Common RV Maintenance and Repairs to Keep You and Your RV on The Road

Most common rv breakdowns

Common RV Maintenance and Repairs to Keep You and Your RV on The Road

Most common rv breakdowns

Table of Contents:

RV maintenance and repair

When adventuring on the road, there is always the possibility of unexpected breakdowns. RV maintenance and repair is a part of RV ownership. Routine maintenance and thorough inspections help prevent potential failures and extend the life of your RV. Here are some of the most common RV breakdowns and how to address them so you can make the most of your RV.

Common RV problems

Slide-Out Malfunctions

Slide-out malfunctions are common issues in RVs, often caused by misalignment, mechanical failures, or electrical problems. These malfunctions can result in difficulty extending or retracting the slide-out, unusual noises, or uneven movement. Regular maintenance, such as lubricating moving parts and ensuring proper alignment, can prevent many of these issues. Additionally, keeping the mechanisms clean and free from debris is essential to ensure smooth operation.

Hot Water Heater Failure

Hot water heater failure in RVs can be due to a variety of reasons, including leaks, ruptures, and corrosion. These will create problems with the heating element. Symptoms include insufficient hot water, fluctuating temperatures, or complete lack of hot water. Regularly flushing the hot water tank and inspecting the heater’s components can help prevent failures. Ensuring the heater is properly winterized can also protect it from damage caused by freezing temperatures.

Water Pump Problems

Water pump problems in RVs often as low water pressure, strange noises, or a pump that won’t turn on or off correctly. These issues can arise from worn-out seals, clogged filters, or electrical faults. Regular inspection and maintenance, such as cleaning the filters and checking the electrical connections, can help keep the water pump functioning properly. It’s also important to ensure the pump is adequately winterized to prevent freezing damage.

Electrical System Failures

Electrical system failures are common in RVs due to loose connections, blown fuses, or faulty wiring. Signs of electrical issues include flickering lights, non-functioning outlets, and tripped breakers. Regularly inspecting the wiring and connections will help prevent these problems. Keeping the electrical system well-maintained ensures the safety and reliability of all the RV’s appliances and systems.

Leveling System Malfunctions

RV leveling system malfunctions are common in both manual and automatic systems. These issues often stem from faulty sensors, connection issues, or mechanical wear. In hydraulic systems, fluid leaks are common. Resulting problems include uneven leveling, slow or unmoving jacks, and error messages on the control panel (if automatic.) Regular maintenance, such as checking fluid levels, lubricating moving parts, and inspecting the jacks, can help prevent these malfunctions.

Refrigerator Failures

Refrigerator failures in RVs are common and can be caused by issues such as poor ventilation, faulty thermostats, or problems with the cooling unit. Symptoms include inadequate cooling, coolant leakage, unusual noises, or complete failure to operate. Ensuring proper ventilation around the refrigerator, regularly cleaning the coils, and performing routine maintenance checks can help keep the refrigerator functioning efficiently.

New RV problems

New RVs are less likely to experience issues than a used vehicle. However, RVs may suffer manufacturer defects. If potential issues go unaddressed, this could lead to expensive repairs down the road. Here are some of the more common issues that new RVs may face:

  • Leaks: Poor sealing or faulty roof construction can lead to leaks, potentially causing water damage. Additionally, improperly sealed windows and doors can allow water in.  Ensure proper caulking and waterproofing.
  • Electrical Issues: Problems with the electrical system, such as faulty wiring or loose connections, can occur. Issues with the RV battery are especially common. Indicators of a weak battery include poor charging and rapid drainage. Batteries are not typically covered under extended warranty, so it’s important to be sure the RV’s battery is functioning properly.
  • Appliance Malfunctions: Kitchen appliances may not be working properly due either to manufacturing defects or improper installation. HVAC issues result in poor performance or failure to operate entirely. Inspect the stove, microwave, refrigerator, and heating and cooling system to ensure they are functioning properly.
  • Slide-Out Issues: Slide-outs may not extend or retract properly due to mechanical issues. Additionally, poor seals may cause leaks or drafts in the slide-out compartments. Slide-out repairs are costly, so be sure to test the slide-out function.
  • Plumbing System Problems: Plumbing lines may not have been assembled properly during manufacturing, causing connection problems. Unsecured lines lead to leaks. Additionally, faulty water pumps may cause problems with water flow and pressure.
  • Quality Control Issues: Poor or inconsistent quality in materials can lead to various minor issues, such as loose trim, misaligned parts, and uneven flooring. Occasionally, parts or accessories may be incorrectly installed or missing entirely.

Fortunately, new RVs are covered under the manufacturer warranty. These warranties typically last between one and three years depending on the manufacturer and model. Additionally, you will have the option to overlap extended RV warranty coverage with this coverage for maximum protection.

