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RV Water Leaks - Make Quick Inspections a Habit and Avoid Serious Damage

Updated on December 19, 2017
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and shares his experiences with valuable tips.

RV Water leaks need a plan

There is nothing more frustrating to an RV owner than to go check their RV out while it is in storage, or even worse have a leak start in a rainstorm while you are camping.

Water leaks are probably the most common problem that RV owners will eventually face, and possibly the most damaging to an RV's value by the time one is discovered.

Honestly, none of us are really prepared for the day when we look and see water dripping from the ceiling, down the windshield or even running down a wall.

The cost of repairs can possibly be cheap, in some cases, or if these leaks are ignored the cost can become extremely high and even the value of your RV will be degraded.

But, there are several things an RV owner can do to reduce the probability of leaks occurring.

RV Ceiling Water Damage

Typical RV Ceiling Water Damage
Typical RV Ceiling Water Damage

RV Preventive Maintenance decisions

The smart RV owner has already figured out that there are certain things that they should do on a regular basis that can dramatically reduce the chance of future problems with their RV.

It's a simple thing really.

Once you understand that an RV is essentially a home that some fool put on wheels. And, imagine, when you drive or haul a home down the road, with bumps, and thumps and vibrations, eventually something is more than likely going to either break or at least vibrate loose.

Most of us listen to our fellow campers and learn from their advice while the more stubborn of us (or is it Lazy?) wait until something goes wrong and then learn that we now have work to do to prevent this thing from happening again.

Either way, the list of things that we decide needs to be done on a regular basis for our RV to function at its peak, is called Preventive Maintenance.

An RV Roof is designed to eventually leak.

The reason I mention the roof of an RV as being problematic is simple once you realize the inherent design problem with an RV roof.

You se, when they build an RV, the manufacturer puts a solid layer of ;fiberglass or rubber, or other composite material on the top. That original roof will not leak, OK?

Then, the worst thing that can happen to such a nice and sealed roof occurs. The manufacturers take this perfectly good and leakproof roof and cut holes in it.

Look at your RV roof and you will understand. That Air Conditioner, the Satellite antenna, the ceiling vents, the skylight over the shower, the sewage vent and more, all require that holes be cut into your roof.

Once the roof device is mounted in the hole it is professionally resealed with a flexible sealant that will keep the outside weather from entering the RV. But, the RV owner must realize that this flexible sealant will age and it must be inspected regularly.

And when the sealant degrades, showing either cracks or loose areas it must be repaired or replaced with new sealant.

Preventive Maintenance for water leaks is smart

So, again, you need a plan of regular inspections that you will perform in order to catch or prevent leaks before they occur, or at least as they begin and before they cause major damage to your RV.

I, personally, like to perform "Rainy Day" inspections on my RV. You will be surprised how many small stains and/or water trails and drips will show up after a few hours of rain, that you really never noticed when things are nice and dry.

In my opinion, a Rainy Day" inspection is showing me a new "Leak" while a dry day inspection will show me "Water Damage".

At the same time, I do crawl onto the roof of my RV at least twice a year and check each sealed area for degradation or damage. And, of course, I repair anything that looks like it will not last for at least six more months.

Roof Ceiling Leak Inspections

So, once you know that eventually everyone is going to have roof leaks, you need to design your own regular inspection program.

ROOF Inspections:

Most manufacturers recommend a good roof inspection every 3-6 months.

It inspection itself should only take 10-15 minutes, and there are no obvious problems, then you are done and can climb down from the roof with a certain level of confidence that you will not have a roof water leak for the next several months.

What do you look for? Well, as I mentioned, each item mounted on the roof of an RV has a sealant around its periphery (edges). This sealant is a pliant (or flexible) material, typically silicone based.

The problem is that this material is subject to flexing over time as well as degradation due to its exposure to the Sun.

Knowing that this material is susceptible to such damage the owner must also realize that many roof leaks are also caused by damage done by people who clean the roof of an RV and physically damage the sealant with their high pressure washers or their cleaning brushes and other tools.

Pressure Washers should always be kept at leasy 18-24 inches away from these sites of sealants, but often the cleaner will not comply with this

Wall Leaks

Finding a water leak on your wall is really irritating, especially if you have been performing your Preventive Maintenance on your roof.

A leak down a wall can come from so many different directions that you can have a serious search on your hands. Often, you can trace the wall lek to the nearest ceiling device such as the AC or vent fans.

But, sometimes, the culprit leak can be many feet away and the water just took the easiest path to finally run down the cabin wall where you found it.

I can tell you right now, a wall lek can do more to hurt the value of your RV, mostly because a knowledgeable prospective buyer knows that the wall leak can cause a lot of damage to the wall and things behind the wall.

