Manufacturers can make getting RV parts difficult

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By Steve Savage, Mobility RV Service
One of the things that you as an RV owner may not realize is some manufacturers sell parts only to their own dealers. For example, if you need a part for a Keystone product, you’ll find their parts are only obtainable through a Keystone dealer. In principle, I understand why they want to favor their dealers and why the dealers want to lock out competitors. Automobile manufacturers do the same thing.

Here’s where it gets tricky. If I were working on your Ford, all I need to do is go to the local Ford dealership – and there are at least four within an hour’s drive. With RVs that’s not the case. For many RV brands, the nearest dealer might be 100 miles away. That means I have to get the part shipped to the dealer, then the dealer has to ship it to me. That’s a lot of downtime for the RV owner. I’ve had more than one owner say if they’d known this was the case, they would never have purchased their given brand of RV.

Realizing many dealers have a tremendous investment in their bricks-and-mortar locations, I would not propose any manufacturer treat me like a dealer. Some of them have hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars’ worth of inventory on their lots, and I respect that. But I wonder if a more moderate solution would work that might offer owners faster turnaround time.

Perhaps the manufacturer could maintain a listing of approved technicians and sell me, for instance, parts for the retail price the customer might pay at a dealership. The manufacturer would keep the wholesale cost and credit the dealership nearest to me with the profit margin. That way, the manufacturer and dealership would turn a profit, and I can make my profit on the labor.

I realize dealerships are bending over backwards to try to lock in customers with lifetime warranties and to lock out competitors, but it just isn’t going to work. When someone buys an RV, in my estimation they do not want a good warranty – they want a good product and the ability to obtain prompt service, no matter where they are.

No matter how hard they try, RV dealerships will never be like automobile dealerships simply because RVs are not like automobiles. No one needs an RV. They are usually a “toy” that most folks buy for fun. Making it hard for people to get service wherever/whenever is going to do nothing more than make folks angry – or angrier – at dealerships than they already are.

##RVT834 ##RVDT1424

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Donald N Wright
8 days ago

Aliner owners are fortunate as the manufacturer usually sells parts to the owner of the RV.Many Aliner dealerships have no inventory, and some dealerships no longer sell or service the Aliners they sold. Screw the warranty, There is a higher profit in selling and servicing the large RV’s.

BadWolfe
8 days ago

I had exactly this problem for our Dometic Refrigerator. I had to get the actual part number from a Parts department employee at a service center, then finally found one on eBay. Took a chance with $80 and made the purchase. I feel lucky that the part was correct. Now the Fridge is working. Not happy that Dometic hides the parts, part numbers and forces us to go to a service center. (note: we are way out of warranty, so this is just keeping a 6 year old Fridge running). Maybe I am looking at this incorrectly?

Jim
9 days ago

Northwood is the same way after your 1 year warranty is up.
Once Dave Mann retired from their service department all you get is talk to your dealer. They won’t even take the time to look up a part for you.

Ken Hunt
9 days ago

This is one of the exact reasons I went with Tiffin, I have ordered many parts directly from them, shipped to where ever I need it, at the same price they sell to dealers. Cheaper than I have been able to find it anywhere on the internet.

Livan_Life
8 days ago
Reply to  Ken Hunt

We have had the same experience with their Vanleigh division. No issues ordering parts and having them shipped to us. Or we can go to the service center rather than the dealer.

Walker
9 days ago

Good article, Steve. This is the kind of insight that needs to be published far and wide so that folks who own or are considering owning an RV have an insider’s perspective. Sometimes you learn from experience; sometimes you learn from someone else’s experience. Bought my first motorhome used and virtually without a warranty and as a result, was forced to deal with repairs outside any dealer’s influence. The independent shops I was obliged to find all allowed me to pre-order the parts from them or on my own, and then schedule the repair later so that I didn’t experience the coach being tied up for months at some overworked dealer. So when I bought my next motorhome (new), I already had a network of trusted rv repair and service shops, as well as after-market parts suppliers.

