Stuck in service? Unless you have incredible luck, there will come a time for RV service work beyond the usual maintenance. Having been there ourselves a few times, we have some thoughts on the subject:
For new rigs, take advantage of the initial warranty period. Upon delivery of a new RV, there are apt to be some items that need to be resolved. Take notes during the walk-through, make a comprehensive list and try to get the items resolved before you take off with your new rig. No doubt there will be other items that shakeout as you start using the RV. Keep track and be sure to get these items resolved within the warranty period covered by the manufacturer and/or applicable component supplier.
And take care of your RV with thorough and regular maintenance.
Plan ahead. Unless service work is of an emergency nature, book service appointment well ahead of time. Most RV service centers (whether independent, dealer or factory service departments) have a busy schedule.
Be prepared. Make a list of the work you want done and prioritize. Put it in writing to give to the service center and use it to follow up on progress. If the RV service center rewrites your list in their own form, do yourself a favor and compare their write-up with your version of the list. It is easy for something to be missed, and it is best to clear up any discrepancy from the get-go.
Understand root causes. If something is broken or malfunctioning, make sure you find out why before you agree to how it will be repaired or resolved. Otherwise you may end up spending time and money treating symptoms without addressing the underlying problem.
Know who is paying. This means understanding what is covered and not covered under manufacturer and component warranties and any extended warranty policy you may have purchased. Get your thoughts together on your rationale and expectations for any coverage issues that you think you might have to negotiate.
In our experience, when there is any question about who might cover a particular repair item, the RV service department usually doesn't start the work until it is clear who is footing the bill. It is best to bring any debate to closure as quickly as possible in order to minimize the amount of time spent stuck in service. In reality, however, this often turns out to be an iterative process as troubles are diagnosed and the extent of the needed repair work is determined.
One thing we have learned about extended warranties is that they usually will only cover labor time per a documented labor guide. The extended warranty company will likely have an RV-focused labor guide that they use, and they may also accept a manufacturer's documented guide for the time required to perform a specific repair or RV service. The guides usually indicate a specific number of total hours that is supposed to cover the diagnosis AND the repair.
The bottom line: it's a good idea if you and the RV service shop understand upfront how many hours are going to be covered. It helps minimize haggling over payment later on. And, who knows, it may increase efficiency in diagnosing and fixing whatever is ailing your RV.
Follow up. Even for minor repairs, it is a good idea to keep track of what work is being done and the expected completion. If you are spending time in a waiting room while a day's worth of service work is being done, you are right there to keep tabs on things. But if you have more extensive service being done or a laundry list of items to be addressed, the work can take days or weeks to complete.
For preplanned RV service work, we are usually operating in the latter mode, with a service advisor project-managing the work at the dealer or factory service department. The service advisor acts as the customer liaison and go-between for individual techs and departments and those that make the decisions about warranties. This is no easy task since the service advisor gets pulled in many directions by many masters, and often has a larger than ideal workload of customer demands to juggle.
Under these circumstances, we have found that the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" axiom holds true more often than not. It is worth it to proactively ride herd on progress being made. We have usually been in centers where we could physically pop in from time to time to visually check out the work being done. This has sometimes proved to be a good safety net to make sure that the details given to a service advisor have been communicated to the tech doing the work. We appreciate the access to service bays that we have encountered - so we try to avoid getting in the way while we check up on progress.
Overestimate. Even if you have no qualms about paying for all the RV service work, it may cost more and/or take longer than initially expected. We have found it a good idea to build some wiggle room into any travel plans or appointments following the scheduled service work. And as we have noted on our RV costs page, creating a fund for RV service can help with unforeseen expenses.
Make the most of your time when you are "stuck in service". Fulltimers or those living in their RV for extended seasonal travel will likely have to vacate their home on wheels for days or even nights at a time, depending on the extent of their RV service. So there is time to kill outside the comfort of home.
Major service centers will usually have a waiting room, and there can be value in spending some time there chatting with other customers. You can pick up all sorts of tips from fellow RVers on all aspects of the RV lifestyle. If you are in a service center specific to your brand of RV, or that does a lot of work on your brand, the tips and ideas may be even more relevant. Often these informal conversations are the start of ongoing friendships.
On the other hand, if the waiting room experience turns out to be a gripe session with a lot of negative energy, it might be better to spend your time elsewhere.
We try to strike a balance. We spend some time in the RV service center waiting room, some time following up and most of our time out exploring the local sights and scenery.
Over the years, while having something repaired or serviced, we have toured the western Cascades and Willamette Valley in Oregon. When we had to be towed to Gallup New Mexico, we found time to do some New Mexico sightseeing. When we replaced our tires, we visited nearby Salt Lake City. Typically, we take care of our RV service while wintering in Florida. Whenever possible, we integrate time spent on RV service into our plans and check out the sights of the surrounding area.
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