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Old 02-27-2011, 06:35 PM   #1
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Another Broken Lippert Frame

Bought my Wildcat 28RK new in 2005 (2006 model). It took me five years to figure out I had a frame problem! It was the typical situation where I was 2000 miles from home and noticed the front of the trailer had dropped down over the pin box because the front frame crossmember had broken pretty much in half. Went back and forth with the dealer/Forest River/Lippert and finally Lippert said to take it to a shop for repair. Got the frame repaired but am not getting anywhere with reimbursement from Lippert. I know there are many Wildcat and other owners with Lippert/Zieman frames who have had this problem. Would like to hear from others about my options. Two days after leaving the shop in Missouri I stopped on I80 in Nebraska and pulled up to a Wildcat just pulling out of a parking lot. I stopped him and said let me take a look at your frame. Found his was worse than mine was! Sorry to have ruined their trip but maybe saved them a lot of grief.

Stephen Jackson (new member)
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Old 02-27-2011, 09:12 PM   #2
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What year was the other Wildcat?
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Old 02-28-2011, 01:11 PM   #3
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I'm just guessing now but the Wildcat I saw on I80 was about a 2008 model, about a 31 footer. The family was on their way to a wedding in the Denver, Colorado area. They were from the Chicago area.

"Just because I'm paranoid about broken frames now does'nt mean that I'm not going to find more of them!"
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Old 02-28-2011, 03:04 PM   #4
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With all of the units out there, and the few "broken" frames we hear about, I would hazard a guess that it is simply poor welding that is causing the problems.
As with everything the factories do, the welding meets only the lowest standard for quality. If you get some goof doing the frame for your camper on a Monday after a drunkfest weekend, well you can imagine the quality of his work.
There simply is no safety factor designed into these units. Everything must be done right for it to hold together. Add in the fact that many owners are hard on their campers, and you have a recipe for problems.
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Old 02-28-2011, 04:06 PM   #5
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Question

where do you look to see the frame if you where to have a problem?
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:47 PM   #6
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search 5th wheel damage. its all around the area the pin is and where it goes up to the main body.
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Old 03-02-2011, 11:18 PM   #7
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More about my Wildcat

The frame problem I experienced last summer seems to be the most common one, currently, that I have heard of. I believe it is due to undersized materials (used in an area of high stress) that are being specified by the trailer manufacturers (not the frame builder) to save weight and a few dollars. The weight is important if one of the features you are advertising is the ability to be pulled by a 1/2 ton p.u., and the dollars are important in making the unit competitively priced. My Ziemann/Lippert frame seems to be well constructed and no welds have cracked, only the steel tore leaving the welds intact. Again, the trailer frame design appears to be specified by the coach manufacturer and is built to that specification by the frame manufacturer.
One good thing is that the problem doesn't seem to happen overnight but begins with excessive flexing in the area of the front frame crossmember (the very front steel crosspiece of the trailer frame that the pinbox is attached to). This flexing causes screws to break underneath the front overhang where the fiberglass nose cap is screwed to it. The screws are hidden under rubber trim pieces and are not visible so you have to either peel back the trim pieces or use your hand to pound in that area to see if it is separating. My Wildcat had numerous broken screws in this area after a year or two of use but I did not think at the time that it was a serious problem. Up until last year we used the "Cat" about ten times a year on trips averaging 200 miles or so. I drive very conservatively and live in California where the towing speed limit is 55 mph, never drove off-road or even on a gravel road. I never came within 2000 lbs. of the GVWR (maximum allowable weight of the trailer fully loaded). Four years ago I installed Trailair Equa-Flex cushioned equalizers and that helped smooth out the ride some. My DW hated the chucking and bucking and clunking (I did too!) so I bought a 5th Airborne pinbox two years ago (best money I ever spent!) and finally it rides smoothly and quietly like we think it should. I have always had the 16" wheels with load range "E" tires and have not had any problems even though until last year we kept them underinflated to smooth out the ride.
If I had understood it at the time I believe I could have seen the problem coming and fixed it before it got so bad by using my small high-intensity flashlight to look up inside the pinbox area from underneath (the trailer needs to be disconnected). You can see the rear surface of the front crossmember where the pinbox brackets are welded to it if you look carefully. Any cracking, tearing or anything unusual cannot be tolerated in this area. Of all the parts on a 5er, I believe, this area receives the greatest stress. Because of the extended pinbox design there is a whole lot of leverage being put on the frame in that area by the hitch, especially when it is bouncing up and down as we drive over potholes and such (for heaven's sake do not use a gooseneck hitch!). The original piece was 2x5x1/8" wall thickness (obviously undersized). The new crossmember is 2x5x3/16" and the trailer even rides noticeably smoother and feels more stable when being towed. Sorry the post is so long and technical but I wanted to try to thoroughly answer some of your questions. When the incident happened the Wildcat had about 11000 miles on it. Like a lot of things on our rigs a little knowledge and an occasional inspection can avert many potentially serious problems. Hope this helps someone.
By the way we looove our 28RK!
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Old 03-03-2011, 08:26 AM   #8
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catman, excellent post.
Yes, a 1/8 inch wall tube for a main crossmember under that stress is obviously way too light. I wonder how that would pass certification?
As far as cost and weight, just how much would it add to change that structure to 3/16? Maybe ten bucks and as many pounds? I don't think that is the consideration. I think Lippert may resist using two different tubes because the workers are probably too dumb to put the right tubes in the right place. Lippert would have to go to all 3/16 tubes to solve that problem, thus their reluctance.
And I think you are also correct about the camper builders pushing the limits. I can't believe how thin the I-beam frame members are on my camper. But then again, I did ask for a light-weight trailer, so ultimately it is my fault!
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Old 03-19-2014, 05:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by catman47 View Post
Bought my Wildcat 28RK new in 2005 (2006 model). It took me five years to figure out I had a frame problem! It was the typical situation where I was 2000 miles from home and noticed the front of the trailer had dropped down over the pin box because the front frame crossmember had broken pretty much in half. Went back and forth with the dealer/Forest River/Lippert and finally Lippert said to take it to a shop for repair. Got the frame repaired but am not getting anywhere with reimbursement from Lippert. I know there are many Wildcat and other owners with Lippert/Zieman frames who have had this problem. Would like to hear from others about my options. Two days after leaving the shop in Missouri I stopped on I80 in Nebraska and pulled up to a Wildcat just pulling out of a parking lot. I stopped him and said let me take a look at your frame. Found his was worse than mine was! Sorry to have ruined their trip but maybe saved them a lot of grief.

Stephen Jackson (new member)
We are new to the forum. Purchased '06 Wildcat 29'RLBS Nov. 11, 2013. 2nd owner. Had been undercover on lake lot prior to purchase. 1st trip out experienced same problem as you within 1st 250 miles. Crept in to RV Station in Colbert, OK. Have pictures to document- frame almost cracked completely through at pin box and lots of other welds pulled loose along main cross member frame. $1200 later we went on down the road for the winter. Headed back North and realized it was happening again. Opened it up and the welds were holding but the frame was tearing. Is there any recourse through Forest River or Lippert for financial compensation or replacement? Is there a class action suit pending that we can join? They have knowingly continued to use substandard materials in these frames. We were lucky enough to get off the road just in time to avoid a possibly tragic accident if that pin box had broken completely away from that frame. It is my intent to go very public with this issue.

SusieBlueBonet & Tugboat2H
2006 Wildcat 29RLBS
2008 Chevy Duramax
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Old 03-19-2014, 05:34 PM   #10
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Is this still a valid thread? Everything seems to be from 2011/2010
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