Why It’s Important To Check Your RV’s Frame
I was recently sitting around the campfire while camping with some friends, and as it typically does, the conversation turned to RVs.
One friend mentioned that he had studied RVs at length before he purchased one himself. He had looked at RVs built by the same manufacturer as my travel trailer and discounted that manufacturer, as he didn’t like the way the A-frames on their travel trailers were designed, especially like my A-frame designed for travel trailers with higher clearance.
Having been in the RV industry for most of my life, I somewhat disregarded his opinion, as I could count on one hand the number of A-frame failures I had encountered in over forty years.
However, as I was doing some other work on the front of my trailer, his words came back to me and I decided to take a closer look. Sure enough, there were stress cracks where the A-frame met the first crossmember on the door side. I found the same thing when I examined the opposite side.
Luckily, I know how to weld and have a welder (and a long extension cord) at home and was able to repair the trailer the same day as we had a trip planned the next day.
As I pointed out a while back when my entry door lock failed, my wife and I log considerably more miles than the average RVer. In addition, we like to boondock, which puts us on rougher roads than most RVers are comfortable with, so the chances of this happening to your travel trailer is much less likely.
However, it emphasizes the fact in being diligent and checking your frame along with other items that we seldom check, but ought to, like lug nuts, spare tire pressure, water heater anode (out of sight, out of mind type things), etc.
This is not a one-size-fits-all solution type of repair. If you find signs of failure with your RV’s frame, I highly recommend you take it to a certified frame shop.
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See also: 2 Things You Need To Know About RV Door Locks
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Stephen Monteith Albers says
Nearly all small trailer frames are not designed for operations off paved highways. Additionally, they make no provision for internal corrosion maintenance. So they rust from the inside out within a few years. Flexing frames overstress the shell and nearly all other components which can destroy the entire unit. Any trailer intended for secondary road use or worse needs an upgraded frame designed to take constant pounding at real-world weights and corrosion proofing maintenance facilities built in.
Teresa Jones says
I appreciate your comments. We are new to the RV world and haven’t purchased yet. Currently feels like we are in analysis paralysis. Researching and reading constantly. Trying to buy quality without emptying our savings, but keep changing our minds as to length, type, necessary amenities, etc.
Patti Panuccio says
I once owned a 28ft Weekender tt, after the 3rd time the frame broke I called the manufacturer personally and they told me it wasn’t meant to be used every WEEKEND.
Stephen Monteith Albers says
This is precisely right. With the rarest of exceptions, factory small trailer manufacturers target volume and compete on price. The needs of individual owners are not considered. Typically, manufacturers don’t use their own product and leave product testing to the owners. So understandably, boondocker needs are not even comprehended by manufacturers, let alone provided for. Furthermore, John Doe owners almost universally buy on price rather than putting thought into their proposed application and buying accordingly. Even those who do consider their potential use,, the vast majority err on the modest side and quickly get involved in real-world applications that exceed what they originally intended. The majority of small trailers in service are being operated over their design weight and balance, resulting in HUGE owner liability. Caveat emptor.
Mort kissell says
This is the results of the word LITE in your purchase of a camper with that term in it’s description ! If you go for the camper you MUST yearly crawl under it and touch up the frame with Rustoleum of some rust proffer or it will be junk before the fiberglass makes it unusable.junk. If only somebody made their trailer out of heavy Aluminium instead of what we use to call sheetmetal but now call a Lite trailer. Yes this is a BIG deal.!
Silas Longshot says
As the crack going along right at the original weld bead shows, the metal in the vicinity of weld points gets changed structurally a bit by the near intense heat while the rest of the area remains “cool”. That temperature extreme causes a weakness that leads to the cracking. Unless the designer of the RV chassis is totally inept, failure in the center of a span, or other undisturbed by welding areas is kind of rare.
LivinLite, RIP, has a recall going right now for cracked frames. They switched design on the newer ones- and now they are cracking. Apparently the company never had an analysis done by a mechanical engineer before putting them into production.
The parent company, Thor, (I spit when I say that) is picking up the charges.
Mike Sawatzky says
Journeyman welder for 34 years. If you check out the quality of the welds on all trailer frames it will make you cringe. Unqualified people doing high speed production welding with no quality control or adequate weld supervisors in the manufacturing facility. I go over each trailer we purchase, grind out bad welds and re-weld those joints. I’m surprised that more of these A-frames don’t fail.
Always disconnect the battery And shore power before any welding on the RV.