Thursday, February 2, 2023

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‘Taking your RV to the dealer is like playing the lottery and the odds are against you’

In this column, we summarize some of your emails and comments regarding RV service centers and repairs (we asked you to submit your stories here). We’ll tell you all: the best, the good, the bad and the ugly. At the end of this article, you’ll find a place to submit your own comments. I encourage you to do so.

Keep in mind, we typically only present one side of the story in most of these. Also, any remarks about service centers and mobile techs mentioned are the opinions of our readers and not necessarily RVtravel.com. 

Here’s what you had to say:

Nothing fixed right at Camping World after five months!

Yikes… Rick H. had to find someone else to work on his RV. He explains, “I purchased a 2020 Cougar. The first year it was in the shop for three months after the first RV trip. Then in early spring after the first trip of the year, it spent another two months in the shop. All warranty work. But none of the repairs were done right at Camping World. Went to an independent shop and all were fixed with out-of-pocket funds.”

Master Tech are “masters” of nothing!

Beverly F. paid $100 for nothing. “I called Master Tech in Oklahoma City and they were rude on the phone and never called back. One of their techs did come out but couldn’t fix anything. There is a charge for the service call of $100. NEVER AGAIN. They are masters of nothing but taking your money.”

One great review and one not so great

Andrew R. has had good service in Tucson but not at Camping World. He says, “We had really good service experience at Olstrom Custom Coach in Tucson, Arizona. The owner, Eric Olstrom, used to work for Country Coach (CC) in quality assurance, so he knows the CC products. We took our CC Class A in for collision repair and to address some electrical issues. The team worked hard to make sure everything was done to our satisfaction. Highly recommended.

“At the other end of the scale, I had Camping World in Longmont, Colorado, install the baseplate and ‘trailer’ wiring for our tow car. The wiring never worked to charge the car battery, so often I needed to jump the battery from our Class A. Would not trust Camping World for any future work.”

Taking your RV to the dealer is like playing the lottery

Richard S. puts the blame on the dealer and manufacturer. Here’s why: “I purchased a new 2022 Winnebago Adventurer from General RV Center in August of 2022. While I hold General RV responsible for not catching and resolving the issues prior to customer delivery, I fault Winnebago for the shoddy workmanship in building the RV.

“In all, I have repaired: (1) the piping to the macerator pump which was broken due to improper installation and caused one of the storage bays to fill with water, (2) all the locked compartment doors since three of them popped open on the way home from the dealership, (3) the leaking kitchen sink drains due to improper installation, (4) dinette table coming loose due to improper installation, (5) drawer damaged due to what appears to it being dropped or something dropped on it during installation, (6) washer/dryer combo failing to work due to water valves being turned off and the water hoses being ‘folded’ in multiple places by the installer so it would ‘fit’ in that location (discovered by removing the access panels beside the unit), (6) leveling jacks that would get ‘confused’ and time out even though the RV was parked on level ground, (7) ceiling fan that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.

“As other readers have commented, taking your RV to the dealership is like playing the lottery—the odds are against you. Not only are they not skilled at catching factory defects, but they also are not qualified to resolve them. Training? If they are being trained by the knuckleheads that built mine, that would explain a lot. In order to own one, you must become the technician to keep the unit functioning. For the manufacturer’s purchase cost and the hourly rate the repair facilities charge, there is a big disconnect on quality being delivered. As the saying goes: ‘Have Tools, Will RV.'”

Not enough room in a book to describe all the problems

Like Richard, David A. also advises against buying an RV if you aren’t handy. He writes, “We have owned RVs for more than 54 years. There isn’t enough room in a standard-sized book to describe all the problems we have had. We have owned five travel trailers, one 35’ 5th wheel, and two motorhomes. While units were under warranty, the dealers were pretty decent in repairing things.

“If anyone is thinking about buying an RV, absolutely do not do it unless you can fix anything and everything yourself. They all have continuous problems. From the most expensive Prevost to the cheapest tent trailer. This isn’t hyperbole, it’s for real and any long-time RVer will verify it.

“My recent failure was the RV refrigerator. The cooling unit failed and had to be replaced. The refrigerator is too big to remove through the door to the coach so the work had to be done inside the RV on the floor. By the time it was all done, it was well over 100 hours of work. The cost was just under $1,600 for parts. To pay to have it done was over $7,000. And this story gets repeated over and over. If you aren’t totally qualified to fix anything yourself, don’t buy an RV.”

Ending on a positive note

Thomas M. feels lucky to have found his service center. He says, “And now, for a positive note on the subject: If you are lucky enough to live anywhere near St. Louis, MO, you are in luck.

“After calling everyone in the ‘phone book’ to schedule an appointment to fix or replace my non-cooling A/C unit, I was gobsmacked to find out that unless I purchased the unit from them (I didn’t—purchased it used from a private buyer), they would not work on it (even if I had, the appointments were at least 2-3 months out).

“I got very lucky when I found Prime RV Services, LLC in Festus, MO (about 15 minutes south of St. Louis). Not that their address matters because they come to you. Their technician, Zach, came to the house within a couple of days. At first, he was stumped. Everything checked out on his equipment and according to him, it ‘should be working.’ He then remembered an obscure case he had happened upon ‘some time back’ where an air pocket had developed in the system and wouldn’t allow the refrigerant to pass up to the cooling fins. He took out a small plastic hammer and tapped on the line ever so gently several times. Within minutes the pipe that was supposed to be hot was now warming up. He waited another 10 minutes and checked the freezer compartment which was now getting cold. He told me to call him around dinner time and let him know if it was still working, and, sure enough, it was.

“I was looking at a $1,500 replacement cost (not to mention the six weeks it would take to get the part) and Zach, through his talent and experience, saved me a ton of money. Apparently, they stay busy enough and get enough word-of-mouth referrals that they don’t need to rip you off. I highly recommend them if you are lucky enough to live inside their service area.”

Editor’s note

Note from RVtravel.com: If hiring a mobile tech, a small or mega service center, make sure that they are experienced in the issue and have insurance in case something goes wrong. Also, check their warranty policy on the work they perform. Check reviews too and read between the lines—if the review sounds way too good to be true it might be. Compare with several reviews and not just the ones on their website.

Questions for you about RV service

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share stories of your RV service experiences. We want to know:

  • Have you had good luck with great service or not so much?
  • Did you get good service from knowledgeable technicians?
  • Are you waiting to get into a service center or have a mobile tech come out?
  • What has been the average time to get an appointment?
  • Has your RV been in a service center for a while?
  • Are you able to get any mobile techs to come out?
  • Are the service centers able to get parts?
  • When you do get the repairs done, is the price reasonable?

Please fill out the form below and tell us what your experiences have been like. It can be a horror story, an opinion about what’s going on, a positive experience, or anything else related to the topic. We want to know the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Check back next week for more on RV service centers. See you then.

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Last Week’s RV Service Centers and Repairs Report

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