RV service centers and stores are out of parts. Now what?

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By Nanci Dixon
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about RV dealers running out of RVs and service centers being jammed. There were a lot of comments. I was surprised at how many people were waiting for RV parts. Because of a shortage of those parts, either their RV was sitting in the service bay waiting for a part or they were waiting to get their RV into a service bay if the needed part came in.

One of those comments was left by Art B., who wrote, “I have been four months waiting for small parts for our Jayco, owned it for three months, three days. This is crazy!”

Ann noted, “Real world experience. Stopped at my RV dealer for a $3 part that I needed. The dealer stated that the COVID has crippled the supply of parts. Only three RVs available for sale. Many units on the lots waiting for parts. Had to settle for an alternative part.”

I decided to talk with several more dealers, service centers and store managers. 

RV stores are running out of RV accessories

One RV store manager said that every morning when he comes in, it looks like they have been robbed! Newbies are literally buying up everything and emptying out the shelves. So many people are buying RVs this summer that there is a veritable run on RV stuff too, including RV toilet paper!

Our sewer hose sprung a leak (not pleasant) and I called several places before I could find one. Once I did, it was shorter than I wanted and not the brand I was looking for. One woman at an RV dealer’s store told me that she only had two hoses left and “when they are gone, they are gone.” She just can’t get any more. I had searched on Amazon before calling around and found the one I wanted. The first delivery option was the middle of October. A leaky sewer hose is an immediate issue so I paid an exorbitant price and hoped it was long enough. 

RV service centers can’t get parts

One service manager said they just can’t get toilets, refrigerators, water hoses, water regulators or even water filters. He said that companies building RVs have first call on the parts going into the RVs. For service centers the product then trickles in after the manufacturers are supplied or don’t come in at all. While imports are a problem, most of the items he was waiting for were made in the U.S. Manufacturing plants that had shut down for several weeks are doing catch-up. One part manufacturer’s employees tested positive for COVID, and the lines were shut down until everyone was cleared.

Mark Gorrie from RVForce in Pensacola, Florida, explains, “Rumor is that the parts that are delayed are coming from China as most of the problem, and the rest of the problem is the manufacturers are still trying to catch up from their shutdown.” 

RV service bays are full and RV sales lots are empty

And the service bays? Full! One dealer said that their service bays are so busy because all the new RVs they sold need prep before delivery. He pointed to a calendar that showed every single day in July checked off with RVs that were sold and waiting to get into prep. That may take precedence over repairs. The sales manager then said that they just can’t get any more inventory this year.

The general manager at a different dealer said that 90% of all the sales are now new customers – customers that have not even been RVing before. Their usual clientele are return customers or experienced RVers. Their interior showroom was almost empty. A sales person said they were ordering units but delivery might be sometime in December. December in Minnesota…not good.

Lyn posted, “I checked with a local dealer that takes consignments, but he said the high-end units are not what’s selling right now. Folks are buying the units that are under or around $20,000, and they’re gone within hours of arriving on the lot.”

Diane has been disappointed with the number of RVs available, “We’ve been preparing to go full-time for a year-and-a-half. We’ve done our research, we knew what we were looking for. This time last year we would have had no problem finding what we wanted but inventory is so low in southern California there isn’t a rig of the make/model within 200 miles of where we live. We went to about seven different lots that are usually full with between 150 to 300 rigs and found that they each had, at most, 10 RVs on site. I can’t speak for other areas of the country, but southern California has been cleared out.” 

The couple next to us this week in a brand-new truck camper said that their parents had gone to RV lots early in the morning, looked over the fence at what there was and before they got back to tour them the units would be sold. Keith just ordered a new trailer, delivery date May 10th, but only if he ordered that day.

It is an RV buying frenzy! Makes me wonder where all those RVs will go when the pandemic ends and people decide to take planes and cruises, and book hotel rooms again.

##RVT964b

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Laura G.
16 days ago

Here in Georgia there is definitely a parts shortage. We’ve been waiting over a month for a simple part. They have a guy at the RV repair shop that’s been waiting 2 months for his AC parts. Apparently the lowest on the totem pole is independent RV repair shops.
As far as dealer inventory goes, we are short down here as well. Many of the RV lots are very low and their websites have a lot of “on order” for their RVs. 2 things about all this concern me, 1. RVs are thrown together before, will this make them worse because of the rush to get them done and 2 all these newbie RV drivers on the road…yikes!

