What’s ready to fall off your RV? More specifically, what is ready to fall off from under your RV?
The past two summers we have set out with our RVing friends for an extended RV trek. Both trips almost ended as soon as they started.
During the summer of 2020, we were on our way to boondock and explore the Blue Mountains of Northeast Oregon. After spending one night in transit to our first destination, we pulled off at a rest area near La Grande, Oregon. We needed to dump our holding tanks and fill our freshwater tanks to the brim as we would be boondocking for days on end. Upon filling my freshwater tank to overflowing, I pulled up and parked off the side of the road so our friends could do the same. That’s when I noticed the torrent of water pouring from underneath my travel trailer.
To my horror, I discovered two of the brackets that support my under-floor freshwater tank had failed, allowing my tank to fall off. In turn, the pick-up line to the water tank had pulled out of the tank and one side of the water tank was now resting on my trailer axles. Upon closer inspection, I determined one of the brackets had been broken for awhile. I could see evidence where it had been rubbing against another component of the trailer.
Having my water tank fall off could have been the end of the trip right then, as we had planned to boondock (dry camp) the entire trip. No functioning water tank meant no water to the faucets.
But I was fortunate on several fronts
First, had we let our friends dump and fill their tanks first and we filled second, we would have immediately entered the freeway after filling. The section of freeway after the rest area was under construction and reduced to one lane with jersey barriers lining both edges of the lane. Had our tank decided to fall off once we were on the freeway, we had nowhere to pull off. Continued driving most assuredly would have destroyed the water tank and who knows what else under the RV along with likely causing an accident.
Second, by some miracle, the threaded fitting on the pick-up line into the water tank didn’t break off in the tank. Somehow, the fitting pulled out of the tank without damaging the threads on the fitting or tank.
Third, our RVing friends had lengths of nylon webbing with them. We were able to strap up the now-empty tank and get back on the road to find a hardware store. With my knowledge of RV repair and my friend being a retired contractor, we were able to devise a temporary repair at the hardware store, fill the water tank and continue the trip.
Water tanks falling off are not isolated incidents
If you think having a water tank fall out is an isolated incident, do an online search for “RV water tank fell out” and you might reconsider. Sadly, it is a more common problem these days than I would have ever guessed. Here is just one example,
Not wanting a repeat during this summer’s (2021) trip with our friends, I got on a creeper and thoroughly inspected the underside of my travel trailer to make sure nothing was ready to fall out. I checked the freshwater tank, black tank, gray tank, axle and shock mounts. Then I checked the brake wires for any rubbing where they pass through the chassis, propane lines, frame welds and anything else that could fail putting an end to the trip. Everything looked good and I was confident to hit the road.
We set out with our friends on a beautiful sunny morning and hadn’t traveled more than 100 miles when I heard an unusual sound. Thinking it might be background noise to the song playing on the radio, I turned the radio down. Turning the volume down only made the noise more apparent. I keyed the two-way radio to let my friends behind us know something was not right and I was going to pull over. They responded that I was “dragging something.” Nuts, here we go again.
The exhaust pipe fell off!
Pulling off the shoulder of the freeway and taking a look under my truck revealed my exhaust pipe from the muffler back decided to fall off! I also saw evidence that one of the mounting brackets had been broken for awhile.
Had the leading edge of the pipe that was dragging on the concrete caught a rough expansion joint or pothole doing 60 mph, I can only imagine the damage that would have occurred. Again, I was fortunate.
Using the electric tongue jack on the trailer, I was able to lift the back end of the truck high enough enabling me to snake the failed section of pipe up and over the rear axle. I placed it in the bed of my truck between our ATV and motorcycle. Since my canopy was removed from my truck in order to haul the ATV and motorcycle, I had little concern of carbon monoxide poisoning by running without the rear portion of the exhaust. Dropping the failed portion of the exhaust off at a relative’s house of our friends just down the freeway (another lucky break), we continued on our trip.
Why do I share these two experiences?
Most seasoned RVers perform a “walk around” before starting a trip – checking lights, turn signals, tires, etc. Many get up and inspect their roof at least annually. But how many of us do a “crawl under”? I suspect very few.
From now on, not only will I inspect the underside of my travel trailer before departing on an extended trip, but I’ll inspect the underside of my tow vehicle, too. In both instances, had I taken the time to do additional inspections, I would have likely found the problems. I then would have had the chance to repair them before they became potential trip-enders.
How about you? What’s ready to fall off your RV? Don’t forget the underside of your dinghy, too!
Our lst motorhome, a 1985 Eldorado Encore 26′, had the water tank mounted under the couch. Fill with cold water – what happens to a wood floor under it? Condensation wood rot! We had just returned from the 300 mi. trip and I took a break from washing it – sitting in a lawn chair in the garage I noted the large compartment on the street (left) side sagging about 1″ on the forward corner. Short story, I caught that major failure which also would have involved the propane tank, from a major event on the hiway. A major redesign and rebuild followed!
Yikes! That’s a lot of stuff failing. Thumbs up to pre-trip walk arounds.
