Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jesse James RV Repair Service

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
I know you have covered breaking down on the road in the past. I read your advice carefully. I always wondered how we would fare if we had to deal with a major problem during our several months away from home. At home we are familiar with area service people, or have enough friends for recommendations. On the road it is not so easy.

Now we see, with Amazon’s recent lawsuits, that people can be paid to give online reviews.

We recently had engine problems. We asked people in the park and the management who they would recommend, checked online reviews for those we could, and we still got ripped off.
--So low in Show Low

Dear So low:
Life’s a crapshoot, and an adventure. You can do all the preparation in the world, but sooner or later you have to throw the dice.

I can answer with a personal experience. Just recently our Saturn transmission decided to start shifting with a clunk. Sounded like a sledge hammer hitting a rail spike. We were staying at an SKP Park on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. I could drive it carefully if I stayed in second. When we returned to the park I asked management and a few permanent residents for a recommendation. I went online and read many reviews. My first thought was to find someone local.

I also Googled my problem on several online forums. I made a list of several shops in a 50-mile radius and started interviewing. That’s right, they were going to go to work for me. I wanted someone nice, polite, competent and honest.

Everyone I talked to seemed to fit the bill. They were all nice, polite, seemed competent and all had the same diagnosis.

From my online studies it sounded like the transmission valve body needed replacing. Everyone I talked to seemed to agree. I finally made a couple choices and decided to haul the car to the transmission shops with the motorhome. I picked two places about 40 miles away in close proximity to each other. If I didn’t like the first one I could move on for a second opinion.

The first guy was really nice. Took the car in immediately, ran the electronic codes, test drove the car and told me I needed to have the whole transmission rebuilt. He had so many code errors my car should have died three years ago. For just under three thousand bucks he could have me back on the road in about a week.

That’s when it hit me. Railroad employees always used to say that Jesse James was nice and always polite, but he still took all their money.

I paid them $52 for their advice and moved on. When I was leaving the guy said, “Reverse doesn’t work very well.” I said, “That’s okay, I’m not coming back.”

By the time I hauled the car to the next place it was four o’clock in the afternoon. I was hoping they could at least take a look at it before they closed. It was at a business called Tranco Transmissions in Port Angeles, Washington. It looked very clean and organized. In fact, I think you could eat off the floor.

They brought me right in, and let me watch them as they plugged the code reader into my car.

Surprise! There were no error codes.

They said that 95% of the time it is just the valve body gone bad. They could order one (out of state) and have it there by the next morning. With the hour they had before closing they could have the old one off and ready for the new one in the morning. I would be “Back on the Road Again” for $752.

I pulled the trigger, “Let’s do it.” Went out for Chinese dinner, spent a quiet, beautiful night in Olympic National Park and the car was ready for pickup by nine o’clock the next morning.

My old Saturn is now purring like a tomcat in a creamery.

It pays to be a little suspect. Stories do not always have a happy ending, but if you go through the motions, control your emotions and dial out all the commotions, you have a better chance than being treated like lambs to the slaughter.

Chalk your recent adventure up to experience and move on.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


electricbuzz said...

Good Sams has a group of people called Standby Sams that are local members all over America that are there to help with these kind of problems. You just give them a call and they at least can make a suggestion. They are all volunteers.

Busyretirees said...

I agree. I am a Standby Sam and could recommend reputable, competent and reasonably priced repair facilities in my town. My reputation as a Standby depends on the recommendations that I make.

Roy said...

Sometimes it's just plain old incompetence. I spent $1200.00 at Freightliner in Tucson for a job not done. After calling Spartan I fixed it with a $12.00 relay.

PapPappy said...

I would suggest that the best thing that you can do to avoid Jesse James, would be to be an educated person regarding your RV. Take some classes or seminars on the various systems. You would be amazed at what you learn, and what YOU can actually repair or at least troubleshoot yourself.
Troubleshooting (figuring what is wrong) will give you an idea of what the shop should be fixing, and depending on your level of knowledge, how long it should take to repair....and based on their hourly rate, the cost you should expect.

This of course doesn't mean that you will never get taken, but it should reduce your odds.
I have attended the monthly RV seminars that Howard RV Center in Wilmington, NC ( offers, and have learned quite a bit from their experienced Techs. They really put the "Customer" in Customer Service.

Even with all this, it's still going to be expensive at times, and there are chances that one symptom may be masking something else, and when they replace the part you figured was the problem, there are new problems....that is life, and part of the cost of living on the road.

Anonymous said...

When I am out of my local area and need service I always start by looking at the RV Service Reviews web site. I have found good repair places on here. With any review site you need to read the reviews and determine if what you are reading is plausible and applicable. I will also get the opinions from the RV Park management and then Google search for RV Repair shops in the area. I take all of this input to decide who to call to discuss the issue. If I'm satisfied after that I set up an appointment. I have, so far, been pretty successful with selecting a good servicer. Is there a chance I'm going to select a bad one? You bet that can happen.

Anonymous said...

Arrgh! I can't believe you were staying in my home park and I didn't know it! I need to share my problem with you but not on the Internet, because my wife would recognize our situation! You need to have "RV SHRINK" written on the side of your motorhome!