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Beware buying an RV with evidence of water leak

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Among the pet peeves of a prominent RV technician – customers who bring him an RV with a roof leak. No, he’s not upset because their roof developed a leak; that kind of thing can happen. Rather, it’s the customer who recently bought the RV, only to discover the roof leaks. In many cases, the seller was a private party who swore up and down that the roof was just fine, no leaks.

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Stain gives away leaking vent. Photo: R&T De Maris

A roof leak is a serious problem – in many cases a leak can cause serious structural damage. Serious as in “thousands of dollars to repair.” So if you’re shopping for a used rig, BEWARE of a water leak. How can you protect yourself from a leaker?

First, know what to look for

Leaks in RVs frequently leave tell-tale signatures. Look up at the ceiling. If you see discoloration on the ceiling, often a brownish stain, look out. And always open the upper cabinets and look inside at the ceiling area – leaks often develop at the edge of the unit, along a seam, and manifest themselves close to an inside wall.

Certain types of rigs have areas where water leaks are more prone to occur. Looking at a motorhome? Class C units often leak at the cab-over area, and near slide-outs. Class A units are said to have the lowest leak rate, but look closely around slide-outs. Towable rigs where you find an “end cap” at the front or rear of the rig will often come loose here. All rigs with roof vents, and particularly skylights, do well to have a close look.

Look for water leaks other places than just the roof

Don’t limit your leak-looking to the ceiling. Windows can leak, as well as any other area where the skin is opened up for a passage. Open lower cabinets, look closely at walls. Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption – discoloration. Warped wall paper can also indicate water infiltration. At floor level you could find signs of damage from plumbing leaks.

Use your nose to check for possible leakage. If you open the RV door and get the scent of mold or mildew – run away quick. Mold or mildew is a huge clue of leakage, and probable serious damage.

If you find evidence that the rig has leaked, the best advice is to run the other direction. But if you have just “fallen in love” with the unit, then spend a bit of your own money and hire an RV technician to evaluate the rig and give his professional advice as to what it might cost to really put the rig to rights. In the long run, you may save BIG bucks.

##RVDT1703

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Jamie
1 month ago

Recently purchased 2017 Forest River. Did all the right things, sniff test everywhere was good, zero signs of any water stains on the ceiling, zero signs of any water stains etc on walls, roof looked good, seals and gaskets looked good, checked inside the cupboards etc, everything looked good so we bought it. While moving in the last into the master bedroom I stepped into a corner area, very tightly to let my wife pass and I nearly went through the floor. Zero indication anything was amiss except for that. Well I went under the trailer and cut away the wrap in the same area and the water poured out. The subfloor was literally powdered plywood. The wood studs were black as night and rotting. The water must be coming in from somewhere on the roof. Now lookin at new flooring, studs and who knows what’s behind the walls. Did my due diligence and I still got burned for thousand$. Just thinking about scrapping it now.

G13
11 months ago

This site has had articles on buying used vs new, due to defects or poor workmanship at the factories. Then have articles on paying a certified RV inspector to inspect a used RV prior to purchase. Seems more of a “catch 22, d*** if you do, d*** if you don’t”. Prior owners are not always out front when selling their used rig when trying to unload their rigs, just as sales people at dealerships. Is there such a thing as “make RV’s great’, would be appreciated.

Rebecca
11 months ago

Dealer tried to sell us a unit with a squishy spot on the floor. We ran – not only from that rig but from that dealership

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