If you have been driving around the country with your RV for very long, you will know there are certain things that have a tendency to happen to your Rig.
One of the common things that happen is the all-too-often damage that happens to things mounted on the roof of your RV.
It happens. And it happens because your RV is very tall and the world of vehicles that drive on the roads of the US, operate within certain height limitations.
First of all, everyone knows that the Federal government requires any state that gets federal funds for the construction of roads must build roads that meet certain federal standards.
These standards are many and I won’t go into much more on this other than to mention one of these federal standards. That standard happens to be a requirement that any overpass on a federal funded road must have a height clearance of 13 feet, six inches.
In fact, many of the newer interstate highways are built to an even higher standard than this one.
What does this mean to you and me? Well, this standard is pretty much reflected in the height of every commercial tractor-trailer rig you see on the highways. They are all designed to be able to clear this standard overpass limit.
And, of course, so is your RV. For instance, when I measure the height of my RV, from the ground to the to of the highest item mounted on the roof, I come up with a maximum height of 11-feet, 8-inches. So, I feel safe driving on pretty much any interstate and major highway in the US.
The danger for RV owners comes in when they get off of the major roads and end up driving on a county or city road. These roads will have overhanging trees and sometimes drooping power lines that might be hanging loser than that nice safe federal limit.
You see, county’s, towns and railroads, by the way, do not have any requirement that states that they have to meet federal standards on their local roads. This is mostly because it would be far too expensive to bring the old roads up to federal standards.
So, when you take your RV out and onto local and rural roads, you must be very careful to watch as you approach anything hanging over the road. These tree limbs, power lines and the occasional old overpass can cause some serious damage to your RV or at least to the many things mounted on your RV roof.
Over the years that I have driven my different motorhomes around this great country of ours, I have had more than my share of incidents on side roads that caused damage to my RV.
For your entertainment, I will list some of them here. And, these actually happened to me, by the way, they aren’t something i heard about or just came up with because they might be funny.
Yes I, and many of my fellow RV owners ,do suffer fro a special,kind of stupidity. We pull into a campground or often just an overnight stop somewhere. We settle in, crank up the TV antenna, have dinner and settle down to a little TV before we go to bed for the night.
The next morning, we will do all those little things that are required to get our RV ready for the road. But, for some reason, we will often forget to crank that darn antenna back down. I can’t explain it. For some reason, we just do not remember this thing on the roof is sticking up over two feet into the air.
And, often the results can be bad. I have talked to many of my fellow RV owners and they can tell you a lot of funny story’s about what happened to their upright antenna after they hit the road, but I’ll just stick to my story here.
We had stopped over for the night in a small campground in Alabama and as we pulled in to our site, I did notice a large banner hanging across the entrance to the campground. But we drove under it with no problem and went on to our overnight campsite. As I said, we pulled in, set our RV up, ate dinner and watched a little TV before we went to bed for the night.
The next morning, I did my usual “ready for the road” routine and we were pulling out when I heard a word noise on the roof.
We stopped and, of course, my antenna was bent into a weird position and the campground’s banner not had a big tear in it.
Needless to say, we had to replace the damaged antenna several stops later when we found a nearby RV parts store.
Air Vent Cover
I lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a few years, and because my family are all in Lynchburg Virginia, I made many trips up to visit over those years. And, one thing you do, when you are driving back and forth on the same road all of the time, is look for other routes to take.
Well, I was on I-74 and traffic just stopped. It seemed there was a wreck ahead that had the road blocked and traffic backed up for almost a mile. As I did the “move 500-feet and stop” routine over and over, I remembered that there was a small county road ahead on the right that I would drive often when I was just traveling in our car.
It wasn’t necessarily a shorter way to go, but it was a way for me to get around this traffic problem.
So, I pulled onto the road and we only had about two miles to go on this county road before I turned back onto a larger road.
Well, it was only less than a mile down this road when I saw this giant Oak tree on the side of the road ahead of me and it’s limbs hung across the road almost to the middle. From my perspective, in the drivers seat, they looked to be high enough, so I took the chance I would clear the lower limbs.
I was wrong. Right as we went under the limbs I heard this awful scraping sound. And then, after we cleared the tree, I heard a rattling sound. We had no place to stop for an inspection, so we kept on the road, finally got onto a more familiar road, and eventually we were at our home.
A quick climb onto the roof and I saw the damage. A limb had taken half of one of my room air vent covers off.
I was lucky because, it was a nice clean piece of destruction, seeing as the cover was made of thin plastic, and eventually I only had to get another air vent cover. It only took a few screws to install the new one.
Air Conditioner Cover
We were on our second trip across the country; from the East, heading across I-10, to Southern California. We had stopped over at a Thousand Trails Campground about thirty miles south of San Antonio for several weeks and eventually we hit the road to continue our trip, but the first stage was to cross the rest of Texas in one day.
We were still driving on Interstate-10 and had been on the road long enough to get away from any signs of civilization. The traffic had thinned down to be just us dedicated drivers looking to get to El Paso.
Other than the occasional car or RV, the rest of the traffic was essentially a few Rv’s and tractor-trailers hauling their loads back and forth across the country.
As you know, when you are using your cruise control you settle into a nice steady speed and get to just sit back and watch as the miles traveled, rack up.
I had settled down, sipping on a diet soda that my wife had poured for me and we had fallen in behind a big tractor-trailer who I assumed had set his cruise control to the same speed.
He was about 500 to 600 feet in front of me, which was far enough that his draft didn’t throw my motorhome around.
We went on like this for another hour or so and suddenly, my brain was pulled out of its tourist state of mind and I was looking at a very large (at least 5 to 6 feet long and about a foot wide) piece of black plastic flipping end-over-end in the air. It had been run over by the tractor-trailer in front of me, and flipped up into the air.
I was stunned really, this big black thing was too close for me to safely try to avoid it. But it did look like it was going to clear the roof of my RV, so I just did the safest thing and kept going, hoping for the best.
Well, it disappeared over the front of the RV and then I heard a weird crashing sound. Then, there was nothing else; not sound of any kind.
My wife and I stared at each other, and again, because there was no shoulder on the interstate at this area, we drove for another twenty miles before we were able to pull over. Once stopped, I climbed onto the roof of my motorhome for a quick check.
Well,it was a good/bad situation.
The piece of road debris had not hit anything other than my front AC unit. The rest of the RV was untouched.
But the AC? Well the rear part of the AC cover had been crushed. It was Ok in front, but that last one foot had a half dozen cracks in it and there was a foot long triangle-shaped piece at the very rear that was just ….. gone.
Shaking my head, I made an executive decision to keep going and when we finally did get to El Paso, we checked out that AC unit and it operated fine.
I decided to take a chance on there being no water leaks and when we got to our next planned long layover, which happened to be in Apache Junction Arizona, I did a little repair on the cover.
It was a combination of things I could pick up at the local Lowes; epoxy, auto putty, and pieces of junk plastic, all stuck together well enough for us to not worry about buying a new cover until we eventually got back to the East coast.
Oh, and by the way, when I did look for a replacement AC cover, there were dozens of places that sold bolt-on replacement AC covers. HMMMMM?
Presently, we live in one of the many thousands of 55+ communities that exist all over Florida.
Ours is a nice one called Riverside Golf and Boat Club. It’s loaded with great amenities, and is large enough to have over 4-miles of its own roads.
We moved here five years ago because it was perfect for us to have a “home base” that we could come back to when we weren’t traveling in our RV.
So, whenever we wanted to take a short (or long) trip to get away, we would bring our motorhome over from where we stored it and then we would take a day or two, checking the RV out and loading it with our food, clothes and other things we felt we might need on our trip.
Then, we would hit the road for a few weeks and eventually come back to our home base.
My wife and I feel this is an ideal lifestyle for someone like ourselves, who wants to get away often, yet still have a comfortable, yet inexpensive, place to live the rest of the time.
We had started to notice that there were several trees we had to carefully drive around as we drove in and out of our community, and I had complained to the community management about them needing to be trimmed. Finally, they did hire a crew who came in and trimmed all of the trees that had limbs hanging over the streets.
Well, we cleared under the limbs the next time we went out, and really thought nothing of those overhanging limbs after that.
That is, until we were recently preparing for a trip up to Virginia to visit family for Christmas.
We were smiling as we looked forward to seeing our family and friends for the holidays again.
And, I took the RV out of storage and was driving it over to our house to load up. Well, I pulled under that one tree that bothered me and at the last minute I noticed it had a new limb sticking down below the others.
It was too late to stop and we heard a terrible sound of something dragging on our roof and then another sound of something metallic, beating on our roof.
We stopped and I got out for a quick check, and the problem was easy to see. That limb I had noticed had grabbed my Winegard TV antenna and efficiently bent one of the lobes over, almost 180 degrees to the main body.
It had been cranked down just as it was supposed to be, but that new limb had ben low enough to damage my antenna anyway.
There wasn’t much we could do and we already had reservations along the way. Well, we had to get on the road, so we spent the next couple of weeks looking at our local TV channels using this damaged, but still functional antenna.
What did I do? Well, I went over to the local Camping World store and purchased another replacement antenna and changed it myself.
You have to wonder when most of the RV parts stores carry a replacement TV antenna, that easily bolts on to the old mount and arm? Could it be that a lot of RV owners end up replacing these also?
These were the rooftop damages that occurred to my wife and I, over the past dozen or more years traveling in my motorhome.
And, after talking to my fellow campers over that period, you might be surprised at how many of them have experienced at least one of these cases of damage to something on their RV roof.
So, be ready for it to happen to you, it’s just a matter of time.
by Don Bobbitt, February, 2016