The tools you need to perform your own RV Inspection

Most RV owners are coming to the realization that any RV, new or used, should be thoroughly inspected before purchase. After all, for most RVers, their coach is the second largest purchase they will ever make. I’m not going to try to convince you that NRVIA (National RV Inspectors Association) certified inspectors are the only people who are qualified to do such an inspection. In fact, I’m sure there are a lot of people who have been RVing for many decades and maintaining their own coach, who may know as much or more than some certified inspectors. But a lot more than just knowledge is required.

Maybe you’re a retired RV technician. Maybe you’re a mechanical engineer, who has experience fixing everything from your garbage disposal, to the space shuttle. In fact, there are some RV purchasers out there, who are really smart. If you’re one of those people and are thinking about doing your own inspection or you know someone like that, who has offered to inspect your prospective RV, one question you need to be asking is, “Do I (or that other person) have all the necessary tools?”

As an NRVIA Level 2 Inspector, I arrive at the site of an RV inspection, with the bed of my truck more than half full of tools for the job – most of which are tools that most people don’t own and many of which, only an RV technician, another inspector, or some other specialist would even be able to readily identify.

So, I thought that I would take a few moments to share with you what some of those tools are and how they are used, in the event that you’re planning on doing your own inspection. This list is, by no means, complete. These are just the ones that are most important.

Ladder ($179)
My rule of thumb is, “Never trust an attached roof ladder.” (See my article on roof ladders.)After some examination, you may find that the attached roof ladder is both properly attached to the coach and strong enough to support your weight, with of course, strength to spare. But RV roof ladders are notorious for being less than exceptional. Furthermore, you can’t really test the stability of a roof ladder, without a secondary ladder to use, while testing the attached ladder. So bring your own.

The first rule in buying a ladder is, “Buy only an ANSI rated ladder.” An EN131 rated ladder is good – it just doesn’t have to be as good as an ANSI rated ladder.I use a 15.5 foot Extend and Climb ladder (Model 785P) that collapses down to about 36 inches. In the bottom photo, I left the top rung up to show the size of the tubes. The top tubes are about twice the size of the largest part of most attached roof ladders. That alone should tell you something.

I use sliced large pool noodles to wrap it, near the top, to protect the coach. (See the blue pool noodles, attached with Velcro, in the top photo and next to the ladder in the bottom photo, showing how they’re notched out.)

Ladder against back of motorhomeLadder Extended

Ladder CollapsedLadder Collapsed
w/Notched Pool Noodles

Wheel Chocks ($29)
For safety, you want to chock the wheels of the coach, before you climb up on the roof.
Manometer (Gas Pressure Gauge) ($51)
If the coach has propane on it, then testing for propane leaks is critical. However, if you are not a trained RV inspector, plumber, or otherwise trained to do gas leak testing, you should probably leave this to the professionals. Just sayin’… Manometer for testing propane system on an RV
Manometer
Large Inspection Mirror ($37)
A large inspection mirror (8-plus inches in diameter, with a 3-foot handle) is what you will use to examine the underside of the coach, including the suspension and frame. Inspection mirror for inspecting under an RV or motorhome
Large Inspection Mirror
Small Inspection Mirror ($10)
A smaller, pocket-sized mirror (about one inch) is used for looking behind obstacles inside the coach.
Very Bright Flashlight ($40 incl. batteries)
A bright flashlight is needed all around an RV. But for looking under the coach, even in daylight or in shadow, inside the engine compartment, you need an extremely bright flashlight. There are a plethora of flashlights that claim to be bright, though not all are equal. I recommend a 10,000 lumen TFCFL brand flashlight. If you choose a flashlight that uses Li-ion batteries, then you will need a charger for those batteries. I highly recommend the Nitecore D4 4-Bay Smart Charger, for charging Ni-Cd, Ni-Mh, and Li-ion batteries. That’s another $32. TFCFL 10,000 Lumen Flashlight w/4 18650 Batteries
10,000 Lumen Flashlight
(Requires 4-18650 batteries)
Bore Scope ($36)
A bore scope is good for looking inside those places where even an inspection mirror won’t work.

