Log of Breakdowns and Repairs

OK. This log may be a little scary to those of you who are planning to hit the road. The main reason that I present it is to give you some feeling for the day-to-day maintenance requirements of your equipment when you are traveling extensively. My truck and rig are both older units and therefore do require more maintenance than a brand new set-up, but no matter how new your rig is, you will still have to deal with some maintenance issues as you roll along. Also included are costs associated with screw-ups. In other words: nothing was broken except my brain. All humor aside, sometimes it's the things that you forget that will use up a fair amount of dollars. "Normal" maintenance costs (oil changes, lube jobs, filters, etc.) are NOT included in these cost charts, just fix-em-ups.

Description of problem and solution
Must have left my water pressure regulator at the last stop, as I can't find it anywhere.... Bought a new one at the local RV store. Also decided to make up a checklist!$8.00
Large thunderstorm and hail destroyed plastic roof vent. As an added bonus, about a million gallons of water poured through now missing roof vent and soaked carpeting. Replaced roof vent and borrowed a wet-dry vac to suck water out of carpet. Added wet-dry vac to list of things to buy.$10.70
I must have left the mirror for the motorcycle on the trailer bumper when I loaded the bike at the last stop. (the mirror has to be removed in order for the bike to fit on the rig). Went to Honda store and bought a new one.$12.00
Concerned with a perceived lack of braking power on the trailer, I rewired the brake controller and connector with heavier gauge wire and tested each trailer wheel brake... It's a little better now, but I'm still not getting the brake response I expect from the trailer. I decide to live with it, as I can find nothing wrong. The brakes DO work... just not as well as I'd like.$10.00
Damp carpet in the rear of the rig alert me to a leak around the big window. I sealed it up with some silicone I had with me and went up on the roof for a look.... no problems up there.$ 0.00
Discovered a new leak in heavy rain. Water dripping from the ceiling onto dining table. After everything dried out, I crawled up on roof and slathered sealer on all the seams and it looks like I got it. Next rain, no leak. $20.00
Muffler on bike rusted out. Got real noisy! Ordered a new muffler from local Honda dealer and replaced it. Much quieter now!$137.00
10/27/99Took truck to Midas and had complete brake job done. New shoes and pads, turned drums and rotors, a full refit. Also had differential fluid changed.$257.00
The little air compressor that inflates my rear air bags on the truck stopped working. I pulled it apart and fixed it. About this time, I started noticing that the lenses on the trailer running lights were starting to disappear. I replaced them when I noticed that they were missing, but it seemed to keep happening. Finally, I went around the rig and glued them all down with a drop of silicone rubber. So far, they seem to be sticking around.$15.00
11/15/97It was due to get down below freezing at night, so I went to drain the fresh water tank. Only, it wouldn't drain all the way. I pulled off the tank cover for a look see. Boy, I wish I hadn't even looked, as I discovered a real mess. The tank has apparently been leaking for a long time, and all the supports are rusted away and the wood is all soaked and rotten. I had to drop the tank, find the leak and repair it, then remount the tank and replace the supports. Not a fun job!$110.00
11/24/97Discovered a broken spring mount on the trailer. Dragged trailer to a nearby welding shop and they repaired it. $100.00
12/1/97Dry camped tonight, and couldn't get the generator started. Discovered that the fuel line was pinched inside the generator case. Replaced the fuel line and it ran OK.$10.00
12/19/97Water heater doesn't want to work on gas.... discovered that there was a lot of crap in the burner tube, so I pulled it apart and cleaned it up. Works OK now.$ 0.00
12/29/97The water pump on the truck is getting noisy. Replaced it and replaced heater hoses while I was at it.$40.00
The truck transmission has been acting up... slipping badly between gears on shifts. I had to have it rebuilt and it sure wasn't cheap! Ow! Ow! The AAMCO in Titusville did the work, and they beefed it up as much as possible. Took forever, but it sure does work nice now!$1473.72
The A/C compressor on the truck is making noise. Had to replace the pulley bearing, and almost had a stroke when they told me that the bearing was over 40 bucks! Wasn't very easy to replace, either!$43.68
A big puddle of oil under the truck helped me discover that the power steering pump was leaking big time! Off we go yet again to the auto parts place and after an exchange of $$ and some time, I had a nice, new power steering pump.$48.00
Replaced brakes and drums on trailer, including new bearings and seals. Also, 4 new tires. OOOF!$700.00
The bike sat for so long that the battery went flat. I ran out and got a new one and installed it.$14.84
The tires on the bike are getting kinda thin... bought some nice new ones and mounted them while sitting next to the ocean at Horseshoe beach. Wasn't bad at all!$30.00
The steering on the truck, never real tight, has been getting sloppier, so I crawled underneath and discovered some very worn tie rod ends. Replaced them and had to take the truck in for alignment.$213.00
Those new brakes that I put on back in Florida work too well! I had to get a brake resistor to turn them down a little!$11.25
On the way down off the Blue Ridge pkwy, the truck started running real rough. I limped into a campground and discovered a broken valve spring. I was lucky that I was able to fix it and that the valve hadn't been damaged. Didn't cost much, either.$17.43
Voltage regulator on the truck quit. I had a spare onboard, so I just swapped it out.$ 0.00
Truly scary number of dollars spent on first year maintenance :

