Maintaining Your RV May Be More Expensive in Future

July 8, 2010 by Lug_Nut · 57 Comments  
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EssexThe economic crunch that crippled the recreational vehicle industry resulted in RV manufacturer closures.  This left many owners high and dry as far as warranty was concerned.  Additionally it left them without technical support and OEM parts availability.  Well, thankfully most have worked their way through these issues using independent service depots and parts directly from the component suppliers. 

But now we are seeing the second wave of the economy storm.  A wave that may affect owners of all makes of RV’s, including those that own makes that are still in production.  This issue deals with RV manufacturer supplier failures and economic driven scale-downs.  There are many specialized components that are primarily built for RV’s or similar narrow market applications.  Items like class A windshield wipers, side cameras and electronic controllers, to name a few, are not common on-shelf automotive items.  Many times, if these components fail, a different make or model may have to be substituted.  Sounds simple enough, but this creates a problem.

So let’s look at what can happen.  We will start with a windshield wiper assembly set for a class A coach.  Say the mechanism becomes damaged and requires an entire replacement.  The original manufacturer is no longer in business therefore another make will have to be used.  Unfortunately, the wiper to wiper centers are not a standard specific width.  Therefore drilling a new hole or two in the body may be required.  This will also need to have both body work and paint to repair the previous location(s).  The wiring harness connectors are also not standardized and may require an added adaptor to complete the installation.  This can be a much bigger job than originally thought.

Side cameras don’t last forever.  If one fails you would probably like to replace it.  It should cost no more than about $200 including labor.  But, if the builder of that camera is either out of business or has had to drop that particular model, it’s going to cost a whole lot more.  It may cost up to six times more.  Case in point.  My driver side camera quit and needed replacement.  The manufacturer of the camera no longer produces that model due to a downsizing strategy.  The replacement model is only available by the pair (2).  Well, that’s going to cost extra, but I can live with that. But, the footprint of the old camera is somewhat larger than that of the new one.  Some body work and painting will now also be needed.  Additionally the wiring harness may not be compatible with the current interface and may require an adaptor or some modification.  Total value of the deal…….. probably $1000 or more.

An E-Plex touch screen controls most house demands within many higher end coaches.  Some of these components are no longer available due to company closures.  This would then mean a simple board failure could easily require the entire system to be replaced.  That would mean replacing every module and possibly the wiring too.  Needless to say, this would be indeed a costly project.   

This may also increase the costs those who are renovating their existing rig in lieu buying a new one.  Unlike the RV market, this scenario essentially does not exist in the auto industry as other manufacturers are usually willing to build needed will-fits for such a potentially large market. 

Well, this is just another affect that may be felt by the RV owner as a result of the downturn in the nation’s economy.

Just Thought You Should Know      -     Lug_Nut    -     Peter Mercer  



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57 Responses to “Maintaining Your RV May Be More Expensive in Future”

  1. Tom on July 8th, 2010 8:04 pm

    Keeping the older RVs around longer is making more and more sense as time wears on in this economic downturn. If you have a unit that’s not tied into the common wire monitoring, advanced panel controllers, etc…, then it should be easier to find replacement parts from a wider location of dealers – whether your manufacturer is still in business or not. Of course, having said that, there will still be the occasional part / component that was unique to that brand. Hopefully, those items last the vehicle’s life.

    We’ve been considering replacing our ‘03 Tiffin Allegro Bus with a 5th wheel. I think we’ll stay put until things settle out a bit more.

  2. A.Moraes on July 8th, 2010 10:16 pm

    Quite frankly this article is pointless…people that own a high class A is NOT worried about this nuisance, they would get it fixed one or the other, cost and availability is not a concern.
    I’m more inclined to have a older motorhome where most of the work I can do myself and or any RV shop is able to work on it.

  3. Lug_Nut on July 9th, 2010 4:44 am

    A.Moraes, Quite frankly, you missed the point entirely. Side cameras, windshield wipers and the like are on many coaches and most of the owners DO care about costs. Thank you for posting.

