An RV taken to places that it is not meant to go will constantly be breaking down when not maintained and serviced as needed. A well-maintained RV driven on terrain that it has been made may not break down at all, lasting the owner 15 years or more.
- Water leaking
- Battery dead
- AC not cold
- Flat tire
- Electrical fail
- Engine runs bad
- Transmission not shifting
- Bathroom not working
- Awning stuck
- Solar cracked
- Lights out
Understanding why an RV may be breaking down and the common causes of these problems will help you have your RV for much longer. We recommend becoming familiar with the most common causes, working on getting the best possible understanding of your RV and how it works.
Why Do RVs Have So Many Problems?
RVs have several things that can cause them to be breaking down constantly; very rarely will these machines be breaking down because of manufacturer issues. Understanding where RVs can get damage will help you to ensure that your RV won’t be damaged when you are using it.
Every time you hit a bump the whole vehicle is jarred causing stress and strain that can wear out components.
We recommend going through all of these and keeping them in mind when you have your RV and searching for a new RV. Many people don’t understand the finer details of an RV and how it may be damaged by the previous owner not taking proper care of the machine.
The most common cause of an RV breaking down is that people are constantly assuming that one or two missed services will not make a difference. However, because these engines are almost always working their hardest, just one missed service can cause many problems for owners.
We recommend always sticking to the service schedules provided by manufacturers, with RVs that are not moved a lot being serviced before a trip. Experienced RV owners can do some things themselves, but having a professional do it will ensure the best results.
Size Of RV
Larger RVs are not meant to be driving down dirt roads and unmapped places that no one knows about, while smaller RVs can easily handle them. The larger an RV is, the harder the engine and other parts of the machine will have to work to do everything, moving it, powering electronics, and more.
The Larger models will always need more work to keep going, as the machine needs a lot more power to keep going. This is why uncared for RVs that are full-sized will usually break down as soon as they can, while smaller RVs may be able to handle not being constantly serviced.
You may think it is normal for an RV to break down after every vacation trip, but many owners forget to count how far they have moved. Vehicles that experience many kilometers each year need to be serviced more often, as the services are measured by distance driven.
If your trip takes you across the country, you live in or across several countries; you need to plan for services along the way. When the RV is driven every day or driven several hundred miles once a week, you should have it serviced every few months for safety.
A 4×4 model is more rugged and better for off road.
Age Of RV
As much as we would all want our vehicles, devices, and favorite things to last forever, they do get broken with age. Older RVs will naturally require a lot more maintenance until, eventually, an integral part breaks, leaving the RV without power to move.
Well-maintained RVs can easily last well over 40 years; however, there is a limit, and older RVs will always be a gamble as the vehicle’s history becomes murky.
The average lifespan of an RV is 15 years. You cannot get a loan on one older than 10 years because the value is low and costs are high. We recommend always keeping this in mind when you have to purchase or maintain your first RV.
How Often Should You Service an RV?
We recommend servicing your RV every six months if you are driving with it regularly or every 3000 miles, whichever comes first. If you are not driving your RV regularly, taking only occasional trips, we recommend servicing it once a year and having everything checked before going on any trip.
The fluid levels of your RV will have to be checked a lot more regularly than some of the other serviceable parts. The breaks and bearings may only need to be checked every 10k miles, while the wheels may only need to be checked when you notice they are becoming slick.
When you have owned your RV for a few years, you will naturally start learning when the vehicle needs to be serviced. New RVs automatically tell you when they need to be serviced or repaired, thanks to installed internal monitoring systems.
What Are the Most Common Issues?
Now that we know how the causes of most of the common issues with an RV, we need to look at what you can expect in the future. Many people assume that they will be able to easily and comfortably predict these, however because of the size of RVs, this is not always true.
Usually, the problems that can cause an RV to break down are not things people can accurately predict; we recommend that you know each one by heart. The problems that can cause an RV to become completely unusable are nothing like the issues even an SUV may have to face.
