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My rPod story with a few questions at the end.

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    Posted: 11 Nov 2021 at 8:19pm
I've been meaning to do this for awhile, and this may turn out to be a wall of text, but I wanted to talk about everything I've done with the rPod since I bought it in June 2012.   It's nearing 10 years old now and we use it regularly.  We are not frequent campers, but it's been on some epic trips as well as a number of weekend jaunts.  I'm married with two kids under 12.   First, I will say that I should have bought the slightly longer one.  Our kids will outgrow it probably in a few years.  I haven't decided what I will do, if anything.

Would I buy an rPod again?   I'm not sure.  I love it, but it's a bit small.  I don't want a large trailer though.  I don't mind the wet bath, but I think if I got another trailer I'd get one with a dry bath. 

I will say, as others have said, the construction quality is bad.   Here's a list of what I, in 9 years, have upgraded, fixed, or repaired.   Some of this is my fault, some not.   Our rv dealer gave me about 10 minutes of discussion on how to maintain the trailer.  80% of it was either wrong or inadequate.   I will say this forum has been a lifesaver.  I've probably used it 50+ times over the years for advice and help, and THANKS to everyone for maintaining it. 

1)  bought the lift kit and installed it with help from my dad.   This turned out to be surprisingly easy to install given that you're actually raising the trailer up.  Last year I checked it and discovered a bolt needed to be tightened, so yeah, if you installed one, check it.  It was not dangerous, but would have become so if never checked.

2)  When I first went to winterize, I found a tape measure with the name "Jose" on it by the valves along with wood scraps and sawdust.  This shows the comically bad construction, but I will say, most major things have never failed me.

3) three years in had to clean out the water pump as it had construction debris (plastic pvc bits plus stone).  This was noted as a problem on this forum, so I knew what to do.

4) Toilet failed two years ago, cracked component in the back, leaky water.  Again, this forum had advice and I was able to fix it for about $25 worth of parts.

5) Other things that have broken:  fridge door shelf, unable to repair well or replace, but it is epoxied and I wrote on it with a marker: No Heavy Items and it is ok.  Shower head broke, I replaced it.  I recommend everyone replace their factory handle.  The new one is 100% better.   Outside, just weather ruins plastic, the black water valve has been replaced because it broke off at the release.  Valve and water covers have been replaced.  The DVD player isn't "broken", but it is just junky.  2013 might have been the last year that they didn't put a larger LCD tv in.  I'm not sure, but this is one that hangs over the bed under a small cabinet and it has maybe a 7 inch screen.  I've never tried to use the cable connection because the screen is so small.   The antenna broke, though.  Half of it came off when driving on I-80 in Wyoming...I guess some high winds, though I was surprised this happened TBH.   They weren't crazy high winds.   The decals are coming off or fading, I did not expect this.  Replacing them is actually not cheap.

6) Other examples of poor construction:  for years the A/C knocked when the compressor kicked in.  I went up there to look at it and a nut had never been properly tightened.  It was way, way loose.  It had to have been loose from the factory.   Had to remount side panels on booth because they were so poorly mounted.  Rear window leaked, resealed with Dicor, looked very poorly sealed to me.   And the wreck:  I'll explain that below.  The window blinds are a joke.  They need constant attention.  The mounts on the bottom to hold the shades are installed terribly badly.  I've had to fix them several times.   I had to take the shower door off its hinges and raise it because it was mounted so close to the threshold that any moisture from going in and out of the shower got into the bottom of the door and made it swell so that it wouldn't shut.  Raising it two inches fixed this.  Why the door isn't more waterproof is strange to me.  We keep the bathroom as dry as possible but water still gets on the threshold for obvious reasons.   The curtain is limited help for that.  The main door is kind of warped.  But there's no repair for that, just have to push a bit to make sure it's shut.  I don't consider this a problem serious enough to repair.   My counter is slightly warped.  The edging was never sealed where it reaches the wall, so water got into there and warped it.  I consider this a construction flaw.  I sealed it with silicone and it's never had a problem since. 

7) What's working and never failed:  fridge works but propane mode is so finicky I basically don't use it.  Water heater is awesome.  I leave the anode rod out except when its in use.   Propane heater is awesome.  Stove works.  All plumbing except what I've noted.  All electrical works.  The microwave/convection oven is the most needlessly complicated UI but it works super well when you figure it out.  Never any problems with it.   A/C works wonderfully (if a bit hard to sleep at night when it is cycling off and on).  Fantastic fan works.  

