img_08501The Lug_Nut view.

Motorized recreational vehicles are not a daily driver, and in general are used infrequently, usually only for vacations or a weekend get-away.  In fact, the average RV in the United States travels about 4,500 miles per year.   Many times mechanical issues can spoil or cancel an otherwise great trip.  Unlike an automobile, you can not just rent a like unit or get a loaner while the vehicle is being repaired.  You then become dependant on how fast the issues can be addressed and fixed. 

So you take it to your local dealer and hope they can get right on it.  You have a slide problem, a refrigerator that stopped cooling and an awning that has a bent arm.  As a general rule most dealers assign one technician to work on your rig.   Even if they start on the unit that day, usually not much is done except the diagnostic part of the issues.  Next there are parts that are usually required.  Again, unlike an automobile dealer that generally stocks most parts, the RV dealer does not.  This is due to the vast number of parts, assemblies and components that go into making these vehicles.  So, you may well be further delayed while the needed pieces are located, shipped and received.


Okay, on day three the parts have arrived.  Hopefully the technician is free to get them installed.  Most of this day is lost in receiving the items, rescheduling the tech and preparing the install.  Sometimes the parts received are not correct or are not complete and require further time to source.  During the repair, often the tech is called away to deal with a minor issue, like an adjustment on a unit that they recently sold and had stopped by.  This can easily account for a loss of an hour or more of that service day.

Some adjustments to the frig seal and to the upper vent have proved ineffective in correcting the lack of cooling.  The factory now authorizes the replacement of the fridge complete and prepares to ship one to the dealer.  It should arrive in about three days. 

The slide parts are installed and all seems to work fine.  Unfortunately the factory recently made a slight change in the installation method of a bracket and did not yet convey this modification to the field.   The slide may again fail in future due to this omission.

The new refrigerator finally arrives.  In changing out the unit, a window must be removed for access.  The window seal is damaged during the removal.  The dealer does not have a new seal in stock and would require another day to get one.  They install the window and repair the damaged seal.  This may well leak in the near future.

The total man hours required for all the work is about 26.  The RV in this scenario could take about 8 or 9 business days to complete.  Two issues may develop in the near future: one of them, a repeat, the slide failure; and the other a window seal leak.

So, how would the same scenario work out if it were taken directly to the factory.  Well, first the unit would be taken into the shop in the early morning, on time.  Generally this is the normal procedure as factory service is by appointment only and their schedules are both well planned and somewhat back-up buffered.  Once in the shop, many times three different technicians, or in some cases teams, go to work on each of the issues.  Diagnosing the fault is done very quickly as each tech is usually very familiar with exactly how it is made, installed and works.  The decision to replace the refrigerator is made within an hour and the removal of the original unit starts immediately.  They have units in stock and will have the window out, the units swapped and the window re-installed by mid morning on day 2.  The damaged window seal is replaced from stock at the same time.  The awning arm is assessed and replaced within 3 hours on day 1.  The slide is repaired with the newest modified bracket.  There is no interruption from other customers as all service is by appointment and the service department is not accessible.  It is completed on day 2. 

For the factory service all three items were addressed and repaired or replaced in two days.  This is about 25% of the time required by a dealer.  The actual amount of labor required was about equal, except for the diagnosis which was twice as fast at the factory.  Parts availability and shipping times were responsible for most of the additional time needed by the dealer.  Additionally, in this scenario, the chance of future issues was reduced substantially using the factory service.

This in no way says that dealers do not do a good job at multi-issue corrections.  In fact there are dealers that may be able to deliver factory-like service, but they are in the minority.  The others may do a very good job, but, due to parts inventory, skilled labor availability and the wide variety of makes and models, the turn around time generally does not meet customer expectations.

img_0849Newmar, for one, has recently offered factory-type service at their Napanee, Indiana plant for “orphaned makes”.  These are other make coaches and trailers that are currently unsupported due to their builders being insolvent or have ceased operation at this time.  To date, few have taken advantage of this.  While, granted, it does not cover any warranty work, for their experience, the skilled talent set offered, and the speed of service, it’s probably well worth it.  Additionally, Newmar’s service, when all is said and done, in my opinion, is very well priced, far cheaper than most dealers.

