Wednesday, November 29, 2023


The second most important step in buying an RV

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our long-time contributor Jim Twamley wrote this in 2007. Digging through old issues for long-lost but still relevant articles, we came upon this. What Jim wrote here is just as relevant today. So once again. . .

Why the pre-delivery inspection is critical when you purchase an RV

When we purchased our new 5th wheel the dealer said they did a pre-delivery inspection (PDI); however, it was done poorly because several major problems that should have been discovered on a PDI went unnoticed. Like a crack in the fresh water tank that only allowed you to fill the tank half-way before it started leaking.

A thorough PDI by you and your dealer should be accomplished prior to you taking delivery. When we pulled in to Best Buy RV’s in Richmond, Indiana, they parked our 5th wheel next to our new coach so we could examine it. That afternoon and evening, I ran my own personal PDI checklist on this coach, hoping not to repeat the misery of my last experience purchasing an RV. I found a few minor problems and turned in the list to the service manager Ray Jefferis.

Ben Lukacek

Ray and I looked over my list and then he assigned it to Ben Lukacek, a Master Certified RV Technician with 9 years’ experience. Dr. Ben was about to give our new coach a complete physical exam!

He got right to work running the dealership PDI checklist. He tested the gray and fresh water tank sensors by filling the fresh water tank, emptying the gray tank and then running water into the drains using the shower, bath and kitchen faucets. It took a while but as I watched, the fresh water sensors showed the tanks emptying and the gray water filling.

It’s a simple test that checks many things at once. First it checks to ensure that your water pump is functioning properly, your drains work and there are no leaks in your holding tanks. Second, it checks the accuracy of the tank sensors. Third, it checks that the correct sensors are wired properly.

My 5th wheel had the sensors wired so the fresh water was showing the black tank and black tank was showing the gray tank level and so on. Again, had the RV technician done this simple test he would have discovered this problem and corrected it prior to delivery to the customer.

Here Ben is checking that all the DC fuses are good.

Ben is thorough and did a meticulous PDI. He also discovered things that I did not discover after running my checklist. For instance, he found a pinhole leak in a radiator hose and replaced that. He found a broken spring in the awning. He found and corrected an electrical problem that was preventing the kitchen from receiving power (a connector accessible from one of the storage bays had come apart).

I watched him check all kinds of stuff to make sure it worked and that when the dealership delivered it to me it would be 100% operational and ready to hit the road. He even fixed a window screen that was sagging.

After my first experience I am clearly appreciative of a dealership that goes to this extent to check out their products before they turn them over to their customers.

When you purchase an RV from any dealer, whether it is new or used, I highly recommend that you “shadow” the RV technician as he does the PDI. You will learn a lot about your specific RV when you do this and you will know the exact condition of all your systems when you drive off the lot. If your dealership doesn’t allow this, find another dealer – fast!

Next to making your purchase decision, the PDI is probably the most important part of buying an RV. Take it seriously and don’t rush it. You’ll be glad you did.


Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodbury
I'm the founder and publisher of I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.



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volnavy007 (@guest_126699)
2 years ago

How do i get a copy of the checklist?

RV Staff
2 years ago
Reply to  volnavy007

Hi, volnavy007. We don’t have a PDI checklist available, but if you Google “RV PDI printable checklist” there are lots available online. Good luck. And have a great day. 😀 —Diane

TravelingMan (@guest_56468)
4 years ago

Watch the axles, springs, bearing (Chinese versus Timkens) suspension system, brakes, wheels and tires…We found ours with all undersized. There was no room left for putting anything on board. Paid a lot to get them all changed. Electric brakes (especially the 2.5″) are not suitable for stopping larger rigs (ask me how I know)…

Go on the internet and pull up PDI checklists. Not all lists are created equal. Pull several and read thru all of them. Develop your own list from these. You’ll be amazed at how much you will overlook on your own.

If you do not understand the mechanics of your RV, hire an RV Inspector. For about the same price as a home inspector ($400), you’ll get a detailed report.

DON’T trust the “empty” or “dry” weight sticker. Your rig will not match that sticker. DEMAND a tire by tire and pin box weight check. Confirm your tires can handle that load. Determine how much load you will add by installing pots, pans, tools, clothing, a Washer or Dryer, couches, food stock, a mattress, spare parts, etc. For our 42′ rig, we are having a lot of work done as I type…We have removed all contents and put them in storage. As we put the items in storage, we weighed EVERYTHING. We are full time and have downsized significantly carrying only what we need. Very few extras. With that, we are at about 1,200 lbs worth of personal effects. Add water? How many gallons capacity do you have? Water is 8 lbs per gallon. How many propane tanks do you have? 20, 30 or 40 gallon? Our 40 gallon tanks when full are 70 lbs each. How much capacity do you have in your holding tanks? Calculate at least 8 lbs per gallon for each tank. By the time you subtract all of these weights, it limits what you can carry. Under size the suspension, axles, springs, brakes, wheels or tires and you will be asking for extensive repairs.

