The tale of a horribly built RV and its owner’s “RV nightmare”

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Some readers of RVtravel complain that we are too negative in our coverage of RVing, in particular about the poor quality of RVs rolling off the assembly lines these days. They are partially right: We do focus more than other RV websites on the problems with RVing. That said, we do recognize that most new RVs have no significant problems at all, or very few that are easily fixed

The reason we dwell so much on the negative is that RV buyers who end up with defective RVs are too often forced to live an RV “nightmare,” and not an “RV dream,” which is what they expected and in some cases plopped down their life savings for. We feel it is our duty to give these people a voice.


Take a few minutes to read through this report on PissedConsumer.com by the owner of a 2016 Thor Chateau motorhome to get an idea of what some people are forced to endure to try to get their RVs in working order. At the Facebook group RV Horror Stories, reports like this are common. 

Here is the report as it was posted:

In May of 2015 I purchased a brand new 2016 Thor Chateau camper from Camping World “Chicago” which is actually in Wauconda, IL. I should have heeded all the red flags and walked away from the deal, but my family really wanted the camper.

Below is a basic timeline of events and chaos that has literally ruined the entire experience for me, and so much so that I am willing to talk/type/print my experience to try and save someone else from the pain and suffering of dealing with this company/location. Since I have dealt with Camping World corporate and Thor as well, and none of them seem to care, this is much more than a “store” problem. However – it all starts there. Sorry for the book…

Camper Experience, Camping World Chicago (Island Lake/Wauconda) Todd Thorson todd@toddware.com 2016 Thor Chateau 31W May 2015 – Go to Camping World to look at campers, meet sales guy Jim Wheeler, walk lot. I had been unhappy driving our 1992 Coachmen 340MB and wanted a Class C. While Jim kept trying to push us into the Thor Ace Class A, I wanted to stick with the Class C. We saw a 31W Chateau model.

Nice and roomy, full slide, and a shower I can fit in. The particular one on the lot had the TV and cabinets up above the cab and we wanted the bunk for sleeping area. Jim found one at a dealer down south. Told me it would be no problem, we cut the deal, price was good, and he told me to come back in 2 weeks to pick it up because they wanted to get it up here, test everything, and clean it up.

I agreed to pay for the extra paint and fabric protection as well as the 5 year Good Sam Extended warranty. I did NOT want to have to work on my RV for at least 5 years…. Or so I thought. This was the end of our happiness.

It’s all downhill from here. 2 weeks later, make appointment to pick up RV. I have my dad drive my wife and I up to Wauconda (its 40 miles from our house) and drop us off. He had an appointment, so he had to hurry back home.

Camping World has us go into the yard where our camper is waiting so we can see it. We walk inside – they prepped the wrong one! They prepped the one they had on the lot with the TV and cabinets over the cab. I find our stock number tag, it’s in the corner, filthy.

They apologize, call us a cab, and tell us they will test, prep, and deliver it to our home the following weekend. The following weekend, our RV is delivered to our home. I immediately notice some things. The paint doesn’t feel smooth and slick like the other one did.

It was clean, but not silky. The interior did not have the same smell as the one we saw that was prepped. At that time, I knew they didn’t put the protection stuff on, they must have used it on the other RV and didn’t reapply it to ours. Jim tells me that is all normal, and they did apply all the things I paid for.

He tells me we need to make a quick campout to “work out the bugs” before we go on a “real” campout. The wife and I reserve a campground close to our home in Marengo, IL. I proudly drive my brand new Thor into a space. I press the button for the automatic levelers and….

nothing…. just a beep and on the display “error. retract timeout”. Ok, well, bug #1.

I find the reset procedure in the book and reset the levelers and they appear to be working, although they seem slow. But they did level the camper. I move outside. I hook up the electric and water.

I go to hookup the sewer and see a big problem. The hole in the bottom of the sewer cabinet doesn’t line up with the outlet. The outlet is sandwiched between to elbows and shutoff valves and doesn’t move. The factory cut the hole in the wrong spot.

If you tilt down the drain to go out the bottom as its designed to do, its 2 inches to the left. I had to set my sewer pipe to tilt upward and come out the side to the drain. Made a mess unhooking it later. Bug #2.

