How can I vet a 1989 Chinook long-distance?
October 23, 2013 8:27 AM   Subscribe

There is a 1989 Chinook for sale in Sacramento, CA. I live a few hours away, cannot make the drive up unless I'm going to purchase, and do not have the knowledge necessary to actually understand whether the vehicle bits or the RV bits are in acceptable condition.

How can I go about having someone independent located in Sacramento inspect the vehicle and the various RV components (plumbing, appliances, etc.)? I'd happily pay for this service.

FYI, the price is just under $8K. If you have any reaction to that, I'd be happy to hear it. It's for sale by a dealer, not a private party.
posted by jsturgill to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
Perhaps you can call an RV dealer with a repair shop and ask them to fetch the vehicle and provide you with a report on its condition. You'll pay a couple hundred, but it should let you know how everything is.

If it passes, go get it. If not. Skip it.

You would have to get it checked out anyway and a dealer will know what all to look at.

FWIW, unless you're very handy with the mechanical stuff a 1989 ANYTHING is going to be pricey to maintain. Think long and hard about this purchase.

1989 Chinooks are for people who CAN afford two trips.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:57 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

How to find someone independent: call a Sacramento campground that caters to long-term RV residents (you'll have to google, one term is "seasonal rates") and ask them for the name/number of their preferred repair person. I guarantee you they have "a guy" that's not affiliated with a dealer. They'll also be able to tell you if that particular dealer is shady or not.
posted by desjardins at 9:10 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

The big problem with RV's of any age is they usually sit around outside for long periods of time without being started or moved. This kind of treatment of any vehicle, and a large, heavy, complex one even more so, is that rubber wears out fastest when it isn't being used. So the tires, bushings, fuel lines (a LOT of RV's catch fire within a couple of hours of their long term parking space) and every other rubber component on the thing is weathered, cracked and brittle by now. A hot, dry climate make sit worse. Sacromento isn't Phoenix, but it is drier and hotter than say, San Francisco. On top of this is stuff like gasoline going bad during long term storage and gumming up stuff, usually LONG intervals between oil changes and other neglected maintenance. RV's are not cheap at all in the best of condition.

The problems caused by this are many, usually intermittent, and very labor intensive to solve. On a five year old one I looked over for my in laws in the Willamette Valley in Oregon (about as an Ideal climate for vehicle longevity as you will find) I found two leaking hydraulic rubber lines and dry rotted electrical insulation on a high end custom RV. Be very careful about a 20+ year old RV.
posted by bartonlong at 9:17 AM on October 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

I am in Sacramento. I have no RV experience, but I do have some mechanical minded friends and a recommendation for a trustworthy automotive shop. Memail me if I can help.
posted by Duffington at 11:19 AM on October 23, 2013

Listen to the Ruthless Bunny. If you can't do two trips, then you shouldn't get it.

It seems pretty expensive. It had better be in excellent condition. It's built on a 25 year old Ford van Chassis, probably an E-350. For that price, it had better have relatively complete maintenance records, be in pristine condition inside with all utilities working. The paint had better be pretty good, too. I'd guess under any circumstances it's probably worth closer to 4K than it is 8K.

You might work though this guide, and see what they say about it. If you can't answer all the questions, you should do some research:
posted by the Real Dan at 12:23 AM on October 26, 2013

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