If the issues with the new RV are severe enough that there have been multiple attempts at repair that have not been resolved, you may be entitled to a replacement under lemon law. Lemon law is designed to protect vehicle owners from bearing the expense of a defective vehicle. This protection applies to vehicles still under manufacturer warranty. Manufacturers may be required to either buy back or replace the vehicle if it is determined to be a lemon. Lemon laws have multiple stipulations and vary from state to state, so check with your state regulations for details.

It’s essential for new RV owners to receive a thorough RV inspection upon delivery, conduct a detailed walkthrough with the dealer, and be aware of their warranty coverage. An inspection will identify any underlying issues and defects that may need to be addressed through the warranty contract. Additionally, joining RV community forums can also be helpful for advice and support when dealing with these common issues.

RV slide out problems

Although extra space in a compact format is a desirable luxury, RV manufacturers have yet to perfect slide-out technology. The potential price for repair is rather high, with out-of-pocket costs coming in anywhere from $5,000 to $18,000+ according to recent claims data. No one wants to spend that much money, so it’s best to know how to avoid that.

Slide-outs incur damage over time from water, corrosion, or just regular wear and tear. For preventative care, lubricate the mechanical arms frequently. This reduces the friction between moving parts, decreasing the likelihood of corrosion damage. It also increases the lifespan of these parts. This can be accomplished with WD-40, which is much more affordable than the cost of repairs!

Water is no friend to mechanical components, so regularly check areas that may be vulnerable to leaks. Check for any water where it shouldn’t be, potential weak spots, or even gaps in seals. Seals tend to harden and crack over time. Keep your seals fresh by lubricating them with a UV protectant, such as 303 Aerospace UV Protectant Spray. This will keep your seals nice and soft, preventing cracking and fading caused by exposure to the sun.

In addition to being among the most common failures, slide-outs are among the most expensive. If a slide-out is defective or suffers an unexpected failure, an RV extended warranty will cover the repair costs. Investing in a trustworthy RV warranty can cover costly and unexpected RV repair costs. Get an RV extended warranty quote today.

RV water heater repair

Something you want to avoid having to repair or fully replace is the hot water heater. Not only is this a common issue, but it is incredibly expensive. Total replacement can cost up to $12,000, a figure that would put a significant dent in any travel fund.

Most water heater failures are the result of either a leak or sudden rupture. These typically occur with the fill and relief valves, which deteriorate over time. Other issues are caused by freezing and corrosion. To avoid damage from freezing, drain the water tank while the RV is not in use. Be sure to fill it again before using it! If the RV is in a colder climate, it may be necessary to winterize your pipes too. Consult your RV’s owner’s manual to see whether your water heater has a bypass valve to use while your rig is in storage.

To prevent corrosion, check the anode rod every so often. If it looks worn, it costs around $20 to replace. Occasionally replacing the anode rod will lengthen the life of your water heater and is considerably cheaper than having to replace the entire unit.

RV water pump not working

Having immediate access to a sink, shower, and toilet is a luxury that RV buyers are eager to invest in.  Unfortunately, water pump malfunctions are a common issue to RVs. Plumbing blockages or failures can mean nasty business. Not only is it often an expensive fix, but it can be a very unpleasant one. Losing water access might just ruin your trip. For full-time RVers, this is a considerable inconvenience.

To prevent blockages, our good friends Marc and Tricia from Keep Your Daydream recommend researching which toilet paper is septic safe. You should only use septic safe toilet paper! Refer to the owner’s manual for detailed recommendations. Many health-food stores and organic groceries carry RV-friendly toilet paper. As an additional precaution, it doesn’t hurt to add water to the black tank after each flush to keep wastewater flowing smoothly.

When a problem arises, the first step is to check if there is water in your tank. If the water level is sufficient and the pump still isn’t working, check the water lines that feed into the pump. Check these lines for any leak sites or loose connections. Then, determine whether water is running through the pump. If the line is dry, then the problem has something to do with the water line rather than the pump itself.

Many RV water pump problems occur after people have chosen to winterize their pump. If you want to winterize your pump, make sure to do so correctly. Remember to get everything running properly again afterward. Sometimes people will simply forget to open the shut-off valves. Tending to regular RV maintenance and repairs has the potential to save you a lot of money on inspections and repairs.

RV inverter problems

RV inverters are crucial components that convert DC power from the RV’s batteries into AC power to run household appliances. However, they can sometimes encounter problems. Here are some common issues with RV inverters and possible solutions:

Inverter Not Turning On:

  • Battery Issues: Insufficient power can prevent the inverter from turning on. Check the battery voltage. If it’s too low, then recharge or replace it if necessary. Ensure the batteries are charged and connected properly.
  • Blown Fuses: Check for blown fuses in the inverter circuit and replace them if necessary. The metal strips of blown fuses will appear discolored or broken, thus indicating that the circuit connection has severed.
  • Wiring Problems: Inspect the wiring connections to ensure they are secure and free of corrosion. You can use a multimeter to test the wiring connections. Always handle live wires properly to avoid injury!

