RV 309: The maddening frustrations of getting RV repair and service

 RV 309: The maddening frustrations of getting RV repair and service

The first thing RV owners learn when they start the RV Lifestyle is that if something can break… it will. The second thing is getting RV repair and service done is never an easy task.

That’s one of the top reasons many RV fulltimers are coming off the road. RV repair and service is nothing like automobile service. Getting parts, warranty service and repairs can easily take weeks.

Before COVID, the average wait time for RV repair or service was 21 days, according to the national RV Technical Institute in Elkhart, IN. That's the amount of time that it takes from the day you drop a unit off at a dealer to be repaired, to when you pick it back up.

Since COVID, the wait has increased dramatically. Dealerships shut down, manufacturers and parts suppliers shut down. Even now, many suppliers are still basically closed, with service and warranty folks working for home. Parts and supplies are, well, in short supply.

Repair facilities at dealerships are jammed, catching up on their own backlogs from the shutdown and trying to cope with slowed shipments from suppliers. Add in the crush of so many new RVers who chose the RV Lifestyle for their vacations this year and you'll understand why RV service shops have to triage their repairs, prioritizing who gets fixed first based on the severity of the problem, just as emergency room doctors have to triage those in a hospital waiting room.

Sometimes, it takes weeks to even get an appointment. All too often, more weeks once the RV is in the shop.

In our question of the week segment coming up a little later, we'll share some of the issues we've heard from various RVers.

Even mobile RV repair technicians are experiencing delays. Instead of same-day service as they used to deliver, more often than not it's next week. Or the week after.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below.  Go to about 33:30 into the podcast to learn about peer to peer RV storage. And scroll down this page for shownotes and a transcript of the interview, plus links and resources about all the things we talk about.

Also this week, we'll learn about a new way to find a place to store your RV… think the equivalent of an Airbnb rental applied to storage for your RV. And we have some good news about RV shows starting again after the first of the year!

This part of the RV Podcast is brought to you by Camping World – America’s #1 RV Dealer  Use the coupon code rvlifestyle10 for 10% off purchases over $99.Check rvlifestyle.com/campingworld to see the many RV accessories and supplies Jennifer and I use with our RV. 

RV LIFESTYLE NEWS OF THE WEEK

Wildfires ravaging much of West – California, Colorado, Arizona and more
Wildfires burning the West are making headlines this week, closing campgrounds and causing evacuations in many parts of California, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado to name a few. In California, at least a million acres have burned in seven days, with wildfires reaching historic size. Elsewhere Utah's Minersville Campground was evaluated over the weekend because of wildfires, Arizona officials closed at least two campgrounds because of wildfires near Saguaro National Park, and wildfires are raging across large areas in Colorado . Every year around this time we hear of wildfires in the West, but to us, this year the news seems more severe. There are more than 100 out of control wildfires being reported as we record this episode and smoke and haze can be seen from California to Kansas.

Two hurricanes expected to hit the south within days of each other this week
And while wildfires ravaged the West, states along the Gulf of Mexico are bracing for not one but two hurricanes to hit this week in what is being called an unprecedented event. The storms are causing campground closings and evacuations. Marco is expected to be a class one hurricane and hit Louisiana today (Monday). Laura at the time of this writing is expected to be a category 2 hurricane and is expected to hit Louisiana but also Mississippi, Alabama, and perhaps even Florida mid-week. The Gulf Islands National Seashore and Fort Pickens campground were among many on the coast closing because of the storms. We wrote a story earlier this year that included links to helpful sources to help you monitor road and weather emergencies. You can find that story here

Pandemic camping? Number of visitors up at Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks from last year's numbers
We've been telling you it is busy out there, and some national parks are starting to share numbers to define it. The numbers of people visiting Yellowstone National Park in July were up 2 percent from July 2019,  The numbers are up even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, where campgrounds and hotels have reduced their capacity and visitors from other countries are staying home. Yellowstone is seeing visitors from all 50 states and neighboring Grand Teton is also seeing an increase in visitors – up 3 percent from July 2019.

American could face $750,000 fine or six months in jail for entering Canada and visiting Banff illegally
A Kentucky man may face a $750,000 fine or six months in jail for allegedly violating a quarantine order in the Alberta Rockies in late June. The border to Canada is closed because of COVID-19, but as we have shared here, Americans are still illegally visiting Canada's tourist areas in defiance of the law, only to find an angry Canadian population calling police, who order quarantines and in this case a hefty fine. On July 31 Canada tightened its border even more, still allowing American travelers to pass through if headed to Alaska, but only if they enter through one of five approved entry points. Also, Americans must hang a tag from their mirror identifying them and the date they must leave, and are not allowed to visit a tourist area.

