Among the pet peeves of one very busy RV technician: customers who bring him an RV with a roof leak. No, he’s not upset because the roof developed a leak. That kind of thing can happen.
Rather, it’s the customer. He or she recently bought the RV only to “discover” that the roof is incontinent. In many cases, the client bought it from a private party who swore up and down that the roof was just fine, no leaks.
RV roof leaks are a huge problem. In many cases, leaks can cause serious structural damage. Serious as in “thousands of dollars to repair.” So if you’re shopping for a used rig, BEWARE of any RVs with hidden leaking issues.
How can you protect yourself from RV leaks?
Look for them—they frequently leave tell-tale signatures.
If you see discoloration on the ceiling, often a brownish stain, look out. And always open the upper cabinets and look inside at the ceiling area. Leaks often develop at the edge of the unit, along a seam, and manifest themselves close to an inside wall.
RV types often have their own areas of susceptibility.
Looking at a motorhome? Class C units often leak at the cab-over area, and near slide-outs. Class A units are said to have the lowest leak rate, but when they do, it’s often near slide-outs.
Towable rigs with an “end cap” at the front or rear of the rig are more prone to leakage near the cap. In any type of RV, look closely around roof vents, and especially skylights—that’s a common leak point.
Don’t limit your inspection to the ceiling. Windows can leak, as well as any other area where the skin is opened up for a passage. Open lower cabinets, look closely at walls. Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption: Discoloration. Warped wallpaper can also indicate water infiltration. Examine the floors, too. At floor level, you could find signs of damage from plumbing leaks.
While your eyes are helpful in leak checking, your nose can literally “sniff out” a leak. If you open the RV door and get the scent of mold or mildew, run away quick. Mold or mildew is a huge clue of leakage and probable serious damage.
If you find evidence that the rig has leaked, the best advice is to run the other direction. But if you have just “fallen in love” with the unit, then spend a bit of your own money and hire an RV technician to evaluate the rig and give his professional advice as to what it might cost to really put the rig to rights. In the long run, you may save BIG bucks.
Charles Peckham says
For the most part, this is very good advice, but I don’t know that advising someone to run from an RV that has EVER had a leak is really necessary. Our 2001 travel trailer apparently had a small roof leak at some point in it’s life. (a corner of the wallpaper started to peel) A previous owner had the leak fixed, and we have never had a leak in four years of ownership. I noticed that the roof coating was wearing thin last year and recoated it myself. It was a fairly easy task and the finished product looks like a brand new roof. I figure it’s good for another four or five years before it will need attention again.
Frank Skelly says
Please tell me what you used to recoat your roof and does the product have good directions.
Frank Kistner says
I agree. Telling readers / prospective purchasers to walk or run from any RV that ever had a leak would reduce the universe of available RVs to a small number. I think they will all leak sooner or later. The question is where and how much. At one time or another, I have dealt with leaks around door frames, windows, windshields, slide outs, marker lights, etc. Every place where a hole was cut in the body is an opportunity for a leak (just like every opening in your house… except the house usually does not roll down the road). You just have to check your RV regularly, do the preventative maintenance, and fix problems promptly.
Ralph Handy says
My $30,000 Lance Truck Camper developed a roof leak while in storage. The ceiling, walls, dinette cushions, the dinette table, and floor coverings were all destroyed, additionally, the exterior fiberglass siding delaminated. The cost to repair was equal to the current value of the camper.
Mike Paull says
I’m going to bet the manufacturer as well as the selling dealer did everything they could to blame your issue on you This is proof that even a perceived high-quality unit built by a perceived high quality manufacturer will leak and eventually destroy the entire R.V. The fact that some one here actually said that just towing your R.V. down the road will result in leaks ?! Goes to show you the absolute poor quality of rv’s these days. They keep producing poor quality products and we keep buying poor quality products so why should they change? .
Michael Joseph says
The best advise was omitted – get up on the roof and look for pitting, cracks and other signs of deterioration. Do this at least a couple of times a year.
Jim Meehan says
I would like to know how widely available the inspection technique of a Blower Door is? I know it has been mentioned by one person and it was able to pinpoint leaking areas when they are wetted down. Also once you smell the mildew oder inside what type of spray should be used to neutralize the mildew? This would be a great topic for a full blown article in RV mag. It would help both purchasers and RVers who already have it and need to deal with it.
Call your local CW and see if they offer the Blower door service?
That is so true…If you do fix it, say so.. Most people who own RV’s are quite respectable and honest. Excepting those who want to get rid of an old leakier and who never want to RV again. My advise is to check the model they are buying and see if there are any conserens with that model they wish to buy.. If there is a history of leak problems well…hey forget it..
For Me….I don’t mind fixing as long as you tell me…..BUT. ” who is going to be honest with me..”..that effects the bottom line ….How much can I get buy this old leaker for..!!!!!~!!!……..!!!
Bob Harris says
Being married for 100 years…Ha Ha. We have owned 8 motor-homes..Class A.
When at our home; the RV is in our driveway between trips….One of our motor -homes had a roof leak behind the front door entrance to the middle of roof vent and fan. We did not notice till months later & the damage was about 7 square feet. The roof material went from very light brown to dark brown.
This is how we fixed it with 100% good results in original color. Mixed bleach and water at 50% each.
