Things I would check (or have the seller demonstrate) before purchasing:
- Schedule an RV mechanic to give it an inspection. Failing this, at least have a mechanic give the drivetrain an inspection. ((When I purchased mine, I pre-arranged with an RV mechanic to have an appointment and had the seller met me there with the vehicle. Inspection cost me $175))
- Check the tires. Even if they have good tread, replace immediately if they are old. You don't want to buy a van, and then blow out a tire on the drive home. These are HEAVY rigs, and run at higher than normal PSI (55 front, 80 rear). A blow out can be catastrophic on these rigs and tires are only really good for 6 to 7 years before the rubber rot will be too risky to drive these 10k pound rigs on. You can check the age of a tire by looking at the code number as demonstrated here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_VYhD49fjk. When I bought mine, I had a local tire place put 5 new tires on it before I drove it home.
- Have the seller demonstrate ALL SYSTEMS. The Generator, the rooftop AC, the heater, the fridge (propane AND electric), the water pump, the rooftop fan, the water heater, the attached canopy the Stovetop, the sinks, the toilet flush. Make sure seller shows you how to turn on and use all these systems. It's really easier to have someone show you things in person than trying to figure it out just by reading these forums. ALSO, if something doesn't work... gives you an issue to haggle price over.
- Make sure seller demonstrates the coach can operate using Generator power AND off Shore Power. Test the rooftop AC on shorepower. Does it run without popping circuit breakers? Your rooftop AC should be able to run even with the van just plugged in to a standard 20amp house outlet on the outside of a home. (a 15amp circuit will blow, and if you are on a very long extension cord a 20amp might blow the circuit but should be able to operate the AC.). If you cant run off a standard 110volt outlet from shore power without the AC blowing fuses in the house, it's not a dealbreaker... these are old AC units. but at least then make sure it can run on a 30amp plug (may need to drive to a nearby campground to find one).
- Let the generator run under a load for at least a half hour. Start the generator, and have it operate the rooftop AC unit. You want to make sure both the rooftop AC and Generator operate, and stay operating. Generators especially can be finicky and cut off after a few minutes, or need a tune-up and can't power the heavy loads of an AC. ((FYI: if the generator is missing or does not work, a replacement Onan is about $3000 plus installation. Rooftop AC is about $1500 plus installation. These are major components that can go bad and cost a pretty penny))
- Leave the water pump running for a few minutes. Does it run continuously? that's a bad sign. Look for leaks near the Shower knobs, and under the sink. The water pump should turn on, make a noise for a few seconds while it pressurizes the system... and then go silent. It will make noise while you open a faucet, but if no faucets are on the system should hold pressure and the pump should turn itself off. If it doesn't stay pressurized, or if it keeps running and you can hear the pump continuously it's a good sign theres a water leak somewhere inside a wall or in a place you cant see.
- Crawl underneath and look for rust. If the floorboards are rotting out, there's really not much you can do to cost-effectively salvage one of these vans if the things is a rustbucket...
- Use a hose to fill the grey/black tanks (grey fills through shower drain, black just put the hose in the toilet). Make sure they do not have any slow leaks, or campgrounds will turn you away. Also, can be helpful to have the seller demonstrate how to dump these.
- Get an oil change as soon as you buy it, before driving it a long distance. These rigs get parked sometimes for years before sale... best to have good oil in it
- Do a walk around and make sure all headlights, brakelamps, turn signals work.
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Hmmm I feel like I wrote up a checklist one time but now I can't find it.
1995 Airstream Excella 30' trailer
WBCCI #13270, Washington, DC Unit
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