Upper New York county health officials say visitors at campground last week may have had COVID-19 exposure
Two people who camped at Golden Beach Campground in Raquette Lake, NY last week tested positive for COVID-19. The two went camping in the Adirondack area campground Aug. 15-20. While camping the couple used the restrooms and shower building, and also went into nearby towns. Health officials shared the information so anyone who stayed in this area during this time would know. While camping, Mike and I recommend using your RV's shower and bathroom as much as possible. And despite this story, camping is considered a relatively low-risk activity in many stories and reports we are monitoring.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes, America's #1 e-bike brand, offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping. Use the code rvlifestyle for $75 off.  

RV QUESTION OF THE WEEK – RV Repair and service issues

On our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group, that topic is a very active one.

So let me share the question from a reader named Todd, who writes:

“I'm new here and read of quality issues with new RVs and I can't understand how dealers don't see the need to fix issues like trim panels falling off while on the lot. $27,000 bucks and they don't see the need to fix it before customers see it.”

Todd’s post brought more than 60 replies, most relating RV repair and service.

Matt and Trima said: “If you only knew the problems we have with RV repair and service for our brand new 2020 top of the line Fifth Wheel; you would never buy one and absolutely run the other way.. Delamination down the side and across the back….. A defective roof where a pinhole was found for a leak, not to mention a roof with blisters, underbelly keeps coming undone, shower panels coming undone from the wall and leaks, and the list goes on with close to 40 items. Oh; the washing machine has gone out twice in six months in the oven will not stay lit until after literally about the 6th to 8th time. Man I have so many pictures and videos that it would make your head spin. Working with a lemon law lawyer right now.”

Carolyn offers this advice about dealers who don’t fix obvious issues: “No one seems to take pride in their work. If they don’t fix before the sale I’d steer clear of them because they probably have crappy service dept.”

Camilla, noting that many dealers charge a paperwork fee, yet, in her case, she noted “Always fun to see the $895 “Pre-Delivery Inspection” fee on a brand new RV – but wires hanging out, moldings dangling, TV missing, coffee stain in the cabin, hydraulic arm ripped out of the screen door, etc.”

Joe says “So much demand for RV's now, the factories are rushing to produce them as fast as possible.”

Says Michael: “I have a 2019 RV, brand new on the lot I made a list of 22 RV repair and service items that needed to be fixed before I left the dealer. Now 1 year older I have trim pieces falling off, bench seat literally fell apart and I cannot stop slide out from leaking during rain!”

Helen has RV repair and service problems, too: “What makes me angry is we bought a brand new fifth wheel specifically to avoid these issues. We came to the conclusion it is cheaper for the companies to rush them through and hope people don’t return them for RV repair and service work than to make them right the first time. What is funny is that we talked to someone we met at a campground who had a much more expensive fifth wheel than us. When we said we wish we had gone ahead and spent more money for one like his and avoided these problems he laughed and told us his sad story with RV repair and service warranty work.” 

Victoria reported: “We are shopping and I’m amazed that one lot at a local dealer was FULL of different sizes and shapes and brands of campers. I asked if we could see a couple of them and the RV dealer said those campers were waiting for RV repair and service to be fixed! The lot was full!”

And finally Chuck says: “Sadly, what this industry needs is competition from quality overseas Manufacturing such as happened in the Auto industry. I hate to think of the crap we would be driving if it had not been for Quality Japanese cars forcing the American manufacturers to up their game. It seems to me that one good American manufacturer could provide a competition.”

Folks, there are 60 RV repair and service reports like this, filed within just a few hours after Todd made his post. These are real RV repair and service stories. True stories. They involve many different RV brands, manufacturers and dealers.

I’m a very positive and optimistic guy. But that doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to serious issues with RV repair and service.

You can read Todd’s post and the replies by clicking THIS LINK to it on the RV Lifestyle Facebook Group. With almost 42,000 members, our RV Lifestyle Facebook page is the go-to place to find community, learn from other Rvers, share travel ideas, and get tips and ideas to enhance your RV experience. To join is free. Check it out at https://rvlifestyle.com/facebook

This part of the RV Podcast is brought to you by Battle Born Batteries, maker of quality, safe and reliable lithium batteries that can be installed in just about every RV. Get in touch with Battle Born to find out what lithium batteries and an upgraded energy management system can add to your RV Lifestyle. Check them out at https://rvlifestyle.com/lithium

RV INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK

As cold weather is just around the corner, many RVers are thinking about putting their RVs in storage.