I HEAD BACK INSIDE and push out the slide. As the slide is moving out, I notice water on the floor under the dinette. I figure it’s from washing and start to dry it up when there is a knock at the door. It’s my neighbor who tells me water is spraying out the side of my camper!

Bug #3. Clearly this camper was never prepped, at all…. I turn off the water and investigate. The water is spraying out of the hot water heater pressure relief valve.

I remove it to look. The pin is bent inside and wont seal. I explain to my wife that we won’t have water on our first campout. I unhook the water and start making a list.

I turn on the TV that I had hooked up to cable. Nothing – I get static. Try to find channels – none. I look at the TV, the COAX connector is out of the TV, still attached to the cable.

Not unhooked – the plug is ripped off the back of the TV. I gently push it back in the hold, get it to make contact with the circuit board so we can watch TV. Bug #4. I then notice the green line running down the middle of the screen.

Bug #5. While sitting, I’m reading my camper books to be familiar with the systems. My wife goes to take a nap and can’t close the privacy screen in the back bedroom. The pin doesn’t line up with the hold in the door, it was installed wrong.

Bug #5. While watching TV I look around. I decide to check the windows. 2 won’t open, the plastic handles are already stripped and spin freely.

Bug #6. The vents in the front over the bunk area only have 1 screw each in them and hang down a bit – Bug #7. Small but potential liability issue – they never pulled the plastic out of the smoke detector to activate it – Bug #8. First trial one-night campout over.

I send my list to Camping World and they request I bring it in. Since I had our first real campout the following week, I told them I would fix the few things I could to get through the next campout since I wasn’t confident they would fix it in a few days and I couldn’t be without it. I pulled a screw from the other vents to secure the front ones. I remove the trim ring and cut away a little of the plastic so I could hookup the drain.

The service manager said he would send me the pressure relief valve. It never showed so I bought one from Home Depot. I bought a TV from Walmart as well. The following weekend was a bit better.

We had water coming out from under the fridge when taking a shower, bug #8. The levelers had to be reset again to work of course, and they still seem very slow to me and LOUD. I tried to use the “rapid camp” feature. It’s a remote that lets you control various items.

The remote lights up, and I can unlock it, but none of the buttons work. Bug #9. New issue – RV wouldn’t start. Had to use the emergency start with the coach batteries.

Seemed odd, I checked to be sure I didn’t leave any lights on. After this weekend, nearly every time you have to use the emergency start since the chassis battery is clearly bad. Bug #10. We finish this campout (3 days for our Jeep Club outing) without any other incidents and drive home and I drop off my RV at Camping World.

I explain I have 30 days until my next trip and give them my RV and list of “bugs”. Ryan Pringle (I will NEVER forget that name) is my service writer, writes everything down and tells me he will call on Tuesday with an update. There were 15 items on my list, some of them I didn’t notice were missed the first time. Many I didn’t describe here because they were more minor, such as drawers that open while driving, toilet paper holder glue let go, ladder brackets for bunk installed incorrectly, etc.

Now that Camping World had my list and my RV, I learned that EVERYTIME they say they will call on a certain day, they won’t. If you call, your service writer is either 1) attending an offsite training class, 2) with another customer, 3) has a day off, 4) at lunch, 5) no longer with the company…. 3 weeks later, Ryan calls me to tell me my motorhome is ready to be picked up. My wife and drive up, grab the camper and go home.

At our next trip in August things start to really get worse. I noticed that nearly NONE of the items on my list were done. The few I checked were, I learned my next lesson – go over the entire RV every time you pick it up, even systems they didn’t work on or touch (allegedly). So, our next campout, shower still leaked, levelers still loud and slow, battery still bad in chassis.

I bring it back again, and include the items from the list not fixed the first time. At that time everyone seems to know the name Ryan Pringle and they all roll their eyes when you say the name. He, of course, is no longer with the company, but the new guy assures me that a tech will look at it Monday and he will call me Tuesday. The call never comes, of course, I give it a week and call in.

They tell me the camper is ready to go and they fixed everything. When I pick it up, I check everything that I could. They tell me they just had to “charge the battery”…. They “reset” the leveler system again and it tests fine.

They resealed the shower and replaced the dash applique that was crooked. They did a *** job “moving” the sewer outlet with a bad cut job and a tube of silicone… We have a campout to get to so I take it and head home. My daughter calls.

