We recently took on a “new to us” travel trailer. It’s smaller than our main rig, and more suitable for bouncing around in the boondocks. One of the first orders of business was to change out the bulbs in the light fixtures to LEDs for efficiency. Of the ten requiring attention, eight were mounted “out of square with the world.” Cockeyed ceiling lights? If you’re the kind of person who can’t stand a crooked picture frame, you’d go nuts inside this rig. In our minds, if there are cockeyed ceiling lights, what else is goofy?
“Built by so-and-so”
While it’s true that a cockeyed ceiling light doesn’t affect operational stability of the RV, it makes us wonder. The rig in question is an older R-Vision trailer. Who makes R-Vision? In case we’d missed it, the seller, who bought the rig new, was quick to brag on it: “You know, this trailer was built by Monaco!”
Yes, Monaco has a reputation among many RVers for “quality.” But if you look up at the ceiling and the light fixture doesn’t line up with the air conditioner inches away, one begins to wonder about the hidden things. And if “quality” RV manufacturers can put in cockeyed ceiling lights, what happens to quality control in lower-end rigs?
Quality improved in more recent units?
Well, all that was years ago, yes? What about recently produced units—perhaps quality control is better there? A few months ago we got a “rant” letter from a reader, Janet K. She launched her missive with this ditty: “If the airline industry had the track record of the RV industry, we’d all be driving, riding the train, or taking ships!”
Her absolutely brand-new Grand Design was a pride and joy. Grand Design, another brand with a good reputation. But not so for new owner, Janet, with her fresh-off-the-line rig that has “two windows that take an act of Congress to get open!” Again, not a “leave it in the yard” issue but, certainly, something that calls into question the integrity of the final check team. For Janet, a full-timer, it’s a major irritation. To add insult to injury, she was informed that it would be at least a month for the dealer to evaluate and repair said issue. A month for a sticky window? Wonder how long it’d take to get cockeyed ceiling lights realigned?
Free extra features, and laws of physics changed
Of course, not all issues coming off the line are simple irritants. We got a phone call from a friend who sold his business and his home. He was going to retire to a simpler RV lifestyle, and he bought a new Tiffin fifth wheel. He’d had a Tiffin before and was oh-so-impressed with the quality. This time, the RV manufacturer had included a feature he’d never ordered.
“Hey, Russ. Did you know my new Tiffin has a hot tub?” he asked. One morning he opened the basement door to fetch a stashed item. In the “basement” was a pool of hot water. Evidently, a hot water line had parted ways and filled the compartment with plenty of water. The dealer, of course, was just too busy to do anything about it, so Ron, a handy sort of guy, set to work to fix the issue himself.
Later in the week, we got another call. “Hey, guys,” he says. “Did you know that in Tiffins, water runs uphill?” Yes, the clever RV builder had turned the laws of physics on its ear. Or so it would seem. While crawling around in the basement storage unit, Ron encountered a gray water plumbing line that ran from one end of the rig to another section, and from there to the gray water tank. Sure enough, that long run of plastic plumbing, designed to carry yuck water to the tank, ran UP slope.
Cockeyed ceiling lights the least of our worries
Three different brands. As they say in Spanish, tres different problems. All three from manufacturers with supposedly “stellar” reputations. Of course, they aren’t the only ones at issue. Not a week goes by, if you peeked in the RVtravel.com email file, you’d find plenty of grousing—and some of it far more different than a simple grouse—about poor-quality RVs.
Cockeyed ceiling lights are the least of the worries of RVers across the country. The laissez-faire attitude of RV manufacturers toward quality control would seem rampant. It goes right along with the attitude they have about selling you an RV. “Buy it or not, don’t matter. There are plenty of people waiting in line with their wallets open.” And in many cases, these folks will wait a long time between plunking down their dough and taking delivery. In some cases, a couple of years.
But as Grandma used to say, “The chickens will come home to roost.” The statistics coming out of RV-land are showing a real slowdown in production because RVers are holding tighter to their wallets. One manufacturer, this week, shut down a line, laying off more than 400 workers. Stats on used sales of RVs show a similar pattern.
Could it be for Elkhart, Indiana, the way it was in Seattle decades ago, when the giant aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, was gasping hard? More than one billboard along the interstate read: “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?” Maybe in this case it’ll read, “Turn out the cockeyed lights.”