What to look for when looking at a used camper - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-29-2020, 02:12 PM   #1
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Name: Bob
Trailer: Bigfoot
California
Posts: 63
What to look for when looking at a used camper

After posting in another thread, it was suggested that this might be helpful to others

So...

I'd like to start a thread about your own tips and tricks when looking at a used camper, what you look for, what you wished you would have looked for.

My perspective is from a purchase of well cared for 15 year old Bigfoot truck camper that I've now owned for 5 years. After having spent a year looking for the right rig.
I'm a former Product Designer who worked in transportation design and I managed an R&D lab working in transportation research. I have been accused of being persnickety about things.

Here's my list:

The biggest things to look out for but in no order;
Leaks, check very carefully around all windows, doors, hatches, vents, lights (especially the position lights) and any other opening also check the bondline where the top and bottom halves meet. Check to make sure the roof penetrations have been sealed, you will need to get on the roof for this and check around all the edges of each thing on the roof.
Look for past or present indications or witness lines of water intrusion.

Delamination, where the outer layer of fiberglass un-bonds from the layers below.

Condition of the holding tanks.
There can be some funky stuff growing in the fresh water tank and the black and grey tanks may have been parked partially full and then the liquid evaporated out leaving you with a mess.

Condition of all of the mechanicals and appliances.
Especially the water heater and fridge, those two are very expensive items to replace.
Often the anode rod has never been replaced and the hot water tank has never been flushed. It's challenging to check the fridge because they take so long to cool down but they should at least power up and fire on Propane if it's a three way fridge.

Check the battery water level, if it's a flooded lead acid battery and there is acid above the plates then it's a positive sign the owner takes care of their stuff.

Speaking about batteries
The charge converters are also suspect on older units. Look for burn marks or signs of overheating.
I bring a good flash light, a camera, a mirror and now a Bluetooth inspection camera.
Look under, in, behind, below and around everything. Pull out every drawer, every panel, anything that opens, slides, swings, flips or pivots... Should be.
Don't forget to look under the mattress.
And the outside compartments including the fridge, and water heater.

Check the wiring that you can see inside of cabinets, you are looking to make sure it's in good shape, hasn't been chewed by critters, hasn't been hacked by well meaning PO and doesn't show signs of overheating or is otherwise discolored

Then check dates;
Tires (there's a DOT date code on the sidewall)
Coach batteries (there might be a date on top or side)
Smoke detector (there's a date of manufacture on the back)
Carbon monoxide and propane monitors (there's a date of manufacture on the back)
Propane tanks. (It's stamped into the ring on the top)
These all have a limited lifespan, some are easy to replace some more costly.

But if you have to replace them all that gets expensive very quickly.

What are your tips and suggestions?
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Old 03-29-2020, 02:23 PM   #2
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Name: John
Trailer: Black Series HQ19
Smith Valley, Nevada
Posts: 2,021
Here are a few I'd add:

Look for rot or soft spots in the floor. VERY important on trailers with wood floors. Plumbing leaks are a big cause of this, as well as window leaks.

Look for a rusted or cracked frame, rusted leaf springs, or worn out torsion arm suspension.

Of course, tires are important, but since they are a maintenance item that routinely gets replaced, they only have to be good enough to get you home, or to the tire shop. And it's not tread wear, so much as the date code.

I would start out by assuming any lead acid battery was bad, unless proven otherwise with something like a recent manufacturing date and a good charging system that appears to have been plugged in.

Bring the water system up to pressure to see not only that the pump works, but that none of the system has been freeze damaged.

When you get home, and before the next camping trip, inspect and re-pack the wheel bearings, replace the seals, and inspect and adjust the brakes. This is not something to inspect or do before buying, but should be done before your next trip so you can rely on them. When doing all of this, you'll have a chance to make sure the lug nuts are not seized, and that you have a useful jack and lug wrench.
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Old 03-30-2020, 11:23 AM   #3
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Name: Jann
Trailer: Casita
Colorado
Posts: 845
Quote:
Originally Posted by squish View Post
After posting in another thread, it was suggested that this might be helpful to others

So...

I'd like to start a thread about your own tips and tricks when looking at a used camper, what you look for, what you wished you would have looked for.

My perspective is from a purchase of well cared for 15 year old Bigfoot truck camper that I've now owned for 5 years. After having spent a year looking for the right rig.
I'm a former Product Designer who worked in transportation design and I managed an R&D lab working in transportation research. I have been accused of being persnickety about things.

Here's my list:

The biggest things to look out for but in no order;
Leaks, check very carefully around all windows, doors, hatches, vents, lights (especially the position lights) and any other opening also check the bondline where the top and bottom halves meet. Check to make sure the roof penetrations have been sealed, you will need to get on the roof for this and check around all the edges of each thing on the roof.
Look for past or present indications or witness lines of water intrusion.

Delamination, where the outer layer of fiberglass un-bonds from the layers below.

Condition of the holding tanks.
There can be some funky stuff growing in the fresh water tank and the black and grey tanks may have been parked partially full and then the liquid evaporated out leaving you with a mess.

Condition of all of the mechanicals and appliances.
Especially the water heater and fridge, those two are very expensive items to replace.
Often the anode rod has never been replaced and the hot water tank has never been flushed. It's challenging to check the fridge because they take so long to cool down but they should at least power up and fire on Propane if it's a three way fridge.

Check the battery water level, if it's a flooded lead acid battery and there is acid above the plates then it's a positive sign the owner takes care of their stuff.