Last edited 16 days ago by Laura G.
DENNIS J CHARPENTIER
17 days ago

My take on the RV buying frenzy; when this all dies down, 1.) Some will find that they love the RV lifestyle and will become part of our RV family, or 2.) They will be lured back into the resort island vacation-cruise-all inclusive- pamper me mode and sell that RV. That is good news for many of us who will be ready to snap up that two-year-old RV at a bargain price.

Roy
19 days ago

I learned to get part number and do an internet search. Many parts are available at Amazon, E trailer, and various other places that are cheaper as well. For warranty work, dealerships are dependent upon the manufacturer to ship parts. I once got a part and took it to my dealership to have it installed after they said it was back ordered. I got it directly from the OEM.

Steve
18 days ago
Reply to  Roy

Totally agree – Just converted to disc brakes and never had any problems getting components or parts. And of course items in the stores are in short supply, when all of the dealers are pushing the low cost cheap units on every family who think RV’ing is the way to travel and then the dealer sells them a ton of stuff they probably don’t need but it clears the shelves.

Kathy Cloninger
19 days ago

After the pandemic is over, I think there will be a huge influx of RV sales from folks that decided this is a great alternative during this time. Sure, there will be a certain percentage of folks that will fall in love with the lifestyle and remain RV’rs. In my camping experience, I truly feel camping is experienced as a child consistently through to adulthood and passed on to the next generation. It can be a lot of work packing up the RV. Even if you are only loading food & clothing. I have camped since I was born. Our entire family camped together on the Columbia River since the early 50’s. “Camping to Glamping” is a natural transition for most folks. We are planning on upgrading in a few years to a motorhome. I’m thinking it may be perfect timing!! We currently have a travel trailer & truck.

Dick and Alana O'Kelly
20 days ago

We have been waiting 9 weeks for a Dometic AC.

Jim
20 days ago

RV toilet paper – Use Sam’s Club house brand Member’s Mark – throw some in a toilet e/w water wait about 15 to 30 minutes then stir with a toilet brush or anything handy. You will see it totally falls apart into mush. Packed 45 rolls (235 sheets/roll) for $20. I been using it for a number of years, never a clogging problem in the black water tank.

Paul
20 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Costco’s Kirkland brand also works fine. Been using it since I started full time over a year ago.

Kathy Cloninger
19 days ago
Reply to  Paul

We use Kirkland since purchasing our trailer 2003. We always put some water in the tank, then flush extra water with every use. No problems so far…

Mary Lou Baldwin
20 days ago
Reply to  Jim

White Swan toilet tissue – 1ply – also works well. Never an issue.

George
19 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Single-ply Scott….in RV and house. 👍👍

I agree, the key is lots of water….

Thomas
20 days ago

Really,3locked up compressors? .You sure the tech knows what he’s talking about. A simple thing like a starting condenser mimics a locked compressor. Id get a second opinion.

Thom
20 days ago

Sometimes I’m really glad I chose to be a mechanic. No waiting for service and no leaving it in some lot far away.
I fired our dealer as soon as we picked up the motor home when new. Their ace technician, dressed in farmer overalls(looks really professional), told us at the walk-through, “They can slap one of these together in 8 hours!”
The only warranty item I took it in for was the fuel pump on the generator was faulty. Told them it was the pump, they didn’t believe me at first.
Done everything else myself, and I dare say better than those buffoons could do.
We’ve had the coach for 6 years now, just retired a week ago and prepping for The Big Trip this fall/winter!

Mike McCormick
20 days ago

We have a 2016 Phaeton 44OH and have three AirExcel/Coleman Mach8 AC/heatpump units that need replacement due to locked up compressors. We have been waiting well over a month and am told the dealer can possibly get the units in October. Until then our coach is not useable and has been sitting empty. October in the North East is time to winterize the rig and honker down for the winter so we may not see repairs to 2021. We have been very disappointed almost to the point of selling the Phaeton. I hope manufactures can catch up soon.

Dennis
20 days ago
Reply to  Mike McCormick

Wow, 3 “locked up compressors” on a 2016 model? If this were my rig, I would be looking for another opinion and if they are in fact locked up like you say, before you replace them, find the root cause of the failure. This is not normal. I had two Penguin AC units on my old 2003 DSDP that never skipped a beat.
Is your rig equipped with a good surge protector? Low voltage will certainly cause problems with AC compressors and other RV components.

