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Nothing shuts down a fun family vacation quite like a leaky window in your RV. Whether you wake up to a puddle on the ground by a window or you’re just starting to notice signs of water damage from a possibly leaky window, you’re going to have to make some repairs.
So, how do you fix a leaky RV window? Depending on the severity of the leak, a simple cleaning of the window weeping holes might be enough to fix the leak. However, if the leak is more serious, a resealing or a full window replacement might be necessary.
Are you looking for a way to fix a small leak in your RV window without having to spend a fortune at a repair shop? Or, do you have a larger leak that you think will require replacing the whole window? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, keep reading. I’ll also serve up some bonus information for preventing your camper windows from leaking in the future.
Have a Leaky RV Window? Do this first…
Secure that leak! You want to stop any water actively entering your camper through the leaking window. If you’re on the road or it’s the middle of the night, you might not be able to get right in there and fix the problem.
If this is the case, use strong, waterproof tape and thick plastic, like a garbage bag and tape the window off from the outside of the RV. If it’s raining out this may be tricky but you need to stop any more water from entering your motorhome or trailer. Also, make sure to address any water that’s already gotten inside the RV. Grab some towels and start moping.
Of course, these leaks happen to you at the worst of times, say right before, or even during a big rainstorm. You’ll likely be getting out in the weather to temporarily stop the leak. By taping plastic protection over the window, you’ll be able to keep additional water from getting in, before you do most of the repair work.
Once you’ve made sure more water isn’t getting in, for the time being, you can at least get a decent night’s sleep without worrying or continue on down the road until you’re at the next stop. Then, you can move on to your next plan.
Start the Window Repair with a Good Cleaning
If you’re a newbie to RV life and you have a leak in your window, or what you suspect to be a leaky window, your initial reaction might be to panic and take your RV to the nearest repair shop. But, hold on just a minute!
In most cases, there’s actually a quick, easy, and cost-effective solution to solving the problem. Anyone that doesn’t mind putting in a little elbow grease (and I mean, very little elbow grease) can do this 100% on their own.
Check the Outer Window Well
More often than not, the outer window well has accumulated grit and grime from the road, causing a blockage in the “weep holes,” which then keeps the water from properly draining.
When you check your outer window well, use something small like a cotton swab, and just run it along the inside. If it comes out covered in dirt, then it’s time to clean those suckers out.
Now there is a caveat to this simple fix, it only works with framed windows. If your motorhome windows or trailer windows look like a sheet of glass mounted in the exterior of your RV and open from the bottom, i.e. they don’t slide, then you likely have frameless RV windows which means you need to skip to the next section, If Cleaning Your RV Window Doesn’t Fix the Leak, since these windows do not have weep holes
What Exactly Are Weep Holes?
When we first started RVing we learned many new terms like weep holes. Weep holes are the little vents at the bottom of the window gasket. This is where the window sits.
Weep holes in an RV window may look unimportant, or even like they are a simple crack in an aging RV. But don’t be fooled, these little guys are a very functional, yet simple, drainage system for your camper window.
If these are covered up by anything, or clogged by dirt and grease, they won’t work effectively. If they’re blocked enough that no water can get through, the water will just sit in the window well and eventually leak into your RV. This could lead to long term damage to the outside and inside of an RV if it’s not addressed right away.
Cleaning the Window Well
First, you’ll want to stand outside of the window that’s causing all the issues. Once you’ve assessed the level of buildup you have going on around your outer window well, use a long, skinny tool or brush to clear out the debris.
A long, skinny brush will work best, but any tool that fits into crevices is going to do the trick. Just make sure it has a long handle, to avoid any awkward stretching and bending while you’re cleaning and scraping.
If you’re an RV owner, you might want to invest in a bottle brush cleaning kits. They each have a few brushes that will work for cleaning the outer window well, but they’re also perfect for cleaning other small nooks and crannies within an RV.
I found this one to be perfect to help me clean my motorhome’s windows as well as other hard to reach areas, 5 Pack Bottle Brush Cleaner (Amazon Link)
- Set of 5, includes 17"/16" bottle brush, 15.3" extra long straw brush, 10" spout/tube brush and bottle lid detail cleaner. This quintet is...
- 17" extra long cleaning brush with 2.5” extra wide bristles diameter can easy reach the bottom and clean all inside area, perfect for long...
