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11 Common RV Problems and Their Solutions

As awesome as RVing is most of the time, some common RV problems tend to sneak up when you least expect them.

Regardless of how dedicated you are to keeping up with your rig, it’s a good idea to be prepared to address certain RV maintenance, repair, and operational issues that commonly occur in motorhomes, travel trailers, and even tow vehicles.

So, today we’re looking at 11 common RV problems/situations that crop up and how to solve each one. Instead of heading to an RV repair shop, you’ll be able to address them on your own.

Cluttered/Disorganized RV Shower

We’re starting with this easy-to-solve RV problem because some RV showers are notoriously small, infamously cluttered, and/or disorganized. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a common complaint.

We’ve been on the road full-time for a long time — more than 20 years. So trust us when we tell you we’ve got this shower thing down. Even if your shower is smaller than ours, there are ways to get your shower gear out of the way, and to keep it clean more easily.

In our post How to Take an Awesome RV Shower, we detailed some of the things we’ve typically done to declutter our RV shower, and how we keep it neat and tidy. Among our tips, we suggest wall-mounted soap, shampoo, and conditioner dispensers.

These come in 2 or 3-chamber units, stick right to the shower wall, and get your various bottles of “stuff” off up the shower floor.

We sometimes like to shave in the shower, so we keep our razors and a shaving mirror adhered to the shower wall, too.

We also use a squeegee after we shower. This helps us get the water off the walls so the moisture doesn’t remain in the bathroom (moisture is a long-term enemy in an RV). We also use it to squeegee water into the drain when we’re not perfectly level (think Walmart parking lot).

We’ve got additional tips in our post on taking an RV shower, as well as the following video:

Nests in Outside Vents

RV vents are favorite nesting spots for all sorts of insects, especially mud daubers and wasps. Some vents also serve as entry points for mice or, in our case, bats!

Stowaway mice and bats are obviously undesirable. But you might not consider nests that are built in your rig’s vents to be as big an issue, even though they can be worse. A nest in a heater vent can not only stop the heater from working properly but could potentially lead to a fire. The same is true of your fridge vent.

To combat this problem successfully, we highly recommend RV bug screens like these:

Your RV vents may be different than these, so we encourage you to visit our full post on RV bug screens for further details, including how to install them.

It’s also not uncommon for wasps to build nests in the shrouds of RV air conditioners. We mention this as a warning if you head up to your roof to clear debris from your AC unit or handle other AC maintenance tasks. All RV owners should be extra careful on an RV roof, and running from wasps up there would likely fall under the “unsafe” category.

Broken or Absent Propane Gauge

Knowing how much propane you’ve got in your tank is important. You don’t want to run out in the middle of cooking dinner, or during a nice warm shower. Some RVs have propane gauges that don’t function properly, and many don’t have a gauge at all.

It’s never a good time to run out of propane, so it’s important to know how much is left in the tank, either with a working propane tank gauge… or without one. If you need to replace your LP gauge, check out our post on propane tank gauges and sensors.

And if you need to check your tank level without a gauge, we’ve got you covered, as Peter demonstrates in the following video:

Loss of Water Pressure

Another common complaint among RVers is an occasional loss of water pressure. Since many RV plumbing systems don’t offer the most vigorous water pressure in the first place, further pressure loss can be a real drag.

Fortunately, there’s often an easy fix. A loss of water pressure in your RV could be related to one of the following issues:

Air In Water Lines

Regularly connecting and disconnecting from city water means getting air in your water lines isn’t uncommon. That can cause a loss of water pressure which is annoying and inconvenient. More important — if allowed to continue, air in your water lines could lead to a burned-out water pump.

If you’ve got low pressure, sputtering water, or a “hammer” noise, check out our post on air in water lines. In that article, we run through the symptoms and causes of air in RV water lines and show how to bleed the air from the lines, water pump, and water heater.

The post gives you detailed instructions with photos, and we even included a couple of videos at the end, demonstrating exactly how to flush and clean an RV water heater as a bonus.

Clogged Showerhead Or Other Faucet

If you notice a loss of water pressure only in your shower, you may be dealing with a clogged showerhead. This isn’t unusual, especially for RVers who spend much time in the Desert SW, or other areas with especially hard water.

If you’re having this issue, you’ll want to check out our post Is Your RV Showerhead Clogged? Here’s How to Clean It. (If you have the same problem only with a sink faucet, the post will help with that, too.)

The bottom line on this issue is that scale and other debris can get into the showerhead or faucet aerator and clog them up. Fortunately, this is very easy to fix using our tips in the above post.

Leaky RV Toilet

Unfortunately, a leaky RV toilet can also be a relatively common issue. If you’re lucky, you’ve just got some condensation dripping. But you could also have a more significant issue that needs attention. And home toilets aren’t subjected to the movement and vibration that RV toilets are.

No need to panic, though, because although water damage from water leaking anywhere in your RV can be a big deal, there are usually only a few things that might be causing the problem. And a moderately handy RVer can often repair most or all of them.