  4. Arsonguy on July 9th, 2010 5:55 am

    Prices are way way to high for Rvs ,look how much a dealer can drop his price.Why not put the lower price out to begin with. I never bring my RV to a dealer for repairs,i do them my self.

  5. Pat on July 9th, 2010 6:17 am

    It makes sense after the warrenty is up to learn to maintain our RVs ourselves and perhaps to keep some parts on hand. We have discovered that something as simple as light bulbs are difficult, if not impossible, to find at other than RV dealers, and even then they may not have exactly what you need.

    Take care of your unit…becasue as the world economy continues to head south we may need to join Bob Diffey on the FT/boondocking trail!

  6. Pat on July 9th, 2010 6:21 am

    Je suis desole…sorry Bob, I know your last name is DIFLEY, not Diffey… : – (

  7. Alpenliter on July 9th, 2010 7:18 am

    Good article as always Lug, keep up the good work.

  8. Bob Phelps on July 9th, 2010 8:03 am

    Thanks Peter,

    As always you are thinking about rv’s and how to help your fellow man.


  9. Robert on July 9th, 2010 8:17 am

    Thanks for the info…you just convinced me not to buy the used Class A we have been considering…

  10. darthvagrant on July 9th, 2010 8:56 am

    The crux of this article once again alludes to high end class A coaches. For starters, there are many RVers who chose not to spend the $2k to $3K OR MORE for a class A diesel pusher. I say choose not to, not to be confused with CAN’T afford. Frankly, if I wanted to spend that kind of money, I’d rather own one of the new generation (whatever they’re called) super C diesels on a Kodiak or similar truck chassis.
    Which leads me to the subject of my response. After a series of class A coaches, where I was totally surrounded by RV quality shi…errr…..components, I arrived at a conclusion. Buy a class C and have all the questionable quality RV **stuff** BEHIND me – literally. All the dash components (instruments, heater / AC, wipers, windshield) plus a USEABLE driver’s door are of OEM quality. No mismatch of Atwood and other RV supplied dash components. No replacement parts issues the likes of which are mentioned by ‘lug nut’.
    Just because I don’t tow a Lamborghini Countach behind my Prevost 600H/P diesel pusher doesn’t necessarily indicate lack of financial wherewithal to do so. I am a firm believer in the KISS format, particularly when buying something for stress-free leisure time enjoyment.

  11. Lug_Nut on July 9th, 2010 9:16 am

    darthvagrant, The point of this article addresses a now common wrinkle, supplier failure or cut-back. It can affect all levels of coaches and trailers. The three examples I gave contained two that many class A’s have even at the entry level. The E-Plex may be the only product that may be found on a more expense rig. What has cost got to do with this?
    Oh, and Prevost coaches are 515 HP not 600. Thanks for the very interesting, albeit a little off base, comment and for your input on this topic.