- 16” water bottle brush, with enough bristles on the top, is great for washing all standard and wide-neck decanter, thermos, Yeti/ Rtic...
Once you’ve got your brush, start dry scaping all around the outer window well. You’ll want to avoid using any soap or water since you’re already dealing with a leak. If you’re really struggling to get rid of the buildup or you’re dealing with some major grease, you can use a little bit of dish soap and water. Just be sure you dry it when you’re done, by either wiping dry or even using a blow dryer.
Canned air is another multipurpose tool that can help you clean your leaky window. Simply aim the air into the weep holes and surrounding areas, and blow. Hopefully, the dirt will come flying out, if you’re lucky. It’s also a good idea to stand back or at least wear a mask and goggles.
- Falcon Dust-Off Aerosol Compressed Gas (152a) Disposable Cleaning Duster, 1-count, 3.5 oz can The Original Duster 100% Ozone Safe A...
- Indispensable for places where space is tight
See If Your Cleaning Did the Trick
Now that you’ve really got in there and gotten rid of anything that could be causing a traffic jam in the weep holes, you’ll want to put them to the test.
Using something with a small spout for easy, guided pouring (even a simple measuring cup will work), slowly and carefully pour lukewarm water through the weep holes.
The water should drain clear. If there’s still some sediment or dirt coming out with the water, keep pouring until it runs clear. This is essentially flushing out any leftover buildup that might be lurking in there.
Also, if you had to use soap, this will get rid of any soap that’s still hiding within the weep holes. Leftover soap residue can attract more buildup, so make sure it’s all gone to avoid getting back to square one.
If you want a clear visual of exactly how this will all work, have no fear. The video below does a great job demonstrating how to weeping holes in your RV window. The guy in the video is using some copper wire but I prefer to use a bottle brush.
What to Do if Cleaning Your RV Window Doesn’t Fix the Leak
No need to panic! There’s another easy fix that you can do all on your own. It will still cost less money and time than a visit to the nearest maintenance shop, especially if you’re in a bind.
If you’ve already cleaned the outer window well and there’s no lingering grease or grime, but there’s still water coming in through that window, try to determine where the water is originating from.
If there’s a break in the window, you’ll need to replace the whole window. Fortunately this something you can do yourself. You’ll need to source a replacement window then you will follow the same steps as resealing your window below.
If you’re seeing that the water is coming in from the outer edges of the window, you may need to simply reseal the window.
While this might be a little more work than cleaning the window well, it’s not a difficult task so don’t let the sound of it intimidate you. Resealing is a fairly simple procedure, but it can make a world of difference with a leaking window.
However, it does involve removing the window, cleaning, resealing and reinstalling so you should be comfortable with a drill or screwdriver and have a buddy on hand to help.
It won’t take a lot stuff to get the entire window removed, cleaned, and resealed. Most of the necessities are things that you already have on hand in your RV.
The sealing tape is something you’ll likely need to purchase, but even with that, the cost will most likely be under $25. And, you’ll feel pretty great about your own skills when you’re done. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Screwdriver: that fits in the screws of your RV window.
- Putty knife: if you don’t have one available, use whatever you can for a scraping tool, even an old credit or gift card can come in handy.
- Rags: again, whatever you have on hand will have to work, even paper towels are better than nothing.
- Cleaner: whatever cleaner you have available, dish soap will work if you don’t have other options.
- Butyl tape: used for creating the seal, (you’ll need to measure the perimeter of the window to see how much you need and add about 5 inches)
- White Butyl Tape (link to Amazon)
- Caulk: if possible, choose one in a shade that will blend in with the exterior of your RV. This one doesn’t need a caulking gun.
- Flex Shot Mildew Resistant Rubber Adhesive Sealant Caulk (link to Amazon)
9 Steps to Resealing An RV Window
1. Take Out Screws
Before you can remove the window itself and get down to business, you’ll need to remove the screws. Before you start, have a second person in position right outside the window, standing on a ladder if necessary.
You’ll need this person to help remove the window and having them in place while removing the screws will prevent a major disaster if the window is loose and falls out prematurely.
Unscrew the screws that are holding the window in place and set them aside. Put them somewhere that they won’t roll away and they’ll be easy to access again when you’re ready, small tupperware containers are perfect for this.
