RV Tip: Top Five RV Insurance Claims & How to Avoid Them
By Mark Polk
After doing some research on RV insurance claims I discovered what one insurance company listed as the top
five RV insurance claims filed. Today we’re going to discuss what these claims are and how you can avoid them.
This insurance company stated that it receives at least 400 claims each year involving fires around the back of the
refrigerator that are caused by leaking propane lines. If you’re using your refrigerator in the LP gas mode, with
an open flame, you definitely don’t want a leaking LP gas line.
How to avoid it
To avoid becoming a statistic I recommend that you take your RV to an authorized RV repair facility annually and
have the entire LP gas system checked. RV technicians have the proper equipment to check the system for leaks and
to make sure the LP gas pressure is adjusted properly.
You, the owner, can periodically inspect for LP gas leaks. To do this turn the main gas supply on, but do not
light any pilot lights or other burners. Take a bottle of approved LP leak detector solution and dab around all gas
fittings. If there is a leak the small bubbles will grow into larger bubbles. Tighten the fitting and repeat the
leak test. If the problem persists turn the LP gas supply off and take it to an RV repair center to have it checked
out and repaired.
The next claim the insurance company listed was RV’s hitting gas station overhangs and bridges. RVers forget or
don’t know the height of their RV and enter areas that don’t have enough overhead clearance.
How to avoid it
The first step is to measure the height of the RV from the ground to the highest point, usually the top off the air
conditioner. Manufacturer brochures often times include this information. Check the footnotes to make sure it
includes optional equipment like the air conditioner. For safety measures add an additional six inches to the
overall height. Write this information down and post it in the RV or tow vehicle where it can be easily seen and
will serve as a constant reminder for you. When you exit the interstate to refuel select an exit that has several
fuel stations so you can pick one that is easy to navigate, and has plenty of overhead clearance. If you travel on
roads less traveled be sure and check clearances on all overhead bridges before attempting to go under them.
The insurance company lumped retracting the RV steps and awnings together in this claim. Traveling with the awning
properly secured is one concern and stowing your awning in bad weather is another concern. Since the claim was not
very specific about the awning I will address both issues.
How to avoid it
When I worked for an RV dealership I saw the end result of not retracting the steps on more than one occasion. It’s
easy to forget the RV steps when you are getting ready go on a trip or leave a campground. I have two ways to avoid
this from happening to you. First you should always use a pre-trip checklist anytime you plan to move the RV.
Second you should always walk around the entire RV a second time just before pulling out. You’ll be amazed at some
of the things you missed the first time you walked around the RV. I have a very thorough pre-trip checklist
available in my “Checklists for RVers” e-book at www.rveducation101.com.
The first thing we’ll cover concerning the awning is stowing it properly for travel. Make sure the awning is
properly stowed against the side of the RV and the roller tube lock mechanism is in the retract position. Make sure
the awning arm travel locks are latched and tighten the black knobs on the back of the awning arms. The awning
makes your RV six inches wider and you must always keep this in mind when you are traveling. I have seen many cases
where the awning roller tube and fabric gets damaged by hitting or rubbing on something and the awning arms get
damaged by catching on something. When navigating in close quarters, such as at a campground, use a ground guide to
make sure you have enough clearance to avoid damage to the awning.
I’m not sure if the insurance company gets more claims for travel related damage to the awning or storm related
damage. I think I have seen more awning damage caused by rain, wind and storms. You should always lower one end of
the awning to allow for water run off. The weight from water pooling on the awning fabric can cause extensive and
costly damage. Any wind over 20 miles per hour can also cause extensive damage to the awning and to the RV. Never
leave the awning out unattended. If everyone is leaving the campsite, store the awning in the travel position. When
you go to bed, store the awning in the travel position. Even when you are at the campsite, you should use awning
tie downs to prevent any sudden damage caused by a high wind gust or a storm that moves in quickly.
The next claim the insurance company listed was for damage caused by tire blowouts. I have seen extensive damage to
RVs caused by tire blowouts. Tire blowouts on RVs are caused by overloaded tires, under inflated tires, old tires
and tires damaged by the ozone and UV rays.
How to avoid it
Just like the axles on your RV, tires have load ratings too. The maximum ratings are molded into the side of the
tires. You need to have your fully loaded RV weighed to ensure that the tires are not overloaded. The only way to
know if a tire is overloaded is to find scales where you can weigh individual wheel positions in addition to the
overall weight, and the axle weights.
Another leading cause of tire failure is under inflated tires. The load rating for a tire is only accurate if
the tire is properly inflated. Under inflated tires cause extreme heat build up that leads to tire failure. The
appearance of the tire can look normal but the internal damage is not visible and the tire can fail at any time
without warning. If you find any tire 20 percent or more below the correct inflation pressure have it removed,
demounted and inspected. Driving on a tire that is 20 percent or more under inflated can cause serious, permanent
damage to the tire that may not be visible.
Ideally you should check tire inflation, and adjust it if required, everyday that you move or drive your RV. If
you can’t get into the habit of doing it on a daily basis you need to make it a point to check all tires weekly, at
a minimum when you’re traveling. You always want to check the tires when they are cold, meaning that you don’t
drive or move the RV before checking inflation pressure. The only way to correctly measure the inflation pressure
in your tires is with a quality inflation pressure gauge. Don’t ever depend on your eyes to check tire inflation.
There can be as much as 20 PSI difference between tires that look the same. You need to invest in an accurate
inflation pressure gauge. You should get one with a double, angled foot. This makes it much easier to check the
outer tire of a dual set.
The age of your tires is another factor that contributes to tire failure. If your tires are more than seven
years old they should be replaced. All tires manufactured in the United States have a DOT number. You might have to
look on the inside sidewalls to find it. The last three or four digits in the DOT number identify how old the tire
is. Older tires used three digits. The first two identify the week of the year that the tire was built and the
third identifies the year. Newer tires use four digits. Again the first two digits are the week of the year and the
last two identify the year. For example 1005 is the 10th week of the year, and 05 is the year 2005. If you question
the age of your tires, especially on a used RV, and you can’t find the DOT number have them inspected by a
qualified tire center.
Ozone in the air and UV rays from the sun shorten the life of your tires. It’s not uncommon to see RV tires with
low mileage and plenty of tread that are ruined by the damaging effects of ozone and UV rays. Ozone in the air
causes tires to dry rot and deteriorate. UV rays from the sun make it happen quicker. This is especially true of
the tires sidewall. Inspect your tires for checking or cracks in the sidewalls. If you notice any damage the tires
should be inspected by a professional. To protect your tires from sun damage keep them covered with covers that
will block out the sunlight when not in use.
Number five in the top five RV claims was for damage caused by rodent infestation. When RVs are stored for the
winter it’s not uncommon for mice and squirrels to make their winter home in the RV. These animals are notorious
for chewing through vehicle wiring and plastic and rubber lines, debilitating the entire vehicle.
How to avoid it
I don’t know if there is any proven, full proof method for keeping these rodents out of your RV but there is a long
list of ways people have tried. I will list some of these ideas that you can try to keep these unwanted guests away
from your RV.
Possibly the most important step is to try and prevent mice and other rodents from being able to access your RV.
This can be difficult because they can enter the RV through some very small areas. Start by inspecting the
underside of your RV for any gaps or holes. Fill these gaps using silicone or expanding foam. A word of caution, if
you never used expanding foam before you should experiment with it on something other than your RV first. When it
dries it can expand a great deal more than you expect. Next, open drawers and cabinet doors inside your RV. Look in
all of the corners and crevices, especially where plumbing and wiring enter the RV. If you can see any daylight
mice can get in. Fill these areas with silicone or foam.
Remove all food from the RV when it’s being stored and thoroughly clean it to remove any remnants of food that
might attract mice and other rodents. If at all possible try to park or store your RV on a solid surface like
pavement or concrete. Try to avoid grass, fields or wooded areas. If it’s a motorized RV start it every week to run
any squirrels off that may be making the engine compartment into a home for the winter. This is where a lot of
chewing damage occurs.
If you don’t mind the smell of mothballs scatter them throughout areas of the RV to include storage compartments
and the underside. I have been told that mothballs will work for a while but eventually rodents will get used to
the smell and it will no longer deter them.
Others say the alternative to mothballs is dryer sheets, like Bounce. People swear they work and the smell is
much more pleasant. The problem with dryer sheets is once they dry out they are not really effective. If you are
close to where your RV is being stored you may want to use conventional mouse traps and check for mice every few
days. The only problem with traps is the bait can actually attract mice. I don't recommend any type of poison. It
can take several days for the poison to work and the mice will usually die somewhere that you can't find them. If
this happens you may never get rid of the smell. If you do use poison make sure pets can’t get to the areas where
you put it.
I have talked to RVers who suggest you spray some type of insect spray (that contains mint oils) around the
tires to discourage mice. The only problem I see with this is you would need to do it every few days if the RV is
There are numerous ultrasonic pest controllers on the market. Some even offer money back guarantees. Again, I
have talked to some people who swear by them and others who insist they don’t work. I have never tried this
After a great deal of research on this topic I have come to the conclusion that the only way to really keep
rodents away is to get rid of the rodent’s altogether. Continue to set traps for mice until they are gone and in
the case of squirrels it may be necessary to trap and relocate them if there is no other method available to get
rid of them.
I was surprised that damage to TV antennas did not make it in the top five RV claims. I have seen many TV
antennas and RV roofs damaged by forgetting to lower the TV antenna. The damage isn’t just from the antenna hitting
something when it’s in the raised position; it’s also because the antenna cannot withstand the force from highway
speeds when it’s in the raised position. There are a couple of ways to avoid damage to your TV antenna. One is to
stick to the trusty pre-trip checklist before you move the RV. Another way is hang the motor home or tow vehicle
starting key, or something like a piece of colorful ribbon on the TV antenna handle whenever it’s in the raised
position. This will serve as a reminder to lower the antenna before you move the RV.
Armed with this advice, hopefully you can avoid becoming a statistic in the top five RV insurance claims. Be
safe and have a great time exploring this wonderful country in your RV.
Copyright 2006 by Mark J. Polk owner of RV Education 101
RV Expert Mark Polk, seen on TV, is the producer & host of America's most highly regarded series of DVD's,
videos, books, and e-books. Mark Polk is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Three, specializing
in wheeled and track vehicle fleet maintenance operations. In addition to owning and operating RV Education 101,
(based in North Carolina) since 1999, Polk also has a very extensive RV background working in RV service, sales and
Polk has a degree in Industrial Management Technology and his 30 plus years of experience in maintenance
includes working as an RV technician, a wheeled vehicle and power generation mechanic, an automotive maintenance
technician, Battalion and Brigade level Maintenance Officer, an RV sales manager and also in the RV financing
department as the Finance & Insurance manager. http://www.rveducation101.com/
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