8) The wreck:  The wreck is/isn't my fault.  Many of you will laugh.  I blew both tires within 100 miles of each other.  They were six years old.  So you know why they blew.  I knew they wore out, what I didn't know if that they could look great and still blow out.  I replaced one with my spare only to discover, and this is important, that unless you have a jack that you've checked with your rPod, you'll be stuck.  I had to buy a low profile hydraulic jack and I keep it in my tow vehicle.  I had to get help to get the spare on.  also, I *did not* have the right size lug wrench.  So, IMO, you should make sure you have those for the spare and the wheel as well as the jack at all times.  When you blow a tire, the axle needs a low profile jack to raise.   I was towing it to a place to stop and buy another tire for the other side when the other one blew and I have to leave the trailer on the side of the road for the night and get my family to a hotel.  That certainly taught me some lessons.  I only wish the dealer had told me about that.  Replace the tires at five year intervals regardless of their appearance.   Period.   The rPod was not seriously damaged and nor did we have a major wreck, thank God.  That said, the blown tires ripped off both fenders and destroyed them.   This was a $1200 repair, but it was a blessing in disguise.  

9)  The blessing in disguise:  The RV repair shop I went to is just a local guy, not a dealer.  He was great!   He looked at the trailer and told me a few things about it I did not know, including the need to vacuum out the A/C by taking the bottom cover off.  Why?  Because there is a filter that was missing.  Where was the filter?  Not installed by my dealer NOR did they tell me about it.  I'd been running it without the filter installed.  Sure enough, the filter was in with my manuals.  I'd actually read most of the manuals, but just assumed the filter was a spare.  Go figure.  He also asked me if the trailer leaked.  I said the fan in the bathroom did and I had used silicone in a failed attempt to fix it.  He said all of the stuff on the roof was sealed with butyl putty and that's the wrong stuff.  I told him this was from the factory and he was adamant that it was not the right stuff.  I had added this putty when I saw it was cracked.  He, at some few hours work of his own, replaced it with I think Dicor.  He sealed the sides of the roof.  He showed me where water had gotten in the wall of the trailer by the bathroom and caused some mild warping.   I bet a lot of you have trailers with butyl putty on the roof.   I don't know if he was correct, but I personally believe him.  The roof has never leaked since and it looks 100% better.  He replaced the fenders with better ones that were stronger and I liked his work so much I had him put in a powered tongue jack.  

10)   My own mods:  Pre-finished closet shelves across the back like in the mods section.  I love those.  Hinged door in the forward under booth storage area with locking brace.  I split the electrical area in the left side of the booth in half so I can use part of it for more storage and hinged it with a brace.   The undersink panel (where the winterizing intake hose is), I removed and put hinges and a small release, so it's a small door now. It is my opinion that anything you have to get into regularly, like to winterize, should just come with a door.  I shouldn't have to make that.  The lights have LED bulbs (2013 was probably the last year for incandescents).  Hooks for hanging towels above the sink.   12v socket in left side of booth next to 120v outlet.   And two big ones:  I put in a 100AmpHour Lithium battery, which is mounted inside in that left storage area.  I rewired it but basically left the wiring in for the battery box on the tongue.  I don't know if I will remove that, but it all works for now and in theory I could parallel in another battery.  The battery has a victron bluetooth monitor but I have not mounted it.  I intend to mount it with a charge controller and put a solar panel on the roof, but that's next year.   I also bought a generator for true boondocking, but again, I haven't used it (bought also for hurricane season).   My second large change was putting a cot over the booth by attaching it to the frame of the rpod above the windows.  This is too small of a space for an adult, but perfect for a child. It hasn't worked out as well, though, and while my son has slept in it, it is mainly for storage these days.  The real issue is getting a strong but small and light enough material for the cross pieces.   I may try again as I have some 80/20 aluminum that I got from a different project and I may try with that.   I don't recommend this kind of a change unless it's by necessity:  in my case, growing children.   I haven't done this last one, but I may yet put a window in the door, but I'm not sure.  Solar PV comes first. 

