Evans Outdoor Adventures

RV Life: Year One Modifications and Repairs (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

June marked the one year anniversary of purchasing our 2019 Jayco Greyhawk 26Y class C motorhome. During that year, we’ve taken her on 5 trips spanning 25 nights. We’ve thoroughly tested all systems and given her a thorough shake down in preparation for full time RVing. We’ve had fun organizing and doing modifications to make our home-on-the-road more comfortable, but we’ve also had a couple of frustrating repairs. Here are the highlights of our first year—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Hawk after her first bath

The Good

We’ve made some modifications to our motorhome that will drastically improve livability in our upcoming travels. The biggest modification was the upgrade from a single 12v battery to two lithium batteries. Jason has blogged extensively on why we chose lithium batteries as well as their installation. I won’t cover all those details again, but I will say we have been exceptionally happy with their performance. I especially like the drastically improved capacity as well as the battery monitor which gives us detailed information on the status of our batteries. While the upgrade was quite expensive and a shock to our accountant (that would be me), we are confident that this modification was well worth every penny.

To complement our lithium battery upgrade, we purchased a 200 watt portable solar panel. Eventually we would like to add solar to the roof as well, but we felt the portable unit was the best starting point for us. We camp in the mountains a lot and purposefully seek out shady sites in the summer. The portable panel and extension cord provide us better opportunities for positioning the solar panel in the sun while the RV is in the cool shade. We have been very happy with the panel’s performance. We’re kind of like kids at Christmas when we see the panel pulling in 13 amps and our state of charge increasing. True, we have a generator and we’re happy to use that when needed. But even the quietest generators are loud and obnoxious out in nature. We love that we can silently charge our batteries while enjoying the peace and tranquility around us.

our portable solar panel

Another early modification was upgrading our shower head to an Oxigenics brand head. These shower heads amplify water pressure while minimizing water use and come with an on/off valve to easily limit water flow while you are soaping up. This is a very popular modification for full time RVers. Less than $50 for improved water pressure while conserving water seemed like money well spent. Installation was easy and we have been pleased with this modification.

Transitioning from a 3,000+ sq ft home to a 28′ motorhome is going to be a big adjustment, even for people who don’t require a lot of “things”. It should go without saying that organization and space management are critical for us. We’ve been doing everything we can think of to optimize our storage. A few improvements have been:
1. Addition of shelves—our nephew Max added shelves to our wardrobe closet, kitchen pantry, and bathroom medicine cabinet. To keep costs down and to conserve weight, we went with simple plywood with a dark stain to match the existing shelves. This modification has significantly improved storage space in these areas.
2. Hanging shoe organizers—after our first trip, we discovered we had all sorts of “smalls” hanging around. By “smalls” I mean little things that get used all the time and like to get lost. Things like pocket flashlights, iPhone charging cable, TV remote, pens, scissors, etc. We needed a convenient way to organize all these smalls for quick and easy access. A couple of hanging shoe organizers did the trick. We placed one by the entry door and it was so successful that we put another in the bathroom for organizing bathroom smalls. And when one of the organizers was too long for the space we had, I cut off the bottom two layers and added one to each side of our bed for storing our glasses, Kindles, iPhone, etc. at night.
3. Command Hooks—I have become the Command Hook queen. These things are the greatest thing since sliced bread and bubble gum! Their motto is “damage free hanging, holds strongly, removes cleanly”. Command brand products come in every imaginable variety from hooks, to velcro, to broom holders. I was skeptical at first, especially with the broom holder. I thought “no way will that hold”. Well, it has and we’ve really put it to the test over washboard roads. These things are amazing and can now be found throughout our RV. My only regret is that I didn’t buy the big multi-pack at Costco!

The Bad

The organization and modification projects have been a lot of fun, especially for a Type A individual such as myself. What hasn’t been a lot of fun are things in our RV that are already requiring repair. Take our microwave, for example. Our Greyhawk came with a very nice and very large microwave that was mounted under a kitchen cupboard. These types of microwaves are really meant for a sticks and bricks home, not an RV that shakes, rattles, and rolls its way down the road. During a recent trip, I noticed that the microwave cabinet was beginning to separate at the top. It appears that the weight of the microwave, when combined with movements over rough roads, is too great for the build of the cabinet.

microwave outer cabinet splitting apart

Jayco would replace the microwave under warranty, but we believe the same issue would reoccur (we’ve heard stories of other Greyhawk owners having the microwave come crashing down in transit!) As I thought about our options, I told Jason that I thought a microwave was wasted space for us since we primarily boondock (camp without hookups). Without shore power, the only way to run the microwave is to fire the generator up, something I would never do. Instead of installing a new microwave, we had our nephew Max build a shelf for additional storage space. We thought about a cabinet, but the advantage of a shelf is that it could serve almost like additional counter space. To hold things in place during transit, Max added removable dowels. This is going to be way more functional for us than a microwave that we could only use a small percentage of the time. Thanks Max! We love it!

shelf with removable dowels

The Ugly

When we were shopping for a RV, we kept hearing about how the quality of new RVs has been deteriorating over the past few years as most of the manufacturer’s have been bought out by a handful of larger companies. And we repeatedly heard that most RVs will require at least a couple fairly significant repairs in the first year or two due to manufacturing issues that didn’t get caught. Despite buying what used to be one of the more reputable brands, from the day we drove the Greyhawk off the lot, we expected that all these things we’d heard were true and that we’d encounter some issues early on.

