Pre-Owned RV Inspection

Spring is the season where big boys and girls are now starting to look at RV’s. With all the boat shows, outdoor living expos and hunting-fishing trade conventions, it gives one all sorts of ideas on how to live large.

It reminds me of my RV purchase last year. I was looking for either a tow-able trailer or 5th wheel for a lot we had at a seasonal RV campground. I educated myself by visiting a number of RV dealers in the region and viewing their inventory.

All I can say is… Wow! The current models are really different from what I expected. One of the biggest trends that I observed were the high, curved roofs and ceilings. It makes such a difference. The use of LED lighting, high-end material for the mill-work along with quality resilient flooring adds to the overall impression of a major change of approach to construction and fit-out.

What a relief to see less use of particle board, cheap carpeting in all the wrong places, clunky light fixtures and unimaginative rectangular box ceilings.

It soon became apparent to me that new was out of the question, for my budget, and that used it would have to be.

Well, one thing led to another and I eventually decided upon a pre-owned towed trailer.  But before making the final commitment, I asked the dealer to take me through his walk-through of a complete inspection.  He readily agreed and we set a date for the following weekend.

In advance of the inspection, I went to YouTube and looked at all the videos I could find on the topic of RV inspections. Then I  checked Google for relevant trailer and RV forums that had discussions on ‘before you buy’ checklists for used rigs. Finally I got specific with the manufacturer and model and checked the user groups blogs.

Experienced and educated, I was now ready to participate in the inspection. Let me say that overall, the trailer was in excellent condition and that the dealer had done his own shop inspection, repairs were made and the unit was thoroughly cleaned. So whatever I would find would be in addition to what the dealer had taken care of or (as a human nature is apt to do) had hidden.

The dealer had the unit hooked up to power and water for our visit. The exterior belly, the 4 sides and roof were in good shape. The interior was cared-for and not at all abused. The slides, mechanical, hydraulic and electric systems worked as advertised. The propane tanks and batteries had been replaced with new ones. The joints at the exterior corners had all be re-caulked with a new sealant bead. It was really a pristine pre-owned unit. The only obvious issue was that the tires were the (low quality) factory originals and some weather checkering was evident, even though the treads were still at 80%. I suggested  tire replacement but the dealer insisted that there was still lots of life in them and after all, the deal was so good that it was a negligible issue. I had previously read in my research that factory original tires only have a realistic life of 10,000 to 20,000 km or 3 years, if that, and the consequences of a blow-out can be enormous.

Anyway, the deal was struck and the trailer was delivered without incident to an RV park.  The dealer was also helpful in leveling and setting up the rig. All was well and everything worked as advertised.  We returned to the park at the end of October to winterize the unit. When that task was completed I did a final walk-around and that was when I noticed that the caulking had split at the exterior right front corner of the rig, for about a foot, along the vertical edge where the side wall meets the corner trim.  Hmm… it appeared that the trim had moved away from the wall to expose the interior by about a quarter inch. Fortunately another camper family were around also winterizing their rig and they had some exterior grade, white weatherproof ‘gorilla’ tape which I used to tape up the open seam.

As soon as I fixed the seam I went inside to check that interior corner by pressing and tapping the walls and floor. Fortunately everything appeared sound and tight, without any prior moisture stains. Caught just-in-time. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had missed seeing the split and had let our long cold and rainy winter get at it. Certainly nothing good.

So why had the vertical corner seamed opened-up? Who knows. Is the trailer coming apart? No, but obviously the walls and corners have flexed independently. Is this a show-stopper and something to worry about? Not really, but it is a reminder that all toys need to be inspected and cared for because life happens.

Happy RV-ing!