Common RV Problems
12/1/2022 – Good Sam
Maintenance is an ongoing part of RV ownership. While RVs aren’t necessarily prone to problems, they include a lot of components, no matter if it’s a motorhome, travel trailer, toy hauler, or fifth wheel. Just think of all the steps you take to prep your RV for a trip, checking all the systems and ensuring amenities are in good working order. Still, problems occur.
As a responsible owner, you need to know common issues and how to resolve them quickly. And you need to know what preventative maintenance to perform to prevent them from recurring.
These are a few truisms we can stand by:
- Eliminate many common RV problems with preventative maintenance.
- Avoid the service shop by tackling minor repairs on your own.
- Prepare for the worst: RVs still break down despite care and responsible ownership.
- Extended service plans act as safety nets for costly mechanical breakdowns.
Now, let’s look at common RV problems and identify what PMs would be helpful, what projects you can tackle yourself, and which are big enough issues that you need additional coverage to ensure you don’t lose out at the service shop.
We’ll start with the added components unique to RVs: amenities. These are what make the experience worth the added work. These are also responsible for many recurring problems RVs face.
Air conditioners can experience a wide array of issues, and here we cover a few that may be solvable on your own.
- Dust, debris, and dirt contribute to a lot of air conditioning problems. Dust particles clog filters and put additional strain on your AC unit to cool your RV. Ensure your AC shroud is undamaged and perform regular cleaning, including removing and cleaning your AC air filters, especially when traveling through different climates.
- If your rooftop AC unit turns on and off repeatedly, it could be a sign that your coils have frozen. This is a quick fix. Just allow your unit to thaw. But it’s likely happening because of a dirty filter. But if cleaning doesn’t fix the issue, it’s likely related to your thermostat or control board, which requires a technician’s expertise.
- Try fixing AC units that aren’t blowing cold air by cleaning the condenser and evaporator coils. This is a relatively simple fix to try before addressing other possible causes. For example, the thermostat may be faulty, or the freon levels could be leaking or low. A technician should inspect both.
Water & Toilet Systems
Wastewater tanks, plumbing, leaks. Water and toilet systems are ideal amenities at a campground, but they require vigilance and common knowledge.
- Clogged toilets and tanks are often the result of dumping too often. We don’t have to go into the specifics, but a well-hydrated plumbing system keeps everything moving. Dumping too often or staying connected to a sewer doesn’t allow the plumbing to act as it should.
- Treat your RVs plumbing like your home plumbing (but plastic). For clogs, use the typical strategies you would use at home, like snaking the line. But be very cautious of using chemicals. Your RV’s plumbing includes plastic gaskets and PVC pipes that the wrong cleaners could damage.
- Leaks lead to structural damage, and if you can’t solve the problem quickly, contact a professional ASAP. Leaks from a loosened AC seal are easy to fix. Leaky pipes with your water and toilet systems are more complex and could require contacting a professional.
Your amenities stand to make life a lot better at the campsite. But when problems occur, they make life difficult, and fixing them can quickly get expensive. Did you know refrigerator repair on a motorhome can run between $2,500 and $14,500, including parts and labor?
So, yes, you should solve what issues you can with preventive maintenance and DIY repairs. But you also need to consider an extended service plan that would cover amenities in case of significant damage or repair.
On the Road
Whether towing or driving a coach, experiencing problems on the road is serious business. And there’s more at risk than just your comfort at the campsite. The following components and problems are ones to catch early.
Wheels and Tires
- Excess heat generated in your tires leads to frequent blowouts, and it’s usually a result of too much weight. Check your tires’ recommended capacity and get a wheel-by-wheel weight check on each tire. Traveling with heavy grey and black water tanks, additional freshwater, and full fuel tanks can cause overloading.
- Alignment issues affect tires and suspension components, leading to costly repairs. If you notice shaking in your trailer or tires that wear quicker than expected, you could be dealing with axle alignment issues, and those could be putting strain on all suspension components. Lower future maintenance costs, improve fuel economy, and make your tires last longer with routine trailer tire alignments.
- Tire and wheel damage on an RV often requires professional roadside help. A flat for an RV requires more than a flat on a vehicle you could easily replace yourself. So prevent the blowout, but subscribe to a robust roadside assistance membership to have help when you need it.
For motorhomes and towing vehicles, engine maintenance is the best way to prevent a significant incident while traveling, though they still can occur. Routine maintenance, attention to change, and general knowledge of engine performance will help you know when to reach out for expert help.
- Standard fluid checks and changes knock out many of the big problems. Keep the correct fluids in your engine at the proper levels, and change them at the recommended intervals. Fuel, oil, coolant–keep your systems running clean by inspecting often and following your manual. Simple but essential. Include filters here, too—oil filters, air filters, etc.
- Wear and tear on your belts is noisy and, often, visible. By getting into the practice of listening to your engine and visually inspecting what you can, you can usually catch belts on the backend of their lifecycle. Replacing them in your garage or shop is far preferable to an attempt on the road or paying for a tow.
- The less you use your RV, the more careful you should be about your engine. You put your system at greater risk the longer it goes without being used. Adhere to winterization practices that protect your engine. If starting up your RV after an exceptionally long time sitting, consider replacing fluids.
Consider creating safety nets at multiple levels when protecting your RV. From routine maintenance to a comprehensive service plan, prevent the major issues as much as possible, but plan and protect yourself if they happen to affect your RV. Learn more about the Good Sam Extended Service Plan to see all its protections from paying for major breakdown repairs.