I use a bluetooth bore scope that has a set of blue tinted LEDs around the lens, with a control to adjust the brightness. The blue tint of the LEDs is to help increase contrast.

Bore Scope for Inspecting Obstructed Parts of RV
Bore Scope
Thermal Camera ($350)
A thermal camera alone, won’t confirm a problem in a coach. But it will often identify areas that require further examination.I have had a thermal camera identify moisture in the walls, air leaks, loose wires in a breaker box, and blockages in air conditioner ducts, to name just a few things for which this camera is useful.

I find the FLIR ONE Pro, for iPhone, to be the best choice, since it has both a visible light camera and thermal camera. That means that you can combine the two images for better detail. It also allows me to swipe between the visible and thermal images, so as to give me and the client a better idea of what we are seeing (see image).

FLIR One Pro Camera for iOS
FLIR One ProThermal/visible image of RV fuse panel taken with FLIR One Pro camera
Thermal/Visual Blended
Image Taken with a
FLIR One Pro
Contact-Type Moisture Meter ($70)
One of he most common of major problems in an RV is leaks. The most accurate type of moisture meter is the contact-type meter. It has two probes that you can insert into a component part that you believe may be wet. This moisture meter is great for testing plywood, either below carpet or exposed inside a cabinet or under a bed. But it’s not good for everything, since it leaves two tiny pinholes. I use a FLIR contact-type moisture meter. Moisture meters used for inspecting for RV and motorhome water leaks
Contact and Non-Contact Moisture Meters
Non-Contact Moisture Meter ($44)
A non-contact moisture meter is the easiest to use moisture meter. It has the capability of detecting moisture through the wall, without damaging the wall. This type of meter leaves no pinholes, but is susceptible to false readings that could be triggered by metal braces, water pipes, or wires behind the wall. Even so, with judicious use, this type of moisture meter can provide very accurate moisture information.
Induction Trivet ($20)
If the coach has an induction stovetop, you will need an induction trivet or any other induction cookware, for testing the induction stovetop.
Three Types of Thermometers
Refrigerator Thermometer ($5)
A refrigerator thermometer is used for what its name implies. Just sticking your hand in the refrigerator or freezer is not going to tell you if the refrigerator is cold enough to keep your milk from spoiling or your freezer is cold enough to keep ice cream from melting. You need a thermometer. Thermometers used in inspecting motorhomes and RVs3 Types of Thermometers
Probe Thermometer ($12)
A probe thermometer is used for several things. It’s used to measure the exhaust and return temperature of the air conditioners (the delta-T test). It’s used to measure the temperature of a cup of water, before and after being placed in the microwave for one minute. It’s used to measure the temperature of the hot water coming from the sink spigot.
Laser Thermometer ($23)
A laser thermometer is also used for several things. It’s used to measure the temperature of the convection oven fan grill after five minutes at 350 degrees. It’s also used to measure the temperature of the dryer fan grill, in the middle of a drying cycle. If the coach has an induction stovetop, the laser thermometer is used to measure the temperature of the induction trivet on each stove position.
Lockout Box/Bag ($27)
A lockout box or lockout bag is for your protection, while examining inside electrical panels. You should unplug the coach from shore power, before doing any electrical work. When you do, you should place the loose plug inside the lockout box/bag and lock it. This is done so no Good Samaritan comes by, mistakenly thinks it has become unplugged by accident, and plugs it in for you. Of course, Murphy’s Law says that if this happens, it will happen at the exact moment when you’re touching a hot wire. Lockout box to hold RV power plug
Lock-Out Box
(Above and to the left of the label is the cable port.)
A Volt-Ohm Meter (VOM) ($51)
A VOM is useful for many things. But the big thing is performing a hot skin test. VOMs come in a variety of models. I use one with a clamp-on feature. But just about any VOM will do, in most cases.
Minimum 50 Foot Extension Cord ($17)
You will need at least a minimum of 50 feet of wire, to perform a hot-skin test. I find that an extension cord works well for this and can be found for a lower price than plain wire. However, in order to use an extension cord, some sort of adaptor must be made, to pick up the earth ground signal and send it to the VOM.An advantage to using an extension cord for this is that it can be used for other purposes, when not being used for the hot-skin test. I choose to use a longer, 100 foot cord, since an outlet may not always be close to the coach.
Plug-In Outlet Tester Including GFCI ($10)
Every electrical outlet in the coach should be tested for proper polarity. Moreover, those outlets within 6-feet of water, in the basement, or outdoors, should be tested for GFCI compliance. Plug-In Outlet Polarity and GFCI Tester
On-Board Diagnostic (OBD2/HD-OBD) Code Reader ($180)
If the coach is motorized and later than 1996 for a light truck or later than 2010 for a heavy truck, an OBD code reader is required for checking historical engine check codes. For light trucks and vans, the reader must conform to OBD2 (16-pin), while the reader for heavy trucks must conform to HD-OBD (9-pin). The one I use handles both. OBD2/HD-OBD code reader for reading motorhome diagnostic check codes
Test Smoke Aerosol ($17)
When you test a smoke detector, by pushing the button, all you are doing is confirming that the battery is good and that the circuitry is good. The only way you can test the actual smoke detection module, is with real smoke (not a good idea) or aerosol spray smoke.

