Great Expośe on the Quality of Camper Trailers and RV’s Today

tlrols

Active member
Is the screw holding it together or a cold weather drain location?
It holds the bottom drain portion to the top. It leaks! As it was design to do clearly. Starcraft probably pocketed $2 extra dollars using that crappy part.
 

tlrols

Active member
Or…if plumbing isn’t your thing how about the awful use of self-tapping outlets. I was swapping my outlets to ones with USB chargers. Nice crap outlets were used. Cut the ground wire in half and nearly clipped the conductors as well. As an electrical engineer I just wept and gamely replaced these latent fire starters.7662726E-398F-4E74-927A-333B659527D5.jpeg188B9379-C722-4BB9-8393-F42D7FAA4470.jpeg
 

tlrols

Active member
Pretty much. We bring tools with us cause we know something will have fallen apart or off while driving down the highway. It is what it is. We've had this trailer for 4 seasons now. In the end, it does what we need it to do. As stuff breaks, we fix it.
It's a 2016 so pre-pandemic but it doesn't matter. From what I've read, anything (mass produced) since the 2008 recession is crap.
My Starcraft Aframe is a 2016. I have a box full of extra screws and locktite handy. I find replacing things with quality marine grade equipment is a good path forward. Expensive but durable. I settled for being happy with the tires, wheels, axle, suspension and frame. I can fix all the rest. I guess if it was really quality we would pay up front…so we pay on the backend of the purchase. It’s enjoyable so long as it doesn’t catch on fire!
 

STREGA

Explorer
My wife and I have been full timing in a RV for the last 10 years but we don’t travel anywhere (yet) just use it as a home here at the Grand Canyon. We’re on our third trailer now first one was used, last 2 were new all have had issues.
After 10 years I have learned a lot about maintaining/repairing and surviving through cold winter weather in a RV. It’s not for the faint of heart or those who don’t have any mechanical skills.

We bought our current trailer in 2021, a 27’ Winnebago Voyage bumper pull. I used my 10+ years of RV education in selecting this particular trailer. I did a thorough PDI on it and found a couple small issues that were quick fixes but should have been caught by the service department and not me. I missed a couple small things that I found after getting it home that I took care of but all the big (expensive) things worked as they should. After a year of use we have had to replace one of the grey tank valves and the electric tongue jack is in the process of being replaced now. Considering that we don’t move our trailer why that broke is almost funny. The theater seating was a joke, the recliner on my seat broke after a couple months use but we were going to replace it anyway with something more comfortable and with better back support for me, all RV furniture is junk. One of the roll down window shades is stuck in the down position haven’t had time to see if it’s repairable or has to be replaced.

Like Treefarmer I got our trailer with the 12v fridge option instead of the electric/propane fridge seen to many fridge fires not to. Had to go to Colorado to get it since all the local dealers in Arizona had the wrong fridge in them, saved $10 grand on the price of the trailer also win win! Even with all the tribulations of full timing in a RV it’s been worth it.
 

Treefarmer

Active member
My wife and I have been full timing in a RV for the last 10 years but we don’t travel anywhere (yet) just use it as a home here at the Grand Canyon. We’re on our third trailer now first one was used, last 2 were new all have had issues.
After 10 years I have learned a lot about maintaining/repairing and surviving through cold winter weather in a RV. It’s not for the faint of heart or those who don’t have any mechanical skills.

We bought our current trailer in 2021, a 27’ Winnebago Voyage bumper pull. I used my 10+ years of RV education in selecting this particular trailer. I did a thorough PDI on it and found a couple small issues that were quick fixes but should have been caught by the service department and not me. I missed a couple small things that I found after getting it home that I took care of but all the big (expensive) things worked as they should. After a year of use we have had to replace one of the grey tank valves and the electric tongue jack is in the process of being replaced now. Considering that we don’t move our trailer why that broke is almost funny. The theater seating was a joke, the recliner on my seat broke after a couple months use but we were going to replace it anyway with something more comfortable and with better back support for me, all RV furniture is junk. One of the roll down window shades is stuck in the down position haven’t had time to see if it’s repairable or has to be replaced.

