The real story. Most RV articles you read on the internet and in RV magazines paint a very idyllic RV life. It is a great way to live and see the country. That is true for about 90 to 95% of the RV owners. However, there is a riskier side to RV life you may not always see in print.
The pictures shared by some owners expose a continuing trend with Lippert frames. They seem to not be built very well in some cases. This has been going on for over 10 years. So far we have not come across any recall notices but we will keep looking.
To learn more about the Lippert frame issue and the troubles owners have had, just continue to read our article. It explores the situation to bring you the best information so you know what to look for when you buy or own an RV with a Lippert frame
There is more to the story than what is seen at RV discussion forums. Those websites post the 1 to 5% of owners who have experienced Lippert frame failures. We are estimating the percentage and it could be higher due to the historical issue.
Pre-2014, Lippert was a well-regarded and highly respected frame building and other component supplying company. They had built a great reputation for developing a top product that many RV makers used to build their RVs.
But something happened in 2014, and we are not sure exactly what took place but for the next 5 years, their reputation and their product quality took a large hit. Lippert has their side of the story and you can believe it or not.
What Lippert has said is that during the 2014 to 2019 failed frame era, they received poor designs from many of their RV brand customers. They also blamed poor training for their building staff.
The latter may be true as Lippert expanded quickly during that era and inherited a lot of staff from the companies they bought. Right now and for the past 4 years, they are working hard to restore the quality they have been known for and rebuild their reputation.
Since Lippert makes frames for over 70% of all RV models made today and in the past, it is safe to say that there will be some of these problems arising over time.
The main reason the 2014 to 2019 era for frame failures took place is probably a failure of the company to maintain their quality control or challenge any designs they received from the RV makers that they felt were inferior.
If Lippert claimed that they received poor designs from the different RVmakers, why didn’t they do something about those designs and contact the different companies?
It is a good excuse for the company to make but it still makes them look bad for not doing anything about the problem. They would know that any frame they built for those designs would fail at some point.
While the frame failures do not seem to be widespread, there are enough of them to cause concern and create a class action lawsuit. Lippert seems to have dropped the ball on all fronts in this issue.
We have not seen third-party lists that record recalls for Lippert and its frames. The company has a web page on their website that lists all of their recall notices and you can view it at this link.
The last line is the only recall notice that uses the word frame in it and it is titled A-Frame so take a look at that notice. We also found information about a class action lawsuit filed against the company.
That was in 2020 and so far we have not found any follow-up information as to the viability of the lawsuit or if it is continuing right now. You can read all about it at this link.
We eventually did find one recall notice. It came through Heartland RV in Oct. 2020. You can read the notice here. The notice partially says:
“Received email on 8/4/2020 from Lippert Components regarding having a unit that needed frame repairs where structural issues were found. Heartland RV & LCI met and discussed the frame issues on 8/18/2020
where LCI stated they would be issuing a TSB for the repairs. On 10/1/2020 Heartland received the TSB repair instructions from Lippert Components. Heartland safety committee discussed via email the TSB and reviewed
the 4 cases that have failed in the field and voted to elevate this to a recall on 10/14/2020”
You can read their warranty at this link. It simply outlines their policy and provides a 1-year limited coverage for most of their components. There is a section you have to read and it is highlighted in yellow on that website. Scroll down to read it, the important words are on page 3.
To paraphrase that paragraph, LCI reserves the right to alter the warranty at any time. On the first page of the warranty, there is an ‘important’ section and it tells you that the warranty is not transferable. It is only good for the original customer.
Make sure to read the warranty carefully and that you understand it completely before making your RV purchase. We have read that Lippert will send out their own people to review any damage but that will be between you and them.
The blame for these failures can be pointed at 5 common problems. Although we made also add poor craftsmanship to the following list. Keep in mind that Lippert makes about 70% of all RV frames built in America.
What that tells you is that their product is still good and it is just some of their frames that were not built correctly. Here are some of the common problems that will lead to frame failure:
1. Excessive noise- when you hear the noise, you better check the frame as it may be a sign that the frame is about to crack or break.