You can get this on Amazon or at Grainger Supply stores around the country.

Motorhome and RV smoke, CO, and LP detectors test kit
RV Detector Test Kit
CO Test Aerosol ($20 for about 7 tests)
When you test a CO detector, by pushing the button, all you are doing is confirming that the battery is good and that the circuitry is good. The only way you can test the actual CO detection module, is with carbon monoxide. Due to the danger of breathing CO, it is sold only in small test cans of 0.07 ounces (2gm), which are good for about 7 tests. Since this test uses a very small amount of CO, over a period of time, a container that is slightly larger than the detector is required. This container is to be taped or otherwise sealed to the wall around the detector, while testing.
Fireplace Lighter ($4)
If the coach has a propane oven, you will probably have to light the pilot. Also, if the coach has any propane on it, there will be a propane detector and a butane lighter can be used to test a propane detector. After all, the butane propellant in many hair sprays is what often creates false alarms in RV propane detectors.
MUTT (Mobile Universal Trailer Tester) with Battery ($153)
If the coach is a towable, then you need a way to be able to test the clearance lights, running lights, turn signals, and license plate light. It’s not a good idea to test an unknown trailer it with your own vehicle, in case there is a short somewhere that blows a fuse on your vehicle. A MUTT provides its own power and will automatically recover from shorts. Mobile universal trailer tester for testing RV running lights
MUTT
RV Running Light Tester
7-Pin Connector Tester ($9)
If the coach is motorized, then you need a way to make sure that the 7-pin connector will output the correct signals to the trailer. You can do this with a VOM, but it’s a hassle and takes a lot of time. You can also test the signals by hooking up a trailer. But that’s even more of a hassle and takes even more time. For testing the 7-pin connector, this little dongle is the device you need. Motorhome 7-pin connector test dongle
7-Pin Connector Tester
150+ psi Air Gauge ($17)
This one is obvious. You need to make sure that the tires are properly pressurized. If the coach is a towable, then a lower pressure air gauge will suffice. However, it is advised that the maximum pressure of the gauge be at least 10 PSI higher than the maximum tire pressure that you expect to measure. If the coach has a tandem axle, then the gauge must have dual heads, as shown in the photo. Double-Head 150 PSI Truck Tire Gauge
Double Head Air Gauge
Assorted screwdrivers, pliers, and other small tools
These additional tools may be used for removing the various smoke, propane, and CO detectors, to check the manufacture date. You’ll also need a screwdriver to to remove the front of the breaker box panel. Also, since you’ll spend a lot of time on your hands and knees, it’s not a bad idea to have a pair of non-marring kneepads. You might also find a drop cloth useful, as well.

