From the Road: “What Just Broke On My Roof?”

Hello there! In my Questions From the Road column, I take a crack at answering real questions from real RVers, just like you. You might find your question here! If not, please send me an email!

I have something on my roof that is damaged but I don’t know what it is and part of it has been “torn” off leaving, I’m not sure what it is. It isn’t my vents but is is above the kitchen table and near to the air conditioner. It appears to have screen and I am concerned that rain could damage something; should I try covering it up or would that be worse?? I think I know when it was “torn” off but don’t have any idea what it is to repair. 


Hmmm … there are a couple of things that could be protruding through your roof, and without a picture or detailed description, I can only hazard guess. Is it a pipe? A shroud? Any wires around the opening?

Option 1: Refrigerator Roof Vent

Your comment that it has a screen and is near the kitchen would indicate it is most likely a refrigerator roof vent.

RV roof vent opening with cover removed

At a minimum, an RV roof usually has:

  • An air conditioner
  • Roof fan
  • One or two pipe vents

Some have refrigerator screen vents, antennas, WiFi range extenders, solar panels cable entry housings, roof-mounted range vents, etc.

If it is a refrigerator roof vent, then you don’t want to cover it up and continue to run your refrigerator. Your refrigerator creates a lot of heat in cooling mode, and that heat (along with some nasty flu gases on LP mode) gets carried away to the outside via either a roof vent or a wall vent. If you block that vent, you’re just trapping all that heat and gas inside. That’s a safety hazard on all sorts of levels: fire hazard, air quality hazard, etc.

With that said, you also don’t want to just leave a gaping hole in your roof. If you can, access the top of the roof and confirm the damaged part is, in fact, the roof vent. If so, cover up the hole so it’s waterproof (EternaBond plus a substrate to bridge the gap would be good for this), and don’t run your refrigerator until it’s fixed. Use frozen ice packs to keep your fridge cool in the meantime.

Option 2: Sewer Vent Pipe Cap

Another possible option is your sewer pipe vent cap. The pipe goes down to either your gray tank or black tank. It vents out fumes, promotes airflow and relieves suction in your water drain pipes.

The cap on top keeps out water, insects, debris, etc. Some pipes have a Siphon 360 or similar cap which actually draws out via suction as the unit moves down the road!

Roof Vent Plumbing Cap 2

Unless it’s raining cats and dogs on your way home, you can just leave it uncovered. If it is raining, just cover it up with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and secure with a few zip ties around the base. Capping the vent for a few hours won’t hurt anything.

Thanks for your reply. My refrigerator vents are off the side pop-out where the frig is located. The vent (or whatever it is) is about 4 to 6″ square and has some screening and … well, I need to get up there [get] a decent description … Was woke up this morning with my fire alarm blaring and it was raining outside. I went up and covered with aluminum foil quickly and took the following picture. My dog is panicking because of the fire alarm and I have to leave here in 3 hours!

RV attic mushroom vent with cover removed

Ah, thanks for the picture! My first guess was wrong! That’s a mushroom vent with the cover blown off.

Mushroom vents are used for one of three reasons:

  1. As a plumbing vent for your waste tanks
  2. As passive air ventilation for interior spaces
  3. As attic vents for enclosed RV attics to prevent heat and moisture buildup

I believe – although I’m not 100% positive – that yours is used for attic ventilation.

Covering it up for a few hours during transit shouldn’t hurt anything. Much better than potentially allowing water to leak into your roof! Although you definitely do want to get it fixed. But it’s very easy (a 15-minute job), and the part itself is less than $20.

You can secure the aluminum foil (even a plastic grocery bag would do) around the base using zip ties or jumbo rubber bands, or even duct tape. If you have a roll of Eternabond roof repair tape, you could just tape over the top.

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