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Saga of the Newbie: Why it’s so important to find a reputable, reliable RV repair ‘guy’

This is about finding a guy. No, I am not in search of true love. I’ve been searching for good, reasonable, timely RV repair. Like our Nanci Dixon, who so vividly describes her experiences here, I too have trouble getting even basic service for my RV.

As many of you know, I did all the wrong things when buying my RV last year and moving cross-country from North Carolina to California with my children (12 cats). My painful but sometimes humorous travails are chronicled in my RV Travel articles (find those below). I bought an RV sight unseen in a faraway state without hiring a pro inspector, and boy, did I ever pay for that mistake. I am still paying.

My 2015 Newmar Canyon Star 39-foot gas coach on a Ford F53 chassis had many problems, including non-working slides, a bad water heater, and worst of all, severe suspension problems that made driving it very scary. In North Carolina, I was able to get some RV repair help and was able to get to California with one working slide. But not without a lot of crying and swearing.

While camping in Palm Desert, I needed to find someone to fix the full-length slide—at a minimum. Try living in a narrow space with 12 cats. We had issues. I called some mobile service guys who never returned my calls. It was prime season in the desert with all the snowbirds in town. Fortunately, my neighbor at the park recommended a fellow he used when he had problems. I will call him Jose (not his real name). Jose came out to the desert from San Bernardino (an hour drive) and figured out what no other technician so far could: I needed a new circuit board for the slide. He also figured out a workaround to get the slide out until we got the new board. He tried but failed to fix the water heater, but my coach was finally comfortable. Heaven. Thank you, Jose. I love you.

Fast forward to the present. I moved into a house after living three months in the RV and put any travel on hold for a while. But I now have the itch to travel again and am faced with getting the RV up to par. I had several unfortunate accidents in the RV while traveling last year—a broken window, a bent slide topper, and a damaged baggage compartment door—so the work list was quite long.

Premium brands should have premium dealerships and service

I bought a used Newmar because of their reputation for quality and support for their coach owners. I called Newmar, thinking I could drive it up to their service center and have them revamp the entire coach, but they were booking months out and needed a comprehensive list of work to be done. The potential invoice and the drive to Indiana also scared me, so I decided I would try to do things locally.

I called the local Newmar dealership (a national chain) to schedule servicing and to talk to them about needed repairs. I did not get past the sentence, “I’d like to book an appointment.” They flat-out refused to book me in because I did not purchase the RV from them and were booking months out for their customers. They did not even try to find out the scope of the work needed.

I guess they are rolling in dough because it would have been a good addition to their cash register. I did not need my background in business to know this is not a good way to groom future customers. Now, I get emails from them all the time trying to sell me a new RV. Would I even consider trading in for a new Newmar at this dealership? I don’t think so.

Gee, why can’t the RV industry be like the auto industry? I can easily take my Ford to the local Ford dealership even though I bought the car in North Carolina. I don’t think Ford would take too kindly if their dealerships started to refuse service to owners of their cars. It really doesn’t happen.

So I called Jose

Did I happen to mention I love Jose? I love Jose. Jose came and picked up the coach and took it back to his place to work on. Jose will do almost everything on the list including replacing the window and doing an upgrade on the chassis suspension (more on that next week). If he can’t do something, he knows guys that can. As a veteran house renovator, I always look for a good general contractor who knows all the good guys who know other good guys. Jose is that guy.

I am incredibly lucky—I found my “guy.” I use the term as gender-neutral—Jose could have easily been a “gal.” The point is that I don’t know what I would do if I hadn’t found him. Where could I have serviced my coach? Would I have to wait months? Years? Drive hundreds of miles? With so many new RV owners, the demand for services has increased exponentially and, like other industries, RV repair shops are desperate to find qualified technicians. In the meantime, I am paying my RV “mortgage” while it sits in storage.

DIY is not always an option

Some RV owners are talented DIYers. RVtravel.com is a wonderful library of information and advice. How good are Dave Solberg, Mike Sokol and our other talented contributors??? I will be forever in their debt for their advice. I am learning to do some things, but there is no way I can replace servicing by a qualified technician.

From “The Graduate”. Benjamin Braddock’s famous chat with Mr. McGuire.

I am sure the gears of Corporate America are turning—we will eventually see RV repair SuperCenters, luxury RV storage companies and other RV support services. I can hear the whisper in Dustin Hoffman’s ear—instead of “plastics” it is “RV services.”

But that takes time. In the meantime, what are the new RV campers to do?

Find a guy and hang on to him.

More next week.

The Saga of the Newbie: Learn from my mistakes!

##RVT1070

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Bagman
10 days ago

What are you doing traveling in a RV with 12 cats. Do you have no idea of what you’re are putting them through? The city I grew up in limits you to 5 cats in a house. You’re putting 12 animals in an area of at most of 9 x 40 (and I doubt you have that much space). You need therapy. The smell alone must be unbearable for anyone but you. I really hope you’re posting this as satire.

Michael Butts
12 days ago

As far as luxury storage and repair, have you looked at National Indoor RV Centers?

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