Last edited 9 days ago by Walker
Roger
9 days ago

One of the things I was surprised and pleased about when I bought my new Winnebago Class B in 2016 was the company’s willingness to provide great advice over the phone, send me relevant diagrams, provide warranty replacement parts and even sell me other parts direct. I’d just contact Customer Service in Forest City and we’d have a very pleasant conversation. Sadly, that has all changed over the past year. They’re now solidly in the “Call your dealer” camp like most of the others I read about here.

Randy B
9 days ago

Yep, and if your a D.I.Y. same problem. I asked the dealer to order the part and drop ship to my house. That was not possible they told me. I said, you have my money and I pay for shipping to your brick and morter for the part, just ship to my house. NO can do. You have to pick up part in our part store. At least my dealear is 45 miles away, but still that is two hours to get a part that could be drop shipped. I understand, but it is frustrating.

Tom
9 days ago

We purchased a well-loved used Phoenix Cruiser. With the common Ford E-450 chassis, automotive parts are easy. I have only broken one part on the RV portion of the Phoenix. The part was discontinued by original builder (not Phoenix). Carol, at Phoenix Parts Dept. had the part in my hands in two days. Thanks, Carol.

Fred
9 days ago

I don’t think your suggestion of Mfgs selling parts to authorized technicians & crediting the profit to dealers would work. Most service techs or service companies depend on profit from both the sale of the part ordered & the installation labor to turn an overall business profit. Your idea would drive up the already high labor rate of independent service techs. Also, why should a dealer get credit for a part they had no involvement in ordering or receiving?

Rev. Barry Abraham Zavah
2 years ago

Good luck getting in touch with Parts at Forest River if the fellow is either away on vacation or on the phone with someone else. I’m still waiting for them to call me back about whatever the issue was. I probably was very luck to get them concerning replacement paddle locks for the outside bins and side door. Before that, I’ve had problems with them “NOT” having a wiring diagram for my 2001 Forest River Sunseeker or getting information about other items that wear-out, break, etc. For example, I’m told “oh, we don’t deal with them any more”. Ok … now what about the rest of us? Anyhow … just be sure to schedule your emergency needs before you need the part(s) or breakdown in a populated area or with phone service and available postal delivery.

Drew
2 years ago

Most parts you’ll need are likely going to be associated with an appliance or other item installed in the rv. Many of these are readily available at Amazon or another place that deals in rv specific things. If it’s a part specific to your brand of rig just contact the rv manufacturer. They may have a policy of supplying to dealers only- so just contact them and order what you need. Lastly, there’s an important reason why you should buy your rig from a company with a great reputation of customer service- they will nearly always support you as an owner and try to deliver what you need. They will have a record of your exact rig and everything that went into it…providing it’s less than 20 years old, and even then if it’s older there are still ways to get what you might need. If you buy a used rv keep the manufacturer in mind when you make your decision to buy. If it’s a very early model there are plenty of salvage places across the country that specialize in older rigs. Some of their web sites have been posted in RV Travel.com in the past. Almost any part can be obtained through a little diligence and patience.

DW/ND
9 days ago
Reply to  Drew

Drew et al – don’t overlook EBay and similar on-line sources for older vehicle and coach parts. Many new parts as well as used can be found by make and model.

Winnebago has been outstanding in providing assistance to me for my 1994 Vectra. I have the wiring diagrams and plumbing system as well as the coach construction and component in-wall locations. I note there are comments above indicating this policy has changed – I hope not! I have not contacted them by phone – but thru email and they have been very prompt in replying. “Winnebago Parts” is a retail outlet and once in awhile they put items on EBay as well.

Tommy Molnar
2 years ago

We drove from Carson City, NV to Salt Lake City to buy our 2012 travel trailer. The dealer was a small sorta mom and pop business. They had a parts department that really impressed us. All of the good stuff that RV’ers really need, and none of the worthless stuff that usually lines the shelves of most dealers. They bent over backwards to turn the trailer into what we REALLY wanted (like swapping out a couch for two swivel rockers) before we picked it up. As far as buying a trailer went, it was almost a perfect experience.

A couple years later – they were gone . . . Sigh.

