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Old 05-17-2016, 09:09 AM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 304
Three Years With a Thunderbolt

I bought my XLR Thunderbolt 300 x 12 in April 2013. I am posting this note to share my XLR experiences. I feel like I have had more than my share of trouble. I have been fortunate to work through my problems, both because I am "handy", and because Forest River suppliers have stood behind their products. Unfortunately, the amount of trouble I have had, the money I have spent, and the resultant down time means that I would not recommend an XLR to my friends and neighbors.

I bought my trailer from RV Wholesalers in Ohio. I had it delivered to my house, so the first time I saw it was when the delivery driver turned into my driveway. My first impression was, "it's big".

I had one issue with my new trailer. The fresh water tank was leaking around the drain fitting. These fittings are heat welded, and in my opinion, the plastic welder had been too hot when they welded the drain fitting. I called my dealer and sent them some pictures. My dealer and Forest River agreed that the tank was defective. My dealer arranged for Forest River to ship a new tank to a local RV repair shop. The local repair shop called me when the tank was delivered. I made an appointment with the local repair shop, delivered my camper to them on a Monday, and picked it up the next Tuesday. Down time = 1 week.

My first trip was a one week visit to Junction, TX. My wife and I had a great trip until it came time to leave. When I was closing up the camper, the bedroom slide would not go in. I was on a time schedule (wanted to get through Houston before the rush hour) so I got some help and pushed the slide in manually. Later that evening, when we stopped for the night, I found a loose wire on the slide controller (driver's side of pass-through storage). I terminated the wire. That fixed my slide problem and it has not re-occurred.

During an inspection at home, I found that my CO2 detector wasn't working. I contacted the vendor for the CO2 detector and was able to get a replacement (they sent it to my dealer who sent it to me). I installed the replacement myself and returned the defective detector.

I had one other short trip in the first year of ownership and did not have any trouble with my camper.

My wife and I retired in FEB 2014. Our first retirement trip was a late March to early May excursion to Mississippi and Missouri. On the way home, while traveling on I-20 near the Alabama/Mississippi line, I had a blowout. The tire blew apart, and the tread damaged the side of my trailer when it separated from the tire body. I put on the spare and limped home. The damage estimate for my trailer was more than $1000 (lower side panel, wheel opening fender skirt, rim). I decided to change all of my tires to load range G, LT tires. When I pulled off the intact original tires, I noticed that another tire showed signs of separation, and was close to blowing up. I contacted my dealer and they were sympatric, but they also noted that I was out of warranty. I contacted Forest River and they would not talk to me. I called my dealer again, and got contact information for the tire distributor. I had a long email string with the tire distributor about the quality of their product. The end result was that they would not pay for damages to my trailer, but they agreed to buy back the 5 "china bombs that came on my trailer. I spent $1000 on new tires and had to repair the camper damages myself. The tire problems occurred at 15 months and ~5000 miles.

I had to replace my fresh water pump.

I had to replace the radio in my living area (CD/DVD player would not eject).

Several knobs used to open my windows or ceiling vents vibrated off.

I had some issues with the seals on the outside metal parts of my slides. I repaired the problems using eta bond tape (upper inside corners of the outside wall of the slides).

My factory battery was dead in 14 months.

The fan for the ceiling vent in the living area quit working. I did not replace it. I just removed that fan (we don't use it).

I had to delay my fall 2014 trip when I found a spring hanger was tearing off of the frame. The spring hanger was located on the passenger rear. The hangers for these trailer are welded to a small piece of C channel which is in turn welded to the I-beam of the frame. The hanger was OK, but the C-channel was tearing. I called the manufacturer of the frame, Lippert, INC. Lippert agreed to make the repair, but they would not pay the amount of the estimate that my repair dealer submitted. Lippert was going to send one of their techs to my dealer to do the repairs. My concern was that they could not give me a date when the repairperson would be able to do the work, and they would not commit to beefing up the other hangers. I negotiated with Lippert to let my dealer do the repair and their liability would be limited to no more than the cost of sending their tech to South Carolina (~$900). When I insisted on beefing up the other parts of the suspension, Lippert agreed to pay half of the cost up to $900. My bill was $1550, and my down time was 6 weeks.

I was in Florida in the spring of 2015 when I noticed my ramp door was coming apart at the hinge line. The cause was determined to be water damage because one of the aluminum trim pieces on the edge of the door had come loose. Lippert was the manufacturer, and they agreed to replace the door. It took nearly 3 months to get the new door and get it installed. Some of the delay was because my repair dealer was busy.

