RV Life

Everything That’s Gone Wrong With Our RV

Having an extended warranty has made full time RV life easier by saving us money and giving us peace of mind.
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Our RV, a 2009 Keystone Everest fifth wheel

Our RV the day we bought it

When my husband Josiah and I bought our 2008 Keystone Everest fifth wheel in 2016 and began our full time RV life, we knew next to nothing about RVs.  Although we had toured quite a few of them at local RV lots, our eyes would sort of glaze over whenever the sales person would open the storage bay and start talking about the technical features.  We knew we wanted something that was rated for four season living, but other than that, the most important thing to us was our RV’s floor plan.  (And after two years of RV ownership, the floor plan is STILL just as important to me!)

The only RV “training” we got was a quick crash course from the original owner who sold us the camper when he dropped it off at the mobile home park where we were going to be living in it and helped us set up for the first time.  Although our RV had been well cared for by its former owners, at 8 years old it was starting to show its age.  Already the previous owners had needed to replace the refrigerator and the electric fireplace.  And by the end of our first week of RV ownership, we were well initiated into the world of RV maintenance.

In this blog post, instead of showing off beautiful interior decor or sharing nifty organization hacks, I wanted to give you a realistic look at what it can be like to own and live in an RV by sharing with you everything that has needed to be replaced or repaired since we bought our RV.  So, in chronological order….

1. Air Conditioner

When we bought our RV, we had it delivered to Kansas City, KS, where we were planning to move, but we still lived in Springfield, MO.  After a week or two of driving back and forth so that we could paint the RV interior and get it ready to move into, we finally closed on our house, loaded up a moving truck, drove all our stuff to Kansas City…and came “home” to a camper that was 97° inside.

97 degrees inside our camper

“RV Comfort” seems a bit ironic here.

Resetting the RV breaker panel

Josiah sweating as he resets the breaker panel

That week had been the hottest of the whole summer with temperatures soaring over 100° F every day, and a breaker had blown.  We reset the breaker and thought all was well, but a few days later, the 8-year-old air conditioner stopped working completely.

Since we didn’t own a truck (and still don’t yet), driving our RV to a repair shop wasn’t an option, but thankfully we were able to find an excellent mobile mechanic company, Athena Coachworks, that was able to come out the day after we called.  We booked a hotel for a couple of nights, and just a few days later our mechanic had our brand new air conditioner up and running.  And the whole episode only cost us less than $300 out of pocket and zero labor on our part.

See, when the previous RV owner dropped off our camper, he handed me a policy for a Good Sam Extended Service Plan, and said, “I think you can probably transfer this to your name if you want.”  I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was definitely thankful for that policy a few weeks later!  I called Good Sam, and since the policy was still active it covered all the parts and labor on our air conditioner replacement after a $200 deductible plus parts shipping and 50% of the fee for the service call.  I had the policy switched to our name right away.

2. Converter

A few months after we had moved into our RV, we started noticing that at random times our interior lights would start flickering.  Eventually we also noticed a faint humming sound that would pulse along with the flicker of the lights.  It only happened occasionally at first, so we just ignored it until it stated happening more and more frequently.  Then one day while it was happening I followed my ears to the source of the sound and realized it was coming from the cabinet behind our breaker box.  I removed the panel and saw a small machine (our converter, but I didn’t know that at the time) with a fan that was turning off and on.  Every time the fan stopped, the lights would dim.

RV electrical panel and converter

Our converter is behind a panel under our kitchen counter.

If you’re a seasoned RV owner or mechanic, you may be slapping your forehead at my ignorance of what was happening, but at the time I had no clue how an RV electrical system worked (okay, to be honest, it’s still not my best subject!).  I called our mobile mechanic, and he told me that our converter was what allowed our RV to run on shore power (by converting 110 AC shore power to 12 Volt DC that powers our cabin lights and other electrical components), and that since it was going bad, turning off and on, whenever it turned off we were just running on whatever battery power we had left, which was why our lights were dimmer.  A few days later we had a brand new converter, installed by a professional electrician, and were only $250 or so poorer.