11) Stuff no one told me until I learned from experience, or on this forum, or by chance someone told me:   The big issue is towing.  Tow ratings are a joke, IMO.  I tow with a Honda minivan.  The numbers work:  the rPod is well within the tow rating and I don't overload anything.  But it's a terrible tow vehicle.  With so many places with 70mph+ speed limits, I'm often the slowest vehicle on the road.  The reality seems to be that a tow rating does not really mean for a travel trailer, which has a huge wind front, even for something as small and light as an rPod.  It means for things ranging from boats, to UHaul trailers, to open flatbeds for lawn equipment and cars, etc.  I think if you are towing a travel trailer or similar large, big box trailer, take the listed tow rating and halve it, and that's the max for that kind of trailer.  My minivan is quite happy towing up to 65mph, after that, it can't get out of 4th gear and on an incline it downshifts to redline if I'm not paying attention.  The funny thing about towing is that I thought buying a small trailer would matter, but honestly, it seems like it doesn't.  I think I could have purchased one about twice the weight and 10ft longer with no effect on performance.  Obviously that would need a larger tow vehicle, but I need a larger tow vehicle anyway, so perhaps I should have just gone with a larger trailer.   Other stuff is what people here already know:  lots of maintenance.  But I'm surprised that the exposed plastic just rots.  You'd think we'd be able to fix that by now, or is it just cheap equipment maybe?   That said, I will say that most rPod maintenance is NBD.   I don't have a garage so I have had to buy a cover.  That's a hassle, but it does help.   No one told me that RVs need special toilet paper.  You'd think someone would mention that.  Learned the hard way.  Thought the tank was empty when it was clogged.  Was blasting water into the cleaner connection when a bunch of poop and toilet paper came out the other side.  I had to wash it down the driveway into the street and into the storm drain, which I did in an extreme hurry as I was terrified my neighbors would see and get upset.  Lastly, it's annoying that what you get for manuals are just a collection of the manuals for the individual components of the rPod.  Hot water heater issue, find that manual,  Fridge, different manual, A/C, etc.  That's dumb, IMO.  Just have one manual for the whole thing.  Those other manuals can go in the back, most of them are about how to install the thing, which I obviously have nothing to do with. 


Now my questions:
1) Frame rust.  This worries me.  Should I take it somewhere to fix?  I never imagined RV trailers would rust so easily.  It's like cars in the 1960s.  It worries me.

2) Another post describes a weak spot in the floor by the sink, and also over the gray water tank.  I have that.  I don't know how to reinforce it without removing the tank and I think removing the tank is too big of a job for me.  

3) How do I know if my brakes need looked at?  So far, there's zero evidence they are even remotely worn, but then again, I thought that about my tires. 

4) How long will this entire trailer last?  Is there a point when I should just give up on it?   Is there a time of peak value to trade it in?   IMO, most of my mods make it better, but I don't know if that will add or detract from the value of the thing if I try to sell it. 

This is just my dumb opinion and I'm biased, but I think the beige color of the year that I have is the prettiest color scheme.  The blue color, the greenish, and the now gray don't work for me.  The early white ones with the squiggle of different colors is my second favorite.  I do like that the newer rPods seem to have fixed a lot of the things I had to do to mine.  I especially like that some of the newest ones have a curved window in the front.   I like my classic teardrop shape, not the ones that are more squared off, but I totally understand why someone would buy that shape:  it provides room for a dry bath.  I sort of wish rPod would make a longer one with a reproportioned stretched out teardrop shape...I think it could be possible.

 Anyhow, this is just my story.  Sorry if I bored you, or if it's TLDR or it's going over what everyone already knows.    Feel free to chime in on any aspect of it. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote offgrid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2021 at 2:56am
Nice write up.

I agree with much of what you have concluded, hence my decision to sell my 179 this year when it became clear I wouldn't have time to use it over the next couple of years. It's one thing to deal with all the maintenance issues if you're enjoying the trailer, quite another to do them with no positive return on the time and effort invested. Most of the maintenance is there whether you're actively using it or not.

Re your questions.

1) Frame rust. Yep, it's just thin wall mild steel that's been painted black on the outside. At least one forum members trailer had rusted enough to fail at the axle attachment points. The worst corrosion occurs where there is a joint or crevice where water and salt can accumulate.

So it's a valid concern. What can be done? Stay out of salt water (coastal or Winter). Crawl under there and flush the frame and axle with water after any salt exposure and a couple times a year regardless, paying close attention to any places with metal to metal joints. Let dry. Then spray all the steel with a water displacement protectant like Fluid Film. That will get in the joints and keep water and salt from having access.

