Friday, June 2, 2023


Ask Dave: Yikes! Bumpy train tracks caused RV cabinets to drop down from ceiling!

Dear Dave,
We had a terrible drop going over a RR crossing in GA with no warnings posted or any indication that there was any type of a bad drop on the other side of the crossing. You couldn’t see the drop until you were on it. It caused our RV cabinets over each seat and the cabinet for the TV (all one unit across the entire front) to drop down on the right side center. What can I use to reattach the cabinets to the ceiling? What is there for me to screw into, and how long of a screw can I use? —Robert, 2007 Fleetwood Fiesta LX

These RV cabinets are coming out of the ceiling

Dear Robert,
I am actually surprised more people don’t have overhead RV cabinets falling off the ceiling due to what I feel is an inferior fastening method.

Fleetwood roof design

Let’s first take a look at how your roof is designed and what materials are used. Since you have a Fleetwood Class A gas model, the outer membrane is a rubber material. In 2007, it was probably EPDM or maybe TPO, both of which are a very thin and flexible material. Next is a thin lauan panel that is only 1/8” thick and a 3.5”- 4” block foam insulation sandwiched with another thin lauan panel, and then the fabric material which is what you see on the inside ceiling.

The original brochure and all other documentation I can find does not show the actual framework in the roof. However, typically Fleetwood used an aluminum perimeter frame and then had aluminum cross members in the roof. These needed to support the roof air conditioners and a few other points. There were not cross members every 16” or 24” on center like you would see in residential designs. Most RV manufacturers do not have that.

Here is a cutaway sample of a Winnebago roof that would have a very similar design.

The black aluminum tube that is shown in this cutaway would be the cross member. However, there are very few of these and the chance of a cabinet fastener hitting this is almost impossible. So that means the cabinet is fastened with screws to the 1/8” lauan panel. That is why I can’t believe there are not more overhead cabinets laying on the floor.

Winnebago does it different

Having said that, I will give Winnebago a shout-out as they use a laser positioning system to sandwich metal plates in the roof and sidewall anywhere a cabinet or appliance is attached. In our training sessions, we would actually have a 300-lb. salesman hang from the cabinet! Obviously, this was not part of the design of your rig!

What I find ironic about the picture you submitted is the three screws at the same spot, two with plastic anchors. It seems that the original screw must not have held and they put in the anchor. You typically could not put an anchor in the ceiling and find it with a screw going through the cabinet frame. Then the first one did not hold so they did a second one, added an anchor, and then did a third screw that must have held the cabinet tight to the roof at the time of manufacturing.

How to fix this

Since I doubt you have any structure in the roof sandwich design to secure the RV cabinets to, just adding more screws will not secure this, in my opinion. I would drill a small hole, probably 1/8″, from the inside at the corner where the three screws are up through the roof. Use a flathead bolt with a washer inserted from the top down through the cabinet with another washer/nut to secure it. Add weatherproof sealant to the hole before inserting the bolt. Then apply a good self-leveling lap sealant to cover the head and washer. You might need to do this in more than one spot.

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How to fix misaligned RV cabinet doors

Dear Chris,
We own a 2011 Forest River Sunseeker 3120 with cherry wood cabinets, and have found the one door on the closet is not closing tight at the bottom. The door closes tight at the top. Is there a way to fix this problem? —Gary

Read Chris Dougherty’s answer

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”

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Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. He has been in the RV Industry since 1983 and conducts over 15 seminars at RV shows throughout the country.


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Gary Bate
7 months ago

There are stud finders that can literally see through walls to see what’s back there such as wiring, plumbing etc. I’d use one of these to map out a secure solid attachment point using a bridging strap if needed.

Scott R. Ellis
7 months ago

Since all you’re really doing there is transferring the load from the crummy luan on the inside to the crummy luan on the outside, I’d suggest that that “flat washer” actually be a large fender washer.

Thomas D
7 months ago

H ow about mentioning fastning to side wall.
My s &b home cabinets are fastened to walls.
On a cool day I can see the outlines of aluminum “studs” from outside. They moist over somewhat! Or go like the guy says and drill small holes behind cabinets.there has to be wall framing. Jam a 2×4 under the cabinet to raise and hold it while fixing it. That I could do without help rather than remove everything.

7 months ago

Gee, what a mess! Dave I’m not really excited about your method of repair, that would be the my last resort. It would be better to kinda start over, by taking all the cabinets down. This is going to be a major project & involve several people, no matter how you do it! I bet there is some metal frame work in the area of the cabinets. After removing the cabinets, I would use an 1/8″ drill bit & do a series of inspection holes to find a metal structure! Do all of this within the confines of the cabinet area! Hopefully after finding something substantial is where you now need to secure you cabinets. I’ve done that hunt & peck many times trying to find studs in older plaster wall homes as stud finders wont work reliably. Good luck!

7 months ago

Typical. Built for bling not function or permanently fastened.
Cheap, quick. Buyer be damned.

7 months ago

This Is a great example of how most of the RV industry underbuilds units. And how do the buyers find out? When something like this happens, or the myriad of other quality issues that come up. There’s a reason Dave couldn’t find information on structure…they don’t want buyers to know!

Buyers typically don’t find this kind of information and insight in RV reviews…which is where these build deficiencies should be brought to light. No…reviews talk about blue lights and fake fireplaces and the latest electronic gadgetry that don’t mean a lot when cabinets are falling on your head!

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