If you have an RV, fifth wheel, travel trailer, or even a pop-up (from here on I’ll just refer to all of these as an RV) you know things break. If you don’t own one yet, you will likely learn this lesson soon. Sadly, for most of us we learn the hard way. We’re now two weeks shy of one year since we bought our new Cedar Creek 36CKTS. We’ve been living in it for about 10 months, and we’ve been on the road for about five months. We never thought so many things could break.
Before we bought our RV we’d seen videos of people talking about all kinds of things breaking and needing repair work. We had even read several blogs about how new owners need to expect things to break, or to not even work at all. We thought we were going into the situation with our eyes and minds open. Oh boy were we WRONG!
Remember what I said about learning the hard way? Well let me explain. We had this ridiculous notion that if we were just careful that we’d be fine. We knew that the build quality isn’t the same as a home, and that you can’t be rough on things. We never considered that no matter how careful we were that it wouldn’t matter. No amount of being careful would have prevented our kitchen slide from going out of alignment, or multiple LED lights from burning out in the first couple of months.
The purpose of this article is to help you, our readers, gain a better understanding of what to expect. I have several points of advice that could save you a lot of headache.
- If you’re buying an RV, DO NOT plan on moving straight into it. I don’t care if it’s custom ordered from the factory. Or if it’s your best friends and he takes perfect care of it and stores it in a big RV garage. You need a buffer, of preferably a few months, to find the kinks. I promise you that there are kinks. But people will say “It’s new and everything is under warranty……” That’s them trailing off when they realize that it can take months, MONTHS, to get parts. It’s not like cars where you can buy parts from 20 stores in town. And if it’s your friends, either there’s stuff wrong he doesn’t know about, or there’s something about to break. You need someplace else to sleep for a bit in case your new home on wheels isn’t so homey.
- Yes everything can, and could very well, break. But fear not if your RV is under warranty. There’s this handy device most of us have in our pockets or purses that takes pictures. These pictures are what’s going to save your wallet. With them you can prove to the manufacture that what you say is broken, is actually broken. Email them, show them what’s wrong, directly ask authorization for a mobile tech to come to you and do the repairs. This is what we do, and it’s kept us from having our house in the shop for months at a time. Oh, that authorization thing is really important. Without having that upfront they can possibly choose to not reimburse you. It’s basically the equivalent of a bad date “going to the bathroom” and leaving you to foot the bill.
- Options for Repairs:
- Taking it to the dealer, and leaving it there for a good portion of the year, so your brand new home has to sit in a warehouse or worse, the lot and rot untouched while they order parts and fail to update you on the non-existant progress.
- Find an independent shop/tech to do the work. The speed difference between independent shops vs dealers will roughly be the equivalent of a Ferrari vs a Vespa. There’s just one little snafu with getting that fast work, the independent techs want to be paid upfront and let the manufacture reimburse you months later. This is fine if you’re retired and have a cushy Roth IRA you’ve built up over 40 years. Unfortunately, for many of us that’s not the case. Repairs go on whatever credit card isn’t currently maxed out, and we hope and pray that the manufacture sends the reimbursement check before we get sent to collections. That fast work is like a bad ex. You know it’s fast and fun, but you’ll pay for it, they may even try to take your dog.
- The third option is to have the independent tech come to you. Again, make sure they are on the approval list. Not that this means they are necessarily going to make it perfect like it never happened, more like warranty work will still be approved, and you guessed it, you’ll get reimbursed some day. Again, they expect you to pay upfront because they know the RV Warranty Reimbursement program works at snail pace. Worse, they treat the techs like health insurance saying they will only pay the tech for “X” percent of their work.
- Regardless of what breaks, who fixes it, or how minor the problem is, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. You need a cache of pictures and documents that would make the NSA jealous. Manufacture warranties usually last one year. If you have a problem outside of that year, and think they’re responsible, you’d better be able to prove it. Documentation saved us already. Manufactures don’t usually cover batteries, they say it’s a dealer problem. However, our manufacture changed their “we can’t be bothered with your petty problems, peasant” tune and covered our new batteries pretty quick. That’s because I was able to prove that all four of our batteries were fried, within months of buying our new RV, because of their bad power converter that had been overcharging them. They underestimated this peasant.