3. Black Tank Gate Valve

This was one repair I am very thankful we didn’t have to do ourselves!  When we bought our RV, our black tank gate valve was difficult to open and close, and it became progressively more difficult until one day it broke.

RV water hookups and sewage dump valves

Our RV has cable handles to operate the gate valve.

Fortunately it was stuck open and not closed, because our mechanic (understandably) wasn’t about to remove a gate valve from a full holding tank on location, but he was more than willing to replace the gate valve on an empty tank.

In addition to the smelly nature of the project, this was in the middle of winter, and our gate valve wasn’t easy to access, being located under the center of the RV inside an enclosed underbelly.  Once again, I am glad we were able to affordably pay someone else to do this repair.

4. Toilet pedal

A few days after we bought our RV, we noticed a sewage smell coming up out of the toilet which was stinking up the bathroom and bedroom.  We knew this wasn’t normal, and after a little research we determined that the source of the problem was that our toilet’s ball valve wasn’t closing completely whenever we were flushing.  We started “flushing harder” by yanking our foot off the pedal quickly so that the ball valve would slam shut and seal fully, and this solved the problem of the smell.  We just had to explain how to flush to all of our house guests.

RV toilet

Then one day, one of our house guests came out of the bathroom and apologetically said, “I think I broke your toilet.”  I said, “No it’s fine, you just have to flush extra hard,” and went to help, but discovered that, actually, the pedal was no longer working properly.  I guess it had been slammed shut one too many times, because the spring was broken, and the only way to close the ball valve was by pulling up on the pedal.

Now this is a repair that actually wouldn’t have been too difficult for us to do on our own.  I watched the repair tech who did it, and it basically just involved knowing how to use a screw driver.  But, we went ahead and had our mechanic fix it while he was at our house fixing something else that was broken: our washing machine.

5. Washer/dryer Combo Machine

The converter replacement wasn’t the end of our electrical woes.  One day, I noticed again that our lights were dim and we seemed to be running off of battery.  I went outside to check our shore power connection and discovered our electrical cord hanging partway unplugged from the pedestal.  I have no idea how this happened; my best guess is that it was accidentally pulled out a little when it was moved by the people who had mowed our lawn that day.

I plugged it firmly back in, and thought nothing of it until I went to use our Nespresso coffee machine and it wouldn’t turn on.  Then at some point not too long after, I noticed that our beloved Splendide washer/dryer combo unit wouldn’t turn on either.

RV Splendide washer / dryer and laundry area

Laundry area with washer/dryer and hanging laundry bag

I Googled the problem, and found that our electronics had likely been damaged by a low voltage situation, and in fact I was lucky that in a house full of computers and electronic musical equipment, those were the only electronics that had been damaged.

Although we ended up having to just replace our coffee maker, our mobile mechanic was able to repair the motherboard on our washing machine and got it working perfectly again, and amazingly, Good Sam covered the repair.  I thought surely this one wouldn’t be covered since the washer/dryer unit wasn’t original to the RV, but it was.  (Maybe it shouldn’t have been and we just got lucky?  I’m not sure, but I’m not complaining either!)

The big lesson I learned from this experience was how important it is to have an EMS surge protector that not only protects from power surges, but protects from low voltage situations as well.  The sad thing was that I had already been shopping for one, but hadn’t yet ordered it!  I ordered this one from Progressive Industries right away after this incident.

our RV EMS surge protector from Progressive Industries

Our EMS surge protector from Progressive Industries

6. Shower glass

This one is crazy.  One day I was laying in bed taking an afternoon nap, when all of a sudden I heard the loudest crash in the bathroom.  I ran in to see what it was, and one of the tempered glass panels of our shower had randomly shattered!

Shattered RV shower glass panel

Shattered tempered glass shower panel

There wasn’t anything going on at the time that I could see would have caused it to happen, and the RV hadn’t moved for close to a year, so I am not sure what caused it to happen, but my best guess is that it may have been because our RV was slightly un-level and was putting extra pressure on the shower frame.  Unfortunately, this issue is not covered by my Good Sam extended warranty, so I taped up a piece of clear vinyl cut from a shower curtain as a temporary fix (that I’m still using months later….) until I get around to having the glass replaced.

