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Ask Dave: Why can’t I get schematics for my rig?

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. Today he discusses getting schematics from RV manufacturers.

Dear Dave,
Why don’t most RV manufacturers supply hydraulic, electrical, plumbing, or framing schematics, or build plans, to an owner. I have a 2021 Bighorn Traveler 39RK. When I ask for those items all I get is, “We don’t have that.” —James

Dear James,
That is a very good question. It depends on the manufacturer, but there are several “reasons” they claim they do not exist. I worked at Winnebago Industries for 15 years in quality, owner relations, and 5 years as Marketing Manager. Winnebago has had all these diagram for years. However, the entire time I was there they would not allow any documents to be sent to owners. We were directed to send all inquiries for service to the dealer.

According to our legal department, it was to prevent the liability of an untrained owner working on their coach and having an accident. I did not believe that, but thought that it was a way to protect the dealer relationship and get people to go to the dealer. I’m not sure what year it started; however, all Winnebago documentation is available on line going back to mid-1990 models. They also have detailed lists of parts and part numbers that are also accessible through the website.

Other manufacturers have wiring and plumbing diagrams available but they are generally only sent to the authorized dealers.

RVIA does not cover documentation

The bigger issue is the largest majority of RVs are module built by hand and there is very little documentation or schematics, especially for trailers. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association has certain codes and inspection. However, it does not cover documentation such as wiring diagrams. Specific documentation costs money and most of these companies do not have the resources other than basic location documents. There are times we have been required to take a picture of the part or layout to send it to a technician so they could help identify it!

I did contact Heartland’s Customer Service and talked with a technician. He said they can get plumbing diagrams and very rudimentary wiring diagrams. However, the wiring ones do not show where the wire goes in a wall or ceiling exactly. They are what he called “rough pulled” and may not be in the same place or even be the same color. He did state that it is a question he has gotten asked quite often, and it basically came down to the lack of manpower to initiate it.

More companies have schematics available

As technology advances and more computerized design is becoming affordable and used more often, I do see more companies documenting these items and having the schematics available. Whether they choose to send them to owners is another question, as most manufacturers want owners to go to the dealer. Not always a great option, in my opinion, especially when it takes so long these days to even get scheduled.

Here is a classic example: An editor at RVtravel.com is installing a new Lithium battery in a 2011 Winnebago Adventurer and needed to know if the inverter and converter were compatible. I went to the website, found the model and year, and found the location of both and part numbers. We were able to verify the converter did not have a bulk charge that would throw over 15 volts to the batteries and ruin them. These Lithium batteries are rated at a max of 14.6 volts and the converter does a max of 14.2 volts, so they are compatible.

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Eric
17 days ago

I decided to switch the dim incandescent tail lights to bright LED’s on our 2015 Keystone Springdale travel trailer.
When I removed the old lights, I saw that the holes in the aluminum skin that allow the wires to pass through were literally hacked through with some crude instrument, large, jagged and uneven. I couldn’t believe they wouldn’t use a hole saw, and a grommet to protect the wires.
I believe the industry is in desperate need of modernization of it’s engineering and production. It seems that no two are alike.

Last edited 17 days ago by Eric
Roger Marble
17 days ago

Given the widespread inability of dealers to make repairs at reasonable cost and timeframe. My experience with FR Freelander Express confirms, in my mind, that the plumbing and wiring is left up to the person that is supposed to build a quality product but do it as fast as possible. Bashing holes through hidden panels, rather than using a hole saw to pass the wiring through and using electrical tape to seal plumbing connections convinced me that at best, any schematic that might exist at the factory is just a suggestion. When I was racing, I had full GM schematics and always found that my cars were built using the specified color and size wire. A quick visual inspection will reveal that many of the various brackets that are added to a GM or Ford chassis in Class-C unit may or may not be completely attached and may not even have a “sprits” of paint to prevent rust. Luckily for me I have a fully equipped shop and the mechanical ability to fix the stuff the factory should have done.