  12. darthvagrant on July 9th, 2010 10:56 am

    hé , Nr. Nut. Make that Newell, not Prevost. I am so informed.
    The point I was / am making is the fact that from the front bumper to the box tacked on the back of the chassis; on a class C this prevails: All components, to wit: windshield, gauges, front suspension, all steering components, brakes front AND rear, HVAC system, (including W/S defroster and workable chassis temperature control), W/S wipers, air bags, rear view mirrors, (door) power windows, and much etc., are all major dealer OEM sourced and items maintained if one chooses. NOT here today-gone-tomorrow RV **stuff**..
    To be honest, I’m still smarting from my last class A becoming a permanent resident of Richmond, KY on a trip two years ago. The oil pump pick-up tube broke off, terminating all engine oiling at 70 MPH on I 75. Fortunately, I had things shut down in time to avoid engine damage. (I always have a blinding oil pressure light on top of the dash. This was a good illustration of the value of that excess and my pessimism) . I successfully pushed my dead box-on-wheels to the next exit with my toad.
    This was a Ford chassis, and technically the oil pan was NOT removable without pulling the engine. Coachmen had literally built the coach AROUND the engine. The front cap and core support had to be cut. The A/C condenser and radiator had to be pulled out of the way. A/C system discharged, of course. These were the high points.
    I sold the POS to the garage who for three days had tried to remove the pan. Even that was somewhat a stroke of good fortune. They actually paid me a fair price for a vehicle I was prepared to just abandon. They ultimately pulled the intake and exhaust manifolds and cylinder heads, unbolted the transmission and were able to lift what was left of the engine block high enough to remove the oil pan to access the broken oil pick up tube. With me being an ex dealer service manager, we developed a fine rapport and have stayed in touch. They were surprised I was able to shut it down quickly enough to negate any bearing damage. Nice people!
    Excuse my somewhat acerbic attitude towards class A (gas) motorhomes.
    To end this final entry on a more positive note, I can relate the purchase of the replacement which was a class C, of course. Last year I bought an inexpensive, new 2010 Thor/ Four Winds class C. Over the winter in Florida, I composed a six page document of quality and defect issues. Upon return this spring, Four Winds absolutely astounded me by totally addressing ALL of my complaint issues. COMPLETELY! …and in a very amicable, willing, and even eager manner. To my delight, there was even some gratis “customizing” done beyond warranty issues. A cheap coach, typical RV issues, but TOTAL support from the manufacturer who then went the extra mile.
    Sorry….way off topic again.

  13. Lug_Nut on July 9th, 2010 11:10 am

    darthvagrant, Great point in regards to the C class coacxh. The mobility parts are all proven auto OEM install components. There is no question that this will on average fair better than most low production RV manufacturer build-ons. I’m glad to hear your Thor/Four Winds worked out so well and that they serviced you 100%. They do make a good product in the industry and in the grand scheme. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and for your very fitting input.

  14. Jim in WNC on July 9th, 2010 6:06 pm

    The future of the Class A coaches may be the Super C coach. Basically a standardized Truck with a Fifth Wheel or Towable placed on the frame with a pass-thru cut into it. Things will be different, maybe better. One question I have had for years is why did the VAN frame get used for the Class C instead of a Pick Up truck frame ???

  15. Lug_Nut on July 9th, 2010 7:23 pm

    Jim in WNC, Pretty simple really Jim, the pilot position, windshield, engine enclosure, etc. was in place already. Thanks for your valued input.

  16. Pat Malone on July 9th, 2010 8:25 pm

    darthvagrant – you blow enough WIND – YOU don’t need an engine!!!!!

  17. Feeline on July 9th, 2010 8:47 pm


    Point taken, there are a lot of things that can go wrong when you move a house on wheels down the road. If you are fortunate enough to have something fail, that is common among the automotive community, all well and good.

    On the other hand, if something that is unique to motorhomes or even travel trailers, fails, you could find yourself forking over a lot of cash. I don’t think it matters, whether or not you can afford the cost, it will not be a pleasant experience . We bought our coach to use, not park while waiting for hard to find special parts. It could be something as simple as a piece of trip to more expensive slide mechanism.

    Thanks for the article, as usual, make one think.

  18. darthvagrant on July 11th, 2010 9:40 pm

    Mr. Malone-go home. The village is missing its idiot.

  19. Pat Malone on July 12th, 2010 2:02 am

    Look who’s calling someone an idiot. He who doesn’t even know what kind of coach he has!!

  20. Geoffrey Pruett on July 12th, 2010 9:30 am

    Do not expect, in fact be afraid of government intervention on the vanishing parts problem.
    This became an issue with small electronics so our government mandated that all items sold at “retail” would have a USA parts source for several years. The zinger is “retail”. Class A’s are assembled from parts, sold as an assembly, surprise surprise, no parts stocking requirements.
    This along with the standard business practice of exporting all possible manufacturing equals no home trained technicians.
    This came about because the “market” wanted cheaper, not reliable.
    Does the old truism “The bitterness of low quality far outlasts the sweetness of low price!”.

