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Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking to Buy a Used Camper? Watch Out for Rot

A discouraging thread in an RV forum seems to show that plenty of truck camper owners have found rot or dry rot in their camper. The small number who claim they don't have rot issues say they bought their TCs new, and took scrupulous care to see to it that water was kept out of their rigs. However, a huge majority of those writing on the thread said they've dealt with rot issues, to the point one visitor noted, 'There are two types of camper: One has rot. The other has rot, but it just hasn't been discovered.'

After a bit of head scratching, of the four truck campers we've owned over the decades, we've had varying amounts of rot in three. Perhaps we just didn't discover it in the one. In one, a musty-mildew smell in the cab over finally drove us to pulling up the bed planking. Sure enough, underneath we found the need to replace the entire support structure--not a lot of fun, and certainly a financial disaster if we had to hire the job out.

How can you do to protect yourself when you're shopping the used camper market? The old rules that apply to all RVs apply. First, open all ceiling level cabinets--look for water stains. If you see them, you can pretty well guarantee rot-osis.

Run your eyeball down the siding, warps and buckles should be points of suspicion. One area where many camper owners say they find rot problems is in the "wing" area--the outer wall at the rear of the rig where both sides of the wall are exposed to the elements. Our photo shows an area rot in a wing near a corner jack. Someone tried to "putty over" the problem, but it's sure no cure. Other areas of complaint include around rear door sills. Poking a bit with the tip of a knife will often reveal issues. If the tip goes in without pushing hard, there are problems lurking.

It's a tough job to cure dry rot. If the area is small, sometimes an injection of dry-rot cure potions sold on the boat repair market will help. But if you hit the level of taking off siding or roofing, be prepared for a lot of work, or a huge expense. Shop carefully!

photo: R&T DeMaris


  1. We found that the upper front corner of our camper had rot. We have pulled back the rubberized covering and exposed the plywood. We can replace the plywood and support framing but we are wondering how to glue the rubberized covering down over the wood once it is replaced. Any suggestions?

  2. We found rot under the mattress of the first truck camper we bought. Seems a common place for water to collect. Big job to fix.

  3. Our class A has a buckle in the very back down below our bedroom window on Both sides of our RV. When we bought it pre-owned 5 yrs ago, there was a teeny buckle and we thought no big deal cos the sellers told us they had to have the window reinstalled and water got in but everything was dry and ok, they had had it checked out. But over the last year there is a long buckle in the fibre glass exterior on both sides. Inside our bedroom, everything is dry. So any suggestions? Can it be repaird and at what expense. Right now, it's more cosmetic than anything. TY Angie from PA

  4. Can outside buckles be repaird and at how expensive is that? What's involved? In the fibreglass. The inside is dry.

  5. Fixing problems with laminated fiberglass walls is a huge problem. We haven't really heard of any RVer who's successfully fixed their own. But the minute we post this, surely somebody will pop up who has . . .