Now, that's just the FIRST year! Are you terrified yet? I sure am! It looks a lot worse when you put it all in a big list like that! And I'm not even including all the "normal" maintenance items like oil changes, filter changes, etc. I hadn't realized just how many problems I actually had .... Maybe this wasn't such a bright idea after all! :-(

Well, if that didn't scare you off, here's the table of stuff from the second year:

Description of problem and solution
I've been having an intermittent problem with the truck ignition system... seemed to be electrical, so I rewired the whole ignition system and discovered a corroded connector that was probably causing the problem.$20.00
A loud hissing sound led me to discover a big bolt stuck through a rear tire on the truck. I drove it quickly (before all the air leaked out) to a nearby garage and they put a plug in it.$5.00
Started to smell gasoline around truck... discovered that the main fuel tank sender was leaking. Pulled it out and repaired it.$ 0.00
Truck has developed an exhaust leak.... it's a blown header gasket. Replaced both header gaskets and collector gaskets with super-duper solid copper gaskets... supposed to last forever.. at these prices, they better!$77.19
I rebuilt a junkyard carb for the truck and installed it. The main reason for the replacement is that the original carb leaked gas and I had never been successful in fixing it. The "new" carb actually works better than the original, so it was a good change.$100.00
On a routine look under the trailer, I discovered that one of the trailer springs was missing the center bolt, and the axle had slipped back on the spring. Replaced the center bolt and re-attached the axle. $1.00
The truck has needed new engine mounts for a while... since I'm at the farm, I decided to do it. What a nasty job! I had to jack the engine and remove both mount brackets to get the mounts changed. Lot's more work than I'd expected!$80.00
The furnace stopped lighting.... turns out that the ignitor had a crack in the insulator that was allowing the spark to go to ground. Was a tough one to diagnose, as it looked like a bad control board at first. Replaced the ignitor and it works fine now.$8.00
That tire that I had plugged last summer started to leak again... took it in and had it patched.$10.00
Noticed a little puddle of brake fluid under a truck rear wheel. Pulled wheel and drum and replaced the leaking slave cylinder.$21.00
On my way back out of the Gila, I heard a loud bang from the trailer and stopped. Discovered a busted spring. Limped into nearby campground and made a run for a replacement. Did the repair right in the campground and was ready to roll the next morning.$18.80
Discovered that one of the trailer tires was missing a chunk of tread.... must have hit something sharp on the road. Picked up a used tire to get me through till Gail's.$26.00
Pulled covers off all holding tanks and installed whiz-bang new tank sensor system. It really works well! It operates on "capacitance" and reads through the tank walls. Most of my original in the tank probes had failed over time, so it's nice to know what's in the tanks again.$117.00
Changed all belts on truck, as some were looking pretty ragged.$15.00
Truck stopped running suddenly... traced to bad ignition control module... replaced.$37.90
The starter on the truck has been getting weak... won't turn over very well when the engine is hot. Slapped a new starter in there...$20.00
The decision to replace the trailer axles wasn't an easy one... the heavy load (rig loaded to GVWR) was causing the 3500 lb axles to flex too much and the tires were wearing out rapidly on the insides. Also, the brakes were wearing really fast and I just worried about the weight all the time. I decided to replace everything with heavier duty stuff. I went to 5200 lb axles, and had to buy new wheels and tires to match. I think it was the right choice, but sure wasn't cheap.$1100.00
Slightly less scary number of dollars spent on second year maintenance :

