Over the past two years, the RV industry’s tectonic shifts have spawned stories of delays in RV service and repair, parts shortages, and overall high demand upon shops and technicians. There are shortages of everything from critical components to physical shop space, and particularly qualified technicians. A common thread in these tales of RV ownership woe is the open-ended repair timeline that results in RVs entering the shop and staying there. There is no short-term or simple solution on the horizon for these shortages and constraints. But there are things that you, as an RV owner, can do to mitigate the situation and keep your rig on the road.
Who are you going to call for RV service?
The days of pulling into an RV shop or dealership unannounced and getting immediate services are, at least for the time being, over. If you have a breakdown on the road and are towed to a shop, you may have to take what service you can get—and on the shop’s schedule. However, if you can schedule a service appointment, it may be essential to think carefully about who you will call.
Not all shops and service facilities are “one-stop shops” that do it all. In fact, there seems to be an increasing tendency toward specialization in technical service. In my geographical area, I have three shops that will work on practically any diesel engine—but they do not do coach work, i.e., anything inside the living space. On the contrary, I have an excellent mobile RV technician for appliances, furnaces, water heaters, winterizing, etc.—anything inside the coach, but he does not do chassis work. The immediate task in navigating the labyrinth of RV technical resources is finding the right shop or specialist technician. Time spent seeking the right place to call is time well spent, especially today.
Cultivate a business relationship
Once you have developed your Rolodex of which shops and or techs to call, it is also essential to cultivate a relationship with those shops and services so that you are not just another voice on the other end of the phone. I do as much business in my local area as possible and schedule work as far in advance as possible. I try to get some commitment from the shop owner or manager as to the length of time my rig will be in the shop. But beyond that, I do not call daily to check in or agitate for completion (though sometimes that call becomes necessary.)
Last year, I needed a major repair of chassis components before a big transcontinental trip. I knew who I wanted to do the work (a renowned commercial truck service), but the shop is notoriously busy, and long wait times for service and repairs are the norm. Plus, there was the specter of parts shortages. I called the shop owner, explained the situation, and was surprised when he took up the gauntlet, found the many needed parts, and scheduled my work. He and his team had the coach completed and out of the shop in four days. A positive 20-year relationship with that shop made all the difference.
For many of us, the technical complexity of our RVs coupled with the lack of specialized tools and equipment, and even advancing age, means that more and more service and repair tasks are beyond the limits of DIY. That’s when having a solid list of people and tech facilities to call (and who will welcome your call) can save the day—and a big part of your RV season.