Something that I both see and hear more and more is about the quality of RVs and the service surrounding them these days. Is it better or worse today? Is it mass production that made them go downhill or do we just have more problems because of the sheer number of them out there. The more RVs there are, the more problems we'll hear about. The internet makes problems more visible as well. With just a few magazines and clubs in years past, you didn't likely hear about all the problems that you can now find with a simple search or on blogs and forums.
Rhyolite, Nevada - Image by AllStays.com
RVs are very complicated with many different working parts and products coming from many different vendors and manufacturers. Things eventually go wrong or not work together as they should.
Is it a poor product to begin with? Is it poor quality control at the factory? Is it poor installation? Is it improper operation or maintenance?
Repetition, denial and the importance of the internet
How many times has the same part failed on you? I have learned that if it fails once, it'll probably fail again. This is a big issue with RVs. The same part is replaced over and over again and the owner is usually charged for it. Even if it is covered under a warranty, it costs you time and transportation. Thanks to the internet, we can find many cases where owners of a particular model will have that same failed part. We can determine that it's not the owner's fault and it should be a recalled part or replaced under warranty. But the manufacturer denies the problem. The chassis maker blames the RV company and vice versa. I've seen this happen for years and sometimes it is a very dangerous failure that could cause an accident. Admitting fault can cost a company more than replacing thousands of parts, so they don't do it. They deny it because in the old days, no one would figure it out. We know better today.
Sometimes you can even find a third party that decided to manufacture the part in a better way. You may wind up buying a replacement part from a small machine shop that does it right because the RV manufacturer won't admit fault or make a reliable part. I have.
Good dealers who can provide reliable service
This is my biggest problem. Finding dealers that I can trust. I have found the lists of authorized service centers to be inaccurate. You call and they won't work on your RV even though they are supposed to under a contract. Some dealers won't work on your RV unless you bought it form them. Duh. People travel in RVs. You are not always at home when a problem occurs. That is one of the dumbest business practices I have ever heard.
Even if you have a good dealer in your home town, chances are good that someday somewhere you'll need to find one on the road. Where do you go? The closest one. And they may be incompetent, careless or just in the practice of price gouging travelers. Try to make a comment in their presence that subtly lets them know you use the internet and are savvy with recommendations and word of mouth. Mention a name club, bureaus, forums, or something like Angie's List.
There are good dealers out there for sure. And it's hard to keep up with all the different models, manufacturers and yearly changes in our rigs. But there are also many bad ones out there that are just ripping people off. It was easy for someone to once think that RVers are a bunch of elderly retired people and easy to take advantage of with their rigs. Well, that's just not the case.
You can help yourself if you carry a few common parts with you. It could save you days of waiting for a part while traveling. I always carry a spare oil filter, fuel filter, air filter, timing belt and an engine part that I found was prone to failure on my RV. (Although mine never failed like on thousands of others and I bought the spare part right after buying the RV. Murphy's Law perhaps?) What else do you carry?
I would love to provide a service that listed good dealers and bad ones but it is nearly impossible to do it right. First, you need people to submit accurate stories and not just ones that are slanted to their own side of an arguement. Then it can always be gamed either way by the dealer or a competitor. If you have any ideas or tips on doing this, please send them along. We can do it together.
I love my current motor home , which is a Winnebago, but it had it's faults too. I have noticed a mismatch of screws all over. Like it was built with whatever spare ones were laying on the floor nearby. I found a tool behind a cabinet. I found a razor blade under a piece of carpeting. I found that some things were not perfectly aligned to operate in an ideal fashion. I made the changes myself and now they work as they should. It wasn't worth the time, cost and hassle to go have warranty work done on something I could do in a few minutes.
The following isn't for everyone but I have reached a point where I prefer to do whatever work I can do myself. I added solar power and upgraded many things like batteries, lighting and insulation. I just made a new table for my RV that fit my needs better than the stock one. I don't really think I'm that handy. I just do a lot of research, find other people that have done the same thing and follow their instructions. I take my time and do what I know I can do and make sure it is done right. I know that method isn't for everyone but I bet you can do more than you realize.
Take oil changes. If too much oil goes in my RV, (or most cars for that matter) it'll create a mess of other problems that could crop up for years down the line. Mine takes 9.5 quarts of a particular synthetic oil. Not 10 or even 9.7 quarts. Peoples in shops love to round up or come “close” but that's not good enough. And because it's unlikely you'll get every drop of the old oil out when you are draining it, you can't just keep blindly adding 9.5 time after time either. It's better to go slightly under and see where you are than to overfill.
Tip: Install a ScanguageII . When you consider the price of a vehicle and repairs these days, it's a small investment. It plugs into your vehicles computer (1996 and newer) and monitors all kinds of things. It can help you in so many ways, from fuel savings to knowing what the error code is on your motor home. It can alert you to problems before they would otherwise show themselves, which may save you from a larger repair bill or being stranded on the side of the road.
Extra tip: Did you know you can get what is called a Fumoto valve for most vehicles? This takes the mess out of oil changes. No more taking the drain bolt on and off. You can just attach hose, put the other end in a container and open and close your draining as needed. This allows you to use multiple containers if desired. Not a drop is spilled.
What do you think about quality these days? Have you found both good and bad dealers and manufacturers? Do you carry some spare parts?