Fixing the Murphy bed couch in my travel trailer

I purchased a new 2017 travel trailer on December 10, 2017. There were a lot of reasons I bought this particular RV but, chief among those was the fact that the queen-sized bed flips up in the daytime revealing a folding couch underneath to enjoy for relaxation time. However one of the members of a Facebook fan club that I started for this brand of RV alerted the group to the fact that the couch portion of the Murphy bed was literally self-destructing. I looked and mine was too. I have a solution to fix this problem. 

Unfortunately, as outlined so eloquently by Greg Gerber in his four-part RV Industry Death Spiral series, the quality of modern RVs is very questionable. The combination of huge consolidation in the industry and no real third-party publication covering the companies makes for a bad combination. Think of the American auto industry in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Those cars were junk partially because there was little competition in the industry and the companies weren’t run by enthusiasts, necessarily. 

That hole in the marketplace left huge room for the Japanese to come in and just eat our lunch followed by the Koreans who simply opened the Japanese manufacturer’s playbooks and followed suit. 

One of the many guiding factors in buying this particular RV was the reputation this brand had for quality and I do believe that the things the RV manufacturer have done themselves are pretty good. The vacuum-laminated sides with aluminum underlying structure, the build quality and the overall materials and appearance are actually very satisfying as a customer. 

However RV companies have to buy much of what’s in an RV from other suppliers and there are very few of these. The company that made my jackknife-folding couch makes everything from the entry door to the exterior storage doors to the electrical fitting to the couch component of the Murphy bed. That company’s website demonstrates some of these products and also shows when they swallowed-up other companies. 

So what’s the problem

Here you can see how the jackknife hinge comes directly into contact with the upholstery on the armrest of the couch. 

Here you can see how the jackknife hinge comes directly into contact with the upholstery on the armrest of the couch. 

As mentioned, another user on the Facebook Group noticed that the hinges in her couch were literally shredding the cheap-feeling “pleather” upholstery on her couch when she jackknifed it between sitting to sleeping positions. When I saw her warning I went and looked at my very new RV and found it, too, was doing the same thing. In fact a number of the people in the group had the same experience. Only all of those who had this same arrangement. 

Clearly, someone isn’t paying attention. 

Another example of the jackknife hinge tearing the upholstery of the couch. 

Another example of the jackknife hinge tearing the upholstery of the couch. 

Essentially the hinge mechanism is too close to the upholstery on the armrests in the case of the couches in our group which causes the hinge to basically shred the upholstery. While this is starting in a place you can’t see, the feel of this fabric lends me to believe that it won't take long before the inner armrest is shredded entirely. 

I will say that in contacting the RV manufacturer they gave me a direct contact at the supplier who was polite and efficient in her work. Within the exchange of the information she needed (serial number from the couch) she went to work and had a brand new couch shipped to my RV dealer. No questions asked, no hesitation. No delay. 

Furthermore, they shipped a whole new couch, not just the armrests in question. When I brought the trailer into the dealer I looked at the new couch and it appeared that the armrests weren’t rubbing the hinges but the couch wasn’t mounted in the RV so I couldn’t be sure. It’s not easy to fold a couch that isn’t secured down when it was designed to be. 

However, once it was secured down it was clear that this couch was as bad, if not worse, than the first. Having seen the couch being installed I also saw the solution as was shared by one of the Group’s members as well. 

The holes for the bolts in the armrest

The holes for the bolts in the armrest

Basically, the armrests are separate from the folding main body of the couch. When the whole thing is installed the armrests are secured into place but then come into contact with the hinge. I’m sure you see where this is going. 

On this new couch I affected two main things that solved the problem. For now. 

I backed-out the bolts that merge the armrests with the main body of the couch and moved the armrests out from the body. This moved them away from the hinges more, but not far enough away to guarantee a lack of damage. 

The cutting board material I used. 

The cutting board material I used. 

The hinge mechanism is screwed into the armrest itself so I simply put a simple wood spacer in place before I screwed the main body into the armrest. But then I went a step further. 

I found sheets of thin plastic “cutting board” material and drilled holes in that to match where the bolts go from the couch body to the armrests. 

The spacers and cutting board material ready for installation. 

The spacers and cutting board material ready for installation. 

With stretching help from both my wife and our friend Linda, we moved the armrests aside, put in the spacers and then put the cutting board plastic against the upholstery of the armrest. After a good bid of contorting myself I watched as the couch folded up and down and am happy to report that the hinges do not touch the upholstery of the couch at all any longer. 

However, in rebuilding the couch I missed something so the body is sitting a bit further back on the frame than it did from the factory so now I can’t put the front kick panel on. The good thing about that is that I now have access to the space under the couch for “stuff.” Also, I was using duct tape to keep the plastic cutting board away from the hinge during installation and it’s still there. Drives me nuts because I’d rather not hillbilly my new travel trailer. 

I sometimes wonder if the people who make RVs, particularly component manufacturers, even ever go RVing. Some of the things I’ve seen convince me that they don’t. Or at least not enough of them do. 

The spacer and bearing material held in place with tape before they're permanently installed. 

The spacer and bearing material held in place with tape before they're permanently installed. 

For example, this couch is a really obvious flaw. Some of the other things that I’ve found also seem to point to the fact that too many decisions are being made in the accounting office rather than in a campground. However is the flaw in the manufacturing of the couch or the installation? 

As mentioned, it didn’t appear that there was a problem when the couch wasn’t screwed to the floor of the RV, but it was difficult to tell. 

I did share a few of the images of how I’ve modified this whole enchilada and the response from the manufacturer was one of surprise and delight - the emailer thought that my fix was rather ingenious. And my fix also voided the warranty. 

The spacer and bearing material in place to to be disturbed by the jackknife couch hinge. 

The spacer and bearing material in place to to be disturbed by the jackknife couch hinge. 

Meh, c’est la vie. I saw the trailer with no couch in it at all and it appears that it’s not structurally linked to the Murphy bed component whatsoever. If the couch shreds itself again I’m just going to take the thing out and donate it to charity and use camp chairs instead. I’m pretty sure whoever designed some of the better camp chairs clearly has spent a good bit of time in campgrounds.

The space in our travel trailer where the couch is supposed to be - was interesting how much space there was when the couch was removed. The Murphy bed is above the space and folds down at night when it's sleepy time. 

The space in our travel trailer where the couch is supposed to be - was interesting how much space there was when the couch was removed. The Murphy bed is above the space and folds down at night when it's sleepy time.