Across the country, there’s a growing movement for something known as R2R, or Right to Repair. It’s being fought by the RV industry, which often limits just who can repair their products, usually through a tightly controlled dealership network. For RV owners, this often means that necessary repairs can take days, even weeks because many of those dealership service shops are booked solid.
But what if those repairs could be done by other repair facilities, not financially tied at the hip to the manufacturer? When manufacturers own the only repair shop around, prices go up and quality goes down. Competition is better for customers, but mom and pop repair shops are struggling with unfair practices by multinational corporations. Consumers and repair pros are starting to fight back.
Today, in our interview of the week segment, we’re going to talk about the R2R movement, why the industry is so against it and what this means to you, the RV owner.
Plus, your comments, questions and tips, plus the RV news of the week and a great off the beaten path report.
Show Notes for Episode #232 March 6, 2018 of The RV Podcast:
WHAT MIKE AND JENNIFER ARE UP TO THIS WEEK
This week finds us on the road again. We’re on a week-long roadtrip that will eventually take us to Salt Lake City Utah for a big trade show next week. But we’re taking our time getting there, trying to keep to our “330 Rule” of not traveling more than 330 miles in a single day or stopping by 3:30PM so we can enjoy the area.
We can’t gIve you an itinerary because, well, we seldom have one, other than a direction. We’ll be staying at Harvest Host wineries, farms and attractions as well as any interesting state or local campgrounds or boondocking spots that catch our eye. And yes, Bo is with us on this trip, though we will be using Rover.com to find a local family that he can stay with in Salt Lake City since we’ll be working during the RV show hours.
We can’t say enough good things about Rover. It is a free app that connects you to a nationwide network of dog sitters, doggie day care centers and boarding facilities. We often use it when we travel to different areas. The sitters are well screened and Bo seems to really enjoy his visits.
Many of you have been following our travels over the past month in a 2019 Leisure Travel Van Wonder, RTB, for Rear Twin Bed. We have been interested in test driving it for two purposes: One, to see what it’s like driving an RV on the Ford Transit chassis. We just posted a video on that experience on our RV Lifestyle Channel. Overall, we have been very pleased with it, except for a few things. But we think the Transit is going to give the Mercedes Benz Sprinter a real run for the money as the most popular chassis these days for small motorhomes.
The second part of the Wonder we wanted to experience was our comfort level with a slightly larger van than we’re used to. Leisure Travel Vans are what is known as B+ vans, a sort of cross between a Class B campervan and a larger Class C Van. Technically, a B+ is listed for insurance purposes as a Class C motorhome but they call it a B+ because it does not have the typical cab overhang you see on most Class Cs and it’s a little less boxy looking. We will have a full video review of the Wonder and our experience with it coming it this Thursday. You can see all our videos at YouTube-dot-com-slash-rvlifestyle.
The show we are attending next week is called RVx and is organized by RV Industry Association and will be attended by TV dealers, RV manufacturers, industry leaders, suppliers and the media. Jennifer and I will be hanging out at the show doing meet and greets for the attendees all three days. Tuesday from 3-5PM, Wednesday from 4-5 PM and Thursday from 11AM-1PM. If you are one of those who, will be at the show, look for us at the Leisure Travel Vans Display. We’d love to say hi. And for those who are not attending, we’re planning a live stream Tuesday afternoon.
The weather has continued to be crazy across most of the country. Our hearts go out to the people of Alabama who suffered such terrible loss of life and property from the Sunday tornadoes. There has also been lots of snow, sub zero weather and even down where we have been along the Florid panhandle in the gulf shore, unseasonable cold and rainy weather. So we’re hoping for a nice change of pace as we make our way west. After the RV show next week, we’d like to visit a couple of Utah’s National Parks and while we don’t mind cool temps we don’t want there to be snow.
Now is a good time for us to reveal that we are a little over a week away from making a final decision on our next RV. We’ll be buying this one and although we have all the financing arranged with a bank and a dealer, we’re holding off in saying for sure what it will be until we physically check it out and have a chance to thoroughly check it out. But we’ve done the research and nailed down what we want and we should be able to share all the details and maybe a photo or two next week.
RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK
Wholesale shipments of camper vans and truck campers only categories to see growth
Class Bs (camper vans) and truck campers continued to be the only category of RVs to show growth, according to the latest RV Industry Association's survey of manufacturers. The survey compared January 2018 to January 2019 wholesale shipments and showed an over all industry decrease of 39.8 percent.