Mike McCormick
20 days ago
Reply to  Dennis

We do have good surge protection including low voltage protection. One of the units failed several months back, we really did not need all three on at the same time so we let it slide. The second one, mid ship, failed which triggered the service call for two units. Our permanent spot faces the west and even with a good thermal windshield barrier we need a good amount of AC to combat the effects of the afternoon sun. With the third, bedroom unit, taking on the full load it did not last long. Our dealer said they replaced over 100 of them over the past year. We have an extended service warranty and the insurance company came out, they did some tests and then authorized the repairs.

I am giving some serious thought to getting a park unit as we don’t travel now like we thought we would. I think a park model without the huge windshield would be a better fit for our current and future needs. The only thing holding me back is the depreciation and we are still a good bit upside down

John Mitchell
20 days ago
Reply to  Mike McCormick

Check the starting capacitors. Both of mine failed within 3 months. Capacitor kit from Camping World was $22.00. Easy to install. Try one as it is extremely unusual for the hardware to fail.

Dpsdebi7
19 days ago
Reply to  John Mitchell

Our starting capacitor went out on our Coleman AC which mimicked the locked compressor failure. My husband ordered one from Amazon for under 10.00 and took just a few minutes to fix.

Jack D
20 days ago

It’s a seller’s market right now but the market will be flooded if the world ever returns to normal. So many of the newbies will go back to flying and will flood the market with the RV’s they bought during the pandemic. It’s my understanding that the manufacturers can’t get furniture to complete new units so dealers supplies are very small but that will change in time.

Abe Loughin
20 days ago

I was an RV tech for 14 and a half years. The dealership I worked at is an ESOP business (employee stock owner program). Meaning that as you work you not only earn your wages but also stock allocations. My wife retired early from her job of 36 years so I did too and we went full time rving. That was 4 years ago. Since I wasn’t of “retirement age” I had to wait for 5 years to begin receiving my payout. This boom in the RV market couldn’t have come at a better time for me as my payout beginning next year will be based on the companies performance/value for this year.

Dale
20 days ago

There are thousands of good used rv’s for sale on RV trader and other sites that already have the bugs worked out. With all the production issues and companies pushing units out as quickly as they can trying to re fill the supply chain I can’t even imagine how poor construction will be, might explain why service bays are full.

Toni Calzone
20 days ago
Reply to  Dale

yes there are good values on rvt and rvtrader. yes there are lot over priced now. i help seniors as a “hobby” on a referral basis find new homes for their coaches when they need to hang up the keys. in the process i go thru the coaches and get them serviced and make sure things are in operation. i even will help with taking to state inspections. however everyone wants a bargain and most not interested in quality or hiring an inspector. with the market you even have the normal folks low balling. Some I trace them out they are a dealer trying to get something so they can sell high price. many seniors are selling upside down. like to try keep what they owe as low as possible and give buyer a fair buy price. buyers are researched to help make sure they will take care of the coach. fortunately i have a small collection of parts and take the time to find the third party vendor that made the part. i only help seniors with 2 coaches per year. in three years I will hang up the rv world

Edstep
20 days ago

Sorry, but I have not seen the shortages. The only thing I have needed that has been in short supply is water filters but I had no problem getting them on the net. Just came back from a trip into Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas and did not see the empty RV dealer lots. Looked like most of them had an ample supply of units to me.

Gregory Giese
20 days ago
Reply to  Edstep

Have to agree. 90/94 from twin cities to Chicago. Zero empty lots. Stopped and got an replacement black tank valve with solid wire vs stranded. Guy asked me what length. Where were the empty shelves shown in the above article taken? No price tags on shelves either.

Cheryl Bacon
20 days ago
Reply to  Edstep

I think the same thing, everytime they bring that up here. I can believe it is the cheap units being scarce, but that is about it. I can also believe maybe certain areas of the country. We were on a road trip the last time they got on this subject and we passed about 10 dealerships, not only did they have a huge inventory, hardly anyone was even looking, much less buying. As far as the shops being full, waiting on parts, and the stores being less than helpful for supplies, none of that is because of Covid, it has been going on a long time.

Kurl
20 days ago

In Asheville this weekend. New Grand Design on my right and a new Airstream in my left. All new accessories too! Talked to one of them. Not new to camping, just stopped when kids grew up. Covid pushes them back in after 10 yrs.

