Here we are, in the middle of the first full travel summer since the Pandemic began. If you’re like my family, you can’t wait to get out on a serious road trip in your RV. As I have pointed out in a previous article, it is important to ensure your coach is ready for the travel season by performing annual routine maintenance.

However, routine maintenance doesn’t always protect you from problems on the road. Take the current trip experience of my family as an example. We have been taking annual trips to Southern California for the past 35 years. Covid broke that streak, so this year we are excited to be heading out on a two-week trip south for the first time in two years. It is also the first trip for our grandkids, who are 2 and 5. My daughter and son-in-law recently upgraded their tent trailer to a 25’ travel trailer, so it is also a great opportunity for them to really shake down their new-to-them RV.

As an experienced RV technician and engineer, I am a stickler for maintenance, trying to always keep my RV in top shape. My son-in-law is a newly minted journeyman electrician, but prior to that he really had no technical or hands-on experience of any kind. In addition to his electrical training, I am trying to instill some basic technical aptitude in him, including maintaining and simple repairs to their RV.

When they purchased their trailer from another family whose kids had outgrown camping with their parents, they declared a few things that required repair on the unit. One was a leak under the bathtub, which we found to be a leaky drain caused by a split locking ring. We purchased a new metal drain and locking ring to replace the plastic one and quickly eliminated the leak. The other known issue was the rear stabilizing jacks were seized. Once again utilizing the magic of Amazon, we ordered a new pair of scissor jacks and installed those to replace the seized ones (we tried “unsticking” them to no avail. They were rusted solid). With these two issues resolved, my daughter and son-in-law began to prep their unit for the trip.

My kids’ tow vehicle is a 2007 Chevy Avalanche that my son-in-law fell in love with and felt he had to purchase. It had some significant body rust that he felt he could repair, despite having no prior experience in vehicle body work. I advised him on how he might approach the repair, and he heeded some of my words and affected a reasonable body repair. Since he did not listen to everything I told him, some of the rust eventually returned.  He did experience some other issues with the vehicle, such that I had some minor concerns about the truck making it over the Siskiyou’s and the notorious Grapevine heading into the Los Angeles area.

On the first day of our trip we were heading to Ft. Steven’s state park, and my daughter texted to say they had lost oil pressure. I was afraid it might be the oil pump, but they were able to get it to a mechanic, who felt it may have been due to the oil level being much too high. After changing the oil for them, they were on their way again. However, the problem repeated itself, and a second mechanic changed the oil again. I was skeptical at this point that the issue had been resolved, but during a test drive, my son-in-law called me (we were already at Ft. Stevens) and said the truck was “shifting funny”. Returning to the same mechanic, it was determined the truck transmission had failed. To make a long story short, we decided to rent a truck for the remainder of the trip, and we managed to find one available in Seattle, so we made the long trek back from Artic, back to Seattle, and finally to Ft. Stevens. Fortunately, we were booked into Ft. Stevens for two nights, so we were able to get back on track. The first moral is always make sure your tow vehicle is in tip-top shape. Granted, these issues likely could not have been predicted.

Rental Truck

The next day was going well, until they got a catastrophic flat tire on the trailer which also damaged the wheel well and went right through to the floor inside the trailer. They are carrying a spare on the trailer, so using a bottle jack I had in my RV, we were able to jack up the trailer and replace the tire. Because they are using a rental truck, there is not a jack, which would have left us high-and-dry if we didn’t have the bottle jack. The second lesson is to always carry a bottle jack (at least one).

Blown Tire

Damaged Floor From the Blowout

On the third day of the trip, we were entering California, and my wife wanted to stop at the Mt. Shasta lookout. As I was exiting my motorhome, I noticed oil leaking out of the center of my front passenger tire. I recognized it immediately as hub oil. Since it was a small leak, we carried on to Oroville, California, where we were staying for the night. The next morning, I pulled off the hubcap and found that the hub cover oil fill plug had fallen out. Disaster averted, I topped up the oil and replaced the cap.

Leaky Wheel

Leaky Bearing Hub

So now on the fourth day we are in Valencia, California and have had no further issues. Let’s hope that bad things really do happen in threes, and we have no further issues.

Do everything you can to make sure you minimize the chances of mechanical breakdown while you are on the road. Purchase a roadside assistance package that caters to RVers (trailers and motorhomes), and try to carry the tools and parts you will need for other types of breakdowns, such as a bottle jack, oil, etc. There is not much worse than breaking down during what is supposed to be a relaxing RV vacation.

Questions, Comments? Please add your thoughts below.

Steve Froese
Author: Steve FroeseEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Steve Froese is a Licensed Professional Engineer in British Columbia, as well as an Interprovincial Red Seal RV Technician, which is equivalent to a Master Certified RV Technician in the USA. Steve was a personal friend and colleague of the late Gary Bunzer (“the RV Doctor”), and works closely with FMCA as the monthly “Tech Talk” columnist, as well as being a member of the Technical Advisory and Education Committees. Steve and his family are lifelong and avid RVers, mostly in the Pacific Northwest.

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