RV Doctor – Roof Materials Safe for Towing

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February 12, 2009

Dear RV Doc,

I am going to go look at a used 24-foot travel trailer that had the roof replaced back in 1998. It has sat in an RV park its entire life. My concern is about roofing standards. Hopefully, it wasn’t re-roofed with tar and gravel, which might be fine if parked permanently, but wouldn’t be appreciated by those behind you if you’re towing it. Is there a roofing standard for travel trailers? What should I look for/ask to ensure that the roof is okay for towing it? Thanks,

–Larry Niemoeller (somewhere in the US)


Larry, RV roofing surfaces vary in construction. Some are comprised of sheet metal over wooden or metal rafters, (soft roof construction), bonded fiberglass laminated with Styrofoam insulation and a plywood or luan ceiling panel inside, (solid roof construction), or an EPDM rubber sheeting or the fabric-like TPO material, both of which is glued to a plywood substrate secured to either wooden or metal rafters or a solid sandwiched roof. There are pros and cons to each type of construction technique.

The main point is that the roof be leak-proof. The solid roof construction is considered better in those instances when storage pods or heavy air conditioners are installed. They are generally more expensive to produce and they do weigh more. The soft roof construction technique is less costly, but in my opinion, more prone to roof leaks since it will be more flexible, providing movement during travel. When items flex and wrack back and forth, screws and other fasteners have a tendency to loosen. The same thing can happen with temperature swings. Frequent inspections should be made on RVs with a soft roof.

Obviously, if the roof has been replaced with anything other than the above, it would not be recommended for towing. Let’s hope they didn’t tar and gravel it! If you are unsure as to the condition of the roof, have an experienced RV technician perform a complete inspection including a leak test. The roof of the RV is obviously of utmost importance.

(Please feel free to comment, however, please also note that due to the volume of communications I receive from multiple channels I cannot guarantee a personal response in every instance. However, questions of an overall general interest may be considered and published in an upcoming RV Doctor column.)

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  6. Pete

    I hope you also told him that the trailer was not safe to tow at all.
    If it has sat its whole life in a park the entire undercarriage would need to be replaced before it could be moved.