It has been a long time since my last post and a lot has happened since then, but quite frankly I haven’t had the heart to share this until now. Usually I’m sharing beautiful pictures of the amazing places we have been. It’s really hard to share a post like this instead. I’ll warn you — the pictures aren’t pretty.
Our living and traveling in our beloved home on wheels came to an abrupt halt last month on a lonely stretch of highway in rural Maine. We had just finished visiting Acadia National Park which I haven’t had a chance to blog about yet. I will eventually, but first…this:
While we were in Acadia we noticed another stress crack in the sidewall of the RV. If you remember we had one of these repaired back in 2016. I sent the pictures to our contact at Heartland to ask for help since he helped us find a place to have the first crack repaired a couple of years ago.
Heartland never answered me and since our last crack took 5 months to have repaired we didn’t think it was urgent. We were not near any repair centers that could help us so we moved on and planned to find a repair center in Canada.
We left Acadia and headed towards Canada where we had planned to spend a few weeks exploring and visiting family up there. My parents were flying up to meet us in Nova Scotia.
The roads in Maine were pretty rough and bumpy and after several miles of that we stopped at a rest area. Someone pulled in after us and said that he had been behind us for several miles and he thinks something is wrong with our trailer. He said our trailer shifted to the side and the wheels didn’t look quite right. Chris looked around and noticed the wheels protruding out too far on the driver’s side and the frame looked bent.
We also noticed the crack in the sidewall had opened up even more and we had 3 more cracks on the opposite side!
Chris broke the bad news to me that we weren’t going to make it to Canada and we just needed to find the nearest campground so we could figure out what to do. Since we were in such a remote area we were not able to find anyone to come and tow us, and realized it wouldn’t make much difference than us towing it anyway. So I searched on my phone and found the nearest campground in Calais, ME called Keene’s Lake Family Campground. It was about 30 miles away so we put on the hazard lights and drove slow. By the time we got to the campground the initial crack had gotten so much worse that the roof was starting to separate.
I know the passenger side crack is pretty bad which is why I share the most pictures of that one, but I don’t want to ignore the other 3 cracks on the opposite side of the RV.
The campground owners were very accommodating and kind to us while we were there, letting us stay as long as we needed while we sorted things out. Once we were set up in a campsite and opened the slides we noticed further damage on the inside: the crack goes all the way through to the kid’s bedroom, paneling fell off the ceiling, a wall separating in the kid’s room as well as the floor separating in their bathroom.
Chris called our insurance provider Progressive to file a claim. They sent someone out a few days later to take pictures and inspect the unit. Unfortunately they did not cover the damage because they said the damage is due to “frame failure” which is a manufacturing defect. I guess rough and bumpy roads should not cause an RV to literally fall apart without there being a weakness somewhere in the build of the unit.
I started conversations with the manufacturer Heartland to see if they would help. Heartland only offers a 1 year warranty and our unit is 3.5 years old. Still, I had hoped that since there was such extensive damage to a relatively young RV that Heartland may step up and do the right thing. I had wrongly hoped they would agree that an RV they built should not fall apart after just 3.5 years.
My initial conversations with an employee at Heartland ended with this email:
He said this has nothing to do with manufacturing but he thinks something was “drug down the top of the sidewall”. Well, if that was the case then our insurance provider might have covered it. Then there would have been an actual incident that caused this. However, this explanation makes no sense because it does not take into consideration all the cracks on the opposite side of the RV and the interior walls and floors separating. So we did not just go away with this explanation as I’m sure they hoped we would. After pushing them further, 2 employees at Heartland said they would send someone to inspect the unit.
Well it turns out they lied about sending someone to inspect it because about a week later I spoke with Anthony Roberts (from 2nd email) on the phone and he told me he does not believe anything is wrong with the frame and he will not be sending anyone to inspect it.
Chris decided to contact him after that to which he replied that they would inspect the unit if we bring it to them in Indiana. Seriously?
We had previously told them the unit is unsafe to tow. When we left the campground in Maine we moved the RV from a campsite to a storage area within the same campground and in doing so some of the cracks got worse and the hole in the side opened up even larger. Also one of the slides doesn’t even go in correctly anymore. Do they really want us driving this down the road??
Does Heartland really think it is reasonable to ask us to tow this all the way from Maine to Indiana? Do they really want that liability on their hands if we were to have a serious accident on the way?
Anyway, after threatening Heartland with publishing this story on social media, they finally decided to send someone to inspect it. But guess what? The inspector was a paid employee of Heartland and so I’m sure you can guess how this turned out.
Here is a picture from the inspection report basically claiming that we hit a tree.
This totally disregards the fact that the crack was there in June long before our incident in July on the road when the unit just basically started falling apart. We did not hit a tree or anything other than maybe pot holes in the road. This sidewall crack was already there before we moved from Acadia. On that drive the crack got so much worse and the roof began to separate. The inspection report also totally disregarded the 3 cracks on the opposite side of the RV. He didn’t even mention those! Obviously that’s what happens when a manufacturer sends their own guy out to inspect a unit. Whatever it takes to swing it in their favor!
I used to defend Heartland when I would read negative criticism about them on social media. We experienced great customer service through Heartland in our first year. You may remember I blogged a couple of years ago about a previous crack we had in the sidewall and how Heartland took care of us and helped us find a place to have it repaired: RV Repairs in Louisiana. Back then I was so impressed with how Heartland took care of us when our selling dealer in Jacksonville did not.
I didn’t realize when I used to defend Heartland that their great customer service only lasted while we were under the 1 year limited warranty. I guess they don’t care about keeping customers for life. We had been looking into upgrading our RV to a toy hauler at some point, and had considered another Heartland. Not anymore — now we will never buy another Heartland because we know from experience that they do not stand behind their product. We will also discourage anyone we know from purchasing a Heartland.
I realize that not every Heartland will fall apart the way ours has, but wouldn’t you like to know when you buy an RV that the manufacturer stands behind their product when something this extraordinary happens? Even though we are well past the 1 year warranty, if they were a company that cared at all about maintaining customers for life they would have done something to make this right. The frame should really have a longer warranty than 1 year anyway — I mean who buys an RV and doesn’t expect it to last longer than 3-4 years?
Unfortunately many RV manufacturers have a reputation of making poor quality units, but I have been researching and asking other RV friends for feedback to find out if there is any manufacturer who truly stands behind their product. I have been consistently hearing great things about Grand Design. All of my RV friends that have a Grand Design rave about their excellent customer service. Perhaps our next RV will be a Grand Design and if so, hopefully we will experience much better customer service with them than we did with Heartland.
So, that’s the story of our life for the past month or so. The good news is we were able to make it to Canada. We moved all of our stuff out of the RV and into a storage unit and then stored the RV at the campground.
We met up with my parents in Nova Scotia and visited several places with them while staying in VRBO rentals and with friends and relatives. It wasn’t quite the same as having our home on wheels, but we made the best of it.
After a vacation in Canada with my parents we headed back to Maine, loaded everything we own into a Uhaul trailer and headed south to regroup and start over.
I will write later about our travels in Canada and also about our time in Acadia before this disaster happened.
I will end this with a reminder, please think twice before purchasing a Heartland RV. Remember, when we had trouble, they left us homeless and refuse to accept any responsibility.