Now, granted, the scenario I have used is somewhat an extreme case, but certainly not unheard of.  Some of the assumptions made may not be applicable in all cases and do not necessarily indicate or express a service baseline.

So, for those that have experienced both dealer and factory service, what is your opinion?  If you have not, I would still like to hear your take on this.

With Another View of Service   –   Lug_Nut   –   Peter Mercer

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  453. Lou Pusey, Tiffin is a great product, and like all great products, would not be that without good service. Thank you for sharing your good service comments with us. Happy motoring.

  454. Lou Pusey

    We are full time motor homers who own a Tiffin Allegro Bay. Tiffin is located in Red Bay AL so the majority of our time is spent a long way from there, though we have been back there for service twice when we were nearby during our travels. To be of help to others like us Tiffin has placed field technical representatives across the US who can repair and/or replace most of what needs repairing under warranty. Their service trucks carry many of the most commonly needed parts to make repairs. Appointments are necessary but a lot of time they can come to your location, or a convenient place to meet can be arranged. Their tech reps are very courteous, knowledgeable and experts of their trade.

  455. Lee

    What govt agency would be in charge of enforcing quality of rv’s and frames by Lippert Industries and Heartland Rv’s? Seem like if there is no warranty coverage,than they can produce inferior products.

  456. Lee, I’m sorry to hear of your rust issue. Perhaps it could be cleaned up by an undercoating shop. Warranties often have exclusions. Thank you for your input.

  457. Lee

    I had bought a Heartland fifth wheel and two months later found undercarriage rusty.Needless to say,Noble Rv has a one year bumper to bumper warranty,but Heartland has small print in warranty that rust not covered.
    My point is dont beleive your dealership since they have to do what Heartland says.If you are considering buying,take the time to check undercarriage for rust.
    Noble Rv nor Heartland will repair so that is why I.m trying to educate and tell Rv ers what to observe/

  458. RVNewbie, I’m pleased you got so much from this topic, and really happy to hear your positive comment on the blog site. Thank you for your input.

  459. RVNewbie

    Lug_Nut’s article is pretty thought-provoking. So, before investing in an RV,
    it sounds like it’d be a good idea to do alot more research, especially on the factory locations. Sounds like most are in the Eastern US (I’m based in the far west). I’ve had my eye on a small “gently used” Minnie Winnie, only a year or so old. I’d live in it when I work out of town.
    The references to common poor RV quality make me want to reconsider (especially since I’m a single lady with few repair skills). I’ve also considered a Class B or camper van conversion, but these seem to be far more expensive than Class Cs. Maybe just stick with a truck and a camper shell, with my own custom components? 🙂 (P.S. This is a great website for beginners)

  460. Rick, Glad to hear you had such good service at both Camping World and the Fleetwood factory. Many people get their regular yearly services done at the factory or at the chassis manufacturer’s service outlet. As well as getting their service work in a known area I believe they also enjoy the social aspects of the experience. Thank you for your input on this topic.

  461. Rick

    I live in northern Michigan and have a campingworld 2 miles from my house. I have used them a couple of times for minor problems and they have done a fine job. They get me in and out in a half a day (no parts needed to be ordered). I have also had my Pace Arrow down to Decatur twice for bigger problems and they have done a good job. Made appointment and stayed at their facility overnight and had early morning in and afternoon out. Both camping world and fleetwood manufacturer facilities were OK with me. Courteous and accomodating.
    One thing that struck me though, at the fleetwood facility, (I have only been a RV’er for over a year now) other MH owners there said they make it a point to plan a week each year at that facility to repair problems they have with their big buck motorhomes. AND, they think nothing of it. My wife and I were both kind of taken aback by how it was no big deal to them. AS far as we are concerned, these folks and the RV industry need to raise the bar. If I need to spend a week each year at an RV repair facility then I also should invest my 401 with Bernie Mandoff before he goes to prison for 150 years.

  462. Hi John, Yes, I tend to side also with direct factory service if possible. They know the way it is built and can probably deal better with it than anyone else. Thanks for your participation and great input.

  463. John

    Hi Lug_Nut,
    Interesting points you make between the two types of service.
    Think I would choose the factory since the coach was born there.
    Cummunication of product upgrades and service procedures often don’t get passed down the pipe.
    You’ll be dealing directly with the people that make these changes. Might be a bit of a drive for some owners but, in the long run you’ll be better off.
    I’ve decided to buy my coach from one of two manufacturers I would drive by on my way south for the winter. After seeing the service center at Monaco, I was impressed. Heard that Navistar is now running Monaco.

