While its occupants may take life easy, recreational vehicles can take a beating. They’re continually exposed to the weather – including rain, snow and ice. Water will find ways to sneak inside your RV and potentially cause considerable damage. Leaks are one of the most common issues with RVs as they age. As an RV owner, chances are you’re going to be dealing with water leaks at some point.
Your main goal should be to spot leaks as quickly as possible in order to minimize the cost or complexity of the damage repairs. It’s important to keep a sharp eye on things with a routine check twice a year. You should really look everywhere, but RV water damage is most commonly found under windows, inside cabinets and compartments, and any spot that has been punctured on the exterior of the RV. Be sure to scan for:
- Bumps under the windows
- Stains/discoloration (brown or rust) on the ceilings and walls
- Delamination (bubbling or waves on the sidewalls)
- Squishy or soft carpet areas
- Damage, staining, or buckling inside cabinets
- Soft spots around the roof
Uh Oh! – you’ve found a leak. Now what? Definitely don’t ignore what may appear to be minor damage. Too often, what you can see is just the tip of the iceberg. You must identify the source of the leak. Usually water will be found leaking from seams in the ceiling or joints, or from under the RV. If the water is coming from above, it is most often a structural problem (loose joints and rivets, improperly sealed windows and doors, roof seams etc.). If the water is leaking from below, it is most often a pressure or overflow problem.
Minor water damage can be easily repaired when you catch it early and repair the leak effectively. Here are some basic tips to remember when repairing water leaks and damage:
- If water is entering through the windows, apply new flexible silicone window caulking. The flexible caulking withstands and holds up to the vibrations caused by a moving RV.
- To quickly patch up roof and exterior siding leaks, you can apply a permanent waterproof tape called Eternabond which can be purchased at RV supply stores. Apply Eternabond tape carefully because once the adhesive backing sticks to your RV, it will not come off.
- For rubber roofs, paint on a coat of rubber roof repair.
- If the leak is coming from the air conditioner, make sure the AC is mounted tightly. Up to four bolts are used to hold the AC unit to the RV and one could have come loose. Tighten all bolts.
- To repair damaged wood:
- Pull off loose pieces
- Smooth the remaining wood with 80-grit sand paper.
- Liberally spray or paint on a wood hardener or epoxy resin. The wood hardener or epoxy resin soaks into the wood, halts the growth of mold, and hardens the wood.
- After 24 hours, use a putty knife to apply wood putty to the hardened wood. Use enough putty to fill in any indents in the wood caused by the water damage.
- Wait four hours for the wood putty to dry and sand the area smooth, using sandpaper.
If the damage is more serious than expected, a professional repair job from an RV repair shop is your best bet. You can also surf the Internet, as there are many videos posted by RV enthusiasts and professionals who will give you step-by-step visual instructions to help guide you through the process of identifying and repairing water damage.
The bottom line is that water is highly capable of getting in any hole originally made on your rig. When you take preventative measures to seal properly and do routine checks, you can help prevent water woes.
Stewart Boomer said:
Thanks for walking through all the stuff I can check on my RV! I really like auto work, but I’ve never quite known where to start when it comes to my RV. Thanks to you, now I have a good idea how to check for any leaks (never would have thought to check for bumps under the windows), and know at least the theory behind fixing them myself. Thanks for sharing!
Linda Prin said:
It is good to know that there are small fixes that I can do myself on my RV. Your blog tells me (we are dealing with a leaking air conditioner) and really just need to take it to a technician though. We have remounted it several times and it just needs some TLC. Thanks for the helpful advice.