DEALING WITH FAILED SIDE WINDOWS
It’s happened to us before with our Country Coach. And it happened to us again with our Alpine coach. Just when you think you have everything working to your satisfaction, you find your view out one or more of you side windows has become increasingly impaired. At first you think the windows are uncommonly dirty on the outside, so you clean them. That doesn’t work, so you next clean them on the inside. But that doesn’t work either. It’s not on the outside; and it’s not on the inside. It’s between those dual panes -- and there’s no way you can get it off.
Your first reaction is there must be some unusual temperature change, atmospheric condition or other explanation -- and pretty soon the windows will clear up. But they do not. Your second reaction may be, “well, I’m only seeing it sometimes, and maybe it will just go away. It doesn’t. In time you reluctantly concede that the window has failed. Usually it looks like condensation, or “fogging”, between the two panes. In other cases, you see the spacing material that should be at the outer edge of the glass beginning to creep inward -- creating a giant worm-like object weaving across the interior of the doomed window. Either way, your side window has failed. And it won’t look like a healthy window again until you either replace or repair it.
This is a dilemma experienced by RVers far too often. And the experience is a costly one. Replacing a window with a newly manufactured one is likely to cost several hundred dollars. “Repairing” a s window, which involves reusing the same glass panes (and which will insure the proper fit) is a better option when the pane is still repairable, but will still cost on average something on the order of $200 or more per window. And while the repair option is preferable, there are precious few places across the country that are qualified to offer that sort of expertise. Finding a qualified person to do the job may require traveling considerable distances. In our search we found a few mobile RV service technicians offering this expertise; and one nationwide company, RV Glass Solutions (www.RVGlassExperts.com), that specializes in repairing RV side windows. This company has facilities in Oregon and Arizona, but also is affiliated with a national network of independent RV glass specialists. Since we live in Oregon, we opted to have our windows replaced at their headquarters facility in Eugene Oregon -- just an hour from home.
In the process of repairing four failed side windows we learned some information that we thought other RVers might find of interest, and thus this article.
Frequency and Causes
Probably most of us feel as if we’re just the victim of bad luck when one or more of our side windows decides to go south. But we learned from Doug Rutherford, the Director of Operations for RV Glass Solutions that’s not necessarily the case. Glass failure is frequently reported somewhere in the 2-5 year period after purchasing a new RV. Most replacement windows come with a two-year warranty, though as discussed below the fine print here is important. A brand new replacement window from one of the primary domestic manufacturer of RV dual pane windows now provides a warranty of 30 days -- from the date it’s shipped from the factory. That’s not exactly indicative of confidence in a lengthy useful life for new RV side windows!
We learned from our visit with Doug that RV glass is indeed subject to potentially damaging conditions that is unique to its RV environment. The seals on these dual panes are stressed from conditions such as extreme heat and cold, plus major (and sometimes rapid) changes in air pressure resulting from high altitudes. Moreover, another fact not fully appreciated by many RVers is that if slide rooms are extended or retracted with the door and windows completely closed, the resulting air pressure on the seals can be sufficient to cause the seals to fail over time. While most of us can avoid the last of these causes, most of us will experience conditions where the temperature is extremely hot outside, with full air conditioning running inside. And those who never experience much elevation change are surely missing out on some of the best RVing travel routes.
Options for a Fix
Where a failure has occurred, clearly the preferred solution is “repair” rather than “replace”. There will be savings in cost; and the repaired window is certain to be a good fit. Moreover a repaired window will likely include a warranty of at least two years, which seems awfully short to the purchaser, but certainly beats the 30 day warranty from one of the major manufacturers of new RV dual pane windows.
Where to find a suitable place to replace a failed window will largely be related to the home base (or travel route) of an RVer. Where a qualified mobile RV window tech exists, you’ll have to be somewhere in close proximity to avail yourself of that option. Should you happen to be in one of the states (Oregon and Arizona) that the national provider, RV Glass Solutions has a facility, you’ll have an option to have the work done there, where you’ll have access to an overnight parking spot if needed. They also will provide information on certain places throughout the country that are able to do RV side window repairs -- information that can be extremely helpful for RVers in need of that sort of expertise. If no nearby options are available, they can refer an RVer to a local RV glass shop to remove the window to ship it to their Oregon or Arizona facility for repair. While a cumbersome and time consuming process, for some it might be an option of last resort.
As mentioned, RVers choosing to “buy new” from one of the major RV dual pane manufacturers will find a 30 warranty that begins the moment the glass ships from the factory. By the time if gets installed, precious few days are left. One might question whether this is any warranty at all.
More common in the repair of side window glass is a two-year warranty. Some may provide coverage for up to five years, though likely on a pro-rated basis. It’s a bit discouraging to find that warranty protection on either new or repaired RV windows is so very limited in duration. Yet that fact seems to reflect the known failure rate of RV side windows, due apparently to the stresses on glass used in RV applications.
As a practical matter, the fine print in the warranty for repaired RV side windows is especially important. Does the warranty include both the repair and cost of labor to remove and reinstall the window? And if a warranty claim is made, do you have to return to the provider’s location to have the warranty work done? We noted a particular advantage in this latter regard to the national provider, RV Glass Solutions. If one of their replacement windows should fail within the coverage period, and the RVer is not in or near their Oregon or Arizona facility, the company will remanufacture a new replacement window, and ship it to an RV glass specialist nearest to the RVer, and have it installed at no cost to the RVer.
One footnote to our research into this issue involves possible insurance coverage. It seems that side window failures are especially common in the glass immediately adjacent to the driver’s seat in a motorhome. This has the potential to impair the driver’s vision when looking to the left, and/or possibly into the left rear-view mirror. Should this condition be sufficient to be a safety hazard, an RVer would be well advised to see what, if any, insurance coverage he or she may have that could mitigate the cost of needed repair.
No Easy Answers
RVers should be rightly concerned about the problem of premature failures experience of dual pane glass. The costs are significant, and the time required to find and evaluate the options for a fix contribute to the nuisance value. Too many RVers will endure the inconvenience, and potentially hazardous condition too long before conceding that a solution is indeed essential.
The choices for pursuing a solution can be challenging, and depend in part on the RVer’s home base and/or intended routes of travel. There clearly are some qualified individuals who can provide side window repairs. The issue of course includes where to find these technicians, how to be confident of their qualifications, and whether the warranty offered is acceptable. If the primary consideration is cost, and these issues can be resolved to the RVer’s satisfaction, in some cases this might offer a lower cost solution. However, if one’s home base or travel plans makes Oregon or Arizona an easy destination, there is also a strong case for opting for the national provider that offers the ultimate in glass repair specialization, coupled with the peace of mind of what is likely the the most comprehensive warranty coverage available.