Broken Weld | Major Repairs

Our Vanleigh Beacon has thrown about every punch that a RV can throw. We keep fighting to keep our “home” together but our Beacon is holding on with threads. This time we break a frame.

We have logged over 10k miles making our way to Vanleigh service centers for some minor to intensive repairs. We were in Elkhart Indiana readying to head south when our warranty list caught up with us and it was time to hit another service center.


The Construction

The walls in an RV are made up of supports similar to the walls of a stick home. When they weld the aluminum joints together to make sure they have a smooth surface to place the outer skin on they grind down the weld points This frame is then filled with its insulation material and then the interior and exterior walls are adhered to it. We observed the frames being produced off site from the Vanleigh factory and then watched as they produced the walls onsite at the plant.

The walls are then screwed and bolted to the steel frame of the RV all supporting each other as they come together. I likened the process to that of making a waffle house – nothing could really stand on its own without the support of something else.

The vertical beams that come down next to a large open area (such as a slide) have extra stress placed on them. Add that stress along with the weakened weld from grinding it smooth and some steel frame flex while traveling and you get a break. These weld breaks are not unique to Vanleigh and are experienced across brands. Vanleigh has had a large influx of the issue occurring in the past year. When we first found out this was happening it was some of the older 2019 units and I was told that it was no longer an issue with the new units. We continued to hear other Vanleigh owners experiencing frame breaks so I started doing research on the issue from those owners and a few technicians to better understand the problem.

The Symptoms

There are three issues that initially show similar symptoms and it took some digging to understand all three.

1. Lag bolts breaking: I had seen several posts of the trim around the archway separating from the unit while the rig was under load. After speaking with several owners I found that the issue was the lag bolts that hold the wall onto the steel frame. Those bolts would either back out or break due to no material in the frame for them to “bite” into. This is addressed by taking off the cap and adding wood into the steel frame channel.

2. No wood in channel: The initial symptoms are the trim on the archway separating from the unit. The first attempt at a fix was removing all of the screws and using longer ones. The long term fix was taking off the cap and adding wood to the aluminum channel of the wall so that those trim screws could have something again to “bite” into. On the Vanleighs specifically the there are three wall channels that have wood in them (or at least on my model year and above).

3. Aluminum Frame Break: This is what I covered at the beginning of the post so I wont cover the details again. However I knew that I had wood in my channels since we were onsite during our build. So I was prepared that if I ever saw the separation that other users were experiencing I knew I had a break.

How it CAN be fixed

The aluminum frame break is avoidable and correctable by using gussets at the weak locations to add strength. Affinity RV in Indiana addresses the issue by adding gussets to both sides and both top and bottom of the vertical supports. Vanleigh RV stated during our stay in Redbay that they were aware that gussets would correct the issue. We asked the technicians that did the repair on our unit at the Tiffin Service Center for gussets and were told they could not add them. We arranged for a meeting with the Director of Warranty and Service of Vanleigh and again were told they could not be added to our repair.

Below are pictures showing the walls at the plant prior to having the out skin adhered, an illustration of the supports and the broken points and an illustration of the gussets that could be added for support.

Our Warranty Work

Outside of the broken weld when we arrived at the Tiffin Service Center we were still carrying a large list of items that needed to be addressed – many of those items were from our initial shakedown on week one. You may ask why we still had those items outstanding? At this point we have already been to Vanleigh’s third party service center on two occasions. One of those visits accounted for over 4,000 miles of travel specifically for that visit. The extent of our work needed is so … extensive that they have been unable to get to many items. From roof replacements, extensive water leaks and a laundry list of other QC issues we have not been able to get our Beacon corrected.

I get it.. you are thinking that you have to be handy to own a RV. You are thinking these are towables and you are going to have things break. We repair what we can and enjoy maintaining our home and our rig. There are no dramatics to our story and in fact – we only show about 1/3 of our issues on social media. We work hard to balance being positive and telling our story in a manner that represents who we are as individuals.

What we didn’t cover in the video

We work hard to be transparent with our content but some things we did not include in the video.

  • We didnt cover the massive list of items that were worked on. The Tiffin technician did make a massive dent in our list and worked hard at doing most of those items correctly.
  • We didn’t talk about the additional items that were broke during our stay at the Service Center. Unfortunately – several large items were broken due to the technician.
  • We didn’t cover the massive list still outstanding.
  • Our appointment was not scheduled and was an “emergency” appointment.
  • We found additional water damage on the dinette slide we were unaware of.
  • Metal sheet supports were placed under our theatre seats as the floor was found to be soft.
  • We got a new matching microwave! Okay that is minor but finally!
  • I had the opportunity to install SeeLevel monitors since our underbelly was removed.

We started our RV journey in 2019 and have traveled over 50k miles between our three fifth wheels. 2021 brought a new set of experiences for us selling our home and going full time in our Beacon and has been a bumpy road.

We are blessed to have each other and the support of our family and friends as we continue our journeys.

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