The Pit Falls of Trying To Get RV Technical Advice

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July 9, 2009

So just where do you get reliable technical information? Correct information, like what kind of oil to use, operational procedures, acceptable variances and like practical tips.  Is it level first then slides out, or is it the opposite?   Should I store my RV with the jacks down or should I not?

The questions seem straight forward enough, and you would think it should be relatively easy to get good correct answers.  Well, guess again.  Welcome to the “my opinion club”.   In many cases, regardless of who you ask, you get their take on it, not necessarily the right or best answer.

This applies, in many cases, to even those that you may think trustworthy.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “And that came from Monaco themselves” (Fill in any manufacturer as it applies to all others equally).  My question, so who exactly is Monaco themselves?”  Well, it’s a service writer, a technician, a salesperson, or other employee of a factory service or sales center.  Perhaps in some cases it is an employee or owner of an authorized dealer.  None of these people are necessarily automatically qualified or equipped to answer all, or perhaps many, of these queries.


So where can you get the most actuate information? Probably first, what is found  within your manufacturer’s manuals.  Additionally, and perhaps the “Trump card,” is any attached labels found within the RV.  While manuals can be relied on in almost all cases, they can be somewhat generic given the number of like models made by the same maker.  We have all seen the statement “Such and such, if so equipped” within a supplied manual. This add-on, or lack of, can vary the application thus changing many other things.

Beware of the technician, or like so called informed expert, that start by answering your questions with “Well I always…….”.  If you cared how he did it you would have asked him that, but you really want to know the correct procedure.  Believe me, when you start to ask questions that are not necessarily in the manual, like “Jacks down for storage or not,” you will get a host of answers, even from technicians in the same shop.

To demonstrate what I’m leading to, let me give you actual happenings that I witnessed.

Dealing with a large, well know dealer.

Customer: Please check the SCA in my coolant.

Service Writer: SCA??  Coolant?  Okay.

They didn’t know what SCA meant: Supplement Coolant Additive.

(4 hours later)

Customer:  How was the SCA?

Service Writer:  Oh, yes, it’s good for 34 F. below.

Customer: Can you drain and replace the coolant please.

Service Writer: Change the coolant?  Why do you want the coolant changed?

Customer:  It’s over 3 years old.  Change it please.

Dealing with a factory service depot

Customer: (Activates auto-level jacks to demonstrate issue)  Coach raises on the jacks and leans heavily to the right on relatively level ground)

Factory Service Writer:  Maybe the ground is too uneven.

Customer: Hmmmmmmmm………….Waiter…….Check please!

Large RV Servicing Dealer

While getting a scheduled engine service, the technician fills a fuel filter that is specified to be installed dry.

Customer: That filter should not be pre-filled.  It is to be installed dry and electrically primed to avoid contamination.

Technician: Oh, we always do them this way.

Yes, I can imagine, and you probably top up batteries with city water and a garden hose too.  (I’ve seen that more than once)

Dealing with an engine service center

Customer: I need an oil change on my Cummins.  Do you have the 100% synthetic oil?

Technician: Synthetic?  Cummins does not recommend synthetic oil.

Customer: Exactly where does Cummins say that?  My manual does not state that nor am I aware of a service bulletin that does either.  I wonder why Cummins name is on the cases of Valvoline full synthetic oil?   (Fact is Cummins does not support extending oil change frequencies by the use of synthetic oil, but does not advise against its use.)

So, again, I’ve got to ask, where does one get reliable information? Probably, and not necessarily in this order, O.E.M. manuals, attached labels, the manufacturer’s engineering department, some service personnel and like industry specialists.  Another good source can be found within forums, like RV.NET.  While this requires separating many incorrect answers and using good judgment, it many times can help.  There are questions that perhaps do not have definitive answers, like, do you put your jacks down while in storage or not.  The choice of this is generally not even thought of by the manufacturer or servicing dealer and ends up being a matter of choice.  Life’s real time experiences of fellow RV users can be the best guide to such sought after answers.

Please understand that I’m not saying that you can not get good advice from RV service people or manufacturer’s representatives, but you have to go in with your eyes wide open.  There are many that are happy to give you advice, and many that really do not know.  Design changes, options and the computer driven age make it difficult for service technicians to stay up with current issues, and not all do.

So, if you have a good go-to-guy, that knows his stuff, hang on to him.  They are rarer than one would think.   Anyway, that’s my take on getting simple answers in a complicated world.  What’s your view?