7. Hot Water Heater

One day when I was in the kitchen, I noticed that the carpet in front of our stove was soaking wet.  Since it had rained recently, I immediately suspected a leak in the slide.  I went outside and examined the slide seals and saw that some of them were folded in, so I ran something flat under them to pull them all out so they were pointing the way they were supposed to, went inside and put down a bunch of towels, and hoped I had fixed the problem.  But the floor stayed wet.

So once again, I called our mobile mechanics from Athena Coachworks (who we knew quite well by this time!).  They came out and troubleshooted (troubleshot?) the problem and discovered that it wasn’t a leak in our slide but that our hot water heater was broken and leaking and would have to be replaced.

I had been kind of hoping to eventually replace our 12-gallon hot water heater with a tankless, on-demand water heater, but our Good Sam policy would only pay for replacing it with the same kind as the one we had before, so since we didn’t have any extra money to spend on a water heater at that time, nor did we want to wait on one to be ordered, we went ahead and got the kind we had before (which, admittedly, was a lot nicer than a lot of smaller capacity RV hot water heaters).

The good thing was, since replacing the hot water heater, I have never once run out of hot water while taking a shower, where with old hot water heater I would run out after about 12 minutes, even after replacing our shower head with an Oxygenics shower head.

Plexiglass walls added to RV shower shelves

Now I get to enjoy longer showers! (Click here to see how I added “walls” to my shower shelves)

After the new hot water heater was installed, I also had our mechanic explain to me what regular maintenance it needed, and how to do it.  This information is available on YouTube as well, but it’s always nice to have someone show you in person.

Unfortunately, our kitchen floor developed a soft spot after this incident, and that repair is not covered by our extended service plan.  We were wanting to replace our flooring at some point anyway though.

Conclusion

That probably sounds like a lot of stuff to go wrong in just two years of RV ownership!  Every time something would go wrong, we were reminded that we live in a vehicle. Vehicles need regular maintenance, and over time they break down and need to be repaired–especially when you are living full time in something that was really only designed for short-term use.

Many RV owners do all their own repairs, either because they have more mechanical experience than we do or because they want to save money so they just learn to do the things that need to be done as they come up.

But in both of the first two years we owned our RV, the amount of money we saved on parts and repairs covered by our extended service plan was more than the cost of our policy’s annual premium.  So when we add up the cost and factor that in with the peace of mind that comes from having our repairs done (quickly!) by a professional, we feel paying for an extended RV warranty and having our repairs done by a mechanic is worth it.

I have been happy with Good Sam’s service, and if you’re thinking about getting an after-market RV warranty, I would suggest getting a quote from them.

However, there are other good after market RV warranty companies out there as well, and before deciding on an RV warranty, I would suggest shopping around to see which one offers the best coverage for the price.  One company that can help make this process a little easier is WholesaleWarranties.com.  They partner with several RV warranty companies (including Good Sam), so if you request a quote from them, they can do the cost and coverage comparison for you and help you find the best deal for your specific situation.

One thing I hope you take away from reading about my experience is that even if you aren’t the mechanically-minded, DIY type, you don’t have to buy a brand new RV in order to have your camper or motorhome covered by a warranty.  You also don’t have to feel intimidated by all of the things that can go wrong with an RV.  There is definitely a learning curve involved, but there are also lots of resources and people to help you when things go wrong.

If owning or even living in an RV is your dream, you can definitely make it happen!  (And, knowing a good mechanic and having an extended RV warranty can make it a little bit easier!)

What kinds of RV problems have you experienced?  Leave a comment and tell me your story!

Wholesale Warranties - extended warranty coverage for campers, motorhomes, and travel trailers

 

Having an extended warranty has made full time RV life easier by saving us money and giving us peace of mind. Having an extended warranty has made full time RV life easier by saving us money and giving us peace of mind.