Ceci
2 years ago

I’m looking to purchase my first TT and signed up to receive these newsletters to learn from others experience. What I have learned is that purchasing one is at my own risk. I’m not only looking at the RVs but at the customer service from manufacturers now too. As a DIYer, it seems there would be roadblocks in that area also. This is discouraging. No lemon laws, no readily available parts for repairs, terrible warranties, new RV’s with multiple problems being sold from dealers and manufacturers who don’t back their products. Is this the majority?

Paul
2 years ago

Last year I had to get a control board for my Fantastic Fan. Everyone told me that Fantastic Fan had a lifetime warranty on their fans. I called the number for them and was told that they only had a 2 year warranty now since Dometic bought them. Also, I couldn’t order the part myself and had to go thru an authorized dealer. They told me they had a lot of the boards on hand.
I called a dealer that was close to me in Texas and they had to come out to check to make sure it was the board that was bad, even tho I already knew what it was.
After checking the board the service person went back to order the fan.
They called the dealer specific phone number and were told that they did not have any of the boards I needed.
I checked back with customer service and was told again they had about 100 of the boards in stock.
The dealer had to spend about an hour and a half trying to get the board ordered talking to about 20 different people.
They finally got the board ordered and installed about 2 weeks after my call.

Rod
2 years ago

Two years ago I was in Borrego Springs, travelling from Canada, when my sani flush valve stuck. I phoned Outdoors RV in La Grande, Oregon and asked how to fix it. The manager said they could send me a replacement part. When I asked for a price, he said it would be on them. A few days later it arrived by Fedex at my park. Wow!

Gregory Mercado
2 years ago

How interesting to read this article concerning getting parts, for I just ran into this last week. Having a need to replace two of my gray water tank pull cables, I contacted Primetime, manufacturer of my Sanibel for just information on the make, length, and manufacturer of the pull cables on my 5th wheel. They replied stating that I must go to the dealer for that information, for they cannot sell parts to me directly. I replied that I only needed the info in which they replied I need to get it from a dealer. This was a change from Primetime since I was able to buy parts that cost less than $50 from them and obtain information on other parts such as tanks, in the past. I am over going to the dealership, which is over 100 miles away from my home. The only time I brought it to them for repair was right after I bought it and it took them over 3 months to get the repairs almost completed. I ended up taking back the unit and finishing the repairs myself. The only time I order a part from the dealer was for a shade replacement that got stained from a internal roof leak. The shipping charge was more than the cost of the shade. Ripoff! Primetime had excellent customer service until they went under Forest River’s umbrella. Now there customer service went from 2nd to none to none, IMHO. In the future, I will stay clear of 1. Forest River Products, and 2. Any Manufacturer that has customer service practices like that of Forest River.

Roy Ellithorpe
2 years ago

I’m trying to think of a part that is specific to a certain RV. Possibly a front grill or side window, but even those I would be surprised if they were brand specific.

Booneyrat
2 years ago

“When someone buys an RV, in my estimation they do not want a good warranty – they want a good product and the ability to obtain prompt service, no matter where they are.” Therein lies the problem..quality control is sacrificed for a fast buck..and all manufacturers are guilty of this. Until the greed stops,unlikely,in America there will be little quality control for RV’s…and many of us are thinking about giving up RV’s because of this very problem.

Robert See
2 years ago
Reply to  Booneyrat

They need foreign competitors. It took Mazda, Nissan and the like to straighten out the American Car makers. Maybe that would straighten them out. Their one year warranty is a joke. The RV owned by a working family is probably only used two to three weeks in the year. For the cost of RV’s they should have at least a three warranty on them, but the manufactures know they are building crap, so that won’t until they get competition..

Bill
2 years ago

Perhaps if dealerships kept less of the flashy “bling” in their parts departments and more of the parts that seem to always be needed, ie, refrigerators, water tanks and other stuff that break most often, this wouldn’t be such an issue. I see shelves of the same camping sundries that I see at hardware stores, lining their parts department floors. I should be able to see RV specific plumbing, electrical supplies and appliances. Parts we actually need.