Inverter Shuts Off Unexpectedly:

  • Overload: The inverter might shut down if the connected load exceeds its capacity. To check for overloading, reduce the number of appliances or devices connected to the inverter.
  • Overheating: Ensure the inverter has proper ventilation. If it’s overheating, it may shut down. Overloading the inverter may cause overheating, so repeat the steps for troubleshooting overload. If the issue persists, seek professional assistance.
  • Battery Voltage Drop: A significant drop in battery voltage can cause the inverter to shut off. Check the battery health and connections with a multimeter.

No AC Output:

  • Faulty Inverter: The inverter itself may be faulty. Test the output with a multimeter and consult the manufacturer if there is no output.
  • AC Circuit Breaker Tripped: Check if the AC circuit breaker on the inverter or in the RV’s electrical panel has tripped and reset it if necessary. You can accomplish this by locating the electrical panel and flipping the switch back to “on.”
  • Improper Settings: Ensure the inverter settings are correct for your specific application. Refer to the guidelines in your owner’s manual for the correct settings.

Low or Fluctuating Output Voltage:

  • Battery Issues: Low or fluctuating voltage may be due to a weak or failing battery. Test the voltage with a multimeter and replace batteries if needed.
  • Overload: Ensure that the load is evenly distributed and not causing excessive strain on the inverter, as this can also cause uneven output.
  • Faulty Wiring: Again, inspect wiring for any loose or corroded connections.

Alarm Beeping:

  • Overload Warning: Depending on the model, the inverter might beep if it is overloaded. Resolve this by simply reducing the load on the inverter.
  • Low Battery Alarm: A beeping sound can indicate low battery voltage. Test the voltage. If the charge is insufficient, recharge or replace the battery.
  • Alarm Codes: Refer to the inverter’s manual to interpret alarm codes and address the problems indicated by the code.

To troubleshoot and resolve these issues effectively, the first step is always to refer to the inverter’s user manual for specific guidance. If unsure about conducting your own electrical work, you should consult a certified RV technician. Regular RV maintenance and repair can help prevent many of these problems and ensure that the inverter functions reliably.

When an RV inverter does fail, it can cost you. We see claims over $5,000 for the inverter alone.

Lippert leveling system troubleshooting

Lippert is a manufacturer of leveling systems, which are electrical systems that allow RVers to automatically level their vehicle. These systems are more complex than manual systems and therefore require more troubleshooting steps when they experience issues. These, along with most automatic leveling systems, consist of leveling jacks, hardware, electrical components, and a control panel to operate the system.

Troubleshooting a Lippert leveling system involves a systematic approach to identifying the source of the issue and resolving it. There are several different potential causes. The most common are dead batteries, overextension, or a blown fuse. Here’s a step-by-step guide to troubleshooting a Lippert system:

  1. Check the Monitor for Error Messages – Check the screen for error messages in the event of a malfunction. One of the most common messages is, “Out of Stroke,” which means the leveling jacks cannot extend any further. Refer to the manual to interpret other error messages.
  2. Restart the System – Sometimes a fix is as simple as turning the unit off and on again. Try to restart your leveling system by shutting it down at the control panel. After 15 seconds, power it back on.
  3. Check the Power Supply – The battery provides power to both the jacks and the control panel. Ensure the RV battery is charged and functional. Take a look at power connections to the control panel and the hydraulic pump or motor. Ensure wires are tight and free of corrosion. Typical power supply issues are a dead battery, blown fuse, or a disengaged switch that has disrupted the battery connection.
  4. Inspect Hydraulic Components (for Hydraulic Systems) – If you have a hydraulic unit, ensure proper fluid levels if you run into issues. The fluid should be a quarter inch (1/4”) below the fill spout. Check the hydraulic lines for leaks or breakage.  Problems with the hydraulic system may prevent the jacks from extending or retracting.
  5. Manual Override – If all else fails, use the manual override to level the RV.  To extend the jacks, go to the control panel and turn the system on. Then, press the up arrow so the screen displays the words “MANUAL MODE.” Press “ENTER.” The “LEFT” and “RIGHT” arrows correspond with the driver side and passenger side jacks, respectively. Extend the jacks with the “FRONT” and “REAR” buttons.

To retract the leveling jacks, simply push the “RETRACT” button. An orange light will indicate that the system is now in “RETRACT” mode. Retract the left, right, front, or rear jacks as needed. Models may vary, so be sure to refer to your Lippert manual for specific instructions.