 Not quite as bad as the FIRST year, but still pretty worrisome. It takes a lot of maintenance to keep older equipment rolling. I am especially aware that being able to do my own repairs in most cases is key to being able to do this traveling thing at all. If I had been forced to have all these problems fixed at garages and such, and had to pay for labor, I would surely have run out of money long ago! Some of these problems probably won't happen to you if you have a brand new rig, but some of them, or possibly even worse ones, can still get you. For those of you planning to use your older rig to go fulltime, I urge you to budget adequately for maintenance and take your own fix-it abilities into consideration.

Here's the new list that covers my third year on the road:

Description of problem and solution
While driving truck around town, started hearing nasty grinding noise from rear wheel area. Discovered a broken brake return spring on left rear.... as long as it was apart, I replaced the slave cylinder that was showing signs of leakage and had to buy a whole package of springs to get the correct one I needed.$40.00
I did it again! Even with the checklist and all, I left my water pressure regulator behind. Went out and bought a SurFlow regulated city water inlet and installed it on the rig. Can't leave this one behind!! $23.40
I've been fighting a small radiator leak for a while now.... went out and got some solder and flux and a propane bottle for the torch and took a shot at fixing it myself... we'll see how it hold up.$12.00
Started to get a pretty loud exhaust leak on the truck.... Usually it's the header collector gaskets that go. Picked up a set and installed them. Unfortunately, they didn't correct the problem! See next entry.$8.00
Further inspection showed up the exhaust leak... one of the header bolts had come loose at the head, causing a leak. Lucky for me, the super-duper copper header gasket wasn't damaged and simply tightening the bolt cured the problem. I went around and checked all the other header bolts and everything was tight... wonder why that one bolt decided to work it's way out.$0.00
The turn signals on the bike have been working a little erratically... picked up a 'new' flasher at the big bike wrecking yard. $6.00
Picked up a new set of knobby tires and tubes for the motorcycle, and a clutch rebuild kit. Did the work in Gail's garage. Replaced all the engine case seals. Also replaced fork seals on front forks: one had been leaking for a while.... Just basic maintenance really.... the bike got a lot of use during the previous couple of years!$100.00
Well, that radiator leak I fixed last summer has come back. Shoot! I thought it was gone for good... Pulled radiator, took to local shop where they repaired the leak and boiled it out, all for $20. I took the opportunity to replace radiator hoses, thermostat and heater control valve, all of which were due for replacement. New antifreeze and a new pressure cap finished the job off.$75.00
12/16/99Both of the roof vents on the rig don't work very well... the crank mechanisms are worn out. I ordered some replacements and installed them. Also ordered a spare roof vent cover to keep around for when the next old one cracks. $25.00
Did basic maintenance on Onan generator. Pulled carb and cleaned, new oil, filter, plug. Installed quick disconnects on A/C lines. Ran unit and adjusted it. $30.00
Pulled all the plugs on truck, did a compression check, installed new plugs. Compression test looked good..$12.00
Old sewer hoses are falling apart due to age.... got some new ones, as well as some more TST. $35.00
Rear tire on truck self destructed on Questa grade. Solution: 4 new tires. Ouch!$643.23
Truck has developed a disturbing problem... sometimes when sitting at a stoplight, brake pedal slowly sinks to the floor! Time for a new master cylinder.... picked up a rebuilt one and installed and bled it. $35.00
Significantly less scary number of dollars spent on third year maintenance :

