You'll notice that the title is past tense! That's because my RV Lifestyle has changed again. It's over!
That's right, I sold Harvey The Harley Hauler recently and consequently ended my nomadic lifestyle. I won't say it was an easy decision because there were parts of that life that I liked. However, the more I traveled, the easier the decision got.
You see, I was a rookie trailer owner and didn't know whether or not I would like that method of travel. (I'd tried most others over the years.) So I decided to give it an honest try and then decide whether I liked it or not. In the end, I guess I didn't like it enough.
There were some mitigating circumstances that may have influenced my decision. (I swear, I've never taken a law course, so I don't know where that sentence came from!) Anyway, because I was new to RVing (or more specifically, "trailering") I decided to buy a new trailer - that way, I wouldn't be buying one that had hidden problems from the previous owner that I wouldn't find until after I'd bought it. Plus, a new trailer would have a good warranty in place in case something did break in that first year. That was good thinking, but it had a flaw.
The flaw was, that I made an assumption that if I bought a new trailer from a long-established, reputable trailer manufacturer, then it likely wouldn't have many problems in that first year anyway. I was wrong! I had plenty! I've outlined most of them below so you can see how I came to the conclusion that living in a travel trailer wasn't for me.
I bought a 2013 Rubicon 2600 from Dutchmen Manufacturing. Here's their info:
Dutchmen Manufacturing, Inc. is headquartered in Goshen, Indiana, and was founded in 1988. The company produces several widely-recognized brands of recreational vehicles, including Aerolite, Aspen Trail, Breckenridge, Coleman, Denali, Dutchmen, Infinity, Kodiak, Komfort, Razorback, Rubicon and Voltage. Products include travel trailers, ultralites, fifth wheels, toy haulers, destination trailers and park models.
I bought it from Camping World in Burlington, Washington and here's their info:
As the nation's largest retailer of RV supplies, accessories, services and new and used RVs, Camping World is committed to making your total RV experience better.
So you see, I should have been in good hands.
I bought the trailer and then reality set in! Here's a "blow-by-blow" description of my first and only year of the RV lifestyle and a rehash of all the things that went wrong, pretty much in chronological order.
1) I was promised delivery by mid-March. That was then changed to sometime between March 25th and 27th. It was delivered on April 5th! (Not a good start!) When I asked Camping World where it was during one of my many phone calls to them they said, "We don't know! It left the factory but the delivery company has it stashed on a lot somewhere and they don't know exactly where it is!" Was that an omen?
2) Once the trailer came in, I was given a one hour walk-through introduction. It was too short for a "newbie" like me. Either they skipped over or I missed a lot of important information during the demo. Because I had nothing to compare it to, I didn't discover this until later.
3) The TV has a small button to push to get a signal amplifier working. It's located in a cupboard above the TV. After spending a couple of hours trying to get the TV to pick up some channels one evening, I gave up on it, figuring it was broken. I discovered the existance of the button by accident the next day while loading the cupboard! Also, the remote was missing for the TV. (It took them 4 months to get one for me!)
4) The advertised "Queen-size" bed was not! I had to have several inches taken off the length and width of my "Memory Foam" mattress, before it would fit.
5) One of the straps used to secure one of the chairs while travelling, broke while I was tying it down!
6) Due to poor workmanship on the cargo cover (under the bed). The hinged lid wouldn't fit flush and there was no way to hold it up to retrieve anything from it! It had to be re-cut and my cousin made me a pole "prop" for it.
7) There were several "tie-down" ports on the floor for securing "Quads" for transport, but no wheel chock for a motorcycle. (This is a "Toy Hauler" and that's why I bought this model, so I thought they might have thought of that possibility!) Anyway, I bought my own chock and phoned Dutchmen to find out where I could safely drill into the floor and not into any of the many water tanks that are located there. On the first call I was told the floor was 1 1/2 to 2 inches of laminate and I could drill anywhere. When the first drill attempt broke through after 1/2 inch, I called again!
This time I insisted on talking to someone who installed the floors and a man called me back an hour later and said I had to drop the cover (pan) under the trailer and see what's there before drilling as they had no blueprint they could send me! (This is a huge 1/2 inch thick pad that covers virtually the whole bottom of the trailer and made a 15 minute chock installation into a half day project!) I was not impressed.
8) A couple of days later I decided to test the CO alarm and it didn't work because it still had the battery blocked off! That's how it comes from the factory. Nobody had activated it.
9) Ditto the smoke alarm! It's a good thing I didn't have a fire.
10) At the end of week one, the shower wouldn't drain. The Camping World tech I called suggested draining the grey tank, even though the panel showed only 1/3 full. I didn't know which valve to pull. The manual was outdated and the picture in it looked nothing like my trailer. I called Dutchmen - waited on hold - hung up and called later. Then I left a message for someone to call back and waited hours! The lady I talked to sent me a schematic which was useless. In the end, I called my salesperson at the Camping World dealership and he told me where the valve was by looking at a similar trailer on his lot. I opened it and the problem was solved.
11) The fresh water tank always showed 2/3 full even after I filled it!
12) The AM radio didn't work when I was on the 12 volt battery system if either the furnace or the fridge was on! It turns out that it was not grounded at all, so I wired it to the trailer frame.
13) The deadbolt on the door didn't work. The slot was too high!
14) I finally had to take the trailer in to have the electrical panel replaced so that the tank readings were accurate and to get the TV remote that should have come with the trailer. I got the remote (4 months late) but they got the wrong panel from the dealer so they couldn't replace it. I had to return to have that installed at a later date (an hour trip, south of the border).
15) The furnace stopped working. Something inside burned out and the gas wouldn't light. I dealt directly with the furnace manufacturer and they suggested that I take it to an authorized dealer locally, which I did, and the part was replaced in a day.