But many are also cringing at the prices they are finding.

It is very expensive to store an RV.

But from that problem has come a solution. Just as Airbnb and VRBO introduced peer to peer vacation rentals and Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome and OvernightRVParking brought that same concept to offset the costs of expensive campgrounds, so has Joseph Woodbury brought the peer to peer trend to the RV storage industry.

Everyday people and even some businesses are opening up their property, driveways and even garages for RV storage… at a cost up to 50% cheaper that commercial storage places:

Joseph Woodbury is our guest on the RV Podcast Interview of the Week and his website is Neighbor.com

Here’s a transcript of the interview:

Mike Wendland:           … Well to learn more about this, we are joined by Joseph Woodbury. He is the Founder and the CEO of Neighbor.com. Joseph, welcome to the podcast, so glad to have you on.

Joseph Woodbury:        Yeah, thanks so much for having me.

Mike Wendland:           Tell us exactly what Neighbor.com does and obviously how it is of interest, particularly to RVers and how particularly about at this time of year when we are starting to look at cold weather and time to put the RV away for a while.

Joseph Woodbury:        Sure. Neighbor.com, it's pretty simple. It's a platform where you can go on and list space that you might have in or around your home. Could be a garage or an attic or a basement, any space that's unused, and you can rent it out to one of your Neighbors that need storage and they could come over and store their boxes in your basement or their RV on your driveway or their boat in your garage. And that way you earn money and they get a very affordable place to store.

Mike Wendland:           It's kind of borrowing on the idea of I guess, Airbnb. And then we look at things like VRBO for vacation places, and then in the RV world, Harvest Hosts, and Boondockers Welcome, RV Camping Overnight, that kind of stuff. This is a really smart idea. In fact, I just did an interview last week about churches that are letting folks parking in their lot. So this is kind of a… It's technically called peer-to-peer, I guess. So how would an RVer find storage for their RV on Neighbor.com?

Joseph Woodbury:        Yeah, we try to make it pretty simple. You can go on and you can type in your address and search close to you. You can type in the dimensions of your RV, so you find a spot that's just the right length and width for your RV, and our site will pull up all the sites that are around you that are rentable. You'll be able to see the price, how frequently you could access the space. You'll be able to read a little bio about the person that you'll be renting from. You can message them, get to know them, all through the site. And then when you're ready to select a space, you can just reserve the space right online. We handle all the payments so you don't have to deal with handing cash back and forth like you used to have to do. We'll make sure your payment gets collected and sent to the host's bank account every single month and make sure that you get everything you need. We also provide insurance-

Mike Wendland:           Yeah, I was just going to ask you about that.

Joseph Woodbury:        … so we're actually the only storage provider in the country that we know of that provides $25,000 in insurance for every single item that you store on our platform. We're a much safer alternative to one of those self-storage units that you could go get that's completely uninsured.

Mike Wendland:           Now, of course, that works out well if you have items, like boxes and stuff in a storage unit, but an RV is it's usually worth a lot more than $25,000. What happens in that case? That's kind of… You're on your own, you got to evaluate it and evaluate the host?

Joseph Woodbury:        Sure. And most RV renters will actually have a policy on their RV. Of course, it's a vehicle. You typically have insurance on that vehicle. If you were to go to a store at an RV storage location, a professional RV storage location, they would provide you $0 in insurance and expect you to insure the entire vehicle yourself. What we do is we go kind of a step further and we provide you $25,000 in insurance on your RV, on top of whatever insurance you may already have on that vehicle. And so in every way, it's more convenient and more secure than the existing solution.

Mike Wendland:           Now, how about the pricing on it. On Neighbor.com, it says sometimes 50% less, give us a rough idea for an RV which can range, I guess from 25 feet to 40 feet, 45 feet.

Joseph Woodbury:        Yeah.

Mike Wendland:           How does that work pricing wise? I know everybody's different, but give us some ballparks.

Joseph Woodbury:        So what we do is we know that our hosts, when they're creating a listing to rent out their space, most of them have no idea how to price their space and they need some guidance. So we've spent several years creating an algorithm that will take some input, so it'll take your location, what city you're in, what neighborhood within that city you're in, what are the dimensions of the space, some other amenities, is it climate controlled, other factors and it will give a recommended price to that host. They can choose to follow our recommended price or choose to price it at any price they'd like. They're 90% more likely to be rented out when they follow our pricing recommendations.

