Even a New RV should be inspected before you sign on the dotted line.

Many people are under the false impression that RV inspections are only needed if you are purchasing a used RV. But nothing could be further from the truth. An RV is a 60 mile per hour earth quake and things shake loose, especially in the first few thousand miles.

Performing Hot-Skin Test
Performing Hot-Skin Test

Sure, the manufacturers do extensive inspections all through the manufacturing process and they do a quality control inspection, before the coach leaves their plant. But by the time the coach reaches the dealership, there will almost certainly be issues that were not present, when the coach left the plant.

“But the dealership does a pre-delivery inspection (PDI)”, you might argue. This is true. But their inspections are usually very cursory. Oh, they make a big deal about something like a 100 or 200 point inspection. But there are two problems with that.

The first problem is that even a 200 point inspection is barely enough to touch the surface of an RV. Remember that an RV has all of the potential problems that you might have with your bricks and sticks home. Then consider that you have to add in the issues related to dealing with three different power systems, slides, suspension, engine, and generator. Most NRVIA Certified Inspectors perform a 400 to 600 point inspection, depending on the inspector, the coach, and the included options.

The second issue is that the person or persons doing the inspections for the dealership is usually a specialist in some part of the RV. The problem with this is that this person is almost certainly not trained as a general inspector. A technician may be great at air conditioning and propane, but may not know the first thing about slides. The guy who is a slide genius, may know nothing about water pumps and plumbing issues. In fact, at some dealerships, the person doing that 200 point inspection is a salesman, with a checklist.

Testing Propane Detector
Testing Propane Detector

The point is that technicians are good at fixing specific problems in their specialty and salesmen are good at closing a sale. But an NRVIA certified inspector is trained specifically to spot problems throughout that extremely complex piece of equipment called an RV.

Something that happened not long ago, exposes the difference between how a dealership looks at inspections and how the buyer looks at them. A salesperson at a local dealership was told by one of my clients that I would be coming by to do an inspection on the new RV he was about to buy. My client said that the salesperson told him that he knew who I was and said that what I did was “over-kill”. My client’s response was to the point. He said, “If I’m spending this much on anything, over-kill is exactly what I want.”

So the question that you should ask yourself, when buying an RV, be it new or used is, “Who do I want inspecting my prospective purchase, the guy who’s inspection is called ‘over-kill’ by the dealer or the dealership that thinks an independent inspection is ‘over-kill’?” Think about it…

Here are some of the issues that I found on just one brand new small gasoline coach. Please note that these issues are not meant to reflect negatively on the dealer. When problems like these are found, almost all dealers do what they can to address them. But you have to know the problems are there, to address them. The client was informed of these issues and he passed the information on to the dealer.

  • Dash A/C blowing hot air (dealer was unaware of it, but would repair)
  • 6 volts AC on the slide frame (dealer was unaware of it, but repaired it while I was there – a loose ground wire on a slide motor)
  • Recalled Fire Extinguisher (dealer knew of the recall, but their PDI had missed it – it was replaced)
  • Faulty Smoke Detector (dealer replaced it while I was there)
  • A non-GFCI outlet within 6-feet of a sink (probably not easily changed)
  • Two sets of wires that were pulled across chafe points (one chafe point issue was repaired while I was there)
  • Two sets of wires hanging lose under the frame (the dealer would repair it, after I finished)
  • Some minor upholstery issues
  • Several other very minor issues
Hanging Wires
Wires hanging loose below coach

Certainly, I believe that the dealer would have identified several of these issues and repaired them, before delivery, had I not pointed them out. In particular, I was told that they were aware of the fire extinguisher recall and already had spare fire extinguishers. I’m pretty certain that the dealer would have already replaced that fire extinguisher, had their PDI caught it. But they didn’t catch it.

Would they have pressed the button on a brand new smoke detector? You be the judge. Would they have found that 6 volts AC on the slide mechanism? I doubt it. I’ve never heard of a dealership doing a hot-skin test unless one of their technicians felt a shock. But let’s face it. You’re unlikely to feel a 6 volt shock if you’re wearing work shoes. But if the owner is out barefoot, in the rain, trying to get something from a cargo bay, 6 volts is enough to get his attention. If he has a pacemaker, it might do a lot more than just get his attention.

Chafe Point
Most people would not notice this chafe point.