There are lots of other small tools that are not mentioned here. For example, even though it costs almost nothing, a piece of sidewalk chalk may be used to highlight the printing on the side of a tire, to make it easier to read. Then, of course, you’ll need a tool box to carry most of these things. The point is that if I included every little thing I carry, this article would be three or four times as long as it is.


Certainly, few people other than RV inspectors will need to buy every tool on the above list. If you did, the cost to purchase every tool on just this limited list would be well over $1,400. But to determine what it would cost you, for your purpose, I’ve included the lowest prices I could find for each item. So just go back through the list and total up what it would cost you to purchase the tools that you would need to do an inspection on the specific type of coach you are planning to buy. The chances are very good that you’ll find the cost of a professional inspection, by an NRVIA Certified Level 2 Inspector, to be a much better deal.


John Gaver is an NRVIA Certified Level 2 RV Inspector and owner of RV Inspector Pro. While John’s degree is in electronics, he also has experience with engines, generators, and air conditioning systems. He inspects all sizes of RVs, but specializes in large Class “A” and Class “C” coaches. He can be contacted at Pro@RVinspector.pro.

To Climb Or Not To Climb… Your RV Ladder, That Is

(This article was originally written for and published in RV Daily Report on January 20, 2019.)

When buying a new or used RV, one of the most important things to do, is inspect the roof. After all, the roof is where most leaks begin and that’s where to look for signs of moisture intrusion, which you will follow up on, inside the coach. You’ll also want to look at the air conditioners, antennas, and other equipment on the roof. But getting on the roof requires that you use a ladder.

Most RVs have ladders attached and this would seem like the obvious method to use, to get onto the roof. In many cases, this would be true. As an NRVIA Certified Inspector, I’ve seen more than a few mounted RV ladders that I would feel quite comfortable using. But sadly, RV manufacturers don’t seem to follow any kind of standard for roof ladder construction and mounting. That’s why I and every other certified RV Inspector I know carry our own ladders.

I don’t want to discourage you from inspecting the roof of the RV you’re about to purchase. You need to inspect the roof. Just give the ladder a thorough examination, before you try to use it. Better yet, bring your own ladder and some sliced pool noodles (I’ll explain the pool noodles in a moment).

Before I go into using your own ladder, let’s look at some of the issues I’ve found, regarding attached roof ladders.

Common Roof Ladder Issues

In the first photo, you’ll notice that not only has the ladder been bent downward, from weight, but also it is bent inward, near the middle. Compare the straight yellow line, with the bend in the aluminum.

The below photo is of a small area of the same ladder (outlined in a green dotted box, in the first photo).

As you can see, not only has it been bent down somewhat, but also one of the shaped spacers is missing and the screw at that point has been tightened too far, bending the metal tube out of shape. This is clearly a roof ladder to be avoided.

In the next photo, of a different coach, you will notice that the ladder supports, extending from the rear cap, are bent to the side at different angles. All of those yellow lines should be parallel. It’s unclear what damaged this ladder. But it’s another roof ladder that should be avoided.

Furthermore, just because you’re buying an expensive coach, don’t assume that the roof ladder will be as substantial as the rest of the coach. Certainly, as you progress up the price scale, you would expect that the ladders would become increasingly better and in some cases that’s true… just not always.

The next two photos are of a high-end Class ‘A’ motorhome. I used this example, because I’ve seen better ladders on different year models of this same coach. The point is that you can’t make assumptions about roof ladder quality, even on the same model of coach, from one year to the next.

In this case, it appears that too much weight was put on the ladder, at some time in the past. You can see how far the ladder was bent down, by how far the horizontal supports are from actual horizontal.

Once a ladder starts bending, its structure is weakened. As with the previous two examples, this is another roof ladder to be avoided.

