Water Leak vs RV Warranty
Water leaks and warranty coverage are like oil and water – they do not mix well at all.
Water leaks can happen any time from any direction of the camper. If our travel trailer is still under factory warranty then it should all be covered, right? Well, maybe.
What if we have a water leak from the pluming and it causes damage to the interior of the camper. Then what? That sounds pretty cut and dry, of course the damage under factory warranty would be covered.
However, what are we supposed to do if we cannot get the travel trailer repaired when the water leak is first noticed? After all, a lot of people from up north travel to the deep south to escape the bitter cold. A few of the southern states still have thousands of families living in their travel trailers due to destruction of flooding and hurricanes. There are thousands of people who travel the country for work and their camper is their home. Not always very easy to get that travel trailer back to the dealer is it?
This is where understanding the RV warranty becomes a necessity.
Extreme Situation: Camper vs Water
About a month ago – someone brought me a 5th wheel with what looked like a liquid “rust” coming out of most of the electrical outlets & switches on the walls, even on the interior walls. This was absolutely bizarre. As long as I have been in the travel trailer business, nothing with a camper really surprises me. But, I had never seen this before, even the technician and the shop Foreman were taken aback on this one. It really did remind me of the Amiteville Horror Movie. After all, how does water get into the interior walls?
After searching all the gaskets, roof sealant, windows, sunroofs, plumbing vents & checking everything possible that water could enter – we could not find a point of entry. NOTHING!
The one thing we did know, the owner had been having issues with all 3 of his air conditioners since he purchased the 5th wheel travel trailer. The air conditioners had been freezing up, but only sometimes, definitely not with every use.
This gentleman was traveling the country in his 5th wheel for work. When the a/c would act up, he would call a certified tech to come to him. Do not get me wrong, their is nothing wrong with getting a RV technician to come to the camper. The factory and the dealerships understand that it is not always possible to drop everything and leave where you are to get the camper to a dealership. And I promise, a reputable dealership and manufacture never wants to see a trip canceled or cut short.
Three different technicians in 3 different states, came out to the camper and took care of the “customer’s concern” which was the a/c was freezing up.
The owner of this 5th wheel had done everything right best any of is could tell. Traveling as much as this owner does, he understood the importance of keeping the receipts and also having a certified tech take a look at the a/c’s. Nothing ever showed up as to why the a/c’s would freeze up. They would check the freeze sensor, check and make sure it was not sucking in cold air and the vent’s were clean. No one ever saw a reason for any of these a/c’s to be replaced.
The Water Mystery
After we contacted the manufacture of this travel trailer and began putting the pieces of this puzzle together. We came up with it had to be from one of the a/c’s. After an a/c freezes up and the ice begins to melt, the water has to go somewhere.
The owner said – once in a while he thought water may be dripping from the a/c vents, but he never really saw it happen. Him or his wife may have seen what appeared to be a drop of two of water in odd places of the camper but never saw it actually drip. And he has had this 5th wheel for about 7 months now. Could the water from the a/c units be coming through the walls? That would be odd, in every wall of the 5th
wheel? Could this even be possible? And if so, then how? On trailers that have multiple a/c units they aren’t all usually ducted together, meaning they do not all have duct work. In this case, all 3 a/c’s shared the same duct work.
This gentleman lived in the camper for work. And most of his travel in the time he owned this camper was up north in the cooler climates. The a/c doesn’t have to work so hard like it does deep down in the south. The freezing up of the a/c’s definitely became more frequent the closer to the south he went this past summer.
Now we are pulling down a few ceiling panels, although the a/c units themselves have been ruled out. They are working fine. ((of course, when we checked them, the weather was cool outside)) It had to be a current leak, the walls were still wet. Water was definitely coming out of the bottom of the electrical outlets and light switches on the inside walls. On the exterior walls the water marks went from the ceiling panels to the top of the windows.
I have seen some weird stuff with travel trailer a/c duct work. On one, I saw the duct work just stopped and did not go all the way to the next vent. I have seen duct work not taped off well so cold air leaks out instead of through the vents. Could the a/c duct work be leaking water? If so, in the entire camper?