Jennifer Fuller
20 days ago

We’ve been doing our own repairs & have had no issue getting parts via Amazon. You Tube is your best friend for “how to” videos.
For TP, any regular single ply works, and it’s less expensive than “rv toilet paper.”

Tommy Molnar
20 days ago

I wonder why repair facilities don’t go to Amazon for parts . . .

Abe Loughin
20 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Repair facilities generally get much better pricing from the big parts distributors. So in order to maintain a reasonable profit and a competitive price for the end user Amazon really isn’t a viable option for them. Plus they couldn’t buy in the quantity they need.

C.Lee
20 days ago

As far as parts are concerned, I gave up on the dealership we purchased our new RV from long before the Jinping Plague (We live in a “smallish” town and have two independent RV dealers and Walmart for RV stuff), Every time I needed something, I couldn’t get any answers on the phone because the person who answered acted like they had no idea what I was talking about, they’d say I just needed to come into their store and look “and I’m sure well have something.” I’d go, and they wouldn’t have anything. Then they’d say they can order it. Well…I have a computer…I can order it. So I started skipping the middleman and have purchased directly from Ebay or Amazon since. If a small to medum part looked problematic, I order two and keep one stored in the rig. Thankfully, we’ve had relatively few problems with our 2019 Passport. It must have been put together during a good week!

Sarah Miller
20 days ago

Been trying to get a replacement a/c for the bedroom of our fifth wheel since June…still not available…..and the one I did find was damaged during shipping. Ugh!

Bill Hall
20 days ago
Reply to  Sarah Miller

Sarah, if you live anywhere near Washington, DC, you could pick up an air conditioner at Frederick Performance Center in Frederick, MD. The husband and wife owners are good friends of mine, and the Scott is an ASE Certified Master Mechanic (full disclosure, Scott has been maintaining all of my vehicles and RV for years). They also sell scratched and dented RV appliances for about 1/2 the price of new. Scott checks every appliance to ensure that it is working properly, and he repairs the damage if it hinders the proper operation of the unit. I bought a Coleman Heat Pump and Scott installed it in the front cabin and the moved the old A/C to the rear cabin where I didn’t have one. Their website is: https://www.dentedtoolbox.com/. Unfortunately, I do not believe that they ship.

Mel
20 days ago
Reply to  Sarah Miller

I Just got a brand new Air conditioner off of Amazon. It came from Texas and I got it in 3 days. I needed the whole thing not just the top unit. The parts came from 3 separate companies. I ordered brake shoes and magnets for my travel trailer. I got trhe parts in 7 days.

Stan A.
20 days ago

Maybe if designed better, these poorly constructed mobile shacks wouldn’t need so many replacement parts. Component choice IS part of design/engineering process. As more people actually use their rigs more frequently and for longer duration, these industry wide issues will become more exposed and consumers will get the performance expected for the prices they’re paying.

Bob
20 days ago
Reply to  Stan A.

Nice thought Stan, but the industry wide issues will remain. Anyone who attempts to bring to light the lack of quality in these units effectively gets shut down by the industry, it’s been happening for years. When the Industry finally shut down a huge voice trying to bring to light the quality issues they booked Disney World in Florida and celebrated. Sad but true!

Mindy Danberry
20 days ago

The RV parts shortage started long before COVID-19. I can relate to Art B. In 2018 we had owned our fifth-wheel for 3 months, Camping World had our unit for 6 months. Part of it was just their inept service department practices, the other was the ability to get parts. We had a friend leave their unit for service for a few really minor issues and when CW had them pick up their unit, NOTHING had been done, but told them it was ready. I think they were just trying to satisfy customers, hoping the little things would go unnoticed. No more are the small parts stores locally or even regionally. If you are not lucky enough to know a plumber, electrician or an HVAC friend, you HAVE to learn these things to troubleshoot and fix yourself. Some folks find that non-RV parts can work, but not always. Use your camping club forums, FB forums and friends before dropping off your unit anywhere for service. It could save you money and time!

Linda C
20 days ago
Reply to  Mindy Danberry

Camping World is the worst. Four months and nothing done when picked up, let alone damage they did to our RV. Several friends had the same issue. Forums are the best, and go online to find your own parts.

Last edited 20 days ago by Linda C
Donald N Wright
20 days ago

The blessings of having a popup trailer, the technicians can work you in, or, just go out into the parking lot and work on your trailer. I shudder what will happen when I buy an Airstream.