I can pretty much guarantee that most dealerships would not have spotted those wires crossing chafe points. Also, most buyers would not look up to see the problem and if they did, they probably wouldn’t know the significance of what they were seeing. In this case, wires rubbing across a chafe point would eventually wear holes in the insulation, to create a potentially dangerous short. Since this was not an immediate Life Safety Issue, the dealer was not notified of this, but the client was informed by phone and it was put in the report to the client. (Note: We do not share our findings with anyone but the client, unless it is a life safety issue. The client information contained herein is general in nature and does not identify a particular vehicle.) The client passed the information on to the dealer, who fixed the pictured problem, while I was there.

Also, unless the dealer were to put the coach on a lift, it’s probably quite likely that the two sets of wires hanging from the frame would have gone unnoticed. But road debris could easily snag those wires and pull them loose. Again, this was put in the report to the client.

The upholstery issues were not obvious, but were of a nature that would nag at many people, once they became aware of them.

What this all boils down to is that even a brand new RV is going to have problems, beyond what the dealers will typically find, during their PDI. But an NRVIA Certified Level 2 RV Inspector is trained to find these types of issues and much more. Certified Inspectors also have the tools necessary to the task, along with the knowledge to use those tools to maximum effect.

John Gaver is an NRVIA Certified Level 2 RV Inspector, Certified AquaHot Technician, and owner of RV Inspector Pro, operating in the Greater Houston, Texas area.

2017 NRVIA Annual Conference

A record number of RV inspectors showed up for the 2017 Annual National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association Conference. I don’t have time to go into detail, at this time. But here a 360-degree VR photo of the attendees. I’ll post more about the conference later.

360 Degree Image – Use your mouse to drag the image left, right, up, and down or move your mobile device around.

Buying a Gulf Coast RV after Hurricane Harvey

If you are planning to buy an RV that was anywhere near the Gulf Coast, between Corpus Christi, Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana, during Hurricane Harvey, you should have it inspected by a professional RV inspector.

Some areas had tremendous winds, while other areas had flooding. Even RVs that were not is areas that were subjected to hurricane force winds or flooding, should be inspected for water incursion, because because days of wind driven rain can cause leaks around slides, windows, roof joints/seals, and roof penetrations.

If an RV has been damaged, even a thorough cleaning is likely to leave tell-tale signals of that damage, if you know where to look. Even a coach that did not get water inside, may have had the brakes sit in water for hours. This would present a safety hazard.

If you don’t want to hire a professional RV inspector, then here are some of the things you should look for.

  • Look under the coach, particularly on the tires and suspension, for a debris line, where floating debris may have been left, before the water went down. This could indicate possible brake damage. In such case, the brakes should be examined by a qualified RV brake specialist, to determine if such damage has occurred.
  • Feel inside the bumpers or under the fenders, for debris. Hidden debris inside the bumpers or fenders could indicate that high water deposited that debris there and thus indicate possible brake damage. In such case, the brakes should be examined by a qualified RV brake specialist, to determine if such damage has occurred.
  • Carefully examine the inside of all cabinets and closets, with a bright flashlight. You will be looking for water staining or swelling of the wood and any water staining of padding or carpet inside the cabinets. This may or may not be significant. But if you find such indications, further examination is advised.
  • Look at the floor areas, near the front and rear of each slide. Examine these areas, both with the slide in and with the slide out. You will be looking for water staining or other indication of water incursion. This may or may not be significant. But if you find such indications, further examination is advised.
  • Examine the storage bays directly below the front and rear of each slide. You will be looking for indications of water incursion, dripping from the slide edges. This may or may not be significant. But if you find such indications, further examination is advised.
  • Look inside the engine and generator compartments, for signs of water debris that may not have been cleaned off, when the RV was washed. Keep in mind that this is an engine compartment. It gets dirty. So debris inside the engine or generator compartment may or may not be significant. But if you find such indications, further examination is advised.

The above list is, by no means, intended to be comprehensive. A professional RV inspector will use specialized tools, to make further determinations. I personally use a large (10 inch) inspection mirror, to see under the RV, a small (one inch) inspection mirror, to see behind interior obstructions, and a bore-scope, to see inside and around obstructions where even inspection mirrors won’t fit. A professional RV inspector will also examine the roof, for signs of potential leaks or damage to air conditioner(s), TV antennas, and other roof-mounted equipment.