16) This happened again on January 22nd just at the start of my "around North America" trip but it was something different this time as the fan wouldn't run and it wouldn't light! I'd be without the furnace for the rest of my trip. (See 26 below.)
17) The reason the furnace took so long to get repaired was because around the end of January, I scraped off the air conditioner at a GAS STATION on an interstate highway in Texas. How can this gas station not have posted a warning sign over their gas pumps that they had a low canopy? (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) The problem was that the air conditioner and furnace both worked off the same thermostat and so I couldn't get the furnace fixed until I got the air conditioner replaced! I didn't need the air conditioner, the furnace was another story.
Camping World in Florida (near Tampa) replaced the air conditioner with a roof vent so there would be no leakage around that area but I would have to wait a month (until I got back home) to get the air conditioner replaced and the furnace working.
18) The generator wouldn't start from inside the trailer on January 28th. They supposedly replaced a part at Camping World in Tampa to get it working but the first time I tried it a week later, it didn't work!
19) The door to the generator wouldn't open properly with the key. It had to be forced. Then, once forced open, it wouldn't close! I had to gouge out the inside track and loosen the latch. I also couldn't get the drain plug out of the floor to change the oil in the generator. It uses an Allen key which I didn't have! Why not a screw driver like the rest of the trailer?
20) Screws keep shearing off the "tie-downs" on the floor (4 of them). Fortunately, none of the ones I used for the bike broke.
21) Nobody suggested I grease the "load-balancing-bars" on the trailer tongue. They malfunctioned and one of the bars started to drop out while I was moving. When I called the manufacturer, they told me to grease the bars "daily". Why didn't someone tell me about that when I bought them?
22) The bedroom window wouldn't stay closed. It kept opening up when I traveled on the road. I told them about it at Tampa Camping World and they said they would tape it shut but they didn't and the next trip south from there, the window flapped open again and a metal rod in it broke! Now the entire window had to be replaced.
23) The top drawer in the kitchen broke and wouldn't stay closed. They "fixed" it in Burlington but it broke again a week later.
24) The hinges on the door to the storage area wore a hole in the mattress! I had to place some pads over the hinges and duct tape the mattress.
25) I stopped into Camping World Tampa again (actually Plant City) to have some more work done and get some propane. They filled up the tanks but left the "new" tank cover off! I went back the next day to get it but they put on another "used" one on that had a missing and a broken strap on it!
26) They said they needed a week to get some parts and schematics to get the furnace working so I gave them 10 days. When I returned, the person I had been dealing with had been fired and nothing had been ordered!
27) I had to call TD auto club one morning because the truck batteries had run down overnight. Apparently you have to disconnect truck and trailer at night. No one told me that!
28) The tub stopper fell on the floor and broke. (It's plastic.)
29) On the way across the prairies (without a furnace) the kitchen faucet froze and fell off. I thawed it out and replaced it but it never worked well after that and dripped a lot.
30) I called Dutchmen on March 15th re stopping into the factory for repairs as I was going to be near their plant on my return home. They had an opening in May! I decided to stop at Camping World in Burlington, Washington on the 26th instead. They said it would likely take 4 to 5 weeks to get the parts they will need! They were right.
31) When I arrived at Burlington I discovered one of my tires had shredded to the metal core and the technician there determined that one of the axles was bent and needed replacing. Also, probably as a result of that, all the tires had to be replaced, even though I'd only had them a year.
32) I asked them to order the tires (which I agreed to pay for) and they reluctantly ordered a new axle which they agreed was under warranty. They also volunteered to replace the mattress under warranty. I told them I'd come back in a month when they got all the parts they needed.
When I went back, they fixed the miriad of things that needed fixing but they didn't have a mattress so I would have to return and pick it up at a later date. It hasn't arrived yet!
33) They replaced the tires with 4 new ones and I forgot about them until a friend of mine looked at them a few weeks later and discovered that they were the wrong specification for that trailer! They were "under rated". When contacted, they found out that the "spec sheets" that they had ordered them from were marked wrong and they agreed to replace them. It's been a month and they've finally just come in.
So here are some questions to ponder. If you have an answer, let me know by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Was the trailer poorly made? If so, was it poor workmanship or poor design or cheap components?
2. Did I just get a "lemon"?
3. Are all trailers made this way? (There certainly is always a lineup ahead of you at any of the RV service centers that I went to and a long waiting time to get in.)
4. Was I somehow too hard on it? (I never went "off-road" boondocking. I stuck to Interstate and major highways the whole time.)
I want to make one thing clear. I'm not at all upset at the service and warranty personnel at any of the Camping World centers that I visited. They were all great and seemed to genuinely care about getting my trailer fixed. The system they work under may be flawed with long wait-times for parts and they are certainly overworked but they always seemed to be doing their best. Thank you.
Dutchmen Manufacturing is a different kettle of fish however. The 2 or 3 times I called them, they weren't very helpful and in fact, were unhelpful at least once. When I outlined all the problems I had been having with the trailer in an email and sent it to them at the same time as I sent it to Camping World, the CEO of Camping World responded the same day and the Western Regional Manager called me and said that they would work with me and make things right, and they did. I have not heard from Dutchmen to this day. Not a peep! You can draw your own conclusions from that.
So, my RV lifestyle is over and I can laugh about it now. I hope you found it interesting or amusing. If you're thinking of buying a trailer for the first time, think again! If you're an old hand at the RV lifestyle, then you've probably been there and done that.
You might want to click above to go to my Fun Travel page where you'll find lots of connections to my motorcycle videos and stories that chronicle many of my trips around North America. They're light and easy to read or watch, so if you have a few minutes and want to see how I tackled the wilds alone and survived, then drop by.