Like Treefarmer I got our trailer with the 12v fridge option instead of the electric/propane fridge seen to many fridge fires not to. Had to go to Colorado to get it since all the local dealers in Arizona had the wrong fridge in them, saved $10 grand on the price of the trailer also win win! Even with all the tribulations of full timing in a RV it’s been worth it.
Yes, nobody should RV fulltime unless they are understand that the needs of the RV will often have to come before any other needs! Your furniture comment is spot on. We're building a trailer now that will have no furniture (we'll add our own), no cooktop (it's inexpensive portable units for us for now on), no built in microwave (a small portable will do it), and no Winegard or DirecTV equipment (hardwired stuff that just adds weight, wind drag, and is soon obsolete). All of that means you need to rely less on the installation expertise of the factory and can easily replace/upgrade items when you need to. Plus, it allows more flexibility with your limited space. It's the complete opposite approach when took when we built our first trailer and we thought we had to have everything we'd ever possibly need added up front by the factory.
 

tacomabill

Active member
More damning news:

I love this quote from above:
“It’s some of the worst stuff I’ve seen in 30 years,” said one longtime RV dealer.

Also:

Would like to see an expose on RV service. Some posters here mentioned their bad service experience. Bish RV told me they only service RVs sold at their dealership. If that is becoming common, good luck getting service while out travelling.

Has anyone seen any national level media coverage by the major networks, like ABC, CNN, etc., on any of this?
 

TGK

Active member
The "Untold stories..." link paints a pretty grim picture. Add an oppressive working environment to all the other factors contributing to dismal quality and it's not surprising crap is being pumped out the door. We've gone back and forth about selling our 1971 23ft Airstream for something newer. To date, I've yet to find anything attractive enough from a design standpoint to motivate us to make the change and that's even aside from the quality issues plaguing the industry. Most of what I've seen that offer a step up in ruggedness, are getting heavier, taller and longer than our old Airstream. Then there's the cost, with some of that being driven by features that are not optional and we simply don't need for camping in the mountains or desert.

All of the commentary I've seen shared on this forum reinforces the idea of keeping what we have and dealing with problems as they come up. Given that what I have is a "known" vs the uncertainty of what would come with a pre-owned or new unit. As I'm not that mechanically inclined, I do have to rely on outside repair services for more problematic issues which, nowadays, entails long waits. While our trailer is 51 years old, it was gutted in 2004 by the previous owner and rebuilt with new (at the time) appliances. Aside from a few minor services on the frig, all of the appliances have worked flawlessly over the 17 years we've had it until this summer when the frig died. Unfortunately, Dometic no longer makes it, rebuilt units are unavailable, nor are parts. Also, no one makes a unit that is the exact same size. So, I finally found a similar capacity unit with acceptable critical dimensions of width and depth, but it's 9" taller. So, I need to have the cabinet that holds/secures it rebuilt and am in the process now of finding someone to do that. We've done a few upgrades to the trailer over the years including new axles, brakes, shocks, propane tanks with gauges. Since it's a 1971, it doesn't have a gray water tank, so we rely on dollies when not hooked up to sewer connections, which is most of the time, as we shy away from fancy campground unless there is no other choice like when down on the Oregon coast. Over the years, we've learned to not take this trailer too far down unpaved roads. At most, it's seen trips that involved 5 - 10 miles of very slow washboard and much shorter sections of dirt. That is likely the primary driver to our considering getting something new and more rugged. However, given the experience that is shared by so many others on this forum, it reinforces my belief that there are no easy solutions to that problem. Comparing the issues I've had over 17 years of ownership to what I've seen from owners of new and recently built RV's, makes me feel fortunate.