                                    To your question, what is a typical RV space going to run on Neighbor's platform? That's going to vary by market. We have many spaces in San Francisco, California, and those are going to be much more expensive than a space in Salt Lake City, Utah. But for example, a space in Salt Lake City, Utah, you can find a spot to store your RV for 70, $80 a month. Much, much cheaper than you're going to find going to a professional facility that can charge you anywhere from 250, 300, sometimes even $400 a month, depending on the location. In each market, while the price varies on our platform, in every market, it always ends up being around 40 to 50% cheaper than the existing storage market.

Mike Wendland:           I'm looking at your website, Neighbor.com now, and I've scrolled around the country, and the rates really are pretty good. I'm looking at one, we spend a lot of time down in Florida and if I wanted to keep my RV there, I have a 40 by 30 space near us that I could get for $22.50 a month, a 30 by 40 space. I'm sorry, that's huge for $22.50.

Joseph Woodbury:        Yeah.

Mike Wendland:           Now, up in the Detroit area where I'm coming to you from now, it's a big metropolitan area and the rates can be 60 to 100$ a month. If I just go a few miles out of town, they dropped down to 45. As you say, it depends on the market, but I am amazed at how many spots you have. Some appear to be just driveways, other parking lots, commercial parking lots, and others are actually indoor storage as well, in a barn or in a covered building. There are some pretty good options here.

Joseph Woodbury:        That's right, and this is such a big market. When we created this company, we were amazed at how big of a market it is. Americans spend over $40 billion a year on self-storage. We've now built more self-storage locations than there are McDonald's, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Domino's Pizzas, Wendy's, Burger King, Walmart's, Home Depots and Costco's combined in the United States.

Mike Wendland:           Wow.

Joseph Woodbury:        That's how much storage we built. It's really an industry that needed some innovation, and our innovation was really just realizing that, hey, we don't need to build all of that space, it's really a waste. There's plenty of unused space, completely empty sitting all around us. And a lot of those people are willing to rent that space out for very reasonable prices because they need the income to help pay the mortgage, to help save for a down payment or a vacation.

                                    So if we can connect those two people together, it's really a win, win solution for everyone. And it makes it so that we have to keep building these I Store or storage facilities in our towns. Someone was just telling me the other day, “In the 3 billion square feet of self-storage in the United States, you could fit every man, woman, and child simultaneously in a storage unit, and they'd be comfortable. They wouldn't be even squished together.” And that's just excessive, especially when there is so much all around us already.

Mike Wendland:           Well, It's a great idea. And innovation peer-to-peer, this certainly is a model that is working well. I've one last question. And I guess that would depend, but one of the things RVers do is they may put it in storage, but they want to come up and visited every month or every couple of weeks, maybe run the generator, make sure everything is working and the batteries are good. Is there any blanket policy or does that vary by location?

Joseph Woodbury:        Yeah. So when a host is creating their listing, that's one of the several questions that we'll ask them. We'll ask them, “How frequently can a renter access your space?” And they can choose from a number of options. Many will choose 24/7 access, especially for an outdoor location. They'll say, “You know what? Come get your RV whenever you'd like.” For indoor location, some will say business hours only, or they'll say by appointment only, meaning you have to reach out to the host in advance and set up a time to come by to access your space. And once we collect that information from the host, that information is displayed right on the listing itself. So the renter who's looking to store their RV can see… Before they book the space they can already see how frequently they'll be able to access that space. And they can take that into account when choosing which space to book.

Mike Wendland:           Well, Neighbor.com is the site, Joseph Woodbury, the Founder, and the CEO is our guest. And I want to thank you so much for making some time for us to talk about it. It's a great idea, and I am sure people are going to do it. One thing too, if those are people who have spaces and they want to have it offered to people, I'm sure they can contact you through Neighbor.com as well?

Joseph Woodbury:        That's right. Absolutely.

Mike Wendland:           All right, Joseph, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Joseph Woodbury:        Thank you so much for having me.

The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new  motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT   

Tom & Patti Burkett of the Rv Podcast
The RV Podcast off the beaten path reporters Tom & Patti Burkett

BY TOM & PATTI BURKETT

Maybe food stands were the food trucks of the 80s.  

Gus Glava built one on the parking lot of his bar in 1987.  He hoped it would get his new son in law out of the steel mills, which promised a short lifetime of physical ills.  Bob, who’d married his daughter Donna, turned out to be a great cook.  Donna turned out to be a first-rate organizer and manager.  

