When you are on the road, using a mobile RV tech sure makes more sense than waiting days or weeks for repairs.
In fact, using a mobile RV tech doesn't have to be limited to roadside or campground calls. They can also come to your driveway or RV storage space and do necessary repairs there.
In Episode 382 of the RV Podcast, we talk about the training and skills of mobile RV techs, what they can and can't fix, and why people like Jennifer and I consider mobile RV techs our go-to source for most of our RV repairs.
Click the player below for the video version of the Podcast.
An audio-only version of the podcast is available on all the major podcast apps or by clicking the audio player below.
The Rise of the Mobile RV Tech
Mobile RV techs have been around for decades. But in recent years, as RV dealerships and service centers have become overwhelmed with demand and RV repair wait times sometimes stretch for weeks, more and more have been going into business all across the country.
Credit an outfit known as the RV Technical Institute (RVTI) for help in making this happen. In the podcast, we interview RVTI Executive Director, Curt Hemmeler, and Mobile RV Tech Charlie Cuaron.
The RVTI is headquartered in a new 18,000 square foot facility in Elkhart, IN, the RV Capital of the World, where the vast majority of RVs are manufactured. The institute is funded by a combined $10 million contributed by the RV Industry Association and the RV Dealers Association with one main, overriding purpose: to provide world-class training for RV maintenance and repair that will reduce the RV industry’s shortfall of trained RV technicians.
Through a combination of in-person, classroom hands-on training, and online modules that can be done anywhere, the training is producing a strong network of new techs. Some work in dealerships and in repair facilities. But a lot of the graduates like Charlie, who is a full-time RVer, runs a very robust mobile RV tech business as he travels.
We've used a Mobile RV Tech numerous times across the country
Jennifer and I have been singing the praises of using a mobile RV tech for repairs and maintenance for years.
From installs of RV upgrades to repairing and replacing things on our RVs that have worn out or broken, we have had same-day excellent experiences every single time. We even used a Mobile RV Tech to install a lithium battery system upgrade, along with a matching inverter and solar charger.
I have found these mobile RV techs usually had lots of experience, from auto mechanics to RV service. Several of those we have hired had previously worked for RV dealerships.
And the cost has been more than reasonable and often considerably cheaper than what we would have paid at a dealership… if we could have gotten service at a dealership.
None of my repairs were for warranty items. For parts under warranty, a dealership may be the best. But if you can't wait, call your RV manufacturer's warranty department and ask if it's okay to use an RV mobile tech.
How to find a Mobile RV Tech
So, how do you find a Mobile RV Tech?
The simplest way is to Google it, searching for “Mobile RV Tech near me.”
For example, I just did that as I write this post. We are in the Panhandle of Florida right now and below is a screengrab of the search results.
There are four of them within a few minutes of my current location. When I clicked on the “more businesses link at the bottom of the search results, I found more than a dozen others.
No matter where you are in the country, you should find at least one that you can call.
If you are at a campground, another excellent way to find a mobile RV tech is to go to the front office and ask who they recommend. I have never encountered a campground that doesn't have at least one mobile RV tech they can refer you to.
And you can also call the RVTI and ask for a suggestion.
Below are some of the edited replies to the major questions answered by our guests in this episode of the Podcast:
RV Mobile Tech Questions:
Well, Curt and Charlie join us now and we are delighted to have you guys with us. Let me start, Curt, with you. The last time I visited you guys down there in Elkhart, there was some concern about how long it was taking many dealerships to get service because there weren't enough techs. Now that's been a couple of years, give us a quick update on where you have gone since then.
Sure. Well, first of all, thanks for having me on the show, Mike, and I'd love to say that we fixed it all, but that would not be the case because we had this thing called a pandemic that took a problem and accelerated it quite a bit. The need for techs is still there.
Some things though have definitely improved. Obviously, the interest is very high in the training. There have been steps made in parts availability. The industry as a whole has really come together. And when I say the industry, the manufacturers, suppliers, the dealers, the mobile RV techs, the campgrounds.
The training of a Mobile RV Tech
What's involved in getting trained as a mobile tech? It seems like this is a pretty good way a lot of people could supplement their income who might be interested as well?
Yeah, definitely. As we go into 2022, this is the year of recruitment for RVTI. We have subsidized funding from within the industry, and as a result of that, for example, right now we have a class going on here in Elkhart and 80% of the class is made up of mobile RV techs.
They're not affiliated directly with any dealership. The curriculum is created to meet the need of mobile RV techs as well as dealer techs, as well as independents, or if you have a desire to become an RV inspector. Our curriculum is built off of the standards of the industry to address all of the needs. And keeping in mind that the whole purpose of RVTI was to create a national standardized program to professionalize an industry that just hasn't been in that professional state before.
What a Mobile RV Tech does
Tell us what a mobile tech does, how you became one, and what's involved in your day-to-day life as a mobile tech?
Well, if you'd asked me in my twenties, when I was working in the Marine industry, working on boats, if I'd be working on RVs one day, I wouldn't have believed you, but it's been one of the most rewarding things that I've been able to do.
I come from a mechanical background, I've worked in aviation, the marine industry, manufacturing, and then about three years ago my wife and I up and sold everything and decided we were going to do this full-time RV lifestyle. Well, I always had a good set of tools that I carried with me and I found I was helping a lot of my friends on the road with a lot of rallies, a lot of people that got word that I could fix something, and so I started spending a lot of time doing that, working on my own rig.
