are simple, and some complicated, but they are all part of the fun of life on the road in a trailer.

One of the things that should have been simple but turned out a little complicated was the cleaning of the stove and oven. Five years of dust, bugs, and grime had piled up, so a little elbow grease scrub was in order.

Everything cleaned off quick and easy, with a little effort on the tough spots, and the inside and top of the oven was looking great. I just needed to do a little spit polish on the front, the part that rarely gets dirty, save for a few spills. Five years empty, no one had been spilling, so this was a Windex wipe and clean. Right?


I sprayed the ammonia and water cleaner across the front and started at the bottom of the oven’s black enamel front to catch the drips coming down. I glanced up in time to see the white letters and numbers of the temperature control knobs drip away into nothing. I quickly drabbed them with my towel, but the letters and numbers wiped right off.

I had five black knobs on the front of my Magic Oven gas stove, and no temperature indicators.

I’d like to say it was the ammonia and water, but I’d cleaned with that for years. Time turned our plastic Tuperware containers into brittleware, snapping finger holes into them when I picked them up or shattering under the pressure of the kitchen faucet. Time and what little sunlight that managed to peek through the closed Venetian blinds had taken its toll all over the trailer, and this was just one more. Combined with the chemicals, it didn’t take much to make these disappear.

What to do?

I gave it some thought and decided just to replace them with new ones. A quick check on the Internet turned into hours of hunting. I finally found some replacement knobs and they wanted way too much money for two of them and I needed five. Now what?

The repaired oven knobs, written with silver ink and sealed with fingernail polishIngenuity under pressure is an amazing task master. I headed to the arts and crafts store, found a silver ink permanent marking pen and a white permanent marking pen and brought it back for a test drive. The white didn’t work, as it was too opaque, but the silver was perfect. I marked OFF at the top of one knob and then turned the knobs all the way to the end. This, I knew, was LITE. I marked it. Now, I lit the stove and turned the gas down until it looked like it was about to go out, and this became LOW. You can guess the rest from there.

I then matched the other three knobs for the stove with the first then moved onto the oven knob.

The repaired oven knobs, written with silver ink and sealed with fingernail polishThe oven temperature was more challenging, but I found that if I held the knob in the right light, I could just barely make out the little etchings where the numbers had been, so I was able to see enough to use that as a guide to mark WARM, 250, 300, and so on to Broil.

I was thrilled and pleased with myself. Then I realized that while the pen was permanent ink, this was written on plastic and it would wipe off next time I cleaned. ARGGGHH.

I dug around in the bathroom and found some old Sally Hansen Hard as Nails clear nail polish. This stuff is like a rock. I painted over the writing on the first knob, let it dry, and then did a test wipe. It stayed on. Bingo. I painted the rest of them.

Brent came in while I was fingernail painting the knobs and gave me one of those “My wife…I expect things like that from her” looks.

Hey! It works!

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