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RV Manufacturer Warranty, Part 5: My advice to the consumer

This is my final piece in a 5-part series around RV manufacturer warranties. This was specifically written for those who may be shopping for a new unit or are currently in the throes of getting repairs completed under their manufacturer warranty. Of course, those who have been on the soapbox with me because of prior experience—you are welcome, too!

Be realistic

I need you to realize that you are buying (or bought) something that was put together by literally hundreds of hands, and they did so quickly. You’ve heard the saying, “They don’t build things like they used to.” This is certainly true with RVs. I believe manufacturers have caught on that the average consumer will only keep their RV for 3-5 years before they upgrade, downgrade or just get out of the RV lifestyle altogether. RVs simply aren’t being built to take a beating for the next 20 years.

RVs are built to be lightweight. Have you seen a video of the inside of an RV while in transit? Your RV goes through an earthquake every time you drive it down the road. It doesn’t have a kitchen cabinet that you will want to stack cans of food, 10 cans deep, 3 cans across and 6 cans high. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it! And the customer complained about the poor construction.

At the end of the day, I need you to understand that owning an RV requires you to be somewhat handy and resourceful. It doesn’t matter if that unit left the plant in pristine condition. That unit shakes, rattles and rolls with each use. I often tell my customers, “If you cough too hard, something will break.” Having some basic tools on hand along with some knowledge of how your RV appliances work can often save a trip from being canceled when something goes bump in the night.

Get what you pay for

There are two things that you pay for in the transaction of your RV purchase, besides the RV. That is a Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) and a walk-through. I don’t leave McDonald’s without checking my bag to make sure all of my items are present—so don’t leave the RV dealership lot without making sure you received what you paid for.

Ask for a copy of the unit’s PDI. If you don’t see anything listed, they either didn’t do a thorough PDI, or they simply didn’t do it at all! With so many hands touching the unit in production, and the road vibration it endured from being transported from the plant to the dealership lot, there is bound to be a handful of items that need to be touched up or fixed. If you noticed something wrong with the unit that is not listed on the PDI or you find items on the PDI that weren’t fixed upon pickup, get those items listed in writing from the dealership.

Outside of the PDI, I would also request a full record of the unit, from the time it arrived on the dealer’s lot. Think of it like your RV’s medical records. It’s possible the unit was damaged while on the lot and repairs were done outside of the PDI. Knowing if they completed some minor fiberglass repair or a tank leak was fixed would be good information to have.

Don’t rush through a walk-through

For most people, the purchase of an RV is often the second largest purchase of their life, outside of their home. Don’t let the dealership rush you through a walk-through, especially if you never owned an RV before! Come to the appointment prepared with a list of questions you may have.

I also recommend recording this walk-through on your smartphone or tablet. Don’t let them just tell you how to operate the appliances—have them demonstrate it. This will also serve dual purpose as it verifies that the appliances work before you leave the lot. Don’t let the excitement of rushing home with your new unit shorten this process. Lastly, if the person performing your walk-through can’t demonstrate the use of the RV and/or can’t answer your questions, it’s okay to ask for someone else.

Don’t leave the lot without visiting the service center

If I were buying a new unit today, I would go meet the service and parts managers, warranty administrator, and service advisor. I would also make several preemptive appointments. These appointments would be strategically scheduled before I had my unit for:

  • 30 days
    • Make sure you do a good “shakedown” run at a local campground or at the very least, your driveway.
  • 90 days
  • 120 days
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months

Trust me, I know this sounds excessive. But did you know there are items on your unit that are NOT covered the full 12 months? Make yourself a large cup of coffee and get to know your owner’s manual. Know what to thoroughly check before each of your scheduled appointments to ensure coverage.

Example: Most manufacturers will NOT cover minor adjustments to doors, drawers, latches, regulators, controls and mechanisms after 90 days of ownership.

Knowing what items to check before you are outside of their coverage period will give you the best bang for your buck! If you don’t end up needing the appointment, it is much easier to cancel it, rather than waiting for something to break and then calling to make an appointment. Repair facilities are fully booked—you will need to be prepared to wait!

It’s your responsibility to find items

When we would offer RV manufacturers’ warranties in the past, customers would often drop off the unit, list their concerns and then say, “Check out my unit and look for other items for the manufacturer to cover.” You need to know that your repair facility is NOT paid to look for items that need attention. They are only paid to fix items already discovered. Knowing your unit and inspecting it is your responsibility. No repair facility will pull a technician off a paying job to go look for something that may or may not be covered.

Know your rights!

Should you find yourself in a predicament where your unit requires repairs that prevents you from using the unit in the meantime, you do have some rights—especially if obtaining authorization or required parts drags the process along.

  • The consumer can lean on the manufacturer to put some pressure on the dealership to provide repairs within a reasonable amount of time.
  • The consumer can also request “days down” with the manufacturer. If approved, “days down” lengthens the manufacturer’s warranty period. Please note: “Days down” does not include reimbursement for storage or finance payments on the unit. It is solely an extension of the manufacturer’s warranty period.