RV stabilizer jacks not working

If your RV stabilizer jacks are not working, it can be frustrating and inconvenient. For automatic and hydraulic systems, you will be following similar steps as above in accordance with your system’s instruction manual. Manual leveling systems have a different operating mechanism, so troubleshooting your RV stabilizer jacks will be a slightly different process.

First, check the area for any obstructions such as rocks, debris, or any other objects that could be blocking the mechanism. Obstructions may prevent the stabilizer jacks from extending or retracting.

Next, check the power supply, battery voltage, and electrical connections to ensure sufficient charge. After verifying the power supply, listen for the sound of the motor when you attempt to operate the jacks. If you don’t hear the motor, it might be a problem with the motor itself. Check the gear mechanism for any signs of damage or wear. A burnt motor will need to be replaced.

If the jacks are moving but are slow and erratic, lubricate the gears if necessary to ensure smooth operation. By following these steps, you should be able to identify and resolve these common issues with RV stabilizer jacks. If the problem persists, it may be necessary to consult a professional RV technician for diagnosis and repair. Regular RV maintenance and repair will prevent further issues with the leveling jacks.

Common RV toilet problems

RV plumbing issues can be inconvenient to deal with, especially in remote locations. It’s important to understand the common issues they face in order to address them swiftly. Keep in mind, a toilet can be a surprisingly expensive fix. In fact, we see claims well over the $3,000 mark for toilet repair and replacements! Here are some common RV toilet problems and how to resolve them:

Use Error: Unpleasant as they may be, clogs and backups are the most common culprit of RV toilet problems. This occurs when waste is too large to pass through the hoses or valves. Resolve minor clogs with a plunger. By contrast, major backups will need to be addressed via the black water RV holding tank. This will involve shutting off the valve to the black water tank, adding water and cleaner, then allowing the solution to sit for several hours so the cleaner can break down the waste. Reopen the valve to empty the tank, close and rinse it, then reopen it. Use RV-safe toilet paper and the appropriate cleaner.

Leaks: RV toilet leaks are an unfortunate but common occurrence. The culprit behind a toilet leak is often worn-out seals, loose fittings, or cracks in the structure of the toilet. With use and time spent on the road, the rubber and other materials used within the toilet assembly can loosen or degrade, leaving you with a mess. Keep an eye on your maintenance, particularly the regular cleaning and replacement of these fittings, and you should be set for the road ahead.

Broken Valve: Broken valves in RV toilets can cause significant inconvenience during your travels. These valves may break due to wear and tear, mineral buildup from hard water, or exposure to freezing temperatures. A malfunctioning valve can lead to leaks, improper flushing, and water wastage. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the system with vinegar to remove deposits and ensuring proper winterization, can help prevent valve issues. If a valve does break, it’s important to replace it promptly to avoid further damage and maintain the functionality of your RV toilet.

RV specialists

RV maintenance and repair is essential for the health of your RV. Although you can probably address some minor repairs yourself, there may be a time when it is necessary to consult an RV specialist. It’s important to address repairs quickly after identifying them. Regular maintenance extends the life of your RV by preventing issues. Work together with your preferred certified RV technician and RV extended warranty administrator to resolve repairs promptly. An RV specialist will inspect the vehicle and diagnose any issues you may have missed, and your RV warranty will cover the cost of repairs for unexpected failures.


What is the most common RV repair?

There is no clear answer as to which is the most common RV repair, but the most common repairs typically involve issues that arise from regular use and exposure to the elements. These include roof leaks, tire wear, plumbing issues, battery problems, slide-out malfunctions, and appliance malfunctions. Prevent major issues by being proactive with RV maintenance and addressing minor repairs before they progress.

How often do RVs break down?

According to claims data gathered by Wholesale Warranties, 3 in 10 RVs break down within the first two years of operation. By the fifth year, 8 in 10 RVs will have experienced a major mechanical or electrical failure.

What is the average lifespan of an RV?

RV life expectancy depends on several factors, such as manufacturer, usage, and care. Well-maintained motorhomes typically last between 10 and 20 years. According to Cruise America, RVs can last up to 30 years, or 300,000 miles, with proper care.

What breaks on RVs?

RVs are large, complex machines composed of working mechanical and electrical parts. Any mechanism is subject to failure, but the components exposed to the most stress are more likely to break. Appliances and working components suffer the most frequent breakdowns.

Is an RV warranty worth it?

An RV warranty is worthwhile to travelers who want financial protection from the high costs associated with RV repairs, which are common due to the nature of their construction. An extended warranty covers unexpected breakdowns and failures of major systems and components, offering peace of mind for RV owners. Additionally, a warranty can enhance the resale value of the RV, as potential buyers appreciate the added security of warranty coverage.

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