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RV Manufacturer Warranty, Part 4: My honest, open letter to RV manufacturers

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Over the last few weeks, I have been on my soap box about RV manufacturer warranties and my independent repair facility. It has included the following topics:

This week I am sharing my plea with RV manufacturers. It’s what I truly believe they can do to make this process better.

Dear RV manufacturer,

You are selling your units to dealerships that you know are not equipped to service the number of units they are selling to consumers. For the moment, let’s look past the hassles mentioned in Parts 2 and 3 of this series. If we simply look at the ratio of units the RV dealership sells compared to the number of units their service center can care for, there is a flat-out capacity issue. Based on sheer volume alone, you need the “little guys,” like us.

Whether it’s helping out with:

  • The overflow of warranty work from nearby dealerships
  • Helping a consumer that’s just passing through needing an emergency repair, or
  • Helping a consumer who purchased a unit out of state …

You need us.

Let’s be friends

While you need us, don’t treat us like a “red-headed stepchild.” Independent repair facilities cannot operate like your dealership’s service centers. Our lots are not as vast and our pockets aren’t as deep. A very wise mentor/friend of mine often compares a friendship to a fence post. If one friend leans more boards against the post compared to the other friend, the post will fall. His analogy often comes to mind when I think about RV manufacturer warranty. For each reason mentioned in Parts 2 and 3 of this series, the manufacturer has piled boards against the post. It’s no wonder that the fence post has fallen.

A true friend won’t make you wait, pay you for half the job, or waste your time.

With the RV manufacturer and the selling dealership receiving all the benefits of the sale, those boards are even heavier to an independent repair facility. In order to make this relationship work with us “little guys,” I want to propose some boards we can lean on the opposite side of the post to even it out.

Point of contact

RV manufacturers love to lump independent repair facilities and dealership service centers into one category—and they treat us all the same. Requests for authorizations are often submitted through a complicated online portal. Once submitted, you now get to play a waiting game.

As an independent repair facility, we need a point of contact. Unlike a selling dealership, our lot size is limited. We don’t have the luxury of holding on to units while we wait for authorization for repairs. I need someone I can call or e-mail who can provide authorization in real-time or, at the very least, the same business day.

If there was a point of contact, it allows that manufacturer and repair facility to build rapport and trust. Should a repair require more time than the RV manufacturer allows, there is a space for both parties to work out the discrepancy. Instead of dealing with an online portal that spits out a time frame determined by drop-downs selected, the repair facility can reason with a person as to why it would take so much time for that repair.

Care package

Before Amazon Prime, DoorDash, and Instacart, when a friend was in a time of need you would drop off a care package.

Independent repair facilities that you do build a relationship with and prove to be a repair facility that you can count on should be outfitted with some common items required for warranty repairs, especially for the “low hanging fruit” repairs. These items should include:

  • Seam tape
  • Batten moldings and common trim
  • Cabinet hardware
  • Specialized putty, caulking or sealant

Having these items on hand would simplify the process and can often prevent a return appointment to our facility.

Good cop, bad cop time

As an independent repair facility, we did not build the unit and we didn’t sell it to the consumer; we are simply here to fix it. Yet, we often find ourselves having to play both good and bad cop. There is a line we have to tip-toe across. We want the consumer to feel that the manufacturer is taking care of them. But we also want to do our part to protect you, the RV manufacturer.

There are times when a consumer’s complaint ended up being a non-issue (such as the unit was designed to be that way or the consumer simply didn’t know how to use it). Or something broke that was the consumer’s fault (such as loading a drawer too heavy). I propose that RV manufacturers should pay a repair facility a certain allowance of time to play both good and bad cop. This time could be used to either educate the customer on how to use their unit or fix one item as goodwill.

Example: “This drawer was broken because you filled it too heavy. We are going to fix this as goodwill, but anything moving forward that is broken at your fault will not be covered by your manufacturer warranty.”

Educating a customer on their unit takes time. Fixing a small incidental takes time. Doing so can easily smooth over the customer but it allows us to level set expectations moving forward.

Allowing this time also prevents fraud. Because you don’t reimburse repair facilities for time spent on non-issues, I can guarantee you that invoices are being submitted for repairs that never really happened. Instead of reimbursing a facility for the 15 minutes they spent educating the customer on their jacks, you are reimbursing them for an hour “to locate and repair disconnected wires.”

Double appointments require double payments

As described in Part 3, there are times when customers need to pick up their unit and return at a later date because it will take so long to obtain the required parts. When this occurs, it doubles all of our time spent with the customer, which includes:

  • Appointments
  • Check-in procedures
  • Porter’s time parking the unit at drop-off and pick-up
  • Technician’s time gathering his tools along with opening and closing the unit.

