Last Updated on April 14, 2023 by Jessica Lauren Vine
Are you asking, “How can I tell if my RV frame is bent?”
Whether you have a motorhome or a travel trailer, there are few things more inconvenient than a bent frame. RV frames are very strong and durable, but they’re only designed to withstand certain amounts of weight and pressure. RV frames don’t bend often or easily, but it’s important to notice right away when they do.
The best way to tell if your RV frame is bent is with a visual inspection and with a tape measure. Start by taking a lap around your RV and looking for any bends or twists in the frame. Next, use a tape measure and measure from the ground to the bottom of the frame in various places along the length of the camper. All your measurements should be within ¼” to ½” of each other.
Bent frames are a big deal when it comes to RVs. It can severely reduce the smoothness of your travels and cause issues to the rest of the RV. Regularly inspecting your RV is a big part of travel trailer or motorhome maintenance, and it should be at the top of your list.
How to Tell if Your RV Frame Is Straight or Bent
When it comes to knowing if your RV frame is bent or straight, it’s important not to overthink it. If you can easily see a slight bow or dip in the frame of your travel trailer, it’s obviously bent. However, bends don’t always happen on the perimeter of your RV. They can also happen around the middle of the frame, which is probably where your living room, kitchen, and other internal rooms of the camper are located.
These bends are harder to see from the outside looking in. To notice them, you’ll have to crawl under your camper with a tape measure and measure the distance of different parts of the frame to the ground. Another way you can tell if your frame is bent or straight is by walking around inside your camper.
If you can feel the floor dip slightly lower in certain areas, it means that either your plywood floor or the entire frame is bent.
To check the perimeter of your frame for bends, here’s what you need to do.
- Park your RV on a concrete pad or drive that’s as level and flat as possible.
- Use a tape measure to measure the distance from either end of the frame to the ground.
- These measurements should be within ½” of each other.
- Next, measure from the frame to the ground at various intervals along the frame.
- Each measurement should be within ½” of the measurements from either end of the frame to the ground.
- Subtle bends in your frame aren’t always easy to see with the naked eye. You may need a tape measurer to tell exactly where they are.
Sings You Have a Bent Frame
Apart from visual inspections and regularly measuring, there are other ways to tell if you have a bent frame or not.
Alignment is Off
If you have a motorhome, you’ll be able to tell if your frame is bent by how the vehicle is driving. If the alignment is off and it feels like the vehicle is pulling one way or another, it’s possible that the frame is bent. To test this theory, take your hands briefly off the wheel as you’re driving down a clear stretch of highway. If the RV turns slowly in either direction rather than going in a straight line, it’s a sign that the alignment is off either because of a bent frame or tire issues.
Vehicle Pulls in a Certain Direction
The same concept applies to a truck or car with which you’re pulling a travel trailer. The pull won’t be quite as obvious, but with major bends it can still happen.
Things are Out of Whack
Depending on how your RV was designed and built, it’s likely that various components of your RV are connected together from the floor to the ceiling. As a result, if your frame starts to bend, it will drag other things down with it. So, you might not notice a bend in the frame, but you’ll see that trim is pulling away from the ceiling or your camper door isn’t quite touching the floor like it usually does.
The only way you’ll know if something’s out of whack, however, is by paying attention to your RV.
Once again, with motorhomes, there’s a possibility that your engine will experience problems and make some funny noises if the frame is bent. The reason this happens is because some RVs have components attached from the frame to the engine. Therefore, if the frame is bent and pulling down slightly, it could pull components away from the engine and cause issues.
Obvious Bends and Bows
Once again, the best and easiest way to tell if there are bends in your RV is by looking. In most cases, you’ll be able to detect major bends simply by looking at the frame of your RV and seeing that something isn’t lining up. If you have suspicions, then use the tape measurer technique to measure every part of your frame that’s in question.
What Can Cause a Bent RV Frame?
It’s important to understand that bends in RV frames usually develop over time. For example, you’re not going to bend the frame by accidentally dropping something heavy on your floor. You might ruin your floor, but it probably won’t be enough to damage your frame.
The more likely reason for a bent frame is because of wear and tear over the years. If, for another example, you install a piece of non-factory furniture in your RV that’s noticeably heavier than anything else in your camper, there’s a chance it will bend your frame. This won’t happen immediately, but rather if you leave the heavy object sitting in the same spot for days, months, or years on end.
It’s also possible to bend your RV frame based on the type of hitch and stabilizers you have. If you try backing up with a weight distribution hitch that doesn’t allow for driving in reverse, the sway bars may not pivot enough to make the turn. As a result, either your sway bars or the part of the frame they’re attached to could become damaged or bent.
In general, however, your RV frame shouldn’t bend unless it’s of poor quality or wasn’t built properly. Travel trailer and motorhome frames are typically solidly built and capable of handling lots of weight.
Can You Drive Your RV With a Bent Frame?
When it comes to driving or towing your RV with a bent frame, it’s important to use common sense. In most cases, a small bend in the frame isn’t going to be enough to make your RV undriveable. It might pull or turn differently, but you should be able to drive just fine.
For bigger, more obvious bends, however, driving will only make things worse. The only place you should be going is an RV repair shop or a mechanic, so they can repair or replace your frame.
How to Straighten a Travel Trailer Frame
Straightening a travel trailer frame on your own is possible but very difficult. There’s a good chance that you won’t have the tools or materials on hand necessary to make the adjustment. However, if you have a heavy duty tire jack, an extremely strong chain, and understand how leverage works, you can use the weight of the trailer to force the bent portion back into place.
Another option is to cut out the bent part of the frame and weld a new section in its place. In most cases, however, it’s best to contact the maker of your RV, explain to them what’s happening, and ask for advice. If your RV is still under warranty, they will honor it and replace or repair the damaged frame free of charge.
Cost to Straighten a Trailer Frame
If your RV is no longer under warranty and you can’t straighten your bent frame on your own, it’s going to cost you a chunk of change to have it fixed. The exact cost depends on the extent of the damage and whether or not the frame is even fixable. You could be looking at anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand.
How to Keep Your RV Frame From Bending
The best way to keep your RV frame from bending is by being smart and not putting too much weight or stress on any part of the RV. If there are areas that are suspicious and you think they’re at risk of bending, it’s a good idea to reinforce them with extra steel. As long as you’re smart with your RV and use common sense, your RV frame should stay bend free.
Bent RV frames are rare, but they can happen from time to time. It’s often because of a problem with the installation or design of the frame, but bends can also happen because of something you did. Either way, it’s important to check your frame regularly and make sure nothing is amiss. Bends are much easier and cheaper to fix when you catch them early than they are if they’ve been developing and worsening for a while.