  21. darthvagrant on July 12th, 2010 8:52 pm

    Malone-why don’t you surprise us all and actually post something of substance. It takes absolutely no imagination, knowledge or intelligence to snipe anonymously. Try. Just maybe you can compose something meaningful. Sadly, I’m playing right into your hands, I realize. The dimwits that only snipe do so primarily to elicit a response.

  22. Jim G on July 31st, 2010 10:37 am

    After reading all these vitriolic back and forths I forgot the intent of the original posting. Cmon, this is getting way too personal!!

  23. Steve Roberts on August 23rd, 2010 12:39 pm

    I just spent $850 repairing my wiper motor on my 1998 motorhome. It goes without saying that these items are expensive. I’ve owned over thirty vehicles since I starting driving ove 40 years ago and have never replaced a wiper motor in any of them. We have to get these RV manufacturers to spend time building quality into their RV’s so we don’t have these issues down the road.

  24. Stripes on August 23rd, 2010 4:11 pm

    @Steve Roberts, wiper repairs on a VW Bus can run that sort of price, and because of the 15 feet or so of mechanical linkage from the rear engine to the front wipers it isn’t exactly uncommon (well that the age of most VW busses…)

    @darthvagrant, good points on mass produced mass tested vs. small run products. It is one of the things that pushed me towards a 5er (which I think was the right choice for me, but freely admit might not be right for everyone).

  25. Doug on August 23rd, 2010 4:31 pm

    I agree with the writer,getting parts from companies no longer in business due to the “New” economy can be a daunting task. Our issue is we have parts avalible as well of lots of technical help and want to share this information with RVers and Dealers. Our name changed from Phase Four Industries to Drain Master and this has caused some confusion. We actual have our 800 number on every valve we have built in the past 10 plus years and that has NOT changed. The response I often get is you are very hard to find! It is my opinion that these folks need to figure out how to do a Google search by product name instead of looking in the Yellow Pages. We specialize in RV waste management so if you need information in this area we can probably assist you–if not we can direct you to someone who can. or 877 787 8833 We also sell direct to the consumer save money for the consumer in the process, distributors, dealers and companies like Camping World mark their prices up and you get to pay for it.

  26. Carl Strohmeyer on August 27th, 2010 8:25 am

    This is an interesting topic if only for other comments that made me think such as the “utility” of a Class C over an A.
    I am a long time and original owner of a Winnabago Class C.
    Although there are many “cheap” aspects of this coach, I am reasonably happy with this coach over the 18 years I have kept it with my children literally growing up in camping trips we have taken in this RV. With a growing family I could not afford to replace this RV even during better economic times, so I have serviced and cared for this RV meticulously.

    My comment (to stay on subject), is that my main problem has not been with the coach and its components rather the Ford Chassis & Onan Generator that has been a lemon from day one. We have replaced the CPU four times, the exhaust system has been repaired 3 times, the Dash Air was repaired 3 times and in fact I just totally had the AC replaced and the local repair shop noted that the last Ford dealer used “putty” to make a repair that did not last one year.
    What I have found is that finding a good local shop (I have moved as well) has been very difficult of late, this has been especially true with our total piece of junk Onan Generator which we have either repaired or attempted to repair every year. We just returned from a 12 day vacation where I could not find anyone to repair our generator (the fuel system) while on the road, and even before this trip I spent 3 months attempting to find a shop to check for problems I suspected before we left. Even our local so-called authorized Onan Dealer charged us over $500 for a repair that lasted one year and made excuses for this generators issues.

    The bottom line for me is I do not want to simply throw away our investment (that I have added many improvements) is only for the reason I have lost so much faith in the options and quality of a new RV I might purchase and the after purchase care I likely will not receive

  27. Carl Stark on August 28th, 2010 1:07 pm

    Good article. It reflects what many of us Class A operators have discovered the hard way. But, as one has pointed out, you do what you have to do. I am quickly learning how to repair many items myself, using friendly help from RV technicians who are constantly having to improvise. Unfortunately, it is where the industry is, and I hate the additional cost, BUT refuse to allow this to hinder a lifestyle that I love. We are now in Canada, heading to Maine, then to Georgia. Hope nothing breaks. Carl.

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