Exception: If the manufacturer did everything timely to get your repair authorized and the required parts supplied, but it was your service department that dragged their feet on providing repairs, the manufacturer is not responsible for lengthening your warranty period for the full amount of downtime. So, stay on top of your service department! As they say, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

Examples of repairs that prevent you from using your unit:

  • Sewer
  • Water
  • Power
  • Propane
  • Slideout
  • Unable to transport it

Did you miss any of the other four parts of this series?

I hope this 5-part series was helpful and insightful to you. It certainly isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight, but I believe there are things that can change at all three levels (manufacturer, dealer and consumer) to make it a better process. If you missed any of the prior articles in this series, they are listed below:

****

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.

##RVT1073

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Cat
3 months ago

All good advice, including the service appointments. I would add one more item…get an independent inspection from a certified inspector regardless of new or used RV. We also bought a class c from a very reputable manufacturer but chose to get the very thorough inspection just to make sure all was well and give us peace of mind while driving down the road. We were new to RVing and had never had a motor home so we got a very thorough walk through with our inspector…much better than what we got with our dealer. Got alot of pushback from the dealer but we made it very clear that we would not take delivery until everything was fixed that needed fixing. Fortunately, the inspector found very little to fix and we left knowing way more about our RV than we would have if we had only listened to our dealer!

Spike
3 months ago

Dustin, good series of articles.

The only thing I would take issue with is booking a bunch of repair appointments before they know if there will be issues or how serious they might be. In today’s climate, as you well know, people with real and immediate issues can’t get appointments and suggesting those that don’t have issues book slots only deprives those who need them.

Let me ask you…as an owner of an RV repair facility, do you want your staff booking and unbooking a bunch of unneeded repair appointments??? Isn’t that a waste of your time and money as a repair shop owner?

Just like people who book multiple campsites or dates “just in case,” people booking repair time they don’t know they will need only exacerbates an already enormous issue in the industry.

Dan
3 months ago

During your walkthrough make a list of all things wrong and this is what I did. Told the salesman, Ok when these items are fixed I’ll come back. Since all they had at this point was a down deposit it wasn’t long before I got a call to come and pick it up. Oh, BTW after checking if they did everything correctly of my repair list I found some additional things needing fixing, And yes, I left it there a second time.
Something worth considering.

captain gort
3 months ago

I’ve owned three trailers (2 Rockwoods and 1 Winnebago) during the past 10 years.I have towed them all over the USA on 40 trips and many many tens of thousand of miles. While they have held together reasonably well, there ALWAYS is a list of fix-its by the end of each trip. Thankfully, all small stuff like loose screws, etc. You need to be handy, for SURE.
Forget bothering the dealer with this sort of stuff,

Thomas D
3 months ago

I came up in an era that people fixed what was wrong.Factory warranty? Forget it. I’ve replaced rubber roof. New complete disc brakes. New springx, shackles reroute propane line, remove and repair furnace, replace refrigerator.you name it ive probably done it. So many simple things can be done by watching u tube. My income came from the “I can’t do that” crowd. So i guess I shouldn’t complain. I read about waiting months for repairs. I’ll bet if you went on Facebook and asked for someone to do? You will be overwhelmed with people wiling to do it. Right now

SDW
3 months ago

Great article Dustin, I’ve been RVing for 15 yrs and even though our rig was extremely well built, the roads today still does damages to it. The more population we have the more products we need delivered, so the more 18 wheelers on the roads doing damage to them. And with the uptick in RV sales they’re just being thrown together now. You definitely need to know how to do a lot of your own repairs.
After a few years bouncing around the roads, the big drawer holding pots & pans in the kitchen started to come apart. It was held together with brad nails so I took it apart and used Tight-bond wood glue and screws to fix it. Then I did all the other drawers the same way. Our trim pieces around our slide outs were getting loose also so I drilled and counter sunk screws in all of them. We haven’t had any problems with since.

Neal Davis
3 months ago

Thank you, Dustin! Your series with your wife was sooooo very informative, educational; thank you! We use a shop similar to yours — a small retail store between the front door and the service counter with NO RV sales attached. Your wife’s explanation of why your shop does not do warranty work was so helpful because neither does mine (they do do extended warranty work). I used your wife’s information to know that I should approach my manufacturer (Newmar) before contacting the shop. Newmar understood why I wanted to use my shop and agreed my problem (failing water pump) needed attention well ahead of my scheduled factory service appointment in January. Once Newmar agreed to reimburse me for at least part of my out-of-pocket cost at the shop, we were set. Working with our shop has always been pleasant and your info ensured that continued; thank you!

Drew
3 months ago

Dustin, As much as I have to agree- I think that in general, the rv dealership is a bad place and we’ve always stayed away as much as possible. Through experience I’ve found that the factory was the ONLY place I could find competent people who fixed things correctly. Your shop however sounds like a good place to go. Sadly, Winnebago chose to close it’s Western facility at Junction City, Ore….a very sad day. I wrote at least a couple of emails to the company expressing my concerns and pleading them to reconsider their decision. I know you must be aware that when your rig goes to most places it suffers from more damage and/or items broken than what existed when the rv was dropped off there. We see this a lot in comments to RV Travel as well as personal experiences. Thank you for this series of articles!

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