  464. Pingback: RV Weekly Round-Up (June 13-19, 2009) : RV and Camping News and Information

  465. Thomas Becher

    Maybe now that the economy has slowed things down, the manufactuer will too and put a little more time into building their product. I know, hurry up there’s another one comeing. I had to take the front fiberglass “bubble” off of my 5th wheel to repair a leak and found a minimal amount of insulation in it. It could have had and did receive 5-6 times the amount the factory put in. I removed a standard roof vent to install a new shurflo power vent (great fan, very quite) and had no problem wiring it, no insulation in the way to slow me down. No wonder it’s so hot or cold inside. It;s a good thing the walls were sandwiched with foam or there would be no insulation there either. The builders of RV’s think that QUALITY is just a word in the Dictionary.

  466. Patrick W. Tribbey, Sounds like you got some good service from the dealer. This may be one of those top dealer service companies. If they did good work they deserve a plug, so no problem.
    I’m glad you found the article of interest, and thank you for the kind words. Thasnks also for your valued input.

  467. Patrick W. Tribbey

    Greetings! Less than three months ago, I had to have the ‘frig’ replaced in our pre-owned ’02 TIMBERLAND 29 ft’r. The old one has some sort of yellow residue in the outside area. At a local independent RV repair shop, the tech took one look, very politely informed me that was from the ammonia(?) and a new frig was needed. So, the shop only took two, (2), days to repair. [In one day and out the next]. I have only one minor complaint: Appears that I have to jack the front end a little higher to get the bubble level in the camper frig in the circle. Does this make sense?? The shop people were very nice, courteous, and very willing to work with me! Should you happen to be in the Columbia/Lexington, S.C. area and need repairs, please check out “Tony’s RV Repairs”, Lexington, S.C. (Hope it is okay to give them a free plug on here! )
    Tireman9: You most certainly spoke the truth! I’m a former auto mechanic! 🙂
    Lug-nut: Thanks for your most interesting column! Your comments, along with the rest of the comments are very interesting, truthful and will help other people in the future! 🙂
    Thanks! :):):):)

  468. Owen B. McCullen, Very good point. The delays can be far worse if you are a full-timer as many are. Don’t forget to call Newmar first to set-up a date, they are probably running 6 to 8 weeks back right now. Thanks for your input and best of luck for the season.

  469. Tireman9, It seems to always come back to quality and your statements are right on the money. Newmar used to have a 3 year bumper to bumper warranty, but that boat sailed. Now 1 and 2 years only depending on the line. Thank you for taking the time and sharing both your knowledge and experience with us on this topic. Your valued input is appreciated.

  470. Owen B. McCullen

    i have had my unit for 6 years and about 68,000 miles and my Newmar before that for 5 years and about 48,000 miles. I have had it repaired at dealers and at the factory. It has always been better at the factory and my experience is about as you described at the dealers and at the factory. No really bad experience at dealers but always the delay, sometimes the wrong parts (even from Newmar itself) and taking a lot longer at the dealer than the facotry. Now we own a Monaco and was pleased to learn the Newmar factory will repair our Monaco. Don’t misuderstand, the Monaco is a great unit and relatively repair free but we full time and it gets a lot heavier use than the recreational user. Things to wear out. Thanks for the tip on the Newmar factory since Monaco went into bankruptcy.