As the saying goes, “Time is money.” Manufacturers need to reimburse facilities for doubling this time.

The parts bottleneck

I think I could write a 300-page book on issues with obtaining parts. To keep it as simple as possible, you know you can do better. I am willing to be realistic with large parts (such as furniture or awnings). But on smaller ticket items, there is no excuse. One of our readers (Kathy N.) shared how she bought a new unit in February 2020, and she waited 16 months for a small plastic piece for her screen door.

I propose you allow us to obtain parts that are not manufacturer-specific through one of the many parts distributors that can often deliver needed parts by the next business day. Anything that is manufacturer-specific should be overnighted or next-day air. You have sold a unit to a consumer who is accustomed to our Amazon Prime culture. Waiting several months for a part simply doesn’t compute.

I have often found that when we did manufacturer warranty repairs and had the customer return on a later date for installation, the customer returned with a new item that started the whole process over. I am convinced that if we were able to obtain parts quicker, there would be fewer warranty repairs that you are paying for.

Payment

You knew this topic would make its appearance. Expecting a repair facility to wait for payment on completed work for several months is insane. You don’t wait for payment on the sale of the unit before releasing it—why should we?

For the record, my wife, Ashley, shared in Part 2 of this series that we had a manufacturer warranty repair that was still unpaid from 13 months ago. Since that was published, we finally did receive payment. But it shouldn’t take 13 months to be paid, especially on an invoice as insignificant as $335.41.

My advice to the consumer

Are you currently shopping for a new unit? Or are you currently in the throes of getting some repairs done through a manufacturer warranty? I have some advice for you! Make sure you subscribe to RVtravel.com so you don’t miss this advice in next Saturday’s issue.

****

More from Dustin

Read more of Dustin’s articles here.

Dustin owns and operates California RV Specialists, an independent RV repair shop located in Lodi, CA. He thrives on sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm of RV repair and maintenance with his team, customers, and virtual friends.

Be sure to check out his YouTube channel where he shares what’s going on in the shop and the product offerings in the store. Dustin is also very active on Facebook. Join his group, RV Repairs and Tips – What’s in the shop!

Dustin proudly operates the business alongside his wife, Ashley; but the true pair that run the show are their Boston Terriers, Arvie and Hitch.

##RVT1072

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32 Comments
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Thom R
2 months ago

We’ve had our Accolade almost 2 years, it has never seen an RV service center. I can easily repair anything those folks can. None of our “warranty issues” amounted to big money. I think the biggest thing was the bathroom faucet started leaking into the vanity. Noticed it right away, found a new faucet on line, pretty easy fix, cost a little over $100. I’m happy, no downtime sitting at the stealer waiting for parts.

Heather
2 months ago

So, what’s it going to take to enforce nationwide RV lemon laws with teeth? Repair log jams would significantly decrease if the RV industry built solid, dependable units in the 1st place…

Neal Davis
2 months ago

Great info, Dustin! I already used it to broker a deal between our local service company (Northgate Parts, Hixson, Tennessee) and Newmar. We typically go to the manufacturer for all warranty work and have 3 weeks scheduled in early-January. However, we are taking our RV to our local service people on Tuesday to check out the leaking water pump. Thanks to your info, I told the service manager that I’d pay up front and then submit the paperwork to the manufacturer for reimbursement. The service manager does have to call the manufacturer with their diagnosis, but otherwise only deal with me. Thank you for allowing us to get the water pump fixed quickly and locally because of what I learned from you and your wife!

Steve Murray
2 months ago

Where do we start.
1. Overwhelmed RV Dealers should hire Independent Repair People as a 1099 Contractor and Pay you appropriately to cover your time, storage, warranty communications and allowing for a well deserved healthy Profit.
RV industry is a Large Unregulated scam preying on the unsuspecting public.
We’re all still waiting for Network Broadcasters to do an Expose’ and a Documentary about the goings on in this “So-Called business.

Steve Murray
2 months ago
Reply to  Dustin Simpson

Thanks for your great info…. We’re about ready to sell the Airstream. Lucky to have a Mobile Mechanic. RV Industry is changing and still putting out 500,000 ish Newly Built RV’s every year. On a Camping level it’s going to become much more difficult to find Spaces under $100.00 Nightly. (Most not worth it) Big Corporations are scooping up Campgrounds everywhere and demand a Hefty Return for Risk.. Oh well!

Drew
2 months ago

Hats off to Dustin. This was a well written letter and I hope it gains traction with RV manufacturers.

Thomas D
2 months ago

Time IS money like you said.my new rv had issues that weren’t discovered until the spring thaw. Broken water pipes,pump valves. Dealer had not winterized it. Rather than returning unit to dealer I asked if I could make repairs and bill him? He agreed and sent me parts. I billed him labor at his rate. Win win. I also saved driving 800 miles and didn’t use $145 worth of diesel. He paid me promptly, probably out of his profit and maybe billed back manufacturer.

