Raise your hand if you've never bought an RV or camping product that didn't work out.
No hands up?
Yeah, that's what I thought. It's happened to us too.
We've all made regrettable impulse buys online or in camping and sporting goods stores. Sometimes even items we've carefully researched and budgeted for before purchasing just don't perform as expected, or live up to the hype, or simply don't come in handy after all.
I asked a few Heartland owners for true tales about "accessory fails" that they couldn't wait to warn others about and also included one of my own.
John Daniels, JohnD on Heartland Owners Forum, really liked the MaxxAir II vent covers he'd installed on his Trail Runner, but when he bought a new Prowler and tried to move the vent covers to it, he found that they didn't fit.
"MaxxAir doesn't intend to make brackets to fit the new E-Z Lift vent covers — the ones with the handle instead of the twist knob," he said.
"I wound up buying three of their plain-Jane bottom line vent covers (author's clarification: MaxxAir Standard covers), as they bolted right up. However, they don't create the same air flow as the MaxxAir II's."
Kelly and Michael Barnett, of RV There Yet Chronicles, and owners of a 2011 Landmark Key Largo, revealed that when they picked up their coach from the dealer, they also purchased two headsets for the purpose of communicating easily while hitching up and unhitching.
"The idea was that we wouldn't be yelling back and forth, and would be able to speak calmly to each other while performing this task," Kelly said.
"It's a great idea, and we used them maybe half a dozen times, but they just weren't us. I guess we prefer the old tried and true method of yelling at each other to get the job done."
Sewer Flushing Attachment
"There's this clear elbow fitting that attaches to the sewer hose and the sewage line, that has a place to hook up a water hose for flushing," Lisa explained.
"What a waste of money. After 5 minutes of initial use, leaking water and crap, Dan threw that thang....Oh wait, he 'donated' it to Mr. Dumpster, with words from a sailor."
Solar Powered Garden Lights
The fact that the things were on clearance should have been a big clue. Outdoor light fixtures that retail for less than $2 each were undoubtedly not built to last, and these didn't. One never even lit up properly, and the other three gradually fell apart after only about 6 months of use.
Propane Tank Monitoring System
Finally, to leave things on a more cheerful note, here's the story of an item that was at first thought to be a waste of money, but thanks to intervention from the manufacturer, turned out to be worth it after all.
Erika and Tony Dorsey, of Our Mammoth Travels, HOC Texas-West Chapter leaders and owners of a 2016 Big Country, saw a magazine advertisement for a product that uses ultrasound to measure the level of fuel left in a propane tank, and sends a signal via Bluetooth to a smart phone to let users see that amount.
"Once it was available to the public, in February of 2016, I immediately bought it," said Erika, about the Mopeka TankCheck monitoring system.
After a few struggles getting the sensors in place and syncing phones to the device, things went even more wrong. "The reading seemed good at first, but within a few hours, it stopped receiving the Bluetooth signal and read 0%. We tried multiple times to re-sync the sensors, and it would work for about a day, and then not," Erika said.
"Propane season" ended, and the Dorseys forgot about the system, until fall rolled around, and they were again wanting to know their tank levels. "We replaced the batteries in the sensors thinking maybe that was an issue, but nope, same result. Even with different tanks, repositioning the sensors, new phones, etc.," Erika said.
She saw another advertisement touting the product's 3-year warranty, so she contacted the company. "Surprisingly, it didn't take much to convince them I needed two new sensors. They shipped them and did not require the old ones back."
And now? "The new sensors work perfectly as intended, and we love the product! So much so that I asked if they would send us a couple to raffle off at the West Texas Chapter Rally. The company is based in TX, and the owner was happy to oblige!" Erika reported.
Here's hoping that maybe — just maybe — these stories will help you keep some money in your wallet, or at least put it toward a product that adds value to your RV lifestyle.
Feel free to tell your own "True Tale of Fail" in the comments below, but do avoid manufacturer vendettas, please. Let's keep things light, yet informative, as a way to save other Heartland owners a little money, time and frustration.
(Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and other contributors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Heartland RVs.)