And then I realized there's so much demand for somebody just to show up. And that's where RVTI came in for me was I knew how to work on things, I knew how to fix things, I needed some training, some formal training on things that maybe I've missed on my own working on it.
Once I went to RVTI and got my certifications I was able to feel confident enough going out there and expanding what I'd already worked on and what I was working on and start now growing my business to support myself and my family on the road.
A Mobile RV Tech's Typical Day
Give us an idea of a typical day, Charlie. What things might you be called to fix?
I'll talk about my yesterday. Yesterday, I'm getting a lot of plumbing repairs for pretty new RVs coming out with improper clamping, improper methods of attaching plumbing, things like that.
A couple RVs this week, actually, I've had to rerun some plumbing underneath faucets and different water fixtures, things like that.
You're in Albuquerque, New Mexico, right now?
Albuquerque New Mexico. Yeah. Yeah. But it really is regional as far as what you face every day, but it's pretty much the same. Someone's, “Hey, we need help, it's our vacation,” or, “I live in my RV, I can't take it in. Can you help me?” And so that's where I come in.
The Industry Supports Mobile RV Techs
And if I can add to that, Mike, Charlie brings up a good point, the manufacturers make full use of mobile techs and even more so some of them are even training their own mobile techs within the organization. Suppliers already have learned how, a while ago, to use mobile tech for a lot of repairs.
And even some of the dealerships that would've been maybe concerned before about mobile techs taking business or what have you, have realized that we can't continue that type of behavior.
And so that's what I mean when I say the industry has never been more aligned, more focused, and more dedicated to improving that consumer experience.
What things would a consumer call a mobile tech for?
Comfort items, right, like water heaters, hot water, air conditioning, keep yourself cool, awning stuff, those tend to be left out in the wind. I was surprised with how much work people still want you to do on the road, even reconfiguring sometimes the inside of their RV. I enjoy a lot of upgrades. I love upgrading, installing cell boost systems, things like that, making the RV better than it was before I got there.
How soon does a Mobile RV Tech show up?
And what's been the average repair response time for somebody who calls, is it usually the same day, or is it triaged according to how serious it is?
It depends on severity. If I've got a water leak pouring out an RV, and I've got a guy who wants a cell booster installed, I'll definitely triage my week and day and make sure that I'm getting to the most important first. But pretty much I run about a week schedule, sometimes two weeks out if I'm staying in a place longer and I've had time to talk with staff and introduce myself to neighbors and other RVers in the area.
Curtis, it occurs to me that some of the folks listening to this are going to say, “You know, that's not a bad job, maybe I ought to think about doing that.” What is involved if somebody comes to you, do you have to have that mechanical background?
If you think about our industry, as well as auto diesel, nurses, we have an aging out population of folks, and in the RV world, the typical technician has been around for a while.
They grew up wrenching. Well, that's a dying breed, unfortunately. And so we have created the program to take somebody that knows absolutely nothing and take them to competency as a certified technician.
And that's done through a standardized curriculum built by the industry. You can do it either online or in-person or a combination. Obviously, one of the greatest things is to find out if you have an aptitude.
What training does a Moble RV Tech get?
And the amount of time? Amount of time it takes for this?
The amount of time to take a level one is a 40-hour class that can be done online or in person. When I say 40 hours, it's typically eight hours a day for 40 hours. Level two gets into troubleshooting and diagnostics, and it's much more extensive, but it's a little over 200 hours. Once again, this can be done online, in person, or it can actually be done in what we call a hybrid form, where you do a good portion of the online and then you either return to a learning partner or to Elkhart to do a week of competency training.
And then what's a rough idea of what a busy RV tech could expect to make in an income?
Sure. Sure, I do. The luxury of being an RV tech is that there are people that…
You're your own boss.
The Benefits of Being a Mobile RV Tech
You are your own boss. You can work for a dealership, you can an independent, you can work as an inspector. You can do all of those and you're in complete control. Meaning that if you want to work full time, you can, as Charlie can probably attest, there are probably days where he wakes up and goes, eh, I'm going to have a couple extra cups of coffee so I'm putting my sign in, I'm not getting to it. But if he puts a sign out, there's a line waiting.
You're in complete control. The salaries, because of that, they range, but a full-time technician can start coming out 40 to $50,000 if you're doing it full-time. Somebody that doesn't have a lot of experience. In a couple of years, or is just doing a lot of work, a six-figure income is not off the table, there are numerous techs that are well over six figures.
The luxury is you can make it what you want. The salaries are there.
Charlie, you are a full-time RVer yourself and you are experiencing the best of both worlds. You're in New Mexico now and you tell me you're on your way to Florida and you can work your way across the country, literally, right?
Yeah. With a little bit of logistics, sure. One thing I find is I thought I'd have to put all this money into a website and all these crazy reviews and running businesses online and I didn't have to do any of that because the work came so quick and at times was overwhelming that I just haven't had to do that. And I realized that the biggest part of where I get my business is, like I said, just people knowing you're there, talking to them, making sure that they're comfortable.
Thank you guys both for being on the podcast.
Thank you also, Mike, you have a good day.
Thank you, Curtis.
Take care, Charlie. You're welcome.
Where to next?
Let us know in the comments where you plan to travel next. What will you do if something needs to be fixed in your RV while out on the road?