By Greg Illes
Some folks are handy, and some others – maybe not so much. Personally, I’m the handy type. In fact I’m so handy that it sometimes can be more of a hindrance than a benefit. “Opa can fix anything,” is the mantra of my grandkids, so when it breaks, fix it I must (even if it’s not worth fixing).
I’ve lost count of the number of busted medieval swords, party balloons, and cheap plastic toys that I’ve patched up in one way or another. I’m familiar with adhesives, welding, electronics, metals, soldering, and plastics, and sometimes it takes all my skills to make a $2.95 gewgaw get operational again. But it keeps the kids smiling, and it keeps my aging OCD hands and brain busy.
On my RV, there are so many things that need fixing, or just routine maintenance, you’d think that I’d get tired of working on it. Well, yes, I do occasionally need a break. But in general, I just love working on the old (2003) beast.
I don’t think my RV is any more problem-prone than any other. It’s a reputedly reliable name-brand (Itasca), and has the typical assortment of constituent components: engine and chassis, body, appliances, plumbing, electrical. Basically, a broad spectrum of things ready to break.
Being handy means that I don’t have to depend on others to get me out of trouble when something goes wrong. But I’ve noticed that things do go wrong, on a fairly regular basis. (And no, it’s not because I’ve been inexpertly fiddling with them.) I carry a fair assortment of tools and parts with me (far more than the simple kit in the picture), and I’ve often put them to good use.
So here’s my quandary: Every time I fix some odd or end, I always wonder what a non-handy RV owner would do? Over the years, I’ve met quite a few people who hardly know which end of a screwdriver to hold onto. How do they cope?
Well, really, what are the choices? You either live with the fault, or you pay, and these days I mean PAY. The shop rates here in central California are over $120 per hour, and it can take many, many hours to remedy some RV problems.
Well, I’ve known for a long time that very few RV owners are “wealthy,” so how do they get their rig’s little foibles fixed up? I honestly don’t know for sure. I’m thinking that most people are simply forced to act handy, whether they can live up to the demand or not. After all, who would curtail a vacation, drive hundreds of miles to an RV service center, and wait days or weeks – just to get a leaky faucet fixed? I have to believe that most would tackle the job themselves.
Now UPGRADES – that’s an entirely different story. This is optional work. These don’t have to be done, and the rig runs fine without changing over to digital tank gauges, or quad shock absorbers, or having a high-power inverter installation to run the microwave. My fondest projects are upgrades, and I’ve done way more than my share over the last several years.
For the non-handy, upgrades are simply going to cost a lot of cash, and have to be carefully considered. Ah, but for us handy types, upgrades are a labor of pure joy, saving money and enhancing “the beast” for the betterment of all mankind. Okay, maybe that’s too enthusiastic <grin>. Let’s just leave it at “for the better.”
So what’s YOUR category? Do you DIY, or pay through the nose, or somewhere in-between?
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