She notices the camper has a flat tire in our backyard. I come home from work and notice I have 2 flat tires and one with a “bubble” in the back. I call the police suspecting foul play. Police show up to do a report and the policeman says he thinks they are defective – he has seen lots of cut tires, but mine look like the bubble came from the inside.

I lookup online and sure enough, Michelin had a recall in 2013 for my very make, model, and size of tire for this very problem. But my tires are “newer” than the recall tires. I call my buddy at Discount tire. He informs me Michelin won’t cover it – they might eventually – but for now, my best bet is to buy them.

So I have to buy 3 new tires at $200 each installed to replace my 3 bad ones. Odometer on my camper shows 5,100 miles…. I tried to contact Camping World, Good Sam, Michelin, and Thor to ask about this – everyone told me the same thing, and also made sure to let me know I was out of my factory warranty now. I am now out of my factory warranty…

But I purchased the “no worry” 5 year extended warranty! Next campout, June 2016, we head to Mount Rushmore, farthest campout ever. At that campout the levelers went down, but wouldn’t come back up. I know the sound – loud motor, turning slow, retract error on screen.

I tell my wife to keep resetting it while I tap the motor with a hammer to get them to retract. Clearly the motor is bad. Camper won’t start again after sitting, plugged in, for 48 hours. The remainder of the trip I’m crawling underneath my shiny new camper with Harbor Freight bottle jacks to level it.

Bring it back in October 2016 to Camping World. Now, I’m dealing with Steve. Steve apologizes for all my issues, and promises he will fix it. He tells me I am out of factory warranty but because it has been there before for the same things he will work it out.

WE GO OVER THE MOTORHOME. Levelers not working, battery bad, a few more fit and finish things such as the mud flaps that fell off. Steve climbs up top and asks about the roof. He says it doesn’t look right.

Like it wasn’t installed right. At each time I dropped it off, Camping World does a “courtesy inspection” and one of those things is to check the roof. No one ever said anything, I figured the wrinkles and bubbling was normal. Steve says he will call later that week.

I wait 2 weeks and call Steve. He says he has worked out warranty with Thor for the roof to be fixed, the level motor replaced, and the other little things. Doesn’t mention the battery, I forget to ask. Asks me when I need it.

I tell him I don’t need it until next spring, take your time and do it right. I agree to pay for winterizing as well. 5 months later in late February I call Steve to ask how we are doing. He says its done and I am all set.

FINALLY, (or so we thought) happy, my wife and I drive up to Camping World. They pull the camper out for me and its running. Tech says – sorry it took so long, I had to jump start it, someone must have left a light on. Steve isn’t available so another guy comes out.

I want to test everything. At this point I figure I’ll just buy a chassis battery and eat the cost on the that. We try the levelers – “error – retract timeout” again. He does the reset procedure and they work….

I check the mud flaps; they appear to be replaced. I check the roof, looks smooth, no wrinkles or bubbles. Tech says they peeled it all back and glued it back down where the factory missed. They also replaced some weather-strip on the slide out where it was leaking behind the cab.

I ask about the battery. He gets a tester, hooks it up and says “it tests fine.” I say – Okay, turn it off and restart. Note, the camper has been running for over 30 minutes at this point.

He turns the key – one click. Hmm. He says, must be a bad battery – but of course, I am out of warranty, so it would be $240 to replace. No thanks…..

I drive my jeep up behind the camper to hook up my tow bar for the drive home. Backup camera doesn’t work. Now – that is ONE system that has never given me an issue, until now. I go back in to get the tech.

He asks if I want to leave it. Heck yea – I can’t even get out of the parking lot now with everything working, let alone a campout. I assume they unplugged something working on the roof, or fixing the soffit at the rear of the camper that was falling down as that was on the list. I get in the Jeep and drive home.

They tell me they will look at it Monday and give me a call. On Wednesday I call to ask what’s up. They tell me the “cable” has gone bad. It will be $1,200 to fix it.

Its not covered by the factory warranty, and not covered by my Good Sam Assurant extended warranty either. I tell Steve that while I appreciated the work he did on the roof, the battery and levelers still aren’t right – and now the backup camera is broken. I tell him I just want my camper back, Ill cancel that useless warranty and we will just part ways and they won’t ever have to see me again. I tell him I’ll be there Saturday morning to get it.