2) The fixes are outriggers for outside wall sag and plywood + cross bracing for the center sections. Dropping a tank is not that bad if you need to get at those areas. No other way to get in there.

3) You should pull the wheels and inspect the brakes and repack the bearings annually. It's not a bad job once you've done it once. Have new grease seals and bearing grease on hand. The hardest thing the first time is understanding how the brake self adjusters work. Don't fiddle with the adjustment stars till you get the drums off, it's easy to turn them the wrong way and lock up the wheels. Once you get the drums off you can see how the self adjusting stars operate. You can use your floor jack to lift the trailer but place a jack stand under there for safety.

4) This has been the best year ever for travel trailer sales. The season is over so I'd expect prices to start dropping, but now it the time if you want to sell it. If you've got a bunch of mods dont trade it sell it on RV Trader, no one will be able to explain the benefits of your mods like you will. The dealers do t care.

Sounds like you really would prefer a larger rig anyway, so in your case selling now might be wise. Mass market travel trailers don't appreciate over time to say the least. If you can afford it, get something with heavier construction and a better reputation for longevity, like one of the fiberglass trailers, next time. That's what I plan to do if and when we have time to enjoy it again. No matter what, there will be plenty of maintenance involved though.

2015 Rpod 179 - sold - too busy playing farmer to go camping
2012 Toyota Highlander
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Post Options Post Options   Quote jato Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Nov 2021 at 6:44am
Agree with OG, nice write up. 

We have owned our 177 since March 2011 and compared with your issues we have been blessed big time as we have encountered very few issues.  In one sense we should have fewer problems as we special ordered ours without A/C, microwave/convection oven and entertainment system because we usually boondock. 

Fortunately we had an excellent dealer and the salesman spent almost 3 hours with us going through all the 'maintenance' required to keep this trailer in tip-top condition.  I agree with you, this forum has proved to be invaluable to me as well, a lot of great advice and 'how to do it' steps make it much easier to maintain.  Since purchasing our 177 it has been in for service only once and that was due to a furnace that would not fire up.  It was October and temps were in the 40 - 50 degree range.  Took it in to a dealer that was able to fix it quickly, they had it fixed within 24 hours (this was 4 years ago) turned out the igniter had failed and was replaced with a new one.  Our only other big expense happened last year when the fridge developed an ammonia leak and had to be 'retired.'  I ordered an exact replacement from FR last August 2020 for a price of $ 1150.  Replaced all the incandescent bulbs with L.E.D.'s in 2012.  They were pricey at $10 apiece but they all still work.  Also had to replace one of our original 12v batteries last month- it would have been 11 years old in December.  The other 12v battery will turn 11 years old in April 2022.   Like you we also added the 3.5" lift kit 4 years ago and changed out the 2 rear stabilizers that looked more like pretzels.  Since doing that, no more scraping the rear stabs.  Added a 2 step entry due to the higher clearance from the ground, and also my DW artificial knee.  Also replaced the original Thetford toilet with a 'high rise' model which gave an additional 4" of height.  The only other thing done was to replace the faucet in the kitchen with one we got at Home Depot- much nicer with a hand held sprayer if needed when cleaning out the sink.  Oh and lest I forget, our very first mod after only 3 sleeps was to replace that junk mattress.  Went with an 8" Eurotop mattress (aka mattress in a roll), here it is 10.5 years later and still just as firm and comfortable as the day we got it.   Since then, everything has gone well.

On to the important issues: your questions.

1.  Last year I went through the entire frame with a couple of wire brushes attached to a cordless drill and went through everything.  Sprayed every nook and cranny with Rustoleum and followed up by brushing on a second coat of similar paint.

2.  Have not had that issue with my smaller 177

3.  One test done here (living out in the country helps) is to run trailer in the back yard and at about 15 mph hit the brakes and see if both tires lock up and leave a couple skid marks on the grass.  This will at least let me know if they are engaging and working in a similar fashion on both sides.  Yes, jack your trailer up with a floor jack and chaulk both sides of the opposite tire so it doesn't move/roll while you work on removing your tire/wheel/brakes.  After 8 years and 28,000 miles I figured it was time to replace the wheel bearings/cups/seals.  They were annually repacked from day one so they really didn't need replacing but since they were already purchased they were replaced.  Not a big $$ amount was spent, total cost to do both wheels - bearings and seals came to less than $ 20. 