- TEST YOUR RV!!! Test it the first night you get it, and test it often. If you haven’t set foot in it for months, then just suddenly take it out, that’s when you’re going to find your problems. Periodic dry runs can save you a lot of headache, and let you enjoy your vacation. Take your RV out often and TRY TO FIND THE PROBLEMS, especially if it’s under warranty. Check everything like you’re buying it again. People buy RVs to get away. To actually enjoy life and not just stay chained to a desk. To experience something other than over-hyped tourist traps on their measly two weeks of vacation. People buy RVs to make the boring parts of life bearable. So the last thing you need is to finally get that three day weekend, escape from work a few hours early, throw the family, dog, and some firewood in your RV, then get to the campground and find out that something is broken and you get to spend your vacation trying to fix it. That’s how people get addicted to Xanax.
- Remember to STAY CALM. Unless an electrical short burns it down, a slide falls out, or the black tank overflows, it’s probably not a vacation killer. Build a campfire, make s’mores, drink a little too much, and schedule someone to look at it when you get home. You’re on vacation, remember? Hopefully nothing on the above list ever happens to anyone.
If you buy an RV and expect everything to break, you’ll be happy when only a few things actually do. But the flip side is getting angry over everything that breaks. Pick your battles, and remember to have fun out there. I’m writing from experience for almost all of this. We’ve had a laundry list of problems. I won’t give you the gory details, but rest assured there’s been a battle to get our stuff fixed. Here’s a not-so-short list of what’s broken on our new RV. The video shows all of the issues, below is more information about them.
- LED lights-The night light under the sink never worked. Two LED ceiling lights have turned into strobe lights if they’re turned on. The closet light and one ceiling light in the kitchen have become very dim. These aren’t lights that you can get from Walmart, they’re RV specific. There was a very noticeable progression of the bath light… then the bedroom light… then the closet light all having issues. The repairmen thinks there is a wiring issue but we haven’t had it fixed yet because of all of the other problems.
- Slide toppers-The kitchen slide topper disconnected the spring loaded arm and unwound itself. Our Slide toppers were “Riveted” and this one just snapped. It sounded like a jackhammer was being used on the side of our RV. The opposing slide topper has started to disconnect. We’re told it’s not a simple fix, and that the entire thing has to be replaced. They said the reason it is coming off is that it wasn’t properly installed.
- Awning-It no longer goes out without manual assistance. What I mean is that when I push the out button it just unrolls, then I have to push the arm and shove it away from the wall, then it will finish unrolling. We were told this could be structural, or a leveling issue by the RV Repairman. He eliminated the leveling issue.
- Kitchen slide-The rear side of the kitchen slide is out of alignment. It won’t come in all the way and leaves a gap while the slide is in. So if we are driving and it starts to rain… this could leak.
- Kitchen sink-Our kitchen sink wasn’t sealed to the counter with silicone from the start, and the mounting brackets were bent. So water was able to drip through the gap under the sink (approximately 1cm wide at the top of our sink!). The mounting brackets were bent back into place and the RV Repairmen resealed the now “normal” sized gap.
- Roller shades-One of the large night shades will no longer lock and stay down. One of the medium night shades won’t rise faster than a snails pace.
- Slam-Latch Compartment Door-Even when the handle is locked the door can still be opened. it doesn’t actually latch anymore.
- Wavy wall-We don’t really know what the problem is yet, or how/if it can be fixed. A tech inspected it and said that it’s not delamination, that it’s likely structural issue where the wall is peeling away from the structural support or was not bonding together properly at all. The Forest River representative said that it appears to be “Side Wall Adhesion Loss”. When you search for this term not very much of an explanation pops up. The service rep explained that they have to take the interior wall down, essentially re-bond it, and then put it back up with a brace. Here’s the thing, the RV Repairman that was out here has said he has seen this fairly often and it is usually structural. We haven’t had this verified so we will talk more about this when we know more.
- Outdoor light-It burned out, still have to get it fixed.
- Stereo feedback-Whenever the hot water heater turns on we get high pitched feedback through our sound system. (but only the propane side of our water heater as the electrical side does not work.
- Electric Water Heater– We finally figured out how to use this recently, and we turned it on, turned the propane off, and only had cold water the next day. So far, the electric water heater does not work. We had this trouble shooted April 18th and the repairmen found there is no continuity. He said the element is “burned up” even though we have never used it. So we will have to replace the element. The repairmen also said the switch on the inside panel that you use to turn it on doesn’t work.
- Air condition vent-These are cheap and flimsy, I don’t even know how it broke, it literally just fell apart (the little disk looking things in the ceiling). It’s possible it happened while we were traveling. We just have no idea.