Marshall Brown
2 months ago

All true, experienced it many times. What I’d like from the manufacturer is a blueprint and or schematic of our 2020 Columbus 383FBW. There are so many things I could fix myself when things go wrong. We have extended warranty from assurance that leaves me with way more than $100 deductible to pay. After getting a leak fixed from waste water tube, I figured out the reason it leaked at all was because when the put the under belly on it put so much pressure on the pipes one joint may not had enough abs glue and a joint started a drip. Also because of that same issue, the front black and grey tank will never be completely drained. Columbus doesn’t respond to requests for information on their units. I guess they are much too busy pushing out mass produced equipment out for the dealers to repair and customers to have to deal with.

Joe
2 months ago
Reply to  Marshall Brown

I agree, I wish I had a wiring diagram of the coach itself, I do realize that the frame/drivetrain manufacture has their own. I also realize that sometimes the prints can differ from the as built however having anything is better than nothing. I recently had an issue with power to my jacks, the coach builder pointed to the frame builder pointed their finger at each other, I guess it’s a gray area. I finally found the issue myself at the key switch and from new the coach builder recognized that the plug to the switch was loose and put a ton of electrical tape around it to hold it on. Simply bending the male contacts a slight bit to make a little resistance along with some electrical contact cleaner and some contact grease solved the issue and a few wire ties to keep everything tight for insurance.

Drew
2 months ago
Reply to  Marshall Brown

Marshall,

A little off topic but my Winnebago came with excellent printed documentation that was both complete and model-specific. Often due diligence is required before making large purchases like rv’s. Sorry about the frustration you’ve had.

wanderer
2 months ago

Excellent. I hope hard copies of this land in the inbox of every RV manufacturing executive. We are all wasting far too much time, money, and stress dealing with the current crazy system, and you have laid out great ways to change things.

Jim Johnson
2 months ago

Very good story! Our RV has access to a very good and ethical mobile repair service. Moving the RV to a manufacture’s authorized facility would often cost more than just paying for the service myself. My mobile RV repair will do warranty repairs. I only did this ONCE when the water pump failed under warranty. I was billed for the time the technician sat on hold to obtain authorization. Not like he could do any other billable work, so fair. Of course only the pump and installation labor was covered under warranty. In the end I saved $10 over the cost to have just paid the whole bill myself.

Ron
2 months ago

Big business does not give a crap about you or the consumer. These are the same companies which received the largest tax giveaway ever in 2016.

Lisa Adcox
2 months ago

Great info. The dealers and RV shops get blamed often when most the time it’s the Manufacturer who is at fault

TIM MCRAE
2 months ago

Lets include the ABSOLUTELY STUPID no work can commence without prior auth!

Much of the time wasted (for all reasons) return trips etc would be gone.

The customer agrees to full payment & the customer gets reimbursement from the manufacturer. Any dispute or shortfall in payment is between them and not the approved repair facility.

It is also much easier for the rig owner to sue over such a dispute and a class action will not be far behind if a ‘pattern’ of denying valid repair claims appearances (don’t tell the manufacturers that part😀).

Of course these ‘rules’ exist’ so manufacturers can avoid responsibility so don’t expect a fast change but if one or two move to a more reasonable model the rest will fall in line.

The same goes for after market or extended warranties.

J J
2 months ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Prior authorization is a requirement due to the need to protect against fraudulent complaints and repairs. It sets the ground rules for who can perform the work (only a validated business, not Cousin Joe in his backyard, if Cousin Joe is even a real person) and requires some kind of proof of the defect. With an authorized dealer, the dealer handles those aspects and the owner rarely even knows it’s happening. The OWNER is the one who signed the purchase documents and acknowledged they read and understood the warranty terms and conditions. The simplest way for independents to operate is on a reimbursement basis.

J J
2 months ago
Reply to  J J

Remember, the SELLING dealer made a boatload of profit on the initial sale and as part of their contract to sell that dealer agreed to the RV manufacturer’s warranty policies and reimbursement rates. Dealers complaining about low reimbursement rates are simply hoping their customer is not educated on how a dealership works and trying to have it both ways. The selling dealer is supposed to put a portion of the sales profit into their warranty reserves. This is why out-of-state dealers can sell for much less; they know they likely will not incur the future direct and indirect costs of a warranty so they do not need to build warranty reserves for distant customers. This also is why a non-selling dealer does not want to do warranty work. They did not make the profit on the initial sale so they truly are taking losses.

Tom
2 months ago

Everybody wants to sell it, nobody wants to repair it. Not only RVs.

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