Most of the RV dealers in the Houston area survived the storm with little or no damage. I’m sure that most dealers will check out their inventory, before offering their coaches for sale, after the storm. But they have hundreds of RVs to inspect and can’t spend all day on each RV. For that reason, it’s possible that they could inadvertently overlook some minor hidden damage. By contrast, a professional RV inspector will spend 6 to 8 hours examining just one coach – the one you plan to buy. Without a comprehensive inspection, you cannot be sure that the particular coach you plan to buy did not sustain some hidden damage.

Is it safe to buy a Gulf Coast RV after Hurricane Harvey?

Should you have it professionally inspected?

Every RV, used or new and regardless of where it is purchased, should be inspected. Hurricane Harvey is just an additional reason why you should have your prospective RV purchase inspected. Certainly, an RV inspection cannot guarantee that an RV is completely free of defects or damage. But a professional RV inspector knows what to look for and has the requisite tools to make determinations beyond the obvious. What a professional RV inspection offers, is a significant comfort level with your RV purchase, well beyond what you might otherwise achieve on your own.

To find an NRVIA certified inspector in your area, follow this link.

John Gaver, of RV Inspector Pro, is a National RV Inspectors Association (NRVIA) Certified Level 2 RV Inspector.

Copyright 2017 John Gaver
The copyright holder grants third parties the right to re-publish this article only in whole and un-modified, including links and this notice.

Why do you need a Professional RV Inspection?

For most people, the purchase of an RV will be the second largest purchase they ever make, right behind the purchase of their bricks and sticks home. An RV is also a very complex device – every bit as complex as your bricks and sticks home, but with the added elements of water supply issues, drainage issues, generator issues, possible propane issues, motion-induced issues, and lot’s more. Whether new or used, there are a host of things that can go wrong in an RV and most of those things can be prevented. But you need to know where to look and what to look for, first. That’s the job of an RV inspector. He not only knows where to look and what to look for, but has the tools necessary to the task.

That RV you’re about to buy will be a 60 mile per hour earthquake. Things you wouldn’t give a second thought to, in your stationary bricks and sticks home, suddenly become very important in your RV that is constantly being shaken and torqued, as you drive down the road. Even the best maintained RVs require a thorough inspection, from time to time, just for peace of mind.

But it’s not just used RVs that you need to be concerned with. You even hear stories of people buying a brand new, high-end motorcoach and having problems just miles from the dealership. Sure, such instances are rare. But do you want to risk being one of them?

If you have a problem in your bricks and sticks home, you simply call a local plumber, electrician, air conditioner repairman, or other local service provider. He comes to you. But many problems in an RV, require the RV to be taken in to a service center, thus putting a dent in your vacation plans. In fact, if you have a problem in an RV, you consider yourself lucky if it happens, while you’re parked at an RV park and not out on the highway, 100 miles or more from the nearest RV service facility. A professional RV inspection can seriously reduce the likelihood of such an occurrence.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Upon seeing how ill prepared his adopted city of Philadelphia was, to fight fires, Benjamin Franklin undertook an initiative to improve Philadelphia’s fire preparedness and to educate townspeople on fire prevention. Writing anonymously in his own newspaper, Franklin famously stated, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

In an RV, that adage applies in spades. A problem that can easily be found and repaired today, is not likely to turn into a major expense, tomorrow. A simple repair that can be undertaken by the RVer might prevent having to replace a furnace, water heater, or something even more expensive. But, as stated above, you have to know where to look and what to look for, in order to know that there is a problem that needs attention. Furthermore, most RVers do not have the tools necessary to do their own inspection.

As a Certified RV Inspector, these are just a few of the essential tools I carry:

  • Volt-Ohm Meter with Clamp-on Amp Meter)
  • Manometer (gas pressure gauge)
  • Borescope inspection camera (for viewing inside and behind fixed items)
  • Digital RMS Voltage and Frequency Meter (for diagnosing power issues)
  • 3 types of thermometers (including laser temperature sensor)
  • Polarity tester
  • Circuit tracer
  • Wireless AC power detector
  • more…

Without these tools and the knowledge to use them, in an RV environment, it’s just not possible for even the most experienced RVer to complete a thorough RV inspection. An RV inspection, by a Certified RV Inspector, will most often pay for itself, in that it can save you a lot of headaches and hundreds or even thousands of dollars in repair costs, down the road.

Will an RV inspection catch every possible thing that might go wrong? Of course not. Even the factory that built the RV misses things. But a professional RV inspection will give you an increased level of comfort regarding your knowledge of the actual condition of the RV in question.

Contact us now, to learn how RV Inspector Pro can can help you with your RV inspection needs.