Just Asking Questions    –    Lug_Nut    –    Peter Mercer



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  1. Bought this as a gift for my neighbor who is a huge Playstation fan. We rveeiced only a controller skin at first but after contacting seller, order was corrected and sent out quickly. Would definitely recommend this seller for their customer service!

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  3. I went to RV City in Huachuca, AZ yesterday to make an appointment to get about (my estimate) $2000 worth of work done on my RV. Couldn’t get anyone to wait on me, and when, finally, someone did recognize me standing right there at the counter, he rep couldn’t answer any of my questions about the work to be done, didn’t know ‘dirt’ from his bottom…so I was about to leave when the owner asked what I wanted…. I said I wanted to some major work done but couldn’t get a rep who know what he was doing or sayhing. The owner said, “whatever” and walked away. In these parts, they call him “Ripoff” Ron.

  4. Bob Hough, Perhaps you should go back and read the part of the article that starts…. “So, again, I’ve got to ask, where does one get reliable information?” Here several ideas are offered. Thanks for your input.

  5. Bob Hough

    So. Where can I find tech info on rv repairs? Who has the answer to this, cant find anywhere.

  6. Liz Bard

    Yes that is what happened. I just got back today after picking up the RV from the shop today and asked their parts guy. I told him Camping World said I had to have the braking system in LA. He said he was not aware of it for LA, but up on the east coast – like New Hampshire and New Jersey, maybe Virginia they require it. He quoted me $1950. Said I did not need the braking unit for my 2008 Saturn Outlook. I’m still looking around since I can’t buy it right now. When I picked up my RV yesterday, it was late and I planned on staying overnight. I checked everything that I requested be fixed and found 2 of the items had not been fixed but I was charged for it. I called the service guy this morning and made arrangements to come in this afternoon. I showed him what the problems were and he had it fixed ASAP. Since I live about 120 miles away, I have learned to check before I leave town.

  7. Liz Bard, It certainly sounds like the delivery inspection was not done properly. When you say “hook your Saturn up to your RV” I presume you are talking about having a base plate installed on the car, getting a tow bar and aquiring some type of braking for the towed car. Depending on the make, and in particular which type of braking system they are quoting, the prices can vary considerably. My guess is the dealer quoted base plate and tow bar only, whereas Camping World quoted including a braking solution.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences in this matter and for your valued input.

  8. Liz Bard

    We bought a used 2002 Winnebago Brave in March 09. We didn’t know a lot about the mechanics involved. The dealer said they had inspected it and so did the service guy who showed me everything in two hours. I was very confused. When we were doing the walk thru I noticed the brake light and ABS lights lit on the dash. The service guy said it was just a sensor. I drove it home and that weekend we went to a National Forest 45 miles from home so we could get used to it. On Monday I took it to Tyler, TX to have a wiring harness put on it for my chair lift. My brakes started smoking as I pulled into his shop. After it cooled down and he installed the harness, I took it to the dealer. They told me that they had inspected it and it was fine.(it had a state inspection on it that was new. The headlights were facing up so when they were on it was like you had no lights. When I called and spoke to the dealer about the inspection, the service guy said they drove it 20 mph and it stopped and the lights came on when they pushed the button). They also said they did not work on the chasis, only the coach. I took it to a truck repair place and it took a month. I called the main number for Workhorse after I found that there had been 26 complaints registered with the NTSA. They sent their guy to the repair shop and did everything that needed to be done. I did not have the extended warranty (I got it right after tho), but I pitched enough of a fit that they paid for all but $2,500.

    We are retired and got the RV for fun traveling to see Texas and other places, meet with his friends from the I sure Army, and travel to see family. When I lived in Austin, tX there was a company called Lemon Busters that would inspect a vehicle for you to see if it was a good buy or not. I sure wish we had had something like that. Before we bought our house, I had an inspector check it out so I knew what needed to be done and could get the seller to fix it before we bought it.

    As far as telling people how bad or good the service is at a company, ask anyone who was in the military who got shafted. All it takes is spreading the word to a few people and the store has to either change or is closed in 30 – 60 days.

    I know about asking for advice. I am checking to find out what the cost is to hook my Saturn up to the RV. My Saturn dealer quoted me $1800. Camping World quoted me almost $4000 and said I needed something to put in the floor to brake the toad. Another RV dealer says that is not needed.