2. Peel Off the Seal
Gently pull back and peel off all of the old sealant, this part is always fairly satisfying. This isn’t something that you’ll be able to salvage and ultimately is what you’re replacing, so go ahead and throw this in the garbage.
3. Scrape off Buildup
This is another part of the job that, while not really fun and exciting, is exceptionally satisfying. Using the cleaner or soap and towels, gently scrub away any debris and buildup that’s around the window, including the walls on the outside of the RV as well.
While one person addresses the buildup around the window opening, another can work on the residue that’s living on the window itself. There can be some gunk stuck in some of the overhangs on the non-glass parts of the window, so go slowly and pay extra attention to any areas where this yucky stuff might be hiding.
You want to get rid of anything that could possibly be in the window seal areas. A clean smooth surface will allow proper adhesion of the seal and prevent future leaks. If you come across any stubborn spots that refuse to go away, use the putty knife. Once you’ve gotten rid of all the residue and your RV and window frame is sparkly clean, this part is done.
4. Dry, Dry, and Dry Some More
Since we’re trying to fix a leak and hopefully prevent any more from popping up, make sure that the window well and surrounding area is dry. Leaving any dampness will just trap the moisture into your seal, leaving it with no escape.
Leaving behind even a trace of water can cause even more water damage. So, that old “it’s better to be safe than sorry” rule applies here. There’s no such thing as too dry.
5. Seal with Butyl Tape
Measure out a piece of tape that’s a little longer than the actual length that you’ll need. You’ll need to trim later, so keep that in mind. Leaving about five inches of excess should be plenty.
Starting at the bottom and working slowly upward, attach the Butyl tape around the window, creating a new seal. The tape should be partially inside the RV as well, so you’re creating a tight seal for both the interior and exterior.
The seam of the tape should be at the bottom and try to make it fit together as much as humanly possible. Leaving the seam at the top can leave a weak spot in the seal, which could lead to a leak in the future.
As you make your way around the edges of the window, pinch the inside and outside together to get the tape firmly stuck in place. Also, make sure to press the top of the tape into place on the thin wall where the window opening is. All in all, the tape should be smoothed into place, leaving absolutely no gaps to be found.
6. Replace the Window
Using your trusty two-person window removal technique, with one inside and one outside, carefully hoist the window and set it into place. As you’re positioning the window, pay special attention to working around the seal.
Although the butyl tape should be firmly stuck in place, you still don’t want to risk any extra jostling that could loosen or weaken the seal formed with the tape.
7. Replace the Screws
Locate those screws that you put in an extra safe spot for easy finding. Even though the window should be held in place by the RV wall, you’ll still want to ensure it doesn’t fall out.
Accidents happen and they always seem to be at the most inconvenient times, so a broken window at this point would make fixing that leak all for not.
While your partner is outside the RV, keeping their hands on the window to prevent it from falling out, start replacing those screws. It’s best to work in opposites, so if you start at the bottom left, your next screw should be the top right. By doing this, you’re securing each side of the window, and again preventing the window from falling out.
Once you’ve put in all of the screws, your partner is safe to let go of the window.
8. Caulk the Window
Just like you did with the butyl tape, start at the bottom just in case there are any gaps left. It’s harder to leave a gap with caulk, but again, better safe than sorry.
Slowly, work your way upward, around the window, evenly apply the caulk. Once you’ve circled around the whole window, take your finger and smooth out the caulk. Trace the whole window, all around where the seal was applied. If you need help getting the caulk smooth, spray a bit of window cleaner on your finger and then smooth the caulk.
By doing this, you’re making sure that there are no areas left uncovered. It will also press caulk into any air bubbles that might have been created, and it will even out the amount that’s been applied. Let the caulk dry according to the time on the container.
9. Test it Out
Once your caulking is dry it’s time to test your repair job but, don’t get too crazy. You’ll want to make sure that you properly sealed the window by giving it a test. Using a spray bottle or something with similar pressure, spritz water directly at the window.
If you followed all of these steps and created a perfect seal, the new seal will keep out any of that water. And, hopefully, there won’t be any downpours in the near future, just to make sure that seal has time to cure. More than likely, you’ll be on the road again, free of window leaks, in no time.
This video does an excellent job of showing how to replace the seal around your camper window. They do use a specific RV window resealing kit, found here, but the process is the same.