Known Problem Areas

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This page is not meant to scare you but merely to advise on several items that have become problems for Rialta owners.  Just like every other RV on the road, the Rialta has its share of things that have proven to be troublesome.  All of these problem areas have had one or more solutions proposed for them and usually the Rialta owners have had to re-engineer the Winnebago design short-comings or reinstall things improperly assembled at the factory.

Generator

Probably the most complained about item is the generator.  I personally have limited knowledge about this because I special ordered my Rialta without a generator.  And I don't miss it at all simply because I have no need for "dry camping" at remote areas such as down by the lake front.  All of my camping has been in either commercial or government campgrounds, or overnight stealth camping at places such as Wal-Mart and Flying-J.  Even then, the 12v coach batteries provide power for lights, TVs, furnace, computers, etc.

The generator set used in the Rialta is the smallest and least expensive model built by the manufacturer.  Accordingly, its quality of design and parts is also the lowest of their entire line.  This is true whether the brand is the original Generac or the later Onan.  The most common problems are failure to start or failure to keep running once an electrical load is placed on the generator.  The manufacturer almost always claims that "varnish" in the generator fuel system is the culprit and such a problem is not covered under warranty.  There are several solutions as detailed on the "Winnebago Rialta Generator" page.

Another common problem with the generator concerns the low battery condition in the coach.  If the coach battery is very low on charge, the generator will refuse to start.  The solution to this is simple: start the engine of the Rialta and with the engine running, then go ahead and start the generator.

Refrigerator

Close to the generator in the sheer number of complaints, the Norcold refrigerator is a troublesome device.  Nearly all of the problems have to do with running in the propane mode and the cause is almost always related to a carbon build-up on or around the burner box area or a faulty thermocouple.  A simple maintenance procedure seems to cure the problem but such maintenance needs to be performed often.  Many Rialta owners are unwilling to do such maintenance themselves and so the cost of having an RV dealer do it for them adds greatly to the expense.  More information about refrigerator maintenance is on the "Winnebago Rialta Refrigerator" page.

Electric Locks

The VW EuroVan comes with electric locks for the cab front doors.  Winnebago cuts into this circuit to provide power for the electric lock function for the coach side door.  While there have been a few problems on the VW side of the design, the Winnebago design for the coach side door has been a major headache for Rialta owners.  Only in 2002 did Winnebago change the design to eliminate the source of all the problems.  See the "Magnum Shooters" modifications page for a permanent solution.

The main cause is the poorly design system that allows the electric wires to pass from the door jamb and wall area into the door itself.  Winnebago originally used nothing more than a tightly wound steel spring though which the wires traveled.  The problem was that the spring would frequently get hung up on the hole that was drilled in the steel jamb which was intended to allow the spring to move in and out.  Winnebago used no bushing or other method of avoiding the problem of the spring catching on the raw edge of the hole in the steel jamb.  Once the spring got hung up and the door was closed, the spring would get pinched in that area which would result in pinched and shorted electrical wires.

VW Air Conditioner

In what has to be the most poorly designed air conditioning compressor ever used in an automotive application, Rialta owners have had to bear the cost of solving this problem.

There are two distinct problems noted with the "dash air" of the Rialta.  The first involved Winnebago cutting into the system by adding the overhead AC outlets just behind the driver.  Winnebago then proceeded to overfill the systems with 48 oz. of Freon instead of 39 oz.  For a number of years, there was frequently and costly compressor failure until somebody finally figured out that 39 oz. was the proper amount.  As part of the official VW electric fan recall, a sticker was supposed to be applied to the radiator cowl indicating the correct AC charge to be 39 ounces.

A second problem involves all 2001 and newer models of the EuroVan chassis with the 201 HP engine.  VW changed the compressor design from that used on previous years and that design change turned out to be a fatal error.  At first they were obtaining faulty compressors from their suppliers and when they pulled the entire stock from the shelves, for a number of months there were practically no replacement compressors anywhere in the US and Canada.  Even afterwards with a supposedly good production, those redesigned compressors have shown to be unfit for the task and all are subject to early failures.

Skylight

I've recently added this as a troublesome item because I have confirmed that for a certain period of time, Winnebago installed both the inner and outer skylight shells with a "dry" fit to the roof, that is without any bed of sealant under them.  The only sealant used was the self leveling sealant around the exterior perimeter and exterior screws.  It appears this was done from some part of 2001 and into 2002 perhaps as long as 2003 so it may be possible than any Rialta of those 3 model years may have totally dry skylights subject to leakage.  Many skylights are leaking around their perimeter with the water then finding its way along the inner roof lining towards a wall where it runs down to the floor area.  There it appears as either a wet spot on the floor around the driver's seat or a wet entry floor by the side door of the coach which is the lowest point of the floor.  Even with a perfect seal of the side door, owners with a continuing problem of a wet entry area should look skyward for a solution.  And in order to be done correctly, the skylight shells need to be removed, the roof contact area cleaned, and then reset again properly using adequate sealant as a bed.


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Page Updated: 30 March 2013