    I have been getting a lot of advice from this newsletter/blog. The service guy at Foretravel told me about it and the forums. I got a lot of info from the forum about the brake problems.

    We saw in Army Times that the Carefree RV Resorts gives a 50% off military discount. They also honor Good Sam.

  9. Mel, Thanks for your detailed service experience. You are correct, it sure helps to be somewhat handy yourself. Thanks for the great post.

  10. Mel

    2002 Pace Arrow Was in Idaho and all of a sudden lost my AC power. It would not work on Shore power or the generator. After doing some checking myself I determined that it was probably a Transfer relay. Fortunatly We were staying at my cousins house and the Dealer where I bought the coach was 60 miles away. So I Drove the motor home to the Dealer and told them what I suspected was wrong. They said that they could not work on it until wednesday and theis was friday. So I left it and went back to my cousins home driving the toad. When wednesday came I drove to the dealers and found that the mechanic had taken most of the AC outlets out looking for a short. I asked him why was he doing that because if there was a short it would trip a circuit breaker. He said well there might be an open. I told him to check the transfer relay and that it was behind the circuit breaker panel in the bedroom. I left and came back a few days later and he said that it was the transfer relay and that it would have to be ordered from the factory. I said how long will this take. he said a week or ten days. I said to him have you checked with the Onan service depot. (it was only 15 miles away) The dealer called and they had a relay. So he said we will have you fixed up tomorrow. The next day I returned and it still was not fixed. He claimed that the new relay was bad. The next day it was fixed and working. I had some stiff leg jacks that were sticking and not coming all of the way up even though the warning lights was out and the jack was still down 4 inches. I had to tell him where the adjust was to fix the problem with the warning lights. it is in a box behind the jack control panel in the dash. He claimed that it needed 1 new jack and new springs. I said that I could not wait any longer and that I would bring it back the next time I was in Idaho. I took my motor home and left. I feel very lucky that I had a extended warranty and only had to pay the $100 deductable. When I got home I drained some of the fluid out of the jack resevore and reset the warning light myself. then gave each jack leg a shot of grease. (they have grease zerks on them) and now they are working fine. I winter in Yuma Arizona and have a good knowledgable mechanic there that works on my Motor home. I feel sorry for those who cannot do there own work or are not mechanicaly inclined. I can emagine the bill that the extended warranty people got. I imagine it was close to $700 or more. they charge $115 an hour and I knew more about what the problem was than the mechanic who was supposed to be a Certified RV Tech.

  11. MIKE ONEIL, Absorption type refrigerators require the heat dispersed from them and usually the issue is failure to move the hot air out. It sounds like your just keeps moving air out, or at least it should be if it is running all the time. I wonder if it would have been fixed properly if you had been able to go to the factory for the service? Thank you for your input on this topic.



  13. j.e. patterson, Sounds like you have had some serious issues with repair folk. It is very frustrating when happening like that happen, not to mention quite disappointing. Thank you for sharing your experience with us and for your valued input.

  14. j.e. patterson

    I have a brand new Class C Minnie Winnie aka Minnie the Lemon. For two years I have had an engine light on (off when cleared by “mchanic” and told it was my gas cap). Mind you now this is all the way back to Iowa from northern Ca (two trips Jul 06 and Jul 08). Well needless to say I didn’t make it home in one piece this last trip (scraped the side when hit side on rails on highway). Jul 08 Started out of Fort Collins could not make the hill up to Laramie…it choked it coughed sputtered and just quit. Been thinking bad gas. Got towed into Laramie and they worked on the rv that am and changed the fuel filter said the other one was full of rust particles. My bill for towed in and fuel filter was probably close to $1,000.
    I get on down the road didn’t get 10 miles it started acting up; again I got on my cell phone and called the shop I just left he said he run it up; a hill and etc etc and run just fine and that I should turned round and came back. My remark was excuse me shouldn’t you have fixed it before putting me on the road again. (at the time I didn’t know but that rust was from the gas tank and he should have known he is the mechanic I think.
    Little America wouldn’t touch my rv with a twenty foot pole. I limped into Salt Lake got my thoughts together gassed up got some zzz’s and headed towards home (it took me four days sometimes 10 miles an hr with emergency lights blinking you might have seen me). Really disappointed that there just isn’t many rv mechanics out there that will accommodate one with a rv. When I got home I run it into a shop where I get my oil changes and they checked the engine light wrote the codes down cleared it and sent me to Ford dealer said it was still under warrenty. I said you have cleared it how is the Ford mech going to read it ewwww. I went on home to get my head cleared and some rest.
    Well there is no way I have to leave my rv it’s a 60 mile round trip to the Ford dealer so my warrenty expired. My license came due and so did the smog test.
    I took it to my mech where I live and take my other vechicles in for smog test. He kept it for two weeks found out the Ford people (we called them Fri nite special mech) I guess who ever put the gas tank in failed to seat the o ring and let moisture in and rusted the tank out.. About $4500 later (4 more fuel filters and 2 fuel pumps $400 ea and 6 new tires and another set of rv batteries. This lemon is one beauty. I feel the lemon law is an absolute must. There should be lists of rv mech/shop. I got home and I got a call for extended warranty I said there is one mech from Laramie to Salt Lake and if I recollect none to Iowa except maybe in larger cities.
    Well I won’t be buying any Winnies anytime soon o by the way my grandson got under this rv to see this tank and the bolts on each side of the tank one was loose the other the nut was gone this holds down the top part to the chasis,
    I took it right back to my mech and told him of the new find and he called this rv a Fri night special. Where are these guys minds at?????