- Power Inverter- The “Good Idea Fairy” decided it was a good idea to mount the inverter for our residential fridge under the hydraulic fluid reservoir. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well when someone overfills the hydraulic fluid while your jacks are down it will overflow when you bring them back up. All that fluid has to go somewhere, luckily there was something underneath to catch most of it (the inverter?!). We were told that 2 1/4 quarts of fluid were poured out of the inverter. After a long nightmare we finally got the $850 inverter replaced without having to pay for it because we had to gather evidence that the rv mechanic put the extra fluid in it, in the first place. This was after the Camping World service manager told me that he knew I had been the one that overfilled the reservoir – yelling at a veteran on the phone is never a good idea, by the way, fun times. You don’t even have to overfill this, the spongy/foamy cap placed on top to allow air in (to pressurize/depressurize) allows the hydraulic fluid to slosh out of the cap. Yeah, its not a sealed system.
- Broken dump valve- We saved the best, or worst, for last. The cable for our bathroom gray tank broke. This happened because whoever installed the dump valve cables twisted them up and installed them all at bad angles, even tied them in a knot in one area. Our other grey tank cable was about to break. It was determined that all three valves should be replaced. In order to replace them, the tech was forced to break one off of the main sewer line. There were screws attaching it that couldn’t be accessed from underneath, which of course was the only place he could access it from. So now he has to get more parts to replace that. Meanwhile we’ve spent two day with our tanks wide open, underbelly and insulation exposed, and unable to use any water in our RV. I don’t blame the tech, he just found the problem. But thanks to another “Good Idea Fairy” that thought this design was again, a good one, we’re walking down to the campground bathrooms.
15. Our ODS (Opposite Door Side) Slide Topper is becoming detached in the rear corner. This is very similar to the front corner of the Door Side Slide Topper that has been like this since we have had the RV. As of April 14th- all three slide toppers are separating.
16. Attic Vent Cap was detached, most likely while driving to the dealership to have the RV Inspected. Luckily, we caught this before the nasty storms moved in and soaked the pipe and rooftop. This would have led to severe water damage. We will still have to have this inspected when we get to Washington.
17. Soft Spots in the basement compartment. We found a pipe that was not attached properly and did not have anything like plumbers tape, or leak tape attached to it whatsoever. This is poor craftsmanship all around. The pipes were not even screwed together securely. I don’t know why it took us this long to figure it out, but being so new to the RV World we definitely feel like this could have been checked by someone at the factory or dealership to prevent water damage over all. Very sloppy work. We have learned that we must inspect every single system because so far, none of the systems in the RV have been error proof.
18. Shower walls are cracking. The fiberglass one piece shower has cracking around the little soap dish cubby and handle bar.
19. All slide toppers are peeling off at their connections as of April 1st (so a few days after 1 year.)
20. Water pump no longer works as of April 14th. – Trouble shooted April 18th, working again.
21. Black tank valves which we already had repaired once, are leaking again so we had to buy an external valve until it can be repaired.
22. Back window on the door side (by the couch) does not shut properly and now wiggles loose when we drive. (Found April 15th).
23. Batteries are not lasting at all meaning they probably were fried by the converter. Since Forest River did not replace the batteries after finding the bad converter, we get approximately 3- 4 hours of fridge use while traveling. They claimed we should get up to 4 days of battery use while traveling.
24. The dreaded Front Cap fading was noticed April 7th, 2017. This is the second time we were waxing the front cap, attempting to follow all recommendations… The brown front cap is oxidizing like so many of the other Cedar Creeks.
25. We have a significant amount of rust underneath our RV. The framing has lines of rust like something scraped the protected coating off during manufacturing and it is rusting in those areas. (04/07/2017)
26. Rubber chunks: pieces of rubber chunks from the slide seals are coming off, like the corners are being ripped off by the slides. (04/07/2017)
*** 03/22/2017: The Best news we could have so far!! We found a dealership in Washington that is willing to take the RV in, in June 2017 and see what they can do about all of the issues! Thank you Camping World of Burlington, WA! We are so grateful to have found someone to help us out. The factory sent us a list of every dealership in the country/service center and John and I spent 3 whole days 8am-5pm calling these locations trying to find someone who could tackle the list but the side wall was the determining factor in most people saying they couldn’t help. This is understandable considering we have it in writing from two repair facilities already saying it should only be done at the Forest River Cedar Creek Factory.
We have made it to Washington but our appointment is not until June 20th, 2017. We have found even more wrong with the rig. This would never have been possible if we weren’t traveling and finding these things. It is frustrating but hopefully we can help change this industry for the better? We dream big. Below is the complete list that has been updated through June 23rd, 2017:
- Front cap is fading in several spots on top.
- The backup camera antenna has fallen off.
- Loss of adhesion to the side wall between the door and bedroom window.
- Rear D/S does not shut flush when closed.
- P/S dinning slide topper. Fabric is pulling away from hardware.
- Bedroom slide topper, fabric is pulling away from the hardware.
