Doing your own RV repairs can save a bundle from your RV Lifestyle expenses
By Bob Difley
You learn a couple of things early on when going to extended-time or fulltime in your RV after years of a life of work with the cash flow that comes with it. One is that it is easier to spend money than make it once your income stream is disrupted, and the other is that you place a different monetary value on your time when the outflow starts approaching the inflow. This predicament raises its conspicuous head when you are faced with a decision to do something yourself–mostly an unpleasant or unfamiliar job or chore–or pay someone to do it for you.
This very situation confronted me on Saturday when my wife’s Volvo wouldn’t start. The easy solution was to tow it to our mechanic and let him deal with it. The downside was that it wouldn’t get looked at until Monday, be out of commission to at least Tuesday, and would probably cost a bundle (from experience I know there is no such thing as an inexpensive repair job).
Unfortunately, my meager mechanical skills do not include automotive repair. But I learned over the years that some things that I’ve never done before can be accomplished if taken slowly, researched well, making sure I had the proper tools, and a Plan B was available. But I had never taken on a job like replacing a starter, which in a Volvo meant also removing the battery and battery box (including wiring) and dismantling and removing the fan and housing and all the various attached plugs, wires, and vacuum hoses in order to get to the starter that lay buried beneath it all.
I plunged in with serious trepidation, and after many unidentifiable pieces of the car had been removed and scattered about the driveway, found the starter (I had to look on the internet to see what one looked like), and after several bruised knuckles and superficial blood-oozing scratches removed it and carted it off to O’Reilly Auto Parts where they tested it and did, indeed, find it had bought the farm. Heartened at having successfully diagnosed the problem, I purchased a rebuilt one for $154 and headed back to finish the job.
After stumbling through the re-assembly and re-attachment of all the wire plugs and other appendages, and finishing with only a few leftover parts, nobody could have been more astonished than I when I turned the key and it actually started and continued to run through a road test (and, in fact, is still working).
Had I towed the car to the mechanic, there would have been a tow bill, the replacement starter (with their mark-up) that would have cost more than the $154 I paid, and a few hours labor at about $100/hour–in other words a bundle possibly surpassing $600. It took me all of Saturday and three hours Sunday morning for the job–a lot longer than I would have cared to devote to the job until I weighed what else I would have been doing (like writing this blog post, and certainly not earning more than the potential repair bill) and decided that–at least once the job was done successfully–that it had been worth the effort and stress of performing a completely alien job.
The point of this is that once we leave the realm of fulltime work (and earnings) for fulltime RVing (or close to it) we have to keep a closer eye on the outflow so that it doesn’t surpass the inflow. And that means sometimes having to take on jobs and chores that we otherwise wouldn’t have considered. And while not fun during the execution of the job, satisfaction at having completed it successfully is a huge confidence builder. That means that we can have more control over our expenses, which when facing the end of our big earning years helps reduce the financial uncertainity of what may lie ahead.
So don’t be afraid to tackle the unknown, especially if it will result in more RVing days. Happy travels.
I wrote an ebook on ways to save money on the RV road based on my experiences after nine years in the RV business followed by 17 years of fulltime RVing. It’s called 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck. You can buy it for $6.99 (Thank you, it will help pay for my next repair job) and download it in either PDF or Kindle versions.