My new door ramp door started failing (just like the first door) on my next trip. I finished my trip, took some pictures, and sent the info to Lippert. Lippert would not agree to replace my door based on the info I was sending them. I had to take my camper to the repair shop to and let them negotiate with Lippert. In the end, Lippert agreed to replace the door again. There was considerable delay in communication with Lippert, but the new door finally came in and was installed. My camper was in the shop from JAN 6, 2016 till the end of March.

I noted that the new door was made just like the other 2. I also observed that the hinge was flexing the first time I opened the door. I spent $200 and 2 weeks making and installing aluminum pieces to reinforce the hinge line. I also removed 3 of the six springs that make the door easy to raise and lower. It is my opinion that the door is poorly engineered. I contacted Forest River about my problems and sent them some pictures. After a few emails, they have stopped responding. I am particularly aggravated because the Forest River people act like they have no knowledge of quality issues with Lippert components.

I have had my camper for 3 years. It has been "down" for a year of that time. I have been lucky that Lippert has paid most of the cost of repair for the items that they made, but I have still spent a lot of my own money.

RV warranties are strangely written. The camper manufacturer accepts responsibility only for the parts that they made. If you have a problem with one of their suppliers, then you have to deal with the supplier's customer service department. It is a strange way to do business to allow a companies reputation to hang on the customer service of a vendor.


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Old 05-17-2016, 03:01 PM   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 1,026
Wow ....thanks for sharing Andy. I commend you ....you come across as both persistent and patient.

I guess I kind of put these into two categories;

Vendors; Water tank, Co2, radio, battery, tires, fan.
Probably would be similar with any new coach. Maybe not the tires but possibly. Very unfortunate to have damage when you had your blowout. You received some support (not perfect) with the big items; Tank and tires.

Forest River (builder); Slide, doors, springs, and hardware. These are big items and it seems you had decent support. Obviously we all would like to avoid having the problems you had. I just wonder if this is at least somewhat normal for new rigs. If so, you did get what some would consider reasonable support.

It seems your rig is; Better than new now. This is just one of the reasons I plan to buy my dream MH used. Diamond in the rough so to speak. I can't imagine the possible horrors buying a new RV for someone that is not handy. Could definitely be a real money pit.

Did you end up with a rig that you feel comfortable keeping?

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Old 05-17-2016, 04:31 PM   #3
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Join Date: Oct 2013
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My XLR is in great shape now - so far as I know. I don't plan on changing to another toyhauler. My thoughts are that I will move to a travel trailer in a year or 2. I wouldn't mind buying used. I looked at used toyahulers before I bought mine. I just could not find the right combination of features, price, and condition.

My biggest complaint is that XLR seems to be using vendors to supply important parts that are not made to last. Since Forest River doesn't have to get involved in claims for these parts, they seem not to know or care about the resultant problems. It's what I call a "stick your head in the sand and ignore what is going on around you" approach to business.
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Old 05-20-2016, 08:50 AM   #4
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,867
Originally Posted by andy29847 View Post
My biggest complaint is that XLR seems to be using vendors to supply important parts that are not made to last. Since Forest River doesn't have to get involved in claims for these parts, they seem not to know or care about the resultant problems. It's what I call a "stick your head in the sand and ignore what is going on around you" approach to business.
This is not unique to XLR / Forest River. Lots of common RV parts: ACs, refrigerators, interior/exterior lights, doors, hatches. You really can't get away from that part.

What does vary - some vendors like Keystone/Forest River seem to push off the "warranty" of these items to the vendor, even within the factory warranty period. I know that Grand Designs doesn't do business that way. It's unfortunate and aggravating.

You are lucky in one respect - I couldnt find anyone that would service a Keystone "on the road" or via a remote purchase UNLESS you bought the RV there. When inquiring with Keystone about it, they said "we're working on it" - but it really means that there isn't much of a nation wide warranty on some brands. Likely because warranty hours are paid sub-par or are paid under actual labor... Again, not true of "all brands".

After factory warranty period, yes, you're probably on your own dealing with the vendors and it sounds like you've had good luck with Lippert.

Factory China-E rated tires are bad. Bad. And when they go, they do mass damage. I replaced ours at 0 miles and don't fret that decision at all. The optional tires that I see (Goodyear) on RVs I've looked at recently - with options to the tune of $2-$3k for tires seems like silly cost to me. Replace them with something like Sailun for much less (assuming factory rims are good).

Our Keystone TH has spent 80 days in for repairs in the last year.. so we're about the same ratio as your XLR!
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