RV repairs are an inevitable part of RVing. Here are some tips for finding a mechanic, shop, or service technician to make the problems less of a headache, and to make the fix less expensive.
One of the things that some RVers think about, and that deters others
from becoming RVers, is, What happens when something quits or doesn’t
work right in your RV? New or old, or somewhere in between, all RVs have
many systems that can cause you headaches. Fancy, simple, hi-end,
budget, hi-tech, remote controlled, hydraulic, motorized, or
hand-crank…all the equipment and gadgets that are supposed to make our
lives on the road easier, have the capability of making our lives a
night mare. When things go wrong, how do you deal with them?
The first thing, if applicable, is to disconnect the electricity and shut off the propane. Make things safe.
Check the owner’s manuals. Maybe it’s a simple fix. If you don’t have an owner's manual, you may find one online. To find one online, do a search for "owners manual" followed by the brand and model of your RV.
Another option is to check a general RV repair manual. There are two general manuals that I like to use: RV Repair and Maintenance Manual by Bob Livingston, and RV Electrical Systems by Bill Moeller. Even if you can’t fix things yourself, using manuals to figure out what is wrong will help you understand what needs to fixing.
If your RV or the malfunctioning appliance is under warranty, find an authorized service center. It may be the dealer from whom you bought the RV. If you’re too far away to take it there, you might call them. Ask for their recommendation as to where to have it fixed. Some owner’s manuals have lists of authorized dealers, or you may find them online.
If you have an extended warranty that you think covers the problem, make sure you follow the rules and requirements set forth in the contract. This may include prior authorization or taking it to certain service providers. Some of the stipulations are very specific and strict. It’s best to call and make sure you know what procedures you must follow to have the warranty pay for the repairs.
If you are traveling, if possible, wait until you reach a destination to have repair work done. You can then schedule it at your convenience. The repair may take more than one day or there may be a wait for parts. It's usually a better situation to stay in a chosen community. You likely won't feel as stranded.
Now that you are at a place you want the repair made, how do you find someone to do it? Ask around the RV park. Ask other RVers and ask in the park office. Ask at restaurants, grocery stores, auto parts stores, or any place in the community. Check the yellow pages. Do an online search. Look for RV dealers and RV repair facilities with RVDA-RVIA (RV Dealers Association-RV Industry Association) certifications. These certifications mean the RV dealer agrees to adhere to generally accepted RVDA standards, and the technicians have some degree of RVIA accepted training.
The trend seems to be moving toward large regional or national RV dealers. Small, independent RV dealers and mechanics are sometimes more accommodating. Larger repair facilities might have a service manager who will talk with you and relay the repair that needs to be done to the actual technician. At smaller facilities, you are more likely to talk with the person who will be doing the work. Larger facilities may have a larger parts inventory. Smaller facilities may have much lower shop rates. Some RV dealers will only work on the brand names they sell. An RV repair mobile technician, who will come right to your RV, may be a better way to go than taking your rig into the shop.
You can get good repairs from many sources. Don’t be in too big of a hurry. Talk with the repair facility manager or worker, before you agree to have the job done. Ask for a price estimate. You can call around and compare prices, but price isn't the only thing you should consider. Listen to your gut and be comfortable before you say, "Yes," and get the repair done.
Editor's note: My husband, Bob Nilles, wrote this article. He does most of our rv repairs. He also does most of the maintenance on all of our vehicles, including our motorhome, travel trailers, mini-vans, Suburban, utility trailers, and tow dolly. He also does most of the mechanical repairs on these vehicles, as well as on our tractor, mowers, and other implements with wheels and engines.