Yeah! Now that's much more like it!! Especially when you consider that almost $700 of that is rubber: tires for truck and bike. Part of the reason that there were fewer breakdowns and problems is that there were almost 4 months where I didn't travel at all, even though the truck was still driven quite a bit. Towing that rig really puts a load on the equipment!

Here's the list from my 4th year on the road:

Description of problem and solution
While driving to Sue's in Fredonia, truck started running poorly... symptoms were eerily familiar! In Sue's driveway, I discovered another busted valve spring. The new spring was a couple bucks, but what really annoyed me was buying ANOTHER spring compressor tool! I left the one I bought in '98 in California when I was there in April, sure that I'd never need it again... well, now I've got 3 of them! Replaced the spring and the truck runs fine. $31.00
Coming through Albany, NY I hit a nasty pothole (one of many!) and busted a spring on the trailer. Had to park it in a truck stop and drive all over the countryside looking for a replacement. Didn't find one, but got a lighter spring that should work until I can find the right one. Replaced broke spring with temporary spring.$27.22
Found a correct replacement spring at a RV dealer, but had to pay thru the nose for it! Swapped the springs and kept the "temp" spring just in case. $38.87
Needed to get both of my propane tanks recertified, as they were more than 12 years old. Took both tanks to propane place and they did one right away, with a new OPD valve and all, but never got around to doing the second one before it was too late and I had to leave the area. Go figure! At least I've got one legal tank! $25.00
Seeing as how I've already replaced both springs on the trailer front axle due to failure, I decided to replace the springs on the rear axle BEFORE they fail. (after all, they are 12 years old!) Got a matched set through the Northern catalog. $58.00
It's been a couple of years since I last sealed the RV roof, so picked up a gallon of Cool Seal and did several coats on all the seams... good preventative maintenance. $20.00
New tires for the rig.... Just one of those things that you can't avoid, but it still hurts! $355.00
About a year ago, my plastic bathtub developed a crack. I've tried sealing it with silicone, but it just doesn't last. This time, I went and bought some flexible epoxy and fiberglass cloth and did a real fix up on it. Looks pretty good... we'll see how long it lasts..$27.00
Pulsing brake pedal and squealing front brakes forced me to take the truck in for a brake checkup. Since I had already had work done at Midas, some of it was covered under the lifetime warranty, but both rotors were worn to the limits and they aren't cheap! It hurt, but I've always believed that tires and brakes are bad things to scrimp on.... it's smarter to spend the bucks and get it done right. $548.38
My Fantastic Fan has been squealing for a couple of months. I've tried to repair it, but it's just worn out. Called the manufacturer to order a replacement motor and they sent me a whole new fan and motor assembly at no cost! That's great service, especially on a 6 year old unit! $0.00
Motorcycle gets a new spark plug. That's about all the maintenance that it's needed all year! $1.50
Put a new anode rod in water heater.. man, it really needed it! Also sucked out most of the yuck from the tank with my wet-dry vac. $7.00
Rotated tires on truck. $0.00
New battery time for the truck... can't complain, the old one lasted for more than 4 years.... $32.36
Only a little scary number of dollars spent on fourth year maintenance :

That's pretty much what you'd expect, I guess.... Most of the costs were wear and tear on tires, springs and brakes with just a few minor breakdowns. Not too bad, especially considering the age of the rig and truck. I keep waiting for the inevitable appliance failures in the rig, but so far everything continues to work. The rig is still very sound structurally and the truck has just passed it's 60,000th mile towing the trailer and is still running strong. So far, so good! (knock on wood!) ;-)

This page last updated on March 8, 2002