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18 comments

  1. Christie 31 May, 2018 at 10:16 Reply

    I have nothing good to say about Good Sam extended warranties. I also got mine transferred from the previous owner, who had never used it. The monthly premium was $200 with a $500 deductible per shop visit. I paid into it for a year and a half by the time I used it. I had asked Goos Sam several times when it expired and was told Dec 2018 each time. A week before Thanksgiving 2017 I got a letter saying it was to expire in 3 weeks. I’d been saving to pay the $500 deductible and had to get it into the shop right away. Good Sam denied payment on 90% of the problems. They paid a couple hundred and I paid over $1,000. Their “hotel coverage” only coveted 1 day, and my rig was in the shop for 6 weeks. Im a full timer so I was homeless. What a rip off. You’re better off putting aside the money each month.

    • Ashley Mann 31 May, 2018 at 20:39 Reply

      Wow I am sorry to hear that! That’s a lot higher than what we pay for our Good Sam coverage…more than twice as much. I wonder if it’s due to the type of RV we have, or possibly its age? And I’m thankful we’ve never had anything denied (except things we already knew weren’t covered by our policy). But I guess that goes to show that anyone looking to buy an after market RV warranty should definitely shop around!

  2. Terry Reinhardt 31 May, 2018 at 10:42 Reply

    WOW thank you Ashley for this blog. I have been having the same problems with the lights and just last week with water under the stove. I to was thinking rain on the bump out . Check the seals saw nothing. Questions is your hot water tank on the same side as your stove? Maybe it could be my shore water hose coming in at the sink.

    I am so glad I read your blog

    • Ashley Mann 31 May, 2018 at 20:28 Reply

      Sorry to hear that you’re having so many problems! I got your email and replied to it too, but my stove and hot water heater are on the same side, right near each other.

  3. Darlene 31 May, 2018 at 11:30 Reply

    I have a 1994 Fleetwood Southwind, I have had it for 2 years now. When I bought it the previous owner ,advertised that the class a, was clean, I wouldn’t have any problems for years. after 6 months, there was a leak in the bathroom skylight . the tv antenna broke, the right leveling Jack start leaking. It’s really a nice evening, I was told that the tires were 2 years old, after driving 13 hours I had a blow out. I had my good Sam card. I only had to wait 20 minutes, fixed and on my way, I know what you are going through,

    • Ashley Mann 31 May, 2018 at 20:31 Reply

      I can’t believe anyone would tell you an older RV “wouldn’t have any problems for years”! A 24-year-old motorhome is bound to show its age sooner or later, as you found out! Good thing you had good coverage!

  4. Pam 31 May, 2018 at 17:50 Reply

    About one year after we bought our 2007 Four Winds 5000 Class C we developed a leak. Turned out the air conditioner gasket was flatter than a pancake and hard as a rock. We replaced the gasket ourselves for under $100. Unfortunately it damaged a small part in our ceiling before we noticed, so we will have to figure out a fix for that at some point. Its just a bit bubbly so we can live with it for now. Next our air conditioner quit working on a 90 degree day (of course). As it was September we chose to wait till the next spring to fix it. In the meantime we were on a trip to northern Minnesota when our electrical started acting up. We would have to turn on the bedroom light for the living room lights to work and the converter would make a buzzing noise that would stop if the bathroom light was on. It progressively got worse til nothing would work. Being in the middle of nowhere we bought a cooler for our food and headed back home to SW Michigan, a 1000 mile drive. My husband ended up replacing the lower end of the converter for about $160 which was a lot cheaper and easier than replacing the whole thing. Then, while in Forida in February, we had to address the air conditioner problem (it was 80+ degrees and we, and our cat, were melting). My husband called a mobile repairman who said it was a resister and he would come out the next day and fix it for around $180. Well he never showed up and wouldn’t answer his phone so my husband called around, found the part and fixed it himself for $20! Boy were we glad the repairman never showed up! My husband had never worked on RV’s before but figured most of it out by watching YouTube videos. It’s really amazing how easy most rv repairs are for what repairmen charge!

    • Ashley Mann 31 May, 2018 at 20:35 Reply

      That is encouraging to hear! To be honest, we are a little bit nervous about DIY repairs involving the electrical system and would rather just hire an expert (and we have been fortunate in the past to have found a good one!), but it’s great to know that YouTube is such a good resource for those looking for a more budget-friendly option or who don’t know a good mechanic!