Speaking about batteries
The charge converters are also suspect on older units. Look for burn marks or signs of overheating.
I bring a good flash light, a camera, a mirror and now a Bluetooth inspection camera.
Look under, in, behind, below and around everything. Pull out every drawer, every panel, anything that opens, slides, swings, flips or pivots... Should be.
Don't forget to look under the mattress.
And the outside compartments including the fridge, and water heater.

Check the wiring that you can see inside of cabinets, you are looking to make sure it's in good shape, hasn't been chewed by critters, hasn't been hacked by well meaning PO and doesn't show signs of overheating or is otherwise discolored

Then check dates;
Tires (there's a DOT date code on the sidewall)
Coach batteries (there might be a date on top or side)
Smoke detector (there's a date of manufacture on the back)
Carbon monoxide and propane monitors (there's a date of manufacture on the back)
Propane tanks. (It's stamped into the ring on the top)
These all have a limited lifespan, some are easy to replace some more costly.

But if you have to replace them all that gets expensive very quickly.

What are your tips and suggestions?
You are not being to picky. Propane tanks need recertified every 10 years. It's a slight cost but tells you they are safe and good for 10 more years. Our last coach battery is still good and 5 years old. The ones in our motorhome were 8 years old. The easy things to do like the tanks and monitors can be done but takes value away which I would get the price of a unit down for them. The hard things like delamination is time to walk away. You can't stop it. Our friends big 5th wheel got totaled out just on the cost of delamination eventhough it was not wrecked and still in good condition otherwise. Soft floors is a difficult fix also. I like your checklist.
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Old 03-30-2020, 12:07 PM   #4
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Name: Robert
Trailer: 1987 Bigfoot B-17'
Washington
Posts: 48
Nose first!

I like to walk into a potential new to me trailer with my eyes closed and my nose on hyper alert for BAD smells.
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Old 03-30-2020, 12:10 PM   #5
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Name: kenny
Trailer: Bigfoot 13'
Utah
Posts: 318
inspection tips

check how the tires are worn. I bought our trailer with a bent axle.
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Old 03-30-2020, 12:12 PM   #6
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Trailer: Black Series HQ19
Smith Valley, Nevada
Posts: 2,021
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenny Strong View Post
check how the tires are worn. I bought our trailer with a bent axle.
That is a very good suggestion.
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Old 03-31-2020, 08:27 AM   #7
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You don’t think many sellers would just install new tires?
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Old 03-31-2020, 08:42 AM   #8
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Name: bill
Trailer: 2013 Escape 19; 1977 Trillium 1300
The Mountains of North Carolina
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
You don’t think many sellers would just install new tires?
On my Trillium, the tires were date coded either 24 years old or 34 years old... The trailer had been sitting unused in a garage for 20 years. Needless to say, I brought wheels with tires mounted on them with me, along with a temporary trailer light kit. Needed all of it.

Tread showed zero wear. But the cracks were as deep as the tread....

When buying a used trailer, the first thing I want to know is how is the trailer been stored. If it has been sitting outside for 20 years, LOOK OUT! The older the trailer, and the less maintenance it has seen, the more important storage becomes.

+10 Trust your nose. Any soft spots in the floor? Unless you can inspect thoroughly, assume major floor rots = big problem.

+10 to Jon's explanation below, brand new tires could be obscuring issues.

1977 Trillium 1300 by wrk101, on Flickr
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Old 03-31-2020, 09:07 AM   #9
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What to look for when looking at a used camper

I meant that sellers might hide uneven wear by replacing tires. For that reason brand new tires would be somewhat of a red flag to me. Tires that are 3-7 years old and showing several mm of even wear would be a good sign that all is well with the axle. Out of date tires on a trailer that’s been stored tell you nothing about the axle.
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Old 03-31-2020, 10:06 AM   #10
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Trailer: Bigfoot
California
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By the same note, really fresh paint on the inside or other surface decorations I am always a little cautious about. It is easy to hid a leak behind new paint, wall paper or even rat fur.
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Old 03-31-2020, 04:43 PM   #11
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I've seen homes for sale where they have scented candles burning in every room during the "open house". Can't wait to get out of there and check it off the list. On the way out I might, depending on the mood, snidely ask what they are trying to hide. Tactics as obvious as that make me laugh.
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Old 04-01-2020, 12:23 PM   #12
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I've seen homes for sale where they have scented candles burning in every room during the "open house". Can't wait to get out of there and check it off the list. On the way out I might, depending on the mood, snidely ask what they are trying to hide. Tactics as obvious as that make me laugh.

Or baking bread or cookies during the open house.


Although I was camping with someone in the group who did bake cookies and it made our group camp smell very nice.
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Old 04-02-2020, 12:54 PM   #13
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Trailer: Casita
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raspy View Post
I've seen homes for sale where they have scented candles burning in every room during the "open house". Can't wait to get out of there and check it off the list. On the way out I might, depending on the mood, snidely ask what they are trying to hide. Tactics as obvious as that make me laugh.
We had a realtor that said baking cookies or bread or something of that manner makes a house feel like a loved home and makes a buyer more likely to look more. Scented candles are too phony and strong most of the time unless they are good scents like maple or something of that nature. In a trailer I'd be suspicious of a cover up though.
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Old 04-02-2020, 12:59 PM   #14
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Don't need to go to all that trouble. A couple cinnamon sticks in the oven at 250 degrees or so.
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