We had an F250 with 2 different FWC Grandby's for 20 years that was our go to backroad rig. However, I sold it the year prior to the Covid explosion. Have kicked myself more than once for that move. We have thought of picking up a smaller trailer for the rougher back roads and keeping the Airstream for the tamer stuff. In the past two years, a few options have surfaced in that category. Yet, from a cost/quality standpoint, I'm hesitant to go that route particularly if the manufacturer is located across the country. Anyway, all this discussion makes me feel grateful for what I already have and willing to put up with the quirks of our "vintage" rig.
 
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Treefarmer

Active member
The "Untold stories..." link paints a pretty grim picture. Add an oppressive working environment to all the other factors contributing to dismal quality and it's not surprising crap is being pumped out the door. We've gone back and forth about selling our 1971 23ft Airstream for something newer. To date, I've yet to find anything attractive enough from a design standpoint to motivate us to make the change and that's even aside from the quality issues plaguing the industry. Most of what I've seen that offer a step up in ruggedness, are getting heavier, taller and longer than our old Airstream. Then there's the cost, with some of that being driven by features that are not optional and we simply don't need for camping in the mountains or desert.

All of the commentary I've seen shared on this forum reinforces the idea of keeping what we have and dealing with problems as they come up. Given that what I have is a "known" vs the uncertainty of what would come with a pre-owned or new unit. As I'm not that mechanically inclined, I do have to rely on outside repair services for more problematic issues which, nowadays, entails long waits. While our trailer is 51 years old, it was gutted in 2004 by the previous owner and rebuilt with new (at the time) appliances. Aside from a few minor services on the frig, all of the appliances have worked flawlessly over the 17 years we've had it until this summer when the frig died. Unfortunately, Dometic no longer makes it, rebuilt units are unavailable, nor are parts. Also, no one makes a unit that is the exact same size. So, I finally found a similar capacity unit with acceptable critical dimensions of width and depth, but it's 9" taller. So, I need to have the cabinet that holds/secures it rebuilt and am in the process now of finding someone to do that. We've done a few upgrades to the trailer over the years including new axles, brakes, shocks, propane tanks with gauges. Since it's a 1971, it doesn't have a gray water tank, so we rely on dollies when not hooked up to sewer connections, which is most of the time, as we shy away from fancy campground unless there is no other choice like when down on the Oregon coast. Over the years, we've learned to not take this trailer too far down unpaved roads. At most, it's seen trips that involved 5 - 10 miles of very slow washboard and much shorter sections of dirt. That is likely the primary driver to our considering getting something new and more rugged. However, given the experience that is shared by so many others on this forum, it reinforces my belief that there are no easy solutions to that problem. Comparing the issues I've had over 17 years of ownership to what I've seen from owners of new and recently built RV's, makes me feel fortunate.

We had an F250 with 2 different FWC Grandby's for 20 years that was our go to backroad rig. However, I sold it the year prior to the Covid explosion. Have kicked myself more than once for that move. We have thought of picking up a smaller trailer for the rougher back roads and keeping the Airstream for the tamer stuff. In the past two years, a few options have surfaced in that category. Yet, from a cost/quality standpoint, I'm hesitant to go that route particularly if the manufacturer is located across the country. Anyway, all this discussion makes me feel grateful for what I already have and willing to put up with the quirks of our "vintage" rig.
If you continue to travel/camp the way you described, then you should definitely keep the Airstream and feel good about any time you have a chance to fix/upgrade something. If we were going to keep our trailer for another 10 years, we have a list of items we would replace/upgrade. It would be a lot smarter than buying something new. Our plan is to go smaller and more offroad, so it's a new trailer for us.
 

AbleGuy

Officious Intermeddler
Unfortunately, the crappy quality of new big name RV’s can’t be blamed just on the challenges created by the pandemic. About two years before the response to Covid first shut things down, we attended one of the big RV shows put on annually in the southwest.

