Saturday, March 25, 2023


Dealing with RV repairs — when money’s tight

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

“Into every life, some rain must fall.” So said Longfellow, and it seems that every RVer has his or her own share of precipitation. Too often, those showers come in the form of something that breaks and needs repair – and far too often, it’s when you’re in the least position to do something about it.

rv money pit

On a research tour, we had a run-in with our own sort of rain. Coming up California’s Highway 99, a strange “ding, ding, ding” sound made its presence known. At first we thought it was something loose on a semitruck that was at our side, but when the truck got ahead of us, the noise kept pace with us. We pulled off at the next exit and found our LP cylinder support rack had broken, and the “ding, ding” was the sound that a full propane cylinder makes while dragging on the pavement, leaving behind metal scrapings. Happily, we were able to repair the support, but a new propane bottle was in order.

A few days later, another “strange noise” manifested itself. Pulling off the interstate we found not just your typical flat tire, but basically no tire, and not much of a rim on the trailer. After the road service guy put on our spare, we found the damage wasn’t limited to a tire and a rim – the shredded cording of the wiped-out tire had punctured the tire on the next axle. The tire repairman stopped counting holes when he hit a half dozen, so we got two tires and a new rim. When we spun the new rim and tire around, more “odd noises” emanated from the hub – seems that when the tire went, the cords also wrapped around the electrical wiring to the brake magnet, which in turn pulled the magnet loose, and damaged additional brake parts.

Settled down until we could handle all of that, the toilet decided it wanted to get in on the act, leaving a vast pool of water across the bathroom floor. We’d already replaced the water valve in the toilet once before – and the toilet lid had a big crack in it. It’s not just an esthetics thing, mind you. Sit on the toilet lid and you’ll get a free butt pinch every time. Really, it was time to replace the toilet. At the same time, we also did battle with another water leak – this one between the fresh water tank and the outside fill port.

There was little we could do to save much money on the tire situation. Since we could sit for a couple of days, we saved a couple of bucks by ordering a tire and wheel combination – rather than buying them separately. The brakes? After digesting the cost of the individual parts for repairs, it turned out to be nearly as cheap to simply replace TWO full brake assemblies, including new shoes, backing plates, etc., all put together and ready to simply slap into place. Of course, that came because we ordered the assemblies from a Midwest supplier, and we had to allow time for the units to come in by UPS truck.

But that toilet. Have you priced RV toilets lately? A call to the Big Gorilla of the RV supply industry revealed no big sales on toilets. A visit to our friendly local RV dealer suggested we might be able to skate by for $150 or so. Even the RV salvage yard quoted a minimum of $75 for a used plastic throne. It was with some amount of despair we pondered our alternatives. And then, perhaps by divine inspiration, the light turned on. Check out craigslist.

Listed on the local Internet classified page, right up at the top of the search results for “RV toilet” was a used China bowl unit. “Foot pedal has crack,” warns the advert. We quickly dialed the seller and inquired. Seems that the toilet had been leaking water into the bowl unless one firmly pulled up on the foot pedal. He’d called the manufacturer, who’d sent him a repair kit, but he was too much in a hurry to leave on an RV trip to “fool with” installing the kit, so he popped nearly $300 for a new toilet, and yes, he’d sell us his old toilet (with the repair kit) for $25. The cracked foot pedal, he allowed, still worked.

Mind you, he’d placed the advert 27 minutes before we looked it up – after he and his wife had left home for a few days out of town. So, it was another “wait a bit” and make the drive to pick the unit up. Turns out, the “crack” in the foot pedal really wasn’t – the foot pedal was fine, and after a half-hour investment in figuring out how all the parts went together, we have a pretty much “good as new” toilet – and our posteriors are no longer pinched.

If you’re in a pinch, try craigslist.


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Wayne Caldwell
3 years ago

Another site where you might find what you’re looking for at a great price is Facebook Market.

Captn John
3 years ago

My new Montana arrived with 2 Thetford Toilets. I immediately ordered 2 Dometic 320 units. Within a week of purchase 1 started 2 leak. I’d not even give them away.

3 years ago

Craigs List is your friend. Purchased a Blue Ox tow bar for $200, the big one. It’s 10,000 pounds capability is more than enough for my Honda Fit.
Estate Sales can also have treasures. Purchased a Brake Buddy for $50. At the end of the typical sale, things get cheap.
I admit you have to be lucky.

Kendall Everett
6 years ago

I loved your tip to look around for affordable RV parts. Like you mentioned, looking online at classifieds is a great place to find RV parts. It would be helpful to work with a mechanic who is willing to use parts that you bring in.

6 years ago

A cracked toilet seat is like a policeman. Park in the wrong place and you’ll get pinched.

Walt K.
6 years ago

yup, found an almost new Roadmaster Sterling tow bar set up, complete on craigs list about 5 years ago. $300 for a $1000 dollar unit. Ran it for 5 years was in Oregon, took it to Roadmaster to be gone over. They said it was not safe to go back on the road after 5 years, another new one $500, 50% discount. Love it.

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