2. Water damage- water will damage steel and other metals. Check for leaks in your seals, pipes, and other connections to help avoid or stop this problem
3. The frame breaks- this is partly due to water damage and partly due to poor construction. We have seen more than enough pictures of the frame braking and causing a lot of damage to the RV.
If you are or aren’t under warranty contact Lippert for help. Don’t overload your trailer. Or RV.
4. Stress cracks- unfortunately, driving down bumpy roads can cause the frame to become too stressed and then it will crack. Avoid bumpy roads and potholes to avoid this situation.
5. The frame starts to rust- these frames are not made from rustproof materials. Once the rust starts, the frame can start to weaken. Watch for rust and treat it as best as you can.
This is an interesting issue as Lippert has told one owner that frame bending is done on purpose. It is supposed to be a flex allowance but no one has ever heard of that option.
It does seem that Lippert sends out bent frames but they are not going to admit that and it will be hard to prove. On the other side of the coin though, other owners have stated that Lippert has stood behind their products and made repairs when they are needed.
We are not trying to make Lippert the bad guy in all the frame problems owners experience. Sometimes the owners are at fault for the damage they incur. Driving down rough roads, overloading their RVs, and so on all play a part in the damage RVs incur at the frame level.
We have seen pictures of this problem and they do not look pretty. A broken frame is a safety issue and they can break at any time. This problem may be due to poor quality materials used, poor craftsmanship, or other construction issues.
This is a problem that many owners have experienced, even in the last year or so. One of the sources of this problem could be water damage to the frame. If there is a leak somewhere then the water can do its damaging work on the frame without you knowing about it.
Or rust may be the cause of the broken frame. The blame for either source can go either way and it is not always Lippert’s fault for this problem. If there is a construction defect in the frame that caused the break, then Lippert should be held responsible.
Stress cracks occur, as we reported earlier, due to bumpy roads, potholes, and so on. If the frame was poorly made, then that would contribute to the overall problem.
Stress cracks can be a result of a number of problems but generally, the rough ride or poor-quality craftsmanship is to blame. For this and the above problems, you should inspect your frame on a regular basis.
Know where you are driving and how rough the roads are. Even speed bumps could cause stress cracks and you never know when they will appear. Look in some out-of-the-way or hidden locations as these cracks will appear just about anywhere.
Metal in general can only take so much pounding before cracks begin to form. The quality of the metal used to make the frame or even the welding quality can and will play a role in this problem.
It seems that the 2017 to 2019 Jayco Eagles had this problem and for one owner, they stood by their product and fixed it for free it seems. When the owner asked the mechanic about the weak frames, he was told that Lippert built the frames according to the Jayco specs.
This brings in a third party to the frame issue and Lippert may be right when they said they received poor designs for RV frames from different RV makers. Yet, that should not create a weak weld when making the frames.
This has been confirmed by other reputable websites. It seems that RV makers want to spend their money on what can be seen and not on what cannot be seen. But since Lippert is doing the construction work, they should have solved this problem as they built those frames.
This is more of a depend issue than anything else. There have been complaints about the lack of Lippert repairing their broken frames. Some owners have complained that Lippert denies their claims due to various reasons.
On the other side of the coin, there have been owners who have received top repair work from this company. They have reported receiving great customer care. One owner said the company sent a factory employee out with an A-frame set up in his truck to make the repairs needed to his trailer.
Those stories seem to be few and far in between as it has been said that many of the complaints are not made public by anyone. That makes it hard to say how good Lippert is at repairing their product.
Other owners have blamed both Forest River and Coachman for not helping them when the frame broke or was damaged.
There was one frame-related lawsuit filed in July 2020 and it was served about 10 days after it was filed. It is Sheets v. LIPPERT COMPONENTS, INC., FOREST RIVER, INC., TIMOTHY DEMARTINI, individually and doing business as and DEMARTINI RV SALES, and DOES 1-10. (source)
This is a 60-page document but the troubling aspect of this lawsuit is that after 3 years, no word has been heard about it continuing or being dismissed. The details that can be found state that:
“Two classes and a subclass have been defined for this action.
