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Essential Truck Camping Advice

How To Inspect A Used Truck Camper

Truck Camper Magazine presents a step-by-step process to inspecting a used truck camper including exactly what to look for, and look out for.  Step 1: Put the Jacks Down and Unload.

How To Inspect A Used Truck Camper

Truck campers are very complex products with a myriad of materials, components, systems, and structural details that should be carefully examined prior to making a purchase.  The condition and integrity of these elements can mean the difference between purchasing the used camper you hoped for, or ending up with a horror story.

What follows are our recommended steps to inspecting a used truck camper.  This is the second article in a two part series on buying a used truck camper.  If you haven’t read the first article, 6 Tips For Buying A Used Camper, please start there.

IMPORTANT: We strongly advise having a professional and certified RV service technician perform any tests involving 110-volt shore power, 12-volt battery power, and propane gas.  Do not proceed with any tests without proper safety precautions.

Step 1: Put the Jacks Down and Unload

Camper Off Truck Inspection

Above: Demounting the camper from the truck is important for inspecting the underbody

Before beginning your in-person inspection, we recommend that the truck camper be unloaded from the truck.  You want to see the full exterior of the unit including the lower section and underbody that would otherwise be hidden from view in a truck bed.

You also want to observe the camper on its corner jacks to make sure it’s stable.  Any signs that the camper cannot hold itself on four corner jacks is a warning of significant and potentially dangerous structural damage.  If it can’t stand or isn’t stable, walk away from the table.

Step 2: Start With The Smell Test

Believe it or not, your sense of smell is essential for your used camper inspection.  Have your nostrils prepped and ready the moment you open the entry door.

Before entering the camper, make note of how the camper is presented to you.  If the entry door, windows, or vents are wide open, it’s possible a mold, smoke, pet urine, sewer or other tell tale odor is being hidden.  Before making your final decision, close up the camper completely for at least a half-hour (preferably more) and return to sniff out the truth.

The first thing to smell for is propane.  While it’s highly unlikely that you will smell propane in a used camper, it’s possible if a unit has been closed up with open propane tanks.

If you smell propane (in any camper), do not enter the unit and leave the rear door wide open.  The propane and propane smell should dissipate quickly.  If a propane leak is suspected, a certified RV technician should be immediately brought in for a propane safety inspection.

It’s far more likely that you’ll encounter a stale and/or sewer smell in a used camper that’s been closed up.  In fact, a stale and/or sewer smell is normal for any camper that’s been used and then closed up for an extended period (like over the winter).  With ventilation, these smells should subside quickly, but they’re not something to ignore.

If the sewer smell persists despite ventilation, there could be a sewer system leak.  If a sewer smell quickly returns after a unit is closed for a half-hour, that too could be a sign that there’s a sewer system leak.

Note that a sewer smell could simply mean the black and grey tanks need to be emptied, flushed, and cleaned.  Or it could mean there’s a sewer system leak.  If the black tank is not empty, have the camper owner or dealer empty, flush, and clean the tank before proceeding.

If you open the entry door and are hit with a strong musty smell, stop there.  Chances are a camper with an intense musty smell has a significant number of broken seal leaks, water intrusion, and possibly wood rot.  Unless you’re looking for a major rebuild, or are looking for a mobile mold farm, stay far away from used campers that smell extremely musty.

The Inside Job: An Open and Shut Case

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