Starting with the 12 by 15-foot stand, powered by extension cords, the business prospered, adding on several times, but never changing its menu of pit-cooked meat and a few well-prepared side dishes.  Now at five locations, Chaps Pit Beef has become a go-to spot for this Baltimore favorite, and long outlived the business that spawned it.  

Nowadays, believe it or not, it sits in the parking lot of an all-nude review club.

The first time we tried pit beef was at the Delta Cardiff Heritage Festival in tiny Delta, Pennsylvania.  The town is Welsh by culture and originally home to miners who collected and split slate from the nearby deposits to make roofing shingles.  One day we’ll tell you more about that.  It’s a small festival.  The day we were there, maybe fifty people were in attendance.  

We noticed, around lunchtime, that a line began forming at one corner of the picnic pavilion on the grounds of the park where the festival was being held.  At events like this, you just can’t ignore a line, so we queued up too.

Photo of sign as featured on rv podcastAbout ten minutes later, a man walked up to a homemade barrel grill outside the pavilion and threw back the lid.  Inside were several blackened roasts and a couple of hams.  He pulled the cover off a table, revealing a meat slicer, several bags of sandwich buns, and a big jar of what turned out to be horseradish sauce.  

A collective sigh passed through the assembled crowd as he pulled one of the roasts from the grill, laid it on the slicer, and went to work.  More beef than a person should eat at one sitting was piled onto bun after bun, the line moved forward and the level of the horseradish sauce lowered steadily.  It was a life-changing experience, that sandwich, and it propelled us into the search for pit beef whenever we’re in the area.

photo of the pit beef grill described in the rv podcast
The pit beef grill

As foodstuffs go, pit beef isn’t all that old.  It made its early appearances along the National Road in Baltimore’s working class neighborhoods in the late 60s, but didn’t really become a Baltimore thing until the early 80s.  Pit beef isn’t technically barbecue, or so we’re told, because it’s fast cooked over a hot, hot fire rather than slow cooked.  

Devotees of both will argue for days about the distinction, but it makes no difference to the taste.  Some prefer thick hand cut slices on white bread, and some love wafer-thin machine cut slices piled on a roll, but whatever the form, no one would ever turn it down, whatever form it takes.  Vegetarians have been known to forego even that practice when faced with a pit beef sandwich.

So we stood in line, six feet apart, with the facemasked lunchtime crowd that trailed well out the door at the original Chaps, on Baltimore’s east side.  There were construction workers, hospital staff, men and women in suits, families, and even a man with what must have been a VERY well trained service dog in the line.  

photoof food truck described in the rv podcast
The food truck with…ahem… unusual service as described by the Burkett's in this RV Podcast off the beaten path report

Soon enough, we were at the counter, then picking up a surprisingly heavy bag to carry out.  As promised, the meat was cooked to perfection, piled high on the bun, and seasoned just right.  It was way too big and went down way too easy.  

The Washington Post reviewed the best pit beef in Maryland and Chaps only got an honorable mention, so I’m sure we have much pleasure waiting on our next visit.

Roast beef sandwiches are something of a regional specialty across the country, and you can find a mouthwatering variety if you keep your eyes open.  From Italian beef in Chicago to roast beef po’boys in New Orleans, the Gooch in Seattle to beef on ‘weck in Buffalo, or French dip in Denver to the hot brown in Louisville, you can get your fill of lovingly prepared meat on a bun, out here off the beaten path.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by Nomad Internet, Use the coupon code rvlifestyle25 for $25 of the off the setup fee for whatever plan you choose.

RV PODCAST EVENTS CALENDAR

With virtually all RV shows and events canceled from spring through the fall, there is cautious optimism in the industry that shows and RV exhibitions will again be happening after the first of the year.

To that end, we have two to report:

The 2021 Florida RV Supershow is on! Dates are January 13-17, 2021 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Details at https://www.frvta.org/show/florida-rv-supershow/

The annual Quarzsite, Arizona  Sports, Vacation and RV Show is on for January 16th-24th. Show organizers say they got the official okay from health officials. Details are avaiabe at https://www.quartzsitervshow.com/

All this of course is subject to change should the COVID situation change but as of now, it looks like the RV show season will be starting again after the first of the year. We’ll keep you updated

See the RV accessories and supplies Mike and Jennifer use and recommend:

We're asked all the time what products, accessories, and supplies we use in our RV. So the folks at Camping World put together a special page that lists them all. And they'll give you a 10% discount if you use the coupon code RVLIFESTYLE10

To access the page, just go tohttps://go.campingworld.com/rv-lifestyle/

 

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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