By Greg Illes
When I was nine years old, I took apart my uncle’s vacuum cleaner. He didn’t like that much – so I put it back together. He was astonished that it still worked … better.
Later, I became an engineer, hobbyist, tinkerer and fix-it man. “Opa can fix anything,” say my grandkids. So please, take it with a grain of salt when I say that there is never any better time for RVers to get handy – or maybe just handy-er. Yes, I’m biased, but let me make my case…
It’s almost too obvious: Doing it yourself (DIY) incurs no hourly wage. A few band-aids and some Neosporin are typically my only expenses besides parts and the occasional new tool. (Well, okay, maybe a little more than occasional.) Hourly shop rates across the country range from $100–$150, so even if we DIY-types take twice as long to get a job done, we’re still making pretty good money.
Being able to fix your own rig, on the spot, is extraordinarily relaxing – especially by comparison to making a service appointment and arranging for where to stay while the service is taking place. In addition, you’ll typically spend far less time living with the problem (whatever it is) when you deal with it as soon as it’s noticed.
We have to face facts: Even with those high shop rates, there is still a lot of poor service to be had. A stranger in a strange land is throwing darts when picking an RV shop. Some are good, some aren’t. Is DIY work always great? Of course not. But the cost of a redo is low, and you can bet it’ll be right the next time.
With the astronomical rise in RVs in recent years, not only the campgrounds are booked full. Service shops sometimes are swamped, months in advance. It’s no secret that many shops are deluged simply with the work needed to make brand-new rigs work right. In short, you simply may not be able to find any help at any price.
Reduced angst. Satisfaction. Being a hero to your traveling partner(s). Learning new skills, maybe even helping others. Perhaps most importantly: When you are working on your rig, you are likely to see (and take care of) odd little quirks or glitches that an “employee” might skip over. A better, more reliable rig will result.
BUT … HOW?
Some folks are born with it, some have to learn it. There’s nobody out there that can’t figure out how to hold a screwdriver. A human teacher/mentor is invaluable, but forums, websites like this one, and YouTube can provide an immense amount of information.
If you’re new at “handy-ing”, take baby steps and don’t get yourself in trouble. Err on the side of caution, but don’t be afraid to make small mistakes. Buy tools you need, and understand how to use them; avoid the poor-quality “kits” and buy decent tools. When you’re first learning, size your jobs appropriately – replacing a fridge cooling unit is probably too grand a goal, but swapping out light fixtures for LED units might be well within your grasp.
“IT’S JUST NOT FOR ME”
There are those among us who just don’t want to embrace this part of life. I understand, and sympathize. For me, it’s plants and dirt and watering that send me running. NOT for me. So if getting handy just ain’t gonna be your thing, that’s still cool. You have probably learned by now (or will soon) where the reliable service shops are, or who are the folks in the campground who’ll trade chores with you.
KEEP IT RIGHT
Regardless of who fixes it or when, be sure to exercise the diligence to always keep your rig in good shape and proper operating condition. It’ll be safer that way, and you and your brood will be happy campers.
Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his excellent blog at www.divver-city.com/blog