  15. Don.....T

    LuG_NUT & JHON
    Thanks for your comment guys, I appreciate it. I did have the card company withhold the additional rip of 145.00 its still pending. I also wrote their local BBB in Burlington,WI.. My next step will be GOOD SAM,S and others. Thanks again.

  16. William Eder, Jacks down then slides out or slides out then jacks down depends on the make and model of the rig you are talking about. Many Monaco products require the slides to be deployed prior to the jacks, but this is model specific. Most other makes are jacks down then slide deployment. This information should be found in your manual or on stickers with your coach. Thank you for your input on this topic.

  17. Hi john, Glad to hear you found the article of interest. I guess you have seen the world in a similar fashion as I have. The blocking up of a coach is an interesting concept. It would certainly take the weight off the tires and suspension without the worry of getting any rod damage on the jack rams. Thanks for your always great input.

  18. John

    Hi Lug_Nut,
    Excellent article! So true too. Over the many years of dealing with truck repair shops and even car / pu truck repair shops there is one thing I’ve learned and that is they are not all the same. You have to do your homework to find a reputable facility. Don T could have called his card company to have them withold the disputed charges. I assure you this will get the attention of the dealer. Also, if Don is a God Sam member, write them and ask them to look into it. As we’ve seen many members have received refunds after the shop in question has been exposed to the RV community. If they want to continue getting clients, they know when people read about the way they’ve treated others, they won’t come knocking on their door for service. And the word spreads fast to other potential clients.
    These companies are much like governments and politicians. You have to embarass them in the public eye to get change.

    I often do my own service work and know first hand what has been done and how it has been done (the correct way). It takes time to research the answers and procedures, but is well worth it and, can save you big bucks. It’s not rocket science. The other option is to find a good service shop by asking other RVers. If you have to, go talk to the shop foreman. Asking the right questions will give you a good idea what kind of a shop he is running.

    As for the issue of storing a unit with jacks up or down you can try this: Raise the unit and support at the appropriate spot using timber blocks. Just make sure they are in good condition before lowering the heavy weight onto them. Once the vehicle is frame is resting securely on the blocks you can retract the jacks and not have worry about the jack’s hydraulic ram surface rusting or being exposed to the elements.


  19. Gary Motshagen, It sounds like you have had the right idea for 15 years or better. I agree, if your jacks are in the condition they should be, no spray-on should ever be needed. Hard chrome is tough and can protect itself for years if not externally damaged.
    Best way to get some answers on your other issue is to post it on RV.NET’s forum. Alternatively you might see a like blog show up on the section and ask.
    Thank you for getting back to all the posters of this topic and for your valued input.

  20. Gary Motshagen

    Thanks guy’s for all of the input on jacks, it’s appreciated. I’m leaving my jacks down while I’m setup, seems to work for me and in 15 years never had a jack problem, except, I had a control panel replaced about 6-7 years ago. I don’t spray anything on the cylinders and there never has been a problem with rust or operation. There as shinny as new.

    One more question, how do I post a thread about a battery ticking problem?
    Thanks again, good input.

  21. Randy Lifshotz, Scissor style jacks work fine on even some smaller A class coaches. Yes, in most cases they will be more than adequate on a C. They should be mounted to the frame, aft of the rear axle and forward of the front axle. The exact location would depend on the make and model of the chassis. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations as to their location. This can be done by contacting their engineering department. Thank you for your input.

