One of the most important checks you can make when buying an RV is the roof. A leaky RV roof can cause massive damage, often unseen. A leaky roof can cause rot inside the walls, weakening the entire structure, and also cause unseen mold, which can make you sick. These problems are usually very expensive and time consuming to repair. Before you climb up on the roof, check the ladder for loose screws or cracked rungs. If you don’t feel comfortable going up on the roof, get someone who is.
Things to Inspect on the Roof:
Pull up vent covers, and look at the seams underneath.
Look at all seams and joints for cracks. Check the roofing material for damage like tears or worn areas.
Check the sealants and caulking; does it look old and dried out? Look for areas where the water naturally pools up. The front and back seams are common spots for leaks.
Take a hose up and spray the roof down, making sure the gutters are working. Have someone listen for drips inside the RV.
Pull up the roof and fridge vent covers. Use a flashlight to look down into the vents, checking for blockages such as a bird, rodent or insect nests.
Doors and Windows
Check the window seams and sealants, making sure the rubber gaskets seal, and the screens are good. Spray the windows with a high-pressure sprayer, and check for interior leaks. If the windows have shape film, check for cracking or delamination, and if the windows are double-paned, look for fogging in between.
Look at the entrance doors, the cabinets, and drawers. Check for any damage, missing hardware, or loose screws. Make sure the locks and latches are working.
Inspect the exterior RV walls for any cracks, bubbles, bulges, or delamination. Look at the seams, making sure the sealants and caulking are clean, with no peeling or cracking. Check for loose molding and mounting screws. Make sure all the walls look square and true; a section of the wall that looks crooked or cracked is usually a sign of underlying frame damage.
Switch each AC breaker, they should feel stiff. Run all the circuits, and check for excessive heat on any. Check the 12 Volt DC circuits, making sure there are no blown fuses.
Look at each fixture, making sure they are all working. Pull the covers off, and confirm there are no signs of overheating to the plastic or metal connectors. Don’t forget to check all the exterior and storage bay lights too.
Power Cord and AC Outlets
Inspect the main power cord for defects, paying attention to the metal plug prongs; make sure they don’t have arc damage. You can use a circuit tester, to check all the AC outlets.
Make sure there isn’t any corrosion on the connections, and the wiring is in good shape, with no signs of overheating. Use a multimeter to look for voltage between 12.6-12.8 volts when not plugged in. If the batteries are the lead-acid type, test each cell with a hydrometer to get a more accurate reading of the charge. Also, look for a date code on the batteries. If they are older than 5-7 years, it is likely they need to be replaced.
Vents, Fans and the Air Conditioner
Take off the AC cover, and look inside for any signs of water leaks from the roof gasket, and check that the filter is good. A dirty filter is a sign the AC has not had basic maintenance. On the roof, inspect the condenser and evaporator fins for damage, making sure it’s not clogged with debris. Inspect the wiring and connectors. The fan should spin freely without squeaks or wobble.
Replace the covers and turn on the AC, letting it run for 10-15 minutes. With a thermometer gun, measure the air temperatures. For most RV air conditioners, a difference of 18-22 degrees would be in the normal range.
Check that the exhaust and vent fans work properly. Make sure the bug screens are installed, and in good condition.
Assure that the LP Gas system has been certified and inspected, in most locations, it’s the law before a unit can be sold. Check the age of the propane tanks; many are only good to be refilled for ten years. Inspect the condition of the rubber hoses, the regulator, and tank switch over valves. As you walk around the RV, inside and out, keep your nose open for the scent of a propane leak.
Make sure the gas furnace fires up, and that the fan doesn’t squeaks or rattle. Check each vent for heat and good airflow. Take off the furnace access panel, and check that the furnace is clear of dirt and debris.
Awnings, Jacks and Slides
Run all awnings, jacks, and slides through their full range of motion. They should move smoothly, without any squealing or clunking. Inspect the rubber seals on the slide outs, as well as the awning fabric for wear or damage. Inspect the mechanical parts for any rust, corrosion or damage. Feel the drive motors making sure they are not getting hot when working.
Fresh and Waste Water Tanks
Test out the city water hookup, filling the fresh water and waste tanks, and then take the RV for a test drive. Check for any leaks underneath. Dump the waste tanks, watching for a good flow, and a smooth feeling to the wastegate valves.
Check the condition of wiring and hoses on the 12-volt fresh water pump. Run it, and listen for smooth operation, while checking for leaks. Check to see if it can supply a consistent flow to all the faucets.
Open the access panels, and inspect the plumbing and the wiring. Fire it up in gas mode, and check the burner flame; it should ignite quickly, and burn mostly blue. Turn off the gas, and turn it on electric mode. Let the water come to full hot temperature, then run the tap, checking for good heat and clarity. On the outside, open the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s operational.
Toilet and Plumbing Fixtures
Turn all faucets on/off, checking for good flow, and no leaks. Make sure the drains work properly, and look around the toilet for any sign of leaks. Check the toilet bowl seal, it should hold water. Check the showerhead, and the seals on the shower door and stall walls.
Check that all the appliances are in good working order. If the unit has one, light the propane stove, making sure each stove burner works, as well as the oven. Use an oven thermometer to check for accurate temperature.
Check the refrigerator in both electric and propane. With your thermometer gun, check the temperatures in both the fridge and freezer for proper cooling. Confirm that the auto switch is working. Open the outside access panel, making sure everything looks clean, with no debris. Check the drain hose. When the electricity is turned off, you should hear a sparking noise, and be able to see a tiny blue flame in the burner area.
Crawl under the RV, and look at the axles and suspension, looking for any corrosion, broken parts or excessive wear. Look at the condition of the underbelly covering. Check the tires for defects and wear, and use the DOT code to find out their age. Tires older than 5-7 years are due to be replaced, especially if you are looking at a trailer or 5th wheel. Test the operation of the entrance stairs, and check the bumper.
Turn on the engine, and check for unusual exhaust smoke, and check the carbon monoxide and propane detectors. Check for one or more up to date fire extinguishers.
Finally, use a powerful flashlight and go all over the RV, looking into every nook and cranny. Open all the cabinets and storage bays, and look for water damage, which may indicate a roof leak. Serious problems to look for are signs of water leaks, dry rot, mold or rodent activity.