Secrets To Avoid RV Maintenance Problems

As the RV market continues to grow with people buying and selling RVs regularly, keeping up with maintenance should be forefront with all owners. Here are a few secrets to avoid RV maintenance problems. Take control from the start of ownership, develop an inspection schedule, and replace parts and mechanical systems before they fail.

Five Basic Categories

The most common RV problems generally fall into few general categories. If you know how to shop (and buy) an RV, and you follow these simple guidelines, you can avoid many of these maintenance problems. The bulk of RV probelms will involve one or more of these categories:

  • manufacturer defects & issues
  • water damage
  • weather damage
  • power problems
  • mechanical breakdowns

Manufacturer defects can plague you for years

Manufacturer defects can be the most troubling problem of owning an RV. We encourage you to do your due diligence to avoid an RV with manufacturer issues. This changes of course if you are intentionally buying the RV as a DIY project.

Many manufacturer problems stem from the fact that RVs must be large enough to be livable, light enough to drive and affordable to own. That combination means construction materials in RVs are lighter and less durable than materials used in residential construction. These lightweight construction materials and the way they are built leads to many of these ongoing defects. Like vehicles, RVs are built on assembly lines. But, unlike vehicles there are numerous floor plans and variables in each brand. This can lead to inconsistencies and unresolved manufacturer defects.

Get defects corrected before purchasing

This goes without saying, but you should not purchase and pay for the RV with known defects not corrected. The RV manufacturer should have done this in their pre-delivery quality control process, but unfortunately many do not. Therefore, if the factory and dealer fail to resolve maintenance problems prior to sale, the first owner needs to insist all assembly line flaws are corrected. If this step is missed, the RV could be plagued with problems for the life of its use. Once again, do your due diligence, buy a brand that a manufacturer will stand behind, and don’t pay for a new or used RV until the defects are corrected.

Issues derived from the beginning of the build can plague an RV owner for years to come if they are not addressed upfront. 

Real life examples of unresloved issues

We met one couple who discovered a leak in the rear of their motorhome immediately after buying it Several years later (and who knows how many frustrating and costly trips to the repair facilities) the leak was still there. Another couple took  delivery on a fifth wheel with 1/2′ gap between the door and frame. The manufacturer and the dealer offered no hlp in getting it fixed. Finally, a repair techninician used a crowbar to bend the door enough to minimize the gap, which only made it worse.

Two other couples took delivery of new RVs and both traded them in on different models within 6 months, because the construction problems were ubiquitous and unresolvable. Both couples lost thousands of dollars on the process and unfortunately those to defective RVs were subsequently sold to someone else. The new owners will unfortunately have to go through all the same frustrations dealing with those problems.

Having an inspection by a reputable company before you purchase  can save you time and a lot of headaches in the long run. 

Getting a good start is one secret to avoid RV maintenance issues

The real secret to avoiding RV maintenance problems is to start with an RV that is free of defects. Sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it. Whether you are buying a new or used RV from a dealer or a used RV from a private party take the time to have it professionally inspected. make a list of the defects, and make sure the dealer corrects all the issues before finalizing the transaction. If the dealer is eager to make the sale, they should be just as eager to correct the problems.

If you are buying from a private party, having an inspection is a good idea as well. The result of the inspection should determine whether or not you decide to follow through with the purchase.

Dealers defer to manufacturer’s warranty

One of the biggest complaints among RV owners is the apathy of the dealers regarding construction defects. Dealers routinely defer the responsibility to the manufacturers by telling RV owners that the problems are warranty issues. Unfortunately, many RVers testify that some manufacturers stall and delay repair request until the warranty is expired, and the work is no longer covered.

Shop for reputable manufacturers and brands

Having said that, we do know that most RV manufacturers are reputable. We bought a new 2019 Newmay and because of supply chain issues parts were unavailable during the warranty period. About 18 months after the warranty expired Newmar repaired all the manufacturer defects and charged us nothing. Many RVers tell horror stories of being ignored by their manufacturer about every concern. Therefore, be sure to investigate the manufacturers reputation when shpping for a new or used RV.

Other areas to watch

Manufacturer defects are just one category of RV maintenance problems. Other problems arise from low quality parts, to every day wear-and-tear. However, if you are able to eliminate all the systemic construction defects then the secret to avoiding the rest of your RV maintenance problems can be managed through inspections and proactive replacement of vital parts and systems.

Water damage

The most troubling RV maintenance problem is related to water damage. This damage may originate from a leak, plumbing issue or even a build-up of humidity. To avoid these problems routinely inspect the roof, windows, doors, vents, running lights, caulking and seals. If damage or wear is detected correct the problem immediately.

Additionally, all the plumbing lines to sinks, showers, toilets, and holding tanks should be monitored for leaks. Finally, if the RV is used in wet weather or stored places with high humidity a dehumidifier should be used to keep the air in the RV as dry as possible. A build-up of humidity in an RV can lead to mold, mildew, or even worse, rot.

Weather damage

Along these same lines, every RV should be carefully inspected for weather damage to frozen pipes, cracked seals, UV damage to the air conditioning shrouds and roof vents. Also, routinely check for damage from falling objects, or low hanging limbs. These areas combined with the wrong weather conditions can cause issues that most RVers dread. Create a checklist and look for clues as to potential areas of problem. Its a good idea to pay special attention to these areas during the fall months during your winterization process, or in the spring when you are getting it ready for use. A little due diligence will go a long ways.

Don’t let inclement weather runin your trip, regular checks of vulnerable spots of your RV can save you from sustaining water and weather damage. 

Power and mechanical problems

Lastly, RVs are vehicles that can be prone to power and mechanical problems. Remember its a regular vehicle that also has components for livable space, thus providing more opportunity for things to go wrong. All these mechanical components must be serviced regularly. Don’t wait for a blowout to replace your tires. Don’t wait for systems to start failing all over your RV to replace the batteries. The secret to avoiding RV maintenance problems is to be proactive and replace parts on a regular schedule.

About Peggy Dent

Peggy Dent is an author, writer and full-time RVer, currently traveling in the US and Canada. She's driven a motorhome more than 130,000 miles and learned the secrets, delights, and pitfalls of RVing through her own experiences. She shares her knowledge and insights in numerous RV industry publications. You can contact her through her website at