As we started pulling down a couple of ceiling panels, the tech began noticing that all of the duct work had holes in it. The tech turns on 1 a/c at a time. The same thing is happening from the front of the camper to the rear of the camper. Water everywhere, including going down the interior walls. And, it is coming out in outlets and switches in the camper.
Although this situation is extremely rare, it happened. And here is where the warranty may or may not play a role in the repairs.
This 5th wheel is still in factory warranty, so all damage should be covered without any questions. We have proven that the a/c and water leaks have been happening since day one. That was the easy part. Getting the manufacture to cover all the rotten walls should be easy too.
Not so fast!
Neglect or not?
After submitting it all to the manufacture, the questions just kept coming. The factory did not have a problem taking care of the a/c duct work. That was a given. They did not want to cover any of the water damage, and here is why:
The owner of the camper had owned it for over 7 months and had been living it in. The factory’s argument was, the water had not just started leaking through the walls. It was very obvious that these water leaks from the walls had been going on for an extremely long time. Not only were the walls ruined, so were so were most of the cabinets in the camper. The kitchen and bathroom cabinets were full of mold & mildew along with the bedroom closet. The electronics switch panel and now area’s of the floor have also begun to rot. Nothing rots overnight, it takes a long time to see this kind of water damage.
I believe all camper manufacture’s feel the same. They want us using the camper and enjoying it! They all want us to trade up campers when we outgrow our present purchase.
However, if and when something does occur, they also expect us, the owner, to do what we need to in order to protect our camper from further damage. If we do not, if may get classified as neglect.
There was no argument from anyone that this water issue had been going on since the beginning. Not once had a technician looked into what was coming through the walls, not once had the dealership the camper was purchased from been notified, and not once had the factory been called & notified about this issue. In this case, it could be easily classified as neglect, the owner saw damage occurring and chose to ignore it. And since the owner was using it for work – he did notice the water from the walls and admitted to it. Even just one phone call and maybe some pictures to the factory could have salvaged this very expensive camper.
The question now is — who is responsible for these extensive and extremely expensive repairs? Had the issue been reported to the factory as soon as it was noticed, even not knowing what was causing it, the extent of the damage could have been prevented. And their lies this argument: The owner of course says it is on the factory – but the factory says it should have been reported immediately upon seeing this and it was the owner’s responsibility to do what it takes to prevent unnecessary damage. Question is: is this water damage a warranty issue or does the damage fall under sheer neglect?
They both have a good argument. Or do they?
If we have an oil leak in our truck and do nothing about it and we lock up the engine, who is responsible, is it the owner or the manufacture? The owner of the truck is responsible under neglect from the lack of taking the necessary precautions to prevent further damage. And that is exactly how the manufacture of this 5th wheel looked at this water damage, it could have all been prevented!
We Do Have A Happy Ending
Understanding the RV Warranty can definitely take the stress off of you when you understand how it really works. In this case, the factory definitely did have the legal grounds to not cover the actual water damage. The leaks were noticed about a week after this owner purchased and had begun in it. It was brought to the factory’s attention 8 months later all because the owner “didn’t have the time to do anything.”
In the long run, it is all working itself out. The RV manufacture is going to take care of the RV and repair the damage. However, the camper is pretty much totaled and will have to be torn down to it’s frame and completely rebuilt at the factory. The repairs could possibly take months and now the owner has no chance of being able to use it. By the neglect of the owner, there is now precious time and money that will be lost. Understanding his warranty and what needed to be done could have prevented this whole nightmare.
Either way it goes, this gentleman is out of his camper/home for the next couple of months and is still paying a monthly note on it.
What to do?
So, what do we do if we see something in our RV and we cannot get it back to the dealership?
-We take pictures and document the issue
-We call the dealership we purchased the camper from and have it documented
-Most importantly, we call the manufacture of the camper and report it directly to them, sending them pictures if need be.
One phone call in this case could have saved a lot of heartache, headache and money for everyone involved.
Again, this not a common occurrence, however, understanding how the warranty should be common for every owner. I hope no one ever has to go through anything as bizarre or complicated as this, but, if you do, I believe you now know what to do to protect yourself and your RV investment.
Thankfully, this time, the ending will ultimately be a good one.
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