And RV walls are not designed to be repaired, patched or even worse pulled for further work to be performed. The wallpaper is NOT wallpaper, it is a substance that is laminated onto the wall panels at the factory.

The wall panels are made of so many different materials that you can have composites or you can have wood that can quickly show wood-rot.

So, if you have the first signs of wall leaks, you absolutely must fix that leak before the damage grows into a very big expense.

Windshield Leaks

Sooner or later, every Class-A Motorhome is going to have a water leak somewhere around the windshield.

It really doesn't matter whether you have a 1-piece windshield- a 2-piece windshield or whatever new they may come up with, it is going to happen. Or, at least it has in all of my Motorhomes.

Having all of that glass to look through as you travel dow the road, exacts a price as the vibrations of the road accompanied with the extreme pressures from the wind, make the glass flex in all directions.

Eventually, these extreme pressures is going to force the sealant used around the edges of the glass to either peal away or actually crack. When this happens, you once perfectly sealed windshield will prove a path for rains to seep through and into your Motorhome.

In my experience, you have two choices. One, you can goto your RV service tech and have your windshield pulled and resealed with new sealant, for hundreds of dollars in labor. Or you can get a good tube of exterior Silicone Sealant and patch it up yourself for less than ten bucks of sealant.

Your repair job may not be as pretty as theirs, but it will be a lot cheaper, and it will last for months, if not a year or more, if you do it properly. If ,after a couple of cheap repairs, then you might consider going to a professional, but I still recommend you at least try to do it yourself at least once.

Other Leaks to inspect for

Of course, there can always be leaks from your RV plumbing,and they are important. But, honestly, they are more rare than the one that start on your RV roof.

Water Line leaks can, of course happen, and nine out of ten times they will occur at a connector and should be easy to find. Repairs of these connectors are usually easy and fast and you should be able to do them yourself.

Sink Leaks occur at times, and I have an irritating one right now. My RV is an older one and as they age the seal rings in the faucet or handles will harden and allow slow and small water leaks occasionally. Yu will see the puddles of water around the metal faucet frame on your counter.

But, all you need is a new gasket ring, and a good wrench and the repair can be done easily.

In Summary

In Summary, from what you have read so far, you can see that the best way to manage water leaks in your RV is to avoid them with a good preventive inspection and maintenance plan.

Keep those sealants fresh and undamaged and your water leak woes will be few and far between.

How to Prevent RvRoof Leaks

How to seal an RV Roof Leak

RV Roof Leak Detection

© 2015 Don Bobbitt

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    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Nadine Soros- This really does sound like a leak.

      The top two problems with a slide, as far as leaks are concerned are;

      1- The roof of the slide is not slanted, and being flat, will allow water to stand on it.

      2- The body of your Park Model, like RVs have two rubber seals, one on the outside that is engaged when the slide is closed. This one keeps water out of the RV when it is stored or going down the road.

      The other rubber seal is on the inside edge of the RV and is designed to keep any water out of the RV when the slide is opened. This seal is your probable culprit.

      If you have standing water on the top of the slide, then it will often find its way into the RV when the rubber seal either gets hard and doesn't fit like it did when new, or when the rubber seal has a seam that breaks down and allows water into the RV.

      On RVs, you will often find a "slide awning" over the slide. This is just a piece of rolled out canvas that keeps "most of the water from rain off of the top of your slide. This awning could be torn, or there could just be some "blow by" during storms.This awning should be stretched relatively tight and hanging at an angle so water will roll off of the center of it, rather than the edges and onto the slide top itself.

      So, the easiest thing? Check your Slide awning. Then get someone to examine your slide gasket, the fit, the contact area, and its condition.

      Good Luck,

      DON

    • profile image

      Nadine Soros 

      3 years ago

      My Park Model has blistering on the inside roof of the front slide. The roof outside is fine. It has been extremely hot for the past few weeks. Could it be from moisture on the inside of the unit? Maybe a dehumidifier? Help.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      SandyMertens- Camping is definitely habit forming. There are just so many interesting things in this world of ours that you can access longer and cheaper if you do it as a Camper.

      Thanks for the read and comment,

      DON

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      3 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I have always wanted an RV or at least a camper. Good information to prevent leaks.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      MsDora- Great to hear from you.

      I tried to get everything across so it would be easier for the novice to take on.

      Thanks for the read and comment,

      DON

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great advice on inspecting and maintaining your RV. Sounds like a how-to pamphlet. Good job!

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Peachpurple- You are so right. One thing you learn after you ignore your first water leak and end up with serious expenses cleaning the damage and stains, you get on board the preventive maintenance train quickly.

      Don

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      roof leaks in RV is the worst nightmare. Thumbs up, thanks for your reply to my question

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