What you need to know about camping at Indiana Dunes National Park
If you're interested in camping at Indiana Dunes National Park (America's newest national park) this summer, there are several helpful things to know. The campground opens April 1, advance reservations are not possible, and the sites have no water or electric hook ups.
Former owner of Roadtrek talks to newspaper about what happened to the company his father founded
The former owner of Roadtrek was interviewed by a Canadian newspaper last week, sharing his thoughts on what happened to the company his father founded. He says he will not buy the company, which closed its doors, laid off all employees and owes creditors some $300 million, but believes someone will.
Train derailment near Canada's Banff National Park tragically killed three crew, and has officials concerned about wildlife
A 112-car train derailment about 80 kilometers (roughly 50 miles) outside Banff National Park last week killed three crew members on board. As officials worked to determine the cause of the crash, others are feverishly working to clean spilled grain, concerned it will attract hungry bears waking from hibernation.
This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes,an electric bike manufacturer offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping
LISTENER QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
We hear from three listeners this week:
We get a tip about mouseproofing an RV; Two listeners talk about what they are doing when they listen to this podcast; and Tom from Ottawa talks about not getting ripped off by credit card scammers through an Android app called Skimmer Scanner
Here’s the question of the week which we answer in depth:
Hi Mike and Jennifer,
Thanks for the opportunity to ask you a question personally. I’ve been lurking on youtube for awhile now, enjoying your videos, along with several other vloggers who are living the RV lifestyle. Love Bo!! He’s a real trooper. At this point, I’m a wannabe RV’r trying to decide what rig would best suit me. I’ve found a 2012 Born Free 24’ rear bath unit with 43K miles on it that’s located near me. I’ve viewed it and I can tell the owner is particular about the RV and has cared for it. He and his wife are the second owners and purchased it 2 years ago, but unfortunately, health issues necessitate them selling. I’ve read the Born Free has a great reputation. However, I’m no mechanic… Thus my question(s):
- 1) is it smart to buy an RV manufactured by a company that’s no longer in business?
- 2) should I hire someone to check out the mechanics? Everything seems to be in working order…
- 3) what is a fair offer to make? He is asking $63K. I checked NADA and they list average retail at $54,332 and low retail at 43,800.I was thinking of starting with $50k, hoping to settle on $52K…
- 4) Last question I promise – they have a loan on the RV so can you inform me as to how a purchase would work in this case?
Kind regards, Sue
RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
The topic we want to look at this week has to do with a movement called R2R, or the Right to Repair.
The Repair Association, previously the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, was formed in 2013. The Association represents everyone involved in repair and reuse of technology—from DIY hobbyists and independent repair technicians, to environmental organizations and the aftermarket.
They’re concerned about a lot of things that need repairs, from computrers and cell phones to automobiles and, what we want to talk about in our interview of the week…recreational vehicles.
Our guest is Willie Cade, from the Repair Organization, who joins us on the other end of the line.
Here's a transcript of the interview:
Mike Wendland: Willie Cade from repair.org joins us on the phone right now. Willie, thank you first of all for being our guest and helping us understand about the right to repair.
Willie Cade: My pleasure Mike. Thanks for having me.
Mike Wendland: Well let's start with this whole issue about what is also called fair repair legislation. Why is this needed? Maybe you can walk us through that process. Why do we need this kind of legislation, and particular for my audience, which are owners of recreational vehicles?
Willie Cade: Well it's actually broad and I'm very excited that you have found us. I think what you will find is the issues that we run into in the electronics world also come up in the RV world. So it really started with this whole notion of I bought a product from a company. I should own it and I shouldn't have to go back to them and get permission from them to get it fixed. I need some information from time to time to repair things.
That's really what the right to repair legislation is all about, is give us the information Company A so that we can repair our stuff, and please don't … If we do repair it, please don't brick or prevent us going forward with those repairs.
The classic example here is Apple Computer discovered that people were getting their phones fixed by other people so in one of their updates they wrote some software that detected the repair and actually created in the software language that would what we call the brick the phone, or make it unusable.
Mike Wendland: I remember that. I remember that.
Willie Cade: Yeah.
Mike Wendland: Now in the case of a recreational vehicle, for example, one of the things that we have heard and that the RV industry talks about a lot is that this is supposedly quote proprietary information that they have, and that they only … We're talking about like manuals and parts and schematics and stuff that is sometimes necessary to repair these things, and that they only release it to authorized repair centers at dealerships that they have trained.
Is that a fair claim that they are making? How should we as consumers look at that when we hear that?
Willie Cade: No, it's not a fair claim. It's outright trying to control the market. I use as my example the auto industry. About 10 years ago Massachusetts passed legislation for right to repair cars and, lo and behold, it's done fine. That a national agreement on getting this repair information out.
