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.

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