Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RV Lemonade Line

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We just started traveling in our new travel trailer this winter. I was looking forward to a snowless winter of adventure and sightseeing. So far it has been a winter of waiting on parts and camping in large RV dealership lots waiting for service. My whole outlook on the economy has changed. I thought the country was in a slump, but not according to the line of people queued up waiting for service on their trailers, fifth wheels, motorhomes and vans. My husband says we just have to get all the bugs worked out on this maiden voyage and then it will be different. I keep thinking about the old boat definition: A bottomless hole you keep throwing money into. I am trying to stay positive and confident that our adventurous travel will happen eventually, but it's hard. Do all people go through this process or did we just end up with a lemon that I am having a hard time making lemonade out of.
--Soured on Service in Sedona

Dear Soured:
It sounds like you might be having an abnormal amount of service related problems. I am assuming you are under warranty, as you mention "new" travel trailer. Regardless of that, I agree it is no fun parked in or around a service facility waiting for work to be done. The standard response when seeking service work from a large dealer during peak season is, "It's a hundred dollars an hour, about a weeks wait, and we will need you to move out of your rig." That response can ruin anyone's attitude about RV travel. I do not know what types of problems you are having, but I like your comparison to a boat.
One secret is to develop a thorough understanding of all the systems that keep your rig rolling happily down the road. That has never been easier. Most RVs all have the same basic equipment. Even if you are not mechanically inclined you can glean diagnostic information from the internet today. You can troll the RV forums, watch How-to repair videos, and talk to fellow campers. You would be surprised how many problems you can fix on your own with just a bit of studying. Knowledge is king. Every problem you can solve on your own eliminates a line at the lemon factory repair facility. A heater problem is often a plug & play control board, a refrigerator problem might be a simple ignitor. It is simple today to find and order parts online and have them shipped anywhere. Once you become familiar with your rig and how it functions you will travel with much more confidence, have many less pit stops and save a truckload of money on problems that are not covered by warranty. This is one suggestion on turning your lemon into lemonade.
The RV forums will also give you great advice on "where" and "where not" to have service work done. Listen to the masses that have already been led to the slaughter instead of making all the mistakes on your own.

--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink


Shay said...

We started our RV adventures with a pop-up camper and then moved to a travel trailer. We bought used both times and expected we would find issues and we did. What we did in each case was take a short trip for our "maiden" voyage to see what issues we would find and then we figured out what we could fix ourselves and what we needed someone else to look at. As the Dr stated with a little research we found most issues we could resolve ourselves but for those we could not we made an appt to have the problem looked at and resolved. We also did most of this off season so we didn't have to deal with the hoards of people

Anonymous said...

Good advice, but a sad commentary on the ongoing problem of new RV quality. As we approach retirement, we've been excited by the prospect of RV'ing, the beautiful displays at the RV shows and the stories of how much our friends enjoy it. The RV web sites are great, but it is a bit overwhelming when you see so many posts about poor quality and how to fix things. There are also many posts about poor dealer service. It's amazing, especially when an industry is struggling, that manufacturers and dealers wouldn't go out of their way to make their "potentially" best ambassadors unbelievably happy with them. This is by far the biggest issue that gives us pause.

Anonymous said...

Hi there Soured,

We understand your frustration as we are fairly new to RVing and have had the same experience. It does take time, and money, to learn more about this new and wonderful lifestyle. We have slept in repair facilities and spent a few days in a motel while our 39' 2003 Fleetwood Discovery was being repaired. It is well worth the investment however as many folks will testify to. We now budget 4% of the purchase price for annual maintenance so there are no surpises. Hope this helps and Happy RVing.

Anonymous said...

Our policy has always been to buy "slightly used". We let someone else get the bugs worked out, we get a much better deal and we rarely spend time on maintenance issues. We've been fulltiming for 10 years and love the lifestyle.

The Gypsy's said...

I relate to your comments. Our first RV could have been the idea script for the movie, "RV". The first trip the holding tank was full (serves me right for not listening to the little girl that told me "we don't use the potty"). The second trip, the commode broke and filled the holding tank.

Over the years, we've fixed the furnace on the road, had to repack and repair the RV brakes on the way to Florida, fixed a roof leak, replaced a vent (low hanging tree limb and the vent open), and some other stuff.

The latest RV we have, a 2011 39' 5th wheel, had an issue with the refrigerator on the very first trip. Contrasting to the problem of having to take it to the dealer, the factory service team and the manufacturer helped me diagnose and bypass the problem on the road. Then, once we returned home, the factory techs drove over and replaced the bad parts (and taught me some basic stuff about the fridge).

Investing in annual maintenance is a good idea so I definitely second that. Mine goes back to the factory service center every year for an annual vetting. Not really all that expensive and it gives us a reason to visit the area since there is a couple of really good restaurants there and some interesting shopping.

Don't give up, it does get better.

Anonymous said...

Bought a new Winnebago. Let's see...first the door deadbolt went bad, then the doorwas out of alignment. But those things were covered by warranty. The worst was this past winter...took the rig was winterized, heat, fridge, and hot water had a new plug installed. It took a full month to get that done. Then when i picked it up, the new plug leaked all the way home. Then when I went to dewinterize the rig, I found out the dealership left in the water filter in--so now it was ruined. The day before i started a cross country trip, I had to drive 70 miles round trip to get the plug repaired. Initially the repair lead guy actually asked me, "how would they know to take out the
water filter? Really??? I couldnt believe it... they finally put in yet another plug in the hot water heater and mailed me a new filter after agreeing it should have been taken out before the winterizing. I got it after the end of the trip. Lastly was the failure of the DVD player; it was replaced, but when they put in the new one, they neglected to put the velcro on the bottom, so it was sliding around in the cabinet. I love my rig...but I am so glad I will be finding a new dealership here in CA and not have to go back to the one in VA. And i wont ever have to winterize again....

Anonymous said...

A motorhome is just that; a home(house) on a chassis (vehicle) If you've ever bought a new home, the punch list can be pages long. If you buy a large vehicle, the punch list can also be very long. A motorhome is both. I doubt that even the most expensive motorhomes are 100 percent rolling off the lot. Also, many items are personal preference ones, not manufacturing or equipment defects. Add to that the fact that a motorhome is moving, not sitting on a foundation, there will be upkeep and repair on a higher basis than might be on a home on a site. It goes with the lifestyle. Some aren't able to cope with those realities. Sorry for them, they miss the great times that are also part of the life.

W. Burt said...

A new rv owner may well be overwhelmed. As the unit is both a house and a vehicle, there is maintenance and repair for both. Then there are the unique appliances and other equipment. I always remind folks considering getting into the rv lifestyle that they aren't leaving those constants behind, but may actually find they spend more time, depending on the miles driven and the time spent in the unit. The compensation comes in the great people met, the ability to be where you want, when you want, and those many other times when it's great to just enjoy the freedom afforded.

Unknown said...

I feel your pain. Our new FT fifth wheel is the top of the line. Have spent most of our first four years in major repairs, including slide rams, slide frame, jacks, roofing, appliances, tires, plumbing, black tank, leaking windows, etc. In spite of it all, we have lived in national and state parks, toured Alaska, and never watch TV. It's a pain, to be sure, but the reward is priceless.