I should also note here that several manufacturers are completely doing away with roof ladders, on their higher end coaches. For example, Newmar no longer offers a roof ladder on their popular Dutch Star or anything above that, in their product line.

Testing a Roof Ladder

Before using a roof ladder, you should examine it for bent arms, bent mounting brackets, and loose screws or bolts. If you pull on the ladder and the wall moves with the ladder, then the ladder is probably mounted only to the fiberglass, with no metal or wood support behind it. That sounds hard to believe. But it happens.

Before climbing on a roof ladder, it’s a good idea to reach up and grab the ladder high up and then hang on the ladder, with your knees bent off the ground and shake your body left and right. Watch the mounting points, as you do this. If it doesn’t bend down with your weight and the mounts appear secure, then it’s probably in good condition. But having seen my share of inadequate roof ladders, I’ll continue to bring my own ladder.

Dealing With a Damaged Roof Ladder

If you’re buying a coach that has a damaged roof ladder, you will probably get little sympathy by complaining about it. But go ahead and try. In all probability, if you buy that coach, you will end up buying a coach with a damaged roof ladder. It’s usually just not worth arguing about.

How difficult is it to repair a damaged roof ladder? Actually, the question should be, “Is it worth repairing a damaged roof ladder?” Keep in mind that when you repair a roof ladder, the result will likely be a roof ladder that has the same inadequacies that allowed the damage to occur in the first place. Think about it…

Conclusion

Now consider that, even if the roof ladder is damaged or inadequate, you still need to examine the roof, before you buy. Sure, an NRVIA Certified RV Inspector will do that for you and a whole lot more. But you may want to look at the roof, before you hire an inspector. After all, if you find a showstopper on the roof and decide not to go forward, then you will have saved yourself the cost of a full, professional inspection. A professional RV inspection can save you a lot of money and covers issues that require special tools. But why spend money on a professional inspection before you’ve done your own basic inspection and made sure that there is nothing obvious wrong.

So what this all boils down to is that the best option is bring your own ladder and pool noodles.

For RVers, I strongly recommend the Extend and Climb ladder, two large pool noodles, and a roll of double-sided Velcro. My 15.5-foot ladder is ANSI rated for 250 pounds and compresses down to just 36 inches, which is easy to transport. The 12-foot version is ANSI rated at 300 pounds. (I should mention that I receive no compensation for this recommendation. It’s just a great ladder for RVers.)

I would caution against buying any of the foreign knock-offs, since they are only EN131 certified. EN131 certification is a European standard that requires testing only at the rated weight, whereas ANSI certification is a US standard that requires testing at four-times the rated weight. Also, the Extend and Climb is marketed as its actual “length”, whereas the knock-offs are almost always marketed as “reach”, which is three feet longer than the actual length of the ladder. For example, a ladder marketed as having a 15-foot reach is only 12 feet in actual length. If you have a tall coach, you may need those extra few feet.

To prevent damaging the wall of the coach, buy two of the largest pool noodles you can find and slice them down the length of the noodle. Then cut notches on one side of the slit on each noodle, to fit around each rung. A serrated steak knife works well for slicing the pool noodle. Then cut lengths of Velcro, long enough to reach around the noodles, to hold the pool noodles in place. This allows for easy removal and storage of the pool noodles.

Finally, raise the first several rungs of the ladder and attach the pool noodles. The pool noodles will then protect the coach, when the ladder is fully extended. If you look back at the first photo, you’ll see how the pool noodles on my ladder, protect the coach. Although it’s difficult to see, at the top of the photo, the size of the smallest aluminum tube on my 250-pound ANSI rated ladder is more than twice the diameter of any tube on any RV ladder. That should tell you all you need to know.

As a final cautionary note, if you are dealing with a coach that has a spoiler or air deflector at the rear of the roof, you should not place a ladder against that spoiler. That spoiler is not structural. Since you also don’t want to place it against an awning, the safest place to place a ladder on such a coach, is usually against the side of the coach, on the street-side.