James Brause
19 days ago

James here with the 2021 39RK Bighorn, I have worked for Railroads that have purchased track maintenance equipment and personally built equipment for railroads,
Both when purchasing and building we ALWAYS had ALL schematic’s, (drawings, wiring diagrams, hydraulic, electrical, component location, material build list, and Toll Free Manufactures Troubleshooting Services Departments we could call for help, No matter what company the equipment was purchased from.
I cannot fathom that any manufacturers will not supply a manual or any drawing of some source that spends the amount of money for an RV of any type.
I have called Bighorn and they have advised me their are none.
I don’t believe that some RV mfg let any person with little to no experience plumb hydraulics-run wiring & etc.
I don’t want to be a RV Mfg Co. Just want to able to discuss problems intelligently.
This should come to be changed!
Thank you,
Dave for answering my question.

Bob p
19 days ago

When I asked for a wiring diagram for my ‘99 Bounder so I could trace a short circuit I was told there aren’t wiring diagrams as each team may have their own way of routing the wires. They sent me schematics saying the schematic was true but the wiring itself may not follow a certain pathway. I wound up running a new wire the best way I could.

Nicholas K Wells
19 days ago

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and in this case can easily be proven. Just start asking manufacturers for schematics, whether plumbing, electrical, or whatever. My personal experience after nearly 20 years of RVing, and 20 years of asking, is the vast majority of manufacturers won’t acknowledge that they have schematics, and certainly won’t provide them, regardless of what Winnebago or someone’s new motorhome manufacturer emailed to them. Dave has the right of it. The manufacturer may well have the schematics, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get them.

Bill R
20 days ago

Dave, Your two paragraphs under “RVIA DOES NOT COVER DOCUMENTATION” are ridiculous. You are saying they don’t have schematics for electrical or plumbing? Based on what you are saying the person installing the wiring grabs a wire of any color, routes it however they want splicing another wire of a different color to it if desired and connects it to the end appliance maybe through a switch or not. Not believable. If Heartland makes RVs this way they deserve to go out of business. I got all the electrical and plumbing diagrams for my new motorhome emailed to me the day I requested them from the manufacturer. That’s the difference in a quality manufacturer that truly cares about quality and manufacturers that don’t. I agree with John E Bloxham. I read your column often Dave and It seems it is more and more difficult to get a straight answer from you regarding RV maintenance and repair. I trust you didn’t want me to sugar coat my comments.

Lil John
19 days ago
Reply to  Bill R

Bill. I would bet the reason you got you’re diagrams is because you purchased a quality, higher priced unit. Trust me, the run of the mill manufacturers are just as Dave states. They are both selfish and greedy. Bring it to us so we can charge you money. Do the schematics exist? Of course they do. But manufacturers could care less about you after the warranty runs out. Don’t forget the basic rule of most of them. “Yesterday I couldn’t spell engineer; now I are one”.

John E Bloxham
20 days ago

Dave with the Bighorn. If the manufacturer says they can’t or won’t provide the schematics for your rig, then just tell them that you can’t buy their RV then. I would not buy a rig without all the details & schematics.

DW/ND
20 days ago

Winnebago does an outstanding job of providing schematics for whatever. Their wiring is all labeled, printed on the wire, with a number and letter code for easy ID no matter which end or area you are looking at. On my 94 Class A Vectra the actual factory wires are green for ground and purple for hot – and every wire is coded. Easy to track from fuse/breaker panel to termination point.

With the structural diagrams, I was able to mount our bedroom Tv over the window and into an aluminum factory installed/embedded mounting plate – without the diagram I would have been lost as to how to mount it securely.

Especially on an older rig, those diagrams are priceless for the owner as dealers don’t have room to keep them for several years – altho computers now help with that by eliminating paper and micro-fische film.

Thank you Winnebago!

Bob
20 days ago

The real fact is that even though the diagrams show the termination points of the wiring, it does mean the actual routing of the wires will be the same, even for the same unit. And there is no standard color coding used. Even the dealers get confused.
I had a problem in my TT and found the wires changed colors midstream.