Covered floor carpet and furniture with plastic tarps. Used a sponge and soaked roof in small area still it was entirely moist. Finished. Two days later, roof was 100% dry and removed all the plastic tarps. No spots, no discolor from original ceiling…… So Happy. Then bought a roof repair RV paint and painted all openings and vents, etc.
……..and the rest of the story? Has it been ‘tested’, as in has it been in a really heavy downpour since you painted the roof?
Lovely beach Armacao De Pera Portugal
I might add that the outside should be inspected for raised or otherwise swollen looking areas that look like there was water inside the wall has frozen or the material has swollen just from the water. It’s always very visible or run your han around seams and window frames.
I became obsessed with the concept of owning a motor home, and my husband and I bought our first motor home a year ago.. We were completely ignorant and didn’t do research about leaks in Class C overheads. This Fall, after a great year of using it almost every weekend, we noticed water coming in the overhead area after a hard rain. After closer inspection, we noticed the panel of ceiling above the front window was a slightly different color, and had been replaced. The old fellow that sold it to us didn’t inform us that it had leaked up there and had been repaired. Of course we were too stupid to ask back then. We had to tear the soaked panel and insulation out. I spent a lot of time on the roof with my newfound product, Eternabond tape, put a sprinkler on the roof and ran water hard for a while. No more leak. I haven’t told my husband yet, but I am obsessing about a larger RV, and we will sell this one. I WILL be honest with potential buyers about the leak repair, though, and will happily put my hose and sprinkler on the roof and prove it is still watertight!
Mark Enloe says
Move an RV down the road for any length of time and leaks will develop.
R Bryan says
Well, yeah, a stick built one will. My molded fiberglass 19 footer will never leak. The only possible leak source would be an uncaulked window or vent seal. That has nothing to do with moving down the road, but a lack of maintenance. Even a well maintained “stickie” will eventually leak. That’s why I avoid them.
Anne Garey says
Which type of roof coating should I use on a fiberglass roof? I think I’d like to do a total coverage on our 96 American Eagle since we plan on keeping & using “the Old Gal” for a long time!!
Mike Paull says
Seriously? The roof is incontinent ? LMAO ! Anyway, sure wouldn’t want to upset that R.V. “technician? with those pet peeves. Wouldn’t want those pesky customers getting in the way of receiving all those checks!! Hey, how about an article on what Peeves the PAYING CUSTOMER off about R.V. Technicians? “
Bob C. says
I’ve had 4 class A M/Hs. They all leaked at some point. Eternabond tape is awesome! While it’s expensive it’s worth it. I patch bad areas with tape the coat over whole roof. select coating for type of roof. It doesn’t matter what your coach construction things flex so repairs have to be flexible. periodic inspections will keep M/H water tight. I’ve had excellent results with this method on metal and rubber roofs.
Frank Neidenbach says
It’s not that expensive to have your dealer inspect and treat your roof annually. Well worth the peace of mind. Also other things might be found during the annual inspection which aren’t apoarent.
Claire Ford says
We just had our roof replaced by Spray America Coatings in Stafford, TX. It has a life-time guarantee, and it flexes with movement. We had Larry overwrap the edges, so no seams were in an edge situation. We also had him cover the shower sky light so it wouldn’t continue to disintegrate in the sun. So far, we’ve been very pleased with the results. Time will tell.
Janette Herrin says
Size of roof/RV and cost, please?
Claire Ford says
We have a 43’ Thor Tuscany. It costs $4950 due to extensive wood replacement. Camping World quoted us $10-15K. Remember, this new roof has a lifetime warranty.
Janette Herrin says
These are all good answers. I use hydrogen peroxide
to cover stained fabric ceilings. Just a spray bottle, use it
straight. cover wood trim where necessary because the
peroxide will take the coating off finished wood trim.
May take 3-4 applications , let dry a day apart between sprays.
I have a 2005 Sprinter camper that is notorious for leaks around the window. I saw rust developing so had it repaired and on the roof all rust was removed. To protect the roof I had the bed liner material rolled on the roof…It looks great and will never leak again.
I was wondering how RV covers work. I have a Grey Wolf 23MK. Do the work? Are they difficult to put on?
Our rig == 1997 Ford CF8000 housetruck.
Our situation == full-time since 2003, boondock exclusively.
South America twenty-four months twenty-four thousand miles. Alaska. Panama. Baja beaches.
I seem to remember a suspected potential leak on our Expedition Vehicle. A six-dollar rattle-can of seam-seal seemed to do the trick. “As seen on TV!”
Sariah Meagle says
I do agree that RV leaks can cause structural damage which is why I need to call a repair service to fix mine. Since you said that the slide-out is susceptible to leaks, I’ll check mine. I’ll try to look at the windows as well to see if it needs to be remedied to make sure it will still be fine.
Diana Schrader says
We are looking at buying a 2018 camper that has had one owner.. We had the paper work all together purchase almost done camper hooked up when my husband noticed a leak .. water on the floor leak coming from the seam in the front of the camper in the bedroom. We hauled the camper to the rv shop for repair now we are unsure if we want to go through with the purchase because of the leak. She is getting it fixed .. but I am worried about long term damage in the floors walls ETC.. I would hope the RV repair would fix it * removing all potential mold issues.. The camper is a big purchase for us .. we do love it and want it .. What advise can you give me ? I need help 🙂