Happy RVing.

Delamination – What It Is, How To Spot It, And Why It’s Important

(This article was originally written for and published in RV Daily Report on January 13, 2019.)

When purchasing an RV with a fiberglass wall, one of the most important things to watch for is delamination.

What is Delamination?

A fiberglass wall is a thin, flexible piece of fiberglass, laminated to a thicker, rigid substrate. The resulting wall should be stronger than either material.

Lamination isn’t just gluing two substances together. A vacuum is drawn on the whole wall, for the duration of the curing process, forcing the two materials together. A day or two later, the vacuum is released and the wall is a solid structure.

Delamination is what happens, when glue between the fiberglass and the substrate fails. Such failure is most often the result of moisture intrusion. Furthermore, once begun, delaminationmay spread, as moisture seeps further into the laminated structure.

Identifying Possible Delamination

Delamination appears as wrinkles in the fiberglass. In the above photo, you can see some of those wrinkles. But at that angle, the wrinkles might be mistaken for reflections. So rather than look straight on at the sidewall, look down the side, at about 10 to 30 degrees from parallel with the sidewall.

When viewed from this angle, the same delamination seen in the below photo, becomes very apparent.

Aside from cosmetic issues, delamination can weaken the wall structure. Also, moisture inside the wall can eventually lead to mold.

Dealing With Delamination

There are three ways for an RV buyer to deal with delamination.

  1. Cut out and replace the damaged wall section.
  2. Replace the whole wall.
  3. Walk away.

Let’s look at each of these options.

  1    Cut out and replace the damaged wall section.

By far, the most inexpensive repair method is to cut out and replace the damaged wall section. It’s also likely to be the most common type of delamination repair. However, this method creates two other possible issues – both related to the new seam that you end up with.

First, although modern fiberglass repair methods can create very secure seams, it is seams where you’re most likely to find moisture intrusion.

Second, the structural integrity of the wall may be weakened. A single-piece wall will generally be stronger than a wall with a seam. But depending on the location of the repair and the size of the replaced section, the seam may not weaken the structural integrity of the wall.

Cut out and replace canbe a very good repair method. But caution should be exercised, to insure that it does not weaken the wall or create potential moisture intrusion issues.

 2    Replace the whole wall.

Unless you have a lot of money to throw at it and have an extremely good reason to do so, this is probably not a very good option. You can get back to a single-piece wall – but at a price that is not generally cost effective. For this reason, it’s an option that most people will avoid.

 3    Walk away.

Due to the cost of repair and the potential for other problems, it may be best for the RV buyer to just walk away from the deal. But that’s a decision you have to make for yourself. Depending on the amount and location of the delamination, repair may be a viable option. Work with the seller. He may be willing to absorb some or all of the cost. Evaluate the cost, along with the potential for future moisture intrusion or structural issues. Talk to more than one RV repair service. You may find it reasonable to move forward. But you could just as easily find that walking away from the deal may be your best option.

You should always have your prospective RV purchase inspected by an NRVIA Certified RV Inspector. But there is no reason why you shouldn’t do some inspecting of your own, before you call the inspector. Your own preliminary inspection could save you the cost of a professional inspection, should you happen to find a show-stopper issue. But a professional inspection goes much deeper and has the potential to save you thousands of dollars in repairs. On the other hand, it might just give you a sense of security about the coach you are about to buy.

For the record, the client for the coach pictured in this article walked away from the deal, in large part, because of this issue.


John Gaver is the owner of RV Inspector Pro, based in Houston, Texas. He is an NRVIA Certified Level 2 RV Inspector. RV Inspector Pro inspects all sizes and types of RV’s, but specializes in Class A and Class C motorcoaches. For more information or reprint permission, John can be reached at our Contact page, by phone, at 713-253-1723, or by email, at pro@RVinspector.pro.

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?
Absolutely!

Should you have it professionally inspected?
Absolutely!

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.