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Ask Dave: Quality debate: How can one “maintain” a product that was poorly made to begin with?

Answers to questions about RV Repair and Maintenance from RV expert Dave Solberg, author of the “RV Handbook” and the managing editor of the RV Repair Club. This column appears Monday through Saturday in the RV Travel and RV Daily Tips newsletters. (Sign up for an email reminder for each new issue if you do not already receive one.) Today Dave discusses the conundrum of how can one “maintain” a product that was poorly made, in particular, the quality of RVs.

Dear Dave,
Regarding RV quality, I’m just wondering if the same can be said with RVs made in the last couple of years? The quality has been horrendous, and only getting worse, from base models to high-end. My question is how can one maintain a product that was poorly made to begin with?

Should the manufacturer not bear some responsibility for these problems instead of putting the responsibility back on the customer as “maintenance”?

If these units were made to higher standards, maybe we wouldn’t have half the issues.
You only mentioned water leaks, which is a major issue. But there are many, many more issues that we are plagued with that is directly linked to sub-standard workmanship and materials. —Dave L.

Dear Dave,
I agree: Workmanship is sub-par at best. One of our writers, Mike Gast, wrote an article recently about that and it has nearly 500,000 views! My answer only addressed water leaks, as that was the question asked. I do believe water leaks might be avoided or at least reduced. I thought the other issues were covered by Mike very well.

Something else to consider is the volume of units being sold in the last year-and-a-half and the ability to get service work done. According to RVIA (Recreational Vehicle Industry Association), last year sales were at 525,000 – which was an all-time record. This year’s numbers were projected at 580,00, and all indicators show it will be even higher. That number does not include used sales and the huge growth in RV rentals from owners with companies like RVshare, RVezy, Outdoorsy, and others. This means more units that are being used and need service work.

The quality of RVs these days

I have talked with several manufacturer reps in owner relations and warranty as well as OEM suppliers about the “blasts” regarding quality. There seems to be a common thread in their responses. They all have stated their warranty percentage is the same or lower than the last 10 years, with several stating it is less than 2 percent, and some even lower! However, if your sales go from 5,000 units two years ago to 10,000 this year, a 100 percent increase means your warranty claims will have a 100 percent increase too. This does not mean your quality has slipped, it’s just a higher volume.

Lack of service technicians and parts

What also has added to the wildfire is the lack of service technicians and the ability to get things fixed in a reasonable time frame. Suppliers have everything in the world backed up for delivery, so even if you can get in for service they can’t get the part! And what happens when we can’t get service? We flood the internet with how horrible things are. Have you noticed there are no articles getting huge views on a dealer that got a customer in with a problem and got them fixed and back on the road in the same day? No.

I started my RV “journey” in 1983, working at Winnebago. I can tell you there were way more quality issues back then. But the volume was low and there was no internet, so nobody read about it. I’m not saying there is not a problem. You just need to see the history and find a good manufacturer and good dealer. And stay away from what I call “carpet bagger” RV manufacturers and dealers – those that all of a sudden jump into the market during a boom just to rake in all the money they can and don’t necessarily care about the quality of the RVs they’re building and selling.

Read more from Dave here

Dave Solberg worked at Winnebago for 15 years developing the dealer training program, as marketing manager, and conducting shows. As the owner of Passport Media Creations, Dave has developed several RV dealer training programs, the RV Safety Training program for The Recreation Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation, and the accredited RV Driving Safety program being conducted at rallies and shows around the country. Dave is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

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Bill R
2 months ago

The workmanship of the “big players” in the RV industry in general is crap. There is no pride in workmanship and poor quality control. Management doesn’t seem to care about this. When talking to the warranty rep for the # 2 RV manufacturer about a vent hose for the fresh water tank that was not connected to the fill vent all he kept saying was “we’re trying to get 20 of these out every day”. The worker responsible to put the vent hose on and connect it knew he didn’t connect it. He just didn’t care. Also the porch light and rear outside speaker didn’t work. Quality control (an oxymoron) failed to catch this on final check. Additionally about half of the serial numbers provided by the factory for the appliances were not correct. When I reported this I got the same “we’re trying to build 20 of these a day”. The “Big 3″ just don’t care”. I’ve sold my 2 year old Forest River and purchased a quality unit from a company whose management and workers care. Night and day difference.

Benny H Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  Bill R

I would like to know the name of this quality unit and who makes it.

Drew
2 months ago

Learn how to maintain and repair minor things yourself. Also, those parts that you’re waiting for are usually made in places not known for quality control either. Avoid the “Private Benjamin” syndrome as you enter the world of rv ownership.

Glenn
2 months ago

Lack of quality control at the manufacturer results in poor quality. That leads to more warranty claims. Leads to too few qualified technicians. Leads to long wait times for repairs…….and the cycle starts again.

If the manufacturers spent 20 more man hours per unit quality control, most problems would be caught and remedied before getting to the consumer.

Bob
2 months ago

It says warranty claims are less than 2%. Since a lot of the units only have a 1-2 year warranty, that may be true. What about the ones that had problems just out of warranty? Or the claims that the manufacturer denied as regular wear and tear?
I had a 2016 22RR toy hauler that the rear ramp cracked 2 months out of warranty. Neither the dealer or Forest River would do anything. They both said I overloaded the ramp. The ramp was rated at 1500 lbs and the motorcycle weighed 800 lbs.

tom
2 months ago

A big lack of qualified techs at the dealer level. RV’s are very complicated and everything moves.