Yes, They Break

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
Sep 162013

I got an e-mail yesterday from a gentleman who is appalled that he has had to take his new motorhome back to the dealer three times to get things fixed. I hated to tell him that he should get used to doing that, because it’s part of the RV lifestyle.

And there is no question that just about any RV you buy new, regardless of manufacturer cost, is going to need to spend some time at a dealer getting things fixed that should have been taken care of before it left the factory. We have friends who just left the factory in Elkhart, where they were getting repairs made on their new motorhome, which sold somewhere in the $275,000 neighborhood. And this wasn’t their first trip back for warranty work. I’ve always said that if an automobile manufacturer made a car that hit the dealer’s showroom with as many faults as the average new RV does, it would be branded a lemon. With RVs, the buying public just accepts it. So we’re a big part of the problem ourselves.

A few days ago, somebody else was complaining that they had just spent a couple thousand dollars in maintenance and repair on their four year old fifth wheel. No surprise there, either. If you think you’re going to buy an RV and go off blissfully down the road with never a care in the world, you’re sadly mistaken.

Even after all of the “new RV bugs” are exterminated, don’t think you’re out of the woods. Remember that an RV experiences what is basically an hours long earthquake every time you go down the road. Things shake and break loose now and then and you’re going to have to spend some time and money keeping them up. Just like you do with houses, boats, motorcycles and just about anything else in this world.

If you are a fulltimer, getting repairs and service when you need them can be a problem at times. Even if you are mechanically inclined, most RV parks won’t let you do a lot of major repair work at your site, and many times even things like oil changes, or even washing your RV are not allowed.

Finding reliable service, whether for a breakdown or routine maintenance can, be problematic at times. We have used CoachNet for our emergency roadside service for years and have always been very happy with them. They have never let us down when we needed them, and they have RV techs standing by that can talk you through a lot of minor repairs to save you time and money. Our friends Charles and Chris Yust  represent Good Sam’s emergency road service, another excellent choice. We created our guide to RV Good Guys after being burned a couple of times when using unknown repair places. None of the businesses listed in the guide can purchase advertising to get in, it’s strictly limited to shops we have dealt with ourselves or that have been recommended by our readers. And if you know of some good repair shops, please e-mail me at and tell me about them so I can include them in the guide.

Terry and I are now officially famous. We were featured in the current edition of RV Business magazine, an industry publication for RV manufacturers, dealers, and RV parks, which has a two page story about us and the Gypsy Journal at this link.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  13 Responses to “Yes, They Break”

  1. I have been meaning to tell you how much I appreciate your guidebooks Nick. We have saved over $200 this summer along by using your Guide To Free Campgrounds. We also have the Good Guys book and when our truck started acting up in Kentucky a while back it directed us to Embry’s Garage in Bowling Green. They quickly diagnosed the problem and had us back on the road within three hours for a very reasonable bill. And while they had it in the shop they topped off all the fluids at no extra charge.

  2. Bill and I were in Goshen a couple of days ago and was talking about the industry with a fellow. He said he was working a minimum of 10 hours to 12 hours a day 5 to 6 days a week. He was paid by piece work. He was a single father and wanted to work less hours. He said they are so busy it’s no wonder how sloppy the work is.

    We had some work done that started at 7 am. We were trying to hurry out at 3 pm because I though the worker would be finished for the day. He told me he wouldn’t be going home until 6 or 7 pm. I said wow, “that’s a lot of overtime.” He said he didn’t get overtime.

    You can’t expect to get quality work from employees that work those kind of hours.

  3. Nice article about you two. Good photos too! Congratulations.

  4. Great article Nick and one I should print off and show others about having their RV’s repaired. Blade Chevrolet and RV in Mount Vernon, Washington recently replaced the motors for the slide on the drivers side of the RV. Yes, it took several weeks to get the parts as they had to do it twice. We would recommend them for your RV Good Guys guide. Yesterday we had a blowout and Good Sam Roadside Service was there in 45 minutes to help us out. The shredding tire did damage to the sewer connection and the mobile service person is coming today to hopefully repair it. Would we give up the full-time life because of this? NEVER!

  5. I agree with you one hundred percent. Both you and I are old enough,(No offense) to remember when cars were very close to this poor quality control.

    Throughout the 50’s and 60’s it was very common practice to buy a new car and hear from the dealer:”Drive it for 30 days. Make a list of things wrong and bring it back to us.” Thank goodness those days are over!

    It is disturbing to spend hard earned money on a RV and then have to start fixing things that should have been done properly at the factory.

  6. As a Journalism major I can tell you that it is easy to write a great feature article when the writer has good subject material. And the article in RV Business is very well done. Also, I have often wondered how many subscribers you have, Nick. You just might be the most widely read publication in the entire RV community. Congratulations.

  7. We definitely agree with you concerning the type of campground that we are happy with. We too have a very large rig (41′ New Horizons) and have to be careful to find campgrounds where we will fit. We enjoyed many of your classes at the last Life on Wheels week and what we learned was a definite help in establishing domicile and getting started on the road.

  8. Did you ever think that if you didn’t criticize every little thing about the RV industry and campgrounds you might have a lot more readers and advertising? I do like your travel stories but get tired of all of the negative things you go on about. In the last few weeks you complained about the campground in Long Beach, about noisy dogs, about the weather, and now here you are complaining about RVs. They are complex machines with complex systems. They are bound to have problems that need sorted out. But I don’t hear anybody else complaining all the time.

  9. Then you must not get out much or you’re deaf Mark Keller. I hear lots of vary valid complaints about piss poor construction in RVs. I don’t know about you but I want to know about the good AND the bad. This life is not all peaches and cream and knowing of problems ahead of time keeps me from wasting my time and money.

  10. Nick I hope that you never stop criticizing the things you see which are wrong or poorly done in the RV industry.
    I, like many of your readers I suspect, would rather have the “how things really are” reporting rather than the “just play nice with the RV industry” approach to writing and reporting.
    If the consumer doesn’t take a stand against poor and shoddy workmanship, the only certainty is that “crap” will continue out the door as it has for far too many years.

  11. That’s my point, Steve. To read other RV magazines, you get the impression that it’s all perfect. Nothing ever breaks down, there are no barking dogs or railroad tracks next to the campground and the things don’t even get dirty going down the road. I WANT to know places to avoid and companies not to do business with. I suspect Nick and Terri would have a lot more advertising if they cowtowed to the RV industry and never talked about the downside to RVing. I’m glad they don’t.

  12. Each time we get a new (to us) RV, we start a list of things to be fixed while still under warranty. Last time we had two legal pages full of items. Now that our rig is 10 years old we still have a to-do list which we mostly try to repair ourselves but, still, it all costs time & money. Just part of living.

  13. Just wanted to mention that all RVs are not created equal. We purposely have a Class C, Lazy Daze motorhome (27 ft) so we could avoid many of the problems associated with Class A vehicles. Granted we don’t have slideouts and lots of extra space, but over six years as full-timers, we have never had to return to the factory for updates or repairs. So there are quality made, mostly trouble free RVs out there. The trade off in our case is size and extra comfort. Be interesting to hear from Foremost, Prevost, and higher end RV owener, to see if there are problems in the first few years with the more expensive motorhomes…a lot more expensive!

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