It was hugely disappointing, but sadly not surprising to us, to note very visible damage and blatant defects to and in numerous brand new National Brand models on display, including delaminated Formica, screws missing or pulled out of cheap chip board cabinetry, wires hanging down loosely under the chassis, doors that didn’t shut properly…and more.

When these problems were pointed out to the ‘salespeople’ hovering around us, they were completely unconcerned, or tried to make up reasons why some of these things were intentional (? W. T. F. ?), or tried to convince us that the various loose, poorly fitting bits were simply the normal result of transport (if that was so, why didn’t they ‘tune’ the units up before putting them on display, and how was that supposed to be reassuring to someone buying a rig that likewise would travel on roads a lot ?)!

Even worse, the sales folk were woefully and inexcusably uninformed as to most of the important issues about the units they were hawking, such as cargo carrying capacity, if they had spare tires and where were they located, tow ratings, etc., etc., etc….

So it clearly was then and is still the Wild West/anything goes here and buyer beware has never better fit the case for shoppers.

Our next rig is going to be back to the basics one when it comes to the interior build because of that. No expensive poorly installed appliances and as much as possible, everything but cabinetry basically will be stand alone (portable stove, heater and refrigerator, cassette toilet, foot pump water system, stick on battery led lights…).
 
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TGK

Active member
If you continue to travel/camp the way you described, then you should definitely keep the Airstream and feel good about any time you have a chance to fix/upgrade something. If we were going to keep our trailer for another 10 years, we have a list of items we would replace/upgrade. It would be a lot smarter than buying something new. Our plan is to go smaller and more offroad, so it's a new trailer for us.
We do intend to hang onto the Airstream for now. It's paid for and, even adding up all the money we've thrown at it over 17 years, it's still less $$ than anything remotely comparable in today's market. If anything, assuming we can find something to our liking, we'll add a smaller more rugged towable for farther down the back roads. Having owned both a truck/FWC platform and a trailer, we like the flexibility of dropping a towable off as a base camp while we explore. Always tradeoffs though.
 

Peneumbra2

Badger Wrangler
All RVs are crap. Some just smell better than others. The sooner an "RV'er" understands that, the sooner they will learn to plan accordingly, roll with the punches, and get some enjoyment out of the lifestyle.
Not all of them. If you want quality, at least in a Class A, purchase a Newell or a Prevost. And you don't have to be rich to get one - we purchased our gently used Newell for 8 cents on the dollar of the original price.
 

86scotty

Cynic
This is one of my favorites. I saw it online at least 10 years ago and have never forgotten it. Google Images never disappoints.

Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 10.17.57 AM.png

Huge strides in RV safety can be achieved by simply going with modern appliances. Get rid of the propane system. Go with a 12v fridge instead of that risky old 3-way, a diesel heater saves tons of space and is better all around than a huge propane unit and if you can't live with a small butane stove (or diesel or inductive) then use a single 1lb. propane bottle under the stove. I've done this on two rigs and get lots of time out of one bottle. I leave them on there while traveling but if you aren't comfortable with that then spin it off. Your entire propane system is about 1' of hose.

The other fire risk on these mass market RV's is AC wiring, of course, but that's easy to shield and improve.

Yes, they cost too much and should be made better but none of that matters if you're dead. Fix, mod, improve. Especially if you are going offroad.
 

Buddha.

Finally in expo white.
Or…if plumbing isn’t your thing how about the awful use of self-tapping outlets. I was swapping my outlets to ones with USB chargers. Nice crap outlets were used. Cut the ground wire in half and nearly clipped the conductors as well. As an electrical engineer I just wept and gamely replaced these latent fire starters.View attachment 749442View attachment 749443
Those outlets are such a pita to reassemble. Especially when they jam three sets of wires in there.
 

Treefarmer

Active member
Not all of them. If you want quality, at least in a Class A, purchase a Newell or a Prevost. And you don't have to be rich to get one - we purchased our gently used Newell for 8 cents on the dollar of the original price.
You're right about the higher quality of the best Class A diesel pushers. However, they might not be the best off road option! ?
 

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