Easily one of the most common issues found with RVs is that the water supply system has entirely broken, especially with people that don’t live out of their RVs. As the RV is stored, some water is forgotten in the pipes, freezing in the winter, expanding, and breaking the pipes and tanks.
It may seem simple, but locations where RVs park can be extremely wild, with little to no access to the plumbing of any kind. If you cannot have water stored or use water when the RV starts, you will become limited, requiring a few hours of work to fix everything. Water can cause mold which is hard to remove and bad to breathe.
While camping locations usually have some toilet facilities, these can be questionable at best, with truly wild camp spots not having any toilet facilities. Your RV, especially full-sized, needs to have a working toilet issue, which can become broken quite easily.
As the RV ages and is moved around the world, the toilet seals become damaged, the toilet cannot hold the right amount of water, and the overall health of the toilet fails. You must have the full plumbing inspected whenever possible to prevent the chance of your toilet leaking into your home.
Engine and Transmission
They can have problems with shifting, running rough, and not starting.
There is power wired throughout that runs lights, fridge, and AC. Wires get loose, break, and overheat.
Headlight and internal lights have issues with bulbs, coverings, and wires
Awnings get stuck. The roof gets hit with crap. Windshields crack.
A flat tire on a car is a problem, a flat tire on an RV can become a giant pain and a problem as the replacement of the wheel can take hours to do. Further, as the tires age, they can become quite sensitive to any damage or bumps on the road that you may encounter.
We recommend having all the tires checked as often as possible, with a large majority of RV owners rotating their tires every few months to extend life. Further, with an RV, if your trust in a set of tires has started to fade, we recommend replacing them entirely to ensure they will not fail at the worst time.
- Towing: If your RV breaks down and requires towing to a repair facility, the cost can range from $100 to over $1,000, depending on the distance, location, and type of RV. Some insurance policies or roadside assistance programs may cover towing costs, so it’s essential to review your coverage before a breakdown occurs.
- Labor: Labor costs for RV repairs can range from $80 to $150 per hour or more, depending on the location and the repair facility. This cost can add up quickly, especially for complex repairs that require a lot of time to diagnose and fix.
- Parts: The cost of replacement parts for an RV can vary widely, depending on the specific component and whether it’s a common part or a specialized item. For example, a simple water pump replacement might cost between $100 and $300, while a new transmission or engine could cost several thousand dollars.
Most reliable RVs
- Airstream has been manufacturing RVs since the 1930s and is known for its iconic aluminum travel trailers. The Airstream Classic, Flying Cloud, and International Serenity models are popular choices for their durability, timeless design, and high-quality interiors.
- Winnebago is a well-established RV brand with a reputation for reliability and quality craftsmanship. Some popular and reliable Winnebago models include the Winnebago Revel, a Class B RV built on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis, and the Winnebago Minnie Winnie, a Class C RV known for its comfort and functionality.
- Tiffin is renowned for its luxury motorhomes and commitment to customer service. The Tiffin Allegro Bus and Tiffin Phaeton are popular Class A motorhomes known for their reliability, spacious interiors, and high-quality construction.
- Pleasure-Way specializes in Class B RVs and camper vans, with a focus on quality and innovation. The Pleasure-Way Plateau and Pleasure-Way Lexor are both built on reliable Mercedes-Benz and Ram ProMaster chassis, respectively, and offer comfortable, well-designed living spaces.
- Leisure Travel Vans. This Canadian brand is known for its high-quality Class B and Class C RVs, built on Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit chassis. The Leisure Travel Vans Unity and Serenity models are popular choices for their reliability, innovative design, and attention to detail.
- Jayco is a well-known RV manufacturer with a reputation for building durable and reliable travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes. Some reliable models from Jayco include the Jayco Jay Flight, a popular travel trailer, and the Jayco Redhawk, a Class C motorhome.
- Newmar is a luxury RV brand with a long-standing reputation for quality and reliability. Their lineup includes Class A diesel and gas motorhomes, such as the Newmar Dutch Star and Newmar Bay Star, which are known for their well-built construction and upscale interiors.
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