Don’t drive the RV off the lot until you spend the night in it. Many dealers will allow this. Try out everything. Once you drive it off the lot, not only do you lose 20-25% of its value, you may be in for a fight with the dealership getting everything repaired. At the least, you will wait 3-4 months to get those repairs completed. Once they have your money, its yours…Buyer beware…

Educate yourself. Arm yourself. Don’t be eager to go. Make sure you have ALL of the Product manuals that come with your rig. Ours were missing 75%. You can find a lot on the internet once you know your rig, but that can take a lot of time.

Check your breakers. Are they labeled CORRECTLY?

Read on the internet about recalls for the rig you are purchasing.

Sign up (in advance) for the blog sites that pertain to your rig (and sometimes for rigs that are not the same as yours. Many, many of the parts and installation techniques are the same for all rigs. Especially now that 2 manufacturers own 80-85% of the market and brands out there). There, you will find a wealth of information and advice about PDI and repairs after the sale. They are one of the best resources you will find.

PDI inspections should not be taken lightly. Don’t rush it.

Dr. Michael (@guest_126790)
2 years ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

You are spot on with everything except the cost of an inspection.
The inspectors I called all were in the $1295-$1550 bracket to inspect a 2014 Anthem. Since I had all the fluids (engine oil, coolant, and transmission, Aqua-Hot, generator oil & coolant sent to a lab, that added $500 more to the cost.
The inspector I selected was $1495 but did spend 8 1/2 hours doing the inspection and I received a 130-page report full of photos and details.

Joe (@guest_126840)
2 years ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

We purchased a brand new higher end diesel pusher motorhome in 2020 and within 5,000 miles we had to have the front wheel bearings replaced. I am not sure of the manufacture as the bearings had no manufacture stamp on them except for made in China. Freightliner builds a large portion of the motorhome frames and uses bearings that in my case were made in China (some TIMKEN bearings are made in China) The motorhome frame and drivetrain was and still is under warranty, I asked for them to replace the bearings with {bleeped}, NSK, SKF, or MOOG, but they would not and put new Chinese bearings in. I was told that it would void my warranty if I took the unit to someone else to have a better grade bearing installed. Makes me feel good that my life is riding on cheaply made Chinese bearings. When the warranty expires I will research wheel bearings to see if I can find a good 100% made German bearing!

Philip Sponable (@guest_56410)
4 years ago

Just wondering… are these folk available for hire independently…???

Jeff (@guest_56440)
4 years ago

Yes, they are. Some will travel to your location or the dealership.
Do an internet search for RV Inspections or Inspectors

TravelingMan (@guest_56553)
4 years ago

YES! Do an internet search for RV Inspectors. Many go thru training courses. Many have previous experience in building or working on RV units.

Here are just two random searches…

cee (@guest_67276)
3 years ago

It was the best $400 I spent on my 2 year old MH. He came to where the RV was and spent about 6 hours going from bumper to bumper.

Jeff (@guest_56323)
4 years ago

So important to do a thorough PDI.

Case in point. When we took delivery of our Second Mobile Suites way back when Mobile Suites were quality RV’s (Thor owns them now), I discovered purely by accident looking in all the NOOKS and Crannies, that our Washer Drain hose was not connected to the main Drain line. Just lying loose under our Bed! Fortunately we had it fixed immediately, but you can imagine the mess and damage this would have caused on our first load of clothes.

And about 5 years ago, taking delivery on our new REDWOOD, my Wife discovered a 1 inch hairline crack in the outer wall GEL Coat. Upon close inspection, it appeared that someone had tried to cover this crack with spray paint. After allot of discussion (being nice), REDWOOD agreed to fix the problem, but we would have to bring it back to Topeka, IN. Their own body shop discovered the Crack had started to RUN under the paint, into the GEL Coat about 6 inches. The Body Shop had to bring in someone from the company who originally sprayed the coach! They had to Completely sand down the outer wall, down to the wood and rebuild it with epoxy and then repaint the coach. Allot of work and very costly! Now, had we not discovered this crack and drove it off the Dealers Lot, we would have been on the hook for that crack, as REDWOOD would have blamed us and not covered it under the warranty!

The RV Industry is always a “BUYER BEWARE” business!

So, do your homework and make sure everything is in Good Working Order before you drive off the dealers lot!

Tommy Molnar (@guest_56356)
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

Wouldn’t it be great if dealers would allow you to ‘water up, hook up’ and spend the night checking out all the stuff that needs to be checked out?

cee (@guest_67277)
3 years ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I’ve heard some dealers do allow that.

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