RV break down with smoke

How Often Do RVs Break Down?

In RV living by Christopher Schopf

I used to think RVs were easier to maintain than houses.  It seemed to me that since they were smaller, they’d require less maintenance.  After researching RVs, I found that the exact opposite is true.  RVs break down more often than houses and vehicles.

How often do RVs break down?  A well-maintained RV will rarely ever break down. Conversely, a poorly maintained RV can break down almost every time it is used.  This is especially true for people who are not using the right RV for the activity they are engaging in.

There are quite a few areas in an RV that can break down.

You’ll find that different types of RVs suffer from different types of break-downs.  A motorhome has special parts that a towable trailer does not have and vice versa.

How do MOTORHOMES typically break down?

RV break down with smoke

  • Vehicle parts stop functioning properly.
  • Leaks can occur.
  • Appliances stop working.
  • The plumbing can leak or cease to function.
  • Flat tires

In some ways, a motorhome is just a large vehicle.

It has a drive-train and an engine and all of the other parts you’d find in a vehicle.  Parts eventually wear out and vehicles eventually break-down.

The same type of problems you’ve had with your car or truck will eventually happen to your motorhome.

For example, you’ll need to replace your windshield wipers and your brake pads on a regular basis. If you keep your motorhome long enough, you’ll also have to deal with larger problems such as transmission issues and suspension degradation.

Additionally, motorhomes have appliances and plumbing components that can also break down.  These components are often exposed to road conditions as well as extreme weather changes.  As a result, a motorhome’s appliances will break down more often than a home or even a camper’s appliances.

Although these appliances are smaller, they often cost more.  This is because these appliances often run off of both electric and propane and they cost more to manufacture.

A motorhome is also susceptible to leaks.

This is especially true with Class C motorhomes made from wood.  While a Class B motorhome will have the same roof protections that a van has, Class C motorhomes lack these protections.

Also, motorhomes and campers usually have roof vents and these are especially susceptible to leaks.

How do TOWABLE CAMPERS typically break down?

  • Axles can break.
  • Tires can go flat or blow out.
  • Leaks can occur.
  • Appliances stop working.
  • The plumbing can leak or cease to function.
  • Flat tires.

A towable RV will not break down as catastrophically as a motorhome will.

This is because there are only three components that will keep you from being able to move your towable RV:

  1. The hitch,
  2. the axle,
  3. and the tires.

This being said, axles and hitches can rust and tires can go flat or even burst.

A motorhome does have tires that can malfunction, but it lacks the hitch and the extra set of axles a towable camper has.

A towable camper also has the same problems with plumbing, leaks, and appliance break-downs that a motorhome has.  However, a towable camper may remain parked for longer periods of time over an RV that must be moved whenever the owner needs his or her vehicle.  This means that a towable camper’s appliances usually last longer than a motorhome’s appliances.

Of course, a towable camper cannot move without its tow vehicle.  This means that when the tow vehicle breaks down, the towable camper breaks down as well.

Where Can I Get An RV Repaired?

  • A vehicle mechanic.
  • An RV dealer.
  • A trailer repair company.
  • Repair it yourself at home or at the campsite.

Many motorhomes can simply be serviced at a standard vehicle mechanic.

This is especially true for smaller Class B campers built on truck platforms.

A mechanic will be able to fix the mechanical issues related to the RV, but not the interior issues related to the camper portion of the vehicle.

An RV dealer may be able to work on both the mechanical issues of your motorhome as well as the interior camper issues such as faulty appliances and plumbing issues.

For RVers with towable campers, a trailer repair company may be the answer.

They’ll be able to service the exterior components of the camper such as the axles and the tires, but not the appliances or the plumbing.

The best solution for repairing an RV is often the DIY approach.
Leaks can often be fixed with a little bit of caulk and appliances can easily be switched out for new ones.  DIY camper repairs can save a lot of time and money.  Not only this but sometimes a DIY fix may be the only fix available to you.  Learn to work on your RV and you’ll never have to worry about finding a repair company again.

How Do I Keep An RV From Breaking Down?

  • Buy the right RV for your needs.
  • Avoid old vintage models
  • Take advantage of your warranty.
  • Pay attention to the preventative maintenance schedule.

It’s always easier to try to prevent your RV from breaking down rather than to fix an RV that has already broken down.  There are a few ways to accomplish this.

The first step to keeping your RV from breaking down is to buy the right RV for your needs.  What I mean by this is that your RV should be built to withstand the pressures you’ll be placing upon it.

For example, you wouldn’t want to buy an RV that is not meant for off-roading when you’re planning on doing a lot of off-roading in it.  An off-road camper will have a better suspension system and its appliances will be built to withstand the pressures of harsh road conditions while a standard camper will not be.

Special criteria to consider when looking for an RV 

  • Will I be taking my RV off-road? 
    As we said earlier, a normal RV is not meant to be driven over rough terrain.
  • How much weight will you be adding to your RV? 
    This includes any gear, people, or pets that will be inside the RV.
  • What weather conditions will I be using my RV in? 
    An RV can fall victim to condensation and this is much more likely to happen in cold climates.  If you’re planning on using your RV in cold weather, you’ll want to make sure you buy one that is properly insulated.  This is because condensation can cause rot and mold which can quickly destroy the interior of an RV.

Another step that can be taken to protect an RV is to take advantage of the warranty period.

Make sure everything is checked and fixed during the warranty period before any issues become worse.  This will save you both time and money.

The next best step to take to keep your RV from breaking down is to stay on top of the preventative maintenance schedule.  A motorhome’s engine can last years longer just by getting oil changes at the recommended intervals.

An additional reason for sticking to the preventative maintenance schedule is that not doing so may void your warranty.  Some RV dealers will say that because you caused the issue by not maintaining your RV properly, fixing the issue will not fall under their warranty.

How much does it cost to fix an RV? (With Actual Cost)

The answer to this question really depends on what is wrong with the RV, who is fixing the RV, and where they are fixing it.  For example, replacing an engine that has blown out in the middle of the desert is going to cost much more than fixing a leaky kitchen faucet at an RV dealer.

Actual example costs to consider:

1) A new transmission

A refurbished transmission for a Class C motorhome built on an E-350 engine will cost about $2,000.00.  This does not cover the cost of the labor involved in replacing the transmission.

2) A new refrigerator

An Isotherm Cruise replacement refrigerator sells for $650.00.  Again, this does not cover the cost of installation.  The size of this fridge would be good for replacing a fridge in a small camper or motorhome.

3) A new axle

A 3,500-pound capacity single axle trailer kit will cost $499.00.  This assumes that you’ll be able to repair the axle yourself, which may not be possible for the average person to do.

4) Fiberglass scrapes and holes

A can of 3M body filler costs $21.99.

This can be used to repair small holes and scrapes on the side of a fiberglass camper.  A person confident in their DIY skills won’t have to spend any additional money.  However, an auto body shop can charge over $70.00 an hour to do even small body work like this.

5) New tires

Tires on a Class A motorhome can cost over $300.00 a tire.

You’ll need to replace them in pairs as one new tire matched with an older tire will lead to performance issues.

As you can see, different repairs will have different price tags to them.  You’ll save money by being able to do some of the work yourself, but it isn’t always possible.  For instance, the average person isn’t going to have the tools or the skill and experience needed to replace a motorhome’s transmission.