He apologizes and we hang up. Saturday I go there to pick up my camper, Steve isn’t there, but another guy calls to the yard to dig it out. Service writer tells me I owe $129 for diagnostic fees. I think the look on my face and tone of my voice caused him to immediately void the charge and let me go on my way.

I see my camper come up the aisle, go past the gate to a service bay. Kid jumps out and runs inside, 2 guys come out with tools. Service writer explains the dash is still apart since they “didn’t know I was coming today to pick it up.” After a few minutes, my RV drives up. I get in and immediately hear the error beep of the auto leveling system, which will beep my entire ride home showing “error – retract timeout”.

Now, I notice that radio doesn’t work at all. The pushed the dash back together and the radio is loose and crooked in the dash… My RV and my money will NEVER go back to Camping World Chicago (Wauconda) EVER again. And, I will make it my mission to be sure to tell everyone I can about my experience so that hopefully I can save a few people from my nightmare. After reading online, I realize many people are worse off than me.

They have had similar experiences with Camping World, but their RV was 2-3x more expensive than mine, and for some, their RV is their home. I cannot imagine having to stay in hotels all the time because my RV was in the shop “not” getting fixed….

I wish you all my best, and I’m happy to relay my experience or ask any more questions. If I should find by some odd chance that they didn’t break my backup camera I will certainly update this post, but I suspect someone put a staple through it when they re-secured the rear soffit in the bedroom – the camera is right behind there.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Read Camping World’s consumer complaints at PissedConsumer.com . And visit RV Horror Stories for more nightmare reports like this, or post your own if you got stuck with a defective RV and get a runaround when trying to get it fixed.]

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Cheryl

I have read so many horror stories about people who have purchased an RV from Camping World (all over the US) and then taken it there to have repairs done. And the stories are all similar to the one above. It sounds like a good place to avoid for both purchase and repair!

Alvin

Chuck you certainly aren’t “overdoing ” anything profiling people with RV problems.

You just touch the surface. I spent over 40 years in a similar role in the automobile racket and it took the domestics near death ( as John Delorean and others predicted ) to recognize they were building and selling awful & unacceptable crap.
Only massive Government financial rescues saved them from an off shore onslaught that nearly buried them and the junk foisted on an uninformed, TV ad addicted, trusting, unsuspecting public.
.Kudos to you sir.

Matt

Chuck, I’m new here and looking for an RV. I appreciate the negative articles more than the positive articles because I’m looking at what to stay away from and issues real people have with their RV. Please keep it up and don’t worry about complaints about your coverage. You are helping us more than you realize. Thanks for enlightening us on the poor quality products and dealers. When I spend the kind of money that an RV will cost,me, it would really be a downer to come across all of the problems that I see from some brands and some dealers. I learn a lot here before my decision is being made on such a major purchase. Thank you.

OnWeGo

If good products and good service where the keys to business success, Apple would be 10 times larger than Microsoft, betamax would have won out over VHS, and Last Man Standing wouldn’t have had to switch Networks. Advertising and sales sophistication + consumer gullibility (“Look how she shines. And I got 40% off sticker.”) + a hit-the-numbers-any-way-we-can-so-the-20-something-analysts-stay-happy-during-the-quarterly-earnings-call mindset = lots of unhappy customers.

The cure? Be willing to pay more for quality products and service, do your homework, realize that you might get schnozzled anyway, and laugh if that’s your biggest worry in life.

Rita

When we bought our Coachman Lephrechaun made in 2006, (we purchased it in 2015), from a dealer the next town over. We saw signs of water damage in the rear bedroom area. We were assured the damaged area was fixed all we needed to do was purchase a new blind for the window. We sealed the top of the RV in the spot where the damage was and then some. We sealed all around the RV just to be sure. Well guess what? it leaked again, the leak came back, not only in the same spot, but in another spot in the front of the Rv and it has made our Rv pleasure turn into not such a pleasurable experience anymore. There was more damage than we were lead to believe. This was our first Rv and our last one made by Coachmen, no matter what we do to try and fix the situation the water gets in and more damage is noticed. We are still making payments…….

Doug B.

After reading the horror stories, might be a good cause to focus on the used market from private owners. I would think the bugs would have been worked out, or they might be just wanting to unload their lemon.