    • Ashley Mann 1 June, 2018 at 15:23 Reply

      That’s too bad! I certainly don’t think our RV is junk though…some of the electrical appliances are starting to show their age and the whole thing has suffered a bit of wear, but overall we’ve been very happy with the quality of the camper itself!

  5. Katie 5 June, 2018 at 09:06 Reply

    Nothing like challenges to force you to get acquainted with your tiny home, eh? We paid for some top-tier warranty plan but when our skylight had cracks, which we realized just a couple months after purchasing, it wasn’t covered by our warranty or insurance, and neither was the water damage it created in the ceiling panels. Luckily the cost wasn’t too bad since we did it ourselves, although we didn’t know what we were doing at the time, haha. We’ve had little things happen here or there but nothing too crazy so we’ve been able to fix it ourselves, well aside from being hit by a semi-truck but luckily that was covered by insurance. You’re right though, it’s a vehicle, things go wrong, and maintenance is super important. It’s awesome that your warranty covered most of those items and that they were able to fix your w/d!

    • Ashley Mann 5 June, 2018 at 15:15 Reply

      I love hearing from people like you who say they had no idea what they were doing but managed to figure things out! So encouraging! 🙂

  6. Jeanine Robinson 11 June, 2018 at 11:41 Reply

    We bought a brand new Forrest River pull behind 30 ft toy hauler. We have had it for 2 years. Recently our air conditioner went out. I am thankful for our extended warranty we bought. It only cost us $250 deductible. Recently went on a trip for 6 days. Our fridge was working fine when we left our house but by the time we got to GA. It had stopped. We tried to get repair man to campsite but never showed up so we “old schooled” it with coolers and ice and will try to get it in the shop soon. Stuff shouldn’t break in 2 years on a new trailer.

    • Ashley Mann 11 June, 2018 at 15:14 Reply

      I agree, having that kind of thing happen on such a new RV would be extremely frustrating! I mean, the whole point of buying new is to hopefully avoid that sort of thing, but unfortunately I have heard many people tell stories like yours. :/

  7. Susan 12 June, 2018 at 09:48 Reply

    We bought an used Wind River. It has a tankless water heater and we were struggling to get it to stay hot. It would be hot and then revert to cold. Not fun if you are showering! It turned out to be a bent copper pipe of the incoming water that caused the heater to shut off when the flow was inconsistent. Luckily my spouse who is very much a fix-it kind of guy, and also a pipefitter, figured it out and it now works like it should. We have a short in our wiring somewhere which is now something we have to find, it keeps breaking a fuse which also goes to the refrigerator. We purchased the extended warranty when we bought the RV, but have absolutely no confidence in Camping World or Good Sam. So far, they have not been able to fix any of our issues. It actually seems like we leave it with them and they call us telling us that they cannot find anything wrong, charge the deductible and we are no better off than when we took it.

    • Ashley Mann 12 June, 2018 at 16:55 Reply

      Oh man, that sounds so frustrating. I feel like I’ve always had better luck with local mechanics than with the big franchises when it comes to repair work. But I have also had the experience of leaving a vehicle at a repair shop where they can’t identify the issue, so I know when that happens it’s hard to want to then have to pay to take it somewhere else when you’re not sure if they’ll do any better. I hope you’re able to get the issue resolved soon!

  8. Jaicee Hutchison 12 June, 2018 at 20:09 Reply

    Thanks for a detailed report and lessons learned! I really enjoyed the great read! We’ve owned 4 campers and a beautiful park model. 2 were used, 2 were new. It didn’t matter if these were new or used as we had snafus with each, but only one cost us dearly in repairs. The electrical post we were hooked up to was struck by lightening. Didn’t cause a fire, but it fried all our electrical items…tv, microwave, and HVAC. We didn’t have a surge protector, but the mobile mechanic said he doubted that it would have protected us from the strike. It was a learning lesson and we now have a surge protector. Happy RV living…hats off to you both!

    • Ashley Mann 12 June, 2018 at 22:16 Reply

      Thank you so much! And thanks for sharing your experience – even though I love RV life (and I can see you do too!), I think it’s good for people thinking about buying an RV to know what they’re getting into!

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