The California Class is all persons who bought a Forest River TRV in California that was equipped with an LCI axle, within the applicable statute of limitations.
The Nationwide Class is all persons in the US who bought a Forest River TRV equipped with an LCI axle, within the applicable statute of limitations.
The California Implied Warranty Subclass is all persons who bought a Forest River TRV equipped with an LCI axle from DeMartini RV Sales in California, within the applicable statute of limitations.” (source)
So far all our searches have not turned up any resolution. There was one discussion forum that talked about a different lawsuit and the owner bringing it used to talk about it on the Jayco forum. Then he went silent and the thread disappeared.
It was speculated that there was a nice settlement in return for his silence. Other than that the only other lawsuit we found was the ASA charging Lippert with employee mining. You can read about that case at this link.
The Jayco website reports that they custom-build their frames for all of their RV models. This is backed up by one customer who bought a Jayco RV just because they did not use Lippert frames.
What this means is that the customer may request that the company not use a Lippert frame when building their RV or trailer. We reported earlier that Jayco sent poor designs to Lippert so the company may use Lippert frames and they may opt for an alternative at times.
There is a wide range of opinions on how Jayco builds its frames. They may just give specs or only the weight specs and let Lippert design them and so on.
Lippert makes up about 70% of all RV frames used in RV manufacturing today. You would be hard-pressed to find a company that did not use some of Lippert’s designs in their RV models.
Usually what happens and this is true for many companies, not just Keystone, is that the RV maker will do the designing and then send the designs to Lippert to build. That is what Lippert said before when defending themselves from the bad frame era.
So Lippert would be the subcontractor for keystone in the frame department and other component requirements. Lippert seems to have its hand in a large area of RV making.
Yes, they do as does Coachman. Lippert is a top frame manufacturer despite those 5 years of problems. They are working hard to return to their former 2014 glory and have taken corrective measures when building new frames.
How extensively Winnebago uses Lippert frames is not known exactly. There are other companies that may also contribute to the RV models Winnebago makes.
Since Lippert has been accused of employee mining, it seems that they do not like competition. The company seems to be trying hard to be a frame building company even though many of its frames are not built that well.
The answer is in the positive for this company as well. It seems that Rockwood will go with the biggest company for its frames. But that is not the only Lippert product Rockwood uses.
It seems that they also install the Lippert lift systems in many of their RV models. Lippart may have had a few bad years when it comes to frames, but those bad years did not extend to their other components. They are still a very highly regarded company among RV makers.
We just can’t say the same thing on behalf of their customers who have a less than forgiving attitude.
The story is the same for this company as it is with the others mentioned in this article. To what extent they use that company’s frames is up to Grand Design and there is nothing stopping them from using a competitor’s frame if the design calls for it.
Contracts signed between the two companies will play a role in how many different frame models Grand Design buys from Lippert.
The same can be said for this company as for all the other RV makers. With at least a 70% market share, it would be difficult to find companies that do not use Lippert frames.
Whether or not Forest River uses those frames on all its models remains to be seen. You can ask the dealers for these brands about the frames their RV brands use.
It would be simpler to list those RV makers that do NOT use Lippert frames for their RVs. There are three that we know of at this time that do not and they are:
It seems these companies design and manufacture their own frames for their RV models. There may be some smaller independents who do the same thing or go to one of Lippert’s competitors for their frames.
But the majority of the big RV makers turn to Lippert and that is a very long list. Thor with its many subsidiary RV-making companies do and one owner claimed that anything made in Elkhart has Lippert frames.
That is understandable as Lippert has about 20 facilities in the Elkhart region. Those facilities make more than frames but the implication is clear.
It seems that Lippert is trying to make a comeback and hold onto its market share. The company had a bad 5-year stretch and is trying to recover from the mistakes made during that time.
This company is still highly regarded by other RV makers and that means the company will have a large market share for a long time to come. They may also be the cheapest company for frames to deal with as well and we all know how RV makers like inexpensive components.