  22. Randy Lifshotz

    Talk about leveling a “C” please. Are scissor (stabilizer) jacks acceptable for leveling a “C” or not? Where should they go if it is ok? Thanks

  23. Rmartin, While in princiiple, the lubrication of the exterior of the ram jacks seems sound, it may create other issues. Hard chrome rods should not rust. The addition of spray-on lubes may cause excessive foreign matter to affix to the surface. This in turn may bring more related problems than the good it may bring. This is my opinion. Thank you for sharing your experience with us and for your excellent input.

  24. Glen Odom. I agree, the weight off the tires will definately contribute to better preserving your tire. However, they are only good for somewhere about 6 years. Exceeding this timeframe may push the envelope on the sidewall condition. Putting jacks down, if the unit is a sprung frame, may be the answer in most cases.
    Thank you for the great input.

  25. Rmartin

    The reason you should deploy the jacks when in storage is to (save the tires) from all the weight & too prolong their life.My recommendation is to spray the expose part of the jacks with the same type of spray that’s used on the slide out’s mechanism.

  26. Glen Odom

    Everything I have read speaks of putting the rear stablizers down during storage to shift weight from the tires, etc. Thus I normally drop mine.

  27. Ernie Hadfield, Most hydraulic jack rods, including HWH, are not stainless steel, they are hard chromed steel. Hard chromed steel does not rust unless it has been damaged. All hydraulic double acting rams are equipped with a rod wiper to prevent foreign matter from entering and damaging the cylinder head seal.
    I thought I had answered the question to the best of my ability, (Quote) “Gary Motshagen, My advice for storage periods is down for sprung vehicles, up for air suspended units. Of course there are other circumstances that must be taken into account, like enviroment, parking surface material, etc. So, no one answer is necessarily correct for all cases.”
    Thank you for the question and input.

  28. Ernie Hadfield

    You still didn’t answer about storing the jacks.

    The info that I have from HWH says it’s ok to store with stainless jacks extended since they will not corrode and have a self cleaning seal. Other brands without stainless shafts can be damaged by corrosion if left extended for long periods.

  29. Don, I’m sorry to hear of your issue. It certainly does not seem fair. I can understand a charge to come out to you, as apposed to going to their shop, but $150 does seem high given the milage you stated. I have gladly paid $50 to have warranty work performed on my unit at my park location, as apposed to driving in and waiting. The distance the dealer came to me was 17 miles each way. Hopefully the dealer in your case will be reasonable and reduce the bill. Thank you for sharing your experience with us and for your input.

  30. Don.....T

    Not only a lot of misinformation, but a screwing cost wise for service.
    My RV is currently under warrenty and needs service.
    Thats fine but you will have to pay travel cost of $150.00 (40 milesround trip)
    Ok, seems steep but I need the service, and I’m still under warranty.
    Well, we are the largest RV dealer in the Burlington,WI. area and our service people need to be paid.
    I understand.
    your credit card number please?
    See you in six days
    Now the “YOU GOT SCREWED” story.
    Service man shows stays 35 minutes,finds nothing wrong to correct the situation and leaves. End of storey? NO………about 10 days later debt card is hit with another $145.00… to ask what thats about? !
    Thats the charge and thats it period.
    I’m still fighting the S.O.B.’s
    I’ll ask to be kissed first next time!!

  31. George, I agree with you. On a sprung vehicle it does releave the springs. But, as you indicated, adverse weather must be taken into account. Thank you for your participation on this topic.

  32. Gary Motshagen, My advice for storage periods is down for sprung vehicles, up for air suspended units. Of course there are other circumstances that must be taken into account, like enviroment, parking surface material, etc. So, no one answer is necessarily correct for all cases. Thanks for your input on this topic.

  33. William Eder

    Sooooo? Slides out before jacks or not? Somebody help who knows.

  34. George

    Depends. You never see them down when the RVs are still on the lot. The upside is putting them down is it takes stress and long term strain off your vehicle’s suspension. However, I live in Canada with lots of snow so I store mine up. This way I can drop the end facing south to catch the sun rays and when and if the snow melts it will run off the roof better.

  35. Gary Motshagen

    So,after reading your article, and you have mentioned several times about leaving your jacks up or down, you have my curiosity up, should they be left up or down?
    I live full time in my motor home and keep them down to level, and make it more stable.