Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Finding The Holy Grail - Hard To Locate Vintage Parts For RVs

My 1991 Gardner Pacific Aero Cruiser
    My "Orphaned" RV is 26 years young. I spent a lot of time researching various brands and types until I found the perfect one to fit my needs. Then, many hours tweaking and improving to get everything as close to perfect (for me) as possible. Every once in a while I need a part. It could be an engine bit or something from the original builder of the coach. Perhaps an appliance or a maybe a light fixture. Some things are very easy to find. Some, not so much. After lots of trials and tribulations, I've come up with places to purchase just about anything you may need...Read on to find out where.

My Front Suspension
Let's begin with the easiest things. Anything to do with your underlying chassis and engine (if it's motorized!): Auto parts can be sourced from the various big chain stores. The main problem is telling them what you want to order. If they do not have your vehicle listed in their computer, you are not going to be able to get them to figure out what you need. Gone are the days of knowledgeable counter folks. Here's a quick and easy tip. If your motorhome is based on another vehicle's chassis or suspension or even the engine from the same year...find that out! Then, when you need something like springs for your suspension or maybe a fan clutch for your engine, you can simply ask for that year/make/model instead of trying to convince the sales people that "it's the same thing."

Fresh New Fan Clutch And Water Pump
In my case, even though it was all customized, many of my basic engine and drivetrain parts are from a 1990 Dodge D350 1 Ton truck. Yes, some of that won't match up, but lots of it does. Instead of weird stares when I ask for a "Water pump for a 1991 Aero Cruiser 23Rba.," I call (or visit) the parts person and say, "I need a water pump for a 1990 Dodge D350 truck with the 5.9L TBI engine."  Usually, no problem -- the parts come from the back and off I go. You can even look things up online (with pictures!) to compare what you have, to what you need. There are even prices there. I like as a place to start.

What about RV interior bits? Light fixtures, sinks, toilets, appliances, furniture, cabinet parts, etc. Most things are still made or the new ones are easily backwards compatible with the older models. If you need to replace a the new version and install it. Same thing with refrigerators, furnaces, water heaters and the like. Sometimes they will require a bit of fiddling to install, but it's usually very minor. As a bonus, the newer models often use less power, propane or water and work better. The down side? Sometimes they aren't built quite as well.

I MADE That TV Surround!
What about RV Specific parts? What if you need a corner fiberglass bumper or the surround for your TV? Anything that was built by the RV manufacturer for an orphaned RV will be harder to find. The fewer that were built and the further in the past, the harder it will be. For bigger brands, there are RV salvage and surplus yards all over the country (try an online search for RV surplus or RV salvage) and you can usually find what you need. Sometimes you just can't. I will turn to or search through many craig's list pages in the hopes of finding an replacement. Sometimes you get lucky.

Exactly The Same, Only NEW!
Recently, I repaired my vintage Atwood furnace thermostat. It was working great and simply stopped. Turned out to be a loose/failed connection and I managed to fix it, but really wanted an original replacement. There were many new-style versions available for a reasonable price, but I just LIKED the old one. Mind you this is a two-year-old problem....I JUST found a NOS (New, Old Stock) replacement, still in it's original box. It was 5 dollars more than the new replacement, but it's exactly the same. In fact it's so new the ON/OFF switch is so tight it takes some doing to switch it one way or the other. It will get better with use, after's NEW!

Don't get disheartened...the search can be frustrating but, believe me, it will be successful eventually. Besides, the hunt is all part of the fun!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


  1. Great article Rich. We have an older (2004) Itasca Suncruiser. One reason we prefer Winnebago products is the availability of parts for older models. We were able to download the parts listing for our exact model. It has complete diagrams and virtually every part on the unit with part numbers. A dealer near the Winnebago factory in Iowa carries many of the parts, even for our "older" model. Not everything, and not cheap. But if you want the original they likely have it. Here is the web site for them:
    Thanks for the continued great articles on your unit and things in general. I always enjoy your stuff, it seems to track the same as the way I think. Scary, eh?

    1. Monte,
      I just like the older units. Seems that construction quality and attention to detail has really dropped off in recent years. Likely due to cost cutting measures at the factories. I am always amazed when i go to a large RV show at just how flimsy some of the really pricey new units are. I'll keep stockpiling hard to get parts and sources for stuff I need.

      Scary? Naaahhh! Just means we are more...ummm....thoughtful :)

      We should get together on the road one day, bet it would generate some interesting conversations...

      Rich "The Wanderman"

  2. Rich, thanks for the great article. I have a 2002 HR Endeavor, now no longer orphaned because of REV, BUT finding parts can still be problem. I got up next to a guard rail in Mexico and needed a baggage door for the propane area. I was able to find one at a salvage yard in Kentucky, pricey but worth it to me. My advice, just look around, parts are out there.

    1. Walt,
      Perseverance will always pay off in the end :)

      Great find!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

  3. We can't find filters for the a/c for our 1997 Beaver marquis. Several years ago we had them custom made and ordered 24. We've run out and can't find anyone to make a 1/2 inch depth.


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