- D/S slide topper, fabric is pulling away from hardware.
- Tiny bubbles directly above the loss of adhesion on roof.
- Porch light above the entry door has the black surround coming apart and the amber cover has fallen off.
- Awning does not always extend on its own.
- Underbelly pan covering tanks keeps falling.
- Bedroom slide out rubber seal is ripping off in chunks.
- Multiple areas on the frame that are rusted.
- There are several areas of sealant that have cracked open. The opposing slide under the left side of the window, the main slide beneath the space between the windows, the front cap seal to the left of the hitch, and next to the door near the latch that holds it open.
- The weather stripping underneath the front cap on the opposing side won’t stay in.
- The weather stripping for the front cap leaves a gap to either side of the hitch.
- Supports for the wheel skirting aren’t secured on both sides,
- The underside of the main slide is beginning to fray near the door. (Outside)
- The roof near the rear AC unit appears to be molding.
- Steps rusting.
- Floor in the storage bay is very soft and warped, possibly from a leaking pipe.
- Power inverter for the refrigerator will not stay on any longer than two hours.
- Water pump is possibly vapor locked. It is currently working.
- Electric element in the water heater is burned out.
- Black tank valve stuck open.
- Galley grey tank valve difficult to open and close.
- Cargo door, on P/S, can be opened even if locked.
- Pancake light above the bed strobes and flickers, same as the closet and bathroom lights. Nine total LED pancake lights are now burned out or going out.
- Bedroom slide makes a loud popping noise and comes outwards hard, when extending.
- Rear panel of the storage tray under the bed fell off.
- Front bed frame panel is broken.
- Rear panels on the bedroom S/O seem to be very loose.
- In wall cabinet (left side of bed) is pulling away from the wall at the top.
- Top cover that the mattress sits on seems to be warped, causing the middle to sink in.
- Water dripping out of the ceiling in the bedroom.
- Ceiling above the closet side of the bed is soft.
- A/C vent above bed is broken and now not able to change direction or angle.
- The lower right closet door mirror is coming lose.
- Bedroom door jam is coming loose.
- The crown molding above the bedroom TV is lose.
- Crack in left closet door.
- Gap in bedroom floor near the door side foot of the bed.
- Pancake LED light near the TV and closet going out.
- Pancake LED light in the closet going out.
- Pancake LED light above the bed on the rear side going out.
- Bathroom ceiling around the fan is soft.
- Shower wall cracking inside the soap dish.
- Light under bathroom sink does not work.
- Once when opening the bathroom fan water came pouring out from around the knob.
- The bathroom door jam is coming lose.
- Two Pancake LED lights going out.
- GFCI outlet in bathroom “pops” whenever the unit is plugged into 15-amp power.
- Button on shower head sticks.
- The antenna crank keeps falling out of the ceiling.
- Paneling to the left side facing of the refrigerator is pulled away from the trim. The trim molding appears to have been installed crooked.
- Drawer underneath the oven does not latch and opens during travel.
- The kitchen light to the left of the microwave doesn’t turn on usually. Sometimes it will flicker on randomly.
- The kitchen faucet is coming apart.
- Fridge won’t turn on while the unit is plugged into 15-amp power, even with the converter on.
- There is a gap between the kitchen counter and the top of the entertainment system. It appears to have been installed crooked.
- Pancake LED nearest to the door is going out.
- Ceiling fan switch sticks.
- Fuse Panel short, #7 fuse.
- Front of refrigerator doors rusting.
- Door side main slide side trim separating.
- When the hot water heater is run on LP there is feedback heard through the entertainment system.
- When the rear A/C is on there can be loud sounds in ceiling below it.
- Large vent in the living room, and the two smaller vents closest to the door have extra material, which possibly might be causing the noise issue.
- Slow rise shades, on the windows in dinning slide has the material pulling away at the bottom, where you pull it from.
- On the dining S/O, rear small night roller shade does not retract.
- Rear day roller shade will not stay down.
- There is an area on recliner where the cable is coming through the leather.
- The window to the right of the couch doesn’t shut securely. Door side rear window.
- Window in O/S closest to door is installed crooked, on the top it is 5 7/8″ inches from the edge of the wall, and the bottom is 6 3/8″ from the edge of the wall.
- Lower screen door is separating.
- Large day shade next to the dinette will no longer stay down.
- Gap in living room floor on the dinette side in front of the door side recliner.
- The two rear pancake LED’s are going out.
- O/S trim separating on rear of slide next to couch.
Big thank you to everyone encouraging us to keep showing this stuff. We know its not the more fun side of RVing but it is real. We really appreciate your help along the way!
John and Laura Hebard