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.
Last year (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!