Mind you, it's not intellectual property. It's just how to repair the devices. So most of the time it's either someone is trying to protect their market for repair or they just don't understand what's being asked for.
Mike Wendland: For one thing, the repair part of the RV industry and many other industries, the automobile industry, and certainly the computer industry … The repair part is often as lucrative, if not more so, than selling the actual product, so I guess we can look askance at those claims.
So why is the RV industry fighting this? Let me back up. As I understand it, if I'm an independent repair center and somebody brings an RV into my shop and it's got some of the latest technology, which most of them now have, very often that repair center if he's not an authorized dealer is stopped because he doesn't have the information he needs to trace a circuit. Is this common? Is this something that you are aware of and hearing a lot about?
Willie Cade: Exactly. That's exactly what the issue is, is we need very specific information, especially when we start getting into the world of electronics, which is not visible. When you have a [inaudible 00:04:44] that connects to a crankshaft and that goes to a differential, you can see that stuff and it makes sense of what actually is broken.
When you're talking about software and electronics you need the schematics in order to do the repair. So that's what we're asking, is the repair level diagnostics and repair and tools necessary to do those repairs.
Mike Wendland: And one of the tactics that they often will use to keep you in line I guess to go to that authorized dealer is that if you have it repaired by anyone else it voids the warranty. Is that even legal?
Willie Cade: You know, actually there's legislation called the Magnuson-Moss Act, a warranty repair act, and it actually states unequivocally that conditioning a warranty on that kind of logic is illegal, and as a matter of fact the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC, has started to enforce the Magnuson-Moss Act and is sending letters to various manufacturers throughout the country.
Mike Wendland: Okay. Does this … One of the other things I have heard people in the RV industry say is that this puts their quote intellectual property at risk and that the innovations that they are building into these new vehicles would be copied by other competitors out there and that that's why they control it. How should we look at that claim?
Willie Cade: Well, I mean I … Granted that people want to own their intellectual property and they work hard at it and there are copyright laws. I think it's interesting when you think about your RV you don't necessarily think about it being protected by copyrights. It's a physical device that I own. I want to be able to repair it, and you're telling me because of some copyright I can't repair it?
It seems a bit of a stretch, and quite frankly I would challenge any manufacturer to come up with a repair scenario that would compromise their intellectual property. It doesn't exist.
Mike Wendland: Let's look at how we can resist these claims. What advice do you have for owners of recreational vehicles that would like to be able to take their vehicle and get it fixed at other than authorized service centers? How do we handle all of this, because they give us all that legal mumbo-jumbo and copyrights and intellectual property and all that stuff? How do we fight against this?
Willie Cade: Well, first of all don't be confused by the smoke and mirrors. Look behind the curtain and say wait a minute, what you say actually makes it illegal for you to condition a warranty based on whether it's been repaired by somebody else or not. So I think it's really, really important for us to know our rights and then also stand up for them.
Mike Wendland: Is there a … There's a movement I know with your organization, and we will put links to it in the show notes for this episode, repair.org. There is a movement across the country to enact legislation state-by-state that would help with this.
You've had some luck with that with something called automobile right to repair. Tell us about that and then how that could be applied to recreation vehicles, the same basic victory that you had there.
Willie Cade: Sure. Massachusetts passed right to repair about a decade ago for automobile. As soon as that was done, the automobile manufacturers got together and created a understanding that nationally that people had these rights and they distributed to car repair facilities information needed to repair cars, so it's out there and it's available, so it is successfully done at the level of cars.
What hasn't been done is at the digital level, and where we really start to stumble on this particular process is when you get into the digital area, and that's where it gets pretty confusing, because we don't see it as a physical piece.
Fundamentally what I want consumers to be able to understand is this is a product that you bought, you own it, you have the right to do what it is that you want with it, and you don't need to pay I'll even call it a property tax back to the original manufacturer to repair your device or your RV.
Mike Wendland: And of course with so much new technology going into today's recreational vehicles, this digital stuff comes very much in play. From multiplex control centers that run our RVs and wiring systems there, to the chips that control our solar panel controllers and lithium batteries, it's more and a digital world even for recreation vehicles.
So you had success with the automobile right to repair. Are there any other products or machines or vehicles out there besides RVs that are not yet covered or not yet current law for independent repair?
Willie Cade: No. It's just cars right now. We have legislation in 18 different states and you go to the repair.org website and look at your particular state and see what activity there is. Right now we have 18 states in this calendar year that have legislation that's been introduced. We've got legislation in Canada and Europe and Australia, so it's not only a national trend, it's also global.