A friend in a Winnebago Travato campervan just like ours contacted us from the side of the highway near our home. Flat tire. Late Saturday. Roadside Assistance was planning to leave her in a parking lot till Monday. Discovered the nut on the end of a J bolt holding her water tank support bar had fallen off. The metal support then drug on the road enough to file it to a razor’s edge. It had swung into the tire which then exploded. Crazy sequence of events. Terrifying for her. The new J bolt has Loctite on it.
Some manufacturers use the subfloor to hang the framework that holds the generator in place. All is well until a water infiltration rots that portion of the floor. I’ve had two friends drop their gennys this way.
Our 2014 Thor Tuscany xte 40 EX has its two holding tanks sitting side-by-side atop the fresh water tank. Seems reasonable at first glance, and it was working well until I emptied the holding tanks and filled the fresh water tank 100%. We had a city water connection so fresh water tank remained full. As the holding tanks filled, their weight increased to the point that the top of the fresh water tank could no longer support them and it inverted/collapsed causing a massive gushing of water out of the fill spout and air relief hole. It took me a minute to figure out just what had happened. Quickly dumping the holding tanks stopped the flow. Until I can build a better support for the holding tanks, I will avoid filling the fresh water tank over 75-80%.
Something new almost every day.
Just 2 months after purchasing our 1st motor home, I went out on a short trip. Someone came up beside me and gestures for me to pull overy. I stopped and found that my shore cord was dragging behind. Fortunately I had only gone about 3 miles. Several flat spots on the outer insulation but did not go through completely.
Lesson learned, unplug before heading out.
Good topic. Many have RVs with a thick plastic cover to covering the entire bottom including duct work, wiring, plumbing and insulation. Unfortunately many are insufficiently attached to the I-beam members of the frame. I find mine have begun to loosen and sag and will surely fall out one day if not addressed. To address mine quickly, I’ve connected rachet straps from I-beam to I-beam for additional support, drawing them tight across the RV’s “belly”. That was more than a few thousand miles ago and they are still holding strong. Now if only my belly would be so easy.
We had black rank dall out twice in 2 yrs.. First time it happened it was still under warranty. 2 ND time we were not so lucky..
Going down a forest road, I had my fiberglass bumper fall off one side. Fortunately I was going slow. I screwed and eternabonded it back on, and a Ford dealer reattached the light wires. Gulfstream Yellowstone Cruiser. (The newer model BT Cruiser also has the worthless fiberglass bumper.)
Spare tire! My 5er has a wind-up cable mount thing for the spare tire underneath the rear of the coach. One day I noticed it was gone! Now, it was either stolen (unlikely) or it fell off while I was driving. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for any car behind me. Nobody alerted me so I guess I can assume nobody WAS behind me. That could have caused a serious problem for someone.
Our kids towable had that this plastic sheeting under theirs. Second year one self tapping screw came out up front. The wind pressure opened it all up while going down the road.
Our Cedar Creek fifths water tank angle iron brackets that are only fastened to the frame with cheap self tapping screws broke too. Screws sheared off!!
Repaired with grade 8 bolts.
2020 Winnebago Adventure turer. Front fiberglass has most all parts attached with adhesive that oozes out of machined slots. Adhesive can fail and then parts fall off while driving. Carry green painters tape with me now so can tape engine access ‘hood’ to body so it does not fly away.
While checking the underside of our new Leasure Travel Van, I noticed the the exhaust pipe had 2 support brackets, one way up front by the catalytic converter and the other 6-10 feet away at the end of the pipe about a foot from the end after making a 90º turn. To me this left quite a long area subjecting the pipe to fatigue and stress so I added an addition support strap in the middle of it. Now don’t have to worry about it failing and falling off. Yes, check the underside of your rig and tow vehicle at least once a year.
When I replaced the stock 3” exhaust on my F-350 I used the included clamps and also had a shop weld the joints together. Failure is still possible but greatly reduced.
When shopping for my last 2 towable RVs I only looked at ones with fully in closed and a floored undercarriage where the tank sits on the floor of the trailer. The cure RV also carries a factory -10 degree F guarantee. The only things that hang under the RV are the hydraulic leveling jacks. Even the waste discharge valves are above the floor with a rubber discharge fitting extending below.
Forest river now has a recall on some units for the fresh water tank falling out.
I had all 4 brake assemblies on our fulltime 5th wheel replaced. Then exactly 1 year later, while travelling thru North Carolina, I lost all braking power in our 18.5K lb. 5th wheel. The previous installers had improperly routed the hydraulic brake lines, of which 3 of the 4, were now rubbing against the frame. One sprung a leak, disabling all of them. A nearby Camping World saved our butt. I cautiously pulled in the next morning for repair. They had a local brake supplier make a custom set of heavy duty lines, installed them, & we were back on the road in 6 hours. Camping World has garnered a lot of negative comments over recent years, but this location was phenomenal.
While be one of the first to say tank mounts are often ill-designed and inadequate, there is another issue many are not aware of. When filling tanks with water hookups, the tank vent often doesn’t let water out as fast as it can be forced in under pressure. A square tank under pressure wants to turn into a round tank. Fill tank: max weight, then add just a pound per square inch or few and that tank pushing away from the floor above it exceeds the strength of the flimsy brackets.
Have a friend with a pit. Have been under the coach several times. I added strapping under the water tank. Did not appear to have any support.