Charley Dickson

Wow! And I thought that we had it bad with our Highland Ridge 5th wheel! Best of luck to you.

Michael Nistler

As always, many thanks Chuck. The more I read and hear stories from fellow RVers, I’m left with the impression:
1. The RV industry has a supply and demand problem (strong demand, short supply for affordable “bright and shiny” new/affordable rigs.
2. Many RVers focus on quantity over quality (which does have a price)
3. A large number of new RVers do not “do their homework” and are unaware of inferior rigs, poor customer service/shady tactics/manipulations/deceit/and worse…

We all suffer by the “bad apples” in the RV industry. Please encourage others to read these columns on http://www.RvTravel.com as well Yelp, BBB, http://www.RvReviews.net as well as forums, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, etc. Or simply do a search like “thor RV review” or “camping world review” and realize spending hard-earned cash does not guarantee satisfaction.
So what is the good news here? Well, like any ecosystem the RV is self-adjusting with opportunities for competent RV Inspectors that can save potential buyers tens of thousands of dollars! For some of us here offering to help clean up our industry, it’s something worth considering…

Eric

I read this article to my wife and we weren’t sure whether to laugh or cry. For sure the story is true as you can’t make this sort of thing up
RV travel is my new bible for rv related information. Chuck…. please keep up the good work so I can make an informed decision when I do buy my 5th wheel

martlin chambers

I think the moral to this story is that some businesses just don’t care. All they care about is making money for themselves no matter how bad their reputation gets.

I think the moral to this story is that you never deal with Thor or any of the other companies they bought out when RV’ing had a lag. And what does Camping World sell? Thor and Thor owned RVs!

Stay away from Thor at all cost seems to be the message we should walk away with.

Tom

Chuck

The way I think of it is that RVTravel is just pointing out problems others have had. Take this info and use it when shopping for a RV. It not a list that ever RV produced by company X will have this problem but make us all informed buyers

Thanks for leading this

Missy

Check out Hebert’s travels on YouTube and their documented battles with their new 5th wheel repairs that took more than a year and some were never fixed.

Booneyrat

Many of us old timers wished we would have had access to this newsletter years ago when there were manufacturers pushing a lot of low priced junk at consumers.While some,like Dutchman,have cleaned up their act some from the 1980,s and 90,s,others have stepped in to fill the gap with high priced junk. Then there are unscrupulous dealers,they know who they are,we all need to also and boycott them. At any rate,keep up the good work,Chuck,we are rooting for you.

Tommy Molnar

It’s too bad that in most cases, new RV’ers going out to buy their first RV don’t know about this site, so they don’t know about all the trouble many people are having with new RV’s. They don’t know what to look for, what to watch OUT for, or what to ignore from a salesperson. They’ve spent too much time watching “Going RV” on TV.

This was a true nightmare story.

Rory

I don’t think you are overdoing it with your coverage of horrible builds coming from the RV industry. But there seems to be a trend, most of the horror stories are from the same manufacturers over and over again. Most also seem to be at lower prices points and some others in the medium to upper price points, but once again the same manufacturers. I have even seen cases where some owners of the same model defend their choice stating that they have had no problems. I think you are doing a service, giving a voice to those who are unrepresented. But as I’ve said before those who are happy with their purchases should also have a voice and some representation, perhaps it would give potential buyers a bit of direction as to what brands to look at, while the horror stories will give them some thought as to where they shouldn’t look. It would have to be a separate site and I know there are expenses involved. But if I were a potential buyer and had a steady diet of only horror stories, I might just change my mind altogether, and find another outlet, and not even bother with RV’ing, and I’m sure that is not what you want…..

Jeffrey Torsrud

Actually, RV Travel and The RV Show USA are doing a great job!

No one forces anyone to read the negative items. If you don’t like the comments about CRAPPY Built RV’s, then CHANGE THE CHANNEL!

The RV Industry is out for one thing these days, Making Money and building CRAP RV’s.!

What people should realize is this: NEVER BUY an RV from Camping World and Never Buy an RV from an RV Show. You will be sorry in both cases!

Dennis

Inre; the horribly built RV and the RV nightmare, all I got is “WOW”………….. so sad. And no Mr. Chuck you are not over doing it, with your coverage of the problems with today’s shoddily built rv’s. Someone has to take the ball and run with it. So, THANK YOU!!