RV Shrink: Full-time RVer DIY maintenance pit stop options

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Dear RV Shrink:
Here is a question most people do not think about when becoming full-time RVers. Where can we go to work on our RV? Most campgrounds frown on visitors doing any maintenance on their rig. Something as simple as changing fluids is prohibited in most facilities we camp in. I work on small projects during the year that do not involve looking like a service center, but for anything major I start getting the stink-eye from management and close neighbors. Any insight would be appreciated. —Handy Hank and Mandy in Medford

Dear Handy Hank:
I get this question often and you are right, most people do not consider this topic when becoming full-timers. 

Being old and cheap (frugal), I get sticker shock when I hear what people pay to have something as simple as an oil change done on the road. Besides being suspect of anyone working on my RV, I prefer doing my own work. 

Some folks will buy a lot in a park that has a dedicated maintenance area. For liability reasons they usually only allow stakeholders to use these areas. Often you can check with park management and ask permission to work on a project and be given a site away from other guests. But in most parks, they won’t even allow you to wash your RV unless they have a designated wash rack. 

I totally understand this mindset. You can’t trust everyone to keep a clean work area, not spill oil, or not create some long-lasting, unsightly project that annoys other guests.

Having your own pit stop can come in handy. Many full-timers are also sorry they don’t have some type of home base to drop anchor during the COVID-19 closures. 

The maintenance issue made the decision for us to keep a home base. We are on the road nine to eleven months a year, but we like to make a pit stop once a year and do a complete precautionary maintenance schedule on our rig. If we do anything major, such as re-flooring, we wait to do those projects where we are private, have all the tools we need, and can move out of the motorhome if necessary. 

Most campgrounds can recommend a local service tech that they allow to make mobile service calls, but if you want to do your own work you will most often need your own space. Another option is to network with friends. You will often know friends or relatives that would welcome you to use their place for minor repair jobs. 

If building codes allow, the perfect solution is to find an area you really enjoy, buy a small chunk of land that would allow RV long-term parking and a small casita or maintenance building. Many jurisdictions prevent landowners from constructing an outbuilding without first having at least an 800 sq. ft. home. 

The simplest solution would be to get on a waiting list for one of the RV co-ops that offer maintenance-friendly work areas and invest in a lot. When you are not using it you can rent it out to others. When you need a pit stop for maintenance on your rig, your body (e.g., hospitalization), or a place to hide from a pandemic, you will have a safe harbor. 

—Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.

##RVT953

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TravelingMan
15 days ago

It’s not really ideal, but an option if you have repairs that take time…you might consider a storage unit. An outdoor space is about $50 a month in many locations. Under a cover may cost $135 or so. There are certainly those facilities though that are not afraid to charge your $600 a month if you want!

And if you need an actual indoor facility for major roof type repairs, you might consider renting a commercial building for a month or so. You can get these for about $400 or less in many small towns. You’ll need to coordinate electricity and water for a possible additional fee.

You could also consider BLM, Forest Service remote camps, or Corp of Engineer remote locations. The bad thing with this is when you need parts. It may be a long trip back into town.

As for any fluid changes, its just best to let a service center handle that. If you are in the boonies, you could contaminate your systems with sand or dirt. Besides, you’ll need to still be able to dump off the fluids (not in the park!). And really, a service center can do it a whole lot faster than I can. Its just not worth doing myself. I do bring them the fluids, filters, etc. It saves money. Then, all you have to pay for is labor and disposal.

Personally, a nice conversation with many park hosts or owners might go a long way if you explain the details and how you can mitigate an unsightly space.

Bill
15 days ago

If you are military, most bases have an auto hobby shop that may have room for work on the RV, along with tools and some parts and supplies;