  471. Tireman9

    Just think how you would feel if it took weeks to fix the electric window on your car which was stuck down? Would you ever consider buying another car from that manufacturer?
    I believe that there is a fundamental problem with the concept of “Quality” at the design and manufacturing level in the current RV Industry.
    Given that most units only have 12 month warrantee and as was pointed out, most only see a few thousand miles usage each year and most really are only used for a few months a year, I am inclined to believe, based on close, in depth look at a few different units that RV manufactures have no real incentive to make meaningful improvements in their overall quality.
    Having worked as a design and quality engineer for 39 years at a major supplier to almost all OE car manufacturers, I can attest to the fact that one of the driving forces to continually improve the quality of today’s is the attention being paid to Warrantee Returns. In most cases a 1 in a thousand complaint ( not failure that makes the car un-usable) is enough to get a demand that the supplier do a redesign request.
    If your Warrantee coverage expires essentially in less than 5,000 miles and 6 months you really have no incentive to make improvements. If you don’t have a meaningful Warranty and Quality Improvement program you also do not have the information needed to make the incremental improvements in your product that would allow you to eventually make an RV you can offer a 5 year 50,000 mile 100% “Bumper to Bumper” warrantee. Note I can get this on cars that cost less than $15,000 so cost is not an excuse.
    Some examples of RV “Quality” I personally observed in the past 15 months.
    Wiring – the use of electrician tape to insulate a wire connection and the use of hardware store crimp on connections or wire nuts in areas exposed to potential water spray.
    Plumbing – Having fresh water holding tank drain directly onto the electric connection on a propane tank.
    Holding Tank – Level sensors that are off by 50% when new. Placing the drain valves in direct line with wheel spray where rocks and other road debris can hit and damage the valve.
    Misc – Having brake lights that leak water into the bulb area, resulting in socket corrosion in 15 months. Shower doors that are not completely tied down so they crash into their frame every time you step on the gas or brake.
    There is a concept called “Cost of Poor Quality” that apparently is unheard of in the RV industry. This includes the obvious costs associated with Warrantee claims but also things such as the yards of excess wire or plumbing seen in many units and of course the results of word of mouth reports on how good the unit from manufacturer X really is.


  472. Bob Lester, It sounds like you have been there. Poor pre-delivery practices lead to continuing service issues in many cases. I’m glad to hear that, even so, you are pleased with the cruiser. Thanks for your input on this topic.

  473. Bob Lester

    Sounds like the truth. I lost a wheel/hub assembly and it took a month to get it fixed too bad there is not a fast place in Birmingham, Al. to get a Crossroad crusier fixed.
    Next thing is the repair facility at Tennessee RV in Knoxville!!!! got the new cruiser in Nov. 08 and they just got all the parts in to repair it!!!! Mostly the problem was TN RV themself not doing thier job in predelivery.
    Happy with the crusier just not the dealer or thier service.

  474. Neal Peckham, Well hopefully the hose will be fix at little cost and Ford takes care of the temp control. The temp control sound more expensive than repairing a leaking hose. Good luck for a low bill and thanks for your input.

  475. Neal Peckham

    I have an 08 Georgetown on a Ford chassis. Dash air does not work. Dealer checked it last August while still under Forest River warranty, said it was fine. Took it out last month inside temp got to 93. Took it to Ford dealer three weeks ago. They say it is a temp control which is under Ford warranty and a leaking hose that is an after market item put in by Forest River and therefore not covered by Ford, I must pay for the part and labor and by the way it may take another week to fix. I’m stuck paying for a repair that should be a warranty item. God knows what the bill will be!

  476. Fritz McDowell, Good point, and not to be overlooked. Generally I wait a month or so to get a slot. That’s part of the protection of not lossing your tech’s to a walk-in. Glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for your input.

  477. Lug nut, great article. You might have forgot one important thing. Don’t forget to call first and make an appointment, this could take a week to a few months. Probably on the coach make and how serious the problem. Some places will work with you if you’re a full timer. I’ve also found that a lot of the mobile service people are very knowledgeable and quite easy to work with. I’ve learned this through experience. They are also less expensive than a dealer or factory. They will also come to your campsite and do the work right there. Just a suggestion.

  478. David Bollinger, Great input on factory on service. Thank you for sharing your service experience with us and for your input.

  479. Roger, Hopefully we will learn where this service is taking place. I take from his statement that it may very well be a dealer, thus supporting the article. Thanks for your input.

  480. Joe Biancardi, This three week wait, is that at your dealer, or is it at the Roadtrek factory service depot? Thanks for sharing this with us.

  481. David Bollinger

    I agree. Any issues I cannot resolve myself are cataloged and addressed on my once a year visit to the factory. Althought it is a 2 day trip, my experience is pretty much as you describe. Trailer is picked up by technicians early in the morning, and returned to the complimentary campsite in the afternoon.

  482. Roger

    Joe, are you saying you are at the Roadtrek factory getting factory service and it’s taken 3 weeks?!