Mike Wendland: All right, the idea again being that we should be able to go to any independent repair facility and have our vehicles fixed without having to go through just the quote authorized centers. That's I guess what the heart of this movement is, the RTR or the R2R, right to repair movement.
We will watch this closely. We will put a link up to your website, repair.org, where people can learn more about this, and I will warn my listeners that the RV industry is resisting this. I've seen a number of news releases in just the past couple of weeks, but so did the auto industry at the start, and now that's working well with them, this right to repair, and the hope is it'll work with the recreational vehicle industry.
Willie Cade, thank you so much for making time for us today.
Willie Cade: Thank you Mike, and any time you'd want to come back to it we'd love to talk to you again.
So…. let's hear your thiughts about this. Tell us your RV Repair Horror Stories. OIr weigh un in your thougjhts about the Right To Repair Movement.
Call in your comments to our soecial voicemail number at 586-372-6990
We'd love to get your thoughts.,
The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new or used Roadtrek motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country
OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT
By Tom & Patti Burkett
The World's Largest Small Appliance Museum
Down in the southwestern corner of Missouri you won't find a lot on the map. I-44 runs along northeast to southwest, carrying traffic from St. Louis to Oklahoma City. Branson is off to the south, as are many of the scenic attractions of the Ozark Mountains. Along the way you'll pass through Joplin, which has a nice waterfall and some beautiful parks–a great place for a picnic and to stretch your legs. But, as usual, you have to get off the main road to find the most interesting things.
Head south on US 59 toward the town of Diamond, and you'll soon pass JR's Western Store. Now, JR's is a great place to stop if you're in the market for a pair of boots, a bolo tie, or to be sure your Stetson is cleaned and looking just so before you get to Texas. As you walk through the store, you'll notice a door in the back wall. Museum open, it says, ask staff to turn on the lights. Hat, boots, or no, this is the real reason for stopping. Behind this door is Richard Larrison's personal collection, amassed over the last thirty years.
Richard has a brother-in-law, Dennis, who collects antique fans. Dennis lives in California. Three decades ago he asked Richard to keep his eye out for any specimens that might crop up out in the Midwest. Richard became interested. When the supply of fans began to blow out, the two of them started in on toasters. That led to toasting competitions, for which you can see a fine collection of prize ribbons lining one wall of the museum. “You wouldn't believe it,” said Richard, “but some of these toasters sell for thousands of dollars.”
The earliest toasters were made by General Electric, and had a plug that screwed into an electric light bulb socket, as many homes once had electricity only for lighting. Toasters became ever more ingenious, with devices to flip the slice of bread, or rotate it around a central toasting core. We're reminded of what's said to be the first hamburger joint in the country, Louis' Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut. The burgers were, and still are, cooked vertically in a device that looks suspiciously like a toaster.
As anyone knows, toasters are a gateway collectible, and in no time Richard was gathering all manner of small electrical appliances–hair dryers, coffee makers, waffle irons, you name it. The museum's shelves are lined with sets of items in striking colors, pieces of art themselves from a time when things were built to last and made beautiful because you were going to be looking at them for a long time. One of the more dubious items in collection is designed to electrocute hot dogs. We actually had one of these when I was a kid. The wiener is impaled on two prongs, one at each end. A 110-volt current is passed through the dog, and it heats and sizzles until you either turn it off, or it gets too animated and falls off on its own.
Richard is a long-time member of the rural electric co-op, and its no surprise that they help sponsor his exhibit. He's happy to give personal tours if you call ahead. There's no admission charge for the museum, but he does take donations. “To help pay for electricity, you know,”he winks. In case this isn't enough kitsch for you, maybe you'd like to drive fifteen minutes up the road to the Precious Moments Chapel. Also free to visit, it's filled with heavenly scenes peopled by the popular collectibles. It offers free tours, a fully stocked gift shop, and a café. Sorry, no word if electrocuted hot dogs are on the menu.
Whatever you want or don't want, whatever you can imagine or can't, it's all out here waiting for you, as are we, Patti & Tom Burkett, off the beaten path.
photos – general display, denture baking kiln, a tangerine breakfast
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Presently, we are serving as brand ambassadors for Leisure Travel Vans and driving a coach provided free for our use. All opinions expressed about that coach honestly reflects our own personal appraisal, good and bad, and Leisure Travel Vans does not control our content, writing, videos, podcasts or newsletter reports in any way. In addition to the coach, Leisure assists us in some expenses related to our travel