Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Cockeyed ceiling lights – cockeyed RV industry?

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 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
R&T De Maris photo

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.”


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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John the Road Again (@guest_205819)
1 year ago

When we took delivery of our Jayco, there were stickers all over the place for this or that. “Emergency Exit”, DANGER – Propane!”, etc. Almost every single one was askew to some obvious and obnoxious degree. Spent first days removing them all. Even the labels for the grey & black tank dump valves were reversed. Good thing I noticed that before our first outing!

MevetS (@guest_205622)
1 year ago

Using “Control” in relationship to Quality, with most RV manufacturers is an oxymoron. You can’t Control that which does not exist.

I refrain from calling it Quality Control and prefer the term “Workmanship”. And even workmanship, in some cases, is providing undeserved credit.

I can relate to the statements about Tiffin. And why we no longer own it.

Last edited 1 year ago by MevetS
Harry (@guest_205595)
1 year ago

Old saying in Ohio.
Never hire Amish to do plumbing or electric, because they never grew up with it.

Bill (@guest_205689)
1 year ago
Reply to  Harry

Old saying everywhere else .. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

KellyR (@guest_205574)
1 year ago

Our house is full of antiques neatly “scattered” around the house. Some of our decorating used to drive our OCD daughter nuts because not everything is not “square with the world”, UNTIL her mom told her that the house was decorated in “Country Crooked”. Our daughter now understands and accepts it. An RV decorated in Country Crooked just may be chique. “You say Cockeyed – we say Country Crooked.” Will it be easier for you to live with now?

wahooncx (@guest_205538)
1 year ago

I have been messing about with RVs for close to 40 years, I have yet to find one assembled correctly, regardless of who manufacturers it. QC and RV are oxymoronic. I saw a super C that sells for $350k+ at an RV show earlier this year, the outside television was over 3/4″ out of square with the window above it…

I strongly suspect they have people paid by the piece who don’t care, and they aren’t going to take the time to do it over.

Dawn Adamson (@guest_205435)
1 year ago

We just picked up our DRV toyhauler from the repair shop. One of the repairs was the corner of the subfloor (under the refrigerator) of the large living room slide was broken off. Come to find out the subfloor was cut too short at the time of build. We paid $7000 to fix their mistake that never should of happened. As we have had our rig for 5 years there is no recourse to recoup any of our money. Also discovered our Lippert frame is cracked. This is a major issue for a lot of RV’s right now, there are at least 40 people on our owners FB page that have a cracked frame. It’s not brand specific. If your team hasn’t done an article on this issue yet…you should.

Betty Dagle (@guest_205358)
1 year ago

I wish some of these rvers could hear my husband complain about the work done on some of his job sites. He’s an electrician and swears he’s the only one who uses a level to check recepticals (outlets). He has seen them at 45deg angles and the workers say “close enough”.
And on another note, maybe manufactures should keep some of the workers that they are laying of, give them some extra training and use them to make better quality units. Then with the extra hands, they could rotate all of the workers and get them certified. And yes this is what we did when there was a down turn. We tried to keep the workers knowing it was hard to get them back.

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