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Long RV servicing waits may be reduced by cultivating relationships with local shops

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.

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KellyR
5 months ago

I have been going to the same Mom & Pop garage for 50 years. I outlived the old man, but his sons took over, and now I have “outlived” them and they have sold the business. I still go there but have had to sort of start all over. I have also outlived too many of my doctors. I guess it is that “time thing” Chuck was talking about. Finding a good, honest mechanic is more frustrating than finding a new doctor. There are no good doctors anymore anyway because of health insurance companies.

Gray
5 months ago

Insurance companies have removed the human element. Our preferred shop has divided the service desk from the service bay, and no customer is allowed through the door. A sign above the door announces that “Our insurance prohibits customers on the shop floor.” If I ask to speak to the mechanic about a special concern, the service writer has to call in to the shop area and ask for a “technician” to come up to the front.

Most times the work is done with the service desk as a barrier between the customer and the people doing the work; in many instances there’s a failure of communication between the two. It was a lot nicer in earlier days when I could actually talk to the guy doing the work, and we’d understand each other. He’d get a clear picture of what my problem was; and I’d get a good feel for his understanding, attitude, and competence. Now it seems to be detached and impersonal.

Karen
5 months ago

I have a water leak and could not get an appointment at my local RV places until May 1st. Luckily my camper has a cassette and not a black tank, so I can still mosey along until it can get fixed. Will just have to carry more water along than normal.

travelingjw
5 months ago

We have been lucky. Our Service Writer was with the dealer when we bought our TT and still is there. He has gone out of his way to help us, even answering emergency questions while we are on the road. He makes sure that when our TT is at the dealer that it stays as close to being on schedule as can be, and he checks out the work prior to our driving the hour to pick up the TT.

Vincee
5 months ago

I have actually received excellent service from Buffalo RV near Buffalo, NY. Going back to my first experience with them in 2012 after a quick repair job I had a sheet (party) pizza a couple of bottles of soda (pop here) delivered to the service dept. Later that year I needed a small repair that they handled in a day. When I went to pick up my rig the next morning I brought in a couple of dozen donuts and a large coffee box. It doesn’t hurt to extend a thanks for prompt service, and you can be sure the next time you call they’ll know who you are.

Neal Davis
5 months ago

This is a great approach and one I follow. I have a trusted engine, generator, chassis mechanic who gets all our work. Similarly there is a service shop that gets all our coach work with the exception of our heating system (AquaHot), which I take to Lloyd DeGerald or his son. When our coach needs work I get in ASAP and usually the problem(s) are addressed and fixed within a day or two, sometimes even the same day. Yes, relationships matter because people matter. Even though work is easy to get, all of our service people appreciate my loyalty to them. Plus, I think that being so familiar with the history of our RV and its components is helpful to our service technicians when they address curent problems.

Gil
5 months ago

A dozen donuts every month or two delivered to the tire and oil change shops at least makes them remember your name.

Drew
5 months ago

Try to do most work yourself if you can- and use your rig gently.

Donald Schneider
5 months ago

I have a local shop has a sign- ” We do not install customer provided parts” displayed in the office. I have a Workhorse chassis that is hard to find parts for. I have developed a relationship with the owner and head tech since I try to find the part number and where it can be found. UltraRV carries Workhorse parts and usually has them in stock AND will verify your part by VIN number. So you know it is the correct part before being ordered.
The shop appreciates the extra effort and many times will have me purchase the part and allow it to be shipped directly to the shop.
Going the extra mile to help the local shop has paid off for me.

Dan
5 months ago

Not enough young people today are interested the ‘motor head’ culture. They have no interest in what makes a vehicle work, so they dont evolve into mechanics. I know many shop owners that would love to find more help because the old ones retire and there are no young ones coming up behind them.

Jeff
5 months ago
Reply to  Dan

This is very true. Any of the trade are a good place to be if you want to work.

Ron Davey
5 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Ran a mom& pop repair shop for 30 plus years couldn’t find help spent the last year open rebuilding 34q vectra and then retired rented location and not looking back

Bob M
5 months ago
Reply to  Dan

When you open up the hood of a new vehicle and see how tight everything is. Thats enough to discourage interest in becoming a mechanic. Plus the elecronics, forget it. When we were youngsters you could easily change the spark plugs and oil. Now forget even trying it. I had a Honda pickup. If I wanted to give someone a jump start. I would have to remove some plastic parts. Then put them back together afterwards.

Jesse Crouse
5 months ago

In my business-Plumbing& Heating I take care of long term, courteous, and paying customers first. I have wittled down the obnoxious, demanding and non paying in a business like manner idiots.

Rock & Tina
5 months ago

I’m a big fan of cultivating a relationship with your go to RV repair facility but the turnover rate of service people and technicians in the RV repair industry makes this a real challenge.

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