By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Among the pet peeves of a prominent RV technician – customers who bring him an RV with a roof leak. No, he’s not upset because your roof developed a leak; that kind of thing can happen. Rather, it’s the customer who recently bought the RV, only to discover the roof leaks. In many cases, the seller was often a private party who swore up and down that the roof was just fine, no leaks.
A roof leak is a serious problem – in many cases a leak can cause serious structural damage. Serious spelled “thousands of dollars to repair.” So if you’re shopping for a used rig, BEWARE the leaky teaky. How can you protect yourself from a leaker?
First, know what to look for. Leaks in RVs frequently leave tell-tale signatures. Look up at the ceiling – if you see discoloration on the ceiling, often a brownish stain, look out. And always open the upper cabinets and look inside at the ceiling area – leaks often develop at the edge of the unit, along a seam, and manifest themselves close to an inside wall.
CERTAIN TYPES OF RIGS have areas where leaks are more prone to occur. Looking at a motorhome? Class C units often leak at the cab-over area, and near slide-outs. Class A units are said to have the lowest leak rate, but look closely around slide-outs. Towable rigs where you find an “end cap” at the front or rear of the rig will often come loose here. All rigs with roof vents, and particularly skylights, do well to have a close look.
Don’t limit your leak-looking to the ceiling – windows can leak, as well as any other area where the skin is opened up for a passage. Open lower cabinets, look closely at walls. Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption – discoloration. Warped wall paper can also indicate water infiltration. At floor level you could find signs of damage from plumbing leaks.
Use your nose to check for possible leakage. If you open the RV door and get the scent of mold or mildew – run away quick. Mold or mildew is a huge clue of leakage, and probable serious damage.
If you find evidence that the rig has leaked, the best advice is to run the other direction. But if you have just “fallen in love” with the unit, then spend a bit of your own money and hire an RV technician to evaluate the rig and give his professional advice as to what it might cost to really put the rig to rights. In the long run, you may save BIG bucks.