The microwave issue was really a minor hiccup as far as we were concerned. We found a solution that worked better for us and, in our minds, it was not worth pursuing anything under Jayco’s warranty. As we were in the middle of that project, I happened upon a post in our owner’s group on Facebook. Several people were reporting that their shower drain was not connected to the drain pipe underneath. REALLY?! This seemed unbelievable to me. We had used our shower a few times, seemingly without incident other than the floor did seem rather soft around the drain. Not believing we had the reported plumbing issue, I asked Jason to remove the access panel below the shower and sure enough—there it was. Our shower drain was not connected to the pipe!! I was speechless…well as speechless as I ever am. Then I was pissed and I’m pretty sure I went on a long cursing rant about the lack of quality control (I should point out that I’ve been a quality manager for a biotech company for many years, so I do know a thing or two about quality).

these two pieces should be connected!

Initially we focused on the immediate problem, our shower was not draining properly. We had a couple things going for us. First, we’d only used the shower three or four times. Second, the drain was right over the pipe with just a very small gap in between, so most of the water had likely flowed by gravity into the drain pipe (especially since we have low water flows with our Oxigenics shower head!). Third, any water that did leak out did not contact wood. Instead it would have drained onto a piece of sheet metal that is a barrier to protect the plumbing from the exterior under the RV. It had been just a few days since we’d last used the shower and there was no residual water. We had escaped without any damage.

The plumbing connections that Jayco used seemed to be of poor design. It seemed likely that the plumbing came connected from the factory, but had easily broke apart. We could have called Jayco and received a free replacement part, but we didn’t want the same parts installed. We went to a local plumbing supply store and modified the fittings slightly in hopes that it will all stay together in the future.

As we repaired the plumbing, a larger problem began to show itself. We slowly realized that part of the problem was the lack of support under the shower around the drain pipe. The underside of the shower was supported by a large piece of styrofoam with a piece of plywood under that and 2x4s supporting it all. We noticed this support system was missing from around the shower drain and along the outside edge. Some of this was to be expected, but only where the drain came down. This lack of support was what was causing the shower to feel soft and would likely lead to shower floor failure over time. We quickly realized we needed more knowledge and tools—we called in my dad.

photo showing the lack of plywood and stud support along the front edge of shower

At the start, we all knew we needed to reinforce the shower floor, but none of us dreamed it would be such a chore. Continuing to work through the 7″ wide access panel in the bathroom wasn’t going to work. Dad and Jason got under the RV and removed that sheet metal I described earlier which gave them better access under the shower and a better view of the mess we were dealing with. Not only had Jayco cut the styrofoam and plywood supports too far back from the drain, one of the 2x4s meant to support the floor was anchored to nothing. Let me say that again, the 2×4 coming down from the shower was attached to nothing and was just hanging there. After that discovery, every time I went out to check on the repairs I could hear Dad exclaim, “those bastards!” He just couldn’t believe how a company could produce such shoddy work. Sadly, from all our research, none of this really surprised Jason or I.

looking up at the underside of shower and the 2×4 support secured to absolutely nothing!
another view of that 2×4

The guys worked tirelessly to get that shower supported. They encountered many obstacles which slowed their progress, mainly working in such tight quarters and the lack of anything good to add supports to.

The shower issue left us a bit demoralized, but we knew in advance that we’d deal with such issues. Everyone we know with a new RV has similar stories. My cousins, for example, purchased a high end fifth wheel (different manufacturer from ours) and they’ve had multiple issues in their first two months of ownership. Like us, they realize “it is what it is” and they still love the full time RVing lifestyle.

Only time will tell if we have worked the major kinks out of the Greyhawk. Fortunately, we do still have another full year under warranty should we need it. As of the time of our purchase, Jayco was the only manufacturer offering a two year warranty. I still love the Hawk and believe it was the right choice for us at this time. I’m looking forward to all the amazing places she is going to take us.

Post publication note: Jason’s research on how to stabilize an RV shower floor revealed that this is a common problem across manufacturers. In fact, while we were shopping for RVs, we noticed that most brands had soft shower floors.

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4 thoughts on “RV Life: Year One Modifications and Repairs (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

  1. Dave & Ethel

    Thanks for sharing your info. We’re still contemplating if this is the direction we want to go in the next few years.
    Glad you guys have the experience, knowledge and help of others and yourselves.
    Keep enjoying…

    1. Lusha Post author

      Thanks Dave & Ethel! Hopefully we’ll continue to gain in our experience and can give you some good tips whenever you are ready 🙂

      Lusha

  2. Mrs Laura Evans

    OMG How can a well known company get away with that kind of work! Well the magicians that are the 4 of you showed what could be done to fix what had to be fixed! Good job everyone!

    1. Lusha Post author

      Unfortunately, the majority of RV manufacturers have merged into just a few big companies and they seem to all have the same quality control (or lack of). At the same time, sales are booming. So they seem to be able to get away with about anything. Having our own home on the road beats staying in hotels with noisy neighbors and bed bugs every night, so I guess we’ll take the good with the bad 🙂

      Lusha

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