Answers to questions about RV Repair and Maintenance from RV expert Dave Solberg, author of the “RV Handbook” and the managing editor of the RV Repair Club. This column appears Monday through Saturday in the RV Travel and RV Daily Tips newsletters. (Sign up for an email reminder for each new issue if you do not already receive one.) Today Dave discusses RV leaks.
I read everything I can about RVs and maintenance. One thing that is constant – leaks. Why is it that the RV industry cannot conquer this problem? I read all the time why it happens, but no one seems to have the right way to build an RV so it doesn’t happen. The exception is the two-piece fiberglass units. I’m curious why this consistent problem can’t be conquered. Thank you for your response. —Sharon
Leaks are the biggest problem in the RV industry, in my opinion, and the hardest to find, fix, and/or stop! RV leaks can be caused by poor workmanship in the finishing and sealing by the manufacturer. However, most are caused by lack of inspection and maintenance.
The reason the industry can’t “conquer this problem,” as you posted, is because of the extremes we place our RVs under. Those include extreme temperature changes and weather elements such as rain, snow, and ice. Also, they’re bouncing down the road at 65 mph. Typically, I would have said 65-75 mph. But I got called out in a previous post that RV tires are not rated for those speeds. I didn’t say anyone should drive that fast. But I have gotten passed several times doing my normal driving speed.
Good RV manufacturers have conquered the problem of RV leaks
For the most part, I believe good RV manufacturers have conquered the problem with a variety of materials, trim pieces, and sealants. While working at Winnebago, I was part of several quality programs that researched and tested different materials and manufacturing methods, and how they reacted to temperature changes. When you have a cool morning and hot afternoon, materials will expand and contract, and not all at the same rate.
RVs are made of some of the same materials as houses – with wood, plastic, fiberglass, rubber, glass, aluminum, steel and others. Designing a manufacturing method to keep them all working together is a challenge. I’ve personally witnessed flooring channel on the sidewall of an RV “creep” several inches during these temperature changes. Then we let them sit in 100-degree weather – which can swelter to 120+ inside – and lows of bone-chilling below-zero temperatures. And the worst, in my opinion, is to let them sit outside for months on end exposed to harsh UV rays. Those can dry and crack even the best of sealants.
Most manufacturers are using a “J” channel at the roof to front cap area, as this is a notorious area for expansion and contraction. That is because the front cap is typically a hard fiberglass and the roof material is rubber glued to lauan paneling. The channel is designed to cover the two materials and let them expand and contract with the self-leveling lap sealant moving with it. That is why it is so important to inspect and reseal, as needed, as this sealant can harden and crack. And you need to use the correct sealant, as not everything can be sealed with run-of-the-mill silicone. Dicor and others have sealant designed for fiberglass, rubber membranes and other materials.
Most home owners have a periodic inspection and sealing of their doors, windows, and roof surfaces. However, many neglect to do the same for an RV. I feel many RV owners consider their RV is made the same as their car and truck, which don’t need much maintenance. If you do a yearly inspection and address the sealants, as necessary, you should enjoy years of leak-free RVing.
Read more from Dave here.
Dave Solberg worked at Winnebago for 15 years developing the dealer training program, as marketing manager, and conducting shows. As the owner of Passport Media Creations, Dave has developed several RV dealer training programs, the RV Safety Training program for The Recreation Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation, and the accredited RV Driving Safety program being conducted at rallies and shows around the country. Dave 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.
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