Luckily, things by and large settled down after that. We did a couple of more trips, but everything went….smooth.
A little too smooth.
So, I knew there would be a big bomb at some point, and there was. Just turns out it was a bomb to the pocketbook.
Having never had it looked at professionally, I wanted to take it in to get winteriezed, and also asked them to check everything over to make sure that there were no glaring problems that I would miss but that the pros would catch.
I had a hunch about one of the items that I worry about anyways: The roof. The roof is pretty much the first thing to go in most campers, because its the point where water can get in, and water is pretty much the death knell for campers. Every time it rains, a little piece of me wonders what is going on with our camper, and wondering if there's dripping going on anywhere.
That's the joy of not using the camper for such long periods of time, is that you have no idea what's actually going on with it.
So, I went to pick up the camper from it's storage lot. It was the last time it would be in that spot, as it would be going from there to the service center, and from the service center over to my in-laws, where it will live until next spring.
When I pulled up and opened the door to get out of the car, I heard a high-pitched beeping noise. It sounded suspiciously like it was coming from the RV. As I walked up, it was.
I opened the door and found that the propane sensor inside the camper was going off. First, I did a quick sniff test to verify that there was not actually a propane leak. There wasn't. Second, I confirmed my suspicions that it was actually beeping due to low voltage in the battery. When I flipped one of the lights on and it dimly came on, that pretty much confirmed my suspicion. See, we have a deep cycle marine battery hooked up to run the 12 volt system, and I never bothered unhooking it between trips. Given that it was just 2-3 weeks, this never presented a problem, but since it had been nearly two months since we last used it, I guess that answered my question about how long a battery could go. Lesson learned: Unhook the battery between uses.
The Good News And The Bad News
Next, I took it over for service. After they had it a couple of days, they called me. When he said, “Well, we need to talk about a couple of things” I knew I wasn't getting away with just the winterizing.
He gave me some good news in that everything looked good from the tests they ran on the plumbing, the electrical, the awning, and most of the seals. The bad news, however, came with the roof.
Actually, the roof wasn't leaking. But, they determined that the seals had never been re-done and that it likely would start cracking pretty soon. The manufacturer and their experience say that it should be done every five years or so. Given that this is a 2004 model, it was time.
He also indicated that our particular brand suffered from a manufacturer defect regarding the air conditioner unit. Some of the bolts that hold the air conditioner unit to the frame tend to loosen over time (or may never have been tightened fully from the factory). This causes the air conditioner unit to sink ever so slightly, and over the years, has actually caused the roof to sag slightly, creating a low spot. In fact, he confirmed that at some point, there had been minor leaking, which explained why there was a tiny bit of waviness in one of the spots on the ceiling. The good news was that the leak had been very minor and there was no rotting anywhere. The good news was also that it could be tightened. The bad news was that there would always be a low spot there, but they suggested that anytime it is being stored, to keep it off level to encourage run-off.
They also recommended re-sealing around all the doors and windows, as there was some cracking which was normal.
All in all, it set me back around $700. I had figured that it would need about $500 in repairs and maintenence this year, so that wasn't too bad. Plus, it's good knowing that the roof, my major source of worry, is ‘safe' for another few years.
One last misadventure
After picking it up, all that needed to be done was the trip to my in-laws, which was about 20 miles away. I hooked it up and got going with no problem. Or so I thought. About four miles in, just after having gotten on the freeway, someone pulled up next to me and was waving. Uh-oh.
I pulled over and so did the person and he told me that something looking like a vent or cover of some kind, had come off a ways back. I looked around the best I could without a ladder, and the big things were intact, meaning the bathroom skylight and the air conditioner unit, so I kept going to my in-laws. I discovered that a vent that covers the refrigerator unit exhaust was no longer there.
I called the service center and they claimed that they never had to do anything to loosen that, and that it must have ‘come off on it's own'. I politely expressed my thoughts that the timing was just too coincidental. They agreed to give me a replacement at no cost. I went back and picked up the replacement unit, then I actually went back on the freeway, found the old one that was sitting intact on the shoulder, and picked that one up too.
So, now I have a spare 🙂
Lesson learned there, is to always take a peek at the top of the camper. I probably honestly would not have realized that part was missing, and it likely would have caused significant problems (water damage and probably ruined the fridge) had water and snow gotten in there all winter long. One more thing to add to next years checklist!
All in all, it was a great camping year. I'm very proud with how far I came. I was even joking that when we went on our first trip, I wouldn't even let my wife speak to me or turn on the radio, I was so nervous about driving it and such, but by the end, I was just fine.
Looking forward to next year. Hopefully with slightly fewer misadventures!