The most likely reasons for a leaky RV toilet are:

  1. Bad Flange Seal
  2. Cracked Water Valve
  3. Bad Valve Seal/Flush Ball Seal
  4. Cracked Bowl
  5. Loose or Cracked Fittings

We’ve got a detailed post on RV toilets leaking that will not only tell you how to repair all of those issues, but will also link to exactly what you need in order to complete each job.

Broken or Weak Cabinet Struts

Have you ever raised an overhead cabinet and had it slam right back down (or fall on your head)? Wear & tear on RV cabinet struts can leave you with a cabinet door that no longer stays up.

Fortunately, this is often a matter of simply repairing the strut quickly with a pop rivet, which is a very easy fix. To help, we’ve got an entire post on repairing and replacing RV cabinet door struts.

Meanwhile, our video below will show you just how quick & easy it is to repair your cabinet struts with a pop rivet:

Smelly RV Fridge

Speaking of common RV problems, a smelly RV fridge may be one of the most common of all. In fact, this issue is so common, that there’s a wide range of ways to eliminate those fridge odors. We’ve got ’em all laid out for you in our post on how to get the smell out of an RV refrigerator.

Odor In the RV While Driving

Believe it or not, RVers smelling an offensive odor only when the rig is in motion is a very common complaint. We had this problem ourselves at one time, but we resolved it.

We only smelled the odor while traveling down the highway with a mostly full gray tank and the driver’s window open. That seemed to create a vortex that pulled gray tank odors into the RV.

This happened most often after a long period of boondocking. This is because, like all boondockers, we try to conserve the water in our fresh water tank when we’re off the grid so we can stay out there longer. This also means less water going into our gray water tank.

However, using such a small amount of water results in a high concentration of soap, food particles, and body oils in the gray tank, creating a pretty bad odor. But how did it get into the living area of our RV?

Here’s how we fixed the issue; we’ve never had it happen again.

Dicor 501LSW-1 Epdm Self-Leveling Lap Sealant-10.3 Oz. Tube, White, 10.3 Fluid_Ounces (Packaging May Vary)

Dicor 501LSW-1 Epdm Self-Leveling Lap Sealant-10.3 Oz. Tube, White, 10.3 Fluid_Ounces (Packaging May Vary)

  • Creates a secure, secondary seal along the roof’s edges, air vents, vent pipes and screw heads
  • Adheres firmly to aluminum, mortar, wood, vinyl, galvanized metal, fiberglass and concrete

Drain Flies/Sewer Flies

Talk about a problem! If you’ve ever had a drain fly (“sewer fly”) infestation in your RV, you’ll want to know how to never let it happen again. There are a few reasons why drain/sewer flies are a common problem for RVers.

Drain flies can infest your RV’s drains, sinks, shower, and toilet. The most common cause of sewer flies/drain flies is the build-up of organic matter like rotting fruit, food waste, and other organic materials, which provide a breeding ground for them.

Another cause can be keeping the gray waste tank dump valve open when connected to a sewer hookup. The flies can come up from the septic system and into your rig, where they lay eggs.

See exactly how to get rid of drain flies and how to prevent them in the first place in our full post on how to get rid of drain flies in an RV.

Funky Pleated RV Window Shades (Broken Cords)

Pleated RV window shades that hang together with cord threaded through them are very common in RVs. They’re also a very common problem area. That’s because the cords break, which makes it impossible for your shades to hang properly until you replace the shades (expensive) or repair the cords.

That’s why we wrote a very thorough and detailed post on how to restring RV pleated shades. We’ve provided detailed instructions, with photos, on exactly how we’ve restrung our own pleated shades MANY times over the years.

Eventually, we got tired of doing this, so last year, we upgraded to much higher-quality blinds. If that’s the route you’d like to consider, check out our post on RV replacement blinds.

To see how we restrung our original pleated shades, check out our step-by-step guide to restringing RV pleated shades and have a look at our video showing how to do it.

Improperly Inflated Tires

One of the most common errors RVers make involves the improper inflation of their RV tires.

Flat tires are one thing, and no one wants to deal with that. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Underinflated tires are the main cause of RV tire blowouts. And lots of tires are chronically underinflated.

When a tire is underinflated, the sidewalls flex more than they’re designed to. That leads to more of the tire’s surface area contacting the road, generates additional friction, and creates heat. This heat and flexing can lead to sudden tire failure.

The best thing you can do to prevent tire blowouts is to learn how to properly inflate them. As a matter of fact, proper RV tire pressure is such a critical, but often misunderstood, topic, we wrote a book about how to do it correctly. That eBook is provided free to everyone who subscribes to our daily newsletter.

You’ll learn how to properly inflate your RV tires and how best to maintain them so they’ll safely carry you and your family down the road. If you think your RV tires are set to the correct pressures, read our book and you may be surprised. Every RV is different, and MANY RVers don’t have them set correctly.

RV tires are also expensive. Not only can learning to inflate RV tires properly save your RV, and your life, but it’s also beneficial to your wallet.

We hope this post on 11 of the most common RV problems helps you confront these issues head-on should you find yourself faced with any of them. If you have other RV problems, such as a dead RV battery, or issues hooking up to shore power, click the links for more details.

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Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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