At FlexArmor locations, we witness trends in the RV industry, especially as they relate to roofs. There have been 2 big issues the last few years that keeps increasing and many RV owners are frustrated by the answers they receive from dealers or service centers.
Bad rubber roofs
The first big issue has to do with a bad batch of rubber roofs. A few years ago, a very well known rubber roof manufacturer had a batch that did not cure properly. Rubber roofs on RVs are half white or tan and the lower half is black. The issue was with the upper white or tan side. We have seen both colors come through the shop. There is very little regulation or government oversight in the RV industry so there is no mechanism in place to ensure these manufacturers issue recalls or notify owners. There has been some short mentions here and there in RV forums and articles but no owners were contacted to be told they might have a roof issue.
So anyone that has purchased an RV made 2-3 years ago, should take a minute to inspect their membrane. The effected membranes are sticky, sometimes soft and powder like. If you walk on it or touch it it smears or leaves foot print impressions. The first couple we saw, the assumption was a strong cleaner was used causing the softening of the material. Then some RVers started to question the roofs and it was finally revealed the roof manufacturer had sent out to service centers and manufacturers quite a bit of roof material that did not cure properly. If you find you have one of these roofs, report it immediately to your manufacturer. Be persistent and receive the compensation you deserve for a bad product. Membrane roofs typically have a 10-20 year warranty that covers the actual roof material and states it is free of defects. For years these membrane manufacturers have gotten out of warranty claims since most roof claims relate to caulking joints failing, stating they only warranty the membrane. Now is the time to inspect your roof and hold the responsible parties to task. At the various locations we have seen customers receive payments that range from $600-full price for a roof replacement. Payments come from the RV brand or the roof company. The faulty roofs can be found on multiple product lines and different styles of RVs since the roof material is the industry standard for roofs. We encourage all owners to inspect their roof and get it replaced as soon as possible.
The second issue that is on the rise mostly occurs on 5th wheels and travel trailers. Next time you are driving down an interstate, look at oncoming 5th wheels and travel trailers. You will notice quite often, especially on 5th wheels, that the front of the roof looks like a big bubble. Wind is coming in one of two ways. One you might have a tear or area on the front strip that is not glued down well. The boom in RV construction is seeing a decrease in quality and the factories are not consistently getting enough glue on the RV roofs. Once the air gets in, the roof begins to balloon and stretch. The first few times, the roof lays back down flat. A good indicator that this is happening when you are driving down the road is wrinkles in the front membrane, and second, a tear around your air conditioner. The ballooned up part eventually gets to the AC and stretches against it until it tears somewhere around the base.
Inspecting the front seal does not always find an issue since the second cause is air coming in through the hitch, up the end cap and under the front joint strip. We have seen people who were able to get the ballooning to stop by sealing all the cracks around the end cap under the hitch area and around the hitch. Once again, unless you inspect your roof from time to time, you would not know this is happening until it finally gives way and tears off and is flapping in the wind. Literally. Or like one of our recent customers told us, he noticed his shadow while driving on narrow road in the mountains. He said it took him a minute to figure out why the shape he was seeing was different from what he would expect.
We hope these two pointers for roof inspections can help save you from a roof failure while out camping. It is always better to find it at home so your trip can be of fun memories, not memories of a service center waiting room.