4.  You bring up a lot of valid points and Offgrid has addressed them well.  In addition, with kids growing up, the inside of your r-pods living quarters 'shrink', you may want to look at a larger unit that will address the needs for your growing family.  With proper maintenance, regardless of what 'flavor' your travel trailer is, it will last a long time.  Ours is nearly 11 years old, still looks nearly new and hopefully will still perform well in the years ahead.

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'11 model 177
'17 Ford F-150 4WD 3.5 Ecoboost
Jim and Diane by beautiful Torch Lake
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Post Options Post Options   Quote 0ttr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 2021 at 5:27pm
Offgrid:  thanks for the advice. I'll definitely check on the brakes and wheel bearings in particular.  

I would like a larger rig, but I do not have the money for the tow vehicle to pull it, so for now, I'll just make do.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote 0ttr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Nov 2021 at 5:30pm
Originally posted by jato

  Ours is nearly 11 years old, still looks nearly new and hopefully will still perform well in the years ahead.


That's one thing I like about the rPod, other than the stickers it does not look old.  We put a cover on it now, which helps, and I polish it up every year, but I hope it lasts a long time.

I'm jealous you got a three hour walkthrough when you bought it.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Susan_55 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Dec 2021 at 6:11pm
This was all so helpful -- both your experience, Ottr, and the replies. I am a new owner of a 2014 178, and am lucky to have the excellent detailed advice of the previous owner. And while I'm not new to RVing, a lot of this is still new to me. The posts above prompted two questions:

Re: rust. Has anybody had the underside undercoated like they do with cars and trucks? I just had my TV undercoated, since the previous owner was a saltwater fisherman and there was quite a bit of surface rust under there.

Re: bearings. Do they make Zerks for these trailers? If so, do you use them? Why or why not?

Thanks for all your shared expertise!
2014 R-Pod 178 HRE
2015 Toyota Tacoma 4WD V6
on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, Washington State
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Post Options Post Options   Quote StephenH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Dec 2021 at 9:20pm
Originally posted by Susan_55

This was all so helpful -- both your experience, Ottr, and the replies. I am a new owner of a 2014 178, and am lucky to have the excellent detailed advice of the previous owner. And while I'm not new to RVing, a lot of this is still new to me. The posts above prompted two questions:

Re: rust. Has anybody had the underside undercoated like they do with cars and trucks? I just had my TV undercoated, since the previous owner was a saltwater fisherman and there was quite a bit of surface rust under there.

Re: bearings. Do they make Zerks for these trailers? If so, do you use them? Why or why not?

Thanks for all your shared expertise!
Welcome and congratulations on your "new to you" RPod 178. We have a 2016 RP179 which is similar. I hope you have many fun adventures and make many great memories with your RPod.

To answer your questions, you will see some rust under there. We did after a winter trip. I went under with a wire brush, Rustoleum Rust Reformer and then topcoated it with regular spray paint. I don't see the need or the desirability of undercoating. It can hide problems. Just check and touch up the paint as needed.

As for the bearings, the RPods come with an Super-Lube axle. See this video for proper greasing of the bearings.

Some people prefer not to use the Super-Lube Zerk fitting. Removing the hub, cleaning and greasing the bearings allows one to inspect the brakes and brake mechanism at the same time. However, I have used the method in the video and only once had an issue with a failed seal. By the way, Lippert recommends replacing the rear seal when removing the brake hub. You would need to remove the seal to get the rear bearing out to grease in any case.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Susan_55 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Dec 2021 at 11:14pm
Thanks!
2014 R-Pod 178 HRE
2015 Toyota Tacoma 4WD V6
on the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, Washington State
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Post Options Post Options   Quote offgrid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Dec 2021 at 4:56am
I would suggest spraying the exposed steel in the trailer with fluid film. It's lanolin based so will remain liquid but will wash off your clothing. The problem with those rigid uncoatings is that they crack and then trap water and salt. If you already have corrosion starting that's even worse.

The Fluid Film stays liquid and acts as a water displacement material. Wash down the bottom of the trailer first, let it dry, and then spray it on. Do it spring and fall depending on what is the source of corrosion in your area.

I don't use zerks to grease bearings for the reasons others have stated. Even one seal failure means brake shoe replacement, shoes contaminated with grease are no bueano. Pulling the wheels isn't difficult and allows for a proper inspection of your brakes as well as the